Planetologist's Blog – March 2009 Archive (13)

Dyson's fear

I hate when non-clerics apply the word "heretic" to a scientist. Clerics at least have an excuse, albeit a catastrophically wrong and childish excuse, but when journalists, say, call scientific dissent heresy it makes me cringe. Too many people already think of science as some kind of secretive, dogmatic society, and combating that incorrect view is already hard enough. Last Sunday's cover article of the New York… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 31, 2009 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Obama on reason

What would it be like to have a US President who valued reason, objective reality and evidence as the bases of public policy, instead of superstitions, ignorance and magic? Well, it would be - it is - something like this:

Oh… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 21, 2009 at 10:13am — 1 Comment

Mutate or die

When life began on Earth it didn't resemble modern cells, with their modern fancy DNA and cell nuclei and ribosomes. The fundamental property shared by all living systems is replication with heredity, and the first things that naturally arose on Earth capable of doing that weren't complex modern microbes... most likely they were tiny constellations of tangled nucleic acids. Our biosphere seems to have begun as an "RNA World", where nucleic acids bubbled and stewed inside the plumbing of… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 17, 2009 at 11:41am — 2 Comments

Molecular self-assembly caught on film

Even those who are largely comfortable with the natural evolution of life can sometimes have issues with abiogenesis - the natural origins of life itself. There's apparently a massive psychological hurdle that needs to be overcome, when faced with the prospect that not only did life evolve itself through the last four billion years, but that it bootstrapped itself up from dead minerals. Much of that difficulty probably arises from the starkly different ways that living and non-living systems… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 17, 2009 at 10:29am — 1 Comment

Mirror, rorrim

A particularly interesting problem in origins-of-life research has been confirming an explanation for why life on Earth is handed. Life on Earth uses mostly left-handed amino acids, and it's not entirely clear why. Amino acids link together to form proteins, which are the functional machinery in your cells. Aminos also link up with phosphate and a sugar to make RNA and DNA, the machine codes of life. For precision functionality within the clockwork guts of a cell, it's important to… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 16, 2009 at 8:52pm — No Comments

Deconstructing Conyers' ignorance about science

In a previous post I attacked US Representative John Conyers' bill HR 801, The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, which would forbid the government from requiring federal science grant awardees to publish their work where it can be accessed freely by the public. Existing policy for federal grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example,… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 15, 2009 at 10:43am — 2 Comments

Publish and perish

Phil Plait recently posted on his Bad Astronomy blog about the latest Congressional creep to try and slam their boot heel in the face of science. This time it's Representative John Conyers (D-MI), with whom I am disgusted to share a state. Conyers is sponsoring a bill that would effectively muzzle open access and free exchange of publicly-funded scientific research in the US. Yes,… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 12, 2009 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Stem cells are back on the menu

And golly, they're tasty.

Today Obama helped greatly to put science back on track in the US, by throwing into the ash heap of history Bush's moronic and despicable ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. That particular Bush-era stupidity was not just a sop to halfwit zealots, it was a crippling roadblock to a promising and highly competitive arena of basic medical research. Because Bush and his ilk believe… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 9, 2009 at 2:29pm — 1 Comment

If a creationist asks you to debate...

...You would have a difficult challenge in responding to such deranged, deceitful garbage with greater precision than did Nicholas Gotelli, a professor at the University of Vermont.

Dr. Gotelli was invited by some goon at the Discovery Institute to organize a debate between a DI mouthpiece and himself. That's how the DI works; instead of quietly going about their stated goal of researching and publishing in peer-reviewed… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 9, 2009 at 12:21pm — 1 Comment

Science is cool

I have discovered what I believe is the coolest sentence ever written in a scientific abstract preceding a peer-reviewed research journal article.
"We then examine the consequences of Earth being thrown into deep space."

Added by Planetologist on March 5, 2009 at 1:40pm — No Comments

When will Neptune get oceans?

Yes, and a strange question that is. But actually not an unrealistic question. Neptune, now the farthest true planet from the Sun (after Pluto's demotion), is namesake to the ancient god of the oceans. Neptune is shrouded in layers of icy, dense air laced with enough methane to color the world azure blue... hence the world's maritime label. But despite its pelagic associations, Neptune has no oceans... though it might have had, with a slightly different composition. And it's very possible that… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 3, 2009 at 7:00pm — 5 Comments

Best theist smackdown ever

I'm a big fan of the Atheist Experience, hosted by the Atheist Community of Austin. Regular host Matt Dillahunty is a fundamentalism survivor who does an impressive and phenomenally eloquent job of advocating the rejection of irrational beliefs, including but not limited to theism. The Atheist Experience is a call-in show, based in Texas, which as you might imagine precipitates calls from all manner of unsavory types. Despite the crazies, the… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 2, 2009 at 2:14pm — 1 Comment

Dawkins flicks Comfort aside, effortlessly

I've long been a fan of Richard Dawkins, mostly from his books, but more recently from his willingness to stand up unapologetically for science and reason and say, effectively, "yes, evolution does make religion redundant." This is not a view shared - or perhaps willingly articulated - by most scientists. Most of us have been too successfully indoctrinated by the hissing, spitting masses. We've been told it's not polite to point out mental defectiveness in others. Most scientists today… Continue

Added by Planetologist on March 2, 2009 at 10:28am — 2 Comments

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