blueollie

Foods: comfort and GMO

No, there aren’t comfort foods. Sure, people do feel better after eating them, but evidence shows that they would also feel better after “waiting it out”.

My conjecture: I wonder if, say, people who go out for ice cream when they are feeling bad are really made to feel better afterward by the social event rather than the food?

GMO: check out what these fruits and vegetables were like prior to being genetically modified!

October 16, 2014 Posted by | science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

biology, dating and social norms of yesteryear

Video: this is 30 minutes long. Upshot: she gives a nice presentation of why some male/female social norms were the way that they were (saying: “men suck” is too simplistic) and notes that many want rights but don’t want obligations.

My counter is that many women that I know are extremely fair minded; they want equal rights for women but they agree that these indeed come with equal obligations. Not everyone is that way, of course, but any large movement will have its share of dummies and slackers.

I think that she is a good example of someone who can present a different point of view but do so in a logical, cohesive manner.

Science
Yes, the current post-doc system (at least in biology) can become abusive. The lab system trains more lab scientists than there is room for.

Good news: SCOTUS rejects an appeal for a teacher that was fired for pushing creationism in the class room. Academic freedom and First Amendment rights do not extend toward protecting incompetence.

Dating application There is a dating application that weeds out poor people (or, say, the non-wealthy). Though some are outraged, I am fine with that. People can select who they want to date. Not everyone is for everyone else.

October 7, 2014 Posted by | creationism, evolution, science, social/political | | Leave a comment

Climate change, creationism, jobs, and race

Talk about a sticky situation. A white lesbian couple paid a sperm bank for sperm from a white male…and ended up with sperm from a black male. Now they have a half-black daughter…and they are suing.

Oh sure, one can say that they entered a business transaction and didn’t get what they paid for. But what effect will this have on the kid? Ah, they’ll probably blame it on the racism of others. ;-)

Jobs report

248K new jobs last month; the good is that this is better than losing jobs. The bad: the new jobs aren’t paying well.

Science
The Aral Sea was once the 4’th largest lake in the world. By 2000 it had shrunk a great deal, and now it is almost gone.

aral_arg_1964234.0

aral_sea_2000_vs_2012.0

Reasons: many; one of them is irrigation. One consequence is that nearby areas no longer have the lake to moderate the extremes; so it is hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.

Creationism: Why Evolution is True has an interesting take on a non-Sequitur cartoon.

October 4, 2014 Posted by | creationism, economy, politics, politics/social, racism, science, Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Some education/academia articles

Paul Krugman: reviews a book called Seven Bad Ideas by Jeff Madrick. The idea:

In “Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World,” Jeff Madrick — a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a frequent writer on matters economic — argues that the professional failures since 2008 didn’t come out of the blue but were rooted in decades of intellectual malfeasance.

As a practicing and, I’d claim, mainstream economist myself, I’m tempted to quibble. How “mainstream,” really, are the bad ideas he attacks? How much of the problem is bad economic ideas per se as opposed to economists who have proved all too ready to drop their own models — in effect, reject their own ideas — when their models conflict with their political leanings? And was it the ideas of economists or the prejudices of politicians that led to so much bad policy? [...]

Such quibbles aside, “Seven Bad Ideas” tells us an important and broadly accurate story about what went wrong. Economists presented as reality an idealized vision of free markets, dressed up in fancy math that gave it a false appearance of rigor. As a result, the world was unprepared when markets went bad. Economic ideas, declared John Maynard Keynes, are “dangerous for good or evil.” And in recent years, sad to say, evil has had the upper hand.

Speaking of ideas: are we becoming afraid to make our students uncomfortable? I know what I read in the media, but I am not sure as to how accurate it is.

Note: I am not saying that students should be taught “all points of view”; some ideas have been shown to be crackpot (e. g. creationism). They shouldn’t be taught as if they are viable ideas.

Now speaking of science and religion Biologist David Barash had an article in the New York Times about the talk he has with his classes at a public university:

And that’s where The Talk comes in. It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.

Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk.

There are a few ways to talk about evolution and religion, I begin. [..]

I CONCLUDE The Talk by saying that, although they don’t have to discard their religion in order to inform themselves about biology (or even to pass my course), if they insist on retaining and respecting both, they will have to undertake some challenging mental gymnastic routines. And while I respect their beliefs, the entire point of The Talk is to make clear that, at least for this biologist, it is no longer acceptable for science to be the one doing those routines, as Professor Gould and noma have insisted we do.

I recommend reading the entire article. I especially like Biology Professor Jerry Coyne’s critique of it:

As I mentioned two posts ago, David Barash, a biologist at the University of Washington who works on animal behavior and evolution, has a post in today’s New York Times, “God, Darwin, and my college biology class.” It’s basically an argument for the incompatibility of science and religion, and I like it a lot, not the least because I agree with him 100%.

