The parents of 11-year-old Madeline Neumann (pictured), who prayed over their daughter as she died of untreated diabetes, have been charged with 2nd degree reckless homicide in their daughter's death. It's about time. Although they claim not to be religious nuts, Lailani and Dale Neumann never sought medical treatment for their daughter's condition since they believed God would cure her. In his own defense, Mr. Neumann says he began CPR "as soon as the breath of life left" Madeline's body. Of course, he doesn't seem to understand that a) CPR doesn't sure diabetes, and b) he just murdered his own child. Critics say this prosecution will open up all faith healers and Christian Scientists to prosecution, to which I say it's about damn time. More details here.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Good news for Texans. No, giant hats and oil rigs are not the new American currency. (Don't worry, Texas, I'm just messing with you.) Instead, the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board unanimously voted to deny the request from the Institute for Creation Research to offer master's degrees in science education at their Bible-based school. It's nice to know that someone realizes you can't adequately teach a science class if you believe life originated with God giving mouth-to-mouth to a pile of dirt. Kudos. More details here.
Nestled on Dongsishitiao Street in the loins of Beijing is the Guolizhuang Restaurant, which proudly serves a menu of dishes made almost entirely of various animal penises and testicles. The "Jasmine Flowers with 1,000 Layers"? Yeah, that's donkey dick. They also cook up the trouser snakes of deer, yaks, horses, seals, ducks, and (of course) snakes. So where does the nonsense fit into this otherwise entirely reasonable establishment? The restaurant claims a diet of cocks and balls can cure kidney disease and impotence. Sure, there's no scientific evidence to back any of this up, but it hasn't stopped the place from franchising. There's soon to be another genital joint opening in Atlanta, Georgia's Chinatown. Anyone else going to DragonCon this year want to make the trip? More details here.
The Louisiana state senate has unanimously passed a bill allowing public school science teachers to "supplement" their lectures on evolution, global warming, and human cloning with "other materials" (hint, hint-- I bet it's the Bible!). The bill was put forward by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), and would let-- wait a second-- D-Bogalusa? D?! Really? Alright, if you say so. Anyway, Nevers says the Louisiana Science Education Act is designed to promote critical thinking because what is commonly held scientific belief now may be refuted in the future. You know, I get that he wants to slip a fast one past evolution. But global warming? I thought when Pat Robertson caved in to the mountain of evidence, that was it, it was an officially accepted reality. Are we really going to start debating it with sixth graders in public schools now? The bill now goes to the House for more debate. Read more reasons not to move to Louisiana here.
Monday, April 28, 2008
In my latest column for PinkRaygun.com, I explore the wacky existence of the world's foremost UFO cloning cult, the Raelians. Yes, they're led by a French race car driver who claims to be a prophet. Yes, they lied about being able to clone human beings in their secret laboratories. Yes, they are eerily obsessed with flowing white clothing (never eat a bowl of chili around a Raelian). But they're also apparently working to ease the suffering of thousands of victims of genital mutilation in Africa. No, seriously. Maybe they're not all bad. Read all about them here.
Molecular analysis of proteins recovered from both a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex sample and modern bird species has resulted in the first molecular data to confirm that a non-avian dinosaur shares an evolutionary ancestor with our feathered friends. Specifically, the T-rex is related to chickens and ostriches. It's not too surprising a discovery, since those animals all share a similar body shape and are utterly terrifying. Still, this discovery lends a good deal of credence to the dinosaur-bird relationship first proposed by fictional paleontologist Sam Neill in the film Jurassic Park. (It may have been first proposed by an actual paleontologist, but I'm too lazy right now to do the research. I'm busy firing rockets at hookers in Grand Theft Auto 4. Also, I'm too lazy to research the name of the fictional character Sam Neill played in the movie. I am, however, aware that said character probably appeared in the book before the movie was released, but I'd rather yank all the veins from my forearm than read another Michael Crichton novel.) More details here.
