Let's bash on Ben Stein's Expelled.
Let's bash on Ben Stein's Expelled.
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- NASA engineers and mathematicians in this high-tech city are stunned and infuriated after the Alabama state legislature narrowly passed a law yesterday redefining pi, a mathematical constant used in the aerospace industry. The bill to change the value of pi to exactly three was introduced without fanfare by Leonard Lee Lawson (R, Crossville), and rapidly gained support after a letter-writing campaign by members of the Solomon Society, a traditional values group. Governor Guy Hunt says he will sign it into law on Wednesday.
The law took the state's engineering community by surprise. "It would have been nice if they had consulted with someone who actually uses pi," said Marshall Bergman, a manager at the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. According to Bergman, pi (p) is a Greek letter that signifies the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is often used by engineers to calculate missile trajectories.
Prof. Kim Johanson, a mathematician from University of Alabama, said that pi is a universal constant, and cannot arbitrarily be changed by lawmakers. Johanson explained that pi is an irrational number, which means that it has an infinite number of digits after the decimal point and can never be known exactly. Nevertheless, she said, pi is precisely defined by mathematics to be "3.14159, plus as many more digits as you have time to calculate".
"I think that it is the mathematicians that are being irrational, and it is time for them to admit it," said Lawson. "The Bible very clearly says in I Kings 7:23 that the altar font of Solomon's Temple was ten cubits across and thirty cubits in diameter, and that it was round in compass."
Lawson called into question the usefulness of any number that cannot be calculated exactly, and suggested that never knowing the exact answer could harm students' self-esteem. "We need to return to some absolutes in our society," he said, "the Bible does not say that the font was thirty-something cubits. Plain reading says thirty cubits. Period."
Science supports Lawson, explains Russell Humbleys, a propulsion technician at the Marshall Spaceflight Center who testified in support of the bill before the legislature in Montgomery on Monday. "Pi is merely an artifact of Euclidean geometry." Humbleys is working on a theory which he says will prove that pi is determined by the geometry of three-dimensional space, which is assumed by physicists to be "isotropic", or the same in all directions.
"There are other geometries, and pi is different in every one of them," says Humbleys. Scientists have arbitrarily assumed that space is Euclidean, he says. He points out that a circle drawn on a spherical surface has a different value for the ratio of circumference to diameter. "Anyone with a compass, flexible ruler, and globe can see for themselves," suggests Humbleys, "its not exactly rocket science."
Roger Learned, a Solomon Society member who was in Montgomery to support the bill, agrees. He said that pi is nothing more than an assumption by the mathematicians and engineers who were there to argue against the bill. "These nabobs waltzed into the capital with an arrogance that was breathtaking," Learned said. "Their prefatorial deficit resulted in a polemical stance at absolute contraposition to the legislature's puissance."
Some education experts believe that the legislation will affect the way math is taught to Alabama's children. One member of the state school board, Lily Ponja, is anxious to get the new value of pi into the state's math textbooks, but thinks that the old value should be retained as an alternative. She said, "As far as I am concerned, the value of pi is only a theory, and we should be open to all interpretations." She looks forward to students having the freedom to decide for themselves what value pi should have.
Robert S. Dietz, a professor at Arizona State University who has followed the controversy, wrote that this is not the first time a state legislature has attempted to redefine the value of pi. A legislator in the state of Indiana unsuccessfully attempted to have that state set the value of pi to three. According to Dietz, the lawmaker was exasperated by the calculations of a mathematician who carried pi to four hundred decimal places and still could not achieve a rational number.
Many experts are warning that this is just the beginning of a national battle over pi between traditional values supporters and the technical elite. Solomon Society member Lawson agrees. "We just want to return pi to its traditional value," he said, "which, according to the Bible, is three."
that's gotta be April Fools. Then again, it is Alabama.
yeah it's a prank. Randy mentioned that a couple weeks ago from some book he read.
"We need to return to some absolutes in our society," he said, "the Bible does not say that the font was thirty-something cubits. Plain reading says thirty cubits. Period."
Like kids need any more confusion on the subject of pi.Quote:
One member of the state school board, Lily Ponja, is anxious to get the new value of pi into the state's math textbooks, but thinks that the old value should be retained as an alternative. She said, "As far as I am concerned, the value of pi is only a theory, and we should be open to all interpretations." She looks forward to students having the freedom to decide for themselves what value pi should have.
I looked at the sequence of pi for about two hours one night in the middle of a long evening of researching unusual mathematical formulas and patterns employed by The Beatles, Radiohead, and Tool. I couldn't get it to fit with any of the established correlations though, no matter how I tried to reorder it. It's not Fibonacci sequence, goddammit.
