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Apr 14 2014

Murdering people who accuse you of murder always works

And it’s exactly the kind of tactic a murderous deity would endorse!

Apr 14 2014

Mary’s Monday Metazoan MISANDRY

lemur

That photo is from a lovely new documentary, with this trailer.

However, I have to call attention to one troubling fact.

“All these lemurs have one thing in common – from the little one to the very largest one – they all have female dominance. The females are the leaders. The females are the ones that make the choices of where they go and what foods they eat and where they’re going to sit,” says Dr. Wright.

We must immediately call for an MRA boycott.

Apr 14 2014

Minnesota was the first!

Maybe it’s not quite as prestigious as First Man on the Moon, but Minnesota has First Beer Delivery by Drone.

I suspect a little cheating. I don’t think that drone could lift a full box of beer. But then, Amazon hasn’t actually made any deliveries with their drones yet, either — at least Minnesotans have their priorities straight.

Apr 14 2014

Years of Living Dangerously

This new documentary on Showtime is pretty good (despite the appearance of Thomas Friedman), and this is the premiere episode.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is that it emphasizes economic issues. The standard tactic of the climate change denialists is to argue that it’s happening, we can’t do anything about it, and it would hurt our economy to take measures to reduce emissions; but this show focuses strongly on the fact that climate change is doing us economic harm right now.

The denialists are, of course, squinking furiously against it already, but they lie. They lie hard.

By the way, Harrison Ford, one of the sponsors/narrator of the show, has also done an IAmA on Reddit lately — he seems to be a cool and admirable dude.

Apr 14 2014

Fun & games on Reddit

Stephan Lewandowsky, the author of the article that made climate change denialists cry and that was later retracted under pressure from denialists, is doing a Reddit AMA right now. Get in early! Before the kooks flood the questions!

(via Greg Laden)

Apr 13 2014

Your average MRA is…

…young, white, male (no surprise), and, unfortunately, godless. Stephanie summarizes a Reddit survey, and it surprised me — not by the trends, which were along the lines I expected, but in the degree to which they lack diversity. It’s worse than I thought.

Apr 12 2014

I need this for my cosmetics bag

It’s going to be tough to use, though: that Jesus looks terribly unimpressed.

At least he’s not weeping tears of blood.

Apr 12 2014

So go crawl into a dark Faraday cage and wait for civilization to collapse

Salon sometimes, and with increasing frequency lately, publishes some genuinely pernicious crap. I notice they’ve been experimenting with click-baity titles and more lists (I am growing to hate lists on the internet), there is more and more gullible religious pandering, and some days I think they’re experience huffpo envy — ‘if only we were a little more schlocky and gossipy and threw in some more T&A, we’d get more traffic!’ And now they’ve published some hysterical nonsense about cell phones causing cancer. Apparently there are no editors on the staff with even the slightest bit of scientific training who’d recognize that this claim is oft-debunked nonsense.

They even gave it the title “Your cell phone is killing you”, although they did exercise some restraint in leaving off the expected six exclamation points afterwards. The content consists of selective mention (not citation — the author doesn’t bother to give us enough information to track down the work) of only papers that show any purported effect of electromagnetic radiation at all, and hysterically concludes that we’re all in the middle of a great experiment that will end with the bees all dead and all of us having gigantic tumors on one side of our heads, Alzheimer’s disease, and with our sperm all limp and zombiefied, which is a good thing, because otherwise those sperm would spawn hideous mutant offspring.

Ho hum. In the 19th century, people were concerned about electricity leaking out of outlets if they weren’t turned off (in houses that had open gas flames!). We’ve had the terrors of high tension wires zapping everyone passing under them with madness and death inducing magnetic fluxes. Now it’s cell phones. They’re next to your head! They’re transmitting!

And you know what they’re transmitting? Radiation.

Most notably, the entire power grid is an EMF-generation network that reaches almost every individual in America and 75% of the global population. Today, early in the 21st century, we find ourselves fully immersed in a soup of electromagnetic radiation on a nearly continuous basis.

Yes, we are. It’s true. Of course, it’s not just the 21st century: when early humans stepped out of their caves to throw sticks at antelope 100,000 years ago, they were fully immersed in a soup of electromagnetic radiation on a nearly continuous basis. The earth has a magnetic field of several hundred milliGauss, and visible light has a frequency of about 500 trillion Hz; yet you don’t sense any effect of that magnetic field, and sunlight at that frequency merely warms your skin (higher frequency light, around 1000 trillion Hz, does damage cells severely — it’s the UV that gives you sunburn).

Yet even if you live directly under a high tension line, that source is only providing about 1-2 milliGauss, and cell phones are radiating at at about one billion Hz, an insignificant fraction of the energy from the soup bath in electromagnetic reaction you get from just walking around outside, even when slathered in high SPF sunscreen.

