Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scientia Causidicus: Steven Dutch

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series of posts bringing attention to, and hopefully honoring, people who are strong advocates for science. In my own pidgin internet-translation-latin version of the taxonomy of Linnaeus, I am titling this group the Scientia Causidicus (Science Advocates).
To qualify, these people have to say, do, or write something which directly or indirectly advocates good science. If they happen to have a bit of fun with it at the same time, that is even better. There are many people this might apply to, but I will attempt to apply this to people who deserve more attention that they get for their efforts. Note that actual science qualifications are not required (but probably help).
I might have to come up with a separate category for people who promote bad science, and in doing bring attention to what good science really is. I'll need a name for that too, perhaps Scientia Cado (Science Fallacy)?

Steven Dutch Scientia CausidicusBack on-topic though ... with no further ado I present my first Scientia Causidicus honoree, Dr. Steven Dutch, Geologist and Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences at University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. Professor Dutch hosts a most interesting collection of writings on
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism. [image DaytonACS]

This page links to a large group of articles on topics from Science and Pseudoscience to Vaporizing the World Trade Center.

A few selected quotations:

What evidence would it take to prove your beliefs wrong?

I simply will not reply to challenges that do not address this question. Refutability is one of the classic determinants of whether a theory can be called scientific. Moreover, I have found it to be a great general-purpose cut-through-the-crap question to determine whether somebody is interested in serious intellectual inquiry or just playing mind games. Note, by the way, that I am assuming the burden of proof here - all you have to do is commit to a criterion for testing. It's easy to criticize science for being "closed-minded". Are you open-minded enough to consider whether your ideas might be wrong?



Every so often I get e-mails from people complaining I don't treat these topics or their believers with respect.

There is nothing in crank movements worthy of respect.

First of all, cranks don't treat the orthodox with respect. They can accuse science of willfully neglecting or falsifying evidence. They can accuse their own nation of bringing down skyscrapers and causing thousands of deaths, or deliberately breaching levees to flood New Orleans, but aim a little critical language at them, and they howl about being "disrespected." Aww, poo' baby.

Also, from Dr. Dutch's University Survival Guide (scroll down about half-way), the Top Ten No Sympathy Lines, which includes:

How Am I Doing In Class?

You're failing.

If you don't know the class material well enough to assess your own progress, and you don't know enough math to estimate your grade given your progress to date, you're failing.

You may luck out and get something higher than an F, but as theologians say, don't confuse mercy with merit.

There is much more, go see for yourself.
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Call for Sharing (Google Reader)

There is a box in the right sidebars titled "Vine Ripe Tomatos" (My Shared Items) where you can see some of the article and sites I have found that interest me (I have moved this up temporarily so it is more obvious). I use this as a resource to help keep track of sources for topics I plan to write about.
Google Reader has a nice feature that allows sharing items and commenting on them. This allows sharing of things I find interesting with like-minded friends, and vice-versa. Potential, this allows me to see more of the thing I most like on the web, because people I know have already filtered and shared things they most like. It's really pretty cool, except for one serious drawback:

I need people to share with.

It turns out a lot of people I communicate with regularly don't use Reader, and I haven't made many converts yet. Therefore, this post is an open call for any people reading this to set up sharing between us.
I currently label (tag) items I intend to use on the blog with "DTA", which helps me but probably not anyone else. I will make an effort to use more, and more descriptive labels, in all of my shared items. Topics which I am most interested in reading are typically "Math, Science, Statistics". Items which combine science and humor are of particular interest.

If you use Reader, are willing to share, and have some common interests, contact me by the email in the right sidebar (or through my profile) so I can send you an invitation to my shared items.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Hammy the Hamster Rides Again

In today's installment, Hammy eschews scientific research for a good old fashioned daredevil stunt.

