The Truth about Science Projects

 Posted by on 17 March 2014 at 2:00 pm  Education, Funny, Science
Mar 172014
 

Heh.

The Natural World Through Christian Eyes

 Posted by on 20 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Christianity, Religion, Science
Aug 202013
 

I just finished listening to the classic allegorical novel of protestantism, The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It was truly atrocious, even aside from the Christianity. I cannot imagine Christians finding any value in it… and yet it is a classic.

The worst — and hence, the best — bit was the following passage on the proper Christian interpretations of natural phenomena:

It was told you before, that Prudence bid the boys, that if at any time they would, they should ask her some questions that might be profitable and she would say something to them.

Then Matthew, who had been sick, asked her, why for the most part physic should be bitter to our palates.

Prudence: To show how unwelcome the word of God and the effects thereof are to a carnal heart.

Matthew: Why does physic, if it does good, purge, and cause to vomit?

Prudence: To show that the word, when it works effectually, cleanseth the heart and mind. For look, what the one doth to the body, the other doth to the soul.

Matthew: What should we learn by seeing the flame of our fire go upwards, and by seeing the beams and sweet influences of the sun strike downwards?

Prudence: By the going up of the fire, we are taught to ascend to heaven by fervent and hot desires. And by the sun sending his heat, beams, and sweet influences downwards, we are taught the Saviour of the world, though high, reaches down with his grace and love to us below.

Matthew: Whence have the clouds their water?

Prudence: Out of the sea.

Matthew: What may we learn from that?

Prudence: That ministers should fetch their doctrine from God.

Matthew: Why do they empty themselves upon the earth?

Prudence: To show that ministers should give out what they know of God to the world.

Matthew: Why is the rainbow caused by the sun?

Prudence: To show that the covenant of God’s grace is confirmed to us in Christ.

Matthew: Why do the springs come from the sea to us through the earth?

Prudence: To show that the grace of God comes to us through the body of Christ.

Matthew: Why do some of the springs rise out of the tops of high hills?

Prudence: To show that the Spirit of grace shall spring up in some that are great and mighty, as well as in many that are poor and low.

Matthew: Why doth the fire fasten upon the candle-wick?

Prudence: To show that unless grace doth kindle upon the heart, there will be no true light of life in us.

Matthew: Why are the wick, and tallow and all, spent to maintain the light of the candle?

Prudence: To show that body and soul, and all, should be at the service of, and spend themselves to maintain in good condition that grace of God that is in us.

Matthew: Why doth the pelican pierce her own breast with her bill?

Prudence: To nourish her young ones with her blood, and thereby to show that Christ the blessed so loved his young, (his people,) as to save them from death by his blood.

Matthew: What may one learn by hearing the cock to crow?

Prudence: Learn to remember Peter’s sin, and Peter’s repentance. The cock’s crowing shows also, that day is coming on: let, then, the crowing of the cock put thee in mind of that last and terrible day of judgment.

What can anyone say to that?!? Except perhaps… LORDY!

Craziest Chemical Reaction

 Posted by on 20 May 2013 at 2:00 pm  Cool, Science
May 202013
 

Heat turns powder into creepy alien creature. No, really.

The first minute and twenty seconds is just a person scooping out the powder into a line, which is rather boring, so you might wish to skip that. You want to watch from the moment that heat is added.

Apr 172013
 

Tonight, I’ll interview Eric Barnhill about Cognition, Movement, and Music. The topic is a bit obscure, but I’ve always been fascinated to hear Eric talk about his work. For me, this interview an excellent opportunity to have yet another interesting conversation… and you get to listen in!

Eric began his career as a Julliard-trained concert pianist, but now he’s a graduate student in medical physics in Scotland. Yes, that’s a bit of a strange path. Oddly, it’s been a path with a mostly steady trajectory, as you can see from his recent write-up for his alma matter. Here’s a bit:

During my time at Juilliard, I was introduced to an obscure field called Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which was developed by the Swiss composer and music theorist Emile Jaques-Dalcroze at the turn of the 20th century. In Dalcroze, movement is combined with vocal work and improvisation to create an alternative approach to teaching music. However, musical subjects are intermediate goals, used to develop attention, focus, coordination and physical performance via movement.

