245 posts categorized "Science"

October 21, 2015

Study: Same-sex parents spend significantly more time with kids

September 21, 2015

Sea turtles hatching

September 04, 2015

You can't force a Jewish astronomer to study the Prawn Nebula #ReligiousFreedom

I'm just trying to find the hidden connections in seemingly unrelated news stories. You're welcome.

September 03, 2015

Dr. Tyson, you've been done by Key and Peele

Key And Peele spoof America's favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

August 27, 2015

Jindal tells Obama not to talk about climate during Katrina anniversary visit

A friend writes on Facebook:

I would make sure I said "climate change" and pointed out how Republicans are doing absolute zilch to deal with it as many times as I could to spite the ignorant dumbshit.

July 29, 2015

The View from Kepler-452b

An artist’s concept compares Earth, left, to Kepler-452b. (Image by T. Pyle; courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

My Blade column this week looks at the Iran nuclear agreement. Here is an excerpt:

High in the night sky over Washington, the bright stars Deneb and Vega mark a star field at the center of a probe unrelated to Benghazi or Hillary's emails or whether Iran will get the Bomb.

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has discovered Kepler-452b, an earth-like planet 1400 light years away. At 6 billion years old, it is 1.5 billion years older than Earth. This raises the question whether any intelligent life there has avoided destroying itself. How might earthlings evolve over a similar time period?

It will be sad but unsurprising if it turns out that Kepler-452b has produced several intelligent life forms in succession, each destroying itself after developing genocidal weapons. Back here, of course, humanity's own ongoing quest of self-annihilation nearly succeeded in the last century. Our latest opportunity is the resolute effort by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American cohorts to foment war with Iran. They are attacking a multilateral accord, reached on July 14 after a two-year effort, designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Read the whole piece here.

July 14, 2015

Pluto flyby

The furthest object ever visited by humanity.

June 30, 2015

Hermaphrodite fish - quick, alert Bryan Fischer!

Alternatively, you can celebrate the wonders of nature and get on with your day.

June 25, 2015

SPLC Wins Fraud Suit Against New Jersey 'Ex-Gay' Torture Group

June 11, 2015

NASA video: fly over dwarf planet Ceres

APOD Videos reports

A new video animation of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, provides dramatic flyover views of this heavily cratered, mysterious world. The images come from Dawn's first mapping orbit at Ceres, at an altitude of 8,400 mile (13,600 kilometers), as well as navigational images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) away. The images provided information for a three-dimensional terrain model. The vertical dimension has been exaggerated by a factor of two, and a star field has been added in the background.

May 31, 2015

How a grad student uncovered a scientific fraud

A fascinating account of how UC Berkeley grad student David Broockman exposed the scientific fraud of UCLA grad student Michael LaCour, whose paper on the influence of canvassing on people's opinions on same-sex marriage was retracted last week by Science at the request of its co-author, Columbia professor Donald Green.

Among the appalling details: LaCour said his survey involved 10,000 people being paid $100 each, which comes to a million dollars--far more than a non-wealthy grad student could afford. And not only did the polling firm LaCour cited say it had not worked with him--the employee he cited at the firm did not even exist.

Of course the scandal is troubling, and raises concerns about the lack of resources given by universities for peer review. But this story is also encouraging because the fraud came to light thanks to the industriousness and persistence of Broockman, who became suspicious while trying to replicate LaCour's results. Those on the right inclined to crow over this scandal should pause first to consider their own sourcing. Much of the alleged dated cited by the anti-gay right can be traced to notorious junk scientist Paul Cameron's Family Research Institute. The far right's contempt for peer-reviewed science is in stark contrast with the integrity of Broockman and the quick mea culpa and retraction by Green once the evidence for the fraud was brought to his attention.

Time and again, anti-gay bigots treat science as weaker and less reliable than their religious dogma because scientific findings are subject to correction and refutation, in contrast to the dogmatists' certainty. I have never understood how this is persuasive to anyone. Perfect knowledge is not something that humans can possess. We are always questioning and pressing forward and jostling one another and testing our hypotheses. The human struggle of science is responsible for the modern world. If you'd prefer the Dark Ages, don't expect the rest of us to follow you there.

Broockman has been flooded with praise from his colleagues, and deservedly so. Data and research are valuable, but they must be honest and solid. He does his profession proud.

May 28, 2015

LaCour's academic fraud

Ugh. Glad to have this fraud exposed. Also: Science retracts marriage paper.

May 20, 2015

Co-author disavows highly publicized study on public opinion and same-sex marriage

Fred Barbash at WaPo reports:

A highly publicized and influential scholarly study about people’s views on same sex marriage has been disavowed by one of its co-authors, citing “irregularities” in the data provided by his partner in the research. He is seeking a retraction of the study, published in the journal Science.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

May 12, 2015

Jurassic beak?

Maybe they can find a way to grow ivory in a lab, to keep poachers from killing off endangered species.

April 24, 2015

Happy Hubble 25th

The Hubble Space Telescope team writes:

This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble's 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Note that the visualization is intended to be a scientifically reasonable interpretation and that distances within the model are significantly compressed.

March 18, 2015

Northern lights

Associated Press explains: "Dramatic footage emerged online on Wednesday of beautiful lights in the sky filmed during a severe solar storm which hit Earth on Tuesday."

February 24, 2015

Trigger Warnings and Twitter Wars


My column this week looks at clashes over gender politics that are testing the civil rights community. Here is an excerpt:

For years, some radical feminists have vociferously opposed transgender people. An example is Janice Raymond, a lesbian ex-nun who wrote in her 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, that trans women, whom she regarded as male predators, were the "avant garde of the patriarchy invading women's spaces." As a liberal feminist and a supporter of trans equality, I very much disagree with Dr. Raymond. Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, explains, "[G]ender identity (the sex of one's brain) drives trans persons to transition, regardless of genital anatomy."

For the LGBT advocates with whom I work in Washington, D.C., that ship has sailed. We do not sit around discussing gender theory. We take it as a given that trans people are citizens entitled to equal protection. We work in coalition to ensure that the "T" is included in legislation, data gathering, and public services (and D.C. is among the top states in the Human Rights Campaign's State Equality Index). Science is on our side: the American Psychiatric Association declassified transgender identity as a disorder in 2012, as it did homosexuality in 1973.

For some, this is not enough. There is a movement to "no-platform" trans-excluding radical feminists (TERFs), that is to bar them from campuses and deny them a platform for their views. This is part of a broader and distinctly illiberal trend whereby universities are seen not as centers for the robust exchange of ideas, but as frightening places full of triggers and micro aggressions....

Read the whole thing here.

Not OK: bill to protect parents' right to torture gay children advances in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern's bill to prohibit the state from regulating dangerous and discredited "ex-gay" therapy was approved by an Oklahoma House committee.

GLAA's testimony against conversion therapy is here.

February 10, 2015

SPLC: New Jersey judge rules conversion therapy group can’t claim homosexuality is a disorder

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports excellent news:

A New Jersey Superior Court judge has ruled misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion therapy services violates the state’s consumer protection laws – a devastating ruling for the conversion therapy industry, which claims to “convert” people from gay to straight, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced today.

GLAA's 2015 policy brief discusses DC's bill prohibiting conversion therapy for minors, which is currently undergoing congressional review. We are part of a nationwide movement to protect youth from this fraudulent and harmful practice.

February 04, 2015

Beck: anti-vaxxers are being persecuted, just like Galileo

Right Wing Watch reports on the latest recklessness from Glenn Beck.

Justin Fox of Bloomberg explains that Refusing to vaccinate isn't just a personal choice.

February 02, 2015

Chris Christie's long flirtation with anti-vaxxers

(Photo by Neil Hall / Reuters)

Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast reports on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's history of being "pro choice" on whether parents should vaccinate their children. This means he is fine with people endangering the health of other people's children by embracing junk science. Because everyone is entitled to their own truth. Or something. Could there be a virus that only kills stupid people? That's just an idle thought.

Shep Smith 1, Rand Paul 0

Above, Shepard Smith of Fox News calls anti-vaxxers science deniers and tells them to get their kids vaccinated and stop endangering public health. Below, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) shocks everyone by saying something crazy.


A beautiful ad from MTN, a mobile telecommunications firm based in South Africa.

Konnichiwa, incidentally, is Japanese for "Good afternoon."

January 19, 2015

Gigapixels of Andromeda

@daveachuk writes about this video exploring the Hubble Space Telescope's super-high-res image of the Andromeda Galaxy:

First & Last photo by Cory Poole: https://www.facebook.com/CoryPoolePho...

