RCimT: Saturday tab clean-up

Got a bunch of stuff that’s been in tabs for a while that need clearing out, but that deserve to be seen. Might as well do another Random Crap in my Tabs to catch up, and take back some system resources. A bunch of it is meme-worthy, so I expect you’ve probably seen them before. Maybe even on FtB. Possibly. Frankly, I’m too lazy to check, and either way, I know I haven’t talked about them, so you’re certainly missing my keen insight!
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RCimT: Spacey particle physicsey sciencey catch-up Friday

Some random science bits and bobs to clear out a bunch of tabs.

Scientists have discovered the speed limit for quantum interactions, and it is much, much slower than the speed of light. It is a little faster than twice the speed of sound in the medium in question, in fact. Yes, apparently also for entangled particles. This effectively hamstrings any woo-peddlers’ attempts to suggest that quantum effects explain things like the imagined effect of the planets’ positions on a person’s fate (I’m looking at you, astrologers).
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RCimT: The SOPA / PIPA protest has had direct results

Harry Reid has postponed PIPA indefinitely after information about who’s doing the lobbying for it came out, and after the protests peeled off 25-odd House reps and galvanized another 50 against the proposed laws. These laws may be well and truly dead this time.

But there’s still some ripple effects to be had.
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RCimT: Science roundup 10/05/2011

Another bunch of science links from the last two weeks to get your brain meats working. Which is the coolest? Which is the most promising? Which makes you violate Occam’s Razor to explain? Which sets your skeptic-sense tingling? Which should, conceivably, convert me to your specific religion?

There are no right or wrong answers. Well, there are stupid answers, of course. Which I wholeheartedly encourage!
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RCimT: a quick science news roundup

Welcome to the first Random Crap in my Tabs posted to Freethought Blogs! Every once in a while, my browser’s tabs get far too full of “stuff that must be blogged”, stuff that I figured was too interesting to just read and close, and in order to free up resources so I can do other things, once in a while I aggregate a bunch of similarly themed items into a post with links and short commentary. It’s something like a blog carnival, but usually to non-bloggy stuff.

This one’s about some sciencey bits and bobs, and it’s all over the map. Allons-y!
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RCimT: Climate round-up

Apropos of the topic of discussion for today’s radio show, here’s a roundup of some links related to climate change, plus some other related sciencey bits that I otherwise just wanted to get out of my tabs. Enjoy!

Here’s how climate change was subsumed into the “culture war”. Good overview of how we got to the point where science and anti-science polarized along political lines, and how it’ll backfire on the pro-money and anti-science crowd.

Knowing that bots and hired trolls have all but filled the discourse on other matters, Googling for related topics and astroturfing dissent as though they were legitimately grass-roots, it’s no surprise that climate denialists are employing these same tactics to muddy the discourse.

Some new study came out claiming some ridiculous things about the science proving anthropogenic global warming, and the media is touting this study as “blowing a hole” in the science, calling those people that understand and accept the evidence “alarmists” in the process. Phil Plait rips ‘em a new one over this mendacity, and in the process, Learns to Stop Worrying and Love the Ad Hominem in the process. Though I’d argue that since he’s also showing why they’re wrong, what he’s doing is simply including a personal attack in the conclusion. You’ll want to click pretty much every one of the links in his post, as the actual debunking mostly happens off-blog.

Like at RealClimate, for example. If you don’t want to go through the links above, at least check that one out.

John Abraham, one of the participants in the Atheists Talk radio show today, had another radio spot recently about climate change that you should check out.

The Koch Brothers, apparently movers-and-shakers in the conservative world, are making a concerted effort to stamp out a wind power generation project in New Jersey. And, of course, disguising it as a grassroots movement.

Mike Haubrich, host of the Atheists Talk show, has a good piece on “Hide the Decline”, those unfortunate terms of trade in the “Climategate” emails. Those emails led to a million false allegations against climate scientists and climate science as a whole due to a simple misunderstanding and a willful ignorance of the truth, even after having it explained a million and one (for good measure) times.

And now that the raw data from the “Climategate” study has been released, and STILL they can’t find any actual wrongdoing or manipulation in the scientists’ processes, I’m sure that’ll evaporate finally! Right?