However, while science has not yet answered all of our questions, it has determined one fact very clearly—all electromagnetic radiation impacts living beings.

This is certainly true! Here’s James May cooking a hot dog and melting a steel plate by using a mirror to focus sunlight.

The inescapable conclusion of this experiment: we must ban flashlights. Otherwise, they might fall into the hands of small children who would then use them to disintegrate their playmates.

This is representative of what the author of this silly piece, Martin Blank, does throughout his article. He looks selectively at the literature, reports only on the cases that support his conclusions, and then makes sweeping assertions of disaster awaiting us all.

As I will discuss, science demonstrates a wide range of bioeffects linked to EMF exposure. For instance, numerous studies have found that EMF damages and causes mutations in DNA—the genetic material that defines us as individuals and collectively as a species. Mutations in DNA are believed to be the initiating steps in the development of cancers, and it is the association of cancers with exposure to EMF that has led to calls for revising safety standards. This type of DNA damage is seen at levels of EMF exposure equivalent to those resulting from typical cell phone use.

This is not true. The National Cancer Institute summarizes the effects of cell phones:

Studies thus far have not shown a consistent link between cell phone use and cancers of the brain, nerves, or other tissues of the head or neck. More research is needed because cell phone technology and how people use cell phones have been changing rapidly.

That last sentence, the one that begins “More research is needed”? That’s what we call a CYA statement: a bureaucratic cover-your-ass bit of boilerplate to make sure that some remote happenstance doesn’t cause them regret — it’s also a standard appeal for “give us more money” from a funding agency. But read the rest: they describe many of the experiments and the evidence, and also summarizes the common flaws that lead some studies to contradict the sense and science of electromagnetic fields. The conclusion from all of the major organizations is that any effect of cell phones is so marginal that no significant consequence of cell phone use on your physiology is detectable. Compare that to Blank’s claim.

Or you can get Steve Novella’s opinion, or Orac’s. It’s not impossible that the teeny-tiny emissions of your cell phone might lightly tickle some cells in some subtle, unpredictable way, but the totality of the current evidence says no, it doesn’t seem to have any significant effect.

If you’re still worried, here are instructions on how to build a Faraday cage (short summary: lots of aluminum foil). Climb in, and turn the lights off. And no flashlights! You could incinerate someone with one of those!

Apr 12 2014

I’m a scientist, I believe in proof

Near as I can tell from the trailer for I, Origins, the movie is about an affectless neuroscientist who takes pictures of eyes for Science, and then because he finds someone with similar irises to his dead lover, decides that reincarnation has been proven.

All I know is that whoever wrote this dreck has no idea about how scientists think.

Oh, joy. Another What the Bleep Do We Know, a bad and stupid movie that clueless nitwits will be throwing in my face for years to come to inform me that science is wrong.

Apr 12 2014

Don’t worry, we’ll fix it by flying really fast in reverse

You all remember Lex Luthor’s scheme in the original Richard Donner Superman movie, right? Of course you do, you’re all nerds. But we nerds are all pedantic and love to start monologuing, so I’ll tell you what it was anyway.

Luthor was going to set off a nuclear bomb in the San Andreas fault and cause a giant earthquake so that California would slide into the sea, creating new, valuable ocean front real estate that he would buy up, making himself fabulously rich.

Grand plans to cause devastating earthquakes are staples of cheesy comic book villainy; they’re also a regular part of the diet of conspiracy theorists. Did you know the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is actually a scheme by the Illuminati/Men in Black/New World Order to take over the world by inducing earthquakes? It’s true. Bad guys cause earthquakes.

So what should we make of the recent disclosure that fracking causes earthquakes?

Before January 2011, Youngstown, Ohio, had never had an earthquake since observations began in 1776. In December 2010, the Northstar 1 injection well came online, built to pump wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing projects in Pennsylvania into storage deep underground. In the year that followed, seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes—the strongest of the set being a magnitude 3.9 earthquake on December 31, 2011.

In a new study analyzing the Youngstown earthquakes, Kim finds that the earthquakes’ onset, cessation, and even temporary dips in activity were all tied to the activity at the Northstar 1 well. The first earthquake recorded in the city occurred 13 days after pumping began, and the tremors ceased shortly after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shut down the well in December 2011. Also, the author finds that dips in earthquake activity correlated with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving, as well as other periods when the injection at the well was temporarily stopped.

Further, the author finds that the earthquakes were centered in an ancient fault near the Northstar 1 well. The author suggests that the increase in pressure from the deep wastewater injection caused the existing fault to slip. Throughout the year, the earthquakes crept from east to west down the length of the fault away from the well—indicative of the earthquakes being caused by a traveling pressure front.

Comic book supervillains aren’t real. We’ve got the oil companies instead.

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