Rush Limbaugh: Sharknado is Real!

I kid you not, Rush Limbaugh fell for a satire article about oncoming Hurricane Florence, discussing it on air (and retweeting it? – I can’t find the source on that) to let his followers know that sharks

are being lifted out of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped into the storm because it’s so strong it’s sucking them in there.

The longer version might be even more laughable:

In addition to the pig manure, in addition to the slop, in addition to the floods, in addition to the cars rolling around on the waters in front of your house, in addition to the mudslides and the landslides, now you might end up with a shark in your front yard. I’m telling you right — you think I’m making this up? This appeared somewhere!

Yes. It appeared in the prestigious Pulitzer Prize-winning media outlet, “somewhere”. Oh, Rush.

Bizarrely, after asserting the sharks might end up in your front yard, he later added:

Of course the only water that might contain sharks would be storm surge. It isn’t going to be raining sharks. And that’s — The predominant water source in a hurricane is rainfall.

How sharks are being “lifted out of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped into the storm” without ever leaving the oceanic waters is a conundrum, surely. But if anyone can find a way to make a dumb “Sharknado is real!” fake news story even dumber, rest assured that Rush is the one to accomplish that feat.

Science Magazine is Failing Us

Science journalism is failing us in important ways. This post will be far shorter than I might like it to be, but I want it to be readable, and in any case I plan on following up soon with more information and also, I hope, a detailed action plan.

Here I simply want to point out a single article. In another post, I’ll also be discussing an article on the dismissal of Francisco Ayala from UC Irvine and the pattern of sexual harassment that led to that dismissal. But right now, let’s tackle an interesting article with a headline that is … terrible, in ways we will investigate later. The headline reads thus:

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Classic Contributions to Science Journalism #2.1mya

In the coverage of recently published research revealing that stone tools in China – which research suggests were crafted by individual members of Homo erectus – date back 2.1 million-fucking-years, we get this gem contributing to our understanding of why this finding is so important in understanding the habits and abilities of our ancestors and not just their birth dates:

Another key finding is that the new dates show that “already before 2 million years, hominins were able to cope with a range of environmental conditions,” says archaeologist Wil Roebroeks of Leiden University in the Netherlands, who is not a member of the team. During the long span of occupations at Shangchen, which is about the same latitude as Kabul, the climate fluctuated from warm and wet to cold and dry. “They must have been freezing their buns off,” adds paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

That’s right, just try reading that entire last sentence out loud and in one take without interrupting yourself laughing. Pure brilliance.

Sir David Attenborough’s Real Name: Boaty McBoatface

Well, it’s happened: Boaty McBoatface has slipped into the water. Though the shipwrights still have a good deal of work to do over the next few months before the ship is ready for its first polar voyage, this is still an important step, and a good excuse to bring up again the wonderful moniker the ship almost had before the fuddy-duddies declared the name Sir David Attenborough to be the winner despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin. We can only hope that this works out better for the UK than a similar voting travesty has been working out for the USA.

Hurricane Harvey & The New Normal

There’s a new study up which does something that I hadn’t realized atmospheric physicists had not yet accomplished: equate the energy deposited over land by a hurricane with the energy removed from the ocean by that same hurricane. It seems that one of the reasons that hadn’t yet been done is the need for relatively calm seas in order to get sufficiently accurate measurements of the oceanic heat energy transferred.

That’s always going to be easier in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico than in the open Atlantic, so there aren’t as many storms to try this on as one might think.

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The Genius Excuse

Correction Below.

Since we’re talking about Watson again, I thought I’d recommend a post on BitchMedia about how genius is used as an excuse for sin in the arts (thought the article focuses on film specifically). Despite the seeming differences in the scientific enterprise and the artistic enterprise, the observations in that piece seem quite relevant to how our society treats Michael Shermer, James Watson, and Inder Verma.

Consider this:

Auteur theory, originating in French film criticism, credits the director with being the chief creative force behind a production—that is, the director is the “author.” Given that film, with its expansive casts and crews, is one of the most collaborative art forms ever to have existed, the myth of a singular genius seems exceptionally flawed to begin with. But beyond the history of directors like Terrence Malick, Woody Allen, and many more using their marketable auteur status as a “business model of reflexive adoration,” auteur worship both fosters and excuses a culture of toxic masculinity. The auteur’s time-honored method of “provoking” acting out of women through surprise, fear, and trickery—though male actors have never been immune, either— is inherently abusive. Quentin Tarantino, Lars Von Trier, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and David O. Russell, among others, have been accused of different degrees of this, but the resulting suffering of their muses is imagined by a fawning fanbase as “creative differences,” rather than as misogyny and as uncompromising vision rather than violence.

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TESS Has Reached Orbit

TESS, NASA’s new space telescope for detecting planetary transit events was successfully launched by a SpaceX Falcon9 rocket today, with the first stage successfully landing on its recovery barge for re-use.

Everyone familiar with FtB should also be familiar with Kepler, both the rabble-rousing white dude and the chrome-hot, super-cool, USD $700 million, solar powered camera. Kepler was initially expected to generate data for no more than 3.5 years, though it has exceeded that by a wide margin despite failures to its gyroscopic stability controls that were originally thought mandatory to complete the mission. It is true, however, that the mission’s data collection is much slower now.

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The Purpose of the Universe

Let’s get one thing straight right now: The purpose of the universe cannot be to supply a place for human beings.

If your church wants to claim that there are intelligent, civilized, religious (and ensouled!) space aliens out there every 8-10 planets or so, the purpose of the universe being to house ensouled religious beings is still pretty stupid. Remember that the background energy of each unit of space is non-zero. The universe is positively awash in energy.

We might consider an intergalactic cubic meter to contain a small amount of energy compared to our energy-dense planets and sun, but the sheer number of cubic meters of intergalactic space is impossible for a human to truly comprehend. We can look at a large number written in exponential notation and declare it larger or smaller than some other large number. We can plug the number into this calculation or that, but there’s no way for a human being to comprehend the number itself.

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Did Chinese Children Evolve To Take Tests After Breakfast?

My recent posts have focussed on IQ and the differences between a gap in IQ test results and a gap in general intelligence or g. The contemporary difference between white and Black racial mean IQ is about 10 points. For every IQ test subject, including all white subjects and all Black subjects, some portion of that IQ score represents a measurement of g. However, there are good reasons to think that the proportion of the IQ score that measures g will be different among white people from the proportion measuring g among Black people. While I don’t think that motivation is different enough between racial groups to explain the mean IQ score gap, it’s very interesting and relevant to note that placebo effects that are likely due entirely or almost entirely to motivation effects (primarily a combination of arousal effects and attention effects) can on their own generate a 10 point difference in mean IQ test scores. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (in this case, the “nation” is the USA) has the lowdown.

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Racial differences in average g are not known to be genetic. Or even known to be. Seriously.

On my recent post on the genetics of g – really the genetics of group differences (and especially racial group differences) in mean g – colnago80 raised in a comment some work on Panda’s Thumb summarizing certain research about intelligence, intelligence testing, g, and genetics. You should certainly read it if you have a mind to do so, and you can find it here. It was written recently, published yesterday, and intended to be a contribution to the current debates closely related to the discussion Murray and Sam Harris had on Harris’ podcast: do liberals irrationally reject a genetic contribution to g? For Panda’s Thumb, the current version of this discussion began with a post there 3 weeks ago that was based on research by PhD candidate Emily Willoughby.

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