Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Technology primarily benefits those who own it

June 29, 2015

jobs.5x650I can remember 50 and 60 years ago when people worried about what Americans would do with all the affluence and leisure time that would result from automation.   Today that seems like a cruel joke.

Technology primarily benefits those who own it.  Applied science primarily benefits those who fund it, or at least reflects what the funders are interested in.  There can be spillover effects that benefit everyone, but these don’t necessarily happen of their own accord.

I came across a good article on this topic in Technology Review.  The lesson I draw from it is (1) technology is not a substitute for social and economic reform and (2) there is a need for scientific and technological research outside the domains of for-profit corporations and the military.


Who Will Own the Robots? in Technology Review.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism}

The economic argument against the paranormal

June 16, 2015

Source: xkcd.

Anatomy of a tornado

June 6, 2015

Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow.

Whom do you believe about climate change?

June 3, 2015

global-warming-planetPaul Craig Roberts, who was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during the Reagan administration, has this to say about climate change.

Climate change is a controversy.  What appear to be independent scientists say that the climate is warming due to greenhouse gases produced by human activity. This warming, apparently measurable, has many impacts on sea levels, and on plant, animal, sea, and bird life, as well as food supply for a heavily populated earth.  [snip]

As far as I can tell the polluting corporations have sufficient think tanks and research institutes to neutralize the independent scientists.  If one is not a climate expert, which I am not, one doesn’t really know.  However, I have learned in my many years that an independent voice is far more reliable than a paid voice. 

Possibly climate change is occurring because of solar activity or because of activity inside the earth itself.  The attention should not be on the cause but on the fact.  First establish the fact, then look for the cause.

My view of this is that life depends on climate, and it doesn’t take a lot of change in one direction or the other to create problems for life.  This fact makes climate change an important issue, and corporations should stop paying people to lie about it.  [snip]

Climate change, if real, is clearly a much greater threat than Muslim terrorists or alleged Chinese and Russian hegemonic aspirations.  Therefore, Washington should spend some of the one trillion dollars Washington blows on the military/security complex on arriving at the best conclusion about climate change and its remedies, if any.

The United States is a strange country.  The population accepts the destruction of privacy and civil liberty out of fear of essentially non-existent terrorists created by propaganda, but ignores the threat of climate change presented by independent scientists, a threat amplified by the ongoing multi-year drought in California and the western US.

via Climate Change – The Unz Review.

Those who accept the reality of human-caused climate change are the U.S. Department of Defense, Pope Francis and Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, who has announced his country’s intention convert to solar energy for its needs by 2040-2050.


Pro-science religion and anti-science religion

May 27, 2015


What this chart indicates is that the big religious split in the United States is not between Protestants and Catholics, or among Christians, Jews and Muslims, but between pro-science religion and anti-science religion.

This chart is based on a 2007 survey by Pew Research.  It will be interesting to see if the 2014 survey is significantly different.


Evolution, Science and Religion by Josh Rosenau for the Science League of America.

Our new pro-science pontiff: Pope Francis on climate change, evolution and the Big Bang by Chris Mooney for the Washington Post.

Science and stamp collecting

May 12, 2015

science and stamp collectingSource: xkcd

A look at the galaxy next door

April 27, 2015

The Andromeda galaxy, aka M-31, is the one closest to our Milky Way galaxy.  It has 100 million stars.  The Hubble telescope gave a better image of that galaxy than every before.  Each little dot in the video is a star equivalent to our sun.


Strong opposition to Darwinism in Israel

March 30, 2015


The United States is exceptional among economically-advanced nations in the large percentage of the population who reject Darwin’s theory of evolution.

But the USA has a partner in this respect.  A large percentage of the population of Israel also reject evolution.


Religious fundamentalists—that is, those who believe that Scripture should be taken as literal fact as well as teaching a lesson—are strong in both countries, and are politically allied to right-wing nationalists.

Right-wing nationalism is not inherent in religious fundamentalism.  The Old Order Amish are fundamentalists.  But when fundamentalism and nationalism are allied, they make a powerful and dangerous force, because the nation and its military are treated as if they are sacred.

The Likud Party in Israel is close to the Republican Party in the United States, in spite of the fact that most Jewish citizens in the United States support the Democrats.

I believe that is because the Likud supporters and Republicans have an affinity in their leaders’ assertive nationalism and in their appeal to religious fundamentalist voters.   The majority of Jewish people in the United States, on the other hand, are liberal humanitarians who accept the conclusions of modern science.


In Israel, Will Creationists Reign? by Josh Rosenau for the Science League of America.

A Shande Vor De Goyim: Israelis Are as Creationist as U.S. Non-Jews by Josh Rosenau for the Science League of America.

Israeli politicians views on evolution: more waffling and denialism by Jerry Coyne.

Global warming skipped Washington this winter

March 23, 2015


The world is getting warmer, but not everywhere at the same time.  I hope our decision-makers in Washington, D.C., can accept the fact that the world as a whole is warming up even though it’s cold where they live.


This has been the warmest winter on record, except in the most politically important part of the world by Philip Bump for the Washington Post.   [Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz.]


There’s no proof human sex pheronomes exist

March 14, 2015

There’s no scientific evidence that human sex pheronomes exist.  Belief in human sex pheronomes derives from a an inconclusive paper at a scientific conference sponsored by a perfume company.

A fragrance company named Erox supplied two scientists with molecules called androstadiene and estratetraenol, which it identified as “putative human pheronomes”.   The scientists determined that these substances, when injected into the human nose, caused a response in the human nasal passages, and published a paper in 1991 saying they could indeed be pheronomes.

Erox was founded by David Berliner, a former professor at the University of Utah.   The university and Luis Monti-Bloch, one of the two psychiatrists who did the study, owned stock in Erox.   The scientific paper was published at a 1994 scientific conference on mammalian pheronomes sponsored by Erox.   Monti-Bloch later went to work for Erox, which patented androstadiene and estratetraenol and incorporated them into its new perfumes and advertising campaigns.

In 2000, a respected scientist named Martha McClintock did a study indicating that androstadiene improved the mood of women and that estratraenol improved the mood of men, but neither her study nor the earlier study made the claim that they were human sex pheronomes nor cited any evidence they produced human sexual arousal.

Human pheronomes might exist.  It’s possible.  But at the present time, the scientific evidence is lacking.


How one perfume company misled scientists into believing in human sex pheronomes by Joseph Stromberg for Vox.  My post is a summary of the facts in this article.  (Hat tip to naked capitalism)

Where are we in the universe?

February 15, 2015

As my friend Jack Belli once remarked, every new astronomical discovery and cosmological theory shows a universe that is bigger, stranger and more awesome than what had we had previously thought.

Source: This is the most detailed map yet of our place in the universe by Brad Plumer for Vox

Darwin’s theory and American exceptionalism

January 20, 2015

20150119_differnt_0Source: Calamities of Nature via Zero Hedge.

As this chart shows, we Americans are less likely to believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution than the people of any European nation.

Oddly, though, we are more likely to believe in social Darwinism (although we don’t call it that)—the idea the law of life is survival of the fittest, and society does not exist so that people can cooperate for mutually beneficial ends, but so that the population can be sorted into winners and losers.


Our place in a really big universe

December 24, 2014


The passing scene: Links & comments 10/6/14

October 6, 2014

Populist Former Senator Jim Webb Could Give Hillary Clinton Major Headaches in 2016 by Lynn Stuart Parramore for Alternet.

I’ve long admired Senator James Webb, the former Senator from Virginia.  A Vietnam veteran and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, he switched from the Republican to the Democratic party out of disgust for the Bush administration’s subservience to Wall Street.  He has criticized the Obama administration on the same grounds.

Webb is an opponent of reckless military intervention abroad, a critic of the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration and a friend of working people.

I admire Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for the way she stands up to Wall Street, but I agree with Webb on a broader range of issues than I do with her (for example, she goes along with the administration’s war policies).

Tech gives the rich new toys while perpetuating the criminalization of poverty by Nathaniel Mott for Pando Daily (via Naked Capitalism)

A new device allows subprime auto lenders to track the location of a debtor’s car and to disable the car if the debtor falls behind on payments.  The New York Times reported this has happened when the car is in motion.


David Graeber on funding scientific research

September 22, 2014

Common sense suggests that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone. Most will turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something.

But if you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they know in advance what they are going to discover.

via Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit – The Baffler.


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