Good cartoon day: Tuesday 13 January 2015

Our local paper carried some good cartoons yesterday.


Yes, I’d love to scream “cheap shot”, but remember the shills that the tobacco industry hired? And, of course, a single study rarely means much. Now established scientific consensus is usually right, much to chagrin to climate change deniers, creationists, advocates of “alternative medicine”, rabid anti-GMO crackpots and other assorted woo-woos.


Yes, distinguishing between adjectives and verbs matters. :-)


See point one. :-)

January 15, 2015 Posted by | creationism, humor, 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.

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.

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.



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

On knowing what you are talking about….

First: this is how some discussions about religion appear to me. Comments to the effect of “I don’t see how it could be otherwise” are not convincing.


When people talk about raising the retirement age, remember that there is a big spread in “years lived after 65″ between wealthier white collar workers and poorer blue collar ones.

See here:

I was pleased to see this article by Annie Lowrey documenting the growing disparity in life expectancy between the haves and the have-nots. It’s kind of frustrating, however, that this is apparently coming as news not just to many readers but to many policymakers and pundits. Many of us have been trying for years to get this point across — to point out that when people call for raising the Social Security and Medicare ages, they’re basically saying that janitors must keep working because corporate lawyers are living longer. Yet it never seems to sink in.

Maybe this article will change that. But my guess is that in a week or two we will once again hear a supposed wise man saying that we need to raise the retirement age to 67 because of higher life expectancy, unaware that (a) life expectancy hasn’t risen much for half of workers (b) we’ve already raised the retirement age to 67.

Ms. Lowrey’s article is here.

Here is one of my pet peeves: all too often, a non-specialist will attempt to claim that the mainstream view/theory in a different profession is wrong because it doesn’t make sense to them. Here Larry Moran takes on a chemistry professor’s (at Rice University, no less) claim that evolutionary theory is flawed. Professor Moran concludes:

I suppose I’m going to be labeled as one of those evil “Darwinists” who won’t tolerate anyone who disagrees with me about evolution.1

I’m actually not. I just don’t like stupid people who think they are experts in evolution when they have never bothered to learn about it. Here’s my advice to graduate students in organic chemistry: if you want to know about evolution then take a course or read a textbook. And remember, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t understand a subject. Just don’t assume your own ignorance means that all the experts in the subject are wrong too.

It isn’t just “experts at a different field” though. Right now, we are hearing more and more from people who think that vaccines are bad and contain lots of harmful chemicals. One scientist had enough and made an epic drunken rant:


No, this is not a partisan issue; there are plenty of liberal anti-vaccination types out there, and they are a disgrace.

March 16, 2014 Posted by | creationism, economy, evolution, ranting, religion, science, social/political, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

One question for creationists:

I can’t claim my question is original; it isn’t. I shamelessly stole it from Katha Pollitt (one of the The Nation columnists that I respect):

Do you really think that scientists from physical anthropology, anthropology, geology, biology, cosmology, astronomy and physics are engaged in some massive fraud to hide the truth? Or, do you really think that (just about) ALL of them are making some elementary mistake that YOU are catching? Really?

February 6, 2014 Posted by | creationism, evolution, science, social/political | Leave a comment

Different start and a couple of thoughts…Good Old Days and Bill Nye’s debate

Today, I woke up, checked some e-mail and yes, did some math. That might be a way to start my Tuesday/Thursday when I start to teach late: get up, start my duties and THEN break for a run/walk as I’ll take in a few moments.

It will be indoors, again:


Our neighborhood streets are solid compressed snow and ice.

What is going on: the jet stream is still either over us or below us and that arctic air mass is just parked over us.

What I am working on: it is somewhat technical. But imagine you want to find solve f(x) = 0 where the solution is impossible to solve “in closed form” (e. g. solve it like you did in algebra class). There are numerical techniques that you can use a computer for. If you’ve had calculus, you might recognize Newton’s method where if x_{n} is an approximation to the solution, x_{n+1} = x_n -\frac{f(x_n)}{f'(x_n)} where f'(x) is the derivative of f. Never mind that; the point is that one generates a series of approximations to the solution (provided certain conditions are met): x_1, x_2, x_3, .....x_n, x_{n+1}, .... which are hopefully getting closer to the desired solution. If you met the correct “starting requirements” and the solution exists, this sequence of numbers WILL get close to your desired solution.

