If the air force wants to recruit rapists, they’re off to a great start

A man, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who was in charge of a branch of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, was arrested after groping and assaulting a woman in a parking lot. How can that be? Didn’t he read his own specialty’s literature on sexual assault?

Maybe he did. You should take a look at the Air Force brochure on sexual assault. Not one word telling men not to do it, but lots of lecturing to the woman readers on what to do.

“It may be advisable to submit [rather] than resist,” reads the brochure (.pdf), issued to airmen at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, where nearly 10,000 military and and civilian personnel are assigned. “You have to make this decision based on circumstances. Be especially careful if the attacker has a weapon.”

The brochure, acquired by Danger Room, issues a series of guidances on “risk reduction” for sexual assault. Among others, it advises people under sexual attack in parking lots to “consider rolling underneath a nearby auto and scream loud. It is difficult to force anyone out from under a car.” A public affairs officer at Shaw, Sgt. Alexandria Mosness, says she believes the brochure is current.

While the brochure also explains that sexual assault is not always committed by people who “don’t look like a rapist” — attackers “tend to have hyper-masculine attitudes,” it advises — it does not offer instruction to servicemembers on not committing sexual assault. Prevention is treated as the responsibility of potential victims.

You know who is going to love that brochure? Rapists. Informing their victims to submit as a matter of official policy is simply a delightful inducement to go out and get some by force.

There is apparently some administrative inertia to making changes in the rape culture on air force bases.

“To any rational person this is completely backwards and shows the scope of epidemic,” Purchia added. “Fundamental reforms are needed — the reporting, investigation and adjudication of sexual assault must be taken out of the chain of command.”

That’s a step that the military has been reluctant to take. At today’s hearing, Welsh and Donley expressed concern that doing so might pose a risk to “good order and discipline,” as Donley put it. (“This is not good order and discipline,” replied Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand of New York.)

That’s exactly what I was thinking. How does rape fit into the ideal of good order and discipline?

Thanks, Ray!

I did that brief interview with Ray Comfort last weekend, and today I find a nice gift basket waiting for me.


It looks a bit picked over already because I picked it up just before heading off to a division meeting, so I opened it up and encouraged my colleagues to help themselves. Then I sat back and watched their physiological responses after sampling. Departmental politics can be brutal.

(Nah, just joking, I wasn’t at all worried. Ray Comfort is a total ditzwaffle when it comes to science and logic and reason, but I think he’s probably a better socialized ape than many scientists I can think of.)

Will Smith must be stopped

He has a new movie coming out this summer, After Earth. It looks awful, but then, that’s what I’ve come to expect from Will Smith’s Sci-Fi outings.

Jebus. Anyone remember that abomination, I, Robot? How about I Am Legend? I steer clear of these movies with a high concept and a big name star, because usually what you find is that the story is a concoction by committee with an agenda solely to recoup the costs and make lots of money…so we get buzzwords and nods to high-minded causes and the usual action-adventure pap. Just looking at the trailer, I’m getting pissed off: it’s supposed to be a pro-environmentalism movie, and what’s it about? A guy running around in the wilderness fighting off the hostile wildlife.

Anyway, I got one of those generic invitations to help reassure the world that it’s a good science movie. Here’s part of what I was sent:

On May 31st, Columbia Pictures is releasing what is perhaps the biggest movie of the summer, After Earth, starring Will Smith, directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

No. Just no. Shyamalan is a hack. Why do people keep handing him big money and big projects?

There are a lot of science parallels to this film, and I write to see if you or a colleague might be interested in interviewing one of After Earth’s top filmmakers and or a scientist associated herein.

Famous futurist Ray Kurzweil

Jesus fuck. Kurzweil is a consultant? Pill-popping techno-geek with an immortality fetish and no understanding of biology at all is the consultant on a movie with a supposed environmental message? WHY?

explored with Will, his son Jaden Smith, and Elon Musk, how science fact meets science fiction in After Earth, and tghis can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RocpHuJWolc. As well, XPRIZE has teamed up with Sony to launch an unprecedented robotics challenge (information attached). What’s more, NASA plans to disseminate a lesson plan to teachers based on the scientific implications of After Earth, as seen here http://www.lifeafterearthscience.com/.

