Racism is dead? I know journalism seems to be dying.

Hmm. An article claims that Dylann Roof got $4 million in donations, from a group calling itself “Citizens for White Rights.”

Only thing is, the news story doesn’t bother to link to any of its sources, adds an incorrect apostrophe to “citizens”, and only shows an image they say they were sent by this mysterious and ungoogleable organization that purports to show online transactions, so who knows, maybe it’s all a fake. I hope. In fact, the only source for this story anywhere on the web is this “newswatch33″ site, which looks a little dicey.

I’d like to see a little more verification before I believe any of this story.

A transitional turtle, Pappochelys


Turtles are nifty animals, with a remarkable adaptation: they’ve taken their ribs and shifted them outside their appendicular skeleton, flattened and expanded them, and turned them into a shell. It’s a clever twist, and it doesn’t require any magic — just a shift in timing during development, with a little extra signaling. The molecular biology and development explain mechanistically how it happened, and we also have fossils of some of the in-between states.

Odontochelys, a 220 million year old fossil, for instance, is a good example of a turtle ancestor that’s got some of the bits but not all. It has a well developed plastron, the belly armor of a turtle, but it doesn’t have a shell — it has broadened ribs that form a kind of flexible bony plate under the skin.

And now we have even older ancestor, from 240 million years ago, called Pappochelys. It lacks the plastron, too, instead having an array of ventral ‘ribs’, called gastralia. What caught the attention of the researchers was the true ribs. They also are flattened and broadened — they look like curvy cricket bats.

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Is the Pope Catholic?


This is my regular reminder: don’t fall for the traps and snares of the wily Pope. He’s been getting a lot of praise lately for his rejection of climate change denialism (and even I have felt faint twinges of affection for a Pope who can get Bill Donohue to puff out his lower lip and pout), but it’s not good enough. I didn’t find his Papal Encyclical to be that good — it’s great that it acknowledges the scientific evidence in the first chapter, but it’s theme is fundamentally anti-science, and he’s more than willing to abandon evidence if it contradicts his dogma.

Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”.

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It’s a poor job-hunting strategy


You may have been left hanging in the case of Michael LaCour, the UCLA grad student who seems to have invented a bunch of his data. Before he was exposed, he’d been offered a job at Princeton, and was supposed to start working there this summer.

Whoops. Princeton has rescinded that offer.

Let that be a lesson to you all, kids: don’t fabricate data and don’t lie on your CV. It never ends well.

A distinguished pedigree

Last weekend, I was in Oregon at a science conference honoring my graduate advisor, Chuck Kimmel. We had science talks, and people gave little speeches, and we had a big ol’ party. One of Chuck’s colleagues and a former advisor of mine, James A. Weston, had something similar some years ago called the JAWFest; we called this one the ChuckFest. Jim told a few stories, and he also recited the intellectual lineage of Charles B. Kimmel, which is an old tradition — like the long recitations of fathers in the Norse sagas, or the begats in the Bible, only this is a chronological list of our educational forebears, and there’s a little less blood and violence.

I got the files from Jim and include it here, which is only fair since it’s also my intellectual pedigree.


Charles B. Kimmel graduated with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, where his advisor was…

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Zack Kopplin is not a troll!


Mother Jones has a good overview of Zack Kopplin’s work against the terrible Bobby Jindal, but I object to them characterizing him as a troll: he’s a good investigator who honestly exposes Jindal’s views. And they’re pretty terrible views:

Jindal, who studied biology at Brown and was considering Harvard Medical School before attending Oxford, has left a bit of a paper trail as to where he really stands. In 1995, while still a student in England, he published an essay in a small Catholic journal, This Rock, attacking atheism. He asserted that there was “much controversy over the fossil evidence for evolution,” and he put himself squarely in the camp of intelligent design. “No evolutionary biologist has produced or ever will produce a conclusion with any relevance to the necessity of God,” he argued. “At best he can push the location of the supernatural assumption from the origin of life to the origin of matter, energy, and order.”

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We’ve been sussed! Quick, hide!


They’re on to us. A conservative organization called Turning Point USA is distributing a pamphlet titled 10 Ways College Professors Indoctrinate America’s Youth and How to Prevent It (that’s a link to Jezebel’s deconstruction: if you want to read it in its full unedited glory, here’s a PDF). I learned many surprising things.

The # 1 goal of a leftist professor is to change the way their students view the world. Progressive professors want to make you question your beliefs and then hope that you will abandon them altogether. They want to make you think like they do. They want to brainwash you.

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It’s been a Yiannopoulos sort of day


That is, kind of like the dry heaves. I have enraged the Breitbartian trolls, and all day long, the Yiannopoulos lackeys have been yammering at my Twitter account, and all day long I’ve been tapping the block button. Although I have to admit that there was one tweet that brought me up short.

You are as outmatched by Yiannopoulos as you are Vox Day. Run away little man, while you still can.

Yes. That is very true, I agree completely. Nailed it.