She’s Judy Garland; I’m James Mason

My wife is one of those statistical people who analyzes data for a local college, and she spends much more time poking around figuring out website traffic than I do. I just kind of wing it and follow my urges, she casts a calculating eye on the whole thing. So the other day, she tells me I ought to bring back that old Sex in the MRI article; it will be hot, she says, it’ll draw in a lot of new traffic. So specifically at her urging, I did.

I’m getting about 20,000 visits per hour right now.

It feels a bit eery, being married to a prophetess…although I suppose anyone could tell you that sex is always a draw. I just found it striking that I obey her this once on the weblog thing, and boom, she’s dramatically correct. Fortunately, I’m not doing this for the big traffic numbers, or I’d have to be her slave forevermore.

If any big time corporate types are looking to hire a skilled web prognosticator and analyzer and statistician, she’ll settle for nothing less than $100K/year, and she must be able to work from home (OK, that last bit is my requirement; she might be willing to negotiate that).

My musical taste might differ from yours

The Folk Era was a special time in America, a time of innocence, when people sang Kumbaya and really meant it. When banjo music got airplay and Burl Ives had groupies. No one knows what caused the folk era, and scientists are studying what can be done to prevent it from ever happening again.

The nice people at have sent me another CD, The Best of the Foremen. They tell me this group was especially popular with biologists (I can see it—songs about wallowing in whale guts and what we euphemistically call “firing the Surgeon General” are always well received by us), and that SJ Gould had them play at his wedding. I can’t argue with Gould! Not any more at least.

Self-mocking folkies are always fun to listen to. Check ’em out.

Sex in the MRI


This morning I got a question in e-mail, asking if I’d heard of a particular paper. Of course I had, it’s a very fun bit of research…and then I realized I’d never mentioned it on the weblog before. I guess it’s because it’s focused entirely on the phylum Chordata, specifically one rather peculiar species—Homo sapiens. I probably just assumed nobody would be interested, because there aren’t any arthropods or molluscs in it.

The paper is all about visualizing the arrangement of organs during coitus. People have tried to figure out how the pieces all fit together internally using cadavers and their imagination, by using a speculum and poking around with their fingers, and by clever tools, like hollow glass tubes shaped like a penis. This paper tries something different: the investigators had people have sex in an MRI tube, and snapped a few pictures while they were at it.

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Summer reading


Who would have thought these words would ever be typed by me? I’m looking forward to Ann Coulter’s new book.

It’s called Godless(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). Apparently, Ann Coulter has written a book about me, although I suspect that she’ll instead be pretending that people like me are representative of the Democratic Party as a whole. I wish.

I’m sure it will be insightful, nuanced, and meticulously researched. Maybe Al Franken and I should get together in a summer book club to discuss it.

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

Ann Coulter

P.S. Please don’t buy it. I’m not planning to, myself (although if the publisher wants to send me a review copy, I’ll gleefully read it and review it), but I just know my local library will be getting it.

P.P.S. I’m also amused at the image of Ann Coulter as an icon of Christian thought.

Dead Cat Museum builds silly arguments

Logic and knowledge are a couple of things creationists are lacking. I’m surprised at the fate of the corpse of that poor cyclopic kitten:

A one-eyed, noseless kitten that stirred debate last year over whether it was a hoax will be the centerpiece of a new museum intended to promote the theory of creationism.

John Adolfi plans to feature Cy’s remains at The Lost World Museum when it opens later this year. The Phoenix, N.Y., museum will feature such oddities as giant plants and eggs, deformed animal remains and unique archaeological finds, he said.

Adolfi believes in creationism—a literal reading of the Bible’s story of creation.

He wrote on the museum’s website that the theory of evolution states that “environmental pressures can lift species from the ape-like creature … to us today. My question is this. Are there really positive mutations?

“All I can see are neutral or negative,” said Adolfi, a real estate agent from Granby, N.Y.

Wow. So many errors in so few words. Holoprosencephaly, the defect in that kitten, is not usually caused by a mutation. It’s a developmental abnormality caused by a failure of anterior midline signaling. I’ve mentioned before that I do some work on making cyclopic fish, and I can induce it routinely with embryonic alcohol exposure. If Mr Adolfi is paying good money for one-eyed oddities, I can provide him with bucketsful.

It’s not a mutation, so Cy says nothing about the frequency of negative mutations. Even if it were a consequence of a mutation, an example of a deleterious mutation does not mean there are no beneficial mutations.

There is an interesting coincidence here, though. I looked up the Lost World Museum, which is going to be housing the dead cat (there is something quite appropriate about that. “Centerpiece of Creation Science Museum: Dead Cat.”), and learned that it’s a branch of Bibleland Studios. Bibleland Studios is the publisher of…the amazing Jim Pinkoski! Poking around on their site, it looks like one reason they like the cyclopic cat is they believe it backs up the argument from asymmetry, that animals had to have evolved from one-eyed to two-eyed forms, and that the one-eyed form is not viable.

Maybe it does make a little sense, as long as you understand they’re basing their science on a comic book and the misunderstandings of a real estate agent.

(via God is for Suckers)