Daily Archives: October 10, 2012

Interesting facts about the death penalty

I knew a guy who had a simple answer to the whole Death Penalty thing. He’s hold is fingers, thumb and index finger, a short ways apart from each other like he had something in his grasp, and he’s say, “One bullet … costs about nine cents.” I have no idea how much a bullet really costs, but I do know that we don’t execute people by just deciding to execute them and then shooting them in the head. In fact, it is telling that our society spends way more money, time, and effort on the legal activities surrounding execution than in anything comparable in the criminal justice system. Obviously, we are not comfortable with State sponsored homicide.

There is a proposition on the ballot in California, Number 34, which will remove the Death Penalty from the books in the Golden Sunshine State. That’s good, and I hope it passes. But even if you are not in California and thus can’t vote on this, you might find the following video interesting because of the information it provides:

Did Curiosity Find an Artifact on Mars?

Quite possibly. Here’s a picture of it:

Image from NASA. Obviously.

There’s a pretty good chance that this is a manufactured object and not some natural thingie that formed on the surface of Mars by Mars-esque natural processes. But, if that’s true, then there’s a pretty good chance that the object, formed by an intelligent being, is just some piece of junk that fell off of one of the alien space ships that has landed on Mars recently. Alien to Mars, sent by Earthlings.

It reminds me of this one time… we were doing survey in a certain region which shall remain nameless, and finding lots of stone tools and stone tool fragments. Then, all of the sudden, we found a bunch of flakes and a very half baked bifacial tool all sitting together on top of a rock, almost as though some early hominid had just arrived a few hours or days earlier, from a time machine presumably, and did some flintknapping right there.

Of course, this was the archaeologists who had surveyed the area the year before my crew was there wondering if the stone they were seeing around was flake-able. It was. But they shouldn’t have done that; in a few more decades, those artifacts may end up looking a lot like real old stone tools and would confuse use. Always do your flaking below high tide, as it were, where the stuff will be disappeared by natural processes of erosion in no time.

Curiosity is curios. So, the planned mission activities for the next while will be put off while this metalish looking thing is investigated. Just in case.

Global Warming Kills People

This has been known for years. It is very frustrating to see people ask questions like “well, what we don’t know is what will global warming do?” Global warming has done, already, quite a bit and it is insulting to our collective intelligence and an affront to the families of those who have died from it to pretend nothing has happened. From desertification in Africa to heat waves in Chicago, global warming has killed people. Perhaps the following video from PBS will make this a bit more palpable to those who can’t grasp this concept.

Important, some scary, comparisons across data 4 ur amusement

This morning, my inbox had a handful of interesting data that are totally unconnected to each other, each interesting in its own right, and together, a veritable potpourri of bloggyness. So, here goes:

First, Don Prothero at Skeptiblog has written one of those posts you want to keep handy next time you need to refer to Noah’s Ark. The title of his post is “Ship of Foolishness” but I’m going to catalog it under Noah’s Ark compared to the Titanic. Here’s the embedded data comparison:

I gotta get me some of that Gopher Wood.

Ok, I said these different data comparisons were not related to each other, but I guess maybe some of them are a little. The next item comes from Pew and it is the latest study showing the frequency of “none” people in the US population. Nones are those who are atheists, not-religious, etc. You know, the people who are not represented by having a copy of the ten commandments on the courtroom wall or a benediction at the start of an official public ceremony or a candidate say “god bless ‘merica” at the end of every speech, that sort of thing. Here’s the graph from pew forum:

This is a graph of "nones," not "nuns," just to be clear.

So, if “none” is at about 20%, then there are more “nones” than Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Orthodox Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and eve, yes, Mainline Protestant (which means Protestants who are not black, apparently). Yes. There may be (just barely) more Protestants than there are Nones. And, I suspect that this is largely because of the spawn of Protestants growing up and saying “no” to their religion, more than any other source, but that is just a suspicion.

The next item is the scary one. It turns out, Mitt Romney really really did win the debate with President Obama. All the polls that collect data from after the debate show Romney increasing, with the latest poll showing him on the edge of statistically AHEAD of Obama. There are no current polls that show Obama winning. That part of the election, where Obama was winning, is over. Here’s the graph of averages from Real Clear Politics;

Ruh Roh.

The thing about that graph is that it shows an average across time and while that is nice for many interpretations, it tends to not indicate the dynamic of short term events. Here is a different graph showing the number of points Obama is ahead (positive numbers) or behind (negative numbers) across time expressed as days before and after the debate. That latter number is fudged because the polls take several days to do…I used the midpoint of the days indicated for the polling period as an estimate. This does not look good:

After the first debate, Obama is losing the election to Romney

And now let’s move on to what might be a happier note. Voyager 1 has left the building. And by building, I mean solar system.

Strangely it is reported that NASA is mum on the issue. But there is this graph going around that shows that the number of loose protons ands tuff that Vger-one runs into on a regular basis has gone from a whopping 25 or so a second to almost none, and that this happened in late August. Here’s the graph:

I suppose it is nice to not be whacked by random particles any more.

Actually, when I look at that graph, I see an instrument sputtering out a couple of times then failing, not the edge of the solar system. But that’s just me. Maybe.