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?

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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


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.

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Another cancer quack

That atavistic cancer hypothesis is actually fueling the work of quacks: Orac has been getting threats from a Frank Arguello, who runs a crank cancer mill called “Atavistic Chemotherapy”.

It’s amazing stuff. It goes on and on about how cancer represents a reversion to the old cell types of single-celled organisms, and how modern chemotherapy is useless and dangerous, so he has a better formula: safe, harmless, and revolutionary. You’ll never guess what it is.

He’s treating cancer patients with antibiotics.

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Whoa…ScienceOnline has gone and died

They announced their decision to shut down the organization and cancel future conferences yesterday. This is sad news — it has always been an innovative, interesting event, but they faced a terrible hit when one of their founders, Bora Zivkovic, was slammed with charges of harassing women, and they’ve been struggling to get donations to support the organization. I suspect they may also have gotten a bit over-extended, too, since they’d been creating satellite conferences on narrower topics at different locations (which was an excellent idea, by the way, but may not have been wise if their core operations were overtaxed).

The full announcement is below the fold.

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Cancers aren’t atavisms!

I’ve been so disappointed in the journal BioEssays lately. It hasn’t gotten bad, exactly, it’s just changed, moving away from my interests. It used to have lots of papers on developmental biology, and now it rarely does; I think it’s since Adam Wilkins left the journal staff.

But every once in a while I still check in. I may have to change my mind about the quality. They’ve published an article on cancer by Lineweaver, Davies, and Vincent, on their absurd “atavistic theory of cancer”. It’s embarrassingly bad — I’ve written about it before, and Davies openly admits that it’s based on … Haeckelian recapitulation.

You should be dumbfounded by this revelation.

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Painting something pink doesn’t make it good

A company that makes drill bits for fracking is painting them Susan G. Komen Pink — that specific intense shade that has become fixed in the public eye as the color of breast cancer research. Note, though, that this is entirely an initiative by the drill bit company, and there doesn’t seem to be a specific partnership, and the company doesn’t seem to be donating any money to breast cancer research, but are just painting all their bits a different color than usual, and tossing in a breast cancer pamphlet.

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The zebrafish litany has entered the popular press

Deja vu…years ago, we I was a wee young grad student and the only labs doing work on zebrafish were at the University of Oregon, we used to have to do this annoying thing everyone called the “zebrafish litany” at our talks. Because they were relatively unknown, we had this short explanation for why we were working on zebrafish: rapidlydevelopingtransparentvertebrateembryos. And later we added “genetics” and “transgenics” and “medicalapplications” to the boilerplate. As the mob of zebrafish acolytes grew, I swear you could hear the squishy sounds of eyeballs rolling every time we started our introductions.

Well, the laugh is on them. Now everybody gets to read the zebrafish litany, and we’re taking over the known universe.

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