OK, I checked out the lesson plan. It’s not bad, but it has nothing to do with the movie — it’s all about biodiversity and cycles and climate change and that sort of thing, by a respectable author of biology textbooks. It’s a merkin to cover the toxic crap that will be in the movie.

In After Earth, earth has devolved, in a sense, to a more primordial state, forcing mankind to leave. One thousand years after this exodus, the planet has built up defense mechanisms so as to prevent the return of its previous human inhabitants. It might be said that nature reacted this way because it perceived humans as a threat to its survival.

“Devolved”? “Primordial state”? Look at the trailer. It’s a lush planet thick with plant and animal life, nothing to force people out. Except, of course, the bizarre hint that there are rapid — really rapid — weather changes (I won’t call it “climate”), in which you can be running through a temperate forest and suddenly a tree will freeze. Yeah, right. As for the teleological rationale, just gag it, goofballs.

Given the backing behind it, the extravagantly expensive Will Smith, the fact that he’s using it as a vehicle to give his son star billing, the horrible director, and the hints of bad science in the trailer, I’m going to call this one right now: it’s going to suck. It will be shiny and glossy and have lots of CGI, but it will suck hard.

I saw Iron Man 3 last night, and let me just say…I am so tired of SF movies that resolve all of their conflicts with a big battle with the baddies, preferably featuring huge explosions and impossible physics. This one is going to up the ante with idiot biology added to the profit-making mix.

They asked if I wanted to interview any of the scientists or writers involved. I don’t think so.

Although a conversation with Ray Kurzweil could be…fun.

If you want to raise hordes of zebrafish…

…like I do, here’s a useful resource: Regular Care and Maintenance of a Zebrafish (Danio rerio) Laboratory: An Introduction. It’s text and a video guide to familiar procedures.

Unfortunately, it also assumes you have a commercial zebrafish rack, which if you buy the smallest size available, will set you back about $10,000. I’ve just been using an array of 5 gallon tanks, each with its own filter system, which is cheap to set up, but a pain to maintain. I’m going to bite the bullet and build my own DIY flow-through system this summer, though, which I expect will cost a few hundred dollars…which is more in my budget. If you want to follow along, here’s a paper on a Modular, Easy-to-Assemble, Low-Cost Zebrafish Facility — it’ll be something like that. It’s not exactly the kind of show aquarium you’d have in your home, but if all you care about is embryo throughput, it’s loads of fun and lower maintenance than what I’ve been doing so far.

Did a bat land on you at the Kelso Depot in the Mojave Desert?

Boosting signal on this, because it’s potentially very urgent and the person at risk could be anywhere in the world at this point.

A week ago, on April 30, a visitor to the Kelso Depot in the Mojave National Preserve had a bat land on his neck. The bat — a Myotis lucifugus a.k.a. little brown bat — has since tested positive for rabies, and now San Bernardino County officials are trying to find the man. They don’t know if he was bitten or scratched: it wouldn’t take much of a bite to transmit the disease, and if that happened he’s got to get vaxxed.

Details on the incident and public health contact info are here. The guy doesn’t have a lot of slack before getting to the doctor at this point: onset of symptoms can start mere days after a bite. (Or years, which has caused people to falsely assume they’ve dodged a bullet.) Before symptoms start prevention is straightforward and no longer arduous. I’ve had rabies shots and they weren’t the worst injections I had that year. (Individual mileage varies there, but they’re way better than they were back in the day. Mine were a breeze.)

And it’s a good opportunity to remind people in bat and rabies country that while transmission of rabies from bats to humans is quite rare, bats exhibiting unusual behavior (like not being shy or nocturnal) should be given a wide berth and reported to local authorities.

But what about capitalism, Rush?

Rush Limbaugh’s network has lost millions of dollars this past quarter, and he may be on the way out. Apparently, the problem is that advertisers have fled his show in droves, especially after his rages against Sandra Fluke. But you knew he’d have an excuse: it’s all the women’s fault.