In the latest installment of our never ending series on nature's sadistic tendencies, we learn about the rise of the mutant black squirrel in England. The black squirrel is a mutated variation of the non-native gray squirrel, which was introduced to the country by the United States in the 1870s. It boasts a higher level of testosterone than its paler cousin, which causes its dark coloration and fierce competitiveness. Basically, it's a 'roided out version of its cuddly cousins, and it's only a matter of time before these dark beasts dominate the rest of England's squirrel population. The black squirrel also seems to be more desirable as a mate to female squirrels, thus proving the old saying, "Once you go black squirrel, you never go backsquirrel." No word yet on how this development will be spun by Britain's anti-immigration movement. More details here.
Forty years ago, Padre Pio kicked it in the Italian town of San Giovanni Rotondo. In the years since, he's become quite a popular saint. His miracle? Bleeding from the hands and feet much like Christ would rather not have done. Thanks, God! And in an effort to boost tourism, the local church has decided it would be a lovely, family-friendly idea to exhume his rotting corpse and put it on display. Of course, I would have loved it as a preteen if my parents took me to see a dead body instead of another round of mini golf, but I was also a fan of The Cure. Still, this is just another example of how the Catholic Church often seems like a theme park for the morbid. You can't even go to mass without staring up at a statue of a man literally being tortured. And if you're wondering how a man who's been dead nearly half a century still looks so good, you should know that they had to recreate his face like a wax museum dummy since the real thing was passed through various creatures' digestive systems long ago. More details here.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Specialist Jeremy Hall is suing the US Army for discrimination after receiving harassment and mistreatment, he says, because he is an atheist. He says he first declared his non-belief in the supernatural in Iraq in 2007, when the Humvee he was in took several bullets to its protective shield. Afterwards, when his commander asked him if he believed in God, he responded, "No, but I believe in Plexiglas." Since then, he's been harassed by other soldiers, including superior officers, and been called anything from a devil worshiper to "gay" for his beliefs. I understand being called a devil worshiper. I mean, who among us atheists hasn't wanted to worship the Prince of Lies? But gay? Really? Is the army made up of sixth graders? Fight the good fight, Specialist Hall. You had me at "No, but I believe in Plexiglas." Read more here.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
First of all, this story is almost certainly made up. I don't know what kind of journalistic standards the U.K.'s Metro have, but one should always be suspect of any story that uses "friends" of a celebrity as its only sources. Still, it's interesting to note the weird implications here. According to the aforementioned "friends" of actress Michelle Williams, she's been haunted by the ghost of her former husband Heath Ledger, who died tragically after ingesting fourteen pharmacies' worth of pills. Supposedly, these spooky visitations (which have supposedly included the sounds of moving furniture at night and the appearance of Ledger as a "shadowy apparition") have somehow helped Williams grieve. I've tried my best, but I just fail to see how this kind of haunting could bring anyone comfort. If anything, it would be evidence that Ledger's soul is somehow shackled to this corporeal reality, cursed to move furniture and flutter about his ex-lovers' nightmares. Hey, maybe there's a Terry Gilliam movie in here somewhere. Anyway, it's just another example of how lucky we are that ghosts don't actually exist. More details here.
In a win for free speech in the only sort of free United Kingdom, the House of Lords has rejected a ban on jokes and ridicule aimed at homosexuals under the Criminal Justice Bill. The ban was raised in response to the arrest of a drunken Oxford University student who referred to a mounted policeman's horse as "gay". (No, I didn't make that up.) The law would have required the prosecution of anyone who lampooned or chastised gays, as such speech would have been seen as an incitement to hatred. However, the ban was quashed out of deference to the free speech of "comedians, church leaders, and rap artists". It's nice to see that the British are starting to realize that freedom of speech requires the allowance of speech that may be stupid, distasteful, or otherwise ridiculous. And while we all know what wonderful things church leaders and rap artists have to say about homosexuals, it's nice to see that the backward intentions of gay-joke-based comedy got a nod as well. There will come a day when movies like The Birdcage and TV shows like Will and Grace will be seen with the same mix of discomfort and disgust one feels when watching black and white footage of a Vaudeville comic in black face. More details here.
