Monday, December 28, 2009

Earths Mightiest Superheroes Vs Global Warming!

Actually, it's how the Earth's Mightiest heroes would deal with the impending doom that is Galactus, but you get the idea. Click thru to read full size.

Matt Bors comics
Part 2
Part 3
[Hat Tip 2 Comics AllianceDread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Holiday Message from DTA



Wee Fish



A Mare








Hint: It helps if you sing it.

"Wee fish ewe a mare egrets moose panda hippo gnu deer" 

[All photos Animals Pictures Archive]   Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dipping my toes into the turbid waters of AGW

This is an appeal to my readers and fellow bloggers for some advice. I've already pitched this to two prominent bloggers I occasionally correspond with, but I don't have direct contact with everyone I'd like to poll via email or Facebook, so this is my open call for responses. I would like your opinions, in a Science blogger/Dear Abby sort of way, and anyone else that is likely to read this is welcome to chip in too.

A friend has asked me to participate in a blog/project to conduct an open source attempt to replicate some climate modeling results. This is likely to be an amateur effort at best, but the stated intention is to educate about what really goes into climate modeling. Now I believe my friend to be a reasonable sort of skeptic, but it turns out he has some connections with people like Steve McIntyre and Eric Raymond. This gives me some concern, and I am leery of getting involved in anything that even gives the appearance of supporting the AGW deniers.

Oh yeah, AGW = Anthropogenic Global Warming, if you didn't know already.

I would appreciate your opinions on whether I should become involved, or stay the hell away from it.

Some other information relevant to my participation:

  1.  I have a good mathematics and statistics background, and did some relevant modeling of physical processes (hydrology) in grad school, but have no background in climate science.
  2. I really haven't been following the AGW debate past some casual reading, but not being caught up in the old arguments might be a good thing.
  3. I believe the scientific reports and news that AGW is real. I do have a some of skeptical thoughts about the extent of climate change the models predict, but even a small change is a valid cause for serious concern. I am concerned.
  4. I think this might actually be a valid and useful educational effort, and I'm pretty sure I could make some good contributions.
  5. I need another blog to write for like I need another hole in my head. ;-)

One friend already commented to me ...

"Not to discourage you from having fun, but there are a plethora of people stepping into the debate without sufficient preparation."

Another, who is self-described as very conservative, encourages me to go for it.

[Images Wikipedia, downloaded 12/12/2009] 

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Not an Open Market for Organ Transplantation?

I was having a conversation with a friend about organ transplantation. The conversation actually followed the post I link to, so this is a bit out-of-sequence. To paraphrase his question, he asks why there is not an open market for people to sell their own organs as they wish?

My short answer is, it is not ethical. Organ transplantation is a difficult decision all around, for the patient, and the doctor, and the donor (at least a live donor). There is great potential to do harm even when the intentions are good. Doctors are pretty serious about "do no harm", and for good reasons. I'm no expert ethicist, but since HIPAA anyone who works with confidential medical information goes through some basic ethics training. I've collected a few articles and a video that describe this in more detail, and also what happens when the intentions maybe be less than pure.

Sanjay Nagral
No other field of medicine has raised so many ethical, moral, legal and social issues as has organ transplantation. Many more areas for ethical debate are likely to emerge.
At present the very term transplant is likely to conjure up an image of shady and dangerous dealings in India. If we wish to improve upon the current situation, the first step is total transparency on the part of the medical profession and open, public, debate on this and related issues. Medical professionals must set ethical guidelines and take action against violators. Representatives of the common people must be included on the committees that will oversee these operations.
We must restore organ transplantation to where it really belongs - not as an example of all that is unethical and commercial but as a modern medical advance permitting one human being to make the gift of life to another.

Here are three article which discuss some of the ethical issues involved with human organ transplantation.

The Ethics of Organ Donation by Living Donors

Ethics of Organ Transplants (Why this is listed under agnosticism and atheism I do not know).

Ethics of organ transplantation, an except of which is quoted above.

Finally, here is an example of everything that transplantation should not be: A negotiable commodity available to wealthy criminals.

The rules for organ transplantation are restrictive because they need to be. I do understand the appeal of the "open market" option that my friend likes, but it opens the door to many evils as well.
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monkeying around with language

ScienceNOW has a short summary of research on monkey calls.

An Introduction to Monkey Grammar?: "Primates produce new alarm calls in a way that might resemble human language [Read more]"

Hardly a surprise though, even some humans demonstrate this ability.

[Image Credits: 1, 2, and found on 3 (origin unknown)] Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How big is it?

