Tag: Science

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Snakes on a Plane – Academics vs the TSA, round n+1

 

The airport security line has ground to a standstill. Again. Some bozo packed a giant plastic penis in his carry-on, and of course the bozos working for the TSA couldn’t resist. From the depths of the man’s carry-on, one TSA worker unsheathes “this mouse penis by its base, like it was Excalibur.” Yep. A Gigantic. Plastic. Mouse. Penis. 3-D printed.

If it makes you feel any better, it’s for science. The biologist carrying it is on his way to a two-day conference, and so has no checked luggage. Other times, scientists carry on stuff that can’t go into the cargo hold even when they’re checking luggage. Permits issued to biologists to collect live specimens may stipulate the specimens must be hand-carried onto planes. Other live specimens simply don’t travel well in cargo holds. A duffel bag full of ants. Live frogs in Tupperware containers. Roaches. These things:

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Winning through Ricochet – and Knowing What You’ve Lost

 

Ah, collagen. The most abundant protein in animals. Great for cooking into rich sauces – and glue (hence the name). It gives structure to mammals’ extracellular space. Your skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, mucous membranes, cartilage, bones, and teeth all depend on collagen for strength. When our collagen lets us down, we can expect trouble.

Several diseases, from rheumatoid arthritis to scurvy, are connective-tissue diseases. Several attack our abundant collagen specifically. Sometimes, though, collagen weakens not because it’s under attack, but because it never formed right to begin with. Several genes have been identified as causing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), congenitally weakened cartilage, and several genes remain to be discovered. The worst types of EDS are super-weird, and super-scary. Your silly-putty skin could be so loose and stretchy that it’s obvious from birth you’d be a freak-show star, pulling your neck skin over your face for strangers’ amusement. Or maybe your joints dislocate so easily you’d join the circus as a contortionist, disarticulating yourself for cold, hard cash. Or maybe EDS causes your organs to explode, far less marketable but still super-scary. Many of us, if we’ve heard of EDS at all, have more reason to think “circus freak” than “subtle.”

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A Few Thoughts on Science

 

So the big march “in support of Science!” happened. I skipped it, since it was an obvious and transparent attempt to appropriate “science” for the political left. The whole self-regarding spectacle stank of red herring. The red herring being, of course, that conservatives are a bunch of snake-handling backwoodsmen who hate science. Or something. I have it on first-hand authority that there were many placards along the lines of “Evolution doesn’t care if you believe.” Very true. But it didn’t occur to the placard-carriers that if evolution doesn’t care, then carrying the placard is rather pointless. Unless you are a professional working biologist, loudly proclaiming your belief in evolution is useful for precisely one thing: social status positioning.

I am a big fan of basic science, including science that promises little in the way of practical returns. For example, on a strictly ROI basis, our considerable spending on research in cosmology and astrophysics has been a terrible investment. On this basis there is no way to justify something like the Hubble Space Telescope. Yes, it has increased our knowledge of the universe on the macro scale. But it is difficult to justify this cost as an investment – basically it’s consumption. The same is true of the manned space program. It cost a huge amount of money, and, despite all the promises of great new zero-g drugs and so forth, it has been basically a luxury bauble that we as a nation purchased to adorn ourselves, not an investment in an economic sense. (You could call it the Hubble Bauble.) In fact, the manned space program is much worse from an investment standpoint than the Hubble, because it hasn’t even gotten us very far in terms of basic science, let alone paid for itself economically.

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​City Journal associate editor Matthew Hennessey and contributing editor John Tierney discuss the politicization of science and how the Left’s dominance in universities and the scientific community actually threatens progress.

Read John Tierney’s article from the Autumn 2016 Issue of City Journal, The Real War on Science.