Last week Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined the 9/11 Truth Movement and ranted crazily about how the 9/11 attacks were probably some kind of U.S.-led conspiracy. Of course this kind of paranoid, faith-based nonsense is an insult to the intelligence of anyone with either critical thinking skills or a friend or relative whose last moments were spent suffocating under a pile of burning rubble, but who knew al-Qaeda would be so pissed off? In a recent audio tape posted online (clash of the technologies!), the terrorist group's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri (pictured here from his high school yearbook), accused Ahmadinejad of spreading the lie that Israel and the U.S. collaborated on 9/11 and assures the world that, no, it was just al-Qaeda. They've got a reputation to uphold after all. Of course, no murderous madman could be completely on the side of reason. Al-Zawahiri went on to claim that the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan was secretly negotiated with Iran's help. Apparently, every aspect of Bush's War on Some Terror is, in fact, and inside job. This should give Ron Paul a lot to think about. More details here.
Thirteen accused sorcerers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been detained after accusations that they used witchcraft to steal and/or shrink men's penises for unknown rituals. Witchcraft is still a big fear in many parts of Africa, as people turn to some pretty crazy beliefs when they realize the rest of the world is ignoring them. In fact, there was another incident in Congo ten years ago, when twelve accused penis snatchers were beaten to death by an angry mob. Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, the police chief of Congo's capital city Kinshasa says the suspected magic wielders were detained for their own safety, since dozens of under-endowed men are claiming to be victims. "When you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent," Oleko said. "To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it?'" 29-year-old phone credit salesman Alain Kalala isn't so skeptical. "It's real," he said. "Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny." Yes, I'm sure it was. More details here.
Monday, April 21, 2008
At the risk of turning this site into a celebrity gossip blog, I'm going to tell you that Russian dictator-in-training Vladimir Putin is planning on divorcing his wife of 24 years and marrying 24-year-old former gymnast Alina Kabaeva. Sadly, this site will still be running after I publish this information, but the Russian newspaper that did the same thing has now been shut down. Putin called the story the product of the "snotty noses and erotic fantasies" of the journalists involved and hid his intervention into the affairs of privately owned media by telling the Russian public that the paper folded for financial reasons. He then retired to his underground laboratory to manufacture uranium-soaked bullets which he plans to deposit in the reporters' brains. Oh, and Mr. Putin also molests iguanas on a bed of Chechen corpses. I don't know for sure if this is true, but sometimes I just like to revel in the fact that Putin's totalitarian revenge fantasies have no bearing on my life. If I'm lying, Mr. Putin, feel free to sue me. Or, if you prefer, bury my torso in the Siberian tundra, you sex-starved maniac. More details here.
If you're not confident in your gender identity, then this news may make you very uncomfortable. Researchers at Oxford and Yale have discovered that they can switch a fruit fly's gender roles by optically activating and deactivating just a few of their brain cells. Like most species aside from certain sexually aggressive middle-aged women known as "cougars", the burden of seduction in fruit flies falls on the males. By vibrating their wings, they create a song which (depending on its catchiness and pop sensibility) will attract a female mate. But by flashing some lights at a female fruit fly's brain, scientists were able to reverse its gender identity, turning females into wing musicians and males into horny groupies. The implication here is that males and females share most of the same neurological wiring, and gender roles are simply governed by a few gatekeeper cells. While this is still early research, I'm hoping that one day scientists will be able to create a light gun which will make me feel more confident in that beautiful cocktail dress I stole from my wife's closet. More details here.
You knew he was a freakishly inbred tax burden, but I'll bet you didn't know the full extent of Prince Charles' drain on British society. Using public funds from a £900,000 grant, the Prince of Wales has published Complementary Health Care: A Guide for Patients, which espouses the benefits of all manner of quackery including homeopathy and reflexology. Despite all scientific evidence to the contrary, the guidebook also claims that chiropractic can be used to treat asthma, digestive disorders, and migraine headaches. Prince Chuck has been a practitioner of pseudoscientific bullshit like this for years, though no one is certain whether that explains the purple hue of his ears or the abstract expressionism of his teeth. Fortunately, reputable doctors in Great Britain are rallying against the book. I'd say this should be the final straw before Britons go away with the royal family for good, but what do I know? We Americans kicked those nincompoops out of our lives after a few tea taxes, and we don't even drink that crap anymore! More details here.
