Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Forty-five years ago today—on July 20, 1969—astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Michael Collins, the other member of the Apollo 11 crew, orbited above them. As Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon, stepped down from the Eagle, he said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” I remember the excitement and pride of the people of this country on that historic day. We Americans also felt great relief and exultation when those three astronauts returned to Earth safely following their successful mission.

Apollo 11 in 100 Seconds

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HobbyLobbySubmitted by Elaine Magliaro, Weekend Contributor

Back in March of this year—during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case—Sahil Kapur (Talking Points Memo) said he thought that the conservative Supreme Court Justices “appeared broadly ready to rule against the birth control mandate under Obamacare.” He added that “their line of questioning indicated they may have a majority to do it.” Kapur reported that Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Alito “expressed no sympathy for the regulation while appearing concerned for the Christian business owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood who said the contraceptive mandate violates their religious liberty and fails strict scrutiny standards under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”

During oral arguments, Justice Scalia said, “You’re talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That’s not terribly expensive stuff, is it?”

There are a couple of things I think Justice Scalia should know. First, the four contraceptive methods that Hobby Lobby objected to paying for—Plan B, Ella, and two intrauterine devices—are not abortifacients. They do not prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus—which the owners of Hobby Lobby consider to be abortion. Instead—according to the Food and Drug Administration—the four contraceptive methods in question prevent fertilization of an egg. Second, the cost of intrauterine devices can be quite considerable—especially to a woman working for minimum wage or for a company like Hobby Lobby.

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220px-Naiad1If you are a creationist and believe that the Earth is just 5000 years old, stop reading now. However, for the rest of humanity there is a very very cool study out on a teenage girl named Naia. Naia is now nearly 13,000 years old. Her skeleton was found in an underwater cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. She is believed to a key link to North Americans who first settled in this continent. (No, she did not look like Naiad of the painting by John William Waterhouse but I like the painting so the researchers will have to forgive me).

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By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Harborview Medical Center LogoPatients with brain injury brought in to the emergency department of Harborview Medical Center could be subjected to enrollment in a drug trial experiment while they are unconscious and without their express consent.

The hospital, having the largest and most capable trauma center in Washington, frequently admits patents statewide for traumatic brain injury, often of the most serious circumstances. The hospital regularly participates in studies of medications like other hospitals but a new study to test a medication currently prescribed for other hemorrhage disorders in other parts of the body is undergoing human trials for brain injury. The study is bringing forth some opposing views within the realm of medical and legal ethics as to patient informed consent, medical research, harm reduction, and individual rights.

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220px-SherpaThis may be one of my favorite science stories in years. Researchers have concluded that the “superathlete” gene that helps Sherpas and other Tibetans thrive at high altitudes is actually traced to an ancient species of human, the Denisovans. The gene, EPAS1, regulates the body’s production of hemoglobin, and was acquired from the Denisovans. Of course, the Denisovans went extinct some 40,000 years ago so for those creationists who insist that the Earth is only a few thousand years old . . . you might want to move on to the next story.

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FSA_FighterPresident_Barack_ObamaAs both Iraq and Afghanistan meltdown after spending $4 trillion and losing thousands of lives, the Obama Administration wants to pour $500 million into training and equipping the Syrian rebels. Ignore the fact that the Syrian rebels have been accused of human rights violations and atrocities (as has the regime). The government insists that U.S. weapons and money will go to the “right” forces — just ignore all those pictures of ISIS rebels driving around with U.S. equipment in Iraq.
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250px-Charaxes_brutus_natalensis220px-Apis_mellifera_TanzaniaThere is new research showing that neurotoxic pesticides are not just responsible for the catastrophic decline in the world’s bee collapse but are also devastating the world’s population of butterflies, worms, fish and birds. The four-year assessment was carried out by The Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, which advises the International Union for Conservation of Nature has found that neonics are “imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.” It is simply beyond belief that these pesticides have caused such worldwide damage but, due to the powerful pesticide and agribusiness lobby, there has been no serious regulation to curtail the use of these products.

