Friday, August 31, 2007
BlogFish is a reliably good source for ocean news and surfing videos.
Adventures in Ethics and Science presents the musings of a professor with two PhDs (Chemistry and Philosophy), and if you are lucky those of her young children (called sprogs).
The Anterior Commissure satisfies your fix for sexy science.
Drugmonkey always has well-thought advice about two things that are probably more linked than we care to admit: controlled substances and grant-writing.
The World's Fair is where I head for inspiration on how to infiltrate my career with creativity and concern for social justice.
Tangled Up In Blue Guy is an atheist, pro-science, unapologetically liberal blogger who grew up in a small town. Check out his blog - even if you aren't those things.
But this situation is a good case study of how scientists tend to choose their words carefully whenever certainty is concerned, but that this care is forsaken by mass media reports of the studies. The international commission charged with monitoring the status of the river dolphin used the phrase, "functionally extinct" to describe the baiji's plight. This followed a 6 week expedition at the end of 2006 to search for the dolphin. Another expedition in July made the same conclusion, and that two 'exhaustive' searched yielded no sightings was evidence to reinforce the original claim. "Functionally extinct" is a term that Wikipedia defines as
The population is no longer viable. There are no individuals able to reproduce, or the small population of breeding individuals will not be able to sustain itself due to inbreeding depression and genetic drift, leading to a loss of fitness.A good example of this is Lonesome George, the Galápagos Abingdon Island Tortoise, who is that species one known surviving individual, but is going strong as a 70 year old who can look forward to a 120 year lifespan.
Functionally extinct in the case of the baiji could mean isolation by dams or population dispersement in murky water or genetic inbreeding leading to loss of fitness. There is, in other words, a chance of slim to none that the species will recover to a sustainable population. If population biologists use the same criterion we use in biomedical science, slim means less than 5%. What concerns me is when public media (and bloggers outside their field) uncritically take 'very sure' to mean 'definitive.' That sets up situations like this one where those same media outlets (or worse, anti-science interest groups) can point to an outlier or other counterexample and say, "See, those scientists don't know what they are talking about!"
I still want an answer to my question above concerning the 50 year rule, but we all should question how it is that the practice and language of science can be better represented by the media.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
COCA at Shilshole Beach CLub
6413 Seaview Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
And by the way, the next time YOU publish, consider using one of the 2814 open access journals available for submission. I put a link to the directory of open access journals down in my sidebar, too.
Thank Bora for the link!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Finally, they hit on a "pro-survival cocktail" of chemicals plus applying heat to the cells to make them behave.By the way, this is the area of the report most connected with my research: I make cells behave. I also appreciated,
"We're pleased to be able to provide an example of something that can be done with embryonic cells that can't be done with adult stem cells," Murry said.For those of you outside of the cell transplantation for cardiac repair field, that's a little barb at a competing group whose leader's name rhymes with 'prepare to reverse ya.' Finally, there is the obligate:
To make the breakthrough, Chuck Murry and his colleagues used the so-called "presidential lines" of stem cells. Those cells are generated from a group of embryos that had already been destroyed before the Bush administration limited research on embryonic stem cells... Murry hopes someday to work with newer lines that would be more suitable for human transplantation.So you can be a scientist and an advocate for science at the same time! So Chuck... you'll probably be too busy today with interviews and such to read my dissertation draft, huh?
Special props to Justin Reedy who authored the press release on this story, an adaption of which can be read in full on ScienceDaily.
Update 9AM August 27: It's a good thing I saved this screenshot for posterity... Alberto Gonzales' resignation is hogging all the headlines!!!
Several more pieces from the Inquiry as Collecting show are up on COCA's website. The show runs from August 30 to September 27 at the Shilshole Beach Club. I'll be at an artists' reception this Thursday evening from 5 PM to 8 PM. I understand that food will be available from the club at cost (but I do not know what that is...)
