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Debunking the Paradigm Shifters


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Tuesday, Dec 30, 2008
I missed the Christmas newspaper Jumble because my anagram for INSORP was SPINOR instead of PRISON.

Spinor is a legitimate dictionary word. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

a vector whose components are complex numbers in a two-dimensional or four-dimensional space and which is used especially in the mathematics of the theory of relativity
That is a strange definition. Spinors are used in relativity, but they are most famously to describe the quantum mechanics of electron spin. Spinors were invented by mathematicians about a century ago, and they have been crucial to 20th century physics. Much of what we know about chemical bonds, for example, depends on spinors.

You can find more info in the Wikipedia article on spinors. (The article is not easy to understand.) You can think of a spinor as some sort of a square root of a vector.

Monday, Dec 29, 2008
Embryonic stem cell research is obsolete
The AAAS Science mag announces

This year, scientists achieved a long-sought feat of cellular alchemy. They took skin cells from patients suffering from a variety of diseases and reprogrammed them into stem cells. The transformed cells grow and divide in the laboratory, giving researchers new tools to study the cellular processes that underlie the patients' diseases. The achievement could also be an important step on a long path to treating diseases with a patient's own cells.

The feat rests on a genetic trick, first developed in mice and described 2 years ago, in which scientists wipe out a cell's developmental "memory," causing it to return to its pristine embryonic state and then regrow into something else. In 2008, researchers achieved another milestone in cell reprogramming. In an elegant study in live mice, they prompted cells to make the leap directly from one mature cell into another -- flouting the usual rule that development of cells is a one-way street. These and other advances in tweaking cells to assume new identities add up to make the now flourishing field of cellular reprogramming Science's Breakthrough of the Year.

This was the research that made human embryonic stem cell research obsolete. No useful therapies have ever been developed from human embryonic stem cells, and because of this, none may ever be developed. All stem cell therapies are based on adult stem cells.
Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience
A new study debunks some neuroscience imaging research:
The newly emerging field of Social Neuroscience has drawn much attention in recent years, with high-profile studies frequently reporting extremely high (e.g., >.8) correlations between behavioral and self-report measures of personality or emotion and measures of brain activation obtained using fMRI. We show that these correlations often exceed what is statistically possible ...
There are a lot of exaggerated claims on what can be done with brain scans.

Sunday, Dec 28, 2008
Darwin's dangerous idea
NewScientist mag is plugging its evolution articles:
Since its redesign in November, NewScientist.com is making the last 12 months' of articles free for everyone to read. Here, in case you missed them, are our top 10 in-depth articles about evolution. ...

Reclaiming the peppered moth for science

The peppered moth used to be the textbook example of evolution in action. Then, about a decade ago, creationists began an orchestrated a campaign to discredit it - and with it the entire edifice of evolution. Now biologists are fighting to take it back…

Uncovering the evolution of the bacterial flagellum

The whip-like tail of some bacteria has become the cause célèbre of the "intelligent design" movement and a focal point in science's ongoing struggle against unreason. It doesn't seem possible to come up with one via Darwin's "numerous, successive, slight modifications", they say. Now science is coming up with an answer…

This is pathetic. No, the peppered moth article is not online for free. Surely they can find better examples of evolution in action, and better justifications for the struggle against unreason.

One story says that it is really important for our leaders to understand evolution, because Stalin was duped by Lamarkianism, while another says that Lamarkism is correct after all.

Monday, Dec 22, 2008
Obama appoints kooky science advisor
NY Times science blogger writes:
Does being spectacularly wrong about a major issue in your field of expertise hurt your chances of becoming the presidential science advisor? Apparently not, judging by reports from DotEarth and ScienceInsider that Barack Obama will name John P. Holdren as his science advisor on Saturday.
A lot of scientists supported Obama and claimed that Pres. Bush was anti-science. I think that they should be more worried about scientific ideologues like Holdren.

Saturday, Dec 20, 2008
Who did most to knock man off his pedestal?
New Scientist mag compares Galileo to Darwin:
The question is simple: who has done more to knock humanity off its pedestal? The man who showed humans to be the latest in a long line of animals? No, says Lawrence Krauss: anyone who was looking could have seen that humans were animals. So, then, the man who demonstrated beyond doubt that the Earth is not at the centre of anything? Not for Matt Ridley: "Who cares which ball of rock goes round which?" he asks.
The article goes on to compare who did more to stand up to religious authorities.

It is funny how the leftist-atheist-evolutionists like to worship anyone who can claimed to have knocked man off his pedestal.

Thursday, Dec 18, 2008
Mark Felt was not a hero
Mark Felt just died, and I hope I don't have to hear people saying that he was a Watergate hero. He is alleged to have been the anonymous source code-named Deep Throat, but I doubt it. He illegally leaked some FBI files to the Wash. Post, but much of what was attributed to Deep Throat appears to have come from someone else.

Felt did not tell us anything that we would not have found out otherwise. He was just abusing his authority out of personal spite for Pres. Richard Nixon. In some ways, Felt was the worst Watergate criminal of them all. He ordered illegal break-ins of the homes of innocent people, and he undermined the Watergate investigation by illegally leaking to the Wash. Post. He was pardoned for the break-ins. I think that he deserved a prison sentence.

