Tag Archives: Science

The Associated Press: Chimp owner begs police in 911 call to stop attack

Herold, a widow whose daughter was killed in a car accident several years ago, told the Today Show that the incident was “a freak thing.”
She said Travis “couldn’t have been more my son than if I gave birth to him,” and rejected criticism that chimpanzees are inappropriate pets.
“It’s a horrible thing, but I’m not a horrible person and he’s not a horrible chimp.” she said.
The unexplained attack was uncharacteristic of Travis, a veteran of TV commercials who could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and dress and bathe himself.
Don Mecca, a family friend from Colchester, N.Y., said Herold fed the chimp steak, lobster, ice cream and Italian food.

The Associated Press: Chimp owner begs police in 911 call to stop attack

Climatic Heresy: 1

Human activity may indeed be affecting the climate, but after reading the calm, methodical statements by the “deniers,” I’m no longer willing to believe that anyone has a complete model of the complex, chaotic systems that determine global temperature, and I regret that the simplistic fear-metaphors used by people such as Al Gore have tended to demonize those who simply feel that the evidence, at this point, is still inconclusive.

Climatic Heresy: 1

Oldest Animal Fossils Discovered | Wired Science from Wired.com

The animals’ remains don’t look like traditional fossils. They’re more like fossil echoes: chemical traces of a compound only produced — at least in modern times — by demosponges, descendants of what some scientists consider to be the last common ancestor of all animals.
“It is, definitively, the earliest evidence for animals,” said geochemist Gordon Love of the University of California, Riverside, lead author of the study published Wednesday in Nature.

Oldest Animal Fossils Discovered | Wired Science from Wired.com

Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God | World news | The Guardian

Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he receives hate mail from viewers for failing to credit God in his documentaries. In an interview with this week’s Radio Times about his latest documentary, on Charles Darwin and natural selection, the broadcaster said: “They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance.”

Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give “credit” to God, Attenborough added: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God, via boing boing

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

Using the St Matthew’s Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.
The astronomy lecturer, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: “We have software that can recreate exactly the night sky as it was at any point in the last several thousand years.
“We used it to go back to the time when Jesus was born, according to the Bible.
“Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.
“We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star – but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.
“There’s no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time.
“This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star.

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

we can read minds now. no, really.

neuron

Researchers from Japan’s ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have developed new brain analysis technology that can reconstruct the images inside a person’s mind and display them on a computer monitor, it was announced on December 11. According to the researchers, further development of the technology may soon make it possible to view other people’s dreams while they sleep.
The scientists were able to reconstruct various images viewed by a person by analyzing changes in their cerebral blood flow. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, the researchers first mapped the blood flow changes that occurred in the cerebral visual cortex as subjects viewed various images held in front of their eyes. Subjects were shown 400 random 10 x 10 pixel black-and-white images for a period of 12 seconds each. While the fMRI machine monitored the changes in brain activity, a computer crunched the data and learned to associate the various changes in brain activity with the different image designs.
Then, when the test subjects were shown a completely new set of images, such as the letters N-E-U-R-O-N, the system was able to reconstruct and display what the test subjects were viewing based solely on their brain activity.

Scientists extract images directly from brain ::: Pink Tentacle

Humans 80,000 Years Older Than Previously Thought?

Using argon-argon dating—a technique that compares different isotopes of the element argon—researchers determined that the volcanic ash layers entombing the tools at Gademotta date back at least 276,000 years.

Many of the tools found are small blades, made using a technique that is thought to require complex cognitive abilities and nimble fingers, according to study co-author and Berkeley Geochronology Center director Paul Renne.

Some archaeologists believe that these tools and similar ones found elsewhere are associated with the emergence of the modern human species, Homo sapien.

“It seems that we were technologically more advanced at an earlier time that we had previously thought,” said study co-author Leah Morgan, from the University of California, Berkeley.

Humans 80,000 Years Older Than Previously Thought?

Creationists fail again: taken for granite

But I’m thinking that no matter what, we’re talking ages significantly longer than say, 6000 years. In fact, unless Antarctica was moving at a pace faster than you can jog, we’re talking millions if not hundreds of millions of years here.

