30 April 2010

Yeah right.

Military medics hope the experiments on Prahlad Jani can help soldiers develop their survival strategies.

The long-haired and bearded yogi is under 24-hour observation by a team of 30 doctors during three weeks of tests at a hospital in the western city of Ahmedabad.

Two cameras have been set up in his room, while a mobile camera films him when he goes outside, guaranteeing round-the-clock observation.

His body will be scanned and his brain and heart activity measured with electrodes.

“The observation from this study may throw light on human survival without food and water,” said Dr G. Ilavazahagan, who is directing the research.

“This may help in working out strategies for survival during natural calamities, extreme stressful conditions and extra-terrestrial explorations like future missions to the Moon and Mars by the human race.”

Since the experiment began on April 22, Jani has neither eaten nor drunk and has not been to the toilet.

Here is more “be nice to the theists” nonsense:

Too many atheists display the same aggression and smug self-satisfaction that they detest in their fundamentalist rivals. The tragedy is that the crossfire between these groups prevents robust alliances between modest liberal religious communities and humble non-dogmatic atheists on matters of real urgency.

What binds many atheists together is an unshakable conviction that they know everything there is to know about religion, namely that it is irrational bondage to immutable doctrine. No amount of counterevidence can convince such atheists otherwise. What irony! But where do they come by this knowledge about religion? Their expertise seems to be derived by virtue of sheer sentience alone.

By contrast, if a theologian were to broadcast her convictions about molecular or evolutionary biology without some years of careful reading and study, she would be met with jeering laughter and summarily dismissed. Why then are uninformed atheists who have never read in theology exempt from similar derision? Sadly, every pedant believes himself entitled to his unearned convictions about religion. […]

Again, they miss the point. The point is this: is there some deity/force that has an empirical effect on this universe? If so, let’s examine the evidence for it. If this doesn’t, then many of us simply aren’t interested. Example: I have not studied astrology in detail, yet I reject it.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | quackery, religion, science, superstition | Leave a comment

AZ Truck driver forced to show birth certificate claims racial-profiling | Video Cafe

The shape of things to come? Sure looks like it. And this incident happened before Gov. Jan Brewer signed the SB1070 into law on Friday. Video and story from PHOENIX – A Valley man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned.

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Yes, I take this very personally. This is downright insulting.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | arizona, immigration. racial profiling, jan brewer, mike's blog round up, politics, politics/social, racism, republicans, sb1070 | 1 Comment

29 April 2010 (early am)

Workout notes (yesterday): 2200 yard swim; 500 warm up (pull), 5 x (100 free, 100 paddle, 100 fins), 100 back pull, 4 x 25 fly).

noon: 3.2 miles in 47:10 (painless at the end).

Injury notes: forgot to take naproxyn; some pain last night (brief), then the knee was hot when I woke up.

Today’s workout (so far) Bradley Park walk (4.2 hilly miles): 56:33; last 1.0x mile was 13:24. Slow: sure, but better than the 1:04 it took last week. Yes, the knee was slightly “thick” but rain is on the way. It comes with the territory.
But this is the first walk that “felt” almost like a valid training walk.

Sanity notes: retard neighbor was hammering nails starting at about 4 am; this dimwit is retired. The semester is all but over and now excuses and panicked remedial students are starting up; I’ll be happy when I never have to see this group again.

Math research notes: I finished the notes for my paper some time ago; but a colleague found a similar paper that used similar ideas…which was printed 55 years ago!!! Oh well; at least my idea was correct and there is still something we can do, and I have something that I can send out.

Science Water has been found on an asteroid:

Scientists have found lots of life-essential water — frozen as ice — in an unexpected place in our solar system: an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.

The discovery of significant asteroid ice has several consequences. It could help explain where early Earth first got its water. It makes asteroids more attractive to explore, dovetailing with President Barack Obama’s announcement earlier this month that astronauts should visit an asteroid. And it even muddies the definition between comets and asteroids, potentially triggering a Pluto-like scientific spat over what to call these solar system bodies.

