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So many links, and so little time (I’m preparing subjects!)

Ray Kurzweil responds to PZ Myers’ claim that he doesn’t understand the brain, by showing that he doesn’t understand biology.

Why Uner-Tan Syndrome is not evidence for evolution, again. That’s where the family doesn’t walk on two legs in Turkey. Good article attacking a stupid claim.

A familiar poem in Latin. Oh! Frabiusce Dies! Also here, Newton’s First and Second Laws. And this student is working on Newton’s method.

Tim Crane at the NYT blog Opinionator argues that science and religion have different modes of thinking.

NPR notes that culture evolves.

Listeria is a bacteria that announces itself to the immune system.

The Case of the Vanishing Taxonomists [h/t]. Just as we need taxonomists to deal with the decline in alpha biodiversity, they, too, are threatened with extinction.

A new Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article: Ancient Political Philosophy. And Carl Hempel.

An article on scaling in animals in PNAS.

A great blog on the history of geology: History of Geology! The Boneyard, a blog now defunct, has been rebooted as Love in a Time of Chasmosaurs. The Bubble Chamber is a new blog on HPS and public policy. Think Deviant is another new HPS blog. Will Thomas rounds up some other new science-related blogs, particularly the “Toronto Blog Collective”. While you are sniffing around, check out Philosophy TV.

Irony in a science historian.

The bad idea that disease is your fault.

Peripatus!! A velvet worm in the antipodes, and its evolutionary relationships.

Is there still a coherent tree in “prokaryotes”? Apparently so.

Religion affects your ability to see the bigger picture. There’s also a positive correlation between religion and poverty. Except in the US…

Sloan Wilson discusses what is actually claimed for Inclusive Fitness theory.

Was Nietzsche opposed to science or philosophy? No, but he didn’t like disinterested philosophy or science.

How they taught physics in older days (1897-1905).

Some politics: No Catholic church is free of pedophilia in Belgium. The record of the Catholic Church on AIDS. Not good. The internet filter remains policy in Australia. The Australian Federal Police want unrestricted access to data about internet usage, and for it to be retained by ISPs indefinitely. And apparently the new “National Broadband Network” is going to cause more internet usage by criminals. This is also an argument for not fixing bad roads…

There’s a principle that if a creationist has tertiary “science” credentials, it will be in engineering. Turns out that engineers are also more often represented amongst terrorists than the population ratio.

Rationally Speaking has a teaser for a podcast on evolutionary psychology.

A Grauniad blogger renounces his angry atheism.

Finally, what’s behind “The Secret” and Rhonda Byrnes? Tripe, politics and money, of course.


  1. Your link reminded me of the PZ vs. Kurzweil debate, so I went back and reread what Ray Kurzweil had to say. It reminded me of the extent to which an ID (intelligent design) way of thinking is entrenched in our culture. I have posted my two cents worth on the debate.

  2. The old Robert Scott translation is my favorite. You can really believe that the original poem was in German:

    Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
    Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
    Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
    Die mohmen Räth’ ausgraben.

    »Bewahre doch vor Jammerwoch!
    Die Zähne knirschen, Krallen kratzen!
    Bewahr’ vor Jubjub-Vogel, vor
    Frumiösen Banderschntzchen!«

    Er griff sein vorpals Schwertchen zu,
    Er suchte lang das manchsan’ Ding;
    Dann, stehend unterm Tumtum Baum,
    Er an-zu-denken-fing.

    Als stand er tief in Andacht auf,
    Des Jammerwochen’s Augen-feuer
    Durch tulgen Wald mit Wiffek kam
    Ein burbelnd Ungeheuer!

    Eins, Zwei! Eins, Zwei! Und durch und durch
    Sein vorpals Schwert zerschnifer-schnück,
    Da blieb es todt! Er, Kopf in Hand,
    Geläumfig zog zurück.

    »Und schlugst Du ja den Jammerwoch?
    Umarme mich, mien Böhm’sches Kind!
    O Freuden-Tag! O Halloo-Schlag!«
    Er schortelt froh-gesinnt.

    Es brillig war. Die schlichte Toven
    Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
    Und aller-mümsige Burggoven
    Die mohmen Räth’ ausgraben.

  3. Jim Thomerson Jim Thomerson

    Unfortunately one has to be registered to comment on the link about shortage of taxonomists. I am a retired and no longer active fish taxonomist. Couple of comments; the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (last time I looked) does not allow naming a taxon after oneself. Using morphological features in making up names is common, but maybe misleading. What if one finds a new species which better exhibits the morphological trait? And I do think the loss of taxonomists is due more to a long term lack of jobs for taxonomists rather than a lack of interested students. I spent more times teaching introductory biology classes than I ever did examining fish specimens (or at least, that is how I remember it.)

  4. I haven’t finished browsing the links yet, but here are some thoughts so far.

    – I like the Latin poem. I can’t read Latin, but it looks impressive. Makes me want to send it back in time to find out what a true Roman would have thought.

    – Normally, of course, the phrase “Newton’s method” refers to something very different.

