science

Guest Post – There once were men of science who visited these shores

Two-hundred and forty years ago today they anchored in Ship Cove, for some on board it was their third visit here. After securing the ships in the stream they cleaned and fumigated the vessels and made preparations to set ashore, loading up the landing boats with tents, all the paraphernalia of their scientific mission and the implements, equipment and utensils required for their observations. Landing the following day they would strike up a veritable tent village in an area surrounded by rich grass and wild celery. It was a pleasant day in the Marlborough Sounds; the Noon temperature was measured at 65.5(18.6c) on the ship’s thermometers, the air pressure 30.0inHg(1015mb), there was a fresh West-North-west wind and no rain. The seawater temperature, measured outside of the straits approaching the Sounds had been 60.0f(15.5c), a bit chilly for swimming, but consistent with the other readings they had taken while crossing the Tasman Sea since leaving Van Diemens land; their last landfall before leaving for New Zealand.   Read more »

The New Zealand Association of Scientists have lost the plot

Science is, sometimes, political – NZAS

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) is deeply concerned by the impact of the new US administration.

“We’ve just gone two weeks with the new US administration and we are witnessing a geopolitical shakeup that is without precedent”, said NZAS President Craig Stevens. “The rise of social media has reduced the time for a community to respond to an event down to mere minutes. At the same time, communities are both many – and global. The radical changes being made by the Trump administration ripple across the globe in the blink of a smart-phone.”

As an independent body seeking to promote science, the NZAS has six main aims (www.scientists.org.nz) – each one is and will be impacted by the radical changes being wrought by one of the planet’s dominant nations. This dominance feeds through into economic influence, migration, regional stability and science.

We seek to promote science in New Zealand. Science is now global, scientists come from all-over and go all-over. We collaborate, we consolidate, we share knowledge, we discover – globally.

The world would not be sure that the climate is changing rapidly due to greenhouse gas emissions without the efforts of scientists of all nationalities. Science and the scientific community cannot tolerate discrimination against people on the basis of their place of birth or religion. In fact, the Trump Administration’s travel ban has horrified the global scientific community. This ban is completely immoral in the context of the current international refugee crisis. It will also retard scientific progress in the United States and the rest of the world at just the time when our civilisation needs science the most.

We seek to increase public awareness of science and expose pseudo-science. The US Administration is using new, and seriously partisan, media to deconstruct science. It’s happened before with abhorrent consequences.

There is no doubt that the Trump administration will be a threat to some.  But it does not propose to cut funding to science and research.  It is more likely to redirect it into different areas.   Read more »

Photo of the Day

Nikola Tesla, in his Colorado Springs laboratory in 1899, sits in front of the operating transformer. Credit: Public domain

Nikola Tesla, in his Colorado Springs laboratory in 1899, sits in front of the operating transformer. Credit: Public domain

The Genius Who Lit The World

Nikola Tesla was born around midnight, between July 9 and July 10, 1856 during a fierce lightning storm. According to family legend, midway through the birth, the midwife wrung her hands and declared the lightning a bad omen. This child will be a child of darkness, she said, to which his mother replied: “No. He will be a child of light.”

The boy spent much of his early childhood enduring Serbian traditions, including an overabundance of sloppy kisses from two wrinkly old aunts, one of whom had “two teeth protruding like the tusks of an elephant,” Nikola Tesla wrote in his autobiography. So one day, when his mother asked him which of the two aunts he thought was prettier, Tesla thoughtfully mulled it over, declaring, “This here is not as ugly as the other,” and thus revealing an early and wicked sense of humor.

Tesla, the forefather of the internet and the man who essentially invented the 20th century — with everything from modern electrical engineering advances such as the electric motor to X-rays, remote controls, radars and radio — didn’t just have a remarkable mind; he also had a witty one. Recognized as one of the greatest inventors of his time, his celebrity status saw him hobnobbing with the likes of Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Edison and J.P Morgan.

Read more »

I’m waiting for water and oxygen to be declared harmful

Is-Cholesterol-Truly-Bad

So-called “good” cholesterol may actually increase heart attack risks in some people, researchers have found, in a discovery that casts fresh doubt on drugs designed to raise it.

High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is generally associated with reduced heart risks, since it usually offsets the artery-clogging effects of the low density (LDL) form. Read more »

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How climate science is destroying science

Matt Ridley writes at The Quadrant about how it is that climate science is now running the risk of discrediting all science.

[T]he great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science.

Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.

This should have been obvious to me. Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly.

What these two ideas have in common is that they had political support, which enabled them to monopolise debate. Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defence. It’s tosh that scientists always try to disprove their own theories, as they sometimes claim, and nor should they. But they do try to disprove each other’s. Science has always been decentralised, so Professor Smith challenges Professor Jones’s claims, and that’s what keeps science honest.

What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press.

Does that sound familiar?