Friday, April 18, 2008
It's taken about eight years to perfect, but President George W. Bush has finally nailed his role as the world's crazy neighbor. He's obnoxious, he's inconsiderate, he irresponsibly mismanages untold horrors, but you just gotta love the guy. His latest misadventure? Giving a speech at this year's climate change summit in Paris, where the Earth's biggest polluters have gathered to discuss the future of civilization as we know it. Bush has famously ignored the guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol, citing them as being "a little too faggy", but he's now willing to set a date for greenhouse gas reductions in the U.S. Unfortunately, that date is 2025. Oh, and he won't agree to it if China doesn't. Which it won't. On to the Olympics! South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk called Bush's speech "a big complicating factor", as the attendees had originally planned to sit around and gab about how annoying that Bush guy is as they circled the City of Lights in their gas-guzzling private jets. Anyway, the point is this: climate change can never be curbed if we don't address the world's overpopulation problem, but ineffectual summits sure do make for uninteresting press. More details here.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Put down that bottle of nonsense. New research out of Copenhagen University has proven that many vitamin supplements have no effect on the body whatsoever, and several could even hasten your death. Antioxidant supplements are particularly ineffective, while extra beta-carotene and vitamins A and E actually interfere with the immune system and can increase mortality. The supplements industry has long been a source of quack pseudoscience and outright fraud. At least in the U.S., it's not regulated the same way as the pharmaceutical industry, so manufacturers can hint at ridiculous and vague claims. Remember how Airborne was successfully sued for not working at all? Turns out the same thing applies to most of the crap clogging your health food store's shelves. More details here.
Did you know that anyone who claims to be a psychic and charges for his paranormal services is actually a money-hungry fraud? Thanksfully, the EU seems to. The lawmaking body will soon enact new Consumer Protection Regulations, which would require spiritualist and psychic businesses to follow the same rules as any other. Those claiming to be able to speak to the dead or heal with their minds will have to issue disclaimers that their activities are nothing but experiments with no guaranteed results. In other words, if they make specific claims, they will have to prove them or face criminal prosecution. Of course, the psychics are upset--shouting about religious persecution and whatnot. And they have a point, in that anyone making similar claims on behalf of his religion should be held to the same standard. Carole McEntee-Taylor of the Spiritualist Workers' Association says that these new rules will bring Europe back to the Dark Ages. Apparently, psychics and other practitioners of ancient scams have no concept of irony. "It's taking a religion, a way of life, and making it a commercial transaction," complained McEntee-Taylor's husband David. Well, yes. Yes, that's exactly the point. More details here.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Despite previously denouncing the 9/11 attacks and those responsible for them, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (seen here taking a hostage) recently gave a speech where we questioned the official story on the attacks. In addition to other claims, he said that no one knows who was truly responsible for them, that they were used solely as a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and that the names of the 3,000 people who died have never been published. Click here to read those names. Not that Ahmadinejad has any credibility, but I'm sure the 9/11 Truth Movement will be more than happy to welcome them into their ranks. He may not fit in right now, but there's still plenty of time for him to stop showering, rant on a message board, and think about donating to the Ron Paul campaign before deciding instead to spend that money on the latest season of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. More details here.
In the latest installment of our ongoing series about how nature strives to deprive you of an un-horrified rest, word comes down that scientists at Columbia University (the good one, that is -- not that fraud school in Illinois) have discovered that the sexually transmitted gonorrhea bacterium can pull 10,000 times its own body weight, making it proportionally the strongest organism on the planet. Mother of God. The freakish creature can combine its pili filaments into a solid mass of brute strength in order to propel themselves toward and latch onto target cells. Soon, some bookish high school student could be infected with radioactive gonorrhea, making him strong and virulent enough to topple even the mighty Hulk. Let's just hope he allies himself with the forces of good. More details here.
Pope Benedict XVI (a.k.a. Joey Ratz) is making his first visit to the U.S. this week, and there's a clear spin in the media's coverage. For one thing, they love pointing out how Ratzo's Emperor Palpatine-like visage and Antarctic warmth contrasts with his predecessor's made-for-TV cuteness. How much of John Paul II's appeal came from the willingness of the world to project their own rosy image on his blank, dementia-ridden stares is another issue. There's also a lot of talk about how different American Catholics are from the hard-line standard Ratzo tries to set. The majority want to expand gay rights, allow abortions, use condoms, and only go to church when there's nothing better on TV. But this article from Yahoo! News really sticks in my giblets. When speaking of the massive amount of child rape uncovered in the church these last few centuries, the writer claims that Ratzo has "confronted" the issue "head on". If by "confronted" she means "harbored Cardinal Bernard Law, the man who relocated and facilitated known rapists in his parishes", then I suppose this statement is entirely true. More details here.