 Check out this online magnifying glass (use the slider!).
Some cells are visible to the unaided eye
The smallest objects that the unaided human eye can see are about 0.1 mm long. That means that under the right conditions, you might be able to see an ameoba proteus, a human egg, and a paramecium without using magnification. A magnifying glass can help you to see them more clearly, but they will still look tiny.

[Hat tip 2 Andrew Gelman at Applied Statistics]   Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Things that make you go "Hmmm": drug deaths

[From Information is Beautiful]

Visualising the Guardian Datablog:

I’m doing a regular weekly visualisation for the excellent Guardian Datablog, the front-end for an amazing library of statistics and data, lovingly hand-gathered by The Guardian.

My first post is about Deadly Drugs.

 IiB presents this chart:

Check out the article on The Guardian blog for detail and data. You want both right?

I'll second that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


From Probably Bad News. Bad math from Fox News is not news either.
Also at FlowingData, with flame war discussion to boot!


Breaking News: 193% Is The New 100%:

[post repaired November 2010]

Friday, November 27, 2009

Many Exciting Tables

Found in an online SPSS guide (very near the bottom):

SPSS gives you many exciting tables for repeated measures ANOVA, most of which you can ignore in whole or at least in part. [emphasis added]

Wow! Not only is it an exciting statistical result, but you can probably just ignore it??? WHAT!?!

Likely anyone who isn't a statistician won't see the humor in that -  But to see these described on one hand as "exciting tables" (somehow unlikely), and "can just ignore" on the other hand is unexpected, to the the least. Trust me; the statisticians are ROTFLAO. Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moguls on the Move

Help! I'm a Rocky Mountain skier trapped in the flat-lands!

At Improbable Research I found this story describing how moguls - those bumpy things on a ski slope, gradually work their way uphill. That should make sense to experience skiers, though now there is an article at Physics Today that makes it more than just anecdotal belief. The video below illustrates the movement over the course of the ski season:

The ski slope is a run call Riflesight Notch at Mary Jane ski area, Winter Park, Colorado. It looked familiar even before I read the text describing the video. I have been there many times, skiing the moguls until every muscle ached and loving every minute of it, then dinner at Katie's Beanery in Granby on the way home.


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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Selecting for kuru resistant cannibals

I'm trying to decide what to think of this. On one hand resistance to kuru it's a hopeful sign. On the other hand, the mere existence of a disease that turns you into a laughing zombie could put a damper on your next mortuary feast.

Selecting for kuru resistant cannibals
New Scientist reports on a new study on how a gene that gives protection against the deadly brain disease kuru became more common in people exposed to the condition through their cannibalistic tradition of eating the bodies of dead relatives.

Kuru is a prion disease, meaning the damage is caused by a poorly arranged or folded protein molecule which can trigger the same damaging changes in other proteins it comes into contact with.

The condition is related to what we know as 'mad cow disease' and causes a distinctive form of shaking, brain degeneration and eventually leads to death. It was restricted to the South Fore people of Papua New Guinea who seemed to pass on the condition by their tradition of to eating deceased relatives at mortuary feasts.

This new study shows that over time a new variant of the PRNP gene emerged in the population which gave protection against kuru.

Just to be safe, you might want to scratch brains-in-oyster-sauce from the Thanksgiving menu. Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Search of the Mother Troll

I was reading an article at

Of course these people are organized, either at their churches or at various sources around the internet, and all I need to do is search around until I dig some up. So I searched, and I found a likely candidate; a forum post titled Help! need help debating an evolutionist! at a site called Just the sort of place where I might find a seething den of Creationist scheming to troll any public forum that dares to publish about science and evolution. The original poster (OP) asked for help ...

[outdoor_engineer] I have an ongoing debate with a kid at school about evolution.
He's presenting some pretty good arguments and he's kicking my butt, can anyone help?!

... and with a little prodding OP provided details of the argument:

It is a long, drawn out logic style argument, I'll go through it step by step:
First he said that there are two different types of claims:
faith claims: those which could not be falsified by observation or experiment even in principle.
(i.e. god exists)


science claims: those which can be falsified by observation or experiment
(i.e. the earth is roughly spherical in shape)
This seemed perfectly rational, so I agreed.

he asked if I would agree that only science claims should be taught in science class. After some hemming and hawwing I agreed.

then the argument went like this:

faith based claims are those that which cannot be falsified.
faith based claims should not be taught in science class.
Creationism / ID can incorporate any evidence by saying "God made it that way"
Therefore creationism / ID cannot be falsified
Therefore creationism / ID should not be taught in science class.

