Physical Sciences

A couple of science-related items from the New York Times: 1) An article on the Cafe Scientifique phenomenon, in which scientists put on monthly get-togethers for the general public, where recent scientific research is explained in layman's terms. It's nice to be reminded that there's still interest in learning about science-- given the numbe of news stries about people rejecting modernity on the grounds that it's icky, it's easy to forget. (Again, I'll mention that I was pleasantly surprised that twenty-odd people showed up for my "Weird Quantum Phenomena" talk, several of them taking notes…
Eli Rabett is working his way through Taken By Storm. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this work, it's a global warming denial book which contains some spectacularly Bad Physics, with the authors claiming that average temperature has no physical meaning. Anyway, Rabett is reading chapter two, and finds he needs to create a EssexMcKitrictionary. Here's an extract: Doctrine of Certainty - the idea that anyone besides Essex (and maybe McKitrick) can know anything. Obviously false. Often called "The Doctrine" includes items that are "manifestly false or the claim to know it is false…
I realized the other day that since moving to ScienceBlogs, I'm turning into John Scalzi (Does my new body have a brand name?), what with all the posting of cute images (and spending an inordinate amount of time taking pictures with an eye toward posting them), and assigning other bloggers homework. If I had a novel, I'd put it on the web, and make millions! Or something. Anyway, it's nice to have at least one of those things turned around on me: RPM at evolgen is asking for the "string theory" of other sciences: the most controversial and possibly overhyped fields of study. RPM has obviously…
Orson Scott Card has written a long essay defending Intelligent Design. Oy, but it is depressing. It's a graceless hash, a cluttered and confusing mish-mash of poorly organized complaints about those darned wicked "Darwinists". He lists 7 arguments. Then he repeats his list, expanding on them. Then he goes on and on, hectoring scientists about how they should behave. For a professional writer, it's just plain bad writing—I'm struggling with how to address his arguments, but he's written such a gluey mass of tangled ranty irrationality that it's hard to get a handle on it. Ugly, ugly, ugly……
The commenters here at ScienceBlogs are da bomb! Just look at the insight they contributed to my previous post on fakery in science. Indeed, let's use some of that insight to see if we can get a little bit further on the matter of how to discourage scientists from making it up rather than, you know, actually doing good science. Three main strategies emerged from the comments so far: Make the potential payoff of cheating very low compared to the work involved in getting away with it and the penalty you'll face if caught (thus, making just doing good science the most cost-effective strategy…
Chad at Uncertain Principles, one of my ScienceBlogs siblings, is requesting his co-bloggers suggest the most important experiment or discovery in their field. There are a disproportionate amount of "bio-bloggers" -- though we each have our own niche -- and he's asking us to nominate "the most important experiment or observation in biology". I'm expecting that because of our diverse interests, you'll see some differences in how we interpret "important". This leads me to wonder why we have so many life-sciences types at ScienceBlogs and so few math/physics/chemistry types, but that's a…
Heredity has two free reviews up, Quantitative genetics: Small but not forgotten, and Evolutionary genetics: Fight or flinch? New fields like genomics and evo-devo get a lot of press, and deservedly so, but I believe that the swarm of data generated by these disciplines is going to revitalize quantitative (biometry) and evolutionary genetics. Ultimately the natural sciences are fundamentally a unity. Even though quantum chemistry, molecular biology and ecology have their own domains of study and tools of the trade, there is a common ontological assumption, that of the physical world around…
Posting has been (relatively) light this week because today was the first day of classes. I'm teaching introductory modern physics (relativity and quantum mechanics), a class that I've taught before, but I've been putting a significant amount of time into revising my lecture notes, to keep the class from getting stale. This has led to a reduction in blogging because I've been preoccupied with educational matters. Happily, PZ Myers comes along with a post about education. It's one of those chain-letter sort of posts, starting with an op-ed by Olivia Judson with some unkind words about high…
To hear most ID advocates tell it, ID is only rejected by "Darwinian fundamentalists" who hold fast to "atheistic materialism." Laurie Goodstein has an article in Sunday's New York Times that puts the lie to that claim. She shows that many organizations and academics who would be seen as likely supporters of ID have been put off by the lack of actual substance being offered: The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to…
Take a look at the following movie (quicktime required). The movie will alternately flash a picture of a desk and a patterned block. Your job is to see if anything about the picture of the desk changes each time it flashes. Don't replay the movie when you get to the end; just stop. Did you notice any changes? Most people won't spot any changes at all when they watch this movie the first time. But watch the image as you press play again, and you'll see that the desk has changed significantly from the beginning to the end of the movie. I actually rotated it by two degrees at each point along…
Last week Kyoto came into effect. Apparently that was the signal for columns by a whole bunch of pundits who have two features in common: 1. they are manifestly ill-equipped to understand the science and 2. they are utterly certain that there is no such thing as global warming. Our first pundit is Michael Duffy in the Daily Telegraph informs us: The truth is we have no control over global warming, and in any case it's not a problem at all. The myth holds that carbon dioxide in the upper atmosphere is increasing, due mainly to industrial activities, and this…
Welcome to the 2004 Deltoid awards. Today we are giving out the Golden Rake Award, named in honour of Sideshow Bob and the rakes in the Simpsons Cape Feare episode: How many other series would waste valuable prime-time real estate by showing a man whacking himself in the face with a garden rake not once, not twice, but NINE TIMES?!? If ever there was a gag genius in its repetitive stupidity (progressing from funny to not so funny to the funniest thing ever), this is it---merely the sharpest cut in an entire episode that just plain kills. The award…
Casey Luskin, one of the folks behind the IDEA center, has written what is surely the most absurdly misaimed criticisms I have ever seen with his article, A Holiday Truce: A Holocaust Survivor Speaks Out. The purpose of his article is to point the finger at those of us who have compared those who deny the validity of evolution to those who deny the truth of the holocaust and say "shame, shame". Says Luskin: As the debate over intelligent design and Darwinian evolution has become increasingly publicized, some have unfortunately resorted to rhetoric which stirs hateful passions rather than…
Lavoisier group member Louis Hissink has a response to my post and John Quiggin's on the Lavoisier group. A summary cannot do it justice, so I will quote extensively: A quick scan of the blogosphere reporting on William Kininmonth's recent book launch on Monday 22 November by the Lavoisier Society showed many still retain a belief in man-made global warming. So let's get a little more scientific about this issue. As far as the earth is concerned, and from a geological perspective, 99% of the earth's mass is hotter than 1000 degrees Celsius, and 1% of the earth's mass cooler than 100…
Sometimes I think that there must be a qualifying exam in order to write for Tech Central Station. Fail the exam and you're in. They seem to have exams in at least physics, economics, statistics, and epidemiology. Tim Worstall, the author of today's article seems to have failed both the statistics and epidemiology exams. Worstall is criticizing a recent study published in the Lancet that found very roughly 100,000 excess deaths in Iraq after the invasion, almost all of which were violent. He writes: At the very least one would have to add The Lancet to that list of mainstream…
Rusty has posted another response on Junk DNA. It's a few days old but I'm just now getting around to answering it. If you're following along, you'll find Rusty's original post here and my response here. The basic assertion up for dispute is Rusty's test for creationism:Further research will reveal function for so-called Junk-DNA sequences. Although considered by evolutionists to be a closed case, the Creation Model predicts that currently held scientific opinion on this issue will eventually concede that function is inherent in the Junk-DNA sequence. The failure of this test would be a…