The newest cause for the LeRoy neurological issues

I’ve published a few posts over the past month about a group of teenagers and one adult who are experiencing some neurological symptoms in LeRoy, NY, a small town outside of Rochester, NY.  Those symptoms seem to mimic Tourette Syndrome (TS), a neuropsychiatric disorder that is characterized by multiple physical or motor tics plus at least one vocal tic.  It is probably inherited, although a gene for it has not been identified.  Since most of the teenagers who exhibit the symptoms attend LeRoy High School, the New York State Department of Health has carefully examined the school for any environmental issues, and have found none.  Erin Brokovich, of the eponymous movie, has gotten involved and has postulated that a train wreck over 40 years ago spilled toxic chemicals, such as arsenic and trichloroethylene, which may be the cause. Continue reading “The newest cause for the LeRoy neurological issues”

Oklahoma bill attacks evolution and climate change

Oklahoma bill attacks evolution and climate change | NCSE.

Not only is the sixth evolution denialist bill proposed by state legislatures since the beginning of the year (which is about 3 weeks long so far), it throws in climate change denialism for good measure.

Josh Brecheen, the sole sponsor of the bill, states that:

“Renowned scientists now asserting that evolution is laden with errors are being ignored. … Using your tax dollars to teach the unknown, without disclosing the entire scientific findings[,] is incomplete and unacceptable.”

Which renowned scientists?  Are there any?  Almost every scientist (renowned or otherwise) accepts evolution as a virtual fact.  Academic freedom means that a teacher teaches science (or history or whatever the discipline) without interference from government.  So, does the Department of Biology at the University of Oklahoma teach Intelligent design as a scientific theory?  It isn’t.

Glad I live in California.  This stuff just doesn’t happen here.

Update from Missouri | NCSE

Update from Missouri | NCSE.

The chief sponsor of this bill says the “jury is still out on evolution.”  Uh, what jury is that?  The one in Kitzmiller v. Dover, where a Federal Judge ruled that Intelligent Design is not science?  Or the scientific community that say’s evolution is basically a fact?  Or that intelligent design was “designed” to circumvent the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

In case anyone forgot, that clause states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

So, Intelligent Design is a religious doctrine.  The State of Missouri (well, at least some do) want to have that religious doctrine taught in public schools (run and funded by the State of Missouri).  Sounds like they might have a legal challenge ahead.

America’s past slowly disappearing

No, it doesn’t have to do with covered bridges, old growth forests, or a vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Hostess, makers of Twinkies (immortalized in the since debunked urban myth that they have an indefinite shelf life), Ding Dongs and other comfort foods, is part of the culture of America.  You drive into any convenience store, and there are shelves of the stuff.  I admit to not either liking or having a Twinkie in years (quite possibly since college), but I know exactly how they taste.

And Eastman Kodak, once the power of Rochester, NY, and whose ubiquitous yellow and red film was everywhere.  Now, we think of film as being quaint (though in Hollywood, Kodak still makes a significant percentage of film stock, since many top filmmakers still prefer film to digital).  I learned how to develop Ektachrome and Kodachrome slides, taking almost all my photos on slides up until the early 2000’s.  In fact, I was cleaning out some old boxes, and I found several rolls of exposed Kodachrome, which I could have developed, but the cost was too high, and given the 10 year old age, I wasn’t sure that I’d get good quality.

Anyways, these two brand names are part of the cultural memory of the United States.  But they are disappearing, for Hostess, because we should be eating less processed, high sugar foods, and Kodak, because they stumbled in the transition from analog to digital (though they hold many of the key patents in digital photography and filmmaking).

I guess Whole Foods and Apple are their replacements these days, but they’ll be replaced by something new and better when the next generation replaces us.

Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer?

Does Airport Security Really Make Us Safer? | Culture | Vanity Fair.

The good thing about being a skeptical, and applying the scientific method to everything is that you learn to think critically, to analyze data, and to demand data.  I had a sneaking suspicion that airline security was more of a PR scheme than anything else.  In medicine, every procedure, medication, and device has some marginal increase in harm to the patient, but that should be far exceeded by the benefit.  In the case of the TSA, the harm (cost, inconvenience, delays, risk of radiation from scanners, and anything else you can imagine) seems to far outweigh any marginal benefit.

The fact is I can think of dozens of ways to disrupt and terrorize Americans with a small bomb or gun (both so easily obtained in today’s USA)–I won’t list them here, just in case the terrorists or so damn lazy that they google the internet for ideas. Get 21 deluded religious fanatics together, a few weapons, and an inviting target, and we will forget about the airports.  What are we going to do next?  Put up scanners at supermarkets, malls, gas stations, movie theaters, and golf courses?

TSA receives $8.1 billion in funding every year, and I have to imagine that amount could be better spent on other types of security measures that get at the issue at the core.  Again, using medicine as analogy, try not to treat the symptoms, but the causes.

By the way, there are websites that provide you with detailed instructions on how to generate fake boarding passes.  They’re meant for family members to go to the gate to meet other family members. Some are there to show the vulnerability of the TSA system.  So, even non-terrorists know how to get around the rules.

TSA doesn’t pass even the smallest bit of scrutiny or critical analysis.  Wish it would be gone, but there’s not much we can do to make that happen.