Archives August 2006

John Davison Does It Again

If you know who John Davison is, you may want to read his new new blog,
The End of Evolution.

If you don’t know, Read More

Dark Matter Exists

One of the things that’s got to be frustrating about astronomy is just how little astronomers have to work with. They can’t walk up to a star and stick a thermometer in it or weigh it on a scale. They can’t even go around a star and look at it from a different angle. They can’t go anywhere the Earth doesn’t want to go, and the instruments on space probes don’t go very far or very fast. They can’t collect matter samples from distant stars and planets because matter, traveling at less than the speed of light, hasn’t had nearly enough time to get here. That leaves them with pretty much nothing but light. Okay, electromagnetic radiation of all frequencies, but it’s still just photons. Basically, all they can do is stand in one spot and watch.

And what’s amazing is that they keep coming up with ways of teasing unbelievable amounts of information out of the light that reaches us. They can see what its frequency distribution is, what spectral lines have been added or removed, which tells them what atoms and molecules are involved, and also whether that matter’s moving toward or away from us, and how fast. And a million other bits of information beyond that.

To illustrate, Sean Carroll (no, not
Sean Carroll the biologist,
Sean Carroll the cosmologist)
explains how scientists recently demonstrated that dark matter really exists.

Go read
the whole thing, because it’s clearly explained, with cool pictures.

In a nutshell, though, it’s an example of what I was talking about above, of teasing out all sorts of information out of light.

Read More

Faith-Based Airport Security

If airports set up special lines at security checkpoints for Muslims, as
various right-wingers have been suggesting,
may I suggest an express line for atheists, with lighter security checks?

After all, when’s the last time an atheist hijacked a plane, or drove a car bomb into a schoolyard, or blew up an abortion clinic, an
olympic stadium,
office building?

D. James Kennedy godwinates; Behe distances himself from “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy

For those who didn’t know, Coral Ridge Ministries is producing a TV show to appear in a few days, called Darwin’s Deadly Legacy. Judging by the preview, it’s going to be one long argumentum ad Hitlerum, along with a heaping dose of evolution denial, and a bit of Columbine thrown in for good measure.

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Teaching Kids Science

The Pensacola News Journal has
an article
about a program called
I LOVE Science,
in which volunteers teach school children science with hands-on activities.

“Science is fun, and you get to do things that are new to you,” said Ryan Gilley, 10. “You get to know how things work and the way they are made.”

If they can instill a love of learning and science in young kids, that’s great.

But the irony of it all is that this is happening right in Kent Hovind’s back yard.


Don’t mind this, I’m just
helping Karl.

Read More

Fun Postponed

According to
Kent Hovind’s weblog,
the date for his trial (58 counts of tax evasion, for those who’d forgotten) has been postponed until Oct. 17, so we’ll have to wait an extra five weeks for him to start getting his comeuppance. Oh, well.

Airport Security

Bill in Portland Maine makes some sensible comments about airport security, but with more snark and links than I could muster:

A quick check on airport security:

Liquids and gels have been banned in carry-on baggage. This is silly and ineffective.  But aren’t ya glad they thought of it 5 years after 9/11?

X-ray machines are reliable tools to detect explosives in shoes. Except the, uh…Liquid or gel kind.

Cargo is still not inspected nearly enough. Packages under 16 ounces don’t even require paperwork. (The explosion aboard Pan Am flight 103 was caused by a device that weighed less than 16 ounces).

The Muslims-only line—underwritten by FOX News—still hasn’t been set up yet, dammit. And new TSA officer Mike Gallagher hasn’t shown up to begin the Muslims-only full-body-cavity searches. (Apparently he’s still finishing his temp job as a nursery school crossing guard.)

Meanwhile, the TSA is under strict orders not to touch any passenger’s monkey, no matter what might be ticking inside its ass.

I feel safer. How `bout you?

Yeah. Next time I fly, I’ll be thinking of my PDA, laptop, bottle of water, Swiss army knife (the Perl of Leathermen) and other implements of destruction in the unscreened luggage compartment beneath me.

Results or Justice?

Would you sacrifice justice for positive results?

Let’s say someone introduces a program — say a combination of education and neighborhood watch, or something — that has been shown to reduce the level of crime in a neighborhood. In towns and neighborhoods that have instituted this program, there are only 10% of the muggings, 10% of the burglaries, 10% of the murders, etc. as there were before the program was instituted.

Unfortunately, this comes at a cost: none of the crimes that do occur are punished. Perhaps the cops are too busy managing the new program to show up in court, or maybe it’s an integral part of the program.

Would you be in favor of this program being instituted in your own neighborhood?

Read More

Why Don’t the Republicans Want My Vote?

I like Dean’s Fifty-State Strategy. For those who haven’t been following along, the idea is that for years, the Republicans and Democrats have been concentrating their campaign money where they think it’ll do the most good. Thus, for instance, the Democrats would realize that they’re not going to win some rural seat in Georgia, and therefore there’s no point in campaigning there. Then the Republicans would see that there’s no Democratic competition for that seat, and would concentrate their resources on a more disputed election, perhaps in Ohio or Missouri.

We all saw the 2000 and 2004 elections. So Dean apparently decided that the old was weren’t working so well anymore, and that the Democrats should actually spend money on every race in 2006, even the ones they can’t reasonably win.

The effect is at least twofold. For one thing, remember that dogcatcher race in rural Georgia? If the Democrats are actually spending money on it and putting up a fight, that means the Republicans can’t just take it for granted, and are going to have to spend money there as well, which is money they can’t spend in Missouri or Ohio.

The other effect is that stories are coming out about a resurgence of the Democratic party in unlikely places, like Alabama. Places where, in past election cycles, the Democratic party presence consisted solely of a PO box now have actual paid staffers, and people are getting to meet real live Democrats for the first time. This is all well and good and in the spirit of democracy, giving people a choice of candidates.

But I guess the Republicans didn’t get the memo. This November, I’ll be voting for or against Steny Hoyer, who has said a few stupid things recently. So I thought I’d see who the competition is.

As far asI can tell, there’s no Republican in that race. Apparently Ron Miller was running, but decided to switch to the Senate race. But no Republican will take the Maryland 5th house seat, because they haven’t put up a candidate.

I sent them mail yesterday asking about that, but I’m not terribly hopeful. I sent them mail in April asking for a platform document (no snark or anything; just a straight request), and never heard back.

Which brings me to the question in the subject: apparently the Republicans don’t want my vote. Why not?

Update, Aug. 11, 2006: I actually got a response from the MD GOP. My request:

Hi! I’ve been trying to find out who will be the GOP candidate in Maryland’s 5th Congressional district this November. I’ve searched the web site, but haven’t been able to find this information.

If you could help, I’d appreciate it.


Their response:

There is no Republican candidate going against Steny Hoyer this year. We originally had one candidate, Ron Miller, running but he decided that running against Mike Miller in the state Senate presented a better opportunity for success and impacting the people of the district. There was one other candidate who thought about getting into the race, but decided at the last minute that his time and energy was better spent re-electing Governor Ehrlich, electing Michael Steele to the U.S. Senate and bringing more Republicans into the General Assembly.

Thank you for your email. I hope this information helps.


Audra Miller
Communications Director
Maryland Republican Party