He got me, Where did I go wrong? where's the flaw in his logic that I can't see?

This OP kid is up against a good argument, but this is where things started to go wrong. I was expecting the first reply to an irrational screed, but what came next was this:

[Mallon] There is no flaw in his argument. He's right.

Why do you think creationism should be taught in science class?

Huh? What?! This was supposed to be an investigative post about where trolls come from - where they live, what they plan, how they organize. I wanted to blog about that. I intended to blog about that. WHAT'S GOING ON???  How can my seething den of rabid Creationism be filled with educated, thinking, rational people. This is horrible! My first attempt is an utter failure.

But what a wonderful way to fail.

If your read the thread you will see a number of rational people writing similar comments, but a real troll does finally show up on page 2, who writes ...

[Calypsis4] I'll give you some help, young person.

1. Evolution does not exist in the first place because if it did it would be a violation of natural law. (a) the law of must generate from life. It cannot generate from non-living matter and no one has ever observed such a thing occur in nature. (2) Entropy keeps non-living matter from developing into living organisms and entropy keeps living organisms from becoming a different kind of organism. (3) the fossil record reveals that living organisms began abruptly, highly complex and no transitional forms. [...]

2. God meant what He said through Moses and the creation in Genesis and there is no historical reason not to believe the account he gave us. Even the ten commandments affirm the six day creation account (Exodus 20:11). Secondly, the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the six day creation account (Mark 10:6 & 13:19). All of His disciples taught that the creation was true and that Adam and Eve were real people.

3. Evolution is nowhere taught in the Bible. It is a fairy tale.
[emphasis added]

Pity this poor troll, for he is about to get body-slammed:

[pgp protector]
1) Evolution has nothing to do with Biogenesis, please learn what the theory states.

2) Genesis only works that way if you read it as 100% literal, and that also makes God a deceiver (God made the Earth look old, but told us it's young).

3) computers programing is nowhere taught in the Bible. Please stop using the internet.
[emphasis added]

I laughed. I howled. My wife wondered what the heck I found so funny. The troll introduces some fun and it turns into a rollicking good 8 flaming pages of Young Earth Creatroll versus Theistic Evolutionists. Darned sharp TE's too - I could learn something from them. I also learned that this forum has "darker" corners, which might be the lair of the trolls I seek. My search has just begun.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods

Each element represents a different type of data visualization, and hovering the mouse-pointer over any of them will pop-up an example. "Hi" stands for Histogram as demonstrated in the captured pop-up below.

Very nicely done! See for yourself.

This happy accident occurred while I was searching for "element-pun" material in response to comments on a recent post at The Endeavor. Thanks John!
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's this? Faith AND Reason?!?

 Todd Wood, a Young Earth Creationist, has this to say:

Evolution is not a theory in crisis. It is not teetering on the verge of collapse. It has not failed as a scientific explanation. There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. There is no conspiracy to hide the truth about the failure of evolution. There has really been no failure of evolution as a scientific theory. It works, and it works well.

Not the sort of thing you generally hear from YEC, and a pleasant surprise. I bestow upon Todd Wood the title of Scientia Causidicus, for demonstrating the capability to be honest, a rational thinker, and to maintain his faith. Thank God for that.
[Hat Tip Evolutionblog and Thoughts from Kansas]
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

This is fun ...

 I just discovered a nice blog tribute to ... oh ... but telling would spoil some of the fun. This series of posts at The Armchair Generalist is still fun, even if it is after Halloween.

Here, have some more fun:

How Superman Defeated the Ku Klux Klan

TV Shows Little Girls Watch

Monkey Business: Scientist Monkeys Around With The Economy

Internet Rules

Piano Stairs are fun too.

I Love the Internet

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Diesel Exhaust is a Weighty Matter

Scientific American has this online article -

- the point of which is to point out the enormous amounts of pollutants produced by idling truck engines, and that New York City has a law regarding this that really ought to be enforced. I have little doubt that this really is a significant source of pollutions, but this statement made me raise my eyebrows:

"Idling buses, cars and trucks may not seem like a big deal, but in New York City they spew out as much pollution as nine million diesel trucks driving from the Bronx to Staten Island, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. That’s roughly 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 940 tons of nitrogen oxide, 24 tons of soot particles, and 6,400 tons of carbon monoxide each year"

Can that be right? That's a lot of trucks making the trip. I'm a statistician, and I wonder about such things like the accuracy of statistics like this. Watching TV on a Friday night, I started doing so some Googling and back-of-the-envelope calculations during the commercials.