    – The Tim Crane item seems to contain a lot of straw, attributing views to the ‘New Atheists’ that they don’t characteristically hold, particularly the idea that people are attracted to religion primarily for its explanatory power. What NA has ever suggested that? Any NA reading the article would, I am certain, be thinking, “Well, duh, like, that’s rather obvious, innit?“.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      The Tim Crane item seems to contain a lot of straw, attributing views to the ‘New Atheists’ that they don’t characteristically hold, particularly the idea that people are attracted to religion primarily for its explanatory power. What NA has ever suggested that? Any NA reading the article would, I am certain, be thinking, “Well, duh, like, that’s rather obvious, innit?“.

      A big part of the trouble here is that anyone can make an assertion that the NAs say X or do not say X, and one can easily find examples either way. I think it is time to stop discussing these mythical beasts and just talk about rationalism, skepticism, atheism and science communication. Each individual is able to make the connections, or not, and no amount of charging people with crimes against reason or niceness is going to help us here.

      Still, Crane represents a view that he, at least, held under that rubric, so it is an anecdote (not data!). We shouldn’t ignore him, any more than we should ignore PZ. Everyone is agreed, I think, that we should ignore Larry Moran, though. He writes like a 66 year old.

  5. On the remaining articles:

    – In the Epiphenom article, I see the small rectangles faster than I see the big square (and the square looks taller than it is wide to me), so I’m surprised by the statement that “pretty much everyone is faster at identifying the big shape”.

    – Alarmed by the article about police supporting mandatory data collection. I’m accustomed to politicians being crazy, but I thought the police were generally more sensible. OTOH, I’m not sure how many individuals have to support an idea for it to be presented as the view of the AFP: as with Conroy and the Labor party, it might be only a few.

  6. fvngvs fvngvs

    I already knew I was a cranky old bastard, but seeing that I’m in the NYT, I’m now a happy COB.

  7. I’m kinda siding with Kurzweil, though I think the main time constraint is not the pace of improvements in information technology but of the in-vivo brain scanning technology, which Mr. K may not know as well. I think it will require the ability to monitor billions of intra-neronal and synaptic states concurrently in real time. I think that will happen, but does anybody know when?

  8. “Listeria is a bacteria that announces itself…”

    With bacteria outnumbering our native host cells ten to one, there’s no telling how those bastards may be playin us.

  9. John Monfries John Monfries

    Here is an Indonesian version:
    *Jaburwakan *

    Brilling amat, dan melatalah tova2
    Menggiri dan meng-gimbal2,
    Mimsilah borogova2
    Dan momirat menimbal-nimbal.

    “Waspada terhadap Jaburwaki!
    Cakarnya tajam, anakku sayang!
    Waspada terhadap burung Jabjab
    Dan Bandarcan bahayang!”

    Pedang vorpalnya dibawanya,
    Sangat lama cari musuh genak
    Berhenti dia dekat pohon tumtum
    Dan pikir sejenak.

    Jaburwaki belasut mendadak tiba
    Persis dia renung secara mipi.
    Raung dan aum seperti petir
    Lewat rimba dengan mata api.

    Pedang vorpalnya potong-tikam
    Lekas dileher ber-ulang2
    Dia tinggal raksasa sepanjang masa,
    Dengan kepalanya pulang.

    “Jaburwaki mati? Yehey, yeho.
    Peluklah aku, anak chahyang,
    O hari cemerlo, o hari cero!!”
    Ujar bapaknya girang.

    Brilling amat, dan melatalah tova2
    Menggiri dan menggimbal2.
    Mimsilah borogova2
    Dan momirat menimbal-nimbal.

  10. Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

    On engineers and terrorists.
    I’m not suprised engineers are more common than other disciplines when it comes to terrorism, who would you recruit to make a bomb that is likely to work an Engineer or an accountant.

    Seriously, you need engineers to fight wars. They can craft handy dandy bombs of various types from common old garden items or explain in understandbale ways how to do to others.

    The bit about engineers being more right wing and more prone to obeying authority, that I’ld like to see more data on.
    Could be a misconception based on the desire, common amongst Engineers, to make things more reliable/safer.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      The very term “engineer” comes from those who designed the engines of war. I was not suggesting that I agreed with the claim made, but it resonated with the Salem hypothesis, and I thought it was funny.

      Also, it seems to me that putting civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering together as a single group is misleading. Much of what they share is just the name, or is shared with builders and plumbers and electricians.

      • Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

        True, the first non-military engineers where the civil engineers (when the civil engineering institute was founded it encompassed all engineers who didn’t work as military engineers.)
        The later specialisation took place slowly and a number of degree courses exist that try and re-combine them.

        I suspect your next bit is a common misconception caused by the English language. Engineer is also used for roles that have litle to do with engineering in its earlier meanings.
        There are engineers who are plumbers (i.e. design plumbing systems) just as there are mechanical/electrical/civil/structural/building/HVAC/chemical etc engineers.
        There are also technicians/craftsmen who have the same or similar names.

        The good technicians are rare and valuable.

        Thinking about it, recruiting good technicians would be preferable to recruiting engineers once the engineering had been done.

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