French sex kitten Brigitte Bardot is being persecuted by her country's anti-free speech laws. She went on trial earlier this week for "inciting racial hatred" with her published comments about Muslim immigration and the role of Islam in the 9/11 attacks. She's been convicted of these charges four previous times, so prosecutors are seeking the harshest penalties this time around in the hopes that she'll finally cut it out. It all started when she criticized Muslim animal slaughter rituals in her capacity as an animal rights advocate, but she's since made it clear that France needs to crack down on the rise of fundamentalist Muslim immigration. No matter what anyone thinks of Islam, it's not a race, so I don't see how the racial hatred charge applies. Sure, there's a large Arab foundation for the religion, but tell a Pakistani that Allah only smiles on those from the Fertile Crescent, and you'll likely to receive a nuclear missile to the nose. Also, this is what happens when your country doesn't have a first amendment. Feel free to pirate America's Bill of Rights, Europe. It's in the public domain. More details here.
Lame title-joke aside, it seems that Russia is about to start requiring all wireless internet devices and routers to be registered with the Russian Mass Media Communications and Cultural Protection Service, or Rossvyazokhrankultura for "short." Failure to register your laptop, PDA, smart phone, Nintendo Wii, TiVo, etc., could result in the government confiscating your property. The agency says that registering a new laptop or phone could take ten days, while setting up a home network would take significantly longer, requiring a slew of paperwork and forms to be filed. Aside from the Orwellian overtones and frightening anti-freedom movements Russia's been making lately, I'm left wondering why registering anything should take ten days or more. Are they actually using paper and filing cabinets? If they had a high speed network, I bet they could oppress ten times as quickly. Read more here.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
First of all, it seems Fox News' Roger Friedman has quite the crush on TV star Jason Beghe. In addition to describing Mr. Beghe in his opening paragraphs as "ruggedly handsome", he's also generous enough to call Beghe a "star" despite the fact that his most famous role has been as the love interest to a bald Demi Moore in the hilarious comedy G.I. Jane. So it may not have the impact of, say, John Travolta's angry departure, but Beghe's recent kicking of Scientology to the curb is a nice change of pace. In a YouTube video (hey, maybe we can call him a YouTube star?), Beghe, who only three years ago appeared in commercials for the cult, calls Scientology "destructive", "a rip-off", and "very dangerous for your spiritual, psychological, mental, emotional health and evolution". "If Scientology is real," he says, "then something's fucked up." Indeed. In another bit of creepily lustful prose, Friedman suggests Beghe's coming out party will "shake [Scientology's] Celebrity Center to its core", though "cause a mild annoyance" might be more accurate. However, this is a very clever move on the part of Scientology protest group Anonymous, in that they've recruited what may be the most anonymous actor on the planet. Zing! More details here.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The Red Sox finally broke the Curse of the Bambino a few years back, and if you're reading this science-related blog, you probably have no idea what that means. Regardless, a mischievous construction worker and Red Sox fan decided to try a little black magic himself and buried a Red Sox jersey in a concrete slab near what will eventually be a restaurant in the new Yankee Stadium. After some anonymous tips and five hours of jackhammering, the cursed clothing was finally removed, thus granting New York with untold years of magic-free, obscenely expensive success. The offending witch doctor's name and general address has been widely published, though I refuse to do so here. Why hasten the inevitable irony of his being buried in concrete and thrown into the Hudson River? More details here.
Former Queen guitarist (yes, I know they occasionally replace Freddy Mercury with some scrawny scab, but the band died with the great mustachioed one) has been named Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. Turns out Dr. May's an astrophycisist in addition to being a rock god, and recently he co-wrote the book Bang!: The Complete History of the Universe. Suck on that, Buckaroo Banzai! Maybe this pop culture/academic supremacy he's been given the prestigious position, but considering it once belonged to Tony Blair's wife, it might just be because Dr. May is sleeping with the former British Prime Minister. (Allegedly.) More details here.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
According to Wired, scientists could replace your supermarket meat isle with vats of test-tube grown "meat" in as little as ten years. They say that the pseudo-flesh would be cheaper to manufacture than traditional beef, with the added benefit of not contributing nearly as much to greenhouse gases as real livestock, which, according to the article, account for nearly 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. While growing an actual organ or muscle isn't possible yet, scientists believe hamburger and other ground meat products (like sausage and chicken nuggets-- Mmm!) to be just around the corner. Read about more reasons to give up vegetarianism here.
