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Apr 19 2014

Why are there so few women and minorities in science?

While on a panel, Neil deGrasse Tyson gives an excellent answer to the question of whether there are any genetic reasons as to why there are so few women in science. (Thanks to reader John for the link.)
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Apr 19 2014

A step backward for Cleveland

I have recently been praising the city Cleveland for taking a progressive attitude towards LGBT rights. They are even hosting the 2014 Gay Games to be held August 9-16. But some Muslim can drivers have given the city a black eye by walking off their jobs because they refuse to drive taxis that carry ads for the games.
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Apr 19 2014

Some excellent news out of India

India has been in the news recently, and not always in a good way. We have had the cases of brutal rapes of women that have shed an unflattering light on social mores and the law enforcement system that seemed to treat these as less than the horrible crimes they are. It is hoped that the uproar that these rapes generated may lead to broad reforms.
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Apr 18 2014

What is New Yorker humor?

Bob Mankoff is the long-time cartoon editor of the New Yorker magazine, notorious for the quirky and sometime inscrutable nature of its humor. In this TED talk, he tries to explain what kind of cartoon he thinks fits within the framework of that magazine. Analyzing humor and what makes people laugh is a decidedly difficult proposition but it is a little easier to do with cartoons and Mankoff gives a highly entertaining effort.
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Apr 18 2014

Vanity Fair article about Edward Snowden

The latest issue of the magazine has a profile of the famous whistleblower that traces his life history and his evolution from a hesitant and tentative participant in online forums for computer enthusiasts to an assured, self-confident, sometimes cocky, and even abrasive personality. It is behind a paywall but one of the authors was interviewed at length on Fresh Air and it made for good listening and the interview and the transcript can be found here.
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Apr 18 2014

When religious tradition collides with modernity

In many traditional cultures, marriages are arranged by the parents, often using matchmakers. Reader Tim sent along this link about a dating service in Israel aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jews that circumvents the traditional matchmaker’s role for those cases in which the young person does not fit the desired profile and is seen as a ‘difficult’ case, though the things that cause the problems are those that the rest of us might see as desirable qualities.
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Apr 18 2014

How fossil fuels formed

When I was quite young, someone told me that all the fuel that exists in the form of oil and coal came from long dead dinosaurs. What amazes me is that I never questioned this preposterous piece of information for a long time. I think the fact that they were referred to as ‘fossil fuels’ confirmed in my mind that dead animals were the source and dinosaurs, being the largest dead animals, seemed to fit the bill.
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Apr 18 2014

Request for suggestions for pre-debate questions

Joe Puckett, Jr, a minister at the Hartville Church of Christ that is about an hour’s drive from where I live, has invited me to a debate. The topic we have agreed upon is God Does Not Exist that I will affirm and he will deny. I know the proposition is a counter-intuitive one but I have reasons for choosing it.
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Apr 18 2014

Treat press releases about science with caution

Journals frequently send out pre-publication copies of what they think are important papers to science journalists under an embargo, where they are free to research the topic and gather material to write articles, but not publish them until the release date that the journal specifies. This enables journalists to write articles that put the research in context and provide alternative and critical views on the research in a timely manner. In the hands of good science journalists, this practice enables the general public to get a reasonable sense of what new research reveals.
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Apr 17 2014

The plight of ‘student athletes’

The issue of college athletes being recognized as employees and having the right to unionize has resulted in a lot of information coming out about them. I had not realized that athletes at those universities that have big sports programs have to practice and watch game films and the like for fifty or more hours per week. That is shocking because that would leave them hardly any time to attend classes, let alone study for them. No wonder that this breeds the practice of bogus classes that they sign up for in order to maintain their academic standing.
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