Conservative election dirty tricks in Waterloo; possibly elsewhere

Our good friend Steve Thoms, a.k.a Some Canadian Skeptic, is apparently interviewed in The Record discussing some dirty tricks by Conservatives in our recent national election.

I know, shock and horror, how could the Conservative Party of Canada have to resort to foul play to win an election when they are so obviously the paragons of all that is light and just and true in this world?

After the news broke last week that Elections Canada is investigating complaints from Guelph residents about receiving calls on Election Day in an apparent effort to dissuade Liberal voters from casting a ballot, the story broadened over the weekend. A company that did campaign work for Conservatives, including the prime minister, was linked to harassing or misleading automated phone calls received by voters in some 18 hotly contested ridings just prior to the May 2 election.

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Religion in video games: more problematic than reality?

Templars from the Siege of Masyaf, Assassin's Creed 1

Via Kotaku, Aliasalpha and Glendon Mellow both brought to my attention a study by Greg Perrault, a doctorate student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, which claims that video games present a problematized view of religion that is somehow unique amongst other media. More specifically, it is that these video games which feature religion also feature violence.

Perreault examined five recent video games that incorporate religion heavily into the storyline. The video games he studied were “Mass Effect 2,” “Final Fantasy 13,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” and “Elder Scrolls: Oblivion”. Perreault found that all of these video games problematize religion by closely tying it in with violence.

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Even turtle porn is adorable

Longtime readers will, I’ve no doubt, recognize that I have a bit of a thing for turtles. Our Lady of Perpetual Win certainly noticed, and sent along a link to Ed Yong’s slideshow at Not Rocket Science showing a pair of green turtles near Sri Lanka actually mating.

Yeah, that’s right, put on the Barry White, these turtles are gettin’ it on. All sexy-like, with the hot plastron-on-carapace action.

Green turtles mating

Shamelessly stolen from Ed's site. Go there, there's more pics!

(Also: Stephanie sends me, and not you, porn. U jelly?)

What will your kids be taught about climate science?

Ezra Klein’s coverage of the NCSE stepping into the climate change battleground is very timely, and asks many very relevant questions.

One revelation from the recent Heartland Institute document leak is that the group is crafting a K-12 curriculum to teach kids that global warming is “controversial.” Heartland officials have confirmed this. So is climate change set to join evolution as the next big classroom controversy?
[…]
But could Heartland actually spread its views? Rosenau says that Heartland could do what creationist groups like the Discovery Institute have been doing for years and simply mail out supplemental materials to educators far and wide. “There will be teachers who are sympathetic to the skeptic view or who think the material looks useful, and they’ll say to themselves, okay, I’ll bring this into the classroom,” he explains. It’s worth noting that the Heartland Institute had already developed a video along these lines — titled “Unstoppable Solar Cycles,” which laid out the long-debunked theory that the sun is driving recent warming — and shipped it off to teachers. (These earlier efforts, according to one Heartland document, met with “only limited success.”)

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The Lorax used to sell SUVs

Via Badass Digest, easily some of the most cynical and tone-deaf marketing I’ve ever seen. Remember The Lorax? The Dr. Seuss classic with heavy environmentalist overtones? The story about how corporations will destroy the environment to make a buck and it’s entirely up to the reader to preserve said environment?

Well, Mazda apparently convinced the braintrusts behind the new movie to sell old Theodor Seuss Geisel’s soul post mortem.

I cannot imagine the estate of Dr. Seuss being cool with this. I’m certainly not. Way to take the mantle of the Once-ler, Mazda. Sure, an SUV is probably the most fuel-efficient way to transport six people, but seriously, what percentage of the time do you see an SUV that’s actually full?

Just… whargarbl.

Trick to going faster than light: loosen some cables

Evidently the first thing the folks at OPERA should have done when going over all their lab results after they found neutrinos beating the speed of light by 60ns (also covered further, and further still, previously on my blog), was to check all the cables.

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed.

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Not one of us is a token

On my own blog, an argument came up — while I was so slammed with work as to be all but totally disengaged from the greater blogohedron — that just happened to become extraordinarily timely through a coincidental confluence that bears mentioning. Liam, on an older post, defended the idea that people encouraging diversity were in fact engaging in “reverse racism”, serving as an excellent foil for my argument that diversity is itself a laudable goal.

This happened concurrently with John Loftus’ rather abrupt departure from Freethought Blogs, and his slamming the door on the way out hard enough to rattle the china on the walls — he intended to do damage on the way out by picking several fights with so-called “mean atheists” when his chief concern was that the commentariat, not the bloggers, were mean to him when he launched on our network and that he’d therefore have a harder time reaching out to Christians. He was invited expressly because he had a perspective that was, while not totally unique, certainly underrepresented in our blogging group, with the hope that when people move their blogs to our network it grows the network readership overall. That doesn’t make him the “token ex-Christian” not even the “token ex-Protestant minister”, so when he suggested that Natalie Reed was only brought on for diversity’s sake rather than her personal qualifications, many of us bloggers rightly rankled.
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Cell phones annoying, says science

Cellular phone technology has come under scrutiny in recent years — meaning, since it has come into popular use — by technophobes and technostress victims alike. Despite being evidently harmless, innumerable claims of it causing cancer, tinnitus, headaches, and any number of non-specific symptoms have emerged such that many scientific studies have been undertaken to show that they could actually cause issues in human beings. Aside from heating water and thus living tissue, until now, no definitive study has actually stated outright that the cranks postulating cancers are full of it. At least, if you’re willing to discount this meta-analysis I reported on a while back, anyway. Said meta-analysis, while it says every study up til now has shown absolutely no link between cancer and cell phone use, it doesn’t actually call the cranks positing the link over and over again “full of it”, so I guess it gets a pass.

So imagine my surprise when The Atlantic ran a post stating, “Cell phones are more annoying than they are dangerous“. Pretty much exactly what I thought.
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Full-out Atheist On Atheist War!

Oh holy shit, we’re talking honest-to-goodness internecene throwdowns happening all along the Great Atheist Rift! Crommunist fired the first shot, like Franz Ferdinand himself, declaring that anyone who likes cats must naturally be infected by toxoplasmosis, which is the only explanation why anyone would subject themselves the nonsense that is a cat’s existence.
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