Daily Archives: March 6, 2012

A further defeat for Freshwater

From the NCSE:

John Freshwater’s legal challenge to the decision to terminate his employment as a middle school science teacher in Mount Vernon, Ohio, was defeated again, on March 5, 2012, when Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals upheld (PDF) a lower court’s rejection of his challenge. It is still open to Freshwater to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio, however, so the case — which ultimately stems from a complaint against Freshwater lodged in 2008 — may continue to linger in the Ohio court system.

In 2008, a local family accused Freshwater of engaging in inappropriate religious activity — including teaching creationism — and sued Freshwater and the district. The Mount Vernon City School Board then voted to begin proceedings to terminate his employment. After thorough administrative hearings that proceeded over two years and involved more than eighty witnesses, the referee presiding over the hearings issued his recommendation that the board terminate Freshwater’s employment with the district, and the board voted to do so in January 2011.

Freshwater challenged his termination in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in February 2011, but the court found “there is clear and convincing evidence to support the Board of Education’s termination of Freshwater’s contract(s) for good and just cause.” Freshwater then appealed the decision to Ohio’s Fifth District Court of Appeals in December 2011. NCSE filed a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) with the appellate court, arguing that Freshwater’s materials and methods concerning evolution “have no basis in science and serve no pedagogical purpose.”

Documents relevant to Freshwater’s termination and the subsequent court case are available on NCSE’s website. Extensive blog coverage of the Freshwater saga, including Richard B. Hoppe’s day-by-day account of Freshwater’s termination hearing, is available at The Panda’s Thumb blog; search for “Freshwater”. Hoppe also recently contributed “Dover Comes to Ohio” (PDF) — a detailed account from a local observer of the whole fracas, from the precipitating incident to Freshwater’s appeal — to Reports of the National Center for Science Education 32:1.

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Judy Scotchmoor gets Darwin Award

No, not THAT kind of Darwin Award. The other one .. the “Friend of Darwin” award:

Master Educator, Young Activist, Honored By NCSE

It’s an age-old story–the master and the newcomer. The expert who has devoted decades to keeping students on the right path. And the new kid who throws himself into the battle for truth, beauty, and the sheer joy of challenging the status quo.

The master–and a winner of NCSE’s 2012 Friend of Darwin award–is Judy Scotchmoor, Assistant Director for Education and Public Programs at the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP). Scotchmoor is a legend among scientists, educators, and museum staff, having built UCMP’s highly regarded evolution program from scratch over the last 18 years. Her work includes the wildly popular “Understanding Evolution” and “Understanding Science” web sites, which clock over a million visitors per month. Scotchmoor was also the motive force behind the 2000 National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution, which galvanized scientists and educators to take the growing attacks on evolution education seriously.

“It would be difficult to think of another person who has done more, and in such a sustained way, to promote and improve the teaching of evolution”, says NCSE executive director Eugenie Scott. “Anyone concerned about evolution education knows and respects Judy.”

The young activist making a big splash–the other winner of the 2012 Friend of Darwin award–is Louisiana’s Zack Kopplin. As part of a high school class project in 2011, Kopplin decided to organize a repeal of the creationist-backed Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA). And he nearly succeeded, spearheading a statewide petition campaign that gathered 68,000 signatures. Kopplin was unstoppable, holding rallies and news conferences, appearing on dozens of local and national radio and TV shows, convincing the city of New Orleans to officially endorse his effort, getting a state senator to sponsor and introduce a repeal bill, recruiting forty-three Nobel laureates to support the repeal, and more….

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The predictability of and variation in wind energy

Wind power is like Ginger Rogers. You know what I mean. It isn’t judged by the same standards as other kinds of electricity generation.
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I’m speaking specifically of the reliability of, or variation in, wind over time. Many people live in places where they personally experience highly variable wind, or at least, think they do, so it is easy to assume that wind generators would be sometimes running on full, sometimes standing still, in a more or less random and unpredictable way, but this is not necessarily true. There are regions where wind is much more consistent than people might imagine, though of course it is always somewhat variable. In fact, a bigger problem with wind may be not so much the variation, but the fact that in some regions it is out of sync with energy demands. In some temperate zones, wind may be weak during the day but stronger at night when electricity demands are low (but this can vary from region to region, and seasonally; there are places where winds tend to come up during the day and calm down at night)
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Where is the debris from the Japanse Tsunami?

Almost exactly one year ago, a very large double strength tsunami struck the Pacific Coast of Japan and washed a huge amount of stuff out into the sea. The oceanic born debris of terrestrial origin looked in places like this:
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Subsequently attempts were made to model the movement of the debris in the Pacific. Some of the debris would likely end up on the coast of the US, so some of the models asked that question: When can Tsunami Salad start to wash up on the beaches of California, Oregon and Washington? I’m sure that everyone who’s thought about this for even a few seconds realizes that when this happens, it will not look like the picture shown above. It might be just the occasional floating bit of plasticky stuff used to make cars or boats or beach-side furniture, bits and pieces of household debris, and the occasionally recognizable Hello Kitty item. Furthermore, these items will be few and far between and by this time, likely, rather sun baked.
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