This is precisely what has happened with the climate debate and it is at risk of damaging the whole reputation of science. The “bad idea” in this case is not that climate changes, nor that human beings influence climate change; but that the impending change is sufficiently dangerous to require urgent policy responses. In the 1970s, when global temperatures were cooling, some scientists could not resist the lure of press attention by arguing that a new ice age was imminent. Others called this nonsense and the World Meteorological Organisation rightly refused to endorse the alarm. That’s science working as it should. In the 1980s, as temperatures began to rise again, some of the same scientists dusted off the greenhouse effect and began to argue that runaway warming was now likely.

At first, the science establishment reacted sceptically and a diversity of views was aired. It’s hard to recall now just how much you were allowed to question the claims in those days. As Bernie Lewin reminds us in one chapter of a fascinating new book of essays called Climate Change: The Facts(hereafter The Facts), as late as 1995 when the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with its last-minute additional claim of a “discernible human influence” on climate, Nature magazine warned scientists against overheating the debate.

Since then, however, inch by inch, the huge green pressure groups have grown fat on a diet of constant but ever-changing alarm about the future. That these alarms—over population growth, pesticides, rain forests, acid rain, ozone holes, sperm counts, genetically modified crops—have often proved wildly exaggerated does not matter: the organisations that did the most exaggeration trousered the most money. In the case of climate, the alarm is always in the distant future, so can never be debunked.

These huge green multinationals, with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous.

Today’s climate science, as Ian Plimer points out in his chapter in The Facts, is based on a “pre-ordained conclusion, huge bodies of evidence are ignored and analytical procedures are treated as evidence”. Funds are not available to investigate alternative theories. Those who express even the mildest doubts about dangerous climate change are ostracised, accused of being in the pay of fossil-fuel interests or starved of funds; those who take money from green pressure groups and make wildly exaggerated statements are showered with rewards and treated by the media as neutral.

Read more »

Homeopathy can’t be proven but it can be experienced

Who says Whaleoil doesn’t do balance?  Here’s the other side of the story that started yesterday.

For the scientists who found no evidence that homeopathy improves health, there’s only one thing to say: “They haven’t experienced homeopathy.”

That’s the response from Gwyneth Evans, media spokesperson for the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths and chair of the International Council for Homeopathy.

“I know homeopathy works. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it for myself, my life has changed because of it,” she says.

“But I know that’s not an answer for a scientist who says ‘but the studies’.”

Evans does not know which studies were looked at by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), who assessed more than 1800 papers, of which 225 met the criteria to be included in their review of homeopathy’s effectiveness. Read more »

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“The two-times table shouldn’t be taught as all knowledge belongs to the Creator”

Doesn’t the Quran have a passage that says “God helps those that help themselves”?

ISIS extremists have cancelled all classes except religious studies in Syrian schools – with even the two-times table banned in its new curriculum.

Militants have closed all schools in the eastern area of the country pending a religious revision of the syllabus to replace the current ‘infidel’ education, it has been revealed.

Activists in the area say ISIS has attempted to justify the move by claiming that ‘all knowledge belongs to the creator’.

Islamic State has been tightening its rules on civilian life in Deir al-Zor province, which fell under near-complete control ofthe Islamist group this summer.

The government still controls a military air base and other small pockets.

The announcement came after Islamic State held a meeting with school administrators at a local mosque on the outskirts of Deir al-Zor city, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors all sides of the conflict.

‘Islamic State informed them that teachers shall undergo a religious instructional course for one month, and that Islamic State officials were currently developing a new curriculum instead of the current ‘infidel’ education,’ the Observatory statement said.

It is heartbreaking that these people want to go back to the stone age when they were responsible for some of the most enlightened science that the “infidel” world is built on.

What is Taught: The first mention of man in flight was by Roger Bacon, who drew a flying apparatus. Leonardo da Vinci also conceived of airborne transport and drew several prototypes.

What Should be Taught: Ibn Firnas of Islamic Spain invented, constructed and tested a flying machine in the 800’s A.D. Roger Bacon learned of flying machines from Arabic references to Ibn Firnas’ machine. The latter’s invention antedates Bacon by 500 years and Da Vinci by some 700 years.

What is Taught:Glass mirrors were first produced in 1291 in Venice.

What Should be Taught: Glass mirrors were in use in Islamic Spain as early as the 11th century. The Venetians learned of the art of fine glass production from Syrian artisans during the 9th and 10th centuries.

What is Taught: Until the 14th century, the only type of clock available was the water clock. In 1335, a large mechanical clock was erected in Milan, Italy. This was possibly the first weight-driven clock.

What Should be Taught: A variety of mechanical clocks were produced by Spanish Muslim engineers, both large and small, and this knowledge was transmitted to Europe through Latin translations of Islamic books on mechanics. These clocks were weight-driven. Designs and illustrations of epi-cyclic and segmental gears were provided. One such clock included a mercury escapement. The latter type was directly copied by Europeans during the 15th century. In addition, during the 9th century, Ibn Firnas of Islamic Spain, according to Will Durant, invented a watch-like device which kept accurate time. The Muslims also constructed a variety of highly accurate astronomical clocks for use in their observatories.