In the United States, cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly 2 of 5 deaths, and each year, one million people experience a heart attack . If a patient survives a heart attack, the heart recovers by replacing dead cardiac cells with a non-contractile scar. No innate regenerative capacity been identified for mammalian hearts [2-4], and no intervention to reconstitute myocardial function by muscle cell repopulation after injury has been approved for clinical use. Cell grafting is an attractive approach to restore cardiac function in the infarcted heart. Recent studies have identified several cell types that form living grafts in the heart, many of which have been shown to improve cardiac function [5-10]. Clinical trials with cells implanted from skeletal muscle or bone marrow are currently underway [11,12] even though major barriers for successful clinical success – graft integration and cell survival – still exist. The fibrosis that rapidly isolates the grafted cells from the host myocardium  is a prominent physical obstruction that can interfere with graft distribution and survival as well as electromechanical coupling. We have identified that genetic knockout of the matricellular protein, thrombospondin-2 reduces graft-related scarring. Apart from fibrosis, cell grafts face a basic challenge of survival . If cells successfully engraft into the injured heart, about 90% of them do not persist three days after injection . Immense increases in graft cell survival are needed if cell-based cardiac repair is to become a reality. In order to investigate potential treatments for myocardial infarction, we evaluated the regenerative capacity of mammalian cardiac tissue, identified an intervention to improve engraftment of cardiac cells and developed tools to improve the survival of embryonic stem cell derived cardiomyocytes injected into the heart.Hopefully that is intelligible. It was written shortly before the timestamp on this entry...
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Currently at a cost of $750 per day, a herd of 60 goats is eating ivy, blackberries and assorted other goodies along the southeastern most section of Ranier Vista on the University of Washington campus. There's gotta be someone out there that knows if this is cost effective, better for the environment or hilarious...
Wood, Glass, Collected Natural Specimens
16"x 12" x 8" (free standing, open)
Every natural item in this box was collected in my apartment, on the grounds, or very nearby. The items are arranged in accordance with a tradition of wonder cabinets: shelf position follows the 18th Century conception of hierarchical classification. Each item on the left column relates to air; items on the right are tied to the ground. Every slide is numbered and labeled. Viewers are encouraged to inspect items closely and return them to the proper shelf. For my web viewers, I have included some small images of selected shelves. All of the slides can be seen at my flickr account or (eventually) on my webpage.
That the "shelves" are not permanent and the labels are written in pencil permits this to be a continuous work of art, completed only after one permanently vacates the premises.
As I will be traveling to Anacortes, Spokane and Fairbanks for school this year, I am thinking of making a cabinet for each address.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thanks to Evelyn the Envelope for agreeing to pose for this week's clip art.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Keeping people involved in a student group requires relationship building. If the group is to persist, some of the most important relationships are vertical. The leaders need to be familiar with other members, because the new members may be tomorrow's leaders. Chances are good that the new members already know the leaders' names. They are after all sending the emails and standing up in front. This is why it is incumbent on the student leaders to make an extra effort to know members' names.
I am consistently embarrassed when I forget names; I am no expert. But of the many techniques you can find in self-help books, here are the tips that work for me.
- Repeat the name in conversation with the person when you first meet him or her. This cements the verbal imprint.
- Tie the person's name to one particular characteristic: academic department, advisor's name, molecule of interest, distinctive facial feature all work for me.
- Refer to this person when you talk to others: "The other day, Telemachus Brown was telling me about his interest in the psychology of parental absenteeism."
Maintaining a good relationship with future leaders is critical to your student organization's sustainability. It may sound obvious, but having your name known is important to people. When it comes down to it, you want a place where people know - people are all the same; you want a place where everybody knows your name...
This post is sponsored by the Forum on Science Ethics and Policy.
Some of my FOSEP highlights include meeting Bill Clinton's Science Advisor Neal Lane, and picking his brain about science policy, organizing a symposium at the National AAAS meeting that included a presentation by Duncan Dallas, founder of the Cafe Scientifique movement, and planning a controversial presentation about the Kitzmiller v. Dover School District intelligent design case. None of these opportunities would have been possible without a well organized team of graduate students.
Tonight, I participated in the last leaders' meeting in my capacity as FOSEP director. In the course of the meeting, I realized that three years of leadership trial and error have resulted in a pretty comprehensive playbook for organizing and motivating a highly functional student group. Student organizations face many of the same tasks of other groups, but have added complexities of volunteerism, rapid member turnover, a lack of permanent space, funding needs and challenging schedules.
One of FOSEP's newer directors, Maris Lemba, suggested I catalogue my tips and tools on this blog. It just so happens that in the last week, three other people (at the UW and elsewhere) have inquired about recommendations I have about science outreach or student group organization. So thanks Maris! Over the next few weeks, I will be posting some of my tips. They will all be categorized under the label, "organizing students." I've put a special link on the right side panel, too. That way, if you want to periodically check back to see my latest additions, they will be easy for you to find.