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

Forty Billion Dollars is a heck of a lot of money.  It seems like an even larger number when you realize that just one defense program spent that large sum, and it has arguably been a disaster.  I am talking about the highly political missile defense system program.  You have probably heard about that program.  It is supposed to stop any wild-eyed dictators from successfully sending any ICBM’s into our air space.  It may just be an amazingly expensive pipe dream! (more…)

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220px-Wabaunsee_County_Viewpancake-cooking-in-cast-iron-frying-pan-190x190I have a good friend who has often reminded me that his home state of Kansas has been proven to be “flatter than a pancake.” Jerome Dobson, a University of Kansas geographer, has released the result of a study that indicates that rival Illinois (my home state) is in fact flatter and even Illinois is not as flat as . . . Florida. To add insult to injury, Kansas actually comes in a measly seventh in flattest.

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220px-Lower_wisdom_toothThere is an exciting discovery by British scientists that could significantly decrease tooth surgeries and extractions. The technique is known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralization and it has been found to repair tooth decay by using electrical current to boost the tooth’s natural repair process. It is being called a “time warp” for teeth.

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SchoolClassroomgavel2There is an interesting ruling in California where Los Angeles County Judge Rolf Treu has issued a decision that is a condemnation of teacher tenure. Treu found that the tenure laws violate the right to equal protection guaranteed by the California Constitution because they make it so difficult to remove substandard teachers that students are being denied equality of education. Regardless of whether this novel decision will be upheld on appeal, it is an indictment of tenure rules where school districts have little ability to fire teachers who then end up being moved around to the harm of students. In reviewing the poor teachers and the inability to get rid of them, Treu called the system something that truly “shocks the conscience.” He struck down the tenure rules as unconstitutional, a decision which should face a determined challenge on appeal and one that breaks new ground in the area.

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By Mark Esposito, Weekend Guy

130227203059-supreme-justices-horizontal-galleryCarol Anne Bond was overjoyed to learn that her best friend, Myrlinda Haynes, had become pregnant. That joy was short-lived when she learned that the father was none other than her husband,Clifford Bond. The Philadelphia woman embarked on a course of revenge that would result in federal charges for deploying chemical weapons and a trip to the United States Supreme Court. Passed in 1998,  the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, enabled Congress to enforce the terms of an  international treaty banning deployment of some chemical weapons. Taking advantage of that law, federal prosecutors charged Bond with obtaining two chemicals which together or separately could have killed her pregnant rival.

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220px-Poster_for_The_Conspiracy_(2012_Film)Every once in a while, we will get a poll that is truly unnerving like the percentage of Americans who entirely reject evolution or think that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. However, a University of Chicago study on conspiracy theories is enough for you to put on your tinfoil hat and look yourself in your underground shelter. Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood at the University of Chicago found that half of the country holds these conspiracy theories and some are just plain wacky.

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220px-Cannabis_sativa_leaf_Dorsal_aspect_2012_01_23_0830There is a statistic that I ran across today that I found quite remarkable. Legal cannabis sales in the United States are expected to reach as high as $2.57 billion this year. That is only the sales for medical marijuana in the 21 states allowing its sale. At the same time, Colorado is reporting a continuing increase in legal marijuana sales with $19 million in recreational pot sale for March — up from $14 million from February. The figures reveal the greatest challenge for opponents. As revenues and experimentation increases, there will be greater pressure for legalization. Businesses are likely to take note of a 2.5 billion dollar industry that has taken hold even with the limitations of medical marijuana and less than half of the states participating. Both the money and the public response appear to be moving in favor of the legalization movement.

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sisteen chapel ceilingGallup has released a new poll that shows that Americans still reject the concept of evolution of humans in high numbers. Indeed, twice the number of Americans believe that humans were created by God in their current image than there are those who believe in natural evolution. Indeed, those 42 percent believe that man was created by God in the last 10,000 years. That is a considerable difference even if you focus only on anatomically modern humans which appeared in the Middle Paleolithic period about 200,000 years ago. For those who believe in the science behind evolution, the news is not all bad. Nineteen percent believe in evolution without divine involvement while another 31 percent believe that there was evolution from “less advanced forms of life” but that God directed that process. That is fifty percent. Of course, that does appear to leave eight percent that is still . . . well . . . evolving.

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