What is Taught: In the 17th century, the pendulum was developed by Galileo during his teenage years. He noticed a chandelier swaying as it was being blown by the wind. As a result, he went home and invented the pendulum.

What Should be Taught: The pendulum was discovered by Ibn Yunus al-Masri during the 10th century, who was the first to study and document its oscillatory motion. Its value for use in clocks was introduced by Muslim physicists during the 15th century.

What is Taught:Movable type and the printing press was invented in the West by Johannes Gutenberg of Germany during the 15th century.

What Should be Taught: In 1454, Gutenberg developed the most sophisticated printing press of the Middle Ages. However, movable brass type was in use in Islamic Spain 100 years prior, and that is where the West’s first printing devices were made.

What is Taught: Isaac Newton’s 17th century study of lenses, light and prisms forms the foundation of the modern science of optics.

What Should be Taught: In the 1lth century al-Haytham determined virtually everything that Newton advanced regarding optics centuries prior and is regarded by numerous authorities as the “founder of optics. ” There is little doubt that Newton was influenced by him. Al-Haytham was the most quoted physicist of the Middle Ages. His works were utilized and quoted by a greater number of European scholars during the 16th and 17th centuries than those of Newton and Galileo combined.

What is Taught: Isaac Newton, during the 17th century, discovered that white light consists of various rays of colored light.

What Should be Taught: This discovery was made in its entirety by al-Haytham (1lth century) and Kamal ad-Din (14th century). Newton did make original discoveries, but this was not one of them.

(source)

There was a time when being Muslim and learning, science and discovery were not mutually exclusive.  Of course, in fairness, we have a fair proportion of Christian fundamentalists teaching that the earth was made in 7 days and evolution doesn’t exist.

The real enemy is ignorance.  Once the ignorant get hold of weapons and technology based on the very science and knowledge they say is blasphemous, and use it to drive their own people back to the stone age, it is a crime against humanity.

 

– Mail Online

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Stinky farts are saving your life

no-fart

Speaking of research, turns out that letting them rip under the blankets and sharing the love is actually extending people’s life span.

[S]cientists out of the University of Exeter insist that smelling farts could actually prevent cancer,among other diseases.

“Although hydrogen sulfide gas”—produced when bacteria breaks down food—”is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases,” Dr. Mark Wood said in a university release.

Although the stinky gas can be noxious in large doses, the researchers seem to think that a whiff here and there has the power to reduce risks of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, arthritis, and dementia by preserving mitochondria.

Just to think, all these years, I’ve been making my family healthier.  I feel so good.

 

– Laura Stampler, Time

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Lady who had “sex with a dolphin” breaks silence

via YouTube / BBC

via YouTube / BBC

This story seems to resurface from time to time to get people outraged, but this time, instead of speculation and public sniggering creating the content of the articles, she’s actually spoken to the media about it.

A woman who had sex with a dolphin as part of a scientific study has spoken out for the first time.

During the swinging 60s, animal researcher Margaret Howe Lovatt was part of a Nasa-funded experiment on the US Virgin Islands to teach the intelligent sea creatures how to speak English.

In 1963 she helped turn a house into a domestic dolphinarium by flooding it with knee-deep water, where researchers could study the animals from their home.

It was there she met Peter, an adolescent dolphin she described as ‘sexually coming of age’.

As the two bonded, their relationship soon progressed to a more physical level.

There you go.  Get ready for the sordid details.   Read more »

Calls to jail climate sceptics for daring to challenge the science

The armists are showing their true colours and chancing their arm with totalitarianism, all in order to silence people’s right to freedom of speech and expression.

James Delingpole at Breitbart.com explains the latest call to jail climate sceptics:

Scientists who don’t believe in catastrophic man-made global warming should be put in prison, a US philosophy professor argues on a website funded by the UK government.

Lawrence Torcello – assistant professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, NY, writes in an essay at The Conversation that climate scientists who fail to communicate the correct message about “global warming” should face trial for “criminal negligence”. (H/T Bishop Hill)

The Conversation – no relation of Breitbart’s blogging chatroom – is a website promoting articles by academics and funded by nineteen of Britain’s leading universities, as well as several government agencies, including the Higher Education Funding Council For England (HEFCE) and the Higher Education Funding Council For Wales (HEFCW) and Research Council UK.

Its motto is “Academic rigour, journalistic flair” – both qualities which are mysteriously absent from Torcello’s essay, titled “Is Misinformation About The Climate Criminally Negligent?”

Torcello notes that after the earthquake that devastated l’Aquila, Italy in 2009, six Italian seismologists were jailed for six years for having failed properly to communicate the nature of the threat to the public. The same fate should befall climate denialists, he suggests, because they stand in the way of the “meaningful political action in the very countries most responsible for the crisis.”  Read more »