Daily Archives: March 23, 2012

Attempt at Human Bird-Like Flight

John Childs is the very first person to fly in America. He did it in 1757, on September 13th, from the steeple of the Old North Church in Boston. This is the same church from which Sarah Palin hung some lanterns to direct Michel Bachmann on her ride to Concord New Hampshire to warn the British that we were “Not going to take it any more.”

Childs tied himself to a glider made of bird feathers, and he did it a three times in a row, firing off guns the third time, but he caused such a distraction that he got banned from doing it again. Based on the description of the event, Childs was really ziplining more than flying, but that’s cool too. Ziplining was invented in Boston in 1757!

And all of that was a LOT more interesting than the more recent bird-like flight, in which a guy in the Neatherlands made wings, and flew by flapping them around like a bird.

Or did he ….

The man who claimed to achieve bird-like flight with a custom-built contraption came clean today: It was a hoax 8 months in the making.

Netherlands artist Floris Kaayk, who went by the name of Jarno Smeets during his “Human Birdwings” project, admitted to the hoax today on a Dutch television program called “De Wereld Draait Door” (“The World is Turning”).

“My name is Floris Kaayk I’m actually a filmmaker and animator. I am now 8 months working on an experiment about online media,” Kaayk told the show, according to a Dutch-to-English translation in a YouTube video.

The YouTube Video originally put up by Kaayk was since taken down by Kaayk.

What a loser. Childs would not have taken down his YouTube video.

Your Support of Bill C-279 is Urgently Needed Now

“We don’t have a ‘Bill of Rights’ in Canada. We don’t need one.”

A colleague from Canada told me that once. I was pretty sure she was more or less wrong, but I was working in a lab of mainly Canadians at the time and I know that as an Ugly American I had no chance if I disagreed, so I kept my mouth shut. It turns out that only months before that declaration, Canada had passed the Constitution Act, and before that they had the “Canadian Bill of Rights” and subsequently some other stuff has happened along these lines, but just as in the United States, unless you are really quite specific, these sorts of protections don’t extend to everyone, and especially to people who are in certain groups or categories that many seem comfortable viewing as unworthy for some reason or another.

Well, at the moment, transgender Canadians are not protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the prevailing constitutional law. However …

Next month, in April, an extremely pivotal bill is going to be up for debate in the Canadian parliament. It’s Bill C-279, which will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of statuses protected under the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.

Currently, transgender Canadians have no such protections, and may be discriminated against on the basis of their gender by employers, businesses, shelters, institutions (public or private) and individuals without any legal consequence. … This is not okay.

Natalie Reed has all the details here. It appears that Bill C-279 has not received much media attention, and the current political climate in Canada is such that it is at risk of not passing.

So read Natalie’s post and get on this, please. If you know of a petition or something, tell us in the comments!

Beyond 42: Stories Telling Science

Skeptically Speaking 156:

This week, we’re experiencing the power of stories to communicate science. Join us for Beyond 42: How Science Can Use Stories to Explain Life, the Universe and Everything. This event, recorded live in Edmonton, features Scientific American Blog Editor Bora Zivkovic, and a fantastic cast of scientists telling moving stories that communicate the wonder of science and discovery.

There is no live show this week. The podcast will be available to download at 9 pm MT on Friday, March 23.

Details here.

Spring Break Birding!


If you are a birder and you are going on Spring Break (from the US), don’t forget that there are birds where you are going. And, probably, there are bird books that cover your destination.

One of the really cool things about North American birding is that when you do go down to tye Yucatan, Caribbean, or Central America you’ll see birds that are migratory and familiar, but in their other home (but just on their way back). They’ll be surprised to see you!

I just got a copy of Birds of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire, though I’ve got no personal travel plans for Aruba and environs at the moment. This field guide by Bart de Boer, Eric Newton and Robin Restall is small format and uses a Peterson like format with 71 plates of drawings (which are quite good) on one side and brief descriptions on the other. Since the guide covers the three rain forest islands located in the southern Caribbean (near the Venezuelan coast) maps are not really useful, but there is a comprehensive checklist in the back of the book that indicates which of the three islands each bird appears on.

Compared to the other true field guides that cover this area, well, this seems to be the only one. The list price is seemingly a little high at 28 bucks, but it is much cheaper on Amazon. I’ve seen it available from another publisher as well, but I think that may be out of print.

If you happen to be going to the West Indies instead of the southern Caribbean, this other book is the one you want.

DFL LGBT Stonewall Caucus Gives Sharon Sund an “A”

Sharon Sund and a few supporters at a recent Fundraiser in Minneapolis.

Sharon Sund, who is running for United States Congress in the Third District in Minnesota, has received an “A” level rating from the Stonewall DFL Caucus. Here is my endorsement of her.

Sharon has been working tirelessly for all sorts of progressive causes for years, including LGBT issues, health care insurance reform, and so on. She’s also signed the Science Pledge.

For context:

Stonewall DFL is the LGBT caucus of the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party of Minnesota. Our goal is to encourage participation of LGBT persons within the DFL. We screen and endorse candidates from local school board races to United States Senate. We strive to inform the greater DFL, elected officials and citizens about the issues facing the GLBT community. Being an active member of Stonewall DFL provides greater access to the political process through establishing relationships with elected officials past, present and future.

This is a big weekend coming up; the DFL caucuses for many districts happen on Saturday. You may not be hearing a lot from me the next couple of days because I’ll be a bit busy with that.

In the meantime, it would be helpful if you could go to Facebook and “like” Sharon’s page! If enough people like it, we win!!! (The facebook liking contest, not the election.)