Really Sciency

Visit my other blog 'Really Sciency' looking at Climate Science and its portrayal, misrepresentation and denial in the media.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Who Knew?

Apparently US President Barak Obama is American after all. In an apparent turn up for the books the long version of his Birth Certificate has been released showing that Barack Obama was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961 – just as his short-form certificate said, and just as local newspapers reported at the time.

However I'm assuming that even this unequivocal proof will not make this absurd suggestion, that Obama isn't American so shouldn't be President, go away.  I'm fairly sure there will be some still saying exactly that and still calling all this evidence a forgery or fabrication.

In an interesting post from Climate Progress, the so called 'Birthers' - birth deniers in reality - have been compared to climate change deniers;

  1. Both groups are impervious to the evidence.  
  2. Both come from the same group of people.
  3. Both group get their disinformation from the same right-wing sources.
  4. Both groups have an underlying motivation — their desire to obstruct progressive government action. 
  5. Both groups believe in a mammoth conspiracy theory.  

I think Joseph Romm may have a point.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Education in Britain is fast becoming unaffordable

I have already mentioned that the plans to scrap the EMA (Education maintenance Allowance) is only going to ensure that we have more unqualified, less educated young people looking for work and more likely to be claiming benefits.

This when coupled with the current governments tripling of University fees is nothing more than an educational disaster. The oddest thing is that the Government is now criticising Universities for charging the maximum that they we told they were allowed to charge!

However nothing I can ever say will be more damming than what students themselves are saying and this 15 year old lad, Joe Cotton, is particularly damming;

Hear, Hear!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Pope Sings from same Hymn Sheet

I have finally repaired/updated my PC so no more sharing a laptop when convenient when I needed a computer - and blogging wasn't a 'need'. With a new motherboard and processor it is actually more like a new PC in an old case.

And all this has happened just in time for the Pope Benny and I to agree on something - and that doesn't happen often. He stated last Sunday at the start of the Easter Holy Week that;
"Mankind has managed to accomplish so many things: we can fly! We can see, hear and speak to one another from the farthest ends of the earth. and "great advances of technology have improved life for man".

Yes it has as the infant mortality rate, life expectancy and improve health and quality of life in the developed world can testify. All a bit out of character for some one worried about needing more exorcists on the job. So it seems that me a Benny are on the same page but unfortunately he then goes to show that it might be the same page but it is a very different book!

Like a man of blind faith and an agenda to prop up he then comes out with the line;

" [T]hey have also increased possibilities for evil, and recent natural disasters were a reminder, if any were needed, that mankind is not all-powerful."
There have been many natural disasters that might be 'recent' but the outstanding one must be the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. I doubt anyone thought current technology could have prevented or saved any one from such a devastating event. How he manages to logically link technology with increased evil and then natural disasters is beyond me. Even if he sees some tech as 'evil' how isn't it balanced by the good? It all seems a bit opportunistic to do this.

And when it comes to natural disasters it is technology that saved and supported more people than anything else. Japan's earthquake resistant buildings have withstood quakes than others would not have. It was the latest tech that rescuers used to find, save and support survivors. Are these rescuers really at an increased possibility for evil by using the modern tools at their disposal?

How many people can we really say were saved by blind faith a prayer?

But of course he ignored the elephant in the room, aren't natural disasters part of God's will or at least controllable by this supreme creator deity? So is Pope Benny really saying; "You might think modern technology is cool but technology can't replace God and God has just let a few tens of thousand of people die and suffer to remind you"?

Friday, 8 April 2011

We’d be total shits if it wasn’t for Jesus, admit Christians

Some satire is just too good to ignore and I just couldn't ignore the piece below. I stole it of the News Thump site and I hope they don't mind. In case the context is missed, it relates to philosopher AC Grayling's new book; "The Good Book: A Secular Bible".

Christians against AC Grayling Atheist Bible

Christian organisations have called AC Grayling’s ‘Atheist Bible’ complete nonsense by insisting that if it wasn’t for Jesus they would all be complete and utter shitbags.

The Good Book is Grayling’s attempt to show that inherent kindness is a feature of evolution and bound tightly into our genetic make-up, not the result of an invisible deity threatening people with an eternity in a fiery Hell – a claim refuted by Christians everywhere.

Regular church attendee Troy Williams told us, “I can’t speak for all Christians, but if it weren’t for Jesus Christ our saviour I’d be out there raping and pillaging right now.  How do you explain that mister science man?”

“You can’t, can you? Jesus has turned me from a potentially violent criminal into an insufferably tedious bore. Hallelujah!”

“This book and all it’s stories about how people are nice to each other just ‘because’ is load of old twaddle. God told me that in a dream I had last night.”

AC Grayling’s Atheist Bible

Other Christians have insisted that if people are inherently nice, why is everyone so incredibly mean to them when they knock on their front doors trying to spread the word of God.

Christian Margaret Shilling of East Kilbride told us, “It doesn’t make sense, if people were inherently ‘good’ we’d always be invited in for a cup of tea and a biscuit whilst we lectured you on how letting Jesus into your life can rob you of half your weekend every single week.”

“Instead we get sworn at, shouted at through letter boxes and one man threw a bucket of piss at us from his bedroom window.  How is that good?”

