Friday Cephalopod: Wonderporn!

Oooh, those glossy thick pages. The bright colors that pop. The action shots. The extreme closeups. I admit it: I have an addiction to aquarist magazines. You’ve gotta check out CORAL: the reef & marine aquarium magazine, especially this issue, the one with the big bold feature on “WRASSES”. Turn to page 70. Oooh, baby. Wonderpus action, with the camera right up in the sweet spot.

Insertion! Hooah!


Money shot. Mmmm.


Was it good for you, too?

I get email

It’s from another physics and Christianity crank. I wish he’d go bug Paul Davies; I’m a biologist, not a cosmologist.

Atheists are superstitious

1. There is no rational reason to reject the Our Lord Jesus Christ since it is scientifically demonstrated He is Divine and the One and Only True God. Only unscientific minds would reject empirical scientific evidence.

2. The universe is geocentric. Every experiment designed to measure the speed of the earth through space has always returned a speed of zero just as the Bible claimed all along. Only prejudicial minds reject scientific facts. Your leading Pagan cosmology writers offer biases with no scientific proof . Unbeknownst to you is the fact that no one in all history has ever proven that the Earth moves in space. As an honest scientist Lincoln Barnett admits in his book endorsed by Einstein “…nor has any physical experiment ever proved that the Earth actually is in motion.” (Lincoln Barnet, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, p. 73.) Einstein invented his relativity mythology to counter the Michelson-Morley experiments and other innumerable successor experiments demonstrating the earth is immobile in space and at the center of the universe.

“So which is real, the Ptolemaic or the Copernican system? Although it is not uncommon for people to say that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong, that is not true. As in the case our normal view versus that of the goldfish, one can use either picture as a model of the universe, for our observations of the heavens can be explained by assuming either the earth or the sun to be at rest.” (The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, 2010, pp. 41-42) Hawking cannot face the empirical scientific evidence that Geocentrism is scientifically proven and heliocentrism disproven. In his bias he ridiculously opts to put the two systems on the same level.

3. That the myth of Copernicanism is the foundation for modern man’s independence from God is a connection that was recognized by the editor of the world’s most prestigious scientific journal. When confronted in the late 1970s with the model of cosmology promoted by the evolutionist well-known physicist George F.R. Ellis – it promoted geocentrism – Paul C. W. Davies, the editor of Nature, was forced to reply: “His new theory seems quite consistent with our astronomical observations, even though it clashes with the thought that we are godless and making it on our own.” (P.C.W. Davies, “Cosmic Heresy?” Nature, 273:336, 1978. In the same article Davies admits: “…as we see only redshifts whichever direction we look in the sky, the only way in which this could be consistent with a gravitational explanation is if the Earth is situated at the center of an inhomogeneous Universe.” Confirming Davies’s agnosticism is a letter he wrote to Dr. Robert Sungenis on Aug. 9th, 2004, stating: “I have long argued against the notion of any sort of God who resides within time, and who preceded the universe.” Davies, however, is honest enough to admit he cannot lightly dismiss Ellis’ science and mathematics that connect the Earth with the center of the universe.

So in addition to being a friend to the Templeton Foundation, a coauthor on the arsenic life paper, and proponent of a bad cancer theory, Davies was, once upon a time, speculating about geocentrism? Somehow I’m not surprised. Here’s the “Cosmic heresy?” paper.

Hey, if Nature can publish kooky weird speculations, who am I to say Jesus ain’t science?

Science you can use!

It’s not to late to sign up to attend the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting, where you can witness this presentation:

Abstract: E9.00003 : Urinal Dynamics

In response to harsh and repeated criticisms from our mothers and several failed relationships with women, we present the splash dynamics of a simulated human male urine stream impacting rigid and free surfaces. Our study aims to reduce undesired splashing that may result from lavatory usage. Experiments are performed at a pressure and flow rate that would be expected from healthy male subjects. (Lapides, J., Fundamentals of Urology, W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia, 1976.) For a rigid surface, the effects of stream breakup and surface impact angle on lateral and vertical droplet ejection distances are measured using high-speed photography and image processing. For free surface impact, the effects of velocity and fluid depth on droplet ejection distances are measured. Guided by our results, techniques for splash reduction are proposed.

Like, aim?

I think I have acquired some insight into the mind of our weird foster cat. She always comes racing into the bathroom when I’m trying to use it, and she peers intently at streams of water and will hop onto the toilet to stare fixedly at the vortex when it flushes. She’s just a wanna-be fluid dynamics physicist!

Sci Culture

Did you fall for this? Science published a paper which claimed that reading literary fiction, you know that stuff that gets taught as highbrow reading material in college literature classes, is objectively better than genre or popular fiction at improving your mind and making you better able to understand other people’s mental states. It was all over the popular news sites.

Language Log shreds the paper wonderfully. It’s a great example of stirring the muck and taking whatever odor wafts out of the mess as a great truth. You might be able to see some obvious flaws just from my brief description: what the heck is “literary fiction”? Isn’t that a contentious division already? How do you recognize it (mostly, I fear, it’s because they’re old books that you’d never pick up to read for pure pleasure)? How did the authors of the study choose it?

