Tag Archives: record

Cosmos – Best Repudiation Yet of Creationists

Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula, about 6,500 light-years from earth. See the twinkling celestial features in the background? If the earth were truly 6,500 years old, as young-earth creationists claim, then the universe wouldn't be old enough for the light from those features to reach earth.

I admit I was pretty skeptical when it was announced Neal deGrasse Tyson was rebooting Cosmos, with shows to air on Fox.  It definitely wasn’t Tyson himself, who I think is just the kind of charismatic, down-to-earth science “spokesman” that can relate to the masses.  While scientists may be wonderful at explaining the universe, we’re not always so wonderful at translating that explanation to the public as a whole.   My concern wasn’t for the host, it was the fact that it was being aired on Fox.  What would Fox allow? Would those at Fox try to use Cosmos to push the right-wing version of “science”, complete with anti-evolution and anti-global warming fallacies?

Thankfully the answer has been a resounding NO, and Tyson and Cosmos have taken on evolution full-on in the first few episodes. This week’s episode provided a wonderful, and oh-so-straightforward repudiation of the “young-earth” creationists.  Obviously the fossil record, radiometric age dating, and other methods have been widely used in the past to refute creationists. From a scientific standpoint, there’s obviously no refuting the evidence in these records, but particularly for methodologies such as radiometric dating, it’s enough of a “black box” that the public as a whole has little understanding of how it works.  It’s therefore easier for creationists to dismiss.

Tyson’s argument on Cosmos isn’t “new”, the same argument has occasionally been used before to refute creationists.  It was the presentation and the popular venue that I think really brought it home and made it one of the most effective repudiations of Creationists.  The argument is devastatingly simple.  The Crab Nebula is approximately 6,500 light-years away.  Young-earth creationists claim the earth is about 6,500 years old.  Given that by definition, a light-year is the distance light can travel in a calendar year, if the earth were only 6,500 years old, then ALL celestial objects further than 6,500 light-years away would be invisible to humans on earth. There simply wouldn’t have been enough time for light to travel that far, so that humans on earth could observe it.  Simple!  Straightforward!

And devastatingly effective in repudiating young-earth creationists.  Creationists have a long history of creating complete fallacies to counter the fossil record and other evidence of an “old’ earth…it will be interesting to see what laughable explanation they come up with to refute the latest Cosmos episode.

Young Men Kill Record Alligator – Testosterone Levels Surge

I really need to add a new blog category…”Stupid CNN Front Page ‘News’”, or something along those lines.  I think it was the Onion the other day who made fun of CNN’s penchant for having ridiculous, non-news-worthy stories dominate their front page, and I certainly won’t argue with that.  It seems they had Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance as their lead story online for 3 days, with smaller headlines for “minor” stories like the U.S. potentially headed to war with Syria.

Yesterday’s big “news” comes from Mississippi, where rednecks from across the region salivated at the chance to go out and kill something.  Evidently there was an alligator hunt for the first time in many, many years, and the big CNN “news” was that multiple groups of rednecks killed record-sized alligators.  More than 24 hours later, and this big story is STILL on the top of the CNN “news” page.  The story is accompanied by a lovely photo of 3 young Mississippi rednecks, standing proudly behind a dead alligator hoisted up into the air.

Congrats CNN for relaying yet another ground-breaking “news” story.  And big congrats to the all those fine, Mississippi rednecks who satisfied their urge to go out and kill something…I can feel the manly testosterone SURGING, all the way up here in South Dakota.

If you really want some good entertainment, look at the reader comments accompanying this big “news” story.  Always entertaining to lift the curtain and see some uncensored discussion from the brilliant citizenry from across America.  My favorite posts accompanying this story…those that say it’s NECESSARY for Mississippi rednecks to go out and blast away at alligators, to control the population.  Did alligator populations spiral out of control prior to the arrival of testosterone-driven killing-machine young rednecks in America?  The damned creatures must have been so abundant that they were stacked on top of each other, without having these fine young rednecks…wait…no…these fine young redneck HEROES…to protect us from the scourge of out-of-control alligator populations.  BRAVO, young redneck Mississippi heroes!! Without your brave daring-do, it would have only been a matter of time before the out-of-control Alligator horde would have reached us up here in South Dakota.  Thank you CNN for reporting this story, and thank you Mississippi rednecks for protecting your fellow citizenry…

Mentally ill man with criminal record assaults U.S. school; U.S. Yawns

A mentally ill man, a man with a criminal record, enters a school with over 500 rounds of ammunition, ready to kill children in a Newton-style assault.   The story briefly popped up on the news yesterday and a bit today, but other stories quickly supplanted it.  Tomorrow, it will be a story that is largely forgotten. Why was the story not considered as newsworthy as the new dog in the White House, the Dow dropping for 5 straight days, or the latest celebrity gossip?  Because thanks to a brave bookkeeper who talked the gunman into surrendering, no children died.