This asteroid has an extensive but thin frosty coating. It is likely replenished by an extensive reservoir of frozen water deep inside rock once thought to be dry and desolate, scientists report in two studies in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

Two teams of scientists used a NASA telescope in Hawaii to look at an asteroid called 24 Themis, one of the bigger rocks in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They examined light waves bouncing off the rock and found the distinct chemical signature of ice, said University of Central Florida astronomy professor Humberto Campins, lead author of one of the studies.

Astronomers have long theorized that hydrogen and oxygen and bits of water locked in clay are in asteroids, but this is the first solid evidence. And what they found on 24 Themis, a rock more than 100 miles wide with temperatures around 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, was more than they ever expected. About a third of the rock seemed to be covered in frost.

Furthermore, scientists didn’t just find ice; they found organic molecules, similar to what may have started life on Earth, Campins said.

“This asteroid holds clues to our past and how the solar system and water on Earth may have originated and it also has clues to our future with exploration of near-Earth asteroids,” Campins told The Associated Press.


This article has got me to wondering what my “course curve” will look like:

Now I’m wondering why, as it seems 35% of students in the other sections of this class get A’s. 35%! 30% receive B’s, 20% C’s, 10% D’s and 5% F’s. Does this sound like a class that students are not succeeding in? When did we stop looking at the bell curve head-on? When did we decide to tip it on its side? Does anyone’s gradebook resemble a normal distribution, where A’s are given to “above average” students, and “above average” actually occures above the actual “average”?

Good question. Perhaps it happened when colleges became more “consumer oriented”?

This response to a professor complaining about plagiarism was interesting:

Hometown Haley’s proffie sounds like a big crybaby. Don’t you get it? It’s us vs. them, always. Haley didn’t cry big crocodile tears because she didn’t think she DISAPPOINTED you. Get. Ovah. Yerself. (She’s from the same high school? Start a Facebook page together.)

She (either legitimately or not) felt like she couldn’t do the work, so she got help. Modern students don’t think of plagiarism as cheating. It’s cut and paste, Grandad. The info they need to pass is right out there on Wikipedia or 123Essays.Com, and they just snatch it up.

She wasn’t trying to break your heart. She was trying to avoid any heavy lifting in order to pass your sucker course.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | education, injury, ranting, science, swimming, training, walking, whining | Leave a comment

28 April 2010 (early am)

Injury note: The injury has progressed to extremely minor cramping at night (very brief) and almost no daily pain.

Video notes From a variety of sources:

You too can become an atheist…only $9.99!!!!! Oh wait..there is more!!!!
(hat tip: Proud Atheists)

Helen Thomas: no retreat from the liberal label! I like it.

Graduation speech by a student:

Highlights: “forgive us for worshiping the intellectual mind”…then she shakes…faints (at about 2:00)

PZ Myers:

If it were anything other than religion she was trying to push up there, we’d be getting that poor woman in for psychiatric help.

Of course, it could be that she got nervous, stayed up too late, was dehydrated, etc. I’ve seen this happen at political rallies, military formations, etc. But my guess is that she has a future as a televangelist, southern Republican politician, etc.

Blasts from the past:

Boxing: note that Teddy Atlas (Michael Moorer’s trainer) says “stop standing in front of him Mike”. A few seconds later, you see why he yelled this. Note: Moorer was way ahead on points at the time:

This is what much of President Obama’s political opposition looks like.

I find it difficult to feel anything other than complete contempt for this individual. But there are millions like her walking around among us.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | atheism, boxing, humor, injury, politics, politics/social, religion | Leave a comment

Conclusion: 27 April 2010

Injury notes The PT worked with me again. I have two more ultrasound treatments. Then we decide if she recommends that I see an orthopedic person or not (cut out the cyst?)


Weight loss Interestingly enough, going from “fat” to “slender” doesn’t solve all of one’s problems:

If thin equals happy, Jen Larsen should be on cloud nine.

Larsen, 36, of Ogden, Utah, was the fat child. The fat teen. The fat adult. Four years ago, Larsen hit a high of 316 pounds and when diet after diet failed she opted for bariatric surgery. By all measures, the procedure was textbook perfect. The 5-foot-7-inch Larsen is now a slim 140 pounds.

Life, she says, is simpler: she has more energy; her knees feel better; her back doesn’t hurt. And study after study shows she has slashed her risk for life-threatening health conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a size 8: No matter how much Larsen shrank, her troubles stayed the same size.

“It (weight loss) hasn’t solved all my problems or made me a better person, just a littler one,” Larsen says.

Despite being a self-described “accomplished fat girl,” with a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of San Francisco, a great job working in the school’s academic library, a slew of friends and a loving boyfriend, Larsen thought her life had hit a plateau. By age 32, she believed she’d be writing a book, “doing something important,” she says. The only thing holding her back, she thought, was weight.

“Not so,” she now says. “The only thing that’s different is the size of my ass.”

Larsen thought skinny came with a mega-boost of self confidence. And a huge dollop of happiness. She thought she’d be dynamic and brave and ready to take on the world, just because she was thin.

“I think fat people are sold a fantasy, and then get no support in the reality, because we’re simply supposed to be grateful that we’re no longer fat,” Larsen says. […]

My take: this isn’t at all true for me. Sure, I still have problems. But being normal sized has enabled me to do much of what I love to do, so I think that “the slender life” for me is much better than the fat one. I have zero, I mean zero, desire to go back.

Noah’s Ark? Give me a break:

Web sites are buzzing over claims that remains from Noah’s Ark may have been found on Turkey’s Mount Ararat. The finders, led by an evangelical group, say they are “99.9 percent” that a wooden structure found on the mountainside was part of a ship that housed the Biblical Noah, his family and a menagerie of creatures during a giant flood 4,800 years ago.

But researchers who have spent decades studying the region – and fending off past claims of ark discoveries – caution that a boatload of skepticism is in order.

“You have to take everything out of context except the Bible to get something tolerable, and they’re not even working much with the Bible,” said Paul Zimansky, an archaeologist and historian at Stony Brook University who specializes in the Near East – and especially the region around Ararat, known as Urartu.

Cornell archaeologist Peter Ian Kuniholm, who has focused on Turkey for decades, was even more direct – saying that the reported find is a “crock.”

The fact that I live in a society in which millions take such nonsense seriously is beyond embarrassing. I grew up among people who believe such nonsense.

Altruism in animals

Sarah Palin: I admit that I don’t like this and I said so:

A Chicago strip club is celebrating Sarah Palin’s visit to Illinois next month by hosting a Palin lookalike contest titled “Less Taxation, More Stimulation”–and a portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to the Tea Party movement.

On May 12, Palin will be in suburban Rosemont raising money for the state Republican party, and the Admiral Theatre Gentlemen’s Club in Chicago wanted in on the action.

The “Sexy Sarah Palin Look-Alike Contest” will be held on May 12 at the Admiral, 3940 W. Lawrence Ave., and feature scantily clad Pain lookalikes. The ones who pull off naked Palin the best will win $5,000 in cash prizes.

The Admiral reached out to Palin herself asking if she wanted to be a “celebrity judge” for the contest, but they have yet to hear back from the former vice presidential candidate. In any case, the club reports that other “local celebrity judges” will be choosing the winner.

Yes, I think that Gov. Palin has political skill and has gotten very rich by getting people to like her. Most of us don’t have that kind of talent. Yes, she is openly anti-intellectual and plays upon the ignorance of her followers; she strikes me as someone who has a deep contempt for knowledge. So making fun of her lack of intellect is perfectly ok:

Yes, this is gibberish and we have every right to lampoon it.

But I really don’t like attacking a female political figure by using sex.

Yes, attack her mind, her qualifications; her lack of command of the issues. But let’s not applaud this sex show attack.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, creationism, economy, evolution, injury, nature, politics, politics/social, quackery, religion, republicans, sarah palin, superstition | Leave a comment

Jon Stewart on Arizona’s new “Illegal Immigrant” Law

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April 27, 2010 Posted by | humor, morons, political humor, racism, republicans | Leave a comment

27 April 2010 slightly later am

Workout notes Weights: rotator cuff, then

bench: 10 x 135, 10 x 160, 6 x 175, 4 x 185. I lift better later in the day.
Now I superset the rest
pull ups: 10, 10, 10, 6 (chin), 7 (chin)
military press (dumbbell): 50 x 8, 50 x 6, 45 x 10
rows (machine) 100 x 10, 100 x 10, 100 x 10. (I am extra weak here)
lat pull down 7 x 140, 7 x 140, 7 x 140
incline bench: 10 x 135, 10 x 135
Ab routine
yoga leg lifts 30, 30
vertical leg lifts 20, 20
twists 110 x 12, 110 x 12
crunches 110 x 10, 110 x 10
vertical crunches 20, 20
Yoga head stand: 6 minutes (1 minute PR)

Walking: hilly Bradley course; 4.44 in 1:06:39. Still way slow (15:00 mpm), but faster than this weekend with the same effort. Pretty day.

Injury: brief, sporadic, minor last night.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | hiking, injury, training, walking, weight training | Leave a comment

27 April 2010 (early am)

Arizona: is this new “immigration law” really about keeping the Republicans in power? Here is a conjecture; I haven’t read any hard evidence though.

David Duke: likes what he sees in the current tea-party.

Chemicals can cause a sex change in a certain type of frog:

As described in the March 1 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, biologist Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues exposed 40 African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) to 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine continuously for three years—a level below the 3 ppb allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, 30 of the frogs were chemically castrated, incapable of reproducing, among other consequences. Also, four of the treated frogs actually turned female, going so far as to mate with other males and produce viable eggs despite being genetically male. Only six of the treated frogs resisted atrazine or at least showed normal sexual behavior.

To be sure of their results, the researchers used males bearing only the ZZ sex chromosomes. In previous studies “if we got hermaphrodites, there was no way to know if they were males with ovaries or females with testes,” Hayes says. “By using all ZZ males, we were assured that any hermaphrodites or females were indeed sex-reversed males.” Frogs follow the ZZ (male), ZW (female) sex determination scheme, rather than the more familiar XX (female), XY (male) pattern of humans.

A key culprit in the sex change may be aromatase, a protein that spurs the production of the female hormone estrogen, causing originally male gonads to become ovaries. Atrazine may be boosting the production of aromatase.

Not all scientists agree that it is this particular chemical though:

Biologist Werner Kloas of Humboldt University in Berlin charges that samples may have been contaminated by endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) leaching from plastic containers or being introduced during screening. He also questions the single exposure level and lack of measurement of female hormone levels in the affected frogs. For his part, Kloas in the past reviewed atrazine’s effects for Syn­gen­ta and found no impact on African clawed frogs at concentrations comparable to those investigated by Hayes.

Still, it is interesting that something is causing a sex change and the cause is chemical.

Chimps: Evidently they have human-like reactions to impending death:

From holding deathbed vigils to comforting the dying, chimpanzees face death in humanlike ways that indicate their awareness of death is probably much more developed than previously thought, suggest two new studies.

The papers, both published in the journal Current Biology, provide rare, intimate glimpses of chimpanzees dealing with death.

For the first study, scientists observed how three adult chimpanzees reacted when an elderly female, named Pansy, gradually passed away in an indoor enclosure at Blair Drummond Safari Park in Stirling, Scotland. The over 50-year-old Pansy had grown increasingly lethargic before lying down on the floor one day after eating. […]

For the second study, Dora Biro of the University of Oxford and colleagues witnessed the deaths of five members, including two infants, of a semi-isolated chimpanzee community that researchers have been studying for over three decades in the forests surrounding Bossou, Guinea. The dead succumbed to a flulike illness possibly originating in humans.

After their two infants died, chimpanzee mothers Jire and Vuavua continued to carry and groom their offsprings’ lifeless bodies for up to 68 days. By the time the corpses were finally abandoned, the bodies had mummified and developed an “intense smell of decay.”

Still think that we aren’t closely related?

Biology: ok, I am way out of my element here, but note that there is a new concept called “deep homology” in biology:

Edward M. Marcotte is looking for drugs that can kill tumors by stopping blood vessel growth, and he and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin recently found some good targets — five human genes that are essential for that growth. Now they’re hunting for drugs that can stop those genes from working. Strangely, though, Dr. Marcotte did not discover the new genes in the human genome, nor in lab mice or even fruit flies. He and his colleagues found the genes in yeast.

“On the face of it, it’s just crazy,” Dr. Marcotte said. After all, these single-cell fungi don’t make blood vessels. They don’t even make blood. In yeast, it turns out, these five genes work together on a completely unrelated task: fixing cell walls.

Crazier still, Dr. Marcotte and his colleagues have discovered hundreds of other genes involved in human disorders by looking at distantly related species. They have found genes associated with deafness in plants, for example, and genes associated with breast cancer in nematode worms. The researchers reported their results recently in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. […]

When scientists started sequencing DNA, they were able to find homologies between genes as well. From generation to generation, genes sometimes get accidentally copied. Each copy goes on to pick up unique mutations. But their sequence remains similar enough to reveal their shared ancestry.

A trait like an arm is encoded in many genes, which cooperate with one another to build it. Some genes produce proteins that physically join together to do a job. In other cases, a protein encoded by one gene is required to switch on other genes.

It turns out that clusters of these genes — sometimes called modules — tend to keep working together over the course of millions of years. But they get rewired along the way. They respond to new signals, and act to help build new traits.

In an influential 1997 paper, Sean B. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and Cliff Tabin of Harvard Medical School coined a term for these borrowed modules: “deep homology.”

Since then, scientists have gotten a far more detailed look at many examples of deep homology. Dr. Carroll and his colleagues, for example, recently figured out how the spots on a fly’s wing evolved through rewiring modules. A tiny fly called Drosophila guttifera sports a distinctive pattern of 16 polka dots on its wings. Dr. Carroll and his colleagues discovered that the module of genes that sets the location of the spots is the same module that lays out the veins and sensory organs in the wings of many fly species. The module was later borrowed in Drosophila guttifera to lay down dots, too.

That makes this sort of statement sound a bit ridiculous, right?

Ok, couldn’t resist.

For an expert take on this deep homology concept, go to “Why Evolution is True”.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | frogs, nature, politics, politics/social, racism, ranting, republicans, science | 6 Comments

26 April 2010 (pm)

A call to get to work in the 2010 election (for Democrats).

Yes, the President has been successful so far. Here is a nice summary.

Other stuff
Boobquake has been a hit among many (the idea is to mock a cleric who implied that scantily clad females caused earthquakes). But the event has its atheist detractors (here and here).

Mockery is sometimes called for; here are cartoons mocking Arizona’s decision to basically make it ok to racially profile people who look, well, like me.

And of course, there is good old rural Texas: there elected officials say that the election of Barack Obama is some sort of divine punishment. I can’t imagine taking this sort of “thinking” seriously; I have nothing but contempt for such idiots.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | 2008 Election, 2010 election, atheism, Barack Obama, Blogroll, Democrats, obama, politics, politics/social, racism, ranting, religion, republicans, superstition | Leave a comment

Boobquake day!


To test an Iranian cleric’s claim that immodestly dressed women are responsible for earthquakes, tens of thousands of women around the country plan to show off an extra bit of skin today.

It all started a week ago, when Purdue University senior Jennifer McCreight, 22, wrote a blog post about some “supernatural thinking” put forward by Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, an Iranian prayer leader.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which [consequently] increases earthquakes,” he was quoted as saying during Friday prayers in Tehran.

Put off by the cleric’s comment, the genetics major turned to her blog and declared that it was “Time for a Boobquake.”

One quibble: what about us butt lovers? 🙂

April 26, 2010 Posted by | big butts, humor, quackery, religion, superstition | 2 Comments