AC Grayling defended this behaviour saying, “I’ll bet anyone who’s ever had a religious cold-caller had a smile on their face reading that – so there’s your kindness to your fellow man, right there.”

Thursday, 7 April 2011

US Congress Votes out Science

In a update to a previous post big business has won again, as responsibility for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is transferred to from the US Environmental Protection Agency to Congress. Crunch time came in the US with a vote in Congress and it seems the official line in the House of Representatives is that Global warming does not exist.

US Congress to take control of greenhouse gases

Last year the the U.S. National Academy of Science,after a review of the scientific literature concluded:

"A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems….

Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities."

A pretty strong and scientifically supported statement. But Sadly the House of Representatives yesterday rejected an amendment that stated:

"Congress accepts the scientific findings of the Environmental Protection Agency that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare."

Not quite as strong as that of the National  Academy of Science but at least it would have put them on record backing the scientific view that global warming is occurring and humans are a major cause.

I can't wait till, like King Canute, they vote down future sea level rise.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Evolved Prejudice

One of the most interesting things about learning about the natural world and evolution is finding out that many of the things we have assumed to have been specifically human traits are present in some form with other species.

Our moral values are often believed to be distinctly human even divinely inspired but we now know that many animals and birds, especially social species, have a basic moral compass similar to the golden rule; ‘Do unto other as you would have them do unto you’.

But what about our less noble traits? This research on Rhesus monkeys seems to show that social species can also display racism - or at least intolerance to those from outside of the group.

Across several experiments, they found that the monkeys stared longer at the faces of outsiders. This would suggest that monkeys were more wary of outsider faces and they also seem to harbour negative feelings towards them associating them with something bad. Overall, the results support an evolutionary basis for prejudice suggesting that prejudice is not unique to humans as some researchers have thought.

“Psychologist Catherine Cottrell at the University of Florida and her colleague Steven Neuberg at Arizona State University, argue that human prejudice evolved as a function of group living. Joining together in groups allowed humans to gain access to resources necessary for survival including food, water, and shelter. Groups also offered numerous advantages, such as making it easier to find a mate, care for children, and receive protection from others. However, group living also made us more wary of outsiders who could potentially harm the group by spreading disease, killing or hurting individuals, or stealing precious resources. To protect ourselves, we developed ways of identifying who belongs to our group and who doesn’t. Over time, this process of quickly evaluating others might have become so streamlined that it became unconscious.”

With prejudice being seen as such a negative trait in the modern world it seems not only good but necessary that we override our evolutionary programming.  But do we have anything to lose by doing this? There are disadvantages to people being too trusting so we may also have to reprogram ourselves to learn to base our distrust and suspicion on something more than just blind prejudice. Could this ever be achieved, not just for individuals but generally across the whole human race?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Are you smarter than an atheist? A religious quiz

"Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups in a 32-question survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. On average, Americans got 16 of the 32 questions correct. Atheists and agnostics got an average of 20.9 correct answers. Jews (20.5) and Mormons (20.3). Protestants got 16 correct answers on average, while Catholics got 14.7 questions right.

 I got 31/32 which makes me smarter on average than all the groups listed.

April Fools?

I have been a bit quiet due to technical problems; basically my PC is shot and rather than repair it I want to upgrade it but currently lack the funds so I'm left browsing and posting by other less convienient means. Unfortunately this is true and not an April Fools.

But is this article on New Scientist an April Fools?

Masturbation calms restless leg syndrome 

Too much of it will make you go blind – or so you might have been told. But for some, masturbation might have a real clinical benefit: it can ease restless leg syndrome (RLS). The insight could provide sweet relief for the 7 to 10 per cent of people in the US and Europe who suffer from the condition.
RLS is a distressing neurologic disorder characterised by an urge to move the legs. It is usually associated with unpleasant sensations in the lower limbs such as tingling, aching and itching.
The exact causes of RSL have yet to be pinpointed, but brain autopsies and imaging studies suggest one contributing factor is an imbalance of dopamine – a hormonal messenger that, among other things, activates the areas of the brain responsible for pleasure. It is suspected that dopamine imbalance is responsible for some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Drugs that increase dopamine have been shown to reduce symptoms of RLS when taken at bedtime and are considered the initial treatment of choice.
Although such drugs provided significant improvement of symptoms for a 41-year-old man with RLS, he found an even better treatment – complete relief after masturbation or sex.

J. Arthur

Luis Marin and colleagues at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, who report on the novel treatment this month in Sleep Science, speculate that the release of orgasm-related dopamine might play a role in the alleviation of symptoms.
An orgasm provides one of the biggest natural blasts of dopamine available to us. When Gert Holstege at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and colleagues scanned the brains of ejaculating men, he said the resulting images resembled scans of heroin rushes.
This temporary increase in dopamine may act in a similar way to drugs that mimic the hormone, granting the man in question enough relief from his restless legs to allow him a full night's sleep.
While the proverbial five-knuckle shuffle has already been shown to protect men against prostate cancer and ease hay fever, researchers have yet to discover any detrimental side effects to the visual system.

 Sounds Plausible but the date of the article and me being a complete sceptic makes me wonder.