In Dalcroze I saw a methodology of unexplored potential that brought all my varied interests together. However, Dalcroze as a profession, to the extent that it exists at all, mostly consists of young children’s music and movement classes. To many colleagues, I had abandoned interpreting Schubert sonatas for sitting on a floor with 3-year-olds rolling balls around.

Early in my Dalcroze career I was reverse-commuting to a children’s music school in the suburbs (a rite of passage for many a Juilliard grad, in one form or another), where I frequently taught Dalcroze and piano to special-needs and learning-disabled children. I took them on as students because I had a blast teaching them.

However, I began to notice something interesting: The struggles they had executing musical patterns in movement seemed deeply connected to their core special-needs deficits. Similarly, to the extent that these students’ ability to execute rhythmic tasks improved, their core deficits seemed to temporarily recede. If I found a way to help a low-functioning girl keep a beat, she would then become just as present as anyone else. If I could tune up a boy’s ability to track measure, suddenly he would sit up and listen to an entire sentence. Stepping and skipping the rhythms of a nursery rhyme with these children would result in an afterglow of clear and expressive speech from them where none previously existed. This observation was the most exciting one I ever made. It has been the cornerstone on which I have built everything I have done professionally since.

You can read the rest here. Also, Eric gave a talk at TEDxBermuda — Empowering Through Rhythm — that’s an excellent teaser for tonight’s interview:

Fascinating, no? I hope that you join us for the interview!

 

What a charming interview with the creator of one of my favorite Facebook pages, I Fucking Love Science!

I love her broad interest in all things science-y — and I can very much relate to that, except that my interests center on normative domains, particularly philosophy, psychology, and literature.

Specialists are hugely valuable: the major work wouldn’t get done without them. But to spread the good work of those specialists beyond their scholarly bubbles requires advocates and champions. Those are the enthusiastic and knowledgeable people who translate awesome ideas into laymen’s terms, to show regular folks just how nifty and useful and exciting and beneficial those ideas are.

That’s what I aim to do with Philosophy in Action… and it’s lovely (and useful) for me to see I Fucking Love Science as such a great exemplar in another domain.

How to Lower Your IQ: The Physics of Homeopathy

 Posted by on 17 January 2013 at 10:00 am  Medicine, Science
Jan 172013
 

This is super-dense inanity: Crazy Homeopathy Lady Charlene Werner Explains Physics:

My favorite bit is when she concludes from a whole slew of completely ridiculous pseudo-physics that disease is when we “transform our energy state into something different.” The bit about us hearing strings vibrate was pretty awesome too though.

As it happens, I answered a question on whether pharmacies should sell homeopathic “medicine” in the 5 June 2011 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you missed that episode, you can listen to or download the audio podcast:

Geek Not Like This: Electrostatic Discharge

 Posted by on 7 January 2013 at 2:00 pm  Funny, Science, Technology
Jan 072013
 

I nearly cried from laughing too hard when watching this video of … er… how not to handle electrostatic discharge.

Dec 142012
 

Wow: U.S. House science committee member calls evolution, Big Bang theory ‘lies straight from the pit of hell’:

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell” meant to convince people that they do not need a savior.

The Republican lawmaker made those comments during a speech Sept. 27 at a sportsman’s banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell.

Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats. He sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“God’s word is true,” Broun said, according to a video posted on the church’s website. “I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

Broun also said that he believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. Those beliefs are held by fundamentalist Christians who believe the creation accounts in the Bible to be literally true.

It’s not surprising that this [unprintable term] is a politician, but it’s scary that he’s a doctor.

 

The following comments on the validity of a evolutionary approach to nutrition are from an email that I wrote to an Objectivist philosopher skeptical of the paleo diet. (The email was sent many moons ago, and I only just found it again.) My comments stand pretty well on their own, I think, and I hope that they’ll be of interest to folks interested in thinking about paleo in a philosophical way.

I cannot point you to a single study that definitively proves the superiority of a paleo diet. For a hundred different reasons — most of which probably aren’t on your radar — such a study is not possible. (Gary Taubes and Mike Eades have written on that problem.) Nonetheless, a whole lot of smaller, more delimited studies (as well as well-established biology) support the claims made by advocates of a paleo diet. Plus, people report looking, feeling, and performing better — with improved lab values — on a paleo-type diet. Each of us has our own experiences and experiments to draw on too.

Hence, as I said in a thread on Facebook: “I think I’ve got very good grounds for saying that a paleo diet is (1) healthy for most people, (2) far superior to the diet of most Americans, (3) exceedingly delicious and satisfying, and (4) worth trying to see if you do better on it, particularly if you have certain kinds of health problems.”

I’m not claiming certainty, nor do I assume that my current diet is optimal. We have tons to learn about nutrition and health. Yet that’s hardly a reason to ignore what we do know — or to suppose that we can just keep eating however we please without experiencing pernicious consequences down the road.

Moreover, people are doing themselves harm by eating the standard American diet. In my own case, I was on my way to type 2 diabetes (based on my doctor’s blood glucose tests) and liver disease (based on a CT scan showing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). We can’t assume that the standard American diet is a safe default just because it’s all around us — just as people shouldn’t assume that the standard American religion is a safe philosophical default.

To address your skepticism about an evolutionary approach to nutrition, let me ask you the following… Imagine that you were given a dog to care for, but you’d never seen or heard of a dog before. Would you say that the fact that dogs are very close relatives of wolves is irrelevant to the question of what you ought to feed this dog? Wouldn’t that evolutionary fact suggest that the dog needs meat, meat, and more meat — not tofu or corn or alfalfa?

That evolutionary inference certainly wouldn’t be the last word on proper diet for the dog by any stretch of the imagination. Yet that inference would help guide your inquiry into the optimal diet for the dog — and guide your feeding of him in the meantime. That evolutionary perspective would be particularly helpful if the government and its lackeys were busy promoting a slew of false views about optimal canine diet. Ultimately, it would help integrate and explain your various findings about canine nutrition, since the nature of the canine was shaped by its evolutionary history.

On this point, your comparison to evolutionary psychology is not apt. Evolutionary psychology is a cesspool. But that’s not because inferences from our evolutionary history are difficult, although that’s true. Evolutionary psychology is a cesspool because it depends heavily on some false philosophical assumptions — particularly determinism and innate ideas.

The same charges cannot be made against an evolutionary approach to nutrition. We know that every organism is adapted to eat certain kinds of foods rather than others. We know that human biology was shaped over the course of millions of years, during which time we ate certain kinds of foods but not others. That suggests the kinds of foods that we’re best adapted to eat. Moreover, we can see in skeletal remains that when people switched to other kinds of foods, particularly grains, they declined remarkably in basic measures of health. Then consider what know about the nature of wheat, including its effects on the gut. Top that off with the positive effects people experience — improved well-being, fat loss, better lab values, less autoimmunity — when they stop eating wheat. Then you’ve got a compelling case against eating wheat.

The evolutionary perspective is not merely a useful starting point in such inquiries, to be discarded with advancements in modern science. It’s relevant causal history: it explains why we respond as we do to wheat. That enables us to integrate disparate findings about wheat (and other foods) into a unified theory of nutrition. That’s hugely important to developing nutrition as a science.

The Trouble with Science Education

 Posted by on 16 November 2012 at 11:00 am  Film, Funny, Science
Nov 162012
 

This is why I majored in philosophy. Wait… OH SNAP!

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