Hmmm ... there could be a physics lesson in there somewhere. Just don't tell PETA.
[HatTip2 Spot Motorcycles, and thanks to Ken A of The Cooks Den for providing me with the proper source to credit.] Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alzheimer's: A Baby Boomer Epidemic

Maria Shriver writes:

I am a child of Alzheimer's. For many years, my father, Sargent Shriver, would testify before Congress for increased funding for his beloved Peace Corps -- and for all the War On Poverty programs he started. My father was an idealistic, intelligent, optimistic public servant, sharp and witty, his mind a beautifully-tuned instrument that left people in awe and inspired. That was he doesn't know my name or who I am. When my Dad was diagnosed in 2003, I felt confused, powerless and alone. There was little information -- and even less hope. My mother, my four brothers and I felt we were entering a world that was terrifying and incomprehensible. Like cancer, people didn't talk about Alzheimer's back then -- they whispered about it. It was a diagnosis shrouded in shame.

I have recently been through this tragic experience myself, but I try to keep in mind that it is not just my tragedy. Many other people are going through this now, and so very many more will be facing this in the coming years as their parents age.

[Via Huffington Post] Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Saturday, May 9, 2009

(Breaking) Wind Energy

[Via Fred Bortz's blog]

Fred Bortz writes: In reading the current issue of New Scientist, I found a pointer to a blog entry called "Bug eats electricity, farts biogas."

Needless to say, I had to learn more.

Yeah, that sort of grabs my attention too. Fred is referring to the article Bug eats electricity, farts biogas in New Scientist, which literally proposed using wind to create wind ...

Wind power is capricious, while solar cell output drops off at night or on cloudy days. That fluctuating output poses big problems for electricity grids that rely on steady levels throughout the day. Proposals to deal with the ups and downs of green power supply have included better batteries or redesigning the electricity grid.

An intriguing new idea involves "feeding" surplus power to the microorganisms instead, which combine it with carbon dioxide to create methane. That could then be stored and burned when needed. The method is sustainable too, as the carbon is taken from the atmosphere, not released from long-term storage in oil or coal.

Now if only we could harness THIS GUY. Better yet, what if we could harness the latent energy of fart jokes? (I wonder if I could apply for a patent on that?) Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Y e s or N o

[via Pharyngula]

Oh for crying out loud, it's a "Yes or No" question: Do you believe in evolution?

Chris Matthews has great fun with this. Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

When Pigs Fly

With all the hype about the swine flu, I could resist posting this ...

... and at the left-uppermost are the news media, who have consistently over reported the seriousness, and failed to retract their errors when they later get it right, allowing the bad information to keep circulating. I actually heard one local news anchor give one estimate for the number of deaths in Mexico, and then just a few minutes later giver another LOWER number. Is it a pandemic, not a pandemic, and we should be appropriately cautious. Hysterical new media sources don't help things one bit.

[From GraphJam, of course]

*** Update ***

Greg Laden has much more extensive comments on the swine flu and the real reasons we need to be concerned. Greg has a great Bill Maher clip too.

*** Another Update ***

This editorial from Nature.
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Monday, May 4, 2009

Red Mercury

I found this article recently on Anne Marie's Chemistry Blog:

Do you have an old Singer sewing machine? If so, it may be worth $50,000! BBC is reporting on a sewing machine hoax in Saudia Arabia in which people are rushing to buy old Singer sewing machines based on the belief that they might contain red mercury.

I think my grandmothers old Singer is still in the family somewhere, but it's primary value is the memories in evokes.

Still, this might be a useful method of generating income; First I need to identify some bit of old junk in my basement, then start a rumor that such items contain an element of rare value, wait for the price to go up, and then I can cash in!

So ... you know that old Toro lawn mower engine blocks contain an unusually high concentration of pink antimony, an element that has become increasingly rare since the last Soviet era processing plant closed down a few year ago. It's quite valuable, but I'd be willing to let my old lawn mover go for a very reasonable price ...

[image Chuck's Lawn Mower Page, which, to my amazement and pleasant surprise, is well worth a visit in itself. Go figure.] Dread Tomato Addiction blog signature

Friday, May 1, 2009

Chicks Dig Math

Chicks Dig Math!!!

But not these chicks ... sorry ... not these ladies ... well ... maybe they do. It's hard to say.


Now THESE chicks really do dig math, and you can read about the innate mathematical ability of chicks at 90Beats. Sorry, make that 80Beats. Hey ... I was within 10 ...

[image Livingromcom]

But as long as I am confusing subjects, how about more chicks women and math?

[image Eat.Sleep.Geek]

and more

[image GaySocialites]

and more.

[image CPBN]

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