#BillNyeInMorris

Little ol’ Morris got that hashtag trending last night — I guess when essentially everyone in a small town suddenly starts tweeting exactly the same thing, it shows up as a bright blip in the data. It was an impressive reaction by the audience, too. These were college students who grew up with Bill Nye, and apparently even the ones who were too young to have watched his show when it was on the air got regularly exposed to episodes that were shown in the public schools. So he was welcomed like a rock star.

[Read more...]

Nye! Nye! Nye!

undeniable

Bill Nye is arriving in Morris sometime today, and I’m looking forward to his talk — I’m hoping it will be material from his new book, Undeniable, which won’t be available until next month. But look at that subtitle: “Evolution and the Science of Creation”. If he does, he might drive some of the locals to a foaming fury, if they show up for the talk, which they probably won’t. I might have to read the town paper for a week or two to see if there is any reaction, or if it just gets buried.

But it also means I’m going to get tangled up in a wild social whirl on top of my usual teaching obligations today. I might be a little busy for a while.

Your child should not be your proxy victim

Anti-vaxxers sometimes go off in reprehensible directions. A woman exaggerated her child’s symptoms to blame vaccines.

A leading British “mother warrior” campaigner, who claimed that the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is responsible for autism, fabricated accounts of injury to her son and persistently lied about his health, a London court has ruled.

The mother, “E”, who cannot be named so as to protect her son’s identity, concocted a story about how he reacted to an MMR shot.  She said that he became distressed with fever and then lost speech, eye contact and play immediately following his three-in-one in January 1991, at the age of 18 months.

She claimed that he screamed after immunization, and that this was followed by six hours of convulsions and vomiting, and then six months in a “persistent vegetative state”.

[Read more...]

Go away, cold fusion

A guy named Andrea Rossi has been promoting this device call the E-Cat that produces huge amounts of energy by nuclear fusion: specifically, that it fuses hydrogen and nickel to produce copper and energy. And now there is a claim that this amazing result has been verified, in a remarkably gushing and credulous review.

I am not a physicist, not even close. I am at best a moderately well-read layman. I also understand the general principles of fusion — it’s how stars work, it’s how heavier elements have been built up over the history of the universe from lighter ones. I might be willing to naively concede that maybe you can get two elements to fuse under conditions present on earth…but then I would ask, in my charmingly simplistic understanding of nuclear reactions, what about the left over bits? You say you’ve brought these two atoms together in a high-energy reaction, you’ve got oodles of power flowing out of this, don’t these reactions always spew out a few subatomic particles? And if there really is all this energy available, aren’t they going to be flying out of the collision with tremendous power, producing what we civilians call deadly radiation?

[Read more...]

Evolution explained simply

What I would love to do is sit down with a confirmed creationist and watch these videos together — they’re very clear and simple and well-illustrated, with specific evidence cited. I really wonder how they would deal with it all.

“We were here!”: ancient art from Indonesia

sulawesi-hand

What were our ancestors doing 40,000 years ago? Besides the necessaries of day-to-day living, they were making art, and some of it has survived to the present day. Every time I see one of these articles about cave art, I wonder about the rest of it, all lost: clothing, jewelry, paintings on more temporary media like hides and bark, dance and music. Those are all gone. All we have left, as fragile as they are, are a few scattered efforts preserved only by virtue of being put on rocks in deep and hidden places.

[Read more...]