What are the topics you can expect? They will range from practical to self-help.
- Nurturing Membership
- Raising Money
- Personal Leadership Development
- Networking on Behalf of Your Group
- Planning a Good Event
- Getting People to Attend Your Good Event
- Going Out On A Limb
- Using the Media
- Protecting Leaders From Burnout
- Outcomes Assessment
- Interpersonal Skills
- Running a Meeting
- Having Fun
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Kate at the World's Fair made a nice post yesterday about how we choose our food. She outlined five reasons why we eat what we do. They are money, taste, nutrition, time and source. Her post got me thinking, and I made a comment over there that I think is succint enough for cross listing here. Disclaimer: this is not the most polished of posts; I have not done much background reading on this issue.
I think there is another consideration that could be added to her list, but it probably overlaps some of the other categories, particularly nutrition and source. I call it the body as a temple consideration. The body as a temple is a reverence or awareness of self that connects what you eat with who you are. (Really though, it's just a highfalutin way of saying, "You are what you eat.") I'll get back to my use of religious language, but the concept as I envision it is subscribed to in large number by decidedly secular communities, especially among the co-op rich, collective-friendly, granola mentality of the Pacific Northwest.
Joking aside, I think that the philosophy of consumption, whether it ranges from puritanical teetotaling to vegan/organic to conscious indulgence is governed by more than just social or economic factors. Food consumption can provide a window into the self.
As far as the religious connection is concerned, I think that there is room for this topic to be framed for religious communities in a similar way that climate change/global warming has been. For example, a good number of Christians (even fundamentalists) have adopted global climate change as an important issue of creation stewardship. Some of these people might not 'believe' in evolution and cast askance looks at Science, but none-the-less have adopted many of the same strategies to forestall global warming as the most outspoken environmentalist groups. If, as I believe is a goal at the World's Fair, we are to elevate the conversation about food choice, consumption and calorie origin, it might be worth the while to identify ways to involve the body as a temple concept as a tap into the organization and energy that certain Christian movements have.
Finally, I probably do not need to remind you that the body as a temple is not a new idea. Blessed food has a thousands of year history in Abrahamic traditions, and is so ubiquitous it is not given a second look in markets and pantries. Many Eastern traditions have similar prescriptions. I think this could be a very useful idea for discussions on the topic of food.What do you think about this idea? It may not even be new as I have presented it, but if it isn't, why do you think we have not heard more about it?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
“Then take a handy oar and go on until you come to men who know not the sea nor eat food seasoned with salt, nor know purple-cheeked ships or handy oars, which are the wings of ships... When another wayfarer shall meet you and say you have a winnowing-shovel on your glorious shoulder, then fasten the handy oar in the earth and offer fair sacrifices to lord Poseidon.”
I won't be heading to Spokane until January, and these paddles don't exactly look like the wings of ships, but I'm going to stick to this the metaphor.
I recently came across these photos from two years ago when three of us from the Murry lab commuted via Lake Union to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for a stem cell seminar. The best part was that we left the canoe in the visitor parking lot. Yue and Jonathan wanted to carry the canoe, so I was in charge of them not running into telephone poles, cars, etc.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Wood, Glass, Northwest Native Berries
9" x 7" x 2"
The piece will not retain its color unless the perishable material is periodically replenished. Such interaction with the piece reminds me that peace and tolerance are not static sentiments, and that different components can arrive at the same outcome. (Different berries are available at different times of the year.)
Two common uses of rainbow symbolism and the motivation for this assemblage are the Pride and Pace (peace) flags. A third use of the rainbow flag, by the worldwide co-operative movement, also finds friends in Seattle.
My other pieces are viewable at Nature, Reordered.
This is the first in what may be a series of posts related to my adapting to the technology used by medical students.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
provide in depth analysis on the most critical matters of faith in a manner that is both intellectually honest and consistent with Christian faith.Science is an important voice in such analyses. You are thinking, "But I thought science and rational thought contradicts faith." Some of us (25-45%, depending on the survey) scientists don't think that at all. From the Christian Faith and Reason statement of beliefs,
We believe the Bible was divinely inspired, but that it must be interpreted using the faculties of human reason which God bestowed upon us.The main way I employ the faculties of human reason is with science. I think that providing communities of Christians with a publication that provides multiple perspectives about controversial topics is a great idea especially if science is invited to a legitimate position around the table. And by multiple perspectives, the editors do not just mean all types of Christians: there were atheist and Muslim contributors in August's edition. From the magazine's statement of purpose,
We seek to provide a marketplace of ideas from all sources, especially those which challenge our viewpoint. Our thoughtful responses to those challenges will lead the sincere skeptic to consider the possibility of choosing to believe in God and the message of Jesus Christ.This represents a moderately evangelical mission, but I appreciate the tolerance embedded in this invitation to contribute. And contributors the magazine is seeking; if after reading the online version, you wish to submit an article, visit this page. The areas covered the most so far have been science (mostly topics in evolution), atheism and topics related to Islam. The fledgling publication has had two online editions and just printed an August edition. I have signed on to contribute scientific articles for the next year, but (importantly for me) will not be responsible for others' content. You can read my primer to stem cells in this month's edition.