The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom
Glenn Branch and Eugenie C. Scott have a SciAm article attacking creationism. As usual, they brag about the Dover PA case:
Such a careful inspection occurred in a federal courtroom in 2005, in the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. At issue was a policy in a local school district in Pennsylvania requiring a disclaimer to be read aloud in the classroom alleging that evolution is a “Theory...not a fact,” that “gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence,” and that intelligent design as presented in Of Pandas and People is a credible scientific alternative to evolution.
The disclaimer did say that ID was an alternative, but not that it was credible or scientific.
Eleven local parents filed suit in federal district court, arguing that the policy was unconstitutional. After a trial that spanned a biblical 40 days, the judge agreed, ruling that the policy violated the Establishment Clause and writing, “In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether [intelligent design] is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that [intelligent design] cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.”
That's right, the ruling hinged on the book having religious antecedents. The same reasoning would have banned a Boy Scout handbook, if earlier editions mentioned God.
The expert witness testimony presented in the Kitzmiller trial was devastating for intelligent design’s scientific pretensions. Intelligent design was established to be creationism lite: at the trial philosopher Barbara Forrest, co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, revealed that references to creationism in Of Pandas and People drafts were replaced with references to design shortly after the 1987 Edwards decision striking down Louisiana’s Balanced Treatment Act was issued.
So the strongest argument against the school policy was that a textbook had been edited in order to bring it into compliance with a US Supreme Court decision.

Another article in the same issue says:

The big-brain vision has no real scientific basis. The fossil record of skull sizes over the past several thousand generations shows that our days of rapid increase in brain size are long over. Accordingly, most scientists a few years ago would have taken the view that human physical evolution has ceased.
If these evolutionists really want to promote evolution and erase falsehoods, then they should be fighting those scientists who deny that humans are still evolving.

Wednesday, Dec 17, 2008
The Day the Earth Stood Still
I just watched The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), the remake of the 1951 movie.

In the original, a humanoid space alien and a terminator robot land a flying saucer in Washington DC. The alien wants to address the United Nations so that Earth will join a federation of planets. When that fails, he makes friends with a 12-year-old boy as in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and the boy introduces him to a leading physicist, who then finds an audience for him. The movie ends with the alien giving a speech about how earthlings must become slaves to the terminator robots who kill anyone who commits the crime of aggression. Liberals love this movie because it stands for world govt and peace.

In the remake, the alien is on a mission to exterminate the humans in order to make room for alien colonization. The boy recognizes that the alien is a threat to humanity, and turns him into the military authorities, even tho his stepmom is naively helping the alien. The alien never delivers a message to Earth, and is ambivalent about exterminating humanity.

I wonder why they even remade the movie. The original was silly and childish, but the remake abandons the few appealing qualities that the original had.

Friday, Dec 12, 2008
Bush-hater looks to PLO for quotes
From the land of the Bush-haters, James Konsevich writes in the San Jose newspaper:
Bush's conflicting statements on God

In the Mercury News article on George W. Bush (Page 3A, Dec. 9), you quote President Bush as saying, "... the decision to go to war in Iraq was not connected to his religious beliefs." Yet Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine's president, related that Bush said, " "... God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did.

You really have to wonder about the sanity of these Bush-haters who form their beliefs about the US President based on the claims of some arab terrorist on the other side of the world.

Pres. Bush has explained the Iraq War many times. Yet this guy claims that he only told to truth to Mahmoud Abbas?

The writer does not even quote correctly what Bush said this week. Bush doesn't really refer to himself in the third person. Here is what Bush really said:

"I did it based upon the need to protect the American people from harm," Bush said.

"You can't look at the decision to go into Iraq apart from, you know, what happened on Sept. 11. It was not a religious decision," he said. "I don't view this as a war of religion. I view this as a war of good, decent people of all faiths against people who murder innocent people to achieve a political objective."

Bush said that it was not a religious decision, not that the decision was not connected to his religious beliefs.

Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008
The American Bomb
The NY Times reports on new atomic bomb books:
"Since the birth of the nuclear age," they write, "no nation has developed a nuclear weapon on its own, although many claim otherwise." ... All paths stem from the United States, directly or indirectly.
Add the atomic bomb to the long list of uniquely American inventions. The chief inspiration came from Leo Szilard who patented the nuclear chain reaction and persuaded Einstein to write the letter to FDR that initiated the Manhattan project.
How rich schools teach foolishness
A wealthy NY school district has abolish AP courses:
SCARSDALE, N.Y. — The Advanced Placement English class at Scarsdale High School used to race through four centuries of literature to prepare students for the A.P. exam in May. But in this year’s class, renamed Advanced Topics, students spent a week studying Calder, Pissarro and Monet to digest the meaning of form and digressed to read essays by Virginia Woolf and Francis Bacon — items not covered by the exam. ...

For instance, art students have been newly liberated to draw large-scale works rather than adhere to the College Board’s 18-by-24-inch parameters. Physics students now study string theory — a hot topic in some college courses that is absent from the Advanced Placement exam. And the advanced government class takes a three-day field trip to conduct primary research at Harvard’s Kennedy School, something teachers say would have been impossible with the intense Advanced Placement schedule.

My hunch is that the teachers don't want to have to be judged by whether their students actually learn anything. Learning string theory is the biggest possible waste of time for a physics student.

Thursday, Dec 04, 2008
Take a nap
Here is health news that you can use:
A cup of strong coffee might make you feel wide awake, but a small study suggests that for improved physical and mental performance, an afternoon nap works better. ...

Those who had caffeine had worse motor skills than those who napped or had a placebo. In the perceptual task, the nappers did significantly better than either the caffeine or placebo group. On the verbal test, nappers were best by a wide margin, and the caffeine consumers did no better than those given a placebo.

Companies should offer nap rooms instead of free coffee.