As it turns out, the authors hand-picked a few passages from books that they subjectively placed into their categories of literary vs. popular fiction, had subjects read them, gave them a couple of standard tests of theory of mind or empathy, and got a very weak statistical effect. You know, if you shovel garbage at a wall, you can probably find some seemingly non-random distribution of the pattern of banana peels, too.

But it got published in Science, which is dismaying. Unfortunately, here’s where Language Log fails — they infer nefarious commercial intent from it.

The real question here is why Science chose to publish a study with such obvious methodological flaws. And the answer, alas, is that Science is very good at guessing which papers are going to get lots of press; and that, along with concern for their advertising revenues from purveyors of biomedical research equipment and supplies, seems empirically to be the main motivation behind their editorial decisions.

Oh, nonsense. I’m sure that Science is quite careful to keep editorial/review and advertising decisions entirely separate, and if their main concern was peddling expensive biomedical gear, why would they waste space on a simple and flawed paper using cheap psychological techniques? There are trade journals that are much better sources for overpriced gadgetry and reagents.

I’ll also point out that they’ve reversed the situation: Science isn’t good at guessing what papers will appeal to the popular press, the popular press is accustomed to turning to a few journals, like Science and Nature, for finding what the scientific soup d’jour is.

This is not to say that Science or Nature are objective paragons at finding the most important science of the day. To the contrary, both are self-consciously elitist journals, jockeying for position as the premier sources of distilled scientific wisdom. Language Log completely missed the boat: paper decisions at Science are not made to satisfy either the popular press or the scientific supply houses; they are decisions to appeal to the tastes of other scientists, and the financial benefits flow secondarily from that.

There is a Sci Culture, just like there is Pop Culture and High Brow Culture and Redneck Culture. And all of these fragments of a greater whole have their various organs of communication and modes and expectations of behavior, which are all much more complicated than being simply driven by the invisible hand of the market.

That looks like an OK way to dispose of a body

I wouldn’t mind someday having my corpse disposed of by freezing, shattering, and dessicating it prior to composting, but I don’t know that it’s the best way.

The process is simple. Within a week and a half after death, the corpse is frozen to minus 18 degrees Celsius and then submerged in liquid nitrogen. This makes the body very brittle and vibration of a specific amplitude transforms it into an organic powder that is then introduced into a vacuum chamber where the water is evaporated away.

The now dry powder passes through a metal separator where any surgical spare parts and mercury (from old tooth fillings) are removed. The remains are now ready to be laid in a coffin made of corn starch. The organic powder, which is hygienic and odourless, does not decompose when kept dry. The burial takes place in a shallow grave in living soil that turns the coffin and its contents into compost in about 6-12 months’ time. In conjunction with the burial and in accordance with the wishes of the deceased or next of kin, a bush or tree can be planted above the coffin.

Unfortunately, the story is a little too credulous and not quite critical enough. It’s billed as a more eco-friendly method of body disposal than cremation, but I was wondering throughout about how the energy costs of generating and maintaining large amounts of liquid nitrogen, of large scale vibration of specific frequencies, and of pumping out all the water in the fragments would compare to burning. None of that is free, you know; that it’s all out of sight at a distant electrical power generation plant doesn’t mean it has no cost.

There’s also this weird squeamish tone about how one advantage is that you can bypass all that icky rotting business. What’s wrong with decay? The modern funeral business is all about pumping the body with toxic preservatives and burying it in a sealed concrete vault, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Wouldn’t the real eco-friendly way of death be to drop bodies where condors or sharks could eat them?

I think I’d rather my meat were used to feed the sharks, and especially the hagfish and deep sea bacteria. Fling my corpse out of a boat over a deep trench, let me drift down getting nibbled and shredded as I go, and let my bones rest artfully on the sea floor, feeding crustaceans and fish and all that wonderful oceanic diversity. That seems like the least harmful way to dispose of this mortal frame.

It’s Ada Lovelace Day!

Buy the T-shirt!

Buy the T-shirt!

You’re supposed to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and math today. Some of you women out there will be doing science today, some of you will read about it, and some of you will be doing like I’m doing: teaching it to women (and men!). At the very least, try to tell a girl that she can grow up to be anything she wants — and that includes being a mathematician, an engineer, or a scientist.

Sean B. Carroll talking to atheists

This morning, in 45 minutes, I’ll be tuning in to AM950 to listen to Sean B. Carroll on Atheists Talk radio. He’s going to be talking about his new book, Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher, and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize, the story of Jacques Monod and Albert Camus. Bringing the Two Cultures together!

One cat, finally in repose

I’ve tried. This busy little cat we’re fostering simply will not sit still for a good photograph. This week we tried torture: she was sent off to the vet for a day where they applied needles and knives to her, injecting her with vaccines and doing tests and snipping various organs. I was sure she’d come home worn out and sore and tired, but no — she’s running around the place, jumping on me, chasing dust bunnies as if she hadn’t had her belly sliced open and both forelegs shaved for the various needles she was stuck with. This was getting ridiculous.

Then, moments ago, she found a good book and curled up with it. Unbelievable.


She’s a developmental biologist. Either that or she’s a Wolpert fan.

I’m thinking of trying the ultimate test, and leaving out a copy of The Happy Atheist. All cats are godless, right?

You want her? Contact the Stevens Community Humane Society. Tell them you want to save Ivy. I’ll even throw in a developmental biology textbook to sweeten the deal. I wouldn’t want her to get bored.