Evidently THIS is our one stalwart line of defense against wackos with guns who want to kill our children…bookkeepers with a slick tongue.  Given that it was OBVIOUSLY no problem for a mentally ill man with a criminal record to obtain enough fire power to kill every student and teacher at the school, gun control isn’t the answer!!  Perhaps the gun wackos out there will push back against the next, feeble attempts to pass gun-control legislation by instead pushing for linguistics training for hard-luck bookkeepers such as the hero in this instance.

Bookkeepers over gun control…THEREIN lies our only hope to prevent another Newton, because god knows our NRA-beholden wimpy politicians care more about the next election than they do the lives of our children.

British Petroleum, you owe me $71.91 in Cherries!!!!

Cherries

Yummmmmm...Cherries. COMPLETELY due to the actions of British Petroleum, I am in danger of losing a 2nd straight cherry crop this spring.

It’s 7:30 pm.  It’s March 12th.  I live in South Dakota.  Despite these three facts, I just got back from walking the dog, wearing just jeans and a t-shirt.   It just continues what has been a remarkably warm and mild winter.  I look at the forecast for the next 10 days, and all I see are highs in the 60s and 70s, approaching 80 on some days(!!!).  The LOWEST temperature predicted for the next 10 days is 37, tonight.  After that, there are no days predicted with lows below 42 degrees.  MARCH…SOUTH DAKOTA…STILL WINTER…and yet there are no temperatures predicted to even APPROACH freezing for the next 10 days.  Remarkable.

And how does that relate to British Petroleum (BP), or cherries?   Good question!  As I got back from my walk, I noticed that my hostas next to the house are starting to poke their heads out of the ground.  Have I mentioned this is early March?  Have I mentioned this is South Dakota?  I usually consider May 12th, 2 MONTHS from now, too early to plant, as we’re still likely to get frosts after that date.  But here we are on March 12th, and I have perennials starting to poke out.  And therein lies the relationship to cherries.  I have 3 cherry trees in the backyard.  Given the weather, I have NO doubt that my cherry crop will suffer the same fate it suffered last year.  Last year we had a warm stretch in the spring, followed by the typical frosts.  I lost the blooms on my cherries, and didn’t have a single cherry on any of my three trees.  Given the incredibly warm weather we’re having now, once again, I think I’m likely to lose my cherry crop, as we will inevitably get more hard freezes after this very early warm weather.

And hence the link to BP!  Ok, it doesn’t necessarily have to be just BP, it could be Exxon, Shell, or any other oil company.  I’m using them as a scapegoat, as a representative, of all the fossil fuel producing corporations.  I’m a scientist.  I know I can’t directly relate the record-breaking warmth we’re having to global warming.  One warm stretch can’t be directly attributable to climate.  But this will be the SECOND year in a row I will be cherry-less!!  Still not enough to attribute to global warming, but I don’t care!  I’m panicking!!  I’m distraught!  No cherries!! No fresh cherry pie!! No cherry preserves!! No working in the back yard and snarfing down on fresh cherries!!

I am choosing to blame BP, in lieu of blaming all of humanity.   I therefore am sending an invoice to BP for damages.  If I am not paid in FRESH CHERRIES (to heck with the cash, give me the cherries, BP!), I will sue!!   My list of damages are as follows:

- 10 pounds of fresh cherries from this year’s crop (I just have 3 little trees right now).   At $3.99 a pound, that comes to $39.99.

- 8 pounds of fresh cherries from last year’s crop.  My small trees were even smaller last year, hence 2 pounds less of an estimated “crop”.  Damage estimate – $31.92

- 1 destroyed cherry tree.  I USED to have four cherry trees in the back yard.  Last spring, we had a monster of a windstorm, and one of my little cherry trees just snapped in two, right at the base.  Research has shown that global warming will cause an increase in destructive storm events.  It’s just one storm, but…I don’t care!!  BP, I am blaming you!!!! Damage estimate – $129.99 (that’s roughly how much the trees cost).

- Pain and suffering.  Can you imagine anything in the world that’s more traumatic than looking out your window during a thunderstorm, and seeing one of your prize cherry trees snap in two?  Well…OK, so can I.  But I was suffering for a few minutes there!!  Damages – $7.58.  

If my math is correct, I therefore am owed $71.91 worth of fresh cherries, plus $137.57 in cold hard cash to replace my destroyed cherry tree, and for pain and suffering!!  BP!  Consider this blog post to be an invoice!!  You have 30 days to submit payment, or my crack team of lawyers will be in touch!!!

