Friday Cephalopod: So, I failed the test, like, twice. Now what do I do?

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I tried to take the cephalopod intelligence test.

James Wood, a teuthologist (cephalopod scientist), imagined creating an intelligence test for humans, by an octopus:

“So the octopus thinks: ‘All right. I’m going to make an intelligence test for humans, because they show a little bit of promise, in a very few ways.’ And the first question the octopus comes up with is this: How many color patterns can your severed arm produce in one second?”

Turns out humans only get two tries, and now I have to type this out with my tongue. Awkward.

What is Kent Hovind doing with his time in prison?

I know you’re all wondering that, since he’ll be getting out in August 2015. We know he’s been talking to God, who has been reassuring him that he’s wonderful and right and unjustly imprisoned, but he’s also planning lawsuits for the instant he gets out (pdf), with at least one already planned against RationalWiki.

So if you’ve been publicly accusing Kent Hovind of being a tax fraud, you might want to brace yourself — as soon as he’s released from prison, where he’s been serving a sentence for tax fraud, he’s going to be looking for opportunities to fix his reputation by dragging people who have accused him of tax fraud into court to complain about being called a tax fraud. It could be fun!

At least it’ll be a change from his usual habit of lying to children.

I don’t mean to be neglecting the blog today

But I’m neglecting the blog today. I’m finally at #scio14, and it’s busy busy busy. So far today I’ve been in sessions on reaching diverse audiences and on doing better at serving differently abled communities, because I’d like to do both, and this afternoon there’s stuff on media and networks and who knows what that will keep me engaged.

It’s actually refreshing to be here–it really is a diverse group, and there are lots of younger people (I feel like the crotchety old fogie…oh, wait, I always feel like that). My goal this weekend is to dispel a little bit of my disillusionment with online communities and get inspired again, and this is a good place to do that. So I’m just making little notes on ideas that can give me fresh eyes and change up what I do…and I hope, do it better.

You’ll forgive a little mild distractedness for that, right?

I’m on my way to #scio14

That’s not good news. The good news will be “I’m at #scio14“, because I’ve got a lot of traveling ahead of me. And it’s been one of those days that I always dread: the day I have to return tests in genetics. I write hard tests…well, not really that hard conceptually, but I avoid questions of a form that allows them to be answered with rote execution of a formula, which means that students who are struggling to understand often end up taking weird detours in their answers, and do poorly. And then there’s the usual bimodal grade distribution of a class that emphasizes logic and methodology; some find it trivial, others just freak out. Everyone is miserable, and it makes lecturing no fun at all.

But I can’t do otherwise. I’ll throw more practice problems at them, and drill them through the process over and over again, and usually, most of them will make it through to the end.

Anyway, now I’m off to the airport. Long drive, long night, get into Raleigh-Durham sometime tomorrow. Then I have to be the student for a few days and learn.

I hope there isn’t an exam at the end.

I have an idea…we build some giant robots, then…

May I just say that there aren’t any large multicellular animals that stand a chance against human technology — they are intrinsically fragile — which makes the fear of this creature rather unbelievable. I’m much more terrified of microorganisms.

Also, Bryan Cranston doesn’t look a thing like Raymond Burr.

But I might actually enjoy this movie anyway.

American Atheists…expelled!

Just today I mentioned that American Atheists were going to have a booth at CPAC, which prompted many of you to say that you’d rather atheists didn’t attempt to recruit from that mob of sanctimonious assholes. You didn’t have to worry. CPAC had their own idea.

On Tuesday, American Atheists President David Silverman received a phone call from American Conservative Union Executive Director Dan Schneider informing him that the ACU board is breaking its agreement to permit American Atheists to host an information booth at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), March 6-8.

They’ve been kicked out, even before the convention started.

The conservatives cited Silverman’s “tone” as a problem, to which Dave makes the perfect reply:

Silverman repudiated Schneider’s assertion: “This is exactly the problem. The ACU, which has invited CPAC speakers such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sarah Palin, is afraid of my tone? My ‘tone’ was clearly an excuse to back out after our press release angered religious conservatives.”

This is actually the best possible result. We aren’t at risk of tainting atheism with any more of those jerks, and American Atheists has effectively highlighted their intolerance. Win win!

Glad you couldn’t make it

I just got back from our Cafe Scientifique meeting, and it was a fabulous success: attendance was over 60 (which is why I’m glad you couldn’t make it — it was standing room only as it was) and we had a good representative sampling of the Morris community.

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I don’t know what the secret of drawing everyone in was. We did make much flashier signs this month, but also the topic might have been it: Carrie Eberle from the USDA lab in town gave a talk on foraging crops for bees that hit the sweet spot in appealing to farmers, gardeners, science people, and everyone who likes honey. And it was a very good talk.