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The War on Science

You may have heard rightwing pundits such as columnist David Limbaugh, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Todd Starnes of Fox News tell you (with no real evidence, but with lots of emotional rhetoric) about the war that’s being waged against Christianity.

The Christians are absolutley safe. The Justice Department isn’t going to investigate the claims made by priests during sermons. The FCC isn’t going to regulate church sermons and force priests to be truthful and accurate. The United States Congress isn’t going to order the U.S. Treasury to take the words “In God We Trust” off of our money, and religious programming such as “The 700 Club” will not be taken off American television. Christians make up more than 75 percent of the U.S. population and they run all three branches of the U.S. government. They also control the American mainstream media and comprise most of the U.S. armed forces and law enforcement agencies. With such power and wealth and influence at their command, who in America could possibly wage war against them?

However, while many of you are focused on the fabricated “war on Christianity”, there is a very REAL war going on against science and scientists in America. Unlike David Limbaugh, Rick Perry and Todd Starnes of Fox news, I will sumbit real evidence that this war is being waged. Make the jump»

Can you dig it?

Now what could this mean? TV crew stopped from taking samples from polluted Florida beach. Pat Gonzales, US Fish and Wildlife (to WEAR ABC 3 reporter taking a sample from polluted beach): "You can not come out here and do your own investigation if you're looking for oil product." WEAR ABC 3

Is the government protecting the sovereign state of BP? Is a pattern emerging?

It seems so. In addition to chasing off WEAR-ABC off the beach, federal officials discouraged scientists from taking samples in the Gulf, other federal officials confiscated samples gathered by scientists at LSU, and state officials refused to test fish for pollution claiming they'd seen no oil in the area in question. Who benefits? Make the jump»

A New Perspective On The Fermi Paradox

 

Ever heard of the Fermi Paradox? Essentially, it's this:

If there are intelligent civilisations elsewhere in the Universe with technologies that far surpass our own, why do we see no sign of them?

The article The Fermi Paradox, Phase Changes and Intergalactic Colonisation, posted June 26 online at the Technology Review, two gentlement from the National Technical University of Ukraine have come up with a new take that's yielding some interesting insights:

Their approach is to imagine that civilisations form at a certain rate, grow to fill a certain volume of space and then collapse and die. They even go as far as to suggest that civilisations have a characteristic life time, which limits how big they can become.

In certain circumstances, however, when civilisations are close enough together in time and space, they can come into contact and when this happens the cross-fertilisation of ideas and cultures allows them both to flourish in a way that increases their combined lifespan.

What's this mean? Well,

The result gives a new insight into the Fermi Paradox. Bezsudnov and Snarskii say that for certain values of these parameters, the universe undergoes a phase change from one in which civilisations tend not to meet and spread into one in which the entire universe tends to become civilised as different groups meet and spread.

Fascinating.

Of course, this doesn't resolve the question definitively, but certainly provides some interesting additional sparks that could catch and burn brightly in a fertile imagination.

What do ~you~ think -- is there any intelligent life in the universe? (Outside of Earth, that is -- effectively avoiding whether or not you'd qualify humanity itself as "intelligent.")

 

Open Thread: The Dawn of a New Era, Space Commercialization Edition

YouTube: 

Did you see it live, or read about it? The first successful orbital flight of SpaceX's Falcon 9 occurred on Friday, 4 June 2010. Check out their updates here.

This truly marks the beginning of the commercialization of space flight.

We have witnessed a bit of history that we can be proud of.

This is an Open Thread.

Glowing Scientific Reports on Fruit Fly Sperm Spat

Glowing Sperm Pictures, Images and PhotosFrom the BBC we get news that scientists have managed to observe fruit fly sperm that they have made glow either red or green and watched them duke it out in the sexual selection process. They believe this breakthrough may help advance theories on evolution and could provide solutions to human infertility:

In nature, monogamy is often the exception, promiscuity usually the rule, the BBC's Matt McGrath reports.

But whenever a female of any species mates with more than one male there is a battle between the sperm of the potential fathers as they attempt to fertilise the eggs.

Scientists regard this type of sexual selection as a very important force for evolutionary change.

...snip...

Prof Scott Pitnick says it was a jaw-dropping moment when he saw the multicoloured sperm through the microscope for the first time.

"It turns out that they [the sperm] are constantly on the move within the female's specialised sperm-storage organs and exhibit surprisingly complex behaviour," Prof Pitnick said.

Below the fold are some other stories on this breakthrough and other related fields of study as recommended by the BBC.

Make the jump»

Friday Morning Open Thread: Life On Mars, NASA Goals & Priorities Edition

NASA needs a goal, a destination and objective upon which to focus, else it is going nowhere. That's effectively what US Sentators told the space agency on Wednesday. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden disagreed.

...Bolden said after the hearing that critics were confusing the lack of a specific destination or timetable with the lack of a goal.

NASA has a goal, a big one, Bolden said. It's going to Mars. But Bolden added that getting astronauts to Mars is more than a decade away and NASA needs to upgrade its technology or else it never will get there.

"We want to go to Mars," Bolden said. "We can't get there right now because we don't have the technology to do it."

That is why he said the new NASA plan invests in developing in-orbit fuel depots, inflatable spaceship parts, new types of propulsion and other technology.

Bolden would not even guess when NASA would try to send astronauts to Mars, but said the technology NASA is studying could cut the trip to the Red Planet from three months to a matter of days if it works.

"We're oh-so-close, but we've got to invest in that technology," Bolden testified.

Bolden is correct; the amount of technological, economic and industrial growth that resulted from our push to the Moon resulted in many of the marvelous advances in science that have revolutionized many areas in the public and private sectors.