Perusin’ and Musin’

Some random thoughts from perusing the web…

Obama’s Approval Rating Surges - Well, that didn’t take long.  There was speculation that the GOP’s stubborn, and foolish, stance against a 2-month extension of the payroll tax holiday would end up benefiting Obama politically.  The new Gallup poll on Obama’s approval rating shows a 5% spike over the last week or two, a spike which is at least no doubt partially due to the House GOP fiasco.   It may be a short-term boost, but more than that, I think people are starting to realize just how scary GOP control would be.  Voters have flipped between just about every GOP candidate that’s running, in desperate hope to find someone palatable.  They’re still looking.   Independent voters who want bipartisan cooperation in Washington see how the GOP operates in the House, they see the ridiculous extremist stances the GOP candidates have been forced to adopt, and will also be reluctant to hand over control in Washington to such a dysfunctional party.   

 Gingrich unraveling – Gingrich hasn’t exactly been known for his integrity or morality in the past.  Somehow, even social conservatives had decided to forgive him and overlook his shady past (which tells you more about what social conservatives REALLY value, other than morality).  That may be ending, as the evidence of his outright lying continues to come out.  First we have documents coming out and contradicting his claims that his first wife is the one who wanted (and filed for) divorce.  We have old memos of Gingrich praising Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts.  Perhaps folks should have gotten just a WEE bit suspicious of Gingrich when he tried to position himself as some kind of Washington outsider…despite once being Speaker of the House, and despite his now documented monetary ties to Fannie Mae.  The man is dishonest, even for a politician!  Thank god the media is doing their job and calling him on it.

Ron Paul’s pathetic record as a legislator – I love this story from the Washington Post.  Ron Paul has sponsored 620 bills on the House floor.  Only ONE of these ever became law, and only 4 even ever made it up for a vote.  Ron Paul is just so out of the mainstream, and his ideas are so incredibly ridiculous, that he can’t get any support for his legislation in Congress.  But yet, Ron Paul has a real chance to win in Iowa next week.   That should scare the Republican party.  They’ve become a party of extremists, and a party that is incapable of governing.

“Big Year” birder up to 2nd place all-time

The Big year

If you want an idea of the time and expense birders go through to do a "Big Year", the book The Big Year by Mark Obmascik is a great read

A Colorado birder, John Vanderpoel, is now up to 2nd place all time for a North American “Big Year“.  In a “Big Year”, a birder tries to see/hear as many  bird species as possible in a given year.  Vanderpoel is up to 736 species for the year.  The record is 748, from Sandy Komito, one of  the birders featured in the (great!) book The Big Year, and also the recent movie The Big Year with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black. 

I’m not a “lister”.  I know what birds I’ve seen, I know what birds I’ve photographed, but I don’t really keep any active list.  I know there are birders who have “big year” lists, “big day” lists, state lists, county lists, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, I think doing something like what Vanderpoel is doing would be a blast.  But there are two things I don’t get.

First is the behavior I’ve seen from some “listers”.   There have been times where rare birds have been spotted around South Dakota, and I’ve gone to see them.  For me, when I see any new bird, especially some rarity that I’m not likely to see again for a long time, if ever, I like to spend some time watching and enjoying it, such as when a very rare Ross’s Gull was found below Gavin’s Point Dam on the Nebraska/South Dakota border, or when a Scisscor-tailed Flycatcher was found near Brookings, South Dakota.  But many times when I’ve been looking at a rare bird, there are listers who see a rare bird, mentally (and often physically) check it off their list, and then leave.  To each his own, but it seems there is a cadre of birders out there where the list and even the competitiveness of it seems more important to them than enjoying birds and nature. 

The 2nd thing I don’t get…HOW THE HELL can anyone afford to do a big year?  Both from the standpoint of money, and time?  There have been about 970 species that have EVER been seen “North America” (just the conterminous U.S., Alaska, and Canada for the supposedly official “North American” list.)  Many of these species are extremely rare visitors, such as Mexican or Central American birds that occasionally stray across the border into the U.S., or Asian species that can sometimes be found in extreme western Alaskan islands. To even come close to getting 700 species, birders have to go to far-away such as the Pribilof Islands or Attu Island of the western coast of Alaska, hoping to find strays from Asia.  You have to get on a plane at a moment’s notice to fly across the country to find one out-of-place bird that might have been spotted.  You’ve got to have one hell of a lot of money, and time, to be able to travel that much, to very odd and far away locations. 

May someday, when I retire and win the lottery.

Record-low SAT scores – Let's cut education spending!!

American Education - Grade of FAmerican investment in education and our future is paying off!!  We are getting EXACTLY what we deserve!! And what are we getting?  Dumb children.   SAT scores in reading for last year were the lowest ever recorded.   Very surprising…we continue to cut education funding, and our children continue to get dumber and dumber. 