Self-assembling Nanofibers Heal Spinal Cords
Injected directly into the spinal cords of paralyzed mice, a new material restores use of the animals' hind legs.
By Prachi Patel-Predd
Nano fix: An electron-microscope image shows the matrix of cylindrical nanofibers that self-assemble from engineered biological molecules in a solution.
Credit: Journal of Neuroscience
An engineered material that can be injected into damaged spinal cords could help prevent scars and encourage damaged nerve fibers to grow. The liquid material, developed by Northwestern University materials science professor Samuel Stupp, contains molecules that self-assemble into nanofibers, which act as a scaffold on which nerve fibers grow.
Stupp and his colleagues described in a recent paper in the Journal of Neuroscience that treatment with the material restores function to the hind legs of paralyzed mice. Previously, researchers have restored function in the paralyzed hind legs of mice, but those experiments involved surgically implanting various types of material, while the new substance can simply be injected into the animals. The nanofibers break down into nutrients in three to eight weeks, says Stupp.
Right now, there is no cure for the thousands of people who have injuries to the spinal cord, the bundle of long nerve fibers that connect the brain to the limbs and organs of the body. When it is damaged, nerve stem cells form a scar at the point of the injury, which blocks nerve fibers and keeps them from growing, says John Kessler, professor of stem cell biology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, who collaborated on the work with Stupp. Nerves can no longer carry signals to and from the brain, causing patients to lose sensation, digestion, and movement. "It is like cutting a telephone cable," Kessler says. "We're thinking of regrowing the nerve fibers and rewiring the cut."
Other researchers have tried to regenerate nerve fibers using various approaches. They have used natural materials such as collagen as well as synthetic biodegradable polymers to make scaffolds that support nerves, helping them to grow. Implanting these materials at the injury requires surgery.
Nanofibers help nerves: Northwestern University researchers have designed molecules made of biological parts, such as amino acids and fats, that self-assemble into cylindrical nanofibers. The researchers inject a solution of the molecules into the injured spinal cords of mice, where the nanofibers promote the growth of nerve fibers.
Credit: Samuel Stupp, Northwestern University
The new material is different because the researchers can inject it as a liquid directly into the spinal cord. Negatively charged molecules in the liquid start clumping together when they come in contact with positively charged particles such as calcium and sodium ions in the body. The molecules self-assemble into hollow, cylindrical nanofibers, which form a scaffold that can trap cells. On the surface of the nanofibers are biological molecules that inhibit scars and encourage nerve fibers to grow. "The idea of using self-assembling nanofibers that can be directly injected into the spinal cord is appealing," says Harvard Medical School professor Yang Teng, who does neural stem cell research for spinal cord injuries.
Stupp and his colleagues have found other uses for the self-assembling molecules in the past. They have designed molecules with slightly different chemistries that promote the growth of blood vessels and that align themselves to mimic bone structure. In a 2004 Science paper, the researchers reported that in a lab culture of brain cells, versions of the material encourage the cells to grow the nerve fibers that extend into the spinal cord. They also found that the material prevents cultured nerve stem cells from growing into scar tissue.
The new work is the first test for the material to heal spinal cord injuries in animals. And Kessler says that it worked better than the researchers expected. The researchers stimulated a spinal cord injury in mice and injected the material 24 hours later. They found that the material reduced the size of scars and stimulated the growth of the nerve fibers through the scars. It promoted the growth of both types of nerve fibers that make up the spinal cord: motor fibers that carry signals from the brain to the limbs, and sensory fibers that carry sense signals to the brain. What is more, the material encouraged the nerve stem cells to mature into cells that create myelin--an insulating layer around nerve fibers that helps them to conduct signals more effectively.
Nine weeks after the injections, the mice that had been treated showed improvements over untreated mice. The animals could support their body weight on their hind legs and lift their lower bodies. "Animals that couldn't use hind legs at all now had improved ability to use their hind legs," Kessler says. "It was certainly not a cure but quite a substantial improvement in function. They're able to navigate around their cages."
Stupp has cofounded a Stokie, IL-based company called Nanotope, which is working on developing the self-assembling nanofiber therapy for human beings. The first step would be making a material that meets Food and Drug Administration standards and then testing it in clinical trials. So far, Kessler says, some basic tests of the material on human cell cultures have so far shown no apparent toxic effects.
The 500,000 GB MP3 Player
Friday, April 18th 2008 @ 6:00 AM PDT
By Christopher Nickson
Staff Writer, Digital Trends News
Sounds impossible? It could really happen, thanks to a new breakthrough.
Can you even imagine an MP3 player with a 500,000 GB capacity? It’s pretty much beyond belief. The most generous player today can only hold around 40,000 songs – they’d hardly make a dent on this.