If we could find some way to keep space debris from smashing it to bits, I’m now convinced space solar is the best path out of this era of fossil fuels and into the next, of renewable resources. Building the arrays and keeping them safe from space junk would be expensive, but no more expensive than, say, three ongoing wars, or the Bush-era tax cuts.

Enjoy the radio show! I’ll be listening live myself, if I can get the stupid feed to work properly this time around. Last time the streaming was glitchy as hell. Here’s to hoping it’s sorted now.

RCimT: Climate roundup

When it comes to climate science, it’s best to get your information from climate scientists.

On the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster famously not-foretold by Jamie Darkstar of Darkstar Astrology, the US House Republicans have decided to mark the occasion with a new drill-baby-drill campaign. Meanwhile, this past year has all but sealed the deal on the verity of anthropogenic global warming. It’s happening, it’s been happening for decades, we’ve been screaming about it for decades, and nobody fucking cares that we’re driving right off this cliff.

Well, there are some minor victories in the fight, such as Obama’s move to refund the weather satellites that the GOP defunded as an “unnecessary expense”. And Senator Brown’s move to end the taxpayer subsidy of oil companies, who even without these subsidies would have made over a trillion dollars in profits in the last decade, mostly owing to the extreme gouging consumers see at the pumps. We already pretty much know they’re setting their prices to exactly what the market will allow, and if they jack the price up because they lose their taxpayer subsidies then you’ll see the same sort of ratcheting-back of gas consumption that started happening a few years ago. They’ll then lower the price again to keep everyone hooked, to keep everyone from weening themselves off their gas guzzlers.

And as usual, the enemies in this fight are easy to spot. Just look for the people who call necessary spending “wasteful”, and unnecessary corporate socialism handouts sacrosanct. While the Republicans rail on and on about the debt, demanding that “everyone feel the pain” of certain cutbacks, they’re simultaneously the ones giving big tax breaks to the robber barons and taking away the social programs that keep the poor from going bankrupt. The rich do not become rich in a vacuum. Economies thrive when the money is continuously cycled. It’s not about welfare or hand-outs, it’s about preventing the pyramid from being so top-heavy that it collapses. But these same folks are the ones who disbelieve all the science that shows we’re heading off that global warming cliff, so it’s no surprise they don’t care for the reality of economy, preferring instead to worship their “invisible hand” deity.

Oh how I wish I ruled this world. Maybe then some common sense would seep into humankind’s governance for once.

RCimT: some resources for #atheists attempting to debate with #creationists

Not up to doing a full RCimT today either. So I’ll pick out some tabs that I had in the Religion category that are good resources for people debating on the internet to rebut specific lines of argumentation.

“Evolution is just a theory!” — Learn what a scientific theory is: a good general explanation of the difference
“If God exists, you stand to lose everything; if he doesn’t, I stand to lose nothing” (aka Pascal’s Wager) — Why it’s not a “safe bet” to believe in God: a dissection of this argument and why it fails utterly (hint: “which God?”)
“Surely if so many people believe in God, they can’t be wrong!” — Why do we believe in God?: BBC on Robert Winston’s book The Story of God
“Why are the laws of physics as they are, and not some other way?” — Turtles much of the way down: an excellent explanation on why the question may not even matter, and how we should be unafraid to say “we don’t know” when we don’t, actually, know.
“The Bible condemns abortion!” — What the Bible says about abortion: a list of every salient proclamation about the personhood of fetuses in the Bible, not that the Bible is in any way an authority.
“America is a Christian nation!” — Americans: not as religious as they think they are (though I’d be tempted just to say “so? Popularity doesn’t make something right.”)

And while we’re handing out resources for debate, if you’re ever in over your head on a particular topic, you can always look to the intertubes for help. It is often the case in debate — the Dunning-Kruger Effect has a side-effect of causing people who don’t know what they’re talking about to believe they know for sure, and people who know a little about what they’re talking about to undervalue their opinions because they realize they’re not authorities in the matter. However, whatever line of argumentation stumps you on the spot, you can be relatively assured that someone has heard it and put forth a convincing argument against it at Talk Origins, complete with sources in most cases. Additionally, you’d be well advised to brush up on Logical Fallacies for a list of places that humans often go wrong in the completely human-created endeavour of logic.

