A St Louis weekend

I’m going to be taking off for the Gateway to Reason conference this weekend, and will be speaking on Sunday morning. The title of my talk is “Evolution and Cooperation: A Historical Perspective”, and I kind of suspect that the audience, what few of them show up, will be either a) mildly bored, because too many atheists are uninterested in history and philosophy of science, or b) mildly pissed off, because I’m going to show them that the history of evolutionary theory isn’t as clean and tidy as they imagine, because it got hijacked by conservatives from day one.

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Pirate hunters are much cooler than pirates

sinkingthunder

The Thunder was a criminal ship that was plundering international waters.

Banned since 2006 from fishing in the Antarctic, the Thunder had been spotted there repeatedly in recent years, prompting Interpol to issue an all-points bulletin on it in December 2013. The vessel was described as the most egregious of the ships then on its Purple Notice list, collecting over $76 million from illicit sales in the past decade, more than any other ship, according to agency estimates. The Thunder’s prime catch was toothfish, more popularly called Chilean sea bass, known on docks as “white gold” because its fillets often sell for $30 a plate or more in upscale restaurants in the United States.

The Thunder’s status as a fugitive hardly slowed it down. By keeping its locational transponder turned off, it could fish and then slip in and out of ports undetected. The ship’s name and port registry, which have changed more than a half-dozen times, were not painted on its hull, the typical practice, but on a metal sign hung from its stern. (Sailors call such signs “James Bond license plates” because they can be easily swapped out.) In March, the Thunder was stripped of its registration by Nigeria and became officially stateless, which meant that marine authorities from any country could board and arrest its crew.

“Sea Shepherd is doing what no one else will,” said Peter Whish-Wilson, an Australian senator. “The urgency of this problem has grown,” he added, “but the government response, from all governments really, has fallen.”

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Edgy Deepak Chopra makes a fool of himself, again

QUANTUMCHOPRA.001

Oh, joy. Deepak Chopra is mad about being called an evolution denialist, and to disprove the accusation, he fires back with a whole long letter full of misconceptions about evolution. As usual, he relies on painting himself as the brave pioneer at the very edge of science, with a hooting mob of regressive scientific dogmatists haranguing him.

…in a recent blog, Valerie Strauss goes beyond catcalls, accusing me of being an evolution denier, which is absolutely false. I work and write with high-level scientists, including physicists, geneticists, and others who believe, as I do, that mainstream science, like mainstream medicine, has a lot to gain from keeping the flow of ideas moving.

As far as evolution is concerned, there’s a cadre of strict Darwinists who will push back against any encroachment into their field, but neo-Darwinism, which tries to address glaring gaps in Darwin’s original theory (after all, he knew nothing of DNA, genes, and the chemical basis of mutations) is a respected field, too. I often think that my interest in genetics, which has led to a book being published this fall, arouses vehement objections because scientists want to protect their turf, and seeing an interested amateur write about troubling issues they haven’t resolved causes them to cry, “How dare he?”

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How to use genomic information for evil

racialscreening

The combination of access to genetic data and computer programming must be an irresistible temptation to racists. Someone tried to distribute a code fragment that would allow a program to look up gene data on 23andMe and use it to limit who would be allowed to use the program.

Dubbed Genetic Access Control, the program—which was posted to GitHub on Monday—would act as a login for sites and scan the genetic information of 23andMe users who make their data available, much like how websites currently request access to your Facebook profile prior to entry. The coder in question cited a few “possible uses” for Genetic Access Control, ranging from “Groups defined by ethnic background, e.g. Black Panthers or NAACP members,” to “Safer online dating sites that only partner people with a low likelihood of offspring with two recessive genes for congenital diseases.”

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Techno-lust

This 1925 Bugatti Brescia was found in a state of profound neglect in a garage, and was auctioned off for almost a million dollars. It’s a beautiful work of art. It doesn’t run, but still…that would be a fine vehicle for a Sunday drive, once it’s restored.

bugatticar

But it’s the wrong model! Way, way back in high school, I was really into technical drafting, and I ran across this one legendary Bugatti, and I made it the subject of my class project: drawing scale 3-views, engine diagrams, isometric projections, all that kind of stuff, for a portfolio which, sadly, I no longer have. It’s been a while.

But for a while there, I was in nerd love with the Bugatti Model 100.

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Does sex sell beer?

bfrainier

I don’t watch much broadcast TV, but when I do, I pay a distracting amount of attention to the ads (which is the main reason I don’t watch it much). I think advertisers are extremely good at grabbing your attention quickly, and they’ve really mastered an effective visual language. But what is it good at, beyond compelling the eye to follow it? I confess, if a beer commercial features bikini-clad women bouncing on the screen, my eye is irresistibly drawn to it, and it takes some focus to tear away.

But I don’t think I buy beer based on the attire of their bikini models. Most often, I don’t even know what brand of beer they’re trying to sell with that beach scene, so it would be hard for it to influence me in a specific direction. So here’s a paper that asks about the actual effectiveness of those ads.

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