The thing is, it could easily happen. Scientists at the University of Glasgow have created a nanotechnology breakthrough that could increase storage capacity by 150,000 times. It could mean 500,000 GB on a single chip and inch square.
The Glasgow scientists worked to create the molecule-sized switch that’s at the heart of it all.
Professor Lee Cronin at the University of Glasgow said,
“What we have done is find a way to potentially increase the data storage capabilities in a radical way. We have been able to assemble a functional nanocluster that incorporates two electron donating groups, and position them precisely 0.32 nm apart so that they can form a totally new type of molecular switching device. The key advantage of the molecule sized switch is information / transistor density in traditional semi-conductors. Molecule sized switches would lead to increasing data storage to say 4 Petabits per square inch. This breakthrough shows conceptually that this is possible (showing the bulk effect) but we are yet to solve the fabrication and addressing problems. The fact these switches work on carbon means that they could be embedded in plastic chips so silicon is not needed and the system becomes much more flexible both physically and technologically.”
Ben Stein believes that evolution lead to the Holocaust.
Moderator: We're here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des---
(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)
Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?
(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate's kneecap.)
Intelligent Design advocate: YEAAARRRRGGGHHHH! YOU BROKE MY KNEECAP!
Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn't mean anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way. Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are inexplicable according to the "naturalistic" explanation you have just advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you are experiencing right now.
Intelligent Design advocate: AAAAH! THE PAIN!
Scientist: Frankly, I personally find it completely implausible that the random actions of a scientist such as myself could cause pain of this particular kind. I have no precise explanation for why I find this hypothesis implausible --- it just is. Your knee must have been designed that way!
Intelligent Design advocate: YOU BASTARD! YOU KNOW YOU DID IT!
Scientist: I surely do not. How can we know anything for certain? Frankly, I think we should expose people to all points of view. Furthermore, you should really re-examine whether your hypothesis is scientific at all: the breaking of your kneecap happened in the past, so we can't rewind and run it over again, like a laboratory experiment. Even if we could, it wouldn't prove that I broke your kneecap the previous time. Plus, let's not even get into the fact that the entire universe might have just popped into existence right before I said this sentence, with all the evidence of my alleged kneecap-breaking already pre-formed.
Intelligent Design advocate: That's a load of bullshit sophistry! Get me a doctor and a lawyer, not necessarily in that order, and we'll see how that plays in court!
Scientist (turning to audience): And so we see, ladies and gentlemen, when push comes to shove, advocates of Intelligent Design do not actually believe any of the arguments that they profess to believe. When it comes to matters that hit home, they prefer evidence, the scientific method, testable hypotheses, and naturalistic explanations. In fact, they strongly privilege naturalistic explanations over supernatural hocus-pocus or metaphysical wankery. It is only within the reality-distortion field of their ideological crusade that they give credence to the flimsy, ridiculous arguments which we so commonly see on display. I must confess, it kind of felt good, for once, to be the one spouting free-form bullshit; it's so terribly easy and relaxing, compared to marshaling rigorous arguments backed up by empirical evidence. But I fear that if I were to continue, then it would be habit-forming, and bad for my soul. Therefore, I bid you adieu.
He sounds like someone who's read nothing of what he's arguing against.
Darwinism and evolution do not explain an awful lot about life
holy christ, Ben, are you listening to yourself?Quote:
Darwin was never able to point to any clear evidence of any species had originated by evolution
oh Jesus, BenQuote:
they believe lightning struck a mud puddle and out of that puddle came a fully equipped a boeing 747
um no, Ben, you've got it backwards. Science is desperate to answer the question. It's your creationist buddies who dont' want to answer it.Quote:
[the cell] isvery complicated, how that happened by lightning striking a mud puddle is a very good question, and if you ask that question you'd better be prepared to find a new job".
clearly. otherwise you'd know the most basic rule of science and logic, which is a theory that cannot be proven is not a valid theory.Quote:
and btw they may be right, I'm not a scientist
he understands NOTHING of natural selection. Ben is apparently too weak minded to understand the difference between his little teleological analogy of the 747 and the organic cell. Just because something looks designed doesn't mean it is. They point to things like the eye and claim irreducible complexity, God must have made it. They can't fathom the idea that one day long long long ago some cells had a mutation that made them sensitive to light. That mutation made the organism more sucessful, increasing the chance that it's genes would persist. It took half a BILLION years for that to develop into the human eye. He calls bullshit on Darwinism because Darwin couldn't explain how an organic cell worked. Are you fucking serious? If Darwin had the tools we had today he'd sure as hell have an explanation for how the cell works.
He claims that since scientists (and it's really atheists he's implying) cannot explain why life began that they are hypocritical to reject Intelligent Design. They can't answer the question so they are just jealous of people who can. That's fucking ridiculous.