 Out of the 41 countries tested in 2003.  U.S. students scored 28th in math testing.    Latvia just edged us out for 27th.  In reading, we scored 18th out of 41.  In science, we scored 22nd out of 41.  But who can blame us?  The United States just doesn’t have the resources to spend on education like Latvia does!!  Right????   Well, no, that isn’t quite right.  In 2011, the Federal government spent 12 times as much on the military as we did on education.   We spent nearly 10 times as much on the military as we did on science, environmental, and energy programs, combined.  Our military budget nearly matches the rest of the WORLD’S military budget, combined!!

It’s all about priorities.  Education funding seems to be one of the first things on the chopping block when there are budget issues.  Raise taxes?  Or fire teachers?  9 times out of 10 in the U.S., the answer seems to be to fire teachers.   Now we unquestionably have issues with federal deficits and debt, and what are our priorities for addressing that debt?  Do we raise taxes to ensure our ability to invest in our future?  GOD NO!!  This is America!  Land of the brain-dead GOP!   Raising taxes is COMPLETELY off the table!!

Do we cut our massive bloated military budget?  GOD NO!!!  This is America!  Land of the brain-dead GOP!  Cutting the military budget is COMPLETELY off the table!!!

Do we foolishly cut our investments in education and science?  GOD YES!  This is America! Land of the brain-dead GOP!  Michele Bachman has advocated that we simply CUT the entire Department of Education.  Rick Perry and Herman Cain also strongly advocate moving all control of education to states and local governments.  Surely state and local control would result in a better education system, right?  GOD NO!!  In my current state of South Dakota this past year, when budget issues arose, one of the first things cut (surprise!!) was education funding.   When push comes to shove, be it at the Federal, State, or local level, people consistently choose the short-sighted view to handle short-term budget issues by cutting long-term investment in education and science.

America land of the free, and home of the brave.  OH, and also the land of dumb children.  And there’s no one to blame but ourselves and our screwed up priorities.

More Texas Climate Records Fall

Perry Rain Prayer

While others in the GOP try to "pray away the gay", Rick Perry tries to "pray away the heat".

Yet more climate records are falling in Texas as record heat and drought continue to bake the state.   Wichita Falls has had an astounding 100 days of 100 degree temperatures this summer.   What’s amazing about the record is that the old record was “only” 79 days of 100 degree temperatures.  From a climate record, and just from a basic statistical standpoint, this summer has truly been well above and beyond normal.  

It’s not just Wichita Falls.  As the story above notes, 15 out of the largest 19 Texas cities have set heat records for most days in triple digits.  Some Texas cities have DOUBLED the record number of triple-digit days…again, an amazing statistical anomaly.  It’s almost as if, oh, I don’t know…some kind of “climate warming” effect is going on or something.  It’s almost as if…call me crazy…there’s some systematic, global climate effect that’s contributing to previously unheard of temperature and precipitation trends.

But, hey, that’s CRAZY, right?  To think that something, oh, say, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning or land-use change, could cause a warming of the climate?  RIDICULOUS!!!  I think the best course of action mankind could possibly take is to follow in Texas Governor Rick Perry’s shoes, and pray for rain and lower temperatures.

All together now…close your eyes…put your arms down at your sides…and, while clicking your heels together 3 times, repeat after me…”There’s no place for climate change science…There’s no place for climate change science…there’s no place for….

Image above from Blue Herald…

Texas sets all-time record for U.S. State – Hottest Summer Ever

Texas Drought Index

Historic summer heat record. Historic drought. Historic fire season. And still Rick Perry doubts climate change is happening.

They always do things bigger in Texas!  Texas has broken a weather record that has stood for over 75 years.  Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl days of 1934 had the all-time record for a U.S. state for the hottest summer ever.    Texas this summer blew that record away by over a degree and a half (that’s A LOT in climate terms).  Oklahoma’s 1934 record is now 3rd, as Oklahoma this summer also beat that 1934 record.  Louisiana this summer was close behind, and now has the 4th hottest summer record. 

If I were a vindictive person, I might call this karma coming back to bite Rick Perry in the butt, for his continued, idiotic proclamations regarding his disbelief in climate change.

What an amazing year it has been for weather in the U.S.  Besides the heat this summer, some states have had their one of their driest summers ever…and yet others have had their wettest summers ever!!  In April, we also had the biggest tornado outbreak ever recorded.  We had record snowfall in the Rockies this winter, and near-record rainfall in Montana in the Spring, both of which caused record flooding for the Missouri River and other rivers.  

Science predicts more extreme weather as a result of climate change.   Ah, if only Americans gave a damn about science, or even BELIEVED in science any more.