Friday, April 11, 2008
He's that mono-nomenclated prognosticator the world just can't stop loving. Nostradamus is the subject of this week's Ask an Amateur Scientist over at PinkRaygun.com. Did he really predict the rise of Hitler and the fall of the World Trade Center towers? What's his obsession with JFK, Jr.? And how can anyone make any sense out of his unintelligible and borderline insane ramblings? Find out all this and more right here.
Good news of sorts for Indonesia. The government has backed down on blocking YouTube and MySpace in order to protect its citizens' delicate little eyes from seeing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders' (seen here mocking Indonesia) anti-Islam short film Fitna. Citing an outpouring of complaints from Internet users (in other words, the whole country), they've instead focused their attention on blocking individual sites that might host the film. Still censorship, but at least the government now knows it can't get in the way of Indonesians and their grainy videos of teenagers hitting each other with chairs. Also, it will be nearly impossible to block each site, so the motion is pretty much moot. Another nail in the coffin of fascist policies in the name of not offending murderous fundamentalists. Now if only we could get an anti-Islam film of a little better quality than Wilders'. Perhaps one that doesn't bore us to death while telling us things we already know. More details here.
According to an informal survey of scientists conducted by the journal Nature, 1/5 of all respondents admitted to using drugs to increase their concentration or focus. And really, is this surprising to anyone? Why should the jocks of the world (I'm looking at you, Lance Armstrong) have all the fun of performance enhancing drug use? Let's get those geeks in on the illicit action. Of course, these scientists aren't shooting giant needles in their muscular buttocks to pump up their freakish pecs. Instead, they're popping Ritalin, Provigil, and beta blockers to get the edge on those stressful experiments. Not quite as glamorous maybe (Ritalin? The drug of choice for hyperactive 12-year-olds?), but here's hoping this new badboy image will do something to up the profile of scientists among the pill popping tween set. More details here.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
CERN, the kindly people who might destroy the Earth, and who also helped develop the Internet back in 1989, have developed a new super-fast version of the Internet they are calling "The Grid." Built primarily to help deliver data from the Large Hadron Collider to universities around the world, the Grid is based around fiber-optic networks and can achieve speeds 10,000 times faster than current broadband connections. And the best part is it's already built. They began work on it years ago, and it will go online the same day as the LHC. It currently consists of 55,000 servers, all over the world. Now, us lowly consumers probably won't get a taste for years to come, just in the same way that the original Internet was first used exclusively by universities, then slowly trickled into the consumer realm. Read more here.
I've been remiss in neglecting to mention the Science Debate 2008 campaign as much as I should. The basic idea is to gather citizens, scientists, policy makers, educators, and politicians to pressure the presidential candidates into debating issues relating to science and technology. Given the fact that we're living in the 21st century, these issues are becoming more and more important and noticeably absent from the campaign. Unfortunately, however, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have decided to debate issues of faith instead. Here's the write up sent out by Science Debate '08:
...after declining our invitation to debate science in Pennsylvania, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton yesterday agreed to attend "The Compassion Forum," a forum of "wide-ranging and probing discussions of policies related to moral issues." CNN will serve as the exclusive broadcaster of the "presidential-candidate forum on faith, values and other current issues" at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pa., April 13 at 8 p.m. Perhaps among the moral issues discussed should be whether they have a moral obligation to more fully engage on science issues, since the future viability of the planet may hang in the balance, for starters. Is there a larger moral imperative? How about the future economic health of the the prosperity of its families? Science & engineering have driven half our economic growth since WWII, yet but 2010 if trends hold 90% of all scientists and engineers will live in Asia. Then there are the moral questions surrounding the health of our families with stem cell research, genomics, health insurance policy, and medical research. There's biodiversity loss and the health of the oceans and the morality of balancing destruction of species against human needs and expenses, there's population and development and clean energy research, there's food supply and GMO crops and educating children to compete in the new global economy and securing competitive jobs. Science issues are moral issues. I would encourage you to write letters to the editor, emails to the campaigns, and blog postings pointing this out. And if you can, support our ongoing effort to turn this country around.
Not to be outdone by Pakistan, the Indonesian government forced the country's Internet service providers to block every citizen's access to YouTube and MySpace in order to keep them from seeing Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders' anti-Islam film Fitna. Their excuse for treating their entire population like mindless children? Fitna could "disturb relations between the faiths". First of all, Indonesia can go screw. There are a lot more places to see the film than YouTube and MySpace. The most they're doing by blocking those sites is keeping Indonesians from ranking the importance of their friends and/or watching cats get caught in ceiling fans. Also, if you can't take someone criticizing your religion, then perhaps you are, in fact, a mindless child. Mr. Wilders is a reactionary, xenophobic dick, but he has a right to tell Indonesia that their religion would very much like them to become murderers. More details here.
Monday, April 7, 2008
You know, Jenny McCarthy's bosoms got me through some tough times as a randy adolescent, but the goodwill ends there. Take a look at this clip from a recent episode of Larry King Live where McCarthy calls the scientific evidence that there is no link between her child's autism and the vaccines he received "bullshit". By way of preparation, let's review a bit. First of all, the symptoms of autism often manifest at the same time a child receives certain vaccinations. Secondly, Jenny McCarthy formerly picked her nose on MTV for a living. Thirdly, all the mercury in the MMR vaccines that the anti-vaccination crowd used to blame for causing autism has been removed, yet autism diagnoses continue to rise. Fourthly, diagnoses do not equate to new cases--in fact, the rise in diagnoses is a sign that doctors are getting better at recognizing autism early. Fifthly, Jenny McCarthy told Oprah that removing the gluten and dairy from her son's diet (as a random Google search told her to do) is curing his autism. Finally, Jenny McCarthy used to PICK HER NOSE FOR A LIVING. For real information on the non-link between vaccines and autism, go here. Brace yourself for Larry King's suspenders and lizard-like neck below:
Friday, April 4, 2008
It's been the stuff of recent legend--a supercollider built in Switzerland that some say could end life as we know it in the sucking vortex of a black hole. Is there any reason to fear Armageddon when the Large Hadron Collider is turned on this Summer? The quick answer is no. But for more details, why not read the latest installment of my weekly PinkRaygun.com column Ask an Amateur Scientist? Fill your mind with fact right here.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
My tolerance for CNN waned about the same time that they hired Glenn Beck and increased the size of Wolf Blitzer's Situation Room video wall to cover most of downtown Atlanta. (Seriously, shouldn't they really upgrade that show to Incident Room at least? The thing's on 63 hours a day.) And today's top headline on CNN.com is probably the final nail in the coffin for the once great, Darth Vader-voiced news outlet. "Vaccine-autism link divides parents, scientists." First of all, there is no vaccine-autism link. Secondly, while the hysteria over nonsensical autism theories may divide evidence-based parents from their more gullible peers, there is no divide among scientists. Every major health organization has emphatically denied any link between childhood vaccines and autism. Even after the mercury-based preservative used in MMR vaccines was removed from the drug supply, autism diagnosis rates continued to rise. Plus, diagnosis rates don't equate to new cases. Further, CNN.com is run by sensationalist morons who would rather milk a non-story than concern themselves with the public health of our country's children. Not to engage in ad hominem attacks here, but these people are a bunch of poopy pantses. More nonsense here.
It's stories like this that really make a scientific researcher want to throw up his rubber gloved hands in defeat. What's the point in spending millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to find cures for debilitating medical conditions when there are miraculous healers like Mr. T roaming the Earth? We all knew he was the only member of the A-Team who could really get anything done. By the same token, we also knew he was struggling to find a job after General Mills stopped manufacturing Mr. Ts Cereal. But who knew he had Jesus-like powers? According to WENN, a child who fell into a coma in the mid 1980s would only move his limbs in response to hearing Mr. T's name. After years of begging the mohawked star to visit the poor child (what the hell else was he doing?) Mr. T finally swung by the hospital, closed the curtains around the child's bed, and prayed. Suddenly, the kid sprung to life and yelled Mr. T's name. Either this is finally proof that my tithes to the Church of the Immaculate T were not in vain, or this story is a big fat load of bullshit. More details here.
