13 October 2010 pm posts

Running: does long distance running hurt your knees? Studies are, surprise, inconclusive.

Humor: this guy lowers the bar for all of us.

Republicans: they seem to be in love with stupidity. Here is their high profile Senate candidate:

Barack Obama: this New York Times Magazine article is 8 paged long, but is worth reading. It is even handed; it isn’t written for supporters or detractors.

A friend linked to this Huffington Post “Open Letter to the President” who says that one of the President’s biggest mistakes is thinking that the Republicans might bargain honestly with him.

An attack on a Republican that I don’t approve of:

A five-year-old rape case that was never prosecuted is suddenly causing major ripples in the Colorado Senate race and headaches for Republican candidate Ken Buck.

Three weeks from Election Day, stories have suddenly emerged about Buck’s refusal to follow up on rape allegations involving a University of North Colorado student during his stint as Weld County District Attorney. He declined to file criminal charges against the alleged victim’s attacker on the belief that not enough evidence existed to win the case, a conclusion that is not entirely rare with such delicate cases.

Renewed criticism, however, has erupted over Buck’s handling of the case in light of some of his newly-resurfaced remarks, including a conversation he had with the victim and his suggestion that a jury would view the rape charges as merely her “buyer’s remorse.” […]

Again, a district attorney has to make decisions on which cases are winnable and that is what appeared to happen in this case. A defense attorney made this comment that I agree with:

No applause here on either side. As a defense attorney I can understand why the prosecution would not go forward. Even if the prosecuting authority believes a rape occurred, beyond a reasonable doubt is another question. That said, the case seems to have been handled cavalierly and perhaps insensitively. It’s easy to see how this victim would have come out of this feeling like she had been told “You were asking for it.”

On the other side, it seems like this poor woman is being abused again, albeit this time with her consent, by people trying to score political points with her pain. Win at all costs, no matter who gets hurt. Is it any wonder that so many people come to distrust ALL politicians. Meanwhile, someone somewhere is being taken out for cocktails to celebrate their accomplishment in digging up this old issue and exploiting this young lady to gain a couple of points in a poll and throw the opponent off message.

Side note: one of my less than rational facebook friends appeared to take offense to my posting this; she appeared to “know” how the DA was supposed to do his job (e. g., which cases to bring forward) but had zero experience and provided zero data/examples. Yep, there are emotional idiots on the left as well….

The mine rescue in Chile was an impressive feat of human endurance and engineering. But you knew that this was coming:

The rescue of the trapped miners in Chile is a truly wonderful story. The careful plan put together by international teams seems to be working smoothly in bringing the stoic miners back to the surface and 21 of the 33 have been rescued so far, after spending over two months trapped half-a-mile below the surface. See here for how the rescue was carried out. It is a triumph of perseverance, endurance, cooperation, patience, technology, and science.

But apparently three different Christian denominations are claiming it was their prayers that resulted in god intervening that resulted in the successful rescue and are vying to claim credit for the successful rescue. They did not explain why if god wanted the miners rescued he didn’t simply lift them out of the mine himself or why their gods were silent when the 29 miners died in the West Virginia in April. It is pathetic to see people so desperate for a sign from god that they clutch at these straws.

Now had this deity teleported the miners to safety, I might “believe”. 🙂

Creationism: another example of those who oppose evolution really don’t understand it:

Casey Luskin is at it again. The Intelligent Design Creationists are trying to argue their way out of the obvious implications of the path taken by the recurrent laryngeal nerve, especially in giraffes.

Now they’re saying that, far from being an example of sloppy design, the path of the nerve has to have some selective advantage according to science. Thing is, you need to have a proper understanding of evolution in order to discuss this intelligently.

Surf to the link to get a link to the lunacy.

(ps: I recommend Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin for an easy to understand explanation of how this nerve got to be the way that it is in humans).

Woo: homeopathic deodorant!

Cosmic Log has an interesting series on the electric car (they took a trip and took notes). Scroll down.

Wind Energy: is moving offshore in the US; we lead the world in “land based” wind energy.

Genetically based medicine: is moving closer to reality:

In an approach that many doctors and scientists hope will form the medical care of the future, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has for the past year and a half been offering people with cancer a novel diagnostic test. Instead of assessing tumours for a single mutation that will indicate whether a drug is likely to work or not, the hospital tests patients for some 150 mutations in more than a dozen cancer-causing genes, with the results being used to guide novel treatments, clinical trials and basic research. This form of personalized medicine tailors treatments on the basis of the molecular and genetic characteristics of a patient’s cancer cells, potentially improving the treatment’s outcome.

