Amy Farrah Fowler, I’m so disappointed

I’m a huge fan of CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), mainly because I’m a lifelong geek, but also because it is one of the better written shows on TV (a low standard indeed).  The four main male characters are researchers at Cal Tech, although, as the show keeps mentioning, three have Ph.D.’s, and one only has a Masters from MIT.  TBBT also amuses me because I was one of those characters, seemingly clueless about the opposite sex, more interested in games and Star Trek than in anything else, and spending hours in a lab doing obscure experiments.  And I dressed that poorly too!  TBBT just reminds me of my life.  And I still love Star Trek (though Enterprise annoyed me).

Continue reading “Amy Farrah Fowler, I’m so disappointed”

Heartland Institute plans to discredit teaching of climate change

The New York Times article, Heartland Institute Leak, a Plan to Discredit Climate Teaching, obtained some leaked documents from the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that denies the link between second hand smoke and cancer; and denies anthropomorphic global warming (human-caused climate change).  These documents outlined “plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet.”  According to the Heartland Institute, “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective (pdf file).”

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Canadian university to offer antievolution degree program next year–not really

UPDATED.

A few weeks ago, Memorial University of Newfoundland’s student newspaper, the Muse, published an article, “MUN to offer creation science program next year.”  It appeared that one of Canada’s top comprehensive universities, which has a some very good science programs in biochemistry and marine biology, had lost all sense of reality and decided to offer bachelor’s and graduate degrees in “Creation Science” (not a science).

The story was picked up by the Canadian University Press Newswire, “University to offer creation science program next year,” though clearly marked as “humour.”  Then it was published in an atheist/skeptical blog, “Canadian University to Offer Creation ‘Science’ Degrees.”  Then I read it, ready to publish it here.

But I have a policy about anything I write.  I go read the original sources to make sure that I’ve got my facts right, something that the pseudoscientific lunatics rarely do.  Memorial University’s website lacked any mention of it, except in the student Newspaper, where it was clearly labelled as “satire.”  Oops.  Very good satire too!

Oh well, I guess right-wing congressmen are not the only ones that get caught by satire.

Climate change denialists targeting classrooms

Why write anything when the LA Times (my hometown newspaper) says it perfectly:

❝The culture wars have been fought in the classroom for decades, waged over such issues as school prayer, the teaching of evolution and whether the Pledge of Allegiance should include the phrase “under God.” But the conflict usually pits backers of religious instruction against secularists. The latest skirmish, by contrast, is centered on a scientific issue that has nothing to do with religious teaching: climate change. Continue reading “Climate change denialists targeting classrooms”

Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 2

An antievolution Republican Oklahoma legislator has introduced another anti-science bill in Oklahoma House of Representatives.  The bill, if passed by both houses and signed by the governor, encourages teachers to teach the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution” and “global warming”.  This is actually a slight modification to an original bill that was rejected by the House Education Committee last month, but the full house can ignore that vote and vote on it as a whole.

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Indiana school district bars students who aren’t vaccinated against the measles

Indiana school district bars students who aren’t vaccinated against the measles via Vaccine News Daily.  Excerpt:

❝A school district in Indiana has refused to allow students not vaccinated against the measles to attend classes in the wake of an outbreak that continues to spread.

School officials in Hamilton County, Indiana, recently announced that White River Elementary and Noblesville Intermediate School students will no longer be allowed to attend school without the state-required measles vaccine until further notice, according to WISH-TV.

Approximately 250 teachers and staff were examined at a clinic held to aid in determining whether the measles was continuing to spread. Many had blood drawn for further testing.❞

This is an outbreak that started from just two infected individuals who attended the Super Bowl, which has grown to 14 cases.  The speed at which this is spreading probably results from the fact that it is highly infectious and it “finds” unvaccinated individuals easily.

Pseudoscience and the anti-vaccine lunacy

We frequently use the term “pseudoscience” to describe the ideology of certain groups:  anti-vaccinationists, evolution deniers (creationists), global warming deniers, and almost anything in the areas of parapsychology, alternative medicine, and sasquatch.  The science denialists (broadly defined as any group who rejects the scientific consensus on any subject without valid scientific support) always seem to be insulted by the word “pseudoscience” as if it’s a pejorative without foundation. Continue reading “Pseudoscience and the anti-vaccine lunacy”

Early success in a stem cell clinical trial to treat blindness

About a month after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells.  This order rescinded President George W Bush’s ban on new stem-cell lines for research (with a few exceptions), probably as a result of pressure from religious, anti-abortion groups.

Embryonic stem cells are useful research and clinical tools because they can be used in regenerative medicine, including tissue repair.  The first clinical trials started in 2009, and no stem cell therapy has been approved by the FDA as of this time.  Some early success in treating post-acute myocardial infarction with stem cells was reported earlier this month. Continue reading “Early success in a stem cell clinical trial to treat blindness”

Preventing and treating the common cold

It’s cold season, so everyone tries various lotions and potions to either prevent the common cold or, at least, to reduce the course of the disease.  Alternative medicine’s favorite disease to treat is the common cold, mainly because it’s an easy disease with not too many consequences.  Also, it’s very subjective, since the patient has a difficult time making an accurate determination of the length and severity of the attack.  Confirmation bias is usually the reason one hears that something works for the cold.  They forget all the times it doesn’t.  Or completely misjudge the actual effects of any treatment. Continue reading “Preventing and treating the common cold”