Feb 18 2011

Los Links 2/18

Damn you, Twitter!  So much delicious stuff lately that I’ve been dedicating myself very nearly full time to reading all the wonderful stuff linked.  Even when I try to cut down on the number of links I click, I still end up opening too much.  I can no more resist the pull of an intriguing link than I can resist a good chicken tikka masala.  And if you’ve ever seen me in an Indian restaurant, then you know that’s about equivalent to anyone’s ability to resist a gravity well.

So yes, lots of Los Links, and as always, I got so busy opening links I forgot to note who tweeted them, and so a blanket “Thank you for these, all you folks I follow!”,  pathetic as it is, shall have to do.  I am Bad.

(And a special note to all those people whose emails are still sitting in my inbox unanswered: I still love you, and I will reply as soon as I can!)

Conservative Science: Yur Doon It Rong: “In plain language:  it’s really hard to do empirical research or construct complicated proofs in a wide range of fields if you have a deep commitment to something that denies a mountain of physical evidence and logical argument.  By way of analogy:  you slouch your whole life (towards Bethlehem?) it becomes increasingly difficult to stand up straight.  Same things go with habits of mind.

“The shorter:  you can’t hide the crazy forever, and when it emerges, it makes your colleagues (justifiably) nervous about anything you say.” (Balloon Juice)

Relearning the “Beautiful Basics” of Science: “This is a lesson that all science communicators could learn. Just because something’s old hat to you, it can still be new and exciting to everyone else. We just need to take care to present it in that way!” (This View of Life)

Rosa Parks’ Other (Radical) Side: “‘If we had a larger sense of who she was, a radical activist and warrior for human rights,’ instead of a powerless individual struck by chance, said McGuire, it would show the work and the time she put in over many years.” (The Root)

Vaccine Council of Vaccination: “Of course these are all courageous mavericks, including a brain surgeon with a Galileo-like understanding of The Truth (big T) and are fighting against a corrupt and blind authority who are protecting their turf at the expense of you and your children. As an aside, I often find it odd when Galileo is used as an example. I just realized his first name is Galileo.  In that respect he was like Cher or the Donald.  Galileo was a man of science oppressed by the irrational and superstitious.  Today,  he (Galileo, not the Donald)  is used by the irrational and the superstitious who say the are being oppressed by science.  So 1984.” (Science-Based Medicine)

10 Historical ‘Facts’ Only a Right-Winger Could Believe: “6. Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist.

“Theodore Roosevelt was a naval theorist and war aficionado, a lawman in both the Dakota Territory and New York City, and a cheerful imperialist. You’d think conservatives would appreciate him better. But Glenn Beck has helped turn that around, lambasting TR at last year’s CPAC and denouncing his words as ‘a socialist utopia‘ which ‘we need to address … as if it is a cancer.’” (AlterNet

Drying Out in the West: “The sad fact is, every few years, a report like this comes out, with excellent scientific and economic analysis showing that water use in the American West is unsustainable and that climate change will only make it worse. And it gets a lot of buzz–and then nothing much happens. And when the next report comes out, the only difference is that we’ve inched closer to crisis.” (Tooth & Claw)

Journalists angry over the commission of journalism: “That these establishment journalists believe that pointing out the lies of powerful political leaders is ‘not their role’ – indeed, is a violation of the rules that govern what they do — explains a large part of the failings of both America’s media class and its political class.  Ironically, David Gregory is ultimately right that doing this is ‘not his role’; he’s not paid by NBC News and its owners to alert the American citizenry to lies told by the U.S. Government (i.e., he’s not paid to be an adversarial journalist).  He’s there to do the opposite:  to vest those lies with respect and depict them as reasonable statements to be subjectively considered along with the truth.  But it’s in these moments when they are so candid about what their actual role is — or when they attack people like Cooper for the rare commission of actual journalism — that they are at their most (unintentionally) informative.” (Glenn Greenwald)

The Joy of Road Tripping…with Geologists: “My apologies for waxing philosophic.  I’ve got all this on the brain after returning from a long weekend of road tripping through the Cascades with two close friends—one a structural geologist and the other a seismologist.  What better way to see the mountains, right?  It’s like having a backstage pass: you get the insider’s scoop, far more interesting than the average self-guided tour.” (+/- Science)

The “Twitter Can’t Topple Dictators” Article: “I found it! I announced on Twitter yesterday. ‘It’ was the generic Twitter Can’t Topple Dictators article. I said it had everything, meaning: every identifying mark and mandatory cliché needed to lift a mere example to the exalted status of genre-defining classic.” (Press Think)

Shut Up Already: ”Because today it was announced that a U.S. reporter was sexually assaulted covering the revolution. And everybody appears to have felt a need to say something about it, even though the vast majority of people have…not just nothing intelligent to say about rape, but a lot of actively stupid, hurtful shit to spew.” (Almost Diamonds)

Feminist hypersensitivity or masculine obtuseness?: “I’ve got a simple suggestion for my fellow men. Learn to shut up and listen. Seriously. You want women to find your organization pleasant and interesting and worth contributing to? Then don’t form panels full of men trying to figure out what women want, talking over women who try to get a word in edgewise, belittling women’s suggestions with jokes, and trying to determine how We Well-Meaning Men can give Those Women what we think they want. You are assuming an authority and presuming that it is in your power to give it to the minority, when what you should be doing is deferring to that minority and giving them your attention, letting them speak and shape your organization.”  (Pharyngula)

The NIH threatened: “If you have a blog, blog this. Call your Representatives. As P.Z. Myers and Paul Krugman put it, we’re eating America’s seed corn in science, and there will be a steep price to pay someday. Worse, in the scheme of things, the savings are minimal and symbolic. The real problem is entitlements and defense spending, and with those off the table, all we have left is nonsense like this. The bottom line is that all the changes in peer review, whether to allow two grant application resubmissions instead of one, won’t make one whit of difference when funding levels fall this low.

“But it’s worse than that. It’s not just the NIH. It’s nearly every major government science agency, and, because the cut would come in the middle of the year, after half of the budget has already been spent, these proposed cuts are in essence double the numbers.” (Respectful Insolence)

“Strengthen the family” just means “get your ass back into the kitchen, woman”: “This is about having a single, very narrow model of what constitutes an acceptable family, one built around female subservience and dependence.  And making sure that anyone who veers from that path is punished severely.  Even—and especially, I’d say—in cases where they don’t have a choice, which is true of most working mothers who need the income, full stop.  Republicans, as those who didn’t realize before are quickly learning, really enjoy the idea of adding more burdens to the already burdened to punish them for the sin of not being rich.” (Pandagon)

Friday focal mechanisms: Chile’s persistent seismic gap: “On February 27th last year, the subduction zone ruptured again, with the epicentre only 115 km northeast of Concepción, Chile’s second largest city. The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that ensued – together with the tsunami generated by movement of the seafloor above the rupture zone – killed more than 500 people and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage. It also occurred in a section of the plate boundary that had not ruptured for almost 200 years. In 1836, Charles Darwin experienced a large earthquake, with an estimated magnitude of 8.5, that destroyed Concepción. Since then, the plate boundary to the north has ruptured in large earthquakes, in 1928 and 1985, and a 1000 km stretch to the south was involved in the 1960 magnitude 9.5. But until 2010, the portion of the plate boundary that ruptured in 1836 remained stuck, producing a ‘seismic gap’: a portion of the plate boundary where significant strain has been accumulated, but has yet to be released in an earthquake. This particular seismic gap is sometimes referred to as the ‘Darwin gap’, in honour of the scientist who recorded its last significant activity.” (Highly Allochthonous)

Highway8A Introduction I: “This field book, the one I am writing right in now, is being written from the perspective of my future; it is being written by my future self, my self as an old woman — an old geologist — an old geologist with a long memory. My long memory has mixed the past, present, and future into one package the way some geologic rock formations have been pushed, shoved, and squeezed — even sliced and diced — into stratigraphic or tectonic packages where every resulting contact between individual rock formations involves some kind of geologic activity: deposition, mountain building, erosion, folding, and faulting. Because of my geologic memory — my intricate, enduring memory — most of the things I’m writing about happened long ago when I was young and clambered over the rocks and hills freely and easily: like a mountain lion or coyote, like a desert fox. Now I’m a silver fox with the long memory of an elephant, the memory of an ancient mammoth.” (Looking for Detachment)

Oregon’s Geyser Geysing Again: “Lakeview is remote (though it is on a major north-south route, US 395), out of the way, and unless you’re looking for it, the resort and thermal area aren’t hard to miss. But I doubt many people have even heard of this spot, let alone visited it. It really is special, and even after a dozen or more visits over the years, a spot I don’t get tired of seeing again. If you’re going to be in the OR-CA-NV borderlands, it’s an especially delectable little morsel in a veritable smorgasbord of tasty geology. It’s future is uncertain. I definitely recommend seeing it while you can.” (Outside the Interzone)


An activist scientist for women’s health: “The reason it’s so important to me that I be that activist scientist – someone whose work is informed by an understanding of the biases inherent in the process of science, and who promotes a deeper understanding of science to the general public – is that women’s health is something that many non-experts opine about, providing sometimes dangerous disinformation. I’ll give you just three examples.” (Agora)

Religion: the ultimate tyranny: “If you value freedom, you should flee from religion as the antelope flees the lion. Religion is the very antithesis of freedom, insisting on our complete subjugation to the unachievable demands of an invisible but supremely powerful overlord.” (On Faith)

Culture differences matter (even within Islam): “What is the point of these comparisons? There’s a lot of stress and worry about the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States. Some of this is because of their specific historical associations with Hamas, as well as the history of Islamist radicalism in Egypt (Al-Qaeda is in large part an institutional outgrowth of Egyptian radical movements). But the fixation on the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood misses the bigger picture that secular and Islamist mean very different things in different Muslim nations.” (Gene Expression)

Social animals evolve to stand out among the crowd: “There’s a wonderful cartoon by Gary Larson where a penguin, standing amid a throng of virtually identical birds, sings, ‘I gotta be me! Oh, I just gotta be me…’ As ever, Larson’s The Far Side captures the humorous side of a real natural dilemma. Social animals spend time in large groups, but they still have to tell the difference between individuals so they can recognise mates, young, leaders and rivals. As the groups get larger, so does the scope of this challenge, and some species meet it by evolving individuality. As groups get bigger, their members become more distinctive.” (Not Exactly Rocket Science)

Pleasure, reward…and rabbits! Why do animals behave as they do?: “Jackson and Dutchess seem to know that there is a good chance that they will get food when they see me open the refrigerator – at least, they act like it. They seem to really want the treats, and because of this we can infer that they must really like to eat the treats. This all seems very simple and intuitive, but the field of behavioral neuroscience, which studies how the brain contributes to and controls an animal’s behavior, has a long history of studying the not-so-simple ways that the brain makes animals – humans included – like and want things.” (Scientific American Guest Blog)

The Strong Anthropic Principle Song: “You may not want to hear it, but it’s true

The universe is not here just for you.

You really think you’re special, I’m aware

But the universe itself, it doesn’t care.” (The Digital Cuttlefish)