Another goal -- one that has been "out there" for a while and constantly revived -- is the desire to bring back samples of Martian life for study on Earth:

"At this particular time, I can't provide a date certain for the first human mission to Mars," Bolden told the Senate's science and space subcommittee. However, Bolden recently told the Houston Chronicle's editorial board it was his "personal vision" to put NASA on a path toward a human Mars landing sometime in the 2030s.

That's the kind of talk that could energize further robotic exploration of Mars, including two-way trips. "Non-human sample return would feed very directly into the technology for human exploration," Conley told me.

If Bolden's vision holds true, a lot of questions will have to be answered in the next 20 years. Conley said one biggie is how safe astronauts would be on the Red Planet. A report from the National Research Council, titled "Safe on Mars," outlined a whole list of potential nasties ranging from alien microbes to toxic hexavalent chromium. Some of those risks can be assessed only by up-close analysis of Martian samples, Conley said.

Of course, bringing back samples of extra-terrestrial life has its own inherent risks, as speculated in science fiction fare such The Andromeda Strain, Alien and -- perhaps most appropriate of the three -- Species. From the article cited above by Alan Boyles on MSNBC,

When fresh Martian material is brought back - either by astronauts or by special-delivery robots - it'll have to be contained much more tightly than the Apollo moonwalkers were 40 years ago. The way Rummel sees it, our planet was lucky that the moon was most sincerely dead. "If there had been anything alive on the moon at that time, it would be alive here now," he said. (On the flip side, we may have left something alive on the moon.)

NASA's plans call for Martian samples to be handled as if they were top-priority biohazards, in a containment facility equivalent to a Biosafety Level 4 lab.

Ideally, such a lab would also have the contact numbers for Michael Madsen and Sigourney Weaver.

This is an Open Thread.

Saturday Morning Open Thread: Some Perspective, Universal Edition

YouTube: 

Hat-tip to Lordrag of DelphiForums for finding this.

Ever wonder about your relative place in the Universe? Well, someone did. And that someone -- or group of "someones" -- put this together. From the YouTube information:

__________

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world's most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

For more information visit http://www.amnh.org
__________

Video posted to YouTube by AMNHorg.

This is an Open Thread.

Sunday Evening Open Thread: Atlantis Landing, Trailblazing Edition

YouTube: 

Here's a video clip of the recent landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis as it returned from its latest mission.

Some other fun stuff on the science and technology front -- specifically historical in nature, can be found here:

"Trailblazing" website reveals 350 years of science
Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:49pm EST

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A gruesome account of a 1666 blood transfusion and amusing notes about how an 8-year-old Mozart responded to tests of his genius were published on Monday as part of an online history of scientific endeavor.

The "Trailblazing" website was created by Britain's influential science academy the Royal Society, and includes handwritten papers on some of the most important scientific discoveries of the past three and a half centuries.

Neat stuff, eh?

This is an Open Thread.

Japan's Dream Machine -- Coming Soon?

Cute -- and with a variety of implications:

 

 

Sleep well. :)

Hat-tip Neon Vincent. Make the jump»

JOBS: Research and Science

A little back round. There once was a Huge Linen Factory, called Cannon than Pillow Tex {sp?}, than something else after I moved here of which the name eludes me. Well they closed it down a few years ago with thousands of job loses not only within but the supporting small companies. It was one of the biggest, if not thee biggest, collective job loss numbers in North Carolina. Make the jump»

Open Thread -- On The Importance of Fish Poop Edition

So just for kicks and giggles, have you ever wondered what a self-fulfilling prophecy was or wanted to see a self-perpetuating feedback mechanism in action? Or, even more simply and direct, find out why it's not good to break things before you at least learn more about what they do?

Sometimes, it's smart to learn more about the big picture before taking action on incomplete assumptions.


Attribution: xkcd.1

From the site Discovery.com comes this AP Report that Fish Poop helps balance ocean acidity:

Jan. 15, 2009 -- The ocean's delicate acid balance may be getting help from an unexpected source, fish poop.

The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives global warming, but also raises the amount of CO2 dissolved in ocean water, tending to make it more acid, potentially a threat to sea life.

Who knew?

There's some excellent information exploring this discovery out there among the vast intertubes network, but one really interesting discussion has been taking place on the science blog The Questionable Authority. In particular, check out the comments where you can run across nuggets ranging from a great link to How to talk to a climate skeptic to an interesting comment regarding anthropogenic vs non-anthropogenic carbon cycles. After reading all of the above, I began to wonder if the "common wisdom" explored here was, in light of the latest scoop on fish poop and the oceanic carbon cycle, now a bit too presumptuous.

Anywho, that's the latest scoop. Below the fold, a selection of semi-related (maybe -- kinda-sorta) past Open Threads.

Which reminds me -- this is an Open Thread, too. Make the jump»

Open Thread -- Age and Longetivity Research Edition

The end of the year approaches, and with it comes the promise that we will be yet another year wiser; those who have survived the turbulent ups and downs of the year have also achieved the milestone of becoming yet another year older.

That need not sound as ominous or regretful as it appears. Make the jump»

How Are Your Genes Doing

I'd like to recommend an article that appeared in this past Tuesday's Science Times. Carl Zimmer has written a four page review of new advances in genetics research, Now - The Rest of the Genome, in which he discusses the flexibility which which genes express themselves depending upon circumstances within a given cell or cells. Particular genes apparently are not programmed to produce a specific protein. Make the jump»

An Open Letter to Sarah Palin, from ex-Fundamentalist, Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I'd like to call you on what you are doing. Make the jump»