I would be interested to know if you think the articles up at this point live up to the ideal of intellectual honesty. It would also be interesting to know how folks respond to the more assertive claims made in a few of the articles - no matter what your background.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Thomas E. Robey
September 13, 2007
Hitchcock Hall 132
The previous room had only 48 seats. This auditorium has
150 fixed folding tablet-arm chairs (12 are left-handed).So feel free to bring your friends! Also of note are the following amenities in the room:
- Boothlet (HCK 132A)
- Carpet (as shown)
- Chalk Board - 31'3"
- Motorized Screen - 15'x20'
You may not know that the international meat industry produces 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sure this calculation includes CO2 released in the shipping of feed and stock, feed crop fertilization and farm machinery operation, but you probably did not know that livestock contribute to global warming in an entirely different (if more natural) way. Some of the global warming from farming comes from the methane released by cattle and the nitrous oxide in manure. It seems Ronald Reagan was right about cow farts.
About 30 percent of the methane in the atmosphere results from microbial action in animals' digestive tracts. This prompted Ronald Reagan's dismissive comment that humans couldn't be held accountable for global-warming gases (of which methane is the most potent), because the most significant source is bovine flatulence.Methane has a warming effect 23 times as great as that of carbon, while nitrous oxide is 296 times as great. So not only is reducing meat consumption better for the average American's health, good for watersheds and important for balancing grain for human consumption with feed for animals, it reduces the demand for flatulence-prone livestock.
As contemporary critics noted, however, Reagan overlooked the fact that animal husbandry has vastly increased the number of cattle, making cow farts very much a human-influenced commodity.
Inquiry as Collection is an exploration of the ways in which contemporary artists deploy strategies of collecting in both two- and three-dimensional works. The exhibit also demonstrates the resurgence of interest in Renaissance "curiosity cabinets," known for their often idiosyncratic combinations of art and science.The show's opening reception is August 30 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM at the Shilshole Beach Club in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. The club is also open to the public every Thursday evening until September 20.
Running from August 30, 2007 – September 27, the show is curated by David Francis, Instructor in Diverse Disciplines at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle, who previously curated Shard at CoCA, which Regina Hackett described as “bustling with originality and strangeness.” Francis had previously curated archaeological artifacts for history exhibits.
The show centers on the work of six artists who studied Wonder Cabinet aesthetics in a class taught by Francis at Pratt earlier in 2007: Mary Ann Henderson, I-Pei Lin, Clare Livingston, Jodi Reid, Thomas Robey, and Nan Wonderly. In the same way that Renaissance “Wunderkammern” blended art and science, the box constructions of these artists reveals their diverse backgrounds: Henderson and Robey are scientists; Lin comes from a Design background; Livingston’s parents ran a museum; Reid and Wonderly are artists from Lake Chelan and Seattle.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Overuse of baby videos may slow the growth of vocabulary among babies 8 months to 16 months old, but didn't have an effect on children from 17 months to 24 months. There is no reason to panic, researchers said, because babies are resilient, and there isn't evidence that videos cause permanent damage. The study didn't examine the effect of videos on older children.After checking out the original paper, I concluded this is a very fair representation of the findings. I even made a mental note about the findings should I ever have young children. This news tidbit also came in handy during last weekend's NPR show, "Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me!" That's the typical science news release cycle.
Did the cycle end there? Well... I'm still writing.
It turns out that the researchers used that popular DVD series, "Baby Einstein" as their experimental group. Guess who makes "Baby Einstein." Your favorite multimedia conglomerate, Disney. (News Corporation is your other favorite.) What did Disney have to say about this?