The claim of the article: 130,000 + 940 + 24 + 6,400 = 137364 of pollutants released each year, that's 274,728,000 pounds. The distance between the Bronx and Staten Island is 33.9 miles (so says Google Maps), and in 9 million trips that works out to 305,100,000 miles. 274,728,000 pounds divided by 305,100,000 miles is 0.9 pounds of pollutants per mile.

The Economy of Diesel trucks: The average big diesel truck pulling a load gets about 5.5 miles per gallon of fuel (so says Wiki Answers), or 0.182 gallons of diesel per mile. Diesel weighs about 7.2 pounds per gallon (in cold weather yet, so says, so 0.182 gallons/mile times 7.2 lbs/gallon is about 1.31 pounds of diesel per mile driven.

Now 0.9 lbs/mile of pollutants divided by 1.31 ponds per mile of diesel work out to 0.6873, or about 70% of the total mass of the diesel fuel converted to pollution. At this point, I ran into difficulty finding a source for the actual composition of diesel exhaust. 70% might be reasonable; after all, the mass of the fuel has to go somewhere.

But wait, I've made a mistake - most of the 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide is oxygen, without looking up the molecular weights of carbon and oxygen, AT LEAST two-thirds of that mass is coming from the atmosphere and not the diesel fuel. 70% now seems more reasonable.

There is another possible error, which I don't know how to resolve. In my reading I discovered (lost the link, sorry) that idling diesel engines are relatively clean, but produce heavy pollution when under a load (you see this on the road all the time). Therefore the number of idling vehicles must be really huge to make of this difference. This is also quite possible; NYC is a BIG place, but the article does not offer any information about how many vehicles this might be.

I would assume that if NYC has a law that trucks should not idle for more than a minute, there must be some good evidence somewhere to back this up. The original claim seems to come from the Environmental Defense Fund, but I'm too tired for more digging tonight. This has been an interesting bit of fact checking, except that I ran into a wall with limited knowledge of chemistry. Maybe I should ask a Chemist?

[UPDATE, 11/01/2009]
I received this response to my question at About.Chemistry, Sean writes:
the average chemical formula for diesel is C12H23. with that said, the mass of a carbon atom is 12.01 g, and hydrogen is 1.008. so, mathematically, diesel has the molecular weight, on average of 167.304 grams per mole of fuel.
the weight of the oxygen atom is 15.99g (mostly rounded to 16g), so carbon dioxide is 44.01 grams per mole.
in general, this relates to something of the sort:
2 moles of C12H23 +  O2 gas in excess -makes-> 12moles CO2+ 12moles CO+ 23moles H2O. as the formula for the burning of the diesel, if it was a very complete and clean reaction, however, we all know that's never the case. ;.;
as for the 130,000 tons of CO2, that comes to
 117 934 016 200g of CO2

and of that gram mass, 27% is carbon, while 73% is oxygen. that's what...
31842184374 grams of carbon and 86091831826 grams of oxygen.
however, diesel is more of a blend of things and not just the carbon and hydrogen, which pretty much takes all that I have written and makes it almost useless. In my research, though, I've seen more about the fact that sulfur is present in the fuel than the carbon emissions, as that will inhibit the use of catalytic filters to scrub the exhaust clean, as in most vehicles.
also, in response to your lost link, I dug this up
which says that idling is bad for diesel because it produces more exhaust via incomplete combustion.
anywho, I'm not too advanced in chemistry, so forgive me if I supplied you with random nonsense, I was trying to think of a way to equate the mass of fuel to pollutants produced, but as I can't find an exact formula for what the reactions are this is the best I think I can do. I'm hoping someone else can chime in from here and make more sense of things, and of anything, I wish you luck with your search.

Thanks Sean!

After some more digging I turned up an abstract and a paper on wind tunnel experiments (Part 1, Part 2) that are related, but none seem to be the origin of the original statistics. I might have more luck searching from work tomorrow.
-- OR --
I could ask the author of the SciAm article, Mr Brett Israel. Would that make it too easy?

[Further update 12/09/2009]
I never heard back from the author and I've pretty much given up. Sean's comment about catalytic converters is something else I had not thought of that might affect the results. So many windmills to tilt at, and so little time.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Creation Museum Claims Proven

Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature Proof positive the Man and Dinosaur co-existed!


Check out the video for the full story:

UPDATE: The video originally linked on YouTube has since been removed. Click this link to search for a currently available version.

The Real story being Chuck Jones 1939 debut as the director of Daffy Duck - and so history was made. Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature