Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Bored With Beards?

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

walter relighWant that Sir Walter Raleigh look to entice the opposite (or even the same)  sex and alleviate your morning shaving bump ritual? Well, you can avoid the shaving but your attractiveness to the object of your affections might depend more on the frequency of your biological competitor’s facial hair than your own or so says a new study out of Australia. Evolutionary biologist Zinnia Janif wanted to know if  sexual attractiveness was enhanced by facial hair and if so to what degree. Her researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, showed photographs of 36 men who volunteered to grow facial hair for a month to 1453 women and 223 men. The photographs were filmed at identical angles and with exactly similar lighting conditions and depicted the subjects at four stages of growth: clean-shaven, light stubble (5 days), heavy stubble (10 days), and full hipster beard (4 weeks). The female viewers were either heterosexual or bisexual and the male viewers were all heterosexual.

Janif’s premise was that evolutionary biological traits might depend on the frequency of the trait among a given population to decide its advantage or disadvantage. Biologists have long known that some traits don’t depend on the frequency of their occurrence to provide an evolutionary advantage. Things like stronger wings or longer leg bones always provide an advantage for predators in chasing down prey but studies of color variations in guppies suggested that oddball colors were only an advantage to this aquatic prey if the frequency was small. Predators, it seems, get better at deciding what to eat if the differently colored guppies aren’t too numerous. So the advantage of the rare coloration begins to disappear as the trait becomes more common. (more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-vial_examples220px-Centre-medical-de-l'institute-pasteurA story this week caught my eye: Paris’ Pasteur Institute has disclosed that it lost thousands of tubes of samples of the deadly Sars coronavirus. I read the story with a mix of astonishment and irritation. As I have previously discussed, I represented Dr. Thomas Butler, a former Texas Tech professor, who was criminally charged after he revealed that a small number of vials containing bubonic plague samples had disappeared — possibly sanitized by accident. Butler self-reported the loss and was immediately the subject of a bizarre FBI investigation by the Bush Administration and former Attorney General John Ashcroft. He was later hit with a series of national security charges and labeled “Dr. Plague” by the media. While the jury rejected virtually all of the national security counts but a minor allegation on shipping (unrelated to the missing vials), the world’s leading expert on plague was still sent to jail. The Pasteur Institute lost 2,349 vials and the French government is correctly treating it as a non-criminal matter.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

On Sunday morning, October 12, 2012, Felix Baumgartner climbed into the gondola of a gigantic helium balloon. The balloon carried him to 128,100 feet (39,045 meters, or 24.26 miles) altitude. Then he opened the door and stepped out.

This jump made him the highest skydiver ever, breaking the record set by his mentor, Joe Kittinger, in 1960. During his free fall through the thin outer layers of the atmosphere, Felix reached a speed of Mach 1.25, making him the first person ever to exceed the speed of sound without equipment.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

200px-NolimetangerecorregioIf you recall, there was a bit of a dust up 18 months ago when Harvard Professor Karen L. King released the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” that detailed the contents of the text of an ancient Egyptian papyrus referring to Jesus being married. A Vatican newspaper and other experts denounced it as a forgery but a new article in the respected Harvard Theological Review says that there is no evidence of a forgery after the application of various tests. King believes it was part of a debate over the role of women among early Christians.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

THE BLOOD MOON RISES

imagesu3ceeeufWe soon will witness an event that has long been associated with the end of the Earth (fortunate timing before finals for my students): the blood moon. Mars, Earth, and the Sun will all align tonight which happens once every 778 days. However, the red moon is less common (as in only occasionally over 2000 years) and has long been viewed as foretelling the “end of times.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

622x350New pictures from Mars has people talking about the possibility of an artificial light source on the planet. This photo was taken last week, apparently by one of our NASA rovers and has UFO folks launching all types of theories.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

250px-Male_Lion_on_Rock200px-Zoo-kbh-2005We previously discussed the disturbing video of employees at the Copenhagen Zoo euthanizing and then dissecting a healthy young giraffe in front of children. Now the zoo is again under fire after killing two older lions and two young lions to make way for a new breeding male. As before, it is part of the zoo’s diversity in breeding program. Notably, the dead giraffe was fed to the lions previously. They were then themselves put on the block.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

NeildeGrasseTyson - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Last week, I wrote a post titled “Cosmos” Host Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks Out about the News Media, Flat Earthers, Science Deniers, Climate Change Skeptics, Religion, and Dogma. Tysonan astrophysicist, director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and the host of Fox Networks’ new science series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odysseyappeared on a multi-part series on Moyers and Company in January. Tyson and Bill Moyers explored a variety of topicsincluding the nature of an expanding, accelerating universe (and how it might end), the difference between “dark energy” and “dark matter,” the concept of God in cosmology and why science matters.

In the final episode of the series—which I’ve posted below the fold—the two men discuss science literacy and why it’s so critical to the future of our democracy, our economy, and our country’s standing in the world. Their discussion lasts about twenty minutes.

 

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

I thought this Carl Sagan interview would be a good follow-up to “Cosmos” Host Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks Out about the News Media, Flat Earthers, Science Deniers, Climate Change Skeptics, Religion, and Dogma–which I posted earlier today.

Charlie Rose talked with Carl Sagan on the Charlie Rose Show back in May of 1996. At that time, Sagan warned about the dangers of people being ignorant about science while living in a society that is based on science and technology. Sagan talked about the “combustible mix” of ignorance and power in our society that would—at some point—blow up in our faces. He questioned who’d run science and technology in a democracy if the people didn’t know anything about it. Sagan also noted that science is more than a body of knowledge. He said it was a way of thinking.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

NeildeGrasseTyson - CopySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He is also the host of Fox Networks’ new science series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Last Sunday, Tyson appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources program and spoke with Brian Stelter. During the program, Tyson talked about “the hypocrisy of people dismissing scientific theory while simultaneously embracing the fruits of scientific discovery ‘that we so take for granted today.’”

Tyson said that our civilization “is built on the innovation of scientists and technologists and engineers who have shaped everything that we so take for granted today. So some of the science deniers or science haters, these are people who are telling that to you while they are on their mobile phone. They are saying, ‘I don’t like science. Oh, GPS just told us to go left. So it’s time for people to sit back and reassess what role science has actually played in our lives. And learn how to embrace that going forward, because without it, we will just regress back into the caves.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Joint_POW-MIA_Accounting_Command_seal

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)-Weekend Contributor

As the son of a fallen Air Force pilot whose remains were never found, I am sensitive to the plight of family members of servicemen and women whose remains may be recoverable, but yet are still not identified.  There are multiple military and defense department agencies who are responsible for locating and identifying the remains of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam and Cold War missions.

The purpose of this article is to examine the efforts of just one of those agencies.  The Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, or J-PAC, is an example of an agency that is crucial to both locating and identifying remains, but because of bureaucratic constraints, outdated methods and the possible stubbornness of its scientific head, has produced very little results at a very expensive cost to the taxpayers. (more…)

Read Full Post »

apple-logoSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), a “self-described” conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., happens to be a shareholder in Apple. NCPPR has not been happy with Apple’s environmental initiatives. According to Chris Taylor (Mashable), Apple has made great improvements “in its use of renewable energy” since Tim Cook took over as CEO. Taylor said, “More than three-quarters of the company’s facilities worldwide, including all of its data centers and its Cupertino HQ, now run on solar, wind, geothermal or hydro power, up from about a quarter under Jobs.” Just last year, Cook hired former EPA head Lisa Jackson “to lead the company’s sustainability efforts.”

In a written statement prior to Apple’s recent annual shareholder meeting, NCPPR’s general counsel Justin Danhof said, “We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards. This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.” According to Fortune, NCPPR “was pushing a shareholder proposal that would have required Apple to disclose the costs of its sustainability programs and to be more transparent about its participation in ‘certain trade associations and business organizations promoting the amorphous concept of environmental sustainability’…” Bryan Chaffin (The Mac Observer) said that the NCPPR proposal was “rooted in the premise that humanity plays no role in climate change.” He also noted that there was language in the proposal that “advanced the idea that profits should be the only thing corporations consider.” During the shareholder meeting, NCPPR urged Apple CEO Tim Cook and the board “to pledge that Apple wouldn’t pursue any more environmental initiatives that didn’t improve its bottom line.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

maeso-hepatitis-valencia_thumbBespectacled Juan Maeso led a fairly mundane life as an anesthetist in the Spanish coastal town of Valencia. All that changed in 2007 when Maeso was convicted of serial murder. A morphine addict, Maeso had been skimming the painkiller meant for his patients and then using the same compromised needle to inject them. Over a decade, 275 patients contracted hepatitis-c (HCV)  and four of them died from complications from the disease. A Spanish court sentenced Maeso to 1,933 years in prison but the sentence pales in interest to how the murderous soporifist was finally caught.

A fascinating article in the journal Nature details the laboratory hunt for the killer with all the twists and turns of an Arthur Conan Doyle story. Led by researchers at the University of Valencia, the work involved analyzing and categorizing 4200 viral sequences to backtrack to Maeso’s particular strain of hepatitis-c. The process known as phylogenetic forensics has been successfully used to track down the origins of such infamous cases as the 2009 anthrax-laced heroine scare in Europe and the case of Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist at the US Army Medical Research Institute, strongly suspected of sending anthrax tainted letters to Senators in 2001. Ivins committed suicide before charges were placed.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

SputnikWith many reports becoming all to familiar with state sponsored censorship of internet traffic users in these nations are engaged in a cat and mouse game with a government that is showing increasing levels of sophistication and legislative muscle. The tactics often used include filtering objectionable material, firewalling targeted IP addresses, tracing data back to individuals and sanctioning those individuals, and creating a system of fear generally in which the public is dissuaded into engaging in free speech.

The common element in these electronic censorship measures is that the government controls access via the physical structure of the network. They are able to do this through land based infrastructure. But what if these physical vulnerabilities to free speech and press were removed and instead replaced with broadcast satellite systems that are immune from filtering and geo-locating individuals?
(more…)

Read Full Post »

by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor

Image by the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department Murphy, NC  Keith Lovin, Sheriff

Image by the
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department
Murphy, NC

This morning, I had been working on another topic when my cell phone rang one time. I looked at the number on the caller ID, which came from 216-206-xxxx. I looked up the number on a internet reverse lookup service. The call “originated” in Euclid, OH. Except it didn’t. If I had called that number back, my call would have been re-directed to an offshore number, most likely in a Caribbean country.

So far, in the past week, I have received at least a half-dozen such calls. I did not think to write all the numbers down before deleting them from my phone.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

RickBrattinSubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

(NOTE: Correction and Update Below)

A Missouri lawmaker has proposed legislation that would make learning about evolution in public schools “optional.” State Rep. Rick Brattin (R), the main sponsor of House Bill 291—also known as the “Missouri Standard Science Act”—introduced the bill in January. Brattin told KCTV, a local station, that teaching only evolution in school was “indoctrination.” He continued, “Our schools basically mandate that we teach one side. It is an indoctrination because it is not objective approach.”

The Kansas City Star reported that Brattin said, “…forcing students to study the natural selection theories developed by Charles Darwin a century and a half ago can violate their religious faith. It’s an absolute infringement on people’s beliefs.” Critics of Brattin’s bill say his legislation “would allow religious faith in biblical explanations to crowd out sound science.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

booIn 2012, we discussed the embarrassingly transparent decision of the Democratic Party leadership to simply ignore the vote of the 22,000 delegates to refuse controversial changes to refer to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and add a reference to God. The move was viewed as necessary to secure Jewish votes and appeal to religious voters. The delegates however opposed on repeated voice votes — well short of the needed to two-thirds of the delegates. As shown in the video, in calling for a voice vote, the leadership was shocked and called for a new vote that came out the same way. The leadership just declared the vote as having passed by two-thirds acclamation. It was an embarrassing but telling moment for those who view the two parties as controlled by a small elite group of self-serving power brokers. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City have concluded that voice votes may not only politically but practically useless despite Robert’s Rules of Order.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

Noahs ark 5

Replica Of Noah’s Ark in Netherlands
http://www.miamisburg.org/stuff_noahs_ark.htm

In America, almost every child is taught the story of Noah who, in response to a message from on-high, crafted a wooded ark and gathered the planet’s fauna to save them from destruction for sins known and unknown. We don’t teach kids that most ancient civilizations recount the same story of the Great Flood that swamped the planet but with their own cultural take on the topic. Now a recent archeological find from Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) is creating a buzz that might change  that. Found on a cuneiform tablet, the story of the Mesopotamian Noah differs only slightly from the Hebrew version of the legend. The Christian Bible tells the tale of Noah who gathers his family to build an ark shaped much like our modern-day boats, with one long keel and sides tapering at each end. The Bible details the blueprint straight from that chief engineer in the sky:

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-EylcamelFirst there was Bill Nye the Science Guy. Then those pesky fossilized apes. Now we have the faithless, blaspheming camels. Archaeologists from Tel Aviv University have used radiocarbon dating to conclude that the Bible’s description of conditions in 2000 to 1500 BC could not possibly be true — at least when it comes to the genus Camelus. Scientists say that the only problem with descriptions of camels in the Old Testament is that they could not possibly have been present as domesticated animals — something that did not occur until 900 BC.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

mosaic_2622x350-1For many people, the appearance of the mysterious rock in a picture from Mars was a great subject for breakfast discourse on whether it was kicked up by the Rover Opportunity or an alien creature with the world’s most unimpressive evolutionary progression. Rhawn Joseph, however, believes that he can force NASA to do more than speculate. Joseph is miffed that NASA will not take a closer look at the rock and has gone to court in Northern California to force the agency to investigate further. The rock is commonly called the “Jelly donut” due to its shape but scientists at NASA have named it “Pinnacle Island.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor

11860837

The Eager To Oblige William Marotta Must Be Wondering If It’s Oz or Kansas

William Marotta is proving Groucho Marx right.  “It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City* in order to be unhappy, ” Marx quipped in a letter. The classic comedienne may have just been on to something as Marotta has been ordered by a Kansas court to pay support for a child he fathered in Topeka as part of a private artificial insemination contract.

Even though Marotta signed the  contract waiving any legal rights to the child, Shawnee County District Court Judge Mary Mattivi said he must still pay support because the artificial insemination was performed without the involvement of a licensed Kansas physician. The story began– as so many strange ones do  –with an ad on Craig’s List in March 2009 seeking donated sperm. (Wonder if it was in the “free” section?). The authors of the ad were a lesbian couple in Topeka who desperately wanted a child and needed a donor of genetic material.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

300px-Made_in_chinaWe have been following the worsening pollution crisis in China, but a new report shows how the Chinese government’s rejection of basic environmental protections is degrading the environment of the world. Western states, particularly California, are finding their air quality reduced dramatically by Chinese pollution. A recent study documents adds an interesting twist: calculating the percentage of Chinese pollution tied to exports to the United States. It suggests that we are outsourcing industrial productions and getting the resulting pollution from the Western side of the country.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

By Mike Appleton, Weekend Blogger

In 1882 a man named John Kirchbaum submitted a patent application for a device which, when properly attached to a coffin, permitted the presumed deceased person to communicate to those on the surface that the burial had been premature. That someone would consider the erroneous pronouncement of death sufficiently common to support a market for such products strikes one as peculiar today, but the fear of possibly being buried alive was genuine in the 18th and 19th centuries. Until quite recently, after all, a determination of death was made solely by observation. Was the subject breathing? Did he have a heart beat? Under the common law, death was in fact defined as the irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions.

But in the 20th century two revolutions in medical technology changed attitudes and definitions. The first was the invention of the mechanical ventilator, originally intended to help patients breathe during surgery. The second was the development of anti-rejection drugs and their impact on the science of organ transplantation. The medical community quickly came to realize that continuing to provide oxygen to a deceased person greatly improved the viability of organs needed for transplant purposes. These advances created an obvious ethical and legal dilemma. A living person may agree to donate a kidney to save another’s life because we have two of them. However, other vital organs may only be removed upon the donor’s death. And if respiration is maintained to preserve organs after the donor has “died,” what has happened to our traditional definition of death? How can a person be deemed deceased if his or her breathing is being mechanically maintained?

The answer to the dilemma was the concept of “brain death,” the irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain. In 1968 a study committee at the Harvard Medical School created a set of guidelines indicative of what was termed “irreversible coma”: the persistence over a period of 24 hours of a set of conditions including absence of spontaneous breathing or movement, fixed and dilated pupils, unresponsiveness and the absence of reflexes. Twelve years later the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws proposed the Uniform Determination of Death Act, which defines death as either “(1) irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or (2) irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.”

The Uniform Determination of Death Act was approved by the AMA in the fall of 1980 and by the ABA early the following year. Since then it has been adopted by 37 states and the District of Columbia. Of the remaining states that have not formally adopted the UDDA, most have incorporated its definition of brain death into their statutes. It is clearly the prevailing law on the issue in this country.

And that brings us to the case of Marlise Munoz.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Last available picture of David from 2012

Last available picture of David from 2012

It is with the greatest personal sadness that I have to report the death of a cherished member of our blog family. David Blair Drumm passed away on December 18, 2013 in Austin, Texas. David was there at the very beginning of this blog and remained one of its staunchest supporters. Through the years, David was a rock who not only brought reasoned and calm analysis to posts but also to the management of the blog. He started as a regular commentator under the name “Nal” and I then invited him to write on the weekends. He played the role of editor as well as writer. (Indeed, I am worried about this memorial since David often caught the many typos that I would leave in early morning postings). I came to trust him absolutely in his judgment and analysis. I considered him a good friend and one of the most important influences on this blog. David wrote as a Weekend Blogger for years, sharing his insights into religion, politics, and his always popular “Find the Kitteh” contest. Our success is due in no small part to David Drumm and this blog, I hope, will remain a testament to his work and his memory. To that end, we are dedicating the entire blog today to David and his work. He was a brilliant electrical engineer, a profound writer, a passionate civil libertarian, and most importantly a fierce and loyal friend to our blogging community. (more…)

Read Full Post »

170px-Freud's_ashes_in_Golder's_Green_Columbarium200px-Sigmund_Freud_LIFEThis is going to take a lot of time on the couch for certain thieves in London. The men attempted to steal of 4th Century BC Greek urn holding the ashes of the founder of psychoanalysis and his wife at a crematorium in London. In the process, they severely damaged a 2,400-year-old urn.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Supreme CourtThe United States Supreme Court on Monday turned aside Arizona’s appeal to reinstate its law banning most abortions after 20-weeks. In Horne v. Isaacson (13-402), the state asked the Court to review the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. It declined to do so.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger

LA Dept of Natural ResourcesI wrote about the Bayou Corne sinkhole in Assumption Parish, Louisiana last September.  This update is to fill our readers in on the latest developments in this ongoing environmental—and human—disaster. Residents have moved away from the area since this monster was discovered on August 3, 2012. At that time it was relatively small, but the 350 people living closest to it were evacuated. At that time, no one knew how big it would grow, but based on the Lake Peigneur experience, the Assumption Parish authorities were taking no chances. From what I am told, the local people did not have to be told twice to leave. They left, because they knew what happened at Lake Peigneur in 1980. Their homes near the sinkhole stand vacant. Those families are environmental refugees. So far, 45 of the 65 families who live there have agreed to sell their properties to Texas Brine.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

NASA Reveals “Hand Of God”

nustar-hand-of-godNo, you probably do not have to get your life in order just yet. The cosmic “hand of God” photo released by NASA is actually the result of the explosion of a star and the ejection of an enormous cloud of material.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

220px-Kompas_Sofia220px-German_shepherd_footballThis may be a bit too scatological for the morning, so you might want to skip this for your afternoon reading. There are a couple of studies out that I found rather surprising. Indeed, one was surprising enough to get me out in below zero temperatures in the last few days to test with my own dog, Luna. One study in the journal Frontiers of Zoology found “axial orientation” in urination among canines. In other words, they pee in the same direction. That’s right, canines preferred to “excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis” under “calm magnetic field conditions.” The nearly 37 breeds of dogs studied were found to completely avoid urination or defecation along an east-west direction. That was so bizarre it prompted me to take out my iPhone with its compass and load up Luna. The results? North – South. I kid you not.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger

Since it has been somewhat tense around here, I thought a bit of adrenaline might relieve some stress. There is a curious thing about aviators. We hate high places. If you can get a typical pilot on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel, you have accomplished something. Oh sure, there is the occasional outlier who doesn’t mind, but few pilots I know are willing to get out on high places. I once knew a Marine Harrier fighter pilot who went over to a friend’s apartment for a cookout. The friend lived on about the 14th floor. The grill was out on the cantilevered balcony. This tough Marine fighter pilot would not go out there, even when bribed with beer.

I have some theories why this is so, but that involves rather dense aviation psychology research discussion that might give some of our readers a math headache, and is beyond the scope of the #1 Legal News & Analysis Blog on the intertoobz. At any rate, some of us would like to be able to ride a real roller coaster without getting any higher off the ground than we are willing to fall. Quite a feat for a designer to build a fast roller coaster that does not go any higher than the average pilot is willing to fall without a parachute. The Austrians and Swiss have accomplished just that.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

eurocuptrophy80mm2008Well, the results are in and we have another distinction to crow about at the blog. We have been selected as the 2013 top News/Analysis site among the competing world blogs in the annual ABA Journal survey. The success of this blog is due entirely to our unique community around the world, which have maintained a site where the issues of our day can be discussed with passion but civility. Thanks to all of our regulars and particularly our our talented and popular weekend team of guest bloggers: Mike Appleton, David Drumm, Mark Esposito, Gene Howington, Elaine Magliaro, Larry Rafferty, Darren Smith, Mike Spindell, and Charlton Stanley. While we created and maintain this site to allow us to share our thoughts, it is always gratifying to receive such recognitions. It is always my hope that the selection will bring new people to our site to further expand the voices and views on legal, political, and sometimes just plain bizarre stories.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger

Sir Isaac Newton

Ever since I was a kid, wheels, gears and spinning things held a fascination. I suspect that is true of most youngsters. One of my all time favorite Christmas toys was a gyroscope. When I took physics, my favorite subject was Mechanics, especially when I got to play with the lab equipment that demonstrated angular momentum and Newton’s laws of motion. I did a bit of  research on the history of the discovery of the laws of angular momentum and inertia. Seems Descartes first formulated it, then Newton used Descartes’ ideas in developing his Laws of Motion. When adding the discoveries of Newton and Descartes together, we get the Law of Conservation of Momentum. Several years after Newton published his Laws of Motion, Euler first wrote the formula F=ma.

The physical laws governing Mechanics, like all other branches of scientific discovery, were discovered piecemeal. The process of discovery took place over centuries. There were many investigators, some more prominent than others. The thing I find interesting is the fact that the significance of the piecemeal discoveries were not always understood at the time. That is particularly true of momentum, which was discovered almost like the palaeontologist scratching dirt away from a fossil, a bit at at time. However, Sir Isaac Newton is given credit for creating the branch of physical science we call Mechanics.

All those discoveries makes the Cubli possible, but we had to wait for computers to be invented to make it work. What, may you ask, is a Cubli? Good question. The name “Cubli” is derived from the English word “cube” and the Swiss German diminutive “li.”  The Cubli is a cube 15cm on each side. It contains three reaction wheels that act as the force generators. Their spin is controlled precisely by the computer. It is a mistake to think the Cubli works by gyroscopic force. It doesn’t. The wheels are spun, then suddenly stopped. That creates the reaction force needed to make the Cubli do what it does.

Take a look over the jump to see the Cubli in action.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

131218100141There is a fascinating new breakthrough out of Utah where engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have invented a machine that can convert algae and into crude oil in minutes — skipping the usual millions of years of natural development. The invention could offer a unique and plentiful biofuel.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”
- Sir William Blackstone KC SL, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765)

Sir William Blackstone

Sir William Blackstone

One of the oldest cliché movie scenes of the past half century is the Gestapo agent, wearing a monocle, slapping a riding crop against his gloved hand, saying with a leer, “Ve haf vays of making you talk…..” Unfortunately, that caricature figure has come to life in in recent years, taking the form of rogue psychologists, unscrupulous investigators, and even the Vice President of the United States.

My motivation to write this is because of a phone call a few weeks ago. An old case I worked on back in the 1980s resurfaced with that phone call out of the blue. Of all the cases I ever worked on, the one I got the call about has been the most bothersome. It involved a murder, a coerced confession, a judge with a troubled psychological burden of his own, and a jury that would not believe confessions could be coerced. Plus, a district attorney with a reputation of wanting to win at any cost. Since this case has resurfaced and the new investigation is still under way, I can’t say too much about it now. As details become public, I will be writing more.

Let me start off by saying that most confessions may be legitimate, but since we have no way of knowing how many are false, no solid statistics are possible. The simple fact that so far, over three hundred people have been released from prison due to wrongful convictions is enough to give one pause. It is reasonable, based on the number exonerated so far, to assume there are a lot of them. We just don’t know which ones. Not all those overturned convictions were due to false confessions, but about a fourth of them were. If a defendant does make a false confession, and there is solid DNA evidence showing the defendant to be innocent, juries convict over 80% of the time, despite the physical evidence. One thing I find curious is the fact some prosecutors continue to prosecute cases even after the physical evidence proves they have the wrong person.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Was Jesus White?

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

440px-MegynKellyMegyn Kelly, on her Fox News show, declared: “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that.” While I grant that Jesus was a historical figure, Santa was only based on a historical figure, a monk named Nicholas. Nicholas was born around 260 A.D. in Patara, in present-day Turkey. Nicholas was probably Greek although little is known about his parents. While it make make Kelly uncomfortable, Nicolas certainly wouldn’t have looked as white as Santa appears in the Coca-Cola ads.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley, Guest Blogger

“I am regularly asked what the average Internet user can do to ensure his security. My first answer is usually ‘Nothing; you’re screwed’.”
   – Bruce Schneier

cryptolockerThe quote by Professor Bruce Schneier at the top of this article is the unvarnished truth by one of the leading internet and cryptography experts in the world. Which brings us to the subject of this story. The latest threat to everyone’s computer is a form of malware called “Ransomware.” This is not new, having first appeared years ago. Those first attempts were clumsy, the software codes easily broken, and the perpetrators caught. However, in the past few weeks the threat is back, more sophisticated and more dangerous than almost any malware threat to date. Although often referred to as a virus, it is not a true computer virus, because it does not self-propagate. It is a Trojan. Ransomware does not try to steal your files, passwords or photographs. Rather, it holds them hostage until you pay a ransom. There are several ransomware viruses going around, but CryptoLocker is the one getting the most media attention. How it works is this; you click on a file that may have arrived by email. Sometimes it will arrive by clicking on a web page link. Possibly a PDF of some business letter or report. Shortly after clicking an infected link, the image at the left appears. You will have no warning until it is too late. When the warning box appears, your files are already encrypted.  Follow me over the flip to see the message:

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Miss Ping Debunk

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (aka Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

The dirtiest secret of all in the health care professions is not insurance. It is about tired staff.

Nurse Emblem Letha's MarkerOn March 16, 2013, Registered Nurse Elizabeth Jasper had just gotten off work. She was driving her small SUV eastbound on Ohio 50 when it left the road, going airborne, and hitting a tree. The wreckage careened into a parking lot. One does not need to be an accident reconstrucionist to know the crash was not survivable, by just taking one glance at the wreckage.

Beth Jasper, RN, is dead at the age of 38. She leaves her husband and two children. The preliminary investigation so far has revealed Nurse Jasper was supposed to work three 12-hour shifts that week, but had been held over to work extra doing specialized procedures. She is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Since that time, James Jasper, her widower, has filed a lawsuit against her employer, Jewish Hospital and its parent company, Mercy Health Partners of Southwest Ohio. As details of the lawsuit emerge, it shines a spotlight on a fact of corporate health care in this country which most people never knew.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

In recent years many studies have come out  that have made the case that a high proportion of CEO’s of major companies are sociopaths. At the end of this blog I’ll provide a number of links that discuss this, some from major conservative business magazines. We do know that from 1% to 3% of humans are sociopaths sharing all of these 10 characteristics:

#1) Sociopaths are charming. #2) Sociopaths are more spontaneous and intense than other people. #3) Sociopaths are incapable of feeling shame, guilt or remorse. #4) Sociopaths invent outrageous lies about their experiences. #5) Sociopaths seek to dominate others and “win” at all costs. #6) Sociopaths tend to be highly intelligent #7) Sociopaths are incapable of love #8) Sociopaths speak poetically. #9) Sociopaths never apologize. #10) Sociopaths are delusional and literally believe that what they say becomes truth.” http://www.naturalnews.com/036112_sociopaths_cults_influence.html

495px-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_SkidmorePaul_Ryan--113th_Congress--Mitt_Romney_by_Gage_Skidmore_7Now the problem with the definition of Sociopathy is that there can be a good deal of subjectivity in making the diagnosis, absent a clinician interviewing the subject. After all many people are charming, spontaneous, invent lies, try to dominate others and speak “poetically” and that doesn’t make them sociopaths. The subjectivity comes in trying to determine whether a given person is incapable of feeling guilt, shame, remorse and is delusional. A trained clinician may be able to do this via an intensive interview, but the nature of this disorder is such that even a trained clinician can be fooled by a sociopath. Rather than argue back and forth about the negative effects of CEO sociopaths on this society as the root of so much dysfunction, my readings this week suggest another theory that would provide a simpler explanation of why it seems that so many in this country have so little compassion and empathy for the less fortunate among us. We need not deem them sociopaths, but people who are simply removed from the misery that they inflict. The apocryphal story of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” may well characterize those who control most of this country’s wealth. It may be why some are sincere philanthropists, yet show such disdain and lack a sense of responsibility for the suffering that they cause. Let’s explore this further. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Harry_Jacob_AnslingerI’m going to use what has become a cliché to open up this piece. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing that has failed over and over again.” Often clichés are expressions of reality that nevertheless express problems faced by generation generations and generations of human beings. In my opinion “The War on Drugs” is not only an abysmal failure, but has gone a long way towards destroying the social fabric of this country and corrupting the efforts of law enforcement, by manufacturing a “problem” that they are pressured to solve. The idea for writing this came to mind this week at my local drug store. My wife had sent me for a decongestant that contains pseudo-ephedrine to treat a persistent cold. These medications which were formerly as matter of course located in the Cold and flu section are by law now kept behind the prescription counter. To make my purchase I had to produce a driver’s license, whose number was duly entered into a computer and sign an affirmation form digitally. Now since I was a loyal viewer of “Breaking Bad” I understood why this was seen to be necessary by the government. Pseudo-Ephedrine is used in one common formula to “cook” Chrystal Methedrine, or “Speed”. The idea that I, a 69 year old greybeard, should be recorded as a potential cooker of “meth”, is so ludicrous that it caused me to think about the whole process of drug interdiction that is the result of the War on Drugs.

The reach of the War on Drugs goes far beyond the control of formerly non-controlled substances and has affected and limited the way Doctors prescribe for their patients. This prescription oversight ever expands the categories of controlled substances and puts every physician under undue government surveillance. To illustrate the silliness of this, from my own experience, let me relate that in 2010 I underwent 3 major, life-threatening operations within a 4 month period. After each operation which involved cutting my chest open (the middle one was a heart transplant) in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit I was being given unlimited dosages of morphine to deal with my pain. In each instance after an operation, after two days, I would refuse the morphine because it was affecting my thinking and the pain without it was tolerable. In each instance after practically having to forcefully deny the proffered morphine in the morning, my request for Xanax that evening to help me sleep was denied, even though my Surgeon had prescribed it. This required a late hour call to the Doctor on call to prescribe it. The nurse was only following procedure, but the scrupulousness of the procedure is the result of the War on Drugs. Physicians now treating people for various pain symptoms are now under very close scrutiny regarding the medications they prescribe. To me this is nonsensical, given that addicts always find ways to get their drugs no matter what strictures are put into place. What follows is my examination of the premises behind the War on Drugs, its affect on all of us and my solution to this “problem”. (more…)

Read Full Post »

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Thighmaster General

Thighmaster General

Without a hint of satire, The Wall Street Journal decided to let Suzanne Somers write an article on the Affordable Care Act on their blog “The Experts.” Somers “expertise” comes from her celebrity access to doctors, scientists, and medical professionals in the “alternative and integrative” health-care world. Somers has been on Oprah pushing her concept of wellness which involves taking 60 pills a day and injecting hormones into her vagina.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

How Country Scientists Relax

duelingBanjosDeliveranceYou have never really heard Dueling Banjos until you have heard them on Tesla coils.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger

“Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible march of evolution, reality ever newborn; you who, by constantly shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further in the pursuit of the truth.”

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “Hymn of the Universe,” (Harper and Row, 1961).

It took the jury fewer than fifteen minutes to convict substitute teacher John Scopes of the crime of teaching evolution to Tennessee public school students in 1925.  It was the last victory of Christian fundamentalists in their war against the disciples of Darwin, and a hollow one at that.  Although the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, it reversed the verdict because the trial judge had imposed a $100.00 fine on Mr. Scopes, contrary to a provision in the Tennessee constitution requiring a jury to assess fines exceeding $50.00.  In sending the case back, however, the court made the unusual suggestion that further prosecution not be pursued.  Scopes v. State, 154 Tenn. 105, 289 SW 363 (1927).  It was not.

Fundamentalists were emboldened by the Scopes verdict.  In 1928 Mississippi and Arkansas adopted similar laws and in the ensuing years, the subject of evolution was effectively dropped as a topic in many high school science courses, a trend that was not reversed until the Sputnik scare in 1958 led to a revamping of science curricula.  It was not until 1968 that the Supreme Court decreed that laws forbidding the teaching of evolution in public schools violated the Establishment Clause.  Epperson v. Arkansas, 397 U.S. 97 (1968).

With direct bans no longer available, fundamentalists pursued a new strategy, the adoption of “balanced treatment” legislation requiring that teachers provide time for the exploration of the Genesis story of creation as an alternative explanation of biological origins.  In 1983 a federal district judge threw out Arkansas’ balanced treatment statute, concluding that creationism is “not science because it depends upon a supernatural intervention which is not guided by natural law.  It is not explanatory by reference to natural law, is not testable and is not falsifiable.” McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, 529 F. Supp. 1255, 1267 (E.D. Ark. 1982).  Several years later, Louisiana’s balanced treatment statute was also found to violate the Establishment Clause under the Lemon test.  Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987).

Efforts to recast creationism as science under the name “intelligent design” were rebuffed in the now famous case of Fitzmiller v. Dover Area School District,  400 F. Supp.2d 707 (E.D. Pa. 2005), in which the court succinctly stated that “[intelligent design] cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.” 400 F. Supp.2d at 765.

But the war is far from over.  Creationists are once again in court, and this time they are urging that the teaching of evolution in the public schools is itself a violation of, inter alia, the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses because evolution theory incorporates the “core tenets of Religious (‘secular’) Humanism.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted by Charlton Stanley (Otteray Scribe), Guest Blogger

Copy of Boy with model sculpture.250There used to be a program on one of the television sports channels called World of Speed & Beauty. It was about fast, beautiful and graceful machines on the land, water and air. That is what this story is about. These past few weeks have seen enough tales of woe, bigotry, greed, anger and most of the other deadly sins that I thought we needed something to bring a smile to a few faces. Below the fold are two High Definition videos I hope will do just that.

