Please keep me in mind this holiday season if you have a few spare bucks in your Paypal account. And thanks.
Nov 21 2013
Nov 21 2013
An endogenous retrovirus or ERV is a genetic scar produced by a failed viral infection. Geneticists can tell its of viral origin because it will contain base pairs associated exclusively with viruses. If the ERV happens to insert in a portion of a cell genome that goes onto contribute to an egg or sperm that creates a new person, and if that same stretch of DNA containing the ERV is part if an allele that ultimately gets selected for widely, eventually the entire population will share it. If the population then splits over time, both descendant groups will have it in the same place. If you and a stranger have a unique ERV occupying the exact same segment in both your respective genomes, it is powerful evidence you are closely related.
Humans and chimps share a number of ERVs, which is more than just a smoking gun that we share a relatively recent common ancestor, it’s a video tape of evolution pulling the trigger. So it was with great interest that a new study comparing ERVs in anatomically modern humans to Neandertal DNA as well as poorly understood contemporary referred to as Denisovans has been released:
Nov 20 2013
As luck would have it, one of my family members is in ICU and I have a series of comprehensive medical tests today myself, so I may be scarce for a day or two. In the meantime please consider a small donation to your humble atheist blogger this week. I really need it and no amount is too small. Thanks to those of you who pitched in already!
Back in the darkest days of the Bush administration and Tom DeLay’s house of horrors, Republicans threatened to nuke the Senate filibuster. I’m proud to say my colleagues at Daily Kos and I responded with, go for it. It’s a dumb arcane artifact of Senate rules that obstructs ledge and gives individual and small groups of senators the ability to legally shake down industries and star in their own dramatic CSPAN grandstand. Since 2008 the GOP has used it a record number of times to thwart progressive policies and block everything in sight. It appears Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has finally had enough:
Nov 19 2013
I’m begging for change in readers’ Paypal accounts and this clown is free to cash in on tragedy. I guess life isn’t fair and that’s saying it mildly.
I didn’t cover the Trayvon Martin story, much, because it was covered really well all over the place and there wasn’t much to add. Only one eyewitness survived. But since skating on those charges charges, the creep that killed Trayvon has been in all kinds of trouble involving guns and allaged threats. . This weekend George Zimmerman was arrested again in a pattern that’s become all too familiar:
Nov 18 2013
Creationism is annoying and depressing, but a typical middle-class voter can get through their entire lives availing themselves of the fruits of microbiology and science in general while yammering on against about evolution or geology. As Illinois residents dig out from another freak tornado epidemic and the death toll on the Phillippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan rises, it’s appropriate to note climate change is a whole different story. The wind, water, and drought brought on by changing climate are killers. Ask any expert:
Nov 18 2013
Without your contributions this year — to Paypal email address DarkSydoThemoon-at/aol-com — this site and would cease to exist. The moment I don’t have to do this anymore I’ll be thrilled to yell it from the mountain tops. I’ll have a snail-mail set up later this week for those who despise or do not use Paypal. On a bright note, I was able to afford some Bengal Gold, an insecticide that’s very effective. So, thanks to those who donated, I had a satisfying morning of sorts killing and sterilizing all the little bastards who moved in to keep me company …
On the weird spamming dealio that a reader reported, it’s a persistent trickssy little bug, but fortunately all it does is hyperlink a few random words and its even kind enough to feature on off page arrow to warn you. My scans picked up the usual garbage and I killed them all, after which it seemed to go away. But just this morning there were signs it had gotten back. This particular spammer appears to work with a file or files many people have, but not everyone has them, so the links show for some people and not for others. BTW, If you’re a little low on bucks to blow on sec software, MalwareBytes has a decent free version that’s better than nothing and doesn’t seem to cause many conflicts. I’ll be working on getting rid of the last shreds of it today, meaning new posts will be light as my PCs will be undergoing maintenance.
Nov 17 2013
Update: Dr Mann ably answered dozens of reader questions and remarks at Daily Kos here with a facility that should be a case study in any seminar on how practicing researchers can best leverage new media to convey important scientific info. For more great info, read that book!
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines
By Dr. Michael Mann, Ph.D
Columbia University Press Nov 2013
New 448 page paperback for $15.38 and on Kindle at $11.79. Click book image or this link to order now
Few scientists have been as viciously slimed as paleo-climatologist Michael Mann. He has been harassed by Congress, investigated by his employer, cyberstalked by the usual suspects, and at one point was the subject of an all-out witch hunt by none other than soon-to-be-unemployed Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
Needless to say, there was no wrongdoing found in any of those cases. Indeed, at every step Dr. Mann’s integrity and research was vindicated. And with that success and the intimidation that followed, far from shrinking away, he’s become a sorely needed voice at a time when science and scientists are often under attack, or at best a victim of the false equivalency syndrome afflicting far too many reporters and cable news celebrities. Meaning he’s not only a great scientist, he’s a truly courageous one. Today we’re pleased to have Dr. Mann’s comprehensive answers a couple of the more pressing weather-related questions of the day AND as a special treat, available in the comments below to respond in person to readers Daily Kos and FTB in a few minutes. We’ll also be monitoring the Twitter hashtag #AskTheMann for questions or comments.
The updated paperback version of the Hockey Stick would make a great stocking stuffer for the science junky in your life. Like the original, its well written in layman’s terms but still lays out the ruthless intersection of climate science and conservative politics faced by a small group of researchers who had the gall to succeed in their research and create the foundation on which modern paleoclimatology rests. But the best part for me is the fascinating tour of the science underlying climatology, with a particularly noteworthy focus on the analysis that went into the diagram that caused all the ruckus, first published in Nature by Mann, Bradley and Hughes in 1998: the Hockey Stick.
Nov 16 2013
Guys, gals, I’m closing in on the halfway mark of what is needed on this year’s holiday bleg, many thanks tor those who already. pitched in I’d say I’ll say a prayer for you, but … you know. My Paypal email address is DarkSydOtheMoon-at-aol-dot/com. I’ll have a snail mail address in a few days too for those who don’t like or don’t use paypal. Thanks!
Update: Why the fuck did I think this guy was Catholic?
John Hagee, a man who is inexplicably in a position of respect and authority in the eyes of millions of Catholics, may be feeling the heat of the new Pope’s focus on the Gospels and the Pontiff’s lesser concern for Hagee’s revolting brand of wingnut politics disguised as religion. So it’s time to stir the hornet’s nest, do a little scapegoating, and who better to give the Holy finger to than Jews?
Nov 15 2013
Gotham City Press — San Francisco, grappling with the exploits of the Riddler and the Penguin, will call upon a pint-sized crusader: Miles, a 5-year-old cancer-stricken boy, a.k.a. Batkid. What started out as Miles’ wish to be Batman has turned into an all-out extravaganza in San Francisco as word spread and thousands of people volunteered to pitch in and help transform the bayside metropolis into Gotham City.
Coordinated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the effort will include Miles’ own Batmobile, a personal call from Police Chief Greg Suhr for help, the apprehension of the Riddler and then a flash mob involving hundreds of people in Union Square alerting Batkid to the fact that Penguin has kidnapped Lou Seal, the San Francisco Giants mascot.
Rest assured, Batkid’s leukemia has gone into remission and he will be around to protect the good people of Gotham for years to come. Not a bad way to end the week folks.
Nov 15 2013
Leave it to Texas. Here in the Lone Star State we have a heartless Governor and a ton of willing acolytes spewing religious nonsense to justify their greed and the casualties of the Class War. But there’s, so much more! You have to wonder if Christian Mingle is going to snatch this guy up … a school near Dallas actually brought this clown in for a motivational talk. Here’s a a couple of his brilliant insights: