Science Debate is a group that's working to get political candidates in the United States actually talking publicly about issues of science and technology policy. In 2008, they tried (and failed) to get Barak Obama and John McCain to agree to a live, televised science debate. But they did get both candidates to send in written answers to 14 key questions.
This election cycle, Science Debate sent out a new set of 14 questions—all chosen from a crowdsourced list. Today, they announced that they'd gotten answers back from both Obama and Mitt Romney. You can compare the candidates side-by-side at the Science Debate website. I have to say that, while I disagree with a lot of Romney's conclusions, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of thought and time his staff clearly put into writing some very long and detailed responses.
Perhaps most surprising was his response to a question about climate change. Instead of attempting to flatly deny the evidence, Mitt Romney has apparently moved on to acknowledging that climate change is happening—while simultaneously overplaying the uncertainty surrounding specific risks, and claiming that even if climate change is a big problem there's nothing we can really do about it anyway ... because China.
Personally, I think that's pretty interesting. Climate scientists, and the journalists who write about them, have been talking, anecdotally, about seeing this exact rhetorical shift happening in conservative circles. It seems that the Republican presidential nominee is now one of the people who acknowledge climate change exists, but would still rather not take any decisive steps to deal with it.
I happen to think that's a dumb position. After all, even if the United States can't stop climate change alone, the kinds of policies that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels would also help us adapt and thrive despite climate shifts and fossil fuel depletion. But this is still a step in the right direction. As several climate scientists I've spoken with have said, we can disagree on the policy. But it's high time we stop pretending that we can't see the changes happening all around us.
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I post this not just because it's the cast of AMC's Mad Men performing Rick Astley's famous Rick-rolling anthem one word at a time, but also because of the sheer man hours spent looking for each word in the lyrics being said at any point during the show's first four seasons -- which, if every episode is about 42 minutes, amounts to about 36 and a half hours of Mad Men -- and then editing them all together, to music, in order to create the appearance of an assembled song. Please, bask in appreciation of YouTube user Buchan39's efforts. Quick update 9/5: Wasn't sure yesterday if the video was created for or by standup comedian Richard Sandling -- it was, indeed, created by the comedian himself. (Thanks, Pete!)
Here's all the demonic summoning symbols you're likely to use on a daily basis, in handy flashcard form. All you need to do is print it up and stick it over your monitor, so it's handy when you need it.
The three-man crew of the 31-foot Belzebub II, a fiberglass sailboat "with a living space the size of a bathroom," told the world today how they sailed through the M’Clure Strait in northern Canada, a "decreasingly ice-packed route through the famed Northwest Passage." Warming global temperatures and melting polar ice caps made it possible. The crew's original blog post is here. (LAT)
New York Magazine has a feature out about the Judge Rotenberg Center (formerly the Behavior Research Institute), a controversial institution targeted by Anonymous when a video showing an autistic child receiving electrical shocks went viral. Andre McCollins was the boy in that video, which was leaked to a local Fox News affiliate in Boston. You can watch a copy here. It's very disturbing. Mother Jones covered the school in an earlier investigative series here, back in 2007.
Every once in a while, I come across an Etsy site that I feel should make a million dollars a day. (Like Pica Pica Press, the Etsy store that might have first existed in one of my own dreams, and then came to life.) Today, thanks to my old stomping grounds The Mary Sue, I have found another that I'd like to share with you: Nerd Alert Designs. Why? Because of the dress you see to the right.This is The Ash Dress, inspired by the Evil Dead movies, made in the same color of the shirt work by one Ash Williams played by one Bruce Campbell. As you can see, there is a strategically-placed chainsaw on the skirt, giving the wearer a chainsaw hand upon insertion of the hand into the left pocket. The Necronomicon is not included, but the existence of this dress is evil, dark magic enough.
This dress comes with a chainsaw pocket [The Mary Sue]
The 1980s had many surreal and outré comic-book stars. I recall particularly following The Tick, Concrete, and Nexus. They were respectively a nigh-invulnerable, possibly mentally ill superhero with a chubby accountant sidekick in a moth-themed flying suit; a writer whose brain was transplanted by aliens (themselves possibly escaped slaves) into a nearly invulnerable rock-like body often performing missions of mercy; and a man (later others, including men, women, and children) picked by a nearly omnipotent being residing in the center of a planet to atone the genocide of his father by being forced to be an almost indestructible and thoroughly powerful superhero, lest he face disabling pain.