Despite sources close to Limbaugh that accuse Dickey of scapegoating the radio host for a bad quarter, Limbaugh himself has addressed his advertiser woes in the past. But Limbaugh doesn’t see his offensive bloviating as the problem driving mainstream advertisers away; instead, he accuses media buyers who are ”young women fresh out of college” and “liberal feminists who hate conservatism” of “trying to harm” him.

I had no idea that women now controlled all the media; did you women reading this know you had such immense power?

Now I have a few requests. Right after you’re done flushing Limbaugh’s career down the toilet, could you shut down Fox News and Glenn Beck (well, you’ve been doing a good job on him so far), and perhaps redirect some small fraction of those advertising dollars to Freethoughtblogs.com? Thanks, much appreciated.

The first day of the rest of my summer!


It’s going to be a good season, I can tell already. It’s finals week, so I’ll still have an abrupt pile of grading to do on Thursday, but otherwise, my teaching obligations are done for the semester. Now I’m trapped, trapped I tell you, in Morris for almost (I do have two quick trips to Europe planned) the entire summer with a collection of administrative responsibilities, but the good part of that is that I have ambitious plans for what I’ll be doing in the lab. I’m also going to be living the good life.

So this morning I slept in to 7:00. I know, it’s slothful of me, but I have the freedom to indulge myself a little bit now and then. After I got up, I took a nice brisk walk downtown, did some shopping, stocked up on some fresh vegetables, and once I got home, chopped them up and set them to soak in a tasty marinade. I’ll roast them up for dinner tonight.

Then I started reading up an accumulated mass of papers that’ll give me some implementation ideas for the work I have planned.

I’ll have a student working with me, and we’ve got a couple of projects in the works.

  1. There’s some boring scut work to be done: lab cleanup, clearing out old reagents from the refrigerator, making up new stock solutions. Don’t be disillusioned, but part of the research life is janitorial…so much dishwashing.

  2. My grand plan requires an expansion of my fish colony to include multiple genetic strains, so we’re going to be scrubbing tanks, sterilizing surfaces, setting up new tanks with boring feeder fish to get the nitrogen cycle going and condition the water, getting the brine shrimp hatchery (live fish food!) thriving, all that sort of stuff that qualifies you to be a clerk in a pet store.

  3. Once all the tanks are bubbling away happily, we’re getting some new strains from the zebrafish stock center. Then it’s a few months of nursing them along, collecting eggs, propagating new generations and raising them to adulthood to get the whole colony self-sustaining, and to prepare for crosses to produce hybrid strains. After all this, my student will be well-trained to be a hobbyist aquarist.

  4. Concurrently, we’ll be doing some real science on the embryos we get, analyzing their behavior quantitatively to identify consistent differences between strains, and also in response to different environmental stresses. This is going to require a bit of computer work and — oh, no! — basic math to develop image analysis protocols. That’s what I’ve been reading about; I’ve done some of this in the past on an obsolete software system, so I’m going to have to piece together some custom bits to make it all work. I’ve been reading about Fourier analysis and power spectra all morning, and I’m kinda jazzed. Math! Computers! Embryos! Science!

  5. The dream is that once we’ve found some subtle differences between different strains, we can start doing crosses to dissect out and isolate the genetic components, if any, of the behavior. That’s going to take a couple of generations of crosses, which means that if I’m lucky we’ll get those results next year, or at worst, the year after. Behavioral Genetics! Yay! Long generation times! Boo!

It’s step #4 that’ll give us some quick quantitative results, I hope, and maybe something presentable at a meeting or even publishable. It’s all going to be preliminary and descriptive, but that’s what you need to do to establish a foundation for experiments.

Unfortunately for you, I won’t be blogging about any of the details of the work this summer — I’ve been scooped before when I foolishly posted protocols on the web, and especially when you have a very small lab with limited humanpower to throw at a problem, that costs. But I might just occasionally say a few general things about the kinds of analyses we’re doing.

Or I could talk about the moldy stuff we throw out of the refrigerator. That’s probably safe.