One problem though: “how many times do you have to do this?” is an important question. One reason: the computer can’t store every number exactly; hence there is round off error, and that error grows with each calculation.
So, if it is the case where each approximation x_n has error inherently built in, it might be possible (if certain conditions are met) to take your series of approximations and manipulate them so that the larger “inherent errors” subtract off and one gets close to the solution in a fewer number of steps. One adds calculation early (adding round off error) to save many more calculations later (greatly reducing round off error).

One such process is called the Aitken Delta-squared process and that is what I was working on.

Two thoughts

Thought one: the Good Old Days:

A Facebook Friend (Rachel Portnoy Bradley) had this to say:

Okay, I’m just going to say this once more: No, I don’t miss the days when gas was 15 cents a gallon, and your curfew was “when the street lights came on,” and kids were more afraid of their parents than of the cops…..
Because back then, women, minorities, gays, and other marginalized people had even fewer rights than they have now. Crime is not really significantly worse now than it was then. It’s just than when a man beats his wife to a pulp, he can be convicted and jailed for it now, whereas back then, it was just seen as a domestic issue and no business of anyone else. People are still killing other people. People are still loving other people. People are still dying of curable diseases. People are still committing random acts of kindness.
And what a lot of conservatives don’t like to admit, but what the facts support, is that even the white, male, heterosexual population is better off when non-whites, females, gays, and any marginalized segments of society gain strength and power. Power is a renewable resource, increasing for the whole when it increases for a part; not a finite, limited supply.
In general, more of us are better off than we were 20, 40 years ago. I wouldn’t trade my penny candy memories for gas-guzzling over-poluting cars and institutionalized misogyny, not ever.

She is right, of course. I think that when we remember the past, we remember the good but not the bad. And change is NEVER all good; for example we live longer (most of us anyway) but that means there are more elderly who live long enough to lose their minds through dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

What was curious though was one of the replies she got (she is religious and has religious friends):

In matters of the flesh, it certainly does seem things are better than they were.

But in matters of the Spirit, we are not better off, we are worse off and it is deteriorating from there.

We are abandoning God. That is never a sign that things are “better”, no matter the outward appearance that they are.

That leads to the next point. There are those who use religion to better their own lives in the hear-and-now, but to all too many, there is an inherent virtue to accepting some woo-woo supernatural claim (THEIR claim, of course) and rejecting it is a type of evil.

I can’t have an intellectual discussion with someone who is that delusional.

Which leads me to discuss the Bill Nye “The Science Guy” (educator) versus Ken Ham (owner of the creation museum).

I might watch the debate later

There are two schools of thought:

1. Bill Nye didn’t understand that this was an exercise in politics: hence he lost by merely showing up.

2. Bill Nye won the day by presenting some science to people who don’t see a lot of it. Maybe, just maybe, he planted a seed of science that might later germinate in a young mind.

Ok, there is a third, less popular school of thought: show up and insult the creationist as a charlatan. Here, the scientist started off by making some blunt accusations against the creationist and then offered the creationist a chance to electrocute himself:

Prior to the debate, I was in camp 1, but after the debate (which I didn’t watch), I thought ….well…remembered as a kid I once believed that superstitious nonsense….maybe? Then again, I kind of “evolved” out of it by basically living among more educated people. I have deep respect for those who manage to find their way out while staying in the same environment.

Ok, time to get it….

February 6, 2014 Posted by | creationism, evolution, Illinois, mathematics, politics/social, religion, science, social/political | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No, I am not watching the Science Guy debate Ham

Seriously: why would I? If I got to ask Mr. Ham on question, it would be: “do you seriously believe that physical anthropology, geology, biology, astronomy and physics are involved in some major conspiracy to hide the truth?”

No, creationists deserve no more intellectual respect than any other woo-woo. This is the way you deal with them:

February 5, 2014 Posted by | creationism, evolution | Leave a comment

losers, transparency and silliness (photos, etc.)

This post will be a “stream of consciousness” post with no set theme; I am reviewing a LOT of job applications and need a release. :-)

Workout notes 6 mile run on the treadmill in 1:01:11; varied the incline (0 to 1 mostly, every 2 minutes) and speed; last 20 minutes I varied between 10:20 and 8:54 mpm every 2 minutes. Then I walked a slow 2 miles on the track; legs were tired so I quit.

Stamina is still low, but blood donation was last Friday.

My back is stiff from sitting too long; so I need to do some back stretches.

Our local university basketball team is playing the number 4 (or 5) team tonight; it might get ugly.

Though this team made the Sweet 16 back in 2006, success after that has been limited and attendance has fallen: (only regular season games at the larger off campus arena were counted):

2007-2008 — 10,114 (+3.1%)
2008-2009 — 10,019 (-0.9%)
2009-2010 — 9,338 (-6.8%)
2010-2011 — 8,450 (-9.5%)
2011-2012 — 7,860 (-7.0%)
2012-2013 — 7,411 (-5.7%)

The 7 games in Carver arena this year: paid attendance (NOT “through the turnstile attendance) averages 6205, but that includes only 2 conference games and includes “winter break” games. Three times, the paid attendance was less than 6000 fans and the largest crowd was the “double header” against Chicago State (6797; this included a women’s game). Also, the weather has been dreadful as of late.




Texas Football
The Longhorns hired Charlie Strong (from Louisville) to replace Mack Brown. Strong has had quite a bit of success with Louisville and is known as an “in your face” coach. I am excited. However his reception has been cool among some big donors and, well, there is this:


Yes, this shirt has been pulled. Personally, I HOPE this is someone saying “cool, things at UT have changed so much we can have a black coach” but…well…I don’t know. This is, at best, clumsy and at worst, racist. I don’t know the intent.

Losers It appears to me that the Republicans, at least the top ones, at their heart, have a contempt for those who haven’t been economically successful. In fact, some conservatives have said that the Republicans should just up and admit it:

In short, the GOP’s attempt to be the party of the common man has backfired. With good reason. Not only have the policies not worked, but the pandering ignores that the “Party of the Rich” label is an aspirational one. It’s a good brand. People like exclusivity earned in a meritocracy, and if the Republicans embrace self-made achievement through policies explicitly geared toward the rich, they’ll be far more appealing. When it comes to giving things away, the Republicans will never be able to match up with the Party across the aisle which is expert at wealth redistribution.

Importantly, there are votes to be won if the Republicans simply be themselves. Per Friedkin it’s apparent that voters sense fraud rather easily, plus it’s probably too easily forgotten that the late George McGovern was shocked during the 1972 presidential campaign when blue collar voters gave a big thumbs down to his proposals in favor of steep inheritance taxes. Republicans need to remember that the American culture is an achievement culture. Americans, as the McGovern story clarifies, at least think they’ll eventually grow rich. When Republicans try to act poor in their search for the vote of the regular guy, it’s arguable that they lose a lot of ‘regular guy’ votes. Whatever their station in life, Americans want to be rich. Because they do, Republicans should embrace their label as the party of the rich in order to attract the achievers, along with those who aspire to achievement.

Oh sure, people are likely to live and die within the economic class that they are born into, or possibly a lower one:

Even by measures of relative mobility, Middle America remains fluid. About 36 percent of Americans raised in the middle fifth move up as adults, while 23 percent stay on the same rung and 41 percent move down, according to Pew research. The “stickiness” appears at the top and bottom, as affluent families transmit their advantages and poor families stay trapped.

But that is *always* everyone else. :-)

“Internet Science”
These top two made me chuckle:



Now as far as this next one:


:-) Unfortunately, much of the woo-woo anti GMO stuff you see on the internet is of the above caliber. And unfortunately, my State Senator came out in favor of a stupid GMO labeling law:

In November, Washington became the latest state to reject a ballot proposal that would have required labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients.
At the same time, Maine and Connecticut have passed laws requiring labels on genetically engineered foods. However, their laws won’t go into effect until other states in the Northeast also adopt GMO labeling laws.
Against that backdrop, an Illinois lawmaker said he will pursue legislation this year requiring labels on foods with genetically modified ingredients.
“I’m dealing with this strictly as a consumer right-to-know bill,” said Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria. “I’m not saying yea or nay to the health risks. I’m saying consumers have a right to know and they can make up their own mind.”
Koehler’s Senate Bill 1666 would require that foods containing genetically modified ingredients (usually referred to as GMOs, for genetically modified organisms) carry a label that says as much. The specific ingredients don’t have to be identified, only that GMOs are present.

That is dumb; here is why: would he support a law that mandated labels that contained the phase of the moon at the time of harvest? Of course not: the reason is that this factor has no effect on the product. So, a “good” GMO law would be one that would require a label when there was a SCIENCE REASON for doing so; for example if a particular genetic modification changed how a food is digested by someone with a particular allergy or disorder (e. g. Celiac disease) then yes. Of course, I know of no such modification or even if it is possible.

Liberals drive me crazy sometimes; we can be every bit as stupid as Bible thumping Republicans.

Lululemon stock plunges
Lululemon has had a rough year. Perhaps it is the “transparent pants”:


(ok, NOT Lululemon but hey…)

Some want to claim this is the result of “fat shaming” (yeah right, people who do yoga in 100 dollar yoga pants so want to be associated with the obese)

But this is a far more likely reason.

Perhaps they were overvalued to begin with; they are boxed in the “yoga pants for the beautiful people” market, where they may well continue to thrive.

Back to the job application reading; at least, as mathematicians, we don’t have THIS to worry about. No one wants to sleep with us. :-(

But I did have a math article appear this month and….


:-) Hey, at my age, it is the older MILF and middle GILF crowd. Oh, all right, I got this from here and did a little modification. :-)

January 14, 2014 Posted by | basketball, big butts, college football, creationism, economy, football, nature, racism, science, spandex | , , , | 1 Comment

This week in pseudoscience



The caption said: everyone loves science until it debumks their BS.

And you have this as well:


January 8, 2014 Posted by | creationism, science | , | Leave a comment

What people believe about the Bible and Creationism

This isn’t surprising:

For thirty years, Gallup has been asking Americans their views about evolution and human beings, and the results have been remarkably consistent and stable.

Last year, Gallup once again reported that nearly half of the country believe the Biblical version of events: “Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.”

The Bible doesn’t actually say how long ago the account of creation in the book of Genesis was supposed to have taken place. But in 1650, Church of Ireland Archbishop James Ussher used the stories of the Old Testament to calculate that the world had been created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. His wasn’t the only calculus based on the Bible, but it became the most popular and is still influential with creationists today.

And according to Gallup, that calculation is still so popular, nearly half of America believes it describes the age of the earth.

But Josh Rosenau, with the National Center for Science Education, wrote this week that very different results emerge when slight changes are made to the questions that Gallup asks, and the actual number of “young-earth creationists” in the U.S. is probably much lower than Gallup claims.

Rosenau points out that the Gallup poll specifically asks about human origins, and does so in a religious context. But if Americans are asked if they believe whether plants and animals have evolved over millions of years (regardless of the reason why), a substantially higher number say yes — 60 percent did in a 2009 Pew poll, for example.

Removing religious context and human origins, people are much less likely to say that we’re living on a young earth. In another 2009 survey, only 18 percent agreed with the statement that “the earth is less than 10,000 years old,” for example.

But Rosenau thinks the number of truly committed young-earth creationists is even smaller than that.

Since the early 1980s, the National Science Board has asked Americans if they accept the idea that the continents have been moving for millions of years — and 80 percent agree. Ten percent say they don’t know, and only another ten percent firmly reject it.

What to make of this? Simple: most people simply don’t know what they are talking about, and it doesn’t matter to them. Only a very few have read the Bible (in any serious way; many of those who claim to have “read the Bible” mean that they’ve read a verse here or a snippet there). This is where this “the Bible is love” nonsense comes from.

Many have not thought enough about the conflicting claims to even realize that they are, in fact, conflicting claims. This is one reason that I actually get along better with some fundamentalists than I do with many who vote the way that I do.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | creationism, evolution, religion, social/political | Leave a comment


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