Pat Condell: Updates

The latest few from Pat, missed in my absence:

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Michael Reiss resigns. Teaching creationism in Science lessons, is he fucking mental? Oh no, he’s an ordained priest – a job, it seems to me, which is wholly incompatible with being Director of Education at the National Academy of Science. Good riddance to the fucktard.

On what you think you know…

The excellent Jonathan Drori at TED recently.

Hitchens on Humanitarian Intervention

Debates and discussions about humanitarian intervention tend (for good reasons) to be about American intervention. They also tend to share the assumption that the United States can afford, or at any rate has the power, to take or leave the option to get involved. On some occasions, there may seem to be overwhelming moral grounds to quit the sidelines and intervene. On others, the imperatives are less clear-cut. In all instances, nothing exceptional should be contemplated unless it has at least some congruence with the national interest. This interest can be interpreted widely: Is it not to the United States’ advantage that, say, the charter of the United Nations be generally respected? Or the notion can be interpreted narrowly: If the United States had intervened in 1994 in the Francophone central African context of the genocide in Rwanda, then where would it not be asked to intervene?

Full piece at the Foreign Affairs blog, here.

Orangutan captured using Spear to Fish with

Via Primatology.net, this is amazing:

Colliding Particles


Films by the Physicists hunting the elusive Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider, here.

Polish Film Posters

Film Posters from Poland. 50 of them, and they are brilliant. I was particularly taken with this one for Apocalypse Now – you can see the rest here.

On the Responsible use of Psychoactive Drugs

Brought to you from the excellent people at Erowid, this:

Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use

* Investigate the health risks and dangers of the specific psychoactive and of the class of drugs to which it belongs.

* Learn about interactions with other recreational drugs, medications, supplements, and activities.
* Review individual health concerns, predispositions, and family health history.

* Choose a source or product carefully to help ensure correct identification and purity
(avoid materials with an unknown source or of unknown quality).

* Know whether the drug is likely to reduce the ability to drive, operate equipment, or pay attention to necessary tasks.

* Take oneself “off duty” from responsibilities that might be interfered with (job, child care, etc.), and arrange for someone else to be “on duty” for such responsibilities.

* Anticipate reasonably foreseeable risks to oneself and others and employ safeguards to minimize those risks.

* Choose an appropriate occasion and location for use.

* Select and measure dosages carefully.

* Begin with a low dose until individual reactions are known and thereafter use the minimum dose necessary to achieve the desired effects: lower doses are safer doses.

* Reflect on and adjust use to minimize physical and mental health problems.

* Note changes in health over time that may be related to use.

* Modify use if it interferes with work or personal goals.

* Check in with peers and family and accept feedback about one’s use.

* Track reactions to specific drugs and dosages in order to avoid repeating mistakes.

* Seek treatment if needed.

* Decide not to use when the time isn’t right, the material is suspect, or the situation is otherwise problematic.

More, here at Cato Unbound

On asexuality

From the Guardian:

People wonder why asexuals bother to get together, but Amanda and I have been happily married for nine months now and we’re both still virgins. Some people even think asexuality doesn’t exist. It’s so underrepresented, I can understand why people are skeptical. I was too, even though I was perfectly used to thinking of myself in this way. For years I just thought I was the only person in the world who felt like this.

Literary Studies and Evolutionary Science

In the face of any looming apocalypse, imagined or not, prophets abound. For the literary academy, which has been imagining its own demise for almost as long as it has been around, prophets seem always to look to science, with its soothing specificity and concreteness. As the modern discipline of literary criticism was forming in the early 20th century, scholars concentrated their efforts on philology, a study that was thought to be more systematic than pure literary analysis. When the New Critics made their debut in the 1920s and 30s, their goal was to give a quasi-scientific rigor to literary theory: to lay out in detail the formal attributes of a “good poem” and provide guidance as to how exactly one discovered them. Later the Canadian critic Northrop Frye, in his 1957 Anatomy of Criticism, famously queried: “What if criticism is a science as well as an art?” And some of the poststructuralist thought that began to filter into America from France in the 1960s took as its bedrock linguistic and psychoanalytic theory.