Baby Einstein said its products were designed to spur interaction between parents and their children, not as solitary experiences. "The entire Baby Einstein DVD collection is specifically designed to promote discovery and inspire new ways for parents and babies to interact -- such as clapping, pointing to objects and verbally interacting with their baby," the company said in a statement.Okay, fair enough. But have you seen the packaging for these videos? That message must not have made it through marketing.
Fortunately for us, Seattle PI reporter Paul Nyham has done a great job following this story. Disney was not content to let some scientists hurt their sales, so what happened next? Strong-armed threats of course! Nyham describes Disney's actions here, but for the full effect, read Disney's letter. Unless you are in no mood for whiners. Disney makes a few minor points, but seems to have misinterpreted the right that scientists have to disseminate knowledge. Furthermore, the study was published after careful peer-review. Sure peer-review has its issues, but one of the best things about it is that it is free from corporate meddling. That's more than the US government can say about how drugs are approved and health guidelines are established!
As an advocate for scientific citizenship, there is no question where I stand on the importance of disseminating science. I am still critical of the press release mechanism for announcing science news, but right now, that's what we've got. As long as researchers have integrity in writing releases and reporters do some amount of background work, the system kindof works. So I was pleased to hear that the University of Washington decided to stand up to Disney's thugs. From a new PI report,
The University of Washington refused to withdraw a press summary of research on baby videos on Thursday, rejecting claims by Baby Einstein owner The Walt Disney Co. that the statement misrepresented the underlying research. "The researchers find no inconsistencies between the content of the news release and their paper. They believe the release accurately reflects the paper's conclusions and their commentary," UW president Mark Emmert wrote in a letter sent to Disney CEO Robert Iger.If only the UW would stand up to the RIAA and refuse to release private information about students to the multi-billion dollar recording industry.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Many religious conservatives, including President Bush, oppose the scientific use of embryonic stem cells because the cells often come from aborted fetuses.Right... Does a journalist have to be a science writer to check his facts? Here is the truth of the matter: Embryonic stem cells NEVER come from aborted fetuses. They are derived from 5-day old blastocysts generated in the context of in vitro fertilization clinics. This embryo has never been in the uterus, and is a ball of about 100 cells. A correct replacement sentence could be: Religious and other conservatives object to ES cell use because they cells taken from a structure that occurs 5 days after fertilization.
I wonder how widespread this misconception is.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
An article in today's Science Times alerts us to a situation where clouds regularly form on the native side of Austrailia's rabbit proof fence, but not on the side with farmland. These pictures, if truly representative, are striking!
The satellite view at right is of the southwestern corner of the island continent, near Perth. The beige ground, as in the air surveillance photo above, is cropland; the green is outback scrub. (From the information in the images, I presume the vantage from the plane is looking south.)
According to the article, the reasons for this phenomenon are not definite, but I'd put my money on the effects of dark vegetation absorbing heat in the day and 'releasing' it at night when it can combine with moisture in the lower atmosphere. The clouds shown in the photos are low level cumulus beneath higher cirrus clouds. Cumulus clouds often progress into cumulus congestus, and these can bring rain showers or thunderstorms if conditions favor growth into the fearsome cumulonimbus.
This could have considerable impact on the study of how agriculture impacts precipitation patterns.
Want to learn more about clouds? I recommend the Cloudspotter's Guide, published by the Cloud Appreciation Society.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
A catchy title matched only by the cuteness of the cover. The first time I saw this book, I thought: "Oh no! Not more pseudoscience nonsense." Don't you worry, readers. It's not at all like that.
The Top 10 Myths About Evolution by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan is part evolution apologetic and part “Myth Busters” science writing. You'll not find any new arguments about the evolution debate if you are familiar with the controversy, but the short book does frame the discussion in a particularly accessible manner. Scientists who find themselves defending evolution to non-scientist Christians will find several useful historical vignettes, scientific points and rhetorical tools in this short book. The arguments against evolution are presented fairly, but it is clear that the intended reader is sympathetic to scientific perspectives.
Smith is an archaeologist and Sullivan is a college writing instructor. Ten Myths emerged from an article co-written by the two in Skeptical Inquirer. Published by Prometheus Books, Ten Myths is not particularly targeted to theist scientists – rare off-hand remarks are mildly derogatory of Christian fundamentalism – but it does not take much patience on behalf of the reader to extract the authors’ salient points. Criticisms of religion are balanced with a critique of naturism.