Super-high resolution image of Andromeda from Hubble (NASA/ESA): http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/...

Music is 'Koda - The Last Stand': https://soundcloud.com/kodachrome/kod...

January 08, 2015

ICYMI: Putting It Together in 2015


My column looking at the year ahead appears in this week's Blade, revised a bit. Here's an excerpt:

2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.

None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.

Curb the language cops. We will win the marriage fight even if some use the misleading phrase "gay marriage." If people who are not belligerent use the wrong pronouns or otherwise display their ignorance, be like my amazingly patient transgender friends and politely clue them in. Creating change requires the politics of addition; we must always seek new ways to connect with people.

Read the whole thing here.

January 06, 2015

Star Maker

(Photo: NASA, ESA/Hubble and Hubble Heritage Team, P. Scowen and J. Hester).

Here is one of the spectacular new images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens, and are an area of star formation.

(Hat tip: Aram Vartian)

December 31, 2014

In orbit, 16 New Year celebrations

From the International Space Station.

December 25, 2014

And the tiara goes to....

(Photo by Pete Souza, The White House)

White House photographer Pete Souza writes on Instagram:

Still editing 2014 Year in Photos. I may include this one even though it's a posed photo. This is from the annual White House Science Fair. The kids from Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, convinced the President to wear a tiara with them for their group photo. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood proof bridge project.

Conservatives, of course, won't be able to resist jumping on this image to prove that the President is acting like a king. I suppose it will also be seized upon by conspiracy theorists like former comedian Dick Gregory who say (and I am not making this up) that the President is secretly homosexual. Mister Cool doesn't worry about that stuff. He just brushes it off and goes about his business.

December 24, 2014

Nuestra Terra

National Geographic explains:

Using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center, filmmaker Fede Castro creates a captivating time-lapse video of Earth from space. In a little over four minutes, "Nuestra Tierra—Our Earth" takes us around the world, sighting major cities and even catching the breathtaking aurora borealis.

At the darkest time of year, it is good to see how magnificent our planet is despite all our efforts to wreck it. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all on the good Earth.

December 22, 2014

Study: 'White' Southerners have more African ancestry than they know

Vox.com reports:

In a new study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers used the ancestry data compiled by the commercial genetic testing company 23and Me to measure the percentage of African ancestry of people who self-identified as white. It turns out that self-identified white people who live in the South have the highest concentrations of African DNA.

I'm shocked, shocked to find there's been miscegenation going on up in here.

December 15, 2014

Andromeda, if it were brighter


From ScienceDump, Andromeda's actual size if it were brighter.

November 19, 2014

Slackers at the Chalkboard

(Washington Blade photo by Lee Whitman)

My post-election column is now up at the Blade. If you're dreading the holidays and could use a booster shot of snark, this could be just the thing. Here's an excerpt:

With Republicans winning the Senate and Obamacare on the run, a new Era of Good Feeling is surely around the corner. Vote suppression, gerrymandering, and truckloads of secret cash are just another way of saying, "The people have spoken!" Someone please turn this into lyrics for a new Christmas carol.

The best hope for Democrats is Republican overreach. By that I do not mean your right-wing uncle getting gravy on his sweater as he reaches across the table at Thanksgiving. I mean unhinged recklessness driven by hubris and Obama hatred. Profits are up, unemployment and deficits are down -- get that Muslim socialist out of the White House before he ruins us!

Republicans are furious at the President's unrepentant attitude, despite their own intransigence after past losses. Elections must have consequences when Republicans win. Talk of government shutdowns and impeachment is rising. But President Obama has little to lose by picking fights (by which I mean being president, black, and doing anything). If you abuse someone no matter what he does, he might as well stand his ground. That is what our 44th president, at long last, appears to be doing.

Read the whole thing here.

November 14, 2014

Time-lapse video of Earth from space

From National Geographic, a compilation by filmmaker Fede Castro using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Williams Institute study: Global acceptance rising

November 12, 2014

Science vs. Know-Nothingism


Lay these two news items side by side: The European Space Agency today landed a space probe on a comet. Meanwhile in America, Sen. Ted Cruz appears set to become chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space. We can either fight the Know-Nothings, or consider moving to Darmstadt.

November 08, 2014

Gorillas in the Crossfