Giant prehistoric penguin is reconstructed in New Zealand

I just blogged about giant fleas in the Jurassic.  Now, I’ve got to mention the giant Penguin that has just been reconstructed from fossils found in New Zealand.  The penguin lived about 26 million years ago and does not look like any modern penguins.  It was about 1.3 m tall (approximately 50 inches), and weighed about 60 kg (around 132 lbs), which is about 50% larger than the biggest modern penguins.

It also had vestigial wings, much larger than current day penguins, which might indicate an intermediate species between the common ancestor to all birds and the modern species.  Based on its body shape, it probably could go deeper and faster than modern penguins.

via Giant prehistoric penguin is reconstructed in New Zealand | Science | guardian.co.uk.

Super-sized fleas adapted to feed off dinosaurs

Scientists have found fossils of huge fleas that dined on dinosaur blood.  Modern fleas are about 1-10 mm in length, but Cretaceous fleas were between 8-21 mm (not really big, but a 21 mm flea would devour your pet dog quickly).  Also they have armored jaws, apparently to dig into dinosaur hide.

So the next time you watch Jurassic Park, think of those giant fleas that show up!

via Super-sized fleas adapted to feed off dinosaurs : Nature News & Comment.

Limbless amphibian family discovered in India

Although the animals in the picture look like the common earthworms, they are actually a new family of legless amphibians that live in the soil in India.  Researchers in India have discovered seven new species of the family deep in the soil.

Apparently, these rather ugly amphibians grow up to a meter long.  I’m not sure I’d want to find one in my backyard soil.

via Nature News Blog: Limbless amphibian family discovered in India.

Mormons baptize Mahatma Gandhi–offensive in so many ways

I just wrote about Mormon’s baptizing Anne Frank, the young girl who hid from Nazis trying to murder her and her family during World War II, and who eventually died in a concentration camp.  Now another proxy baptism is reported–Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the founder of modern India, a great believer in non-violent protest, and a practicing Hindu.  Again, this is offensive for the same reasons why it was disgusting to baptize Anne Frank–Gandhi is a great human and symbol of India.  He was not, nor ever would have been, a Mormon. Continue reading “Mormons baptize Mahatma Gandhi–offensive in so many ways”

Richard Dawkins and the existence of god

You’re going to be reading this story about Richard Dawkins and his doubts about the NON-existence of god.  The Telegraph, a British newspaper, wrote about a recent public discussion between Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the traditional head of the Church of England (known as Anglicans outside of the USA, and Episcopalians in the USA):

There was surprise when Prof Dawkins acknowledged that he was less than 100 per cent certain of his conviction that there is no creator.

The philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, who chaired the discussion, interjected: “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins answered that he did.

An incredulous Sir Anthony replied: “You are described as the world’s most famous atheist.”

Continue reading “Richard Dawkins and the existence of god”

Mormons baptise Anne Frank–frankly, it’s disgusting

I lived in Utah during a couple of points in my life.  It is a beautiful state, with numerous outdoor activities available like hiking, fishing, rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking…I’m not being funded by the Utah Chamber of Commerce, so you get the point.  Living in Utah is an interesting proposition for someone like me who considers religion nothing more than myths carried from the Bronze Age (3000-500 BCE approximately), when human culture had barely left the last Glacial Maximum, and science was starting a fire.  Utah is essentially a theocracy, where government is mostly run by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (known as LDS or Mormons).  If you’re a non-Mormon (whom they call Gentiles) living in Utah, you sort of learn about the religion just by osmosis.  And you mostly ignore them (there is a de facto segregation of neighborhoods between Mormons and non-Mormons for a lot of complex reasons). Continue reading “Mormons baptise Anne Frank–frankly, it’s disgusting”

Amy Farrah Fowler may believe in homeopathy, but Sheldon does not

A couple of days ago, I talked about the Amy Farrah Fowler character on one of my favorite TV shows, the geeky Big Bang Theory, who is a neurobiologist played by a real neurobiologist, Mayim Bialik.  Yes, Bialik, former star of the TV show Blossom (never saw an episode) has a Ph.D. in neurobiology from UCLA.  Yes, the real UCLA.

As we discussed, Dr. Bialik seems to believe in a whole host of pseudoscientific alternative medicine ideas, all of which does not make sense given her education.  She believes in homeopathy, which is basically nonsense according to every definition of the word “nonsense.”  Homeopathy is considered a pseudoscience, since it is based on a nearly impossible foundation of water having a sort of memory to what it contacted.  In other words, the basic principle of homeopathy violates all the basic principles of physics and chemistry.  These aren’t ideas that require a Ph.D. to understand, and assuming that Bialik actually studied science, and didn’t cruise through her undergraduate and graduate training without opening a single book, she would have to be scientifically critical of homeopathy.

Continue reading “Amy Farrah Fowler may believe in homeopathy, but Sheldon does not”

Indiana confirms 15th measles case

❝Public health officials in Indiana recently confirmed a 15th case of the measles in the central portion of the state.

Although all of the previous cases occurred in either Boone or Hamilton counties, located north of Indianapolis, the Indiana State Department of Health declined to specify where the newly confirmed case is located, according to the Indianapolis Star.

The health department said that the new case does not pose any increased public health threat because the individual has been in self-isolation since being exposed to the highly contagious respiratory illness.

“Through our investigation, we were made aware that this individual was exposed and may be at high risk for developing the disease,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin said, WANE-TV (Ft. Wayne, IN) reports. “This is good news, because since we knew about the exposure and risk, this person was able to stay home and avoid exposing anyone else while infectious.”

An Indiana school district recently refused to allow unvaccinated students to attend classes in the wake of the outbreak. This is the second measles outbreak in Indiana in less than a year.

“In general, when we experience measles in the United States, it’s a result of an unvaccinated U.S. resident traveling abroad or a foreign visitor from a part of the world where measles is endemic,” Larkin said, according to WANE-TV.❞

Continue reading “Indiana confirms 15th measles case”

BREAKING NEWS: Error Undoes Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Results

❝It appears that the faster-than-light neutrino results, announced last September by the OPERA collaboration in Italy, was due to a mistake after all. A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame.

Physicists had detected neutrinos travelling from the CERN laboratory in Geneva to the Gran Sasso laboratory near L’Aquila that appeared to make the trip in about 60 nanoseconds less than light speed. Many other physicists suspected that the result was due to some kind of error, given that it seems at odds with Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. That theory has been vindicated by many experiments over the decades.

Continue reading “BREAKING NEWS: Error Undoes Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Results”

Victory for teachers who say that creationism is nonsense

Yesterday, the Supreme Court “declined to hear an appeal Tuesday from a former high school student who sued his history teacher, saying he disparaged Christianity in class in violation of the student’s First Amendment rights.”  The case, C. F. v. Capistrano USD, involved a high school student who was insulted that his history teacher, James Corbett, didn’t think much of creationism and religion.  Some of Corbett’s comments (which deserve some sort of hero’s award) are:

“Conservatives don’t want women to avoid pregnancies — that’s interfering with God’s work.”

“When you pray for divine intervention, you’re hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want.”

Referring to creationism as “religious, superstitious nonsense”, which lead to the lawsuit.

Continue reading “Victory for teachers who say that creationism is nonsense”