Recent Articles

Elizabeth Warren: Obama filling federal bench slots with corporate attorneys

Barack Obama is seeking only skin-deep diversity when he chooses judicial nominees. 70% of judicial nominees come from the corporate sector and only 3.6 percent of the president’s nominees have a background in public interest organizations. Elizabeth Warren is concerned:

“Power is becoming more and more concentrated on one side,” she said. “Professional diversity is one way to insulate the courts from corporate capture.”

February 6, 2014 | By | Reply More

Creationist questions, scientist answers

First, there was the debate:

After Bill Nye’s debate with evidence-free Ken Ham, the Creationists lined up with their questions.

At Slate, Phil Plait provides the answers.

Plait offers links to two excellent resources for those who really care to learn more about evolution:

1. Understanding Evolution. This is a collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education.

2. FAQ’s for Creationists by TalkOrigins.
Talk.origins is a Usenet newsgroup devoted to the discussion and debate of biological and physical origins. Most discussions in the newsgroup center on the creation/evolution controversy, but other topics of discussion include the origin of life, geology, biology, catastrophism, cosmology and theology.

Plait ends his article with a link to another of his excellent articles, “Is Science Faith-Based.” Here’s why science is not faith-based:

The scientific method makes one assumption, and one assumption only: the Universe obeys a set of rules. That’s it. There is one corollary, and that is that if the Universe follows these rules, then those rules can be deduced by observing the way Universe behaves. This follows naturally; if it obeys the rules, then the rules must be revealed by that behavior . . . Science is not simply a database of knowledge. It’s a method, a way of finding this knowledge. Observe, hypothesize, predict, observe, revise. Science is provisional; it’s always open to improvement. Science is even subject to itself. If the method itself didn’t work, we’d see it. Our computers wouldn’t work (OK, bad example), our space probes wouldn’t get off the ground, our electronics wouldn’t work, our medicine wouldn’t work. Yet, all these things do in fact function, spectacularly well. Science is a check on itself, which is why it is such an astonishingly powerful way of understanding reality.

February 6, 2014 | By | Reply More

Breaking a pool ball rack perfectly

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to break the pool ball rack perfectly. Here is the mathematics.

February 6, 2014 | By | Reply More

How we rewrite memories

We don’t always remember how things were, but how we need them to be. Here’s new evidence reported by NPR, titled, Our Brains Rewrite Our Memories, Putting Present In The Past”:

Think about your fifth-birthday party. Maybe your mom carried the cake. What did her face look like? If you have a hard time imagining the way she looked then rather than how she looks now, you’re not alone.

The brain edits memories relentlessly, updating the past with new information. Scientists say that this isn’t a question of having a bad memory. Instead, they think the brain updates memories to make them more relevant and useful now — even if they’re not a true representation of the past.

I’ve written a lot more about memory research here.

February 6, 2014 | By | Reply More

Chris Hedges highlights the menace of the military mind

The military has won an ideological battle in the United States. We see many of our most pervasive problems in terms of war. Once we do that, the solution is violence. Now it’s eating up all of us, based on the “culture wars.” Watching TV for any amount of time will demonstrate that Hollywood struggles to be creative, and has descended to the lowest common denominator: violence. It’s something we all understand and it captivates us because we fear it, just as we fear spiders and snakes. And listen to our modern language. We are constantly speaking in metaphors of violence. We always have, but it seems worse to my ears. Mark Johnson and George Lakoff pointed out (in Metaphors we Live By) that we employ the war as a conceptual metaphor:

ARGUMENT IS WAR

Your claims are indefensible.
He attacked every weak point in my argument.
His criticisms were right on target.
I demolished his argument.I’ve never won an argument with him.
You disagree? Okay, shoot!
If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.
He shot down all of my arguments.

But it now seems worse, whenever I’m listening to those engaged in dispute (we almost always dispute rather than discuss). We Americans destroy the opposition, we kill ideas, we employ shock and awe, we look for smoking guns, we come out with guns blazing. Mary Hamer has categorized many types of speech that draw on violence in an essay called “Violent Language That Kills The Human Spirit.” It’s a long painful list. Here is her thesis:

February 5, 2014 | By | Reply More
Amateur photographer versus professional photographer

Amateur photographer versus professional photographer

I caught this video on one of my favorite photography sites: Fauxotraphy: You are not a photographer. It’s hilarious.

February 5, 2014 | By | Reply More

Metronomes syncronizing

This seems magic to me, that all of these devices, unattached, would so quickly synchronize with each other.

February 4, 2014 | By | 8 Replies More

The humble yet effective seat belt

From Public Citizen:

Seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury, according to NHTSA. Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent. Seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives from 2004 to 2008. Forty-two percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2007 were unbelted. A 2009 NHTSA study estimates that more than 1,600 lives could be saved and 22,000 injuries prevented if seat belt use was 90 percent in every state.

It amazes me that there have been a few people I ridden with who don’t use a seat belt. I tell them I won’t move my car until they put on their belt, and they always have, sometimes unhappy about it. I should just tell those people that it is an anti-terrorist device that will save 1,600 lives every year from Middle Eastern terrorists. Then they’d have federal checkpoints to make sure everyone is belted in.

February 4, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

Chris Hedges discusses our undoing

Chris Hedges is difficult to read, but not because he is a bad writer. Rather, it is because he is not satisfied with official lies. Consider these observations of Hedges:

Our financial system—like our participatory democracy—is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—much of it worthless subprime mortgages—each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money—because wages are kept low—by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. … Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.

Who has the strength to see problems as immense and as obvious as these? Not many people, but their are some.

Yet we, like Ahab and his crew, rationalize our collective madness. All calls for prudence, for halting the march toward economic, political and environmental catastrophe, for sane limits on carbon emissions, are ignored or ridiculed. Even with the flashing red lights before us, the increased droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and Arctic ice, monster tornadoes, vast hurricanes, crop failures, floods, raging wildfires and soaring temperatures, we bow slavishly before hedonism and greed and the enticing illusion of limitless power, intelligence and prowess.

February 2, 2014 | By | Reply More