You catch the theme here, right? Omnipotence, invulnerability, superhero—all but the Tick reluctant. Into that mix, Flaming Carrot was something altogether different.
Snip from the NYT:
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the New York Mycological Society and the 100th birthday of the composer John Cage, its founder, there will be an exhibition on mushrooms and Mr. Cage’s passion for them on Sept. 7 and 8 at the Cooper Union, 7 East Seventh Street (Third Avenue). Admission is free. On Sept. 8 from 8 to 11 p.m. there will be a performance of some of Mr. Cage’s works with film and photographic backdrops about mushrooms. Tickets benefit the society: $20 to $100, $5 for students, for the show. A pre-performance dinner at the home of the author Eugenia Bone is $200 a person, including the show, or $350 for two, from newyorkmyc.org.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012 would have been the 100th birthday of John Cage. Events around the country commemorating his life are gathered in this LA Times item.
(Thanks, Jerome Mercier!)
There's tons of stuff in the Boing Boing Shop -- so much that I sometimes find links to stuff elsewhere that make me think, "Hey, I should blog that" just before I realize "Hey, that's from us!"
Case in point, this Darth Vader Onesie, which is currently sold out. You can back-order it, though.
This year has been filled with sad goodbyes, but this is a particularly sad one. Michael Clarke Duncan, the former bouncer who made good and became an Academy Award nominee for his work in Frank Darabont's The Green Mile, passed away yesterday after suffering complications from a July heart attack. His family says that he "never fully recovered" and had been in the hospital ever since. So, why is this celebrity death sadder than most? Because this guy... he just seemed like one of those super famous people who would gladly and easily talk to you in a bar for an hour. You never heard anything weird or bad about Michael Clarke Duncan, and he seemed like one of the nicest people in show business. And when he showed up in the variety of projects that he did -- Armageddon, Talladega Nights, The Scorpion King, Sin City, voiceover work in Cats and Dogs, Kung Fu Panda and Spider-Man: The New Animated Series -- you were always happy to see (or hear) him! "Oh, Michael Clarke Duncan is in this! I love that guy!" Even in Daredevil, despite it being Daredevil. Even in a bad movie, the presence of Michael Clarke Duncan was usually its saving grace. For me, at least.
To say nothing of how 54 is way too young to say goodbye. Duncan was set to marry Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth (who, yes, is that "Omarosa" from The Apprentice) in January, according to TMZ, and had co-starred on Fox's Bones spinoff The Finder, which was canceled in May. Before his death, he'd completed work on two projects, Into the Hive and The Challenger. Everything about Michael Clarke Duncan's life looked like the beginning of an exciting second act, and it's a shame that the curtain came down before it should have.
Because seriously, this man could really wear a hat.
Here's why I wish SEO didn't factor into science news: the hunger for traffic encourages headline writers to tart up the findings of studies beyond recognition, and away from more boring truths. Case in point, this NPR item, forwarded to me by more than one friend: "Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You."
This headline is amplified by secondary and tertiary outlets, Facebooked and tweeted, each time diluting the actual science in the story to concentrations so weak, they might as well be labeled homeopathic tincture of news.
But let's dig further. The study it references, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined a number of existing studies and comes to a more nuanced conclusion than the viral headline suggests. Quote:
The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Studies were heterogeneous and limited in number, and publication bias may be present.
So the meta-study of all these studies concludes that existing science shows consumption of organic produce is associated with lower levels of pesticide exposure. And, that there is no conclusive evidence from existing studies that, say, an organic apple will always be higher in nutrients than an apple grown with man-made chemical pesticides and the like.
Well, fine. I buy organic when possible not because I presume the organic apple has more vitamins, but because we don't really know how chemical pesticide residues affect our bodies over longer periods of time (not to mention intergenerational DNA, or the bodies of farm workers, or our environment). It makes sense to me that the less of those chemicals we use and consume, the better.
John Brownlee on why he stopped pirating music:
It’s clear to me, in retrospect, that my piracy was mostly mere collecting, and like the most fetishistic of collectors, it was conducted with mindless voracity. A good collection is supposed to be made up of relics, items that conjure up memories, feelings and ideas for the owner so strongly that he gets pleasure in simply being in close contact with them. A tended garden. My collection was nothing like this: it was just a red weed, swallowing up and corroding anything I did care about within its indiscriminating mass.