Science Sunday

A great talk with a few scientists on why science will likely play zero role in the forthcoming presidential and vice-presidential debates.

In fact, I tend to disagree with the disappointment of the speakers. They even prove my point by offering a clip of Sarah Palin handily swatting back a climate science question. If she can do it, I can’t see why any debaters seeking the highest office in our country cannot either.

Maybe there’s room to argue for a full debate about science intiatives, but I can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater on this. I think if we can get Romney and Obama to both tackle the fundamental question proposed in this talk – What will your administration’s approach to science and science-based initiatives do to get the country moving on climate change, new sources of energy, and new scientific sources of industry? – then we’ll do just fine.



Vegan Astronauts… Don’t You Mean Cosmonauts?

NASA has planned their menu for the scheduled 2030 mission to Mars and it is 100% vegan. NASA explains their compulsory vegan astronaut diet because:

Meat and dairy products can’t be preserved for long enough to last for the entire mission, so the six to eight Mars astronauts will eat vegan diets while on the mission.

Not only that, but the Mars crew will probably have a hydroponic farm to grow bell peppers and carrots.

And, exhale. Holy shit I can be an astronaut! To Mars! And stay vegetarian!

Source and Source

Addendum: Of the top five hits on “NASA Mars Menu” or “NASA menu” or “Mars astronaut menu”, all five either completely botched and buried the whole vegetarian menu thing or failed to mention it entirely.

Notably, the top three all confounded the vegetarian menu discussion in the following exact pattern. First, they stated the three year mission length would not allow meat and dairy in the menu as it would not stay edible. Second, they all mentioned a hybrid hydroponic system to allow Mars astronauts to add their own vegetable produce to pre-packaged foods. Then, they mentioned under some systems they may have meat in their salads (precisely like that: a hybrid system may allow for meats in their space-grown salads. What about no meat/dairy? They gave absolutely no explanation of this confounding of disparate ideas). Finally, they mentioned any Mars astronaut would have to embark to space with a temporary vegetarian diet for the three year span.

USDA Backs Down From Historical Opportunity for Doublespeak

An “unauthorized” person posted a U.S. Department of Agriculture plan to participate in the Meatless Mondays initiative at their employee cafeterias. The Farm Bureau jumped out of their skivvies and now the message is only available permanently elsewhere. Like here:


The Nazi Defense for Child Molestation

Yesterday, Monsignor Lynn of the Philadelphia archdiocese was sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison before he can be reviewed for parole. His sentence may last a maximum of six years.

I previously wrote about this here:

Below is the Nazi defense for raping children:

After the sentencing, Ann Casey, a friend of Monsignor Lynn for 36 years, said she believed he was a scapegoat and a victim of his intense faith in the archdiocese’s leaders. “It was his vow of obedience to the church that landed him this morning in jail,” she said.

Can you see the “I was obeying orders” in that?

Source =

Evolution v. Intelligent Design – Proving the Religious Link


This is somewhat out-dated stuff, but in many ways just as integral to our discussion about American religiosity as the Scopes Monkey Trial.

I invite you to keep in mind a few disparate thoughts while watching:

  • Do the self-identified fundamentalist embody the humility, decency or honesty of their faith?
  • Do the scientists who identify as ID believers have a worldview that’s compatible with their position as faculty at a university?
  • What aspects of arrogance play out in those ID professors, fundamentalists, Darwinian biologists, and so on? i.e. who is the most arrogant? Who is being unreasonable or unprofessional or indecent?
  • Just what’s up with the Catholic author of the Biology textbook and the protestant science teachers (who are anti-ID) at the Dover school?
  • Who are they fooling and does this glimpse by PBS indicate a bias away from the necessary atheism that’s really on trial here?

I especially found this excited because the Biology textbook with the iridescent dragonfly is the biology textbook I had in 9th grade. In fact, I was in ninth grade maybe a year or two before this trial took place. If you’re of my generation, this behind the scenes has a whole other level of complication.

Bullet-Proof Contact Sports

“We’re seeing evidence, in football and hockey especially, of the risk of brain degeneration following repetitive concussions,” said Dr. Charles Tator, a brain surgeon at Toronto Western Hospital and an expert on concussions. “This is serious, because we don’t have a treatment for it, or even a test to diagnose it during life. We don’t even know why this tau protein accumulates in the brain.”

In typical American fashion, Wired reports that the head of a Kevlar bullet-proof armor company, Unequal Technologies, is offering their product to solve the NFL and NHLs epidemic of concussions and traumatic brain injury. A problem that did not exist before the arms race of better padding and increasingly unrealistic television interest in the blood lust of sport.

The entire article can be summed up by those two points. This rise in concussions comes from two factors. Players are getting bigger and padding is getting stronger. Kevlar’s promise to make the padding better, according to those rules, fundamentally seems unable to address the problem. So far, evidence bears this out:

“Kevlar has come up at some of our meetings, but nothing substantial,” said Dr. Henry Feur, a member of the NFL’s Head Neck and Spine Committee and a team physician for the Indianapolis Colts. “Reducing the G-forces in a collision may help with concussions, but it has yet to be proven. I don’t think Kevlar is going to address the ultimate problem, which is the brain crashing against the skull.


Comic of the Day (Pro-Tip)

The Higgs is Real

I’m going to try to help make this sensible. But first I have two summary videos describing what the Higgs-Boson particle is and what it means. Further down, I have a few lines describing how we know its there, followed by some links to more detailed information.

Click here for Scientific American’s video on what the Higgs particle is.

For the following TED talk, the post 10 min. mark is where Prof. Cox gets into the importance of this discovery, but if you want a good summary of the search for the Higgs particle, just watch the whole thing.


The Universe has once again done something wonderful — let us peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse of its inner workings.

Never forget this either: we humans did this. The discovery of this new particle, and the vast potential it has, was all because we’re curious. This huge machine, the LHC, was built solely because we wanted to find things out, and some people had the vision to fund it and build it. When we wish to explore, when we wish to see what’s over the next hill, wonders unfold before us. (Source)

More detailed bits here, here or here.

For fun:

Wall Street and the Mafia

This piece by Matt Taibbi is one of those multi-page journalistic pieces that makes the form inescapably crucial. The conclusion of the piece, the defense given by the defense lawyers, is amazing in a revelatory kind of way. If you still find yourself scratching your head at just how the hell no one has gone to jail yet, maybe this piece will solve it for you.


Bonus bit: Over at Matt Taibbi’s blog, there’s a little bit more information on the bid rigging scandal described in the linked story above.

The Significance of the Roberts Schism

Andrew Sullivan waxes poetic on the potential future this spells for the conservative movement. The essay itself is remarkably quotable however, despite a couple squishy lines of pointless romance. For example:

Roberts upheld a form of conservatism that is not synonymous with the interests of the Republican party at any given moment.

And if you think about it, that just doesn’t happen.

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