Science

Why I Don’t Debate Evolution

My sometimes co-blogger Ken and I often discuss the whole evolution-v.s.-creationism issue, and I’ve tried a few times to explain to him why I don’t write about it much here. I occasionally discuss or speculate about some basic evolutionary science, and I’ve slammed some really idiotic creationist nonsense, but I just don’t want to get […]

From DNA to Questionable Science

It’s my understanding that DNA matching is arguably the best and most reliable of the forensic sciences. One reason is that it’s based on scientific knowledge and ideas that were developed independently of its forensic uses. Scientists spent decades studying DNA: How it’s structured, what it’s made of, how it replicates, how it combines in […]

Some DUI Science and Guesswork

Jamison Koehler put up a post on the fraction of your breath that a breathalyzer uses to estimate your blood alcohol ratio. He’s had expert training in DUI defense and therefore DUI-related technology, whereas I’ve just had some basic math and science education. But it’s an interesting subject, and I thought I’d try to explain […]

Alarming Asteroid News…If It Were True

Yesterday, Roger Ebert tweeted: Bad luck. The asteroid that came so close to Earth is coming baaaaak. dld.bz/chPtq Well, of course. It’s a known near-Earth object. They do that by definition. But the linked article by Andrew Malcolm at Investor’s Business Daily was a little more alarming than that, at least until I realized he […]

Weyland-Yutani Startup?

Could we be seeing the start of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation? A new space startup company, Planetary Resources, claims they “will overlay two critical sectors — space exploration and natural resources“. That sounds like space mining! And it’s not just a bunch of nuts I’ve never heard of backing this idea. The investors include Ross Perot Jr., Google co-founder […]

Goddesses and Falsifiability

My Nobody’s Business co-blogger Rogier has a pretty good article up about divine delusions v.s. observable reality. It’s a plea for rationality, even if faith and mysticism seem like more fun. As is often my way, I have a small quibble. Rogier and his opponent are discussing a Facebook poster’s insistence that a bit of […]

Life at Conception

A few days ago, at the conservative Illinois Review, an unnamed author who I assume is editor Fran Eaton got excited about some basic science in a post titled “Biology Textbook Author Asserts Life Begins at Conception”: When does life begin?  At conception?  When the fertilized egg begins to multiply cells?  When the zygote embeds itself […]

It’s a Convoy!

Yesterday NASA awarded development grants to four corporations for development of human-rated space transportation systems (spaceships). Here are the big winners: $22 million went to Blue Origin, best known for its intricately detailed corporate logo (as well as its founder, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame) which has a creative vertical take-off and landing system which […]

Why Philosophers Shouldn’t Argue Physics with Stephen Hawking

The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by Roger Scruton, an English philosopher, titled “Memo to Hawking: There’s Still Room for God“. (Sorry, it’s behind a paywall.) He attempts to refute Hawking’s premise that no God is needed to create a universe from nothing. Immanuel Kant, who believed that Newton’s laws of gravity are not merely true but […]

Powers of Ten

I first saw the Powers of Ten short on Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. (If you don’t know who Carl Sagan was, please don’t tell me. It will just make me feel terribly old and sad.) Way back in the ancient mists of time the Museum of Science and Industry setup a kiosk looping the video and […]

Bite me, Bambi!

Or, How Eating Habanero Peppers Proves I’m Smarter Than Other Mammals. It’s chili pepper harvesting time again! While most Chicagoans seem enamored with growing tomato plants, I think habanero peppers should be the crop of choice. OK, to be honest, I’m actually too lazy to grow my own, but I have a couple of friends […]

A Good Learning Experience for NASA

Vinny Gambini once said: It’s a procedure. Like rebuilding a carburetor has a procedure. You know, when you rebuild a carburetor, the first thing you do is you take the carburetor off the manifold? Supposing you skip the first step, and while you’re replacing one of the jets, you accidentally drop the jet, it goes […]

The Earth and Moon

My astronomy correspondent sent me this very cool image of the Earth and the Moon, as seen from near the sun: Click for a larger image. Source and explanation here.

A Scientific Digression About Inductive Cooking

I had a frustrating science discussion with a friend the other day. Somehow, our conversation had turned to the subject of cooking — about which I know nearly nothing — and my friend mentioned that someday he’d like to have an induction cooktop. He told me that when you place a pan on an induction […]

Is Consistency Enough?

People I trust have been saying good things about Jeff Gamso’s blog, Gamso – For the Defense, and I’ve been meaning to check it out for months now. I finally got around to it, and I’m glad I did, because I discovered a fascinating post called “Hobgoblins of Little Minds.” It’s about what experts mean […]

Pluto and the Final Stage of Grief

I’ll tell you, I didn’t have much Love for the Pluto haters. But I’ve come to accept the truth of it. Pluto crosses the orbit of Neptune, it’s tilted out of the ecliptic, there’s other crap all around it, and it’s small—almost as small as its moon, which doesn’t even orbit a point inside Pluto. […]

Stupidity and Darwin and Liberals and Molotov Mitchell

In another post, I mentioned that I was worried that I might write something that was so bad it wasn’t even wrong. I borrowed that phrase from Steven Pinker (who borrowed it from someone else), and since saying that, I’ve been concerned that people might not understand what I mean. I’m talking about a level […]

Mystery In Space

I think I’ve read about a dozen science fiction stories that start this way. It’s usually not a good sign. In a paper to appear in the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers working on the Supernova Cosmology Project report finding a new kind of something that they cannot make any sense of. … On February 21, 2006, […]

Something Fishy About DNA Fingerprinting ?

There’s been some excitement among criminal defense bloggers such as Mr. Greenfield, Mr. Katz, and the Dude over a fascinating Los Angeles Times article about some strange search results in some of the major DNA databases. State crime lab analyst Kathryn Troyer was running tests on Arizona’s DNA database when she stumbled across two felons with […]

A Sampling of Evidence

In an article about the legal defenses for a drug possession charge, Jon Katz mentions a case in which a suspect was caught with ten pills, all allegedly methadone. The state had a chemist test one of the pills to determine it was methadone, then the chemist testified that the other pills looked similar. This […]