Smith and Sullivan cite in the introduction several reasons why the American public is confused about evolution. Public misunderstanding and ignorance of science is the result of poor science education and a paucity of good science programming in the media. The power of myth – here defined as explanatory story-telling – increases in influence in the context of poor background knowledge. In this context, it is most problematic for the authors when religious texts are used to provide scientific answers about the natural world. Ten Myths combats the misunderstandings of evolution in concise ten-page arguments that are for the most part freestanding.
The ten myths are presented in a logical order. The first chapters address the history of evolution (Survival of the Fittest, It’s Just a Theory, The Missing Link); next are surveys from a philosophy of science perspective (Evolution is Random, Nature’s Perfect Balance); the last chapter group identifies where evolution science and religion clash (Creationism Disproves Evolution, Intelligent Design is Science, Evolution is Immoral). Some of the sections clarify facts and history, while others present more difficult ideas. In the latter case, it sometimes feels like the conflict is oversimplified. Perhaps those chapters could beeffectively expanded in the context of a college 200-level defense of evolution course.
To satisfy the authors’ goal to provide a handbook that dispels myths about evolution, the chapters are well annotated with an extensive index that will help the reader return to a particular argument long after the initial read. The bibliography for each section is good, but not comprehensive. This is a short read (the body of the book consists of 120 of the 200 bound pages), and each chapter has a clever illustration of the myth to be debunked. This book is inexpensive and could be a useful resource for believing scientists wishing to better engage fellow Christians on the topic of evolution, or could introduce students or other individuals to some of the basics of the evolution debate. Folks with a good knowledge of evolution will have encountered these arguments before, but perhaps not in as a concise form.
The Top 10 Myths about Evolution by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007. 200 pages, index. This review was written for the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation called Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.
- How much is a 60-day supply of medical marijuana?
- How should patients who qualify under state law to legally possess the stuff actually acquire it?
Note the targets for these weblinks: "www dot Doh! dot Wa? dot gov"
Saturday, August 11, 2007
You might expect that I would - as a Christian - object to this campaign, or otherwise be put on the defensive by it. If you made that assumption, you'd be wrong. I think the Out Campaign is an admirable effort to unite a community of Americans that have been too quiet and too persecuted for too long.
My conversations with atheists about science, politics or religion are as interesting and meaningful to me as discussions on the same topic with Christians. In many instances, my agnostic and atheist friends are more likely to be open to thinking about new and different ideas. In the kinds of discussions I like to have about science, society and social justice, it doesn't matter what people believe in. It matters that they are respectful, honest and open to conversation.
As Richard Dawkins writes in his introduction to The Out Campaign,
Atheists are not devils with horns and a tail, they are ordinary nice people. Demonstrate this by example. The nice woman next door may be an atheist. So may the doctor, librarian, computer operator, taxi driver, hairdresser, talk show host, singer, conductor, comedian. Atheists are just people with a different interpretation of cosmic origins, nothing to be alarmed about.With this, I strongly agree. Too many conversations among Christians (and other people of faith) involve categorization of atheists as militant haters. Even if names aren't used, there are underlying stereotypes of inferiority, immorality and other unfounded categories that atheists are crammed into. I resent it when as a Christian, I am labeled as homophobic, misogynistic and irrational just because other vocal Christians are these things and base their reasons for being so on a book I find illuminating.
Clearly, I will not be putting the "A" on my sidebar. But you won't find me shrinking from or picking fights with the website owners that that display that red badge of courage. If you want to display the A, head over to PZ Meyers' Pharyngula blog. He has provided code to help intrepid atheists come out.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
The Yangtze River Dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) was declared "functionally extinct" in December 2006, but was confirmed today as fully non-existent after a second six-week search found no animals. Technically, the Baiji can't be classified as extinct until 50 years after the last sighting, according to the standards of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Is the Great Leap Forward to be blamed for the first vertebrate extinction in half a century and the first ever cetacean (whale or dolphin) extinction due to human influence? The ultimate cause of death can be attributed to pollution, dams, overfishing, and boat traffic. That sounds like good old 'progress' to me. Your local news will report several tragic deaths tonight. Why won't this be one of them?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
HST 535: The Principles and Practice of Tissue Engineering will be available starting in September, and will be viewable by webcast for half a year. That means you get curriculum and video of the course. The website even says that,
during the lectures, questions can be e-mailed to the Course Coordinator.MIT has opened its curriculum to the public for the past several years. Using a platform called OpenCourseWare, anyone from around the world can take MIT courses. Well, not exactly. As a resource to "educators, students and self-learners around the world," anyone with an internet connection can dial up the MIT site for course materials from subjects ranging from planetary studies to urban planning and literature to biological engineering.