Of course, creationists have an answer for this, including “catastrophic plate tectonics”, which apparently can have all the continents scurrying across the face of the Earth like cockroaches avoiding light. Go ahead and read that link; it’s pretty entertaining. According to them, the continents all got pushed around by Noah’s flood, then suddenly stopped, except not really stopped; now they move slowly, and at just the right speed to be in concordance with the hundreds of other pieces of evidence that show that the Earth is billions of years old.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Creationists fail again: taken for granite

Evolution: what’s the real controversy?

Here, it was clear that there simply is no controversy. In contrast to the arguments over bacterial trees and the origin of eukaryotes, none of the researchers felt compelled to explain or justify their focus on the role of mutation and selective pressure. Concerns, when they arose, were simply focused on identifying the consequences of selection. As such, Discovery’s focus on presenting a controversy here seems hallucinatory.

Evolution: what’s the real controversy?:

chile volcano the next ompeii?

Chilean authorities are considering the possibility that Region X’s Chaitén Volcano, now in its eighth day of continuous eruption, might collapse and thus release a torrent of red-hot pyroclastic material (burning gas and rock) that could devastate the surrounding area. 

Very much a ‘worst case scenario,’ the possibility is nevertheless a very real one, vulcanologist Luis Lara of Chile’s National Geologic and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) told reporters Thursday afternoon.

‘That’s precisely the reason we recommended that authorities define a restricted area, because this is a real possibility with volcanoes that are similar to Chaitén. We can’t offer any kind of probability that this will happen, or say for sure how things will play out. It’s a worst case scenario,’ said Lara.

There is indeed precedent for such concern, according to the SERNAGEOMIN official, who pointed out that similar volcanoes – in Mexico and the Philippines, for example – have collapsed on the seventh or eight day of continuous eruption.

‘Pompeii is in some ways similar,’ said Lara, referring to the Roman city famously destroyed in AD 79 by Mount Vesuvius. ‘There was a pyroclastic flow that resulted in the consequences we all know. That’s exactly the worst case scenario that we’ve defined here.’

The Patagonia Times – Patagonia News – CHILE VOLCANO SCENARIO “SIMILAR TO POMPEII”

photo credit

lovely article on “magical thinking”

No, at some level they believed that their insurance helped keep the plane aloft, according to psychologists with new experimental evidence of just how weirdly superstitious people can be.

We buy insurance not just for peace of mind or to protect ourselves financially, but because we share the ancient Greeks’ instinct for appeasing the gods.

We may not slaughter animals anymore to ward off a plague, but we think buying health insurance will keep us from getting sick. Our brains may understand meteorology, but in our guts we still think that not carrying an umbrella will make it rain, a belief that was demonstrated in experiments by Jane Risen of the University of Chicago and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell.

Travel Insurance – Magical Thinking – Appeasing the Gods, With Insurance – John Tierney – New York Times:

fairness is in our genes

there has been a lot said about the article i am going to quote later in this post, but none of it that i’ve seen calls out the glaringly obvious point that i’m seeing in this:

Consider one more experimental example to prove the point: the ultimatum game. You are given $100 to split between yourself and your game partner. Whatever division of the money you propose, if your partner accepts it, you each get to keep your share. If, however, your partner rejects it, neither of you gets any money.

How much should you offer? Why not suggest a $90-$10 split? If your game partner is a rational, self-interested money-maximizer — the very embodiment of Homo economicus — he isn’t going to turn down a free 10 bucks, is he? He is. Research shows that proposals that offer much less than a $70-$30 split are usually rejected.

Why? Because they aren’t fair. Says who? Says the moral emotion of “reciprocal altruism,” which evolved over the Paleolithic eons to demand fairness on the part of our potential exchange partners. “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” only works if I know you will respond with something approaching parity. The moral sense of fairness is hard-wired into our brains and is an emotion shared by most people and primates tested for it, including people from non-Western cultures and those living close to how our Paleolithic ancestors lived.

the idea that most people react this way is something in our selves so deep that it is something we share with other primates.

when we share so much DNA with monkeys, apes, and lemurs, and yet so many people deny that we come from common ancestors, it just seems dishonest to me.

intellectually at best, and plain-old lyin’ at worst.

as i get further and further away, as the months tick by, from my old christian self, i have trouble even remembering how it is i ignored so much evidence for evolution and spent so much time researching “science” that “disproved” it.

how was i able to accept as fact then what is so clearly horse-pooey?

this article explains it, in some small sense.

Why people believe weird things about money – Los Angeles Times: