Science, Sick Kids and Religion


I recently read someone saying “no parent should ever have to bury a kid”. People say that, NOW. It wasn’t always the case; in fact, back 120-140 years ago, childhood mortality approached 50 percent, even among the well to do. Funeral services for kids and child sized coffins were a regular part of business. So for the vast majority of human history, burying kids was a normal part of life. Science helped change that.

Of course, there are some who, well, thinks that we’d be better off without the weaker kids:

A councillor who said children with disabilities “should be put down” to save taxpayers money has resigned, it has been reported.

Collin Brewer, an independent Cornwall councillor, said his remarks at an equalities event at County Hall in Truro 18 months ago were designed to “provoke a debate”.

But you know, when it comes to providing resources, how different is he from some of the more extreme laissez faire libertarians?

This article takes mainstream Christians to task for letting the extremists define them. I agree with part of the article: I believe that most Christians are as good-hearted as anyone else. My beef with Christianity is that I don’t think it is rational to assume that humans were the result of an intentional creation or that there is some deity that “cares” about humans; I also don’t believe in resurrections, virgin births, etc. I think that there are many who are like me in this regard.

The other thing: the author talks about “real Christianity”. Well, the text (the Bible) is full of immoral stuff that has to be ignored or explained away.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | politics, politics/social, religion, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

One Reason Math is So Hard….


The above is an example of a “wild arc”: it is an arc in space (a continuous image of the unit interval [0,1] ) that is so pathologically embedded that it cannot be “straightened out” by a deformation of 3-space. Or if you have had some calculus, it is impossible to define a tangent vector to the arc at two points; in this case, the end points.

Now do you see the red circles around one of the end points? Those represent the equator of a round sphere whose “center” is at the end point. As you can see, the arc hits those spheres at 3 points. So, take any old sphere that has that endpoint “inside of it” (technically, inside the ball bounded by the sphere, and for you experts, we insist that the sphere be a “smooth” sphere) . Now, what is the fewest number of points that this arc meets such a sphere? That is called the “penetration index” of the endpoint.

It sure looks like the penetration index is 3, but all this picture does is to show that the penetration index is at most three. How do you know that there isn’t some sphere that you haven’t thought of that contains the endpoint inside of it (ok, inside of the region bounded by the sphere) that hits this arc in two points, or even one point?

It turns out that no such sphere exists, but that requires proof and the proofs aren’t always that easy.

I bring this up because I was doing a calculation similar to this and wondered why it was getting so complex; then I realized that my calculation was akin to calculating a “penetration index”.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | mathematics, Personal Issues | | 4 Comments

Weak Butt…

Workout notes PT, stretching, 50 laps on the university track: 11:49, 11:21, 11:17, 11:22 (45:50 at 5 miles), 10:38 (splits: every 10 laps). Total: 56:28, or 54:20 for 48 laps.

I’ve had some piriformis ache (though the back ache is better?) There is something going on and I am sure it is connected to my posture, weak core and weak butt.

Yep, spandex woman but I am going to try some of these; my glutes are simply too weak to do what I ask of them. I wonder about the feet position on the Jane Fonda move though. Shouldn’t they be more “under the knee”?

(I honestly don’t know)

February 28, 2013 Posted by | big butts, injury, running, spandex | | Leave a comment

Whack a Mole with Terrorists…

Workout notes 5K treadmill walk after weights.
Treadmill: I started out at 4.1 miles per hour (about 14:40 mpm) and upped the incline by 1 every minute until I got to 7 at 14 minutes; then I kept it there until 30 minutes. Then I lowered the incline by 1 unit every 2 minutes up upped the pace by .1 mph until I was a 4.8. total time: 42:20 for 3.1 miles.

Weights: rotator cuff, pull ups (4 sets of 10, 1 broken set of 10), incline: 10 x 135, 4 x 155, 6 x 145, 8 x 140.
rows/dumbbell bench: 3 sets of 10 x 65 lb. dumbbells. seated dumbbell military: 2 sets of 10 x 50, 1 set of 15 x 45. Pulldowns: 3 sets of 10 x 160. Curls: dumbbells (10 x 70), machine (10 x 70), EZ curl bar 10 x 55. I also did the ab line 3 times (10 x weighted crunches, twists, sit backs, vertical crunches) and legs 3 times (adduction, abduction, push backs) and some stretches.

I felt good. 🙂

Not so good
How bad is it in Pakistan? There is a terrorist group there whose mission is simply to kill Shia Muslims:

The group doing the killing is called Lashkar e Jhangvi, “The Army of Jhangvi” or LEJ. They are Sunnis whose agenda is not much more nuanced than killing Shias. Though South Asia is a region rife with internecine conflict, with factions who have fought each other for all of recent history over land and religion, these attacks are unique. Even in a region violence visits far too often, what’s happening now is singular, and it’s getting worse.

First it was snipers picking off civilians, then LEJ members began stopping busses, shooting Shia passengers and leaving their bodies on the roadsides. Now, LEJ is using massive bombs in places frequented by Shia civilians: social clubs, computer cafes, markets and schools. About 1,300 people have been killed in these attacks since 1999, according to a website dedicated to raising awareness about them. More than 200 have been killed so far this year.

Hazaras are one kind of Shia for which LEJ has a particular fascination. Quetta sits just below the border with Afghanistan, and it’s the city where members of a Shia group from Afghanistan–the Hazaras–have sought refuge whenever they’ve felt their own country doesn’t want them. They’ve been coming to Quetta for over a hundred years, but while they’re coming in search of safety, they’re now being met with slaughter. […]

If the Taliban is the schoolyard bully who keeps some semblance of order among the other children but then begins to abuse his power, LEJ is the hyperactive kid running around kicking shins, and who has free reign because the teachers are terrified of him, too. After a bombing last month, LEJ waited until rescue crews arrived at the scene, and then set off a bomb to kill them, as well. The message was clear: If you try to help Hazaras, you will end up like them.

Fear may explain why the government isn’t doing anything about the attacks. LEJ is not hard to find and their leadership lives openly, mostly in Punjab. They do not pursue their means discreetly. The bomb LEJ used in February weighed 2,200 pounds, twice the size of the one Ramzi Yousef used to try to topple the World Trade Center towers in 1993. They had to tow it to the bombsite behind a tractor.

Nor do the killers try to avoid blame. On the contrary, they eagerly accept responsibility, post YouTube videos of themselves and tally up death tolls with transparent glee. A twitter update just after a recent attack read:

“Quetta Alert: 50 Shias in hell and over 65 injured due to blast on Alamdar Road.”

If anyone thinks that there is some moral equivalence between the United States and groups like this, they are crazy.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | religion, walking, weight training, world events | | Leave a comment

Hogs, Fish parasites and…are Congressional Republicans really “out of touch”?

Today, I got to go to a “science lunch” at the U. S. Agriculture Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois. We got a box lunch and two interesting lectures on biofuels; one was about using pennycress for biofuels; the other was about using the plant mass itself for its sugars, which are then distilled into biofuels. Yes, things like “how much energy is spent getting a unit of energy from the biofuel itself” was discussed.

Ok, this was part of a life long learning program for old people. But many who showed up had backgrounds in agriculture; hence the questions from the audience were pretty good; many were questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask.

Mostly I was fascinated as to how many aspects there are to such a program; I love it when I learn something!

Even better: my wife went with me.

Speaking of science, here are two science related videos. One is over the feral pig problem (in Texas; hat tip to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub)

The other is about a parasite crustacean which feeds off of a fish’s tongue..and sometimes serves as a surrogate tongue. This creature is weird and, well, yucky:

Social People need to be loved…and to love. That sounds like a strange thing coming from me, but that is what I got out of this article about a charity that helps poor people out with…pet food:

A New York-based nonprofit group is trying to help low-income families around the nation by offering “food stamps” for pets.

Pet Food Stamps seeks to aid disadvantaged pet-owners across the U.S. who need help caring for their beloved animals, ABC New Mexico affiliate KVIA reports. The program provides free monthly home delivery of all necessary food supplies to those who qualify.

Marc Okon is the man behind Pet Food Stamps. The recently launched program is already a success. In only two weeks, more than 45,000 pets have already been signed up for food stamps, according to ABC News.

“I received a letter from a woman who is on food stamps,” Okon explained to KVIA. “She lost her job recently. She’s a single mother of a severely disabled young boy, and she said his only companion and his only mode of communication is with the family dog, and they’re thinking about getting rid of the dog because they can’t afford to feed it. It’s people like that that this program is aimed to help.”

What I know is that pets can often provide a cost effective emotional therapy for those who are lonely, isolated or depressed. What my guess is (I haven’t looked up the data) is that poor people probably deal with these maladies more frequently than the rest of us; hence programs to help with pets might well have a positive impact on their emotional health; and therefore on their physical health as well.

In my opinion: people need someone or something to give them love…and to give love to. Perhaps this is why there is an increase in longevity among those who attend church (via webmd).

So while I am down on specific religious beliefs (e. g., deity X performed miracle Y and hates group of people Z) I am not so down on church attendance itself; it feels good to have a group of people that you care about and that care about you.


A Huffington Post article asks: Are the Republicans Out of Touch?

Some unwelcome confirmation for Republicans worried that their party needs an image overhaul: A majority of Americans views the Republican party as out of touch, too extreme and resistant to change, according to a Pew poll released Tuesday.

Sixty-two percent of adults said that Republicans were out of touch with the American people, and 52 percent that the party was too extreme. In comparison, 46 percent said that Democrats were out of touch, and 39 percent that they were too extreme.

Democrats were also viewed as slightly more likely to be looking out for the country’s future — and, by a 19-point margin, as the party more open to change.

But does this mean that the Republicans are out of touch? Well….no….not if you mean “are they out of touch with their constituents“. Think about it: I might think that Jim Inhofe or John Shimkus are two of the dumbest carbon based lifeforms to ever hold public office in the United States. But they are reasonably popular with those who elected them! The bottom line: in Congress, Republicans are overrepresented, at least per capita. One reason is gerrymandering. Another reason is that Republicans are more popular in lightly populated rural areas, which tend to be spread out. For example, rural southern Illinois is a long way from the rural northern parts of the states; the populations have some different interests and hence probably deserve separate representation in Congress. Another factor (pointed out by Nate Silver): the densely populated urban areas went more heavily Democratic than the lightly populated rural areas went Republican, hence there were more “beyond what is needed to win” Democratic votes than Republican votes.

In fact, this whole Nate Silver article is good; it is political but non-partisan. It talks about the effect of urban versus rural population both in the US House (where it favors Republicans) and in the Electoral College, where some say it favors Democrats.

Presidential Leadership Interesting, but why does President Obama get blamed when Republicans (some of them) dig in their heels and refuse to compromise, at all?

February 27, 2013 Posted by | politics, politics/social, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

A Classic Case of Jumping the Gun….the U. North Carolina rape case

(cross posted at Daily Kos)

What generates this post: it is this article from Common Dreams which appeared on my Facebook feed:

After going public with her story of sexual assault, a student at the University of North Carolina faces expulsion or other sanctions for being “disruptive” and “intimidating” her alleged rapist – who she hasn’t publicly named, but who still lives across the street from her – thus possibly violating the school’s “Honor Code.” No doubt completely coincidentally, before she got hauled before the “Honor Court” sophomore Landen Gambill was one of three students and a former assistant dean to file a federal Civil Rights complaint on behalf of 64 other sexual assault victims alleging university officials pressured the dean into under-reporting such cases. At an earlier hearing, Gambil charged school officials were “offensive and inappropriate,” blaming her for her assault and trying to use her history of depression against her. Apparently, UNC has a bit of history on the issue.

Oh my gosh, sounds bad doesn’t it? Well, you might want to read one of the source articles.

This is from the student newspaper:

Gambill said she was charged Friday with a conduct violation of the University’s Honor Code that claims she engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior against the man she has accused of raping her.

Ok, so who filed the charges? The university did NOT.

But University officials play no role in determining Honor Court charges, said a UNC spokeswoman, who added that any claim of retaliation is unfounded.

So who did? The ex-boyfriend and alleged rapist:

Gambill said she learned a complaint was filed against her in January, citing that her intimidating behavior — going public with her case — adversely affected her ex-boyfriend’s pursuits within the University.

“What my ex-boyfriend is saying is that by speaking out about how the University has handled my case, I’ve created an intimidating environment for him on campus,” she said.

When students bring charges (in this case, the charge that she lied), they can’t just be summarily dismissed. Nor can the University comment on the specifics, even if the charges have no merit at all.

What we have right now is: a charge has been filed by the ex-boyfriend, period. The University isn’t responsible for that.

February 27, 2013 Posted by | civil liberties, education, social/political | | Leave a comment

Statesmen, Crackpots and Ryan comes to Central Illinois

Workout notes I was stiff as a board when I lumbered through the slush to get to my university’s gym. I figured I’d tough it out for 10K or so….I didn’t think I’d make my normal 10 miles. I figured I’d do some on the track and some on the treadmill. I stretched, did 5 “full” squats with 45 pounds to get my knees to bend. Then I got on the track and started to lumber along. There were a few students out there; a couple of young women lapped me several times. I was suffering during mile 1, felt slightly better during mile 2….then through miles 3-5 I felt like quitting. Then I started to feel better?

My splits to mile 8: 8 track, 9:37/9:26/9:27/9:29 (38:00) 9:40/ 9:33/9:24/9:20 (1:16:00), 2:26 (1:18:26)
Then I got a drink, stretched some more, and did 2 easy miles (0.5 elevation) on the treadmill: 10:25/9:10 for 19:35.

I was kind of stiff afterward, but I didn’t feel that bad. Part of marathon training is convincing yourself that you CAN run steady even when you feel bad.

Speaking of marathon training Paul “sub 3 hour marathon” Ryan is coming to town to help fundraise for Aaron Schock (IL-18). Hey, tickets are only 250 dollars apiece. Maybe they will have a “how to run a sub 3 hour marathon” seminar? Hey, his marathon claims are no more bogus that his economic ideas.

Ok, let me say something good about some Republicans. Some (including Jon Huntsman) are coming out in favor of gay marriage; the New York Times reported this:

Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election.

The document will be submitted this week to the Supreme Court in support of a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and all similar bans. The court will hear back-to-back arguments next month in that case and another pivotal gay rights case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Proposition 8 case already has a powerful conservative supporter: Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under Mr. Bush and one of the suit’s two lead lawyers. The amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief is being filed with Mr. Olson’s blessing. It argues, as he does, that same-sex marriage promotes family values by allowing children of gay couples to grow up in two-parent homes, and that it advances conservative values of “limited government and maximizing individual freedom.”

Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments. The list of signers includes a string of Republican officials and influential thinkers — 75 as of Monday evening — who are not ordinarily associated with gay rights advocacy, including some who are speaking out for the first time and others who have changed their previous positions.[…]

I sure hope that people are listening. Shamefully, in Illinois, the gay marriage bill will have a tough slog in the Democrat controlled State House. One reason: many Democrats represent African American areas and the black churches, on the whole, have a shameful record here. In the 2008 Proposition 8 vote in California, 7 out of 10 blacks voted for it:

Any notion that Tuesday’s election represented a liberal juggernaut must overcome a detail from the voting booths of California: The same voters who turned out strongest for Barack Obama also drove a stake through the heart of same-sex marriage.

Seven in 10 African Americans who went to the polls voted yes on Proposition 8, the ballot measure overruling a state Supreme Court judgment that legalized same-sex marriage and brought 18,000 gay and lesbian couples to Golden State courthouses in the past six months.

Similar measures passed easily in Florida and Arizona. It was closer in California, but no ethnic group anywhere rejected the sanctioning of same-sex unions as emphatically as the state’s black voters, according to exit polls. Fifty-three percent of Latinos also backed Proposition 8, overcoming the bare majority of white Californians who voted to let the court ruling stand.

The Latino vote was very embarrassing to me. Just shameful.

Anyway, I hope that Illinois Democrats lead. When I wrote an e-mail message to Jehon Gordon (IL House 91) I got back a “I am seeing what the rest of the district says” letter back. That is lame. Hopefully this young woman will LEAD and not follow.

Crackpots Given any tragedy, there will be a collection of crackpots who claim that there is some underlying “conspiracy against the truth”. Yes, this even happend with respect to the Sandy Hook shootings.

Check this meme out:

As much as I’d love to scream “creationists are MORONS”, I realize that many who say that they accept evolution can’t correctly identify the mistake in this meme. In fact, I wonder what percentage of people realize why the “simian like creature to modern Homosapien” illustration is extremely misleading to begin with!

I suppose I can comfort myself with the fact that the real sin of the creationists isn’t misunderstanding evolution but rather thinking that they know better than the professional scientists. Then again on other topics (homeopathy, GMOs), many liberals are just as stupid….oh well.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | civil liberties, creationism, marathons, politics, politics/social, religion, republicans, running, science | , | Leave a comment

Wyoming State Rep. Hans Hunt has a point….

Via the Huffington Post: a new Wyoming state resident wrote to a junior state lawmaker about a House Bill which would allow for weapons to be carried on schools and college campuses; she mentioned that this bill, should it become law, might make her reconsider staying in the state. The state representative responded:

Mincing no words, Hunt responded thus:

I’ll be blunt. If you don’t like the political atmosphere of Wyoming, then by all means, leave. We, who have been here a very long time (I am proudly 4th generation) are quite proud of our independent heritage. I don’t expect a “mass exodus” from our state just because we’re standing up for our rights.

My guess: while the state paper critiqued the response, I am ok with it. But I’ll add to the bluntness: The United States had an election and the incumbent President won by a large margin (4.9 million votes). If YOU can’t accept that, leave the United States. Note: I am NOT saying “if you don’t like that”; I didn’t like it when President Bush was reelected. But I glumly accepted the verdict.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | 2012 election, politics, politics/social | | 2 Comments

Honest Question

This has appeared on Facebook:


Ok. If you belong to a religion and your religious practice gives you a better attitude, or gives you company that you like, I completely understand that.

But if you sincerely believe that your deity (or whatever) will heal you of your medical malady: why bother with medicines, hospitals and doctors at all?

If you think that your deity “works through” your doctor, nurses and medics, then why not let your deity work through someone who hasn’t had years of medical training?

I really don’t get it.

February 25, 2013 Posted by | religion, science | , | Leave a comment

I thought that Conservatives LIKED the “free market”?


Here is an idea: don’t go to movies. 🙂

February 25, 2013 Posted by | morons, movies, political humor, politics, republicans | | Leave a comment