From the OCW site, MIT OCW:
- Is a publication of MIT course materials
- Does not require any registration
- Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity
- Does not provide access to MIT faculty
- Provide free, searchable access to MIT's course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
- Extend the reach and impact of MIT OCW and the "opencourseware" concept.
Can secondary (and tertiary) education really be boiled down to networking and credentialing? I'll wager that the majority of OCW users either passively watch the material or look for specific answers or resources before moving on. Without cramming for exams and office hours to make sure sure you 'get it,' this material is by no means a complete course of study - it is merely another resource. Albeit a free resource from a prestigious institution.
This tissue engineering course however seems to contradict one of OCW's central points. That Professor Myron Spector is available for questions could be his own choice. Maybe this is his way of connecting with the public about science. I like the sound of that.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Carnival... Cruise... Don't worry if you missed that one. I'll use it again.
Ted Stevens spent the week in Washington, D.C. On Thursday, he voted in favor of a Senate ethics-reform bill. On Friday, he sponsored a resolution to protect the Arctic waters from overfishing should global warming make harvest possible there.Wow. In case you didn't get that,
he sponsored a resolution to protect the Arctic waters from overfishing should global warming make harvest possible there.By the way, hematite is one type of iron ore. As with my other posts, all puns are intended. (lode-ed with iron-y...)
Friday, August 03, 2007
The question here is whether Americans are willing to pass up on incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent ones. The cons for switching include:
- The strange light looks funny, buzzes, gives me headaches, and induces seizures.
- If I break the bulbs, I'll inhale mercury and turn into a drooling idiot.
- Power in the Northwest doesn't come from carbon anyway, so why bother?
- All of my fixtures are three-way switches or dimmers.
- I can't throw my old CFBs in the trash. What a drag!
- Go buy a new bulb (not that one you got free from the power company in 2000) and try it out. You will be impressed by its silence and light quality.
- The Nerd writes,
While new compact fluorescent bulbs are voluntarily limited to five milligrams of mercury each, as little as a tenth of a milligram per square yard will make you seriously ill.Note to copy editor: please change 'will' to 'could.' Even 'could' is too strong a word. Seriously ill was probably caused from direct ingestion or inhalation of the entire quantity prepared in its most bioactive state. (Feel free to chime in if you can clarify this!) For reference, 5 mg is 1% of what mercury thermometers contained. Yes there IS mercury, so you should follow these instructions in the rare event that a bulb breaks. The Nerd also insinuates that CFBs throw off UV light. Read that part carefully: UV is like a catalyst for the light that actually comes out. When was the last time you got sunburned in the office? As far as the drooling idiot is concerned, I'm not sure if new bulbs could fix the Nerd's questioner.
- We do use water to fuel our consumptive power habits, but what about all of those folks in Wyoming or Michigan that burn coal? If we don't use our extra power here, guess who we sell it to?
- Contrary to popular opinion, there are CFBs rated for dimmers and three way switches.
- In the United States, use this helpful guide to find out where your bulbs should be disposed of. In Seattle, go here or here.
Don't forget that you can also turn off your compact fluorescent lights when they are not in use!
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Since the hell that I hear is third year medical school looks to me right now more like Elysian Fields (Odyssey 4.563), I decided to share with you the specifics of my clinical training schedule. Assuming my committee releases me from my current servitude on September 13, I will conduct the next academic year learning medicine in the following places.
- Oct 1-Nov 9: Pediatrics; Children's, Seattle, WA
- Nov 12-Dec 21: Family Medicine; Anacortes, WA
- Jan 7-Feb 29: Internal Medicine; Sacred Heart, Spokane, WA
- Mar 3-Mar 28: Internal Medicine; Harborview, Seattle, WA
- Mar 31-May 9: Surgery; Spokane, WA
- May 12-Jun 20: Ob/Gyn; Fairbanks, AK
- Jun 30-Aug 8: Psychiatry; Seattle, WA
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Let me add my sentiments to the long list of well-wishers: Thank you for bravely continuing your prayer for understanding in the ugly face of intolerance.
And while I am handing out referrals, please check the latest Annals of Science by B.R. Cohen at McSweeney's. This installment features two things near and dear to my heart: mouse guts and coyotes.