Intelligent Design is NOT an answer, it's a refusal to ask the question. THAT's why creationists are shunned from the scientific community. Ben's got it fucking wrong. Religious people are not rejected from Science because of prejudice. They are rejected from Science only when they seek to suppress minds. What if some mathematician was presented with a theorem to prove, and said "there is no answer, only God can balance that equation." You fucking can his ass. What kind of science is that?
He claims that great thinkers of the past believed in god, but can't seem to figure out one thing all of those great thinkers had in common. THEY LIVED IN THE PAST. They couldn't explain things we can't explain today. Things we know today would seem supernatural to people back then. Science and human understanding of the world only advances when people refuse to accept absolute truths. It's fine to believe in God, but claiming God as an answer to important and relevant questions is irresponsible and ignorant. If there is an intelligent designer in the universe he's be ashamed of people like Ben who waste his gifts. People like Ben are why Socrates drank the hemlock. WTF is wrong with him?
This isn't a "liberal agenda". Science doesn't hate religious people, it's the fucking reverse.
Morons like Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reily get atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens on their programs and claim they trounce them because they can't explain first cause. Just like Ben they use the classic, well you can't explain it so you're no smarter than the religious people. Fucking idiots.
If Hitchens were to use that analogy it would only be to point out the irony that more kneecaps have been busted in the name of God than for any other reason. ever. Yet it would seem absurd to the religious person for the "infidel" to question why he should believe anything other than what what the religious person believes.
Why then should a religious person look for reason behind his own maiming if he's not willing to give reason for his own actions? Yeah it's a stretch, but not a big one.
One of Hitchens' favorite quotes is by Steven Weinberg (paraphrased): left to their own devices, good people will do good things, evil people will do evil things. To make a good person do an evil thing, that takes religion.
Its good that movie is tanking in the box office, only 1.2 mil over the opening weekend.
Bears and Gorillas watch out!
Scientists examine colossal squid
Scientists examine the colossal squid as it thaws in a pool of brine in Wellington, New Zealand, 30 April, 2008
Although the squid is not fully thawed, measurements are already being made
Scientists in New Zealand are examining a rare intact colossal squid specimen that will soon be dissected by knife.
The 10-metre (34 feet) long, half-tonne carcass has been defrosting since Monday in Wellington, after the squid was trapped in a fishing net last year.
Very little is known about colossal squid; only about 10 specimens have ever been caught and brought to shore.
Scientists hope the dissection will yield new information about where and how they live and breed.
The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa is showing the operation on a live webcast.
One of the first tasks will be determining the creature's gender.
"If we get ourselves a male it will be the first reported (scientific) description of the male of the species," noted Steve O'Shea, a squid expert at Auckland's University of Technology, who is among the scientific team of 10.
The Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni specimen was caught in February 2007 in the Ross Sea off Antarctica and was frozen on the ship before being donated to the museum.
Already, as the ice thaws, the creature's beak has emerged, and appears to measure about 5cm across.
Each tentacle is lined with hundreds of small hooks and its eyes - the first to be retrieved intact from a colossal squid - are about 25cm in diameter.
"It's endowed with a killer arsenal: the hooks, the beak, everything about it," said Mr O'Shea.
The team is also dissecting a much smaller colossal squid specimen that has part of its body missing, and a giant squid - a member of the Architeuthis genus.
Graphic of squid sizes. Image: BBC
The colossal squid grows heavier and probably longer than the giant squid
Architeuthis can be as long as colossal squid, but their bodies are smaller and thinner. Their tentacles also lack the swivelling barbed clubs that make Mesonychoteuthis a potent warrior and hunter - so potent that is has but one natural predator, the sperm whale.
Lacerations found on the outside of sperm whale's bodies suggest the two species regularly do mighty battle far beneath the waves.
Since 1925, only a few Mesonychoteuthis have been sighted, all in the seas around Antarctica which seem to be its principal home.
If this one does turn out to be male, that will increase scientists' suspicion that there must be bigger individuals out there, because females are thought to be the larger of the two sexes.
Later in the week, scientists are expected to give public lectures about their initial results.
Once thawed and examined, the squid will be embalmed and preserved.
yesterday I took my physical geology final.
more details to follow later.
Squid vs. Whale is the new Gorilla vs. Bear.
My lab partner sent this to me this morning and I thought it was both powerful and glorious.
When the music started playing, I thought I was about to be instructed about the locations of airplane exits.
those are the best singing scientists I've ever heard. but what's PCR?
Polymerase chain reaction. It makes lots of copies of DNA.
oh that. duh.
I was actually at work doing that when I responded to you. In case you want to feel extra special about it or something.
Oh I do.
wait you have a job?
Yes, I'm a semi-productive member of society.