Posted on August 13, 2014 * Comments

In a recent post, I wrote about the establishment of a new Statistical Board of Reviewing Editors at Science magazine – a response, in part, to emerging concerns about poorly applied statistical methods in published research results. As I wrote, I believe that the establishment of a new research board is characteristic of how a healthy scientific community should react to signs of problems: no one benefits when insufficiently justified results are published.

Posted on August 12, 2014 * Comments

Map of the flat earth

As long as I have my copy of Christine Garwood’s excellent Flat Earth (2007) at hand, having retrieved it from the bookshelf to consult it for details about the flat-earther Wilbur Glenn Voliva, who hoped to be called to testify for the prosecution in the Scopes case (see “Voliva!”), I thought that I might take the opportunity to address a weighty question for flat-earthers: what keeps the ocean from cascading off the earth faster than it can be replaced by rain?

Posted on August 11, 2014 * Comments

At the Creation Museum in Kentucky, a miniature diorama shows the last few people on Earth clinging to a craggy spit of rock as Noah’s Ark bobs mockingly in the distance. As if the situation of these last few sinners (soon to be swimmers) was not bad enough, there are tigers on the rocks attacking people. One can only imagine the anguished laments of these unfortunates, who if they kept their iPhones dry might have tweeted: “Really, dude? Were the tigers really necessary? #drowning.”

Posted on August 11, 2014 * Comments

I’ll get back to misconception Monday posts next week, but when Genie Scott sent me this idea for a post, I couldn’t resist it. If you’ve been following the news, you may have seen reports that a potential Ebola therapy, cultured in tobacco plants, has been used on two Americans that contracted the disease. And chances are, you didn’t think much of the fact that the drug is coming from a plant, after all, we get drugs from plants all the time. But the treatment in question is not a naturally occurring plant compound, or even a modified plant compound—it’s a mammalian antibody. That’s right—tobacco plants are producing mammalian antibodies. Weird, right?

Posted on August 09, 2014 * Comments

This past week on Fossil Friday, I gave you a fossil from our Fossil Fan, Dan Coleman. Dan told us that he wasn't quite sure what it was, but he had some thoughts. You all had a lot of great guesses too.

Posted on August 08, 2014 * Comments

 

This week on Fossil Friday, I bring you a true fossil mystery from Fossil Friday Fan Dan Coleman! Dan tells me that he found this specimen on the Taylor Ridge I-75 road cut in Ringold, Georgia, and it dates from the late Ordovician to early Silurian. 

Posted on August 08, 2014 * Comments

In this preview of the second chapter from Climate Smart & Energy Wise, Teaching (and Learning) About Climate Challenges and Energy Solutions, we begin with the story of Nobel Prize winner in physics Dr.

Posted on August 08, 2014 * Comments

Since the end of the last Ice Age some 14,000 years ago, the Earth's human population has risen from at best a few million to well over seven billion, with projections of 9.6 billion by 2050. It is no surprise, simply by our sheer numbers, that humans have become a force of nature. (Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Climate Smart & Energy Wise) 

Posted on August 07, 2014 * Comments

Rodin, The Thinker. Photograph: Frank Kovalchek, via Wikimedia Commons.

Over at The Week, Keith Blanchard recently contributed a piece under the headline “Why you should stop believing in evolution,” with the subhead, “You don’t believe in it—you either understand it or you don’t.” The prose is engaging; I particularly liked the sentence, “Poodles, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Hollywood red-carpet purse dogs—all this fabulous kinetic art was created, and continues to be created, by humans manually hijacking the mechanism of evolution.” (Did you notice the perhaps inadvertent echo of the last sentence of the Origin of Species, “…from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved”?) And the piece is well-intentioned: Blanchard recognizes that there’s overwhelming evidence for evolution, acknowledges that the bulk of the rejection of evolution is motivated by religious concerns, and understands that people of faith have managed to make their peace with evolution nevertheless. But I’m a nitpicker, and I want to register five quibbles.

Posted on August 07, 2014 * Comments

I noticed the "vacancy" signs first. Two motels, three motels, five, ten, twenty. Their parking lots empty, the swimming pools undisturbed, the hopeful ice machines churning out cubes for guests who never came. This, at the height of the tourist season.

Was it the still-sluggish economy? Steep gas prices? Or something else, something extraordinary?