But there’s one thing about his piece that bothers me: Barash’s article is about how he tells his animal behavior class that science and religion are incompatible. In other words, he’s making theological arguments at a public university. [...]

But in fact, and this is my beef (a small one, like a filet mignon): Barash may not be accommodating science with religion, but he’s still discussing their relationship, and his view of their incompatibility—in a science class. I wouldn’t do that, especially in a public university. One could even make the argument that he’s skirting the First Amendment here, mixing government (a state university) and religion. After all, if Eric Hedin can’t tell his students in a Ball State University science class that biology and cosmology are compatible with belief in God, why is it okay to say that they’re incompatible with God?

I share Professor Coyne’s trepidation here.

September 30, 2014 Posted by | economics, education, evolution, religion, science | , | Leave a comment

Climate change: the wrong and right

Actually, climate science is NOT settled. What is settled is that:
1. the globe is currently warming and
2. humans are having a direct negative effect on this warming.

But we aren’t sure as to what will happen in the future. THAT is hard to predict. That human activity is warming the globe is settled and reducing carbon emissions is indeed a good thing.

And if you think that you know what is what, take this quiz. Or sure, I missed one question when I hit the wrong button and cringed, but I got a couple of guesses too. There are a lot of “metric” questions (e. g. “how much”), and I only got 65 percent (better than average, but still).

Now there is no excuse for ignorance on this level (in Congress, no less).

But conservatives have a point when they point out that preserving the environment starts at home, and large, liberal gatherings generate a ton of trash left behind, even when the gathering is supposed to be about the environment. That irritates the heck out of me too.

Hey, if you want to point the finger at me: I drive a Prius (when I drive) and walk to work everyday, so I don’t drive that much!

September 23, 2014 Posted by | environment, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Today: 5k, football, weather, etc.

Our university has a 5K that runs right past my house and it starts in 90 minutes. So, of course, I can’t resist. :-) It is in the high 50’s so I’ll have only my lack of running conditioning to blame.

Right now, I am doing a little of everything each week: longish walks (15-20 miles), a few short runs (4-6 miles), a couple of weight sessions and a couple of 2200 yard swims (2 km). After next week’s walking marathon, I’ll probably add a swim/lifting session and cut back a little on the midweek walk.

Heel: still slightly sore; sometimes feels like mild PF..but going up on my toes doesn’t hurt?

Football
I have tickets for Illinois vs. Texas State. Texas State used to be Southwest Texas State (I-AA…now FCS) and now they are a FBS team in the Sun Belt. They lost to Navy at home (35-21); they trailed 28-0 in the second quarter and Navy ran all over them. So, this is a team that Illinois *should* be able to handle; they should be a step down from Washington. But the emphasis is on “should”; who knows until they play the game.

Navy plays Rutgers at home; THAT should be interesting. This is Navy’s second game against a Big Ten team this year. Rutgers is 2-1, having lost to Penn State last weekend.

Also of interest: Miami vs. Nebraska. Is Nebraska all smoke and mirrors or are they for real?

Issues
Weather: we are supposed to have rain in Peoria this afternoon, but not in Champaign (where the game is). We’ve had an unusually cool September but the planet, on the whole, has been warm. What is in store this winter? It could go either way. A bad winter could be bad news for us, as budget cuts has cut our plowing/salt budget.
I need to buy some decent snow boots to walk to work and to shovel.

Secularism This is a nice piece in Time Magazine which was generated by the recent incident in which the Air Force wanted to keep “So Help Me God” as a required part of the enlistment oath. They wisely recanted: (this is part of the article)

It took the threat of a lawsuit before the Air Force agreed on Wednesday to allow airmen to omit the phrase “So help me God” as part of a required oath. Until then, they claimed an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was ineligible to reenlist after he crossed out the phrase on his reenlistment form.

This controversy will rile up many people of good will—not against the military, but against the airman. Why make a big deal out of words that the majority of Americans believe in? Just cross your fingers if you must, and say the words. Why rock the boat?

Here’s why: The incident betrays a subtext of intolerance and hostility toward secular people that is embedded in American culture and public institutions. The Air Force was ready to end a man’s military career because he would not submit to its religious demands.

To secular Americans, requiring an oath to God is like asking a Jewish airman to swear, “So help me Jesus” or a Christian to say, “So help me Allah.”

I love the article, but have a minor quibble with the last sentence in the quote: asking me to swear an oath to God is NOT like asking a Jew to pray to Jesus or a Christian to pray to Allah.

Asking me to pray to God is exactly like asking me to pray to the Tooth Fairy. On the other hand, asking a believer to pray to a different deity is asking them to commit blasphemy which, to a believer, is a serious offense which can cause emotional and mental anguish.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | politics, politics/social, religion, running, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Misconceptions: chimps, kids and assault weapons

This New York Times Sunday Review article states what was long well known: one is far more likely to get killed by small handguns than by assault rifles. Assault rifles make big news in the spectacular but relatively rare events. But: this does not mean that there is no such thing as assault weapons. This means that banning them won’t make much of a dent in gun death statistics.

Speaking of violence: It sure appears as if chimps are naturally violent toward one another. Some argue that “effect by human intervention” has not been controlled for, but seriously, this “noble savage” stuff is nonsense.

Spanking Data seems to indicate that “spare the rod, spoil the child” is nonsense.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | evolution, nature, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Fracking, economics, Obamacare and religious freedom…

Fracking I’ve never been aboard the “fracking is terrible and should be banned” bandwagon. I’ve always been aboard the “energy companies should do it right” bandwagon, and when the companies get sloppy and take short cuts, accidents happen, often with terrible consequences.

So, this study which showed that water contamination near gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas was NOT due to fracking but instead due to leaky gas wells did not surprise me at all. Yes, there is a problem and it should be fixed. But the technique of fracking isn’t the culprit in these instances.

Of course, this headline is wildly wrong: it should read “no water pollution due to fracking”: (from here)

terribleheadline

Economics Textbook economics is working fine, but too many economists have let ideology trump economic theory:

The big problem with economic policy is not, however, that conventional economics doesn’t tell us what to do. In fact, the world would be in much better shape than it is if real-world policy had reflected the lessons of Econ 101. If we’ve made a hash of things — and we have — the fault lies not in our textbooks, but in ourselves.

Obamacare
Yes, Obamacare is working for many, but those who are benefiting from it will vote for those who want to repeal it anyway:

The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.

“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

Ms. Evans said she did not want the law repealed but had too many overall reservations about Democrats to switch her vote. “Born and raised Republican,” she said of herself. “I ain’t planning on changing now.”

So now you know why my sympathy for people is limited. I am for Obamacare as I think that it helps the economy. But as for the individuals helped by it: read the above.

I remember reacting with disgust when many who are on the public dole complain about President Obama and the liberals.

I suppose their cluelessness is a bit like this:

Separation of Church and state

Now, of course, what is said here is perfectly legal as a campaign rally is not a government sponsored event. And yes, Senator McCain had not yet arrived when this invocation was given (he was to arrive later via his “Straight Talk Express” bus:

But I’ll speak to my reaction (I was there): I bit my tongue and tried hard to not break out in laughter; to me this is “Zeus vs. Thor” stuff.

My point: while I believe in separation of church and State and believe that the government should not take sides on religion, I am NOT religiously offended at public prayers and the like. I see it as, well the way you might see an exotic (to you) culture going through some sort of ritual.

But the religious might be VERY offended; a prayer in one religion might be “blasphemy” to someone else.
Hence, religious people ought to be MORE in favor of “separation of church and State” than I am. Because if these aren’t separated:

The Satanic Temple is widely known for fighting to place a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments on the Oklahoma statehouse grounds. And now they’re bringing Satanic materials to kids in Florida, and it’s all thanks to “Christian” extremists.

Had Christian extremists let the school remain a secular place that honored the separation of church and state, the Satanic Temple would not have been able to introduce kids to The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities, which will be widely available in Orange County schools.

The activity book asks kids to find ways to be inclusive in order to solve problem. For instance, one set of instructions in the book says, “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand. Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.” In addition to the activity book other materials will include “pamphlets related to the Temple’s tenets, philosophy and practice of Satanism, as well as information about the legal right to practice Satanism in school.”

A Louisiana state lawmaker learned this the hard way:

In Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal pushed for a voucher program that would allow state funds to be used to pay for religious schools. It’s unconstitutional, it’s a way to use taxpayer money to fund someone’s faith, and it was a bad idea to begin with.
But it passed.
Now, one of the state legislators, Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson), just made a shocking discovery, though: Christianity isn’t the only religion!

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.

“Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges said. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

(of course, she appears to believe that our Founding Founders were Christians; some were but others were not).

September 17, 2014 Posted by | civil liberties, health care, morons, politics, religion, science, social/political, technology | , , | Leave a comment

Illusions, drought images, space images, GMO’s on the organic aisle…

This is an interesting optical illusion: the lines are actually straight and parallel.

parallellines

This is what is going on.

California drought: get a load of these “active” before/after photos. Use the slider to change the “normal” to “drought conditions” photos.

Enjoy these incredible astronomy photos, many from our solar system.

GMO: yes, stuff that is now labeled “organic” really is GMO.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | astronomy, nature, science | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Theism makes no sense to me, in one simple picture

whytheismmakesnosense

September 5, 2014 Posted by | astronomy, cosmology, religion, science | , | Leave a comment

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