Now Britain is set to test whether an entire health-care system is ready for the approach. Plans were unveiled this week to deploy broad genetic testing for selected cancer patients in Britain’s government-run health-care provider, the National Health Service (NHS). This form of ‘stratified medicine’ uses genetic information to group patients according to their likely response to a particular treatment.

“The United Kingdom is really the ideal place to do this,” says James Peach, who heads the programme for Cancer Research UK, the charity that is leading the effort. As the NHS treats millions of people each year, unprecedented numbers of suitable patients could be enrolled in the genetic-profiling programme. “The idea is to scale this up to every patient in the NHS,” says Peach. In its first phase, the programme will be rolled out to as many as 12,000 NHS cancer patients over two years, beginning in early 2011. By contrast, Massachusetts General has tested about 1,600 patients, and other hospitals’ efforts each number in the hundreds.

The tests, which will look for several dozen mutations in about a dozen genes linked to cancer, will be carried out on people with lung, breast, colorectal, prostate or ovarian cancers, or metastatic melanoma, who are being treated at six NHS hospitals. Therapies that target specific tumour-causing mutations have already been approved, or are on the verge of approval, for most of these conditions, says Peach.

Surf to read more; Massachusetts General is doing something like this.

October 14, 2010 Posted by | 2010 election, atheism, Barack Obama, biology, creationism, disease, energy, environment, evolution, green news, human sexuality, humor, nature, political/social, politics, politics/social, relationships, religion, Republican, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, running, science, technology | Leave a comment

2 July 2010 (pm)

Workout notes My 8 plus mile course (8.4 miles) in 2:04; I did this last week in just under 2 hours. But this time I kept my arms down; that slows me down by about 90 seconds per mile. My shoulder ached some last night when I rolled on it and stayed there. Still it is improving as I have less pain “day to day” and I am off of the NSAIDS.


Yes, private sector jobs are up though overall jobs are down (due to census jobs ending). The unpleasant truth is here:

And yes, the administration is publishing a “smoothed” graph by putting together the time periods:

But there is not getting around it; the last two job reports have been disappointing.

Paul Krugman thinks that we are being held back by an invisible hand, so to speak:

Which brings me to the subject of today’s column. For the last few months, I and others have watched, with amazement and horror, the emergence of a consensus in policy circles in favor of immediate fiscal austerity. That is, somehow it has become conventional wisdom that now is the time to slash spending, despite the fact that the world’s major economies remain deeply depressed.

This conventional wisdom isn’t based on either evidence or careful analysis. Instead, it rests on what we might charitably call sheer speculation, and less charitably call figments of the policy elite’s imagination — specifically, on belief in what I’ve come to think of as the invisible bond vigilante and the confidence fairy.

Bond vigilantes are investors who pull the plug on governments they perceive as unable or unwilling to pay their debts. Now there’s no question that countries can suffer crises of confidence (see Greece, debt of). But what the advocates of austerity claim is that (a) the bond vigilantes are about to attack America, and (b) spending anything more on stimulus will set them off.

What reason do we have to believe that any of this is true? Yes, America has long-run budget problems, but what we do on stimulus over the next couple of years has almost no bearing on our ability to deal with these long-run problems. As Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently put it, “There is no intrinsic contradiction between providing additional fiscal stimulus today, while the unemployment rate is high and many factories and offices are underused, and imposing fiscal restraint several years from now, when output and employment will probably be close to their potential.”

But hey, that is what a conservative is, isn’t it: it is someone who adheres to a philosophy without any basis in reality for doing so.

Robert Reich points out:

The economy is still in the gravitational pull of the Great Recession and all the booster rockets for getting us beyond it are failing. The odds of a double dip are increasing.

In June the nation added fewer jobs than necessary merely to keep up with population growth (private hiring rose by 83,000 after adding only 33,000 jobs in May). The typical workweek declined. Average earnings dropped. Home sales are down. Retail sales are down. Factory orders in May suffered their biggest tumble since March of last year.

So what are we doing about it? Less than nothing. The states are running an anti-stimulus program (raising taxes, cutting services, laying off teachers, firefighters, police and other employees) that’s now bigger than the federal stimulus program. That federal stimulus is 75 percent gone anyway. And the House and Senate refuse to pass another one. (The Senate left Washington for the July 4th weekend without even extending unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans now running out.)

The second booster rocket – the Fed’s rock-bottom short-term interest rates – are having almost no effect. That’s because jobs and wages are so lousy that consumers don’t have enough money to buy much of anything, making small businesses bad credit risks and causing big ones to sit on the huge pile of cash they’ve accumulated. […]

The people who are suffering the most from the failure of public officials and the greed of large bankers are the least able to endure it. Unemployment among people with four-year college degrees is barely over 5 percent; among high-school dropouts it’s over 25 percent. Those who have been jobless the longest or who have left the labor force altogether are men over fifty who are least likely to get back in. Families most in need are losing the services – state-supported Medicaid, child dental care, after-school programs for the kids, public transit – they most depend on.

The irony is that had there been no bank bailout in 2008 and 2009, no large stimulus, and no extraordinary efforts by the Fed to pump trillions of dollars into the economy, we’d have had another Great Depression. And because it would have sucked almost everyone down with it, the nation would have demanded from politicians larger and more fundamental reforms that might well have lifted everyone, and set America and the world on a more sustainable path toward growth and shared prosperity: A stimulus that financed the rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure and alternative energies, single-payer health care, a cap on the size of big banks and resurrection of Glass-Steagall, earnings insurance, an Earned Income Tax Credit that extended into the middle class, and a truly progressive tax coupled with a price on carbon to pay for all of this over the long term.

In short, the patient is no longer in critical condition, but really isn’t doing the “physical therapy” that is needed to fully recover, so to speak.

This article (sent to me by a friend) is sure to generate some controversy:

Tibetans live at altitudes of 13,000 feet, breathing air that has 40 percent less oxygen than is available at sea level, yet suffer very little mountain sickness. The reason, according to a team of biologists in China, is human evolution, in what may be the most recent and fastest instance detected so far.

Comparing the genomes of Tibetans and Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in China, the biologists found that at least 30 genes had undergone evolutionary change in the Tibetans as they adapted to life on the high plateau.

Tibetans and Han Chinese split apart as recently as 3,000 years ago, say the biologists, a group at the Beijing Genomics Institute led by Xin Yi and Jian Wang. The report appears in Friday’s issue of Science.

If confirmed, this would be the most recent known example of human evolutionary change. Until now, the most recent such change was the spread of lactose tolerance — the ability to digest milk in adulthood — among northern Europeans about 7,500 years ago. But archaeologists say that the Tibetan plateau was inhabited much earlier than 3,000 years ago and that the geneticists’ date is incorrect. […]

Two other studies of Tibetans’ adaptation to high altitude have also identified this gene as a target of selection. A team led by Tatum S. Simonson of the University of Utah and RiLi Ge of Qinghai University in China scanned the genomes of 31 Tibetans and reported in Science in May that HIF2a and other genes involved in red blood cell production bore the stamp of natural selection.

Independently, a group led by Cynthia M. Beall, an anthropologist at Case Western Reserve University, and Yong-Tang Zheng of the Kunming Institute of Zoology in China has detected a genetic change in the same gene in Tibetans and found that it correlated with having less hemoglobin in the blood. Their report was published in the June 22 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Human adaptation to high altitude is a field of obvious interest, but another reason for the appearance of three studies on the same subject in matter of a few weeks may be that the technology to assess which parts of the genome are under selection has only recently become available.

Timeframe disputed
The three new reports agree in finding the Tibetans’ version of the gene has been favored by natural selection. But the Beijing Genome Institute’s calculation that the Tibetan and Han populations split apart only 3,000 years ago is less likely to be accepted. Archaeologists say they believe that the Tibetan plateau has been inhabited for at least 7,000 years and maybe for as long as 21,000 years.

“The separation of Tibetans and Hans at 3,000 years ago is simply not tenable by anything we know from the historical, archaeological or linguistic record,” said Mark Aldenderfer, a Tibetan expert at the University of California, Merced.

Science and philosophical considerations
Cosmic variance has an interesting article about the balance between dark matter and dark energy: are we currently living in an exceptional period? It depends on whether you measure time by red shifts or by “the clock”.

Science education:
Creationists speak about the vandalizing of atheist billboards: they decry it, but somehow imply that atheists brought this on themselves. Really. Why does a church have more right to advertise than an atheist group?

On a related note: view some creationism in the classroom as well as some incompetent science teaching:

Fun Interesting photo spread here, of a rounded woman in a very tiny swimsuit.

Yes, you can see some “rear shots” here. 🙂

July 3, 2010 Posted by | astronomy, Barack Obama, big butts, bikinis, cosmology, creationism, dark energy, Democrats, economy, evolution, green news, nature, physics, politics, politics/social, quackery, religion, science, social/political, space, Spineless Democrats, statistics, superstition, training, walking | Leave a comment

3 June 2010 (am)

Workout notes Yoga, rotator cuff exercises, then 5 miles of walking: 1 on the treadmill, 1 on the track (1 lap on, 1 off; 8 laps to the mile), then 3 outside. My shins are bothering me a bit; my guess is that my legs are becoming straighter.