Here's a strange bit of news from the BBC. Scientists in the UK have created the country's first human/animal hybrid embryos. This may seem like the first step on a road toward a science-fiction universe populated by Man-bats and centaurs (somewhere, a LARPer just got an erection), but the truth is a little more mundane. Despite the fact that the article keeps referring back to the Catholic church's outrage and disgust over the research, the fact is that we're not talking about tusk-wielding monsters here. The embryos were created by injecting human DNA derived from skin cells into eggs taken from cow ovaries and emptied of all their genetic material. In other words, there are simply human embryos in an cow embryo's shell, so the best we can hope for is a new incarnation of Dar, the Beastmaster. Where are my winged servant children, dammit? Anyway, this is apparently good for research into Parkinson's an Alzheimer's. Blah blah blah. I'm bored now. More details here.
Scientists at UC Berkeley have been observing the small Abdopus aculeatus octopus off the coast of Indonesia and have come up with some erotic and disturbing findings. These are some horny, kinky bastards. For one thing, males were seen using their tentacles to strangle to death other males who might be after their good lady mates. And you thought tentacle S&M was only for underground Japanese pornography. Even stranger, some males disguise their distinctive masculine stripes and act all girly before they pounce on their unsuspecting female sex prey. You know all those swishy guys who refuse to come out of the closet and always talk about how every woman they see is "like, super super hot"? Perhaps they really are straight. And perhaps they're taking a cue from the octopi. More details here.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
A Wisconsin high school student is suing his school for giving his Christian-themed art project a zero only because it was religious in nature. Julie Millin, the student's art teacher, assigned the class to create landscapes, and the plaintiff in this case chose to plant a cross in the middle of his black and white insult to the vanishing point. It's a true piece of shit, but that's not the issue here. Millin told the student he was in violation of the class's policy against any art depicting violence, blood, sexual connotations, or religious beliefs. Then the kid got two detentions for tearing up a copy of that agreement in front of the teacher. Good for him. Your Constitutional rights aren't checked at the doors of your school, and he should be allowed to draw whatever kind of crap meets the terms of the assignment. That's what high school art class is all about (despite what your school's lit mag would have you believe). The school is wrong in claiming that the drawing somehow infringes on other students' rights. If they can't look at a cross, they're most likely vampires anyway. The only church/state problems arise when the schools start actively promoting religion themselves. The lawsuit alleges as much. According to the kid's attorneys, the school displays images of Hindu gods, cloaked sorcerers, Medusa, and the grim reaper. What's the problem with adding a poorly rendered Jesus to the list of allowed fictional characters? And does anyone else wonder if Ray Harryhausen is decorating this school? More details here.
All of the headlines you will read for this story are wrong. Take the Times Online, for instance. "Clay tablet identified as asteroid that destroyed Sodom and Gamorrah." I believe it's only the piss-poor grammar that makes me think this story is about a giant clay tablet from space crushing two ancient Biblical cities. That aside, the story goes that researchers from Bristol University and a design firm called Reaction Engines, Ltd. have translated the cuneiform on the tablet and say it's a copy of notes made by a Sumerian astronomer who records his eye-witness account of a massive asteroid falling through the atmosphere. What does this have to do with Sodom and Gamorrah? Nothing really, which is why this story is so curious. Assuming, of course, it's not a massive April Fool's Day joke on the part of every online news outlet. Here are some of the problems: this tablet is supposedly a 700-year-old copy of an over 5,000-year-old original. The chances of it being an exact copy are slim to none. Also, only half the writing on the tablet is legible, and only half of that refers to a "white stone bowl" being "vigorously swept along". Not really definitive asteroid evidence. Further, the researchers involved claim to have located the impact of the asteroid in the Austrian Alps at Kofels, with a rain of fire falling in its wake and destroying about 386,000 square miles of land. Seems like such an event would leave a geological or archaeological record, but nothing is offered in the article other than a massive landslide at Kofels at some point in the past. Also, there's no other evidence that either Sodom or Gamorrah ever existed as anything other than a creepy story meant to scare you away from butt sex. More details (sort of) here.
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