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Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for November 28, 2016 it’s the Trump Killed Fidel edition of the show! Trump stuns the world winning the big election and just like that Fidel exits stage left to his eternal reward. Coincidence? We think not. We discuss how finally Fidel’s place in history is well-urned. Yuk, yuk. Should the Cuban government have kept their glorious leader in corporum eternus in the manner of Castro’s inspiration and guide V.I. Lenin (who continues to greet tourists to this day in his subterranean mausoleum)? Might an embalmed Fidel have come in handy as the greeting face at the future Havana Disney World’s Yesterday Exhibit? We’ll discuss.

And, why do liberals continue to whine and moan in utter hysteria over Trump and what can we do to get them to keep it up forever? Todd tells the story of a colleague who forwards all manner of diatribe to him – including a hilarious piece by Milo Yiannopoulos entitled Here’s Why There Ought to Be a Cap on Women Studying Science and Maths, the humor of which appears to have eluded said colleague. We’ll talk about Milo’s argument and the perspective of Nobel Prize Winner Tim Hunt regarding which Mike giving his informed scientific opinion.

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The Science of the Gaps

 

book-sand-smallThe tension between religion and science, at a sociological level, does not exist. There are plenty of religious scientists and scientific believers, and they do not walk around all day clutching their foreheads trying to relieve the pressure of intense cognitive dissonance. On the contrary, the obvious point that there cannot be two contradictory truths denotes an agreeable and elegant unity between the two approaches, whether one views them as a tightly intersected Venn diagram or as non-overlapping magisteria that deal with separate but equally-valid truths.

All is not as peaceful as it first appears, however. With the decline of popular religious feeling and the ascendance of popular science, many religious people have come to view the claims of religion – and indeed, everything else – in a scientific light. It is not so much that there is science and there is religion and they are both avenues to the truth(s), but rather that science is all knowledge but religion can exist comfortably as its subset, as the rational belief in the irrational or whatever.

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The Night of Fire

 

Blaise Pascal, mathematician, scientist, inventor, and philosopher, a man who from the age of 16 had been making historic contributions to mathematics and the physical sciences, who, despite a sickly constitution and a capacity for intense abstraction nonetheless oversaw the material construction of his experiments and inventions with great zest, was barely past 30 when saw something unexpected one raw November night. He saw fire. The vision of it so branded him that he sewed the record he made of it, his Memorial, into his coat, carrying it with him the rest of his life:

Memorial, Pascal

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DNC panel actually doesn’t know whether men can have abortions?

 

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

The Atlantic and Refinery29 hosted a panel discussion entitled “Young Women Rising: America’s Next Top Voter?” during the Democratic National Convention, Tuesday evening. Following a 30-minute conversation on “intersectionality” and millennial feminism, a reporter asked the panel for its thoughts on reproductive rights and women’s health issues for men who ascribe to a female gender identity. Ayanna Pressley, a Boston city councilor at-large, said the issue of men who identify as women getting abortions is all about “elevated consciousness.”

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Science, Religion, or Art: There Can Only Be One (According to Some Movies)

 

galileoOkay, okay, I understand Drama is about Conflict. So when you make a scientist a hero in your film, you usually want to have someone oppose him (or her). And who could be better to have as an adversary of Truth than a power-hungry, know-nothing clergyman (and yes, it must be a man). In quite a number of films it seems like there is a choice between Science and Religion and there must be only one (a lot like Highlander, in that way).

In films about Galileo, like, well, 1975’s Galileo based on the play by Bertolt Brecht, the scientist is a good guy only concerned with discovering how the universe works. He really doesn’t care about religion or politics or his own personal gain; whereas the Roman Catholic Church hates science because they believe it will ultimately disprove God, the Bible, and the Creation Story. Not that the Pope, Bishops, and Priests care about the Truth of such things, but if the Church falls, they will lose their power and position — the only thing they do care about. Forget that the historical story is much more complex than that. Galileo’s main enemies were other scientists, and the church approved of much of what Galileo wrote before they condemned it. But don’t let the truth get in the way of a story about the truth.

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