Blogging and the AIDS debate

To learn more about blogging on science and tech, I frequently visit other science blogs to see how they do it. While visiting Aetiology, a site at ScienceBlogs hosted by Tara C. Smith, I got sucked into a debate regarding the connection between AIDS and HIV. My big mouth resulted in a somewhat heated exchange between me and Dr. Harvey Bialy. If you are at all curious to see what happens at an active blog, click on the debate link. Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa. In the post referenced here, she took on a point-by-point critique of a chapter on AIDS in Tom Bethell’s book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science. Bethell (and Dr. Bialy) both dissent from the widely accepted theory that HIV causes AIDS. Smith does an excellent job taking apart Bethell’s arguments, as she should, being an epidemiologist and all. She quoted an excerpt from Bethell’s book that I found particularly offensive. In tropical Africa, a deterioration of the physical infrastructure swiftly followed the end of colonial rule. Sewage and sanitation crumbled. The issue was too awkward to mention because it would strongly ...

Reality 1 – Stan Deyo 0 56

Stan Deyo is one of those self-promoting “psychics” who claims, in his case, to be able to predict earthquakes days in advance. Deyo says his system of monitoring global ocean temperatures permits him to forecast when and where earthquakes are likely to hit about 75% of the time. Me, I’m doubtful, since geologists are lucky if they get an inkling just hours in advance. Deyo made this prediction on his site last week: February 3, 2006 By Stan Deyo Home http://standeyo.com WARNING: USA San Francisco is the hot spot of today’s forecast. There is a STRONG signal between Mendocino and San Francisco along the San Andreas Fault. The signal shows the stress is from the Pioneer Fault Zone just below the Mendocino Fault Zone. People in the immediate area of this location should prepare to leave their homes should a major quake strike SF in the next 5 days…. possibly even tonight. Well, it’s been six days and, unless I’ve missed the news, the Bay Area seems OK. In fact, I wonder if anyone has independently verified his success rate. There are a lot of people who seem to think he’s the shiznit when it comes to earthquake forecasting. To ...

While the US dilly-dallies, others plan for oil-less future

Partnerships in two countries, Sweden and South Africa, have seen the writing on the wall and are making concrete steps toward life without oil. One hopes that the US can learn some things from their planning. In Sweden, a committee representing a cross-section of society, will offer to parliament plans to wean the nation of 9 million off oil within the next 15 years, without building any more nuclear power plants. The committee will focus on alternatives to heating oil and gasoline. Nuclear and hydroelectric plants already provide all the nation’s electricity. If successful, the plan would make Sweden largely free of dependence on oil. Meanwhile, SASOL, the South African petroleum giant, and the Central Energy Fund, are planning to build a major biodiesel plant, using soybeans as the source. Biodiesel supplements petroleum-based diesel fuel, simultaneously stretching diesel supplies and reducing tailpipe emissions. A feasibility study is expected by the end of the year. The Guardian also reported today that French automaker Renault plans to manufacture half its cars to run on a mixture of ethanol and gasoline by 2009. “French car groups have seized on the call by President Jacques Chirac to end the country’s “addiction to oil” with ...

Help from an unexpected corner

Climatologists say global warming is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Many governments around the world agree, but the Bush administration apparently does not. So, to prod the incumbent administration into action, a group of evangelical Christians — yes, you read that right — are petitioning the White House to do something about it. From the Guardian Unlimited: “Whether you believe the Earth began 4,000 years ago, or 4 billion years ago, you are still concerned with the consequences of global warming, especially for the poor,” said Leith Anderson, pastor of a “mega-church” in Minneapolis, and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Saying it is a matter of their responsibility as Christians, Anderson and 85 other influential Evangelicals endorsed a plan that calls on the current administration to impose mandatory limits on fossil fuel emissions. Pres. George W. Bush, a “Big Oil” man, has been reluctant to make the connection between fossil fuel emissions and global warming, despite evidence linking the two. The signatories include the leader of the Salvation Army, the president of Wheaton College (no connection, BTW), the editor of Christianity Today, and others. Absent from the list are conservative Pentecostals like James ...

Imagine art auction at my school

I teach at a private high school in Louisville, Kentucky. Ten years ago, we developed a terrific idea to raise money for the school’s scholarship fund (we help about 40% of our students annually, which is quite high for independent schools.) So, this post is a plug for the 10th reiteration of that idea. Press release begins ——————————————— Each year the Imagine art auction raises critical dollars to support student scholarships for young adults who would otherwise not be able to attend St. Francis High School. Imagine also provides the community with a wonderful opportunity to buy high quality artwork produced by some of the most talented artists in the region. Imagine 2006 marks the 10th anniversary of the event, and we have procured some exciting pieces from both returning artists such as RedXing Ye (叶红杏), Chuck Swanson, Rodney Hatfield (Art Snake), Stephen Powell, whose piece, “Startled Lemon Jealousy,” is pictured at right, and Dale Chihuly and some new resources, including an acrylic and oil by Dionisio Ceballos, an Ansel Adams photograph and several contemporary items representing a variety of mediums from a prominent Chicago gallery. A selection of the items being auctioned is featured in The Wyvern Gallery. If ...

Pat Robertson: irate eugenicist

Televangelist Pat Robertson has once again managed to insult another US ally. This latest remark is so weird that it’s stranger than science. Europe is committing racial suicide, he says, because Europeans aren’t having enough babies. And who is to blame for the low birth rate? Not Satan, but French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre! From the Feb. 6 edition of his news program, The 700 Club, Robertson said: Studies that I have read indicate that having babies is a sign of a faith in the future. You know, unless you believe in the future, you’re not going to take the trouble of raising a child, educating a child, doing something. If there is no future, why do it? Well, unless you believe in God, there’s really no future. And when you go back to the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, the whole idea of this desperate nightmare we are in — you know, that we are in this prison, and it has no hope, no exit. That kind of philosophy has permeated the intellectual thinking of Europe, and hopefully it doesn’t come here. But nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, Europe is right now in the midst of racial suicide because of the declining ...

NASA know-nothing resigns

The political hack who advised a NASA web developer that the Big Bang was just an opinion has resigned, The New York Times reports, following several days of furor over his remarks. George Deutsch’s “resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the [space] agency asserted,” the Times continues. It’s hard to say at this point which was Deutsch’s fatal error, lying about having a college degree or stomping on the toes of NASA scientists in the interests of his own apparent religio-political agenda. For Washington politicos, it was probably the former, but I’d like to believe the young Mr. Deutsch’s actions were such an embarrassment that the Bush administration had to ask him to leave. To recap recent events, Deutsch, 24, was a political appointee to the public relations office of NASA. On his résumé, he stated he had a journalism degree from TAMU, which somehow qualified him to run the NASA PR office, despite having no apparent scientific knowledge. Deutsch tried to limit media access to one of the agency’s experts on global warming, and told the expert hinself to ...

TIME: Teachers needed to inspire young scientists

This week’s TIME magazine’s cover story is about science, specifically whether the USA’s progress in science and technology is lagging behind other countries’ efforts. Of particular interest to me is the story about science teaching. The gist of the story is: elementary school kids in the US are doing as well as ever in science, but they are losing the race to their peers in other countries. As the article says, our kids lose their enthusiasm for science by the time they reach high school. In college, science has no appeal and students seek careers in other fields. Science teachers are a key factor in keeping up student interest, the article continues. The numbers are discouraging, however. The science role models most students know best are their teachers. But science teachers who are both passionate and prepared are scarce. U.S. high school students have just a 40% chance of studying chemistry with a teacher who majored in the subject, according to a 2005 report from the National Academy of Sciences. By contrast, they have a 70% likelihood of studying English with an English major. Often, educators at the elementary level never liked science in the first place. There are financial ...

Dark matter is warm and WIMPy

A team of British astronomers have managed to glean some secrets about the mysterious dark matter that inhabits the galaxies. Dark matter is warmer than expected and may in fact be composed of primordial particles called WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles). Using several large telescopes around the globe, including the Very Large Telescope in Chile, the team determined that the 12 dwarf galaxies they studied contain about 400 times more dark matter than regular matter. In addition, the team found that the dark matter was moving faster — in other words was hotter — than expected. The speed of the subatomic particles also sets parameters on the volume they can occupy. They need more room than predicted. “It looks like you cannot ever pack it smaller than about 300 parsecs – 1,000 light-years; this stuff will not let you. That tells you a speed actually – about 9km/s – at which the dark matter particles are moving because they are moving too fast to be compressed into a smaller scale,” Prof Gerry Gilmore of the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy told the BBC. In other words, if the dark matter particles act like an ideal gas, their average kinetic energy (temperature) ...

UCLA researchers obtain 3D images of ancient bacteria

Using a specialized form of microscopy, paleobiologists at UCLA have been able to create three-dimensional images of Precambrian-era bacteria trapped inside rocks, without damaging the rocks or the specimens, for the first time. The fossil cyanobacteria are contained in rocks from Kazakhstan and are estimated to be between 650 to 850 million years old. J. William Schopf and colleagues used techniques called confocal laser scanning microscopy and Raman spectroscopy to create the 3D images. The microscopic technique causes the fossils’ cell walls to fluoresce, making details more vivid. The spectropic technique allows the researchers to determine the chemical makeup of the fossils. Schopf said the same techniques could allow scientists to test rocks from Mars, for example, for signs of ancient organic life. Also known as blue-green algae, ancient cyanobacteria were photosynthetic and are believed to have radically changed ancient earth’s atmosphere by adding oxygen to it. Sometime during the Precambrian era, some cyanobacteria took up residence in other organisms in a symbiotic relationship. We call those organisms plants and their symbiotes, chloroplasts. Cradle of Life : The Discovery of Earth’s Earliest Fossils

Oops, they did it again …

Know-nothing functionaries in the Bush Administration have once again told the folks at NASA what is and is not “acceptable” science, proving again that the Bushites want to co-opt all arms of government to march to the tune of their master. It seems a young pencil pusher, George Deutsch, directed a NASA scientist to always use the word “theory” when mentioning the Big Bang in a middle school presentation. That in itself is not bad, but according to yesterday’s The New York Times, Deutsch went on to demonstrate he doesn’t know science from a stale bagel. The Big Bang is “not proven fact; it is opinion,” Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, “It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.” It continued: “This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.” Now, it takes either a lot of ...

Not science or tech, but strangely compelling

I came across a site today, BetOnIraq.com, which at face value, is very intriguing. The site offers to exchange dollars for Iraqi dinar, ostensibly to bolster the fledgling democracy of Iraq. There is the possibility that dinar will actually be worth something someday, so picking up 100,000 dinar for just $155 could be a lucrative investment (well, more like a wager). Or the 100,000 dinar could end up being just worthless pieces of pretty paper. A closer look set off some caveat emptor warnings in my brain. Before you rush to buy a fat wad of dinar online, you need to be aware of some red flags on this site, and on similar sites listed below. The order page is not secured or encrypted. While the site does not accept credit cards, the order page does ask for your name, address, e-mail and phone. Without encryption, that information could be intercepted by a third party, or the site’s database could be hacked. Also, the site offers no advice about the privacy of your contact information, although the operators do say By making a purchase you acknowledge that you are not on a watch list, a terrorist, associated with a terrorist ...
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