A couple of reasons why the USA is losing its leadership role in science and technology


Poll finds more Americans believe in devil than Darwin Reuters (emphasis mine)

It is the latest survey to highlight America’s deep level of religiosity, a cultural trait that sets it apart from much of the developed world.

It also helps explain many of its political battles which Europeans find bewildering, such as efforts to have “Intelligent Design” theory — which holds life is too complex to have evolved by chance — taught in schools alongside evolution.

It sadly also points out the way journalists don’t get science, see the bolded text, this reporter doesn’t understand ID and evolution. ID is non-science that says God did it, and both ID and evolutionary science say that life is too complex to have evolved by chance alone. Repeat after me, natural selection is NOT a random process. A big difference is that evolutionary science says we don’t know all the details of how life evolved but we’ll keep working on the missing bits, ID says if it is difficult to figure out right now, just say the designer did it. Science makes useful predictions about the natural world, ID wants people to stop trying to understand the hard parts of the natural world and just say God did it.

NeuroLogica Blog » Intelligent Design Fight Brewing in Texas

DonorsChoose.org update

I had an update e-mail from DonorsChoose.org a couple weeks ago that announced:

Seven years ago, it started with one teacher, in one school.

Today, we’re proud to announce that DonorsChoose.org is open to every public school in America – serving close to 100,000 schools in 50 states.

From Walla Walla, Washington to Chattanooga, Tennessee. From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. You choose: any school, any state, anywhere.

Now you have more reasons to donate, you can choose from everywhere in the US.

Octobers ScienceBlogs challenge was a big success, check out the Leaderboard to see how it ended. I got another e-mail last week from DonorsChoose.org to let me know that the project I donated to has been fully funded now.

RIP Lizzy 1991-2007

Lizzy 2/2000

On Wednesday 11/21/2007 my cat Lizzy passed away, she was 16 1/2 years old. 😦

Lizzy a.k.a., Lizzie, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Lizzie Borden, Lizzie the Pooh, Liz, Psycho Kitty, etc., a black, gray and tan domestic short hair tiger was born mid-April 1991 somewhere in eastern Massachusetts. I first got to know Liz in 1993 when her owner shared a large apartment with me in Upton. When Liz’s owner was moving out in 94 we decided that Lizzy would stay in the big place that she had grown to love.

She was the nastiest cat I’ve ever cared for but, like all cats, she had her good moments too. It was never safe to let children near Liz and adults needed to use caution when approaching her lest she get her claws into them. One of her specialties was ambushing unsuspecting humans from on top of a tall hutch in the dining area. She could hide herself completely and quickly take a swipe at your head when you passed underneath. I don’t recall her ever actually hurting anyone from up there but it certainly made you jump. As Liz aged she couldn’t get up high anymore so she would hide under tables for her ambushes. One of her favorite schemes was to hide behind a coat hanging from a chair at the dining table and grab my leg when I got close enough.

Her teeth and claws where put to good use in the late 90’s when mice invaded our apartment. Unfortunately Liz all too quickly learned how to make sure her new toys didn’t die so, I had to use mouse traps to end the invasion. Over the years I got better at judging when to leave her alone which greatly reduced my hydrogen peroxide consumption used for cleaning bites and scratches. Like most of her kind she made an art of napping and she could be very affectionate. On the occasions when I was away for a week or more she would literally cling to me for hours when I returned. Lizzie’s daily moments of affection for me and her weight gain with age earned her the “chubby little cubby” nickname of, Lizzie the Pooh.

In December 2005 Liz and I moved from Upton to a new place in Douglas. The old place was right on a highway so she had never been able to go outside. The new place is on a back road making it safe to go exploring outdoors during daylight hours when the fishers and coyotes aren’t around. She really enjoyed her new freedom spending time outdoors these last months of her life.


More pictures of Lizzy are in the photo pages of my website. Liz was buried on Thanksgiving afternoon in the back yard where she liked to explore.

Searching around the net I found a good short piece by Andrei Codrescu about the death of a 19 year old cat, Requiem for a Cat. Of course, the geek in me has to post the Ode to Spot composed by Data:

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature;
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued by your sub-vocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.

A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents,
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.

Oh Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array;
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

Farewell Liz, Rest In Peace.

The Pentagon wants a refund from soldiers

I guess the Pentagon truly hates its employees and does not want to support the troops. They have started asking for some enlistment bonus money back from soldiers who get injured and aren’t capable of finishing their enlistment. I suppose next they’ll be asking the families of dead soldiers for a refund as well, the US military leadership disgusts me. Read the whole story at KDKA, hat tip to Ed at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Ed points out an independent organization you can use to actually support soldiers at AnySoldier.com.

I'm back and a good read about homeopathy

I’ve been away this week visiting my brother in sunny Florida, a nice break from the freezing temperatures of New England this time of year. I didn’t read blogs or e-mail much and I didn’t post anything here but I have a number of posts in my drafts folder so, there should be a bunch of new posts over the next few days.

Catching up on my regular blog reading today, the JREF pointed me to a post by Ben Goldacre. He has written a very good article, The end of homeopathy? I Highly recommend this article to everyone.

Judgment Day

Just in case you haven’t heard about it yet, this coming Tuesday, 11/13 many PBS stations will be airing a new episode of NOVA, Judgment Day Intelligent Design on Trial. I would normally have said most stations rather than many stations but sadly I’ve encountered evidence that leads me to believe that some stations are not going to air the show.

Over at Sandwalk Larry mentioned that WNED Buffalo NY was not airing the show. I looked into this and found that WNED is not going to air it on its channel that reaches the largest audience (it is airing on their HD channel). 😦 If a north east PBS channel is doing this I think it’s a pretty safe bet that stations in more science hostile areas are likely not airing the program, check your local listings. If you are a contributor to your local PBS station and they aren’t airing it please let them know how you feel about it because keeping contributors happy is the #1 goal of most PBS stations.

Happy Birthday Louis Gray

Louis Harold Gray was born on November 10th, 1905 in London, England. Professor Gray worked primarily with understanding the biological effects of radiation. Because his work was instrumental in the birth of radiobiology, the SI unit of absorbed dose was named the gray to honor him.

LH Gray Memorial Trust
UCLA Medical Physics

More information on his work:
Review Article: the birth of the Gray Laboratory at Mount Vernon Hospital
Gray Cancer Institute

Andy Grove comparing apples and oranges

This post at Pharyngula today is a reply to an interview with Andy Grove over at Newsweek. A commenter over at Pharyngula, Ashutosh also pointed me to a good reply by Derek Lowe.

This is a clear case of an apples and oranges comparison by Dr. Grove. In addition to the points raised by PZ and Derek I’d add the reliability question. It is one thing to design a semiconductor that can have severe problems without harming people and designing drugs that cure the sick without harming them. I mean there is no reset button on a human to give us a clean retry after the new drug crashes the humans life. Any engineer who thinks developing safe and effective drugs can be improved as easily as semiconductor processes is either lacking an understanding of biology and pharmacology or fooling themselves about what they know. Dr. Grove you are embarrassing to a rational thinking engineer like myself. Keep in mind Expertise is real and it matters and it sure seems that chemical engineer Andy Grove has no expertise in pharmacology, biology or medicine.

UPDATES: Oops, I needed to change Mr. to Dr. because he has a doctorate in chemical engineering.

Tyler raises some good points from a CS/Math perspective.

The Slashdot post has some interesting comments.

The Pharma Marketing Blog has a post with an industry insider perspective.

Most pertinent is the Variable Fragment blog’s post, the writer has worked in process development at Intel and now works in biotechnology. What more can you ask for, here’s someone with expertise in both areas.

Finally for silliest comment the award goes to TechNudge.net for this bit of ridiculous commentary.

Andy, maybe if researchers would stop looking for non-existent proof of serious man-made global warming they’d have a few minutes to get on with diseases. But that’s not where the funding is.

I mean really, this fool thinks there is but one type of research and researcher so, just re-task them from climate science to pharmacology. I guess he’d like to call on the Geek Squad for all his medical needs too.