The backlog of tabs is a bit onerous at the moment. Perhaps I’ll start merely tweeting links instead of saving them up forever to build some larger narrative, then never managing. That might be a better way of doing things. Also, I’m going to attempt to include appropriate Twitter hashtags in the titles — hope you don’t mind seeing extraneous #’s everywhere.

RCimT: Playing scientific catch-up

Day 3 of my attempt at clearing out old links from my queue of stuff to blog about. Sadly, this one I can’t fit into a coherent narrative, except to say that science rocks.

ClimateCrocks posted a trailer for the movie Carbon Nation, touted as a “climate change movie for people who don’t believe in climate change”. It’s like the movie form of this comic. Frankly, whether you think climate is changing or not, people MUST see that the progress we can make by weaning ourselves off this addiction to hydrocarbons far outweighs any potential economic risks, even if you don’t believe there’s any threat.

There’s some interesting early results from a study regarding public archiving of scientific data — it by all appearances increases scientific contribution by more than a third. Open access to information and data removes one of the larger barriers to scientific contribution, as I have long suspected in other areas of human endeavour.

On a related note, unpublished scientific data may hide the “decline effect”, a noted scientific phenomenon where initial publications show greater effect than subsequent trials. Also unsurprising — if the data “picked” for the first few trials was picked from a superset of data that doesn’t show as great an effect, or if the data in subsequent trials was intentionally skewed against the initial results in an attempt to disprove them, showing all the data would certainly discover both scenarios.

This water flea has more genes than humans — 31,000 genes to 23,000. It is interesting to me that the number of genes it takes to make so complex a creature as a human being is in fact lower than the number of genes to create so tiny a creature as a water flea, but it rings true with the idea that everything in this universe operates like fractals – simplicity can give rise to great complexity, in some cases, accidentally and without inherent design.

Scientists have made a great breakthrough with regard to influenza vaccines — they have discovered a way to vaccinate against a protein common to them all. This could eventually lead to a single vaccine to eradicate influenza in much the same way as we have eradicated polio and smallpox. That is, until some pseudoscientific celebrity gains popular traction against the vaccine and it resurges as a result.

Good news for depression patients — we may soon be able to put things in your brain to make you better. Sounds like sci-fi, sounds like “playing god”, but deep brain electrostimulation may actually significantly improve chronic depression sufferers’ quality of life.

Steven Novella takes on the odd but prevalent belief that scientists are withholding the cure for cancer. Fact is, cancer is a class of diseases or issues, not a single monolithic thing that can be cured. We can cure many of them, such as Hodgkins Lymphoma, but not all of them. Interestingly, we may soon be able to tell which cancers will spread and which will never metastasize at all.

Apparently humankind’s proposed emergence as a modern-LOOKING people first, then a modern-ACTING people second, is less than accurate. We’ve discovered some evidence that the earliest peoples developed both language and ritual, two of the main intellectual hallmarks of our species.

Toxicologists and experts states apart have confirmed that despite the government’s assurances, Gulf seafood is tainted with oil. And/or dispersants, which is just as bad. Take care where your seafood comes from, folks. Though you really should take care as it stands, to eat seafood from sources that are sustainable.

Scientists have for the first time observed the formation of a planet in a protoplanetary ring of dust and debris. I love that this far into our knowledge of stellar and planetary evolution, we keep seeing “firsts” that scientists can collect data on and confirm existing theories.

Meanwhile, science continues apace in its other charge — knocking theories down. Or less so theories as common knowledge — Ben Goldacre covers the revelation that “sniffer” dogs may actually be responding to subtle cues from their masters rather than to any scent of drug or explosives they really learned to seek out. In this way, they may be something like the horse that could do arithmetic. In a funny bit of confluence, I learned just today of a new invention: the Wasp Hound. Wasps can evidently be trained to pick up scents better than any dogs.

That’s everything I had saved up in my Science post-fodder hopper. Perhaps I shall unload my Religion tabs tomorrow. Seems a fitting day for it.