Almost everyone looks up when they hear an airplane go over. The kid who never grew up still lives in most of us.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

400px-Elizabeth_Loftus-TAM_9-July_2011I’d only planned to write one guest blog this weekend, but this morning on Huffington Post I saw a video from a TED lecture. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TED_%28conference%29  The lecture was from Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Loftus  who has been studying false memories since the 1970’s. She links what she discovered with one of the failings of our Criminal Justice System, with the false memories reported in court. This is an 18 minute lecture but it is well worth your time and bears directly on the topics we discuss here on the Law Blog. I must note that in it she is critical of certain psychotherapy techniques and I am a psychotherapist. Despite my training and profession I believe her critiques are on point and illustrate one of the problems inherent in some psychotherapies. For any readers that are interested in our legal system and who care about its problems, viewing this will represent time well spent.  My technical skills are such that I don’t know how to properly make the video appear in WordPress but if you click on the following link you will be able to see it:     Mystery of Memory 

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Read Full Post »

Same Color

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

blue and green

See the blue and green spirals? They’re the same color. See the image below the fold.  (more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

287px-Sing_SingWe have had a lot of discussions here about the ever growing private prison system in the United States, where our country has become the world leader in imprisoning its citizens. Many blogs have been written discussing our world prison leadership and the fact that it stems from the failed “War on Drugs”, which has tended to focus on people in poverty and/or people of color. The for-profit prison industry has had a growth spurt that can be directly traced to that aspect of the conservative movement that has disparaged government services and at the same time pushed for privatization of government services using the false concept that private industry can do it better and cheaper. It is an ideas that to me seems nonsensical on its face because of the absolute need that private industry turns a profit and in today’s economic scheme that profit has to continually rise as time passes. Business strategy, which by definition, must focus on profit has focused on cutting costs as a means of building profit. Cutting costs then devolves into hiring less skilled workers, cutting down on services provided and in a business like private prisons reducing the quality of care. When ot comes to reduction of services and diminishing of quality of care when it comes to the prison industry, I’m sure that the majority of public opinion would approve of even more draconian measures. After all those convicted of a crime are generally scorned and feared. Muscular fundamentalist philosophy has discarded the Jesus of turn the other cheek into a Jesus of vengeance and so there is even in some circles moral approval of treating prison inmates harshly. There is now a widespread use of solitary confinement as a tool of prison punishment and that confinement has stretched from weeks, too months and too years. We are after all, a society that has a majority of Americans for torture in our post 9/11 era.

In 2008 we saw the opening of a scandal in Pennsylvania where it was discovered that juvenile court judges were sentencing youths to prison for minor offenses because they had received money from sources in the private prison industry. Two judges were convicted in this case and it was seen that many youths were adversely affected and are now suing for unlawful imprisonment. It is this profiting on the imprisonment of youth that I would like to address broadly in this blog. For the most part my reference links will appear at its conclusion. This is a very disturbing problem that I think cuts to the heart of what kind of society we want to live in and I would hope that others find this as disturbing as I do. (more…)

Read Full Post »

250px-The_Doctor_Luke_Fildes_cropWe have previously discussed how Congress and the White House continues to spend hundreds of billions on foreign wars without pause but have failed to address an emerging global threat to humanity: antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. It is part of the lunacy that governs this nation. We spend wildly on wars while largely ignoring a threat that could endanger the entire population. Recently, Thomas Frieden, director of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, put it in the starkest terms to try to get someone to pay attention. Indeed, Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, has warned that we are moving into a “post-antibiotic era.” That means “an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

75px-AbombOperationSandstoneApril1948It has always seemed to me that the use of nuclear energy is a bad idea given the current technology. My opinion is perhaps formed because I was in school during the 1950’s and due to the “Cold War” and the bomb tests, there developed in most of us, a deep fear of nuclear annihilation. I can remember watching in fascinated fear, in 1952, as they exploded a Hydrogen Bomb at Eniwetok, one of the Marshall Islands. The blast was covered on TV as I guess a reassurance to the American People of the power and might of our government and to give us a feeling of safety from those “Commies” in the USSR. Being eight years old at the time this demonstration of US power was not comforting in the slightest. We had “duck and cover” exercises in Elementary School, where we would go under our desks and cover our eyes in case of a nuclear attack. Given the actual nuclear explosions I had witnessed on TV, the idea that “duck and cover” would save me cast a skeptical suspicion in my eight year old mind.

120px-Atombombentest_Greenhouse-GeorgeAs I grew I learned that beyond the immediate effect of a nuclear blast, the subsequent radiation was even more dangerous. Radiation poisoning could maim you and it could kill you in a slow, lingering death. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings did more than just kill many people. Beyond the maiming of the immediate victims who survived, we learned about the rates of cancer which were off the charts, especially in the infants of pregnant women. As the threat of nuclear destruction faded, the idea of radiation poisoning was nevertheless present as the United States began using nuclear power and a large industry sprang up around it. The industry was fostered by the then named Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was soon in thrall of the industry it was supposed to regulate. As with cigarette smoking the stories of rising cancer rates were downplayed by the AEC and the “nuclear industry. The AEC has now become the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) because the AEC had developed the reputation as an industry shill, rather than regulator. This is hardly a surprise because it seems that all government regulation today is in the hands of industry lobbyists and an exchange program where the regulators find jobs with the industry they regulate. The “revolving door”. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Screen-Shot-2013-10-11-at-9.27.52-AM-300x221This is amazing. In Montana, scientists have discovered a mosquito that is still carrying blood from animals in the Eocene — that is some 46 million years ago. Of course, creationists would point out that scientists are again some 46 million years off since the Earth is only a few thousand years old.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,573 other followers