More, here.

Kim Noble

Kim Noble has Dissociative identity disorder, with 12 different personalities sharing the same body. She is also an Artist with a new exhibition at the Novas Gallery. You can see some of this work at the Guardian’s Culture Website, here.

Krauss and Dawkins on Science and Faith

Krauss: You have cogently argued in The God Delusion that religion is bad science. I would argue, however, that this is particularly inappropriate, and in fact falls into the same trap fallen into by those who push Intelligent Design in science classrooms, as well as those who fund Templeton Foundation grants that attempt to foster scientific evidence for God. I have framed this issue in language that hearkens back to Carl Sagan, who said that absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Would a world without God necessarily look any different than the world we live in? Most scientists would say no, and thus claim we do not need the God Hypothesis to explain anything about nature. On the other hand one might also ask: Would a world with a God necessarily look any different than the world we live in? People of faith would argue no, and in so doing feel vindicated in their faith. The problem is that both groups are correct, and nothing either can say is likely to influence the other.

Dawkins: I have several times said that a universe with a God would be a very different kind of universe from one without. You have translated this into operational terms, and consequently arrived at the legitimate question of whether the two kinds of universe would look different. Not be different (my question) but look different (your question, where ‘look different’ can presumably mean any difference, detectable in any way by any of our sense organs or scientific instruments). I agree that yours is an important question, and I agree with you that it might be surprisingly hard to detect, by observation or experiment, whether we live in a god-free universe or a god-endowed one. Nevertheless, I still maintain that there is a cogent sense in which a scientist can discuss the question. There still is a sense in which we can have an interesting and illuminating scientific discussion about whether X is the case, even if we can’t demonstrate it one way or the other by observation or experiment. How can I argue this and still claim to be doing science?

Read the whole debate, here.

Krauss on McCain’s Anti-Science Stance

John McCain offered hope and a new direction early on in his campaign. He had previously spoken out publicly about the need to preserve scientific integrity, for example, and criticized several actions of the Bush administration in this regard. With McCain as the Republican candidate and Obama as the Democratic candidate for President, it began to look like we might finally return to an administration that would appropriately adopt the results of science in policy making.

Unfortunately, however, since becoming the presumptive candidate, about to become the official candidate of his party, John McCain has begun to slowly backtrack from the scientific straight-talker one hoped he would be.

More from Lawrence Krauss, here.

A Meal in 140 Characters

Just what the web was made for!

Great Finds in a Library

Go!

Rubik’s Mathematics

Find out about the mathematics of the Rubik’s Cube and Group theory here.

Latest from Pat Condell

Defragging the Ten Commandments

“Nine Commandments, Seven Commandment Thirteen? Ten! It’s a marketing device!”

“Thy shall keep thy religion to thyself”

Do Nuclear decay rates depend on our distance from the Sun?


A fascinating study, here…

Here’s an interesting conundrum involving nuclear decay rates.

We think that the decay rates of elements are constant regardless of the ambient conditions (except in a few special cases where beta decay can be influenced by powerful electric fields).

So that makes it hard to explain the curious periodic variations in the decay rates of silicon-32 and radium-226 observed by groups at the Brookhaven National Labs in the US and at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesandstalt in Germany in the 1980s.

Today, the story gets even more puzzling. Jere Jenkins and pals at Purdue University in Indiana have re-analysed the raw data from these experiments and say that the modulations are synchronised with each other and with Earth’s distance from the sun. (Both groups, in acts of selfless dedication, measured the decay rates of siliocn-32 and radium-226 over a period of many years.)

In other words, there appears to be an annual variation in the decay rates of these elements.

Via Arvix

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