A hopeful vision for the future

This excellent short video, narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, illustrated by Molly Crabapple, and produced by The Intercept and Naomi Klein, imagines a future where people took the threat of catastrophic climate change seriously and adopted the Green New Deal. But the visions extend well beyond combating climate change but also deals with changing our society to make it more egalitarian and socially cohesive.

The Intelligent Design-Young Earth Creationist tension

At the height of the battles over the efforts of intelligent design creationists (IDC) to have their ideas taught as an alternative to evolution in the science curriculum in public schools, I wrote an article that was published in the June 2002 issue of Physics Today under the title Philosophy Is Essential to the Intelligent Design Debate in which I argued that important ideas about the nature of science that had been made by philosophers of science were not being adequately used by the defenders of science who were trying to keep religious ideas like IDC out of the school science curriculum.
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Monterey SkeptiCamp meeting on Saturday, January 4th

The sixth annual meeting of this group that features “a day of free presentations on science, skepticism and critical thinking” will be held this coming Saturday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The event is free and open to the public but prior registration is requested. I will be one of the speakers talking about the ideas in my new book.

You can get information on the speaker schedule, registration, and other information here.

The event is organized by the Monterey County Skeptics and the Humanist Association of the Monterey Bay Area.

The fanaticism of football players and their fans

Jaime Hoffman, the athletic director of the liberal arts Occidental College, had a meeting with college’s general counsel, head athletic trainer, head football coach, and president and decided that because of the declining enrollment in their football program that resulted in too few eligible players to fully field a team and the danger that injuries posed to their smaller and more inexperienced players, that they cancel the remaining games of the season
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Who are the people in Star Wars?

Those who recall the first Superman film starring Christopher Reeve will I am sure remember the scene where he is heartbroken that he could not arrive in time to save Lois Lane from death when she falls into a crevasse, if I recall correctly. So what does he do? He flies around the world at high speed in a direction opposite to the Earth’s rotation and by doing so he reverses the flow of time so that events go backwards and Lois emerges from the depths and he can rescue her. This was laugh-out-loud funny bad science.
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How the US is exporting bad food and eating habits around the world

In his last episode of the season of his show Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj looks at how the US, through the World Trade Organization, bullies other countries to force them to open their markets to unhealthy foods exported by the US so that the problems associated with such foods that we are so familiar with in the US, like diabetes, are now increasing globally.

At the end of the show, he spends a few minutes giving advice on how to deal with all the problems that his show raises and he recommends that each person focus on just a few things to act and be activists on, so as to avoid being overwhelmed into a state of inaction on everything.

Bogus productivity cost estimates

My attention was drawn to this article that said a manufacturer was marketing to businesses a toilet that was tilted. The idea was to make sitting on it uncomfortable in order to discourage workers from using their toilet breaks to relax and avoid quickly going back to work.

While this was yet another example of the extremes some companies will go to to squeeze more work out of their employees, what grabbed my attention was this part: “Well, apparently going to the toilet is just not productive. In its advertising, StandardToilet estimates that £4bn is lost yearly answering Mother Nature’s call.”

One often sees these estimates about the losses due to some factor (say due to being stuck in traffic or power outages, and so on) but they rarely specify how they arrived at the cost. One method is to take the time that was lost and multiply by the number of workers and the wages per unit time. But how realistic is that as a true estimate of loss? Surely the employee who lounges for a few extra minutes on the toilet will have to still do their work when they get back? Isn’t what we are seeing just a time-shifting of the costs, rather than an actual loss?

It may be that the main purpose of such estimates is as a scare tactic to get employers to buy some product.

Australian government absurdity on fires and climate change

Parts of Australia are going though a terrible time with bushfires burning out of control, coupled with a drought and heat wave. The city of Sydney is blanketed by a smoky haze because of the fires and there seems to be no real prospect or relief other than hoping for rain.

The conservative Australian government. like the US government, consists of people who want to do nothing about climate change . Like Trump, the Australian government is a fierce defender of coal, and in its attempt to shift attention away from the contribution that global warming may be playing in creating this crisis, its deputy prime minister has issued a statement that comes close to matching the stupidity of Donald Trump who blamed Californian forest fires to the forest floors not being swept clean of debris.

The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, has conceded Australia must take further action to combat the climate crisis and acknowledged that the bushfires ravaging New South Wales and South Australia have further shifted community sentiment on the issue.

But McCormack, who is acting prime minister while Scott Morrison returns from a much-maligned holiday in Hawaii, also linked the fires to other causes, including dry lightning strikes and self-combusting manure. [My italics-MS]

Football team doctors are not the players’ friends

Professional football is a brutal sport and players get injured a lot. It should not be surprising that NFL teams have doctors and other medical personnel on staff and on the sidelines to take action if needed. The sight of these people rushing on the field when a player gets hurt may give us the sense that the teams care about the well-bring of the players. But what the spectators and even some players may not fully realize is that the primary aim of these medical staff is not to protect and take care of the players. Instead they represent the interests of the team and its owners who are seeking to protect their financial investment and hence they may overlook potentially dangerous and even life-threatening conditions in their effort to squeeze more playing time out of the players.
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