So, I had better continue with the toe raises and shin flex exercises.
Here is a study of the numbers of people with degrees per square mile. I find Rob Pitingolo’s analysis to be interesting:

It’s becoming increasingly accepted that there is real economic value to bringing a lot of smart and entrepreneurial people together in the same place. This can be tough to measure, unfortunately. Perhaps best proxy we have available is educational attainment – usually measured as the number of people in a particular place with bachelor’s degrees or higher, as reported by the Census Bureau.

I have seen this done in two ways. The first approach reports the proportion of college degree holders in a particular city. Usually, college towns like Austin, Texas and other stereotypically “brainy cities” like San Francisco and Seattle do well. The second approach looks at the raw number of people with bachelor’s degrees in a particular city. Using this approach, big cities usually do the best, as they should. New York City has a huge population, of course many of its residents will have college degrees.

Both of these approaches have flaws. The theory that there is economic value to having smart people together rests on the assumption that smart people collaborate with each other. You could have a whole bunch of smart people in one place, but if they don’t interact with each other, what’s the value?

That’s why I propose we start using educational attainment density, measured as college degree holders per square mile.

Note: this is not the same as “number of degrees in a city” nor “proportion of those with degrees in a given population”; the idea is to see how many people with degrees are packed together in a given area with the (hope?) that those who live nearby might interact more.

Even more interesting: check out the discussion here. The Republicans are crying “foul” over the fact….yes, the “bluer” regions are deemed to be smarter by such an analysis.

I think that they protest too much. If I wanted to try to make the case that Republicans are mostly idiots I’d cite this:

PRINCETON, NJ — There is a significant political divide in beliefs about the origin of human beings, with 60% of Republicans saying humans were created in their present form by God 10,000 years ago, a belief shared by only 40% of independents and 38% of Democrats.

Or I might cites these videos from various Republican primaries:

But…that would be misleading. Example: walk into any UU church; it is likely to have mostly liberal congregants. And yes, you’ll find a high rate of belief in new-age woo things (e. g. homeopathy, magnet therapy, etc.)

Paul Krugman hammers the “common knowledge” that the Republicans continue to spout off: yes, it is mostly nonsense (e. g., Freddie and Fannie caused the housing bubble, etc.)

Whose Fault Is It? When things go wrong:

blame the liberals for the BP disaster as Sarah Palin did:

This is a message to extreme “environmentalists” who hypocritically protest domestic energy production offshore and onshore. There is nothing “clean and green” about your efforts. Look, here’s the deal: when you lock up our land, you outsource jobs and opportunity away from America and into foreign countries that are making us beholden to them. Some of these countries don’t like America. Some of these countries don’t care for planet earth like we do – as evidenced by our stricter environmental standards.

With your nonsensical efforts to lock up safer drilling areas, all you’re doing is outsourcing energy development, which makes us more controlled by foreign countries, less safe, and less prosperous on a dirtier planet. Your hypocrisy is showing. You’re not preventing environmental hazards; you’re outsourcing them and making drilling more dangerous.

Extreme deep water drilling is not the preferred choice to meet our country’s energy needs, but your protests and lawsuits and lies about onshore and shallow water drilling have locked up safer areas. It’s catching up with you. The tragic, unprecedented deep water Gulf oil spill proves it.

We need permission to drill in safer areas, including the uninhabited arctic land of ANWR. It takes just a tiny footprint – equivalent to the size of LA’s airport – to tap America’s rich and plentiful oil and gas up north. ANWR’s drilling footprint is like a postage stamp on a football field.

Oh…so the environmentalists had SUCH an impact during the Bush administration (how many votes did we have?) and, by the way, you (and your allies) continued to push for OFF SHORE drilling.

But wait…it was an Act of God:

(does this confirm the suspicion that the Republicans worship the oil industry? 🙂 )

And about that Israeli attack on the Gaza relief flotilla: it was OBAMA’S FAULT. Really. 🙂

June 3, 2010 Posted by | alternative energy, Barack Obama, creationism, Democrats, economy, environment, evolution, green news, mccain, Middle East, Political Ad, politics, politics/social, quackery, religion, Republican, republicans, republicans politics, science, social/political, training, walking | 2 Comments

Scifri Videos: Rumble In The Jungle

Science, technology, environment and health news and discussion from the makers of the NPR public radio program Science Friday with host Ira Flatow.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Scifri Videos: Rumble In The Jungle", posted with vodpod

Jerry Coyne has more here: he thinks that this will be some sort of mating call (a ‘froggy flirt”) and goes on to talk about scientific papers and how to “sell” your work to the journal.

May 30, 2010 Posted by | alternative energy, biology, blogs, brain, cosmology, dark energy, disease, environment, evolution, frogs, green news, health, matter, nanotechnology, nature, neuroscience, physics, public policy and discussion from NPR public radio program Science Friday with host Ira Flatow. Science Videos, science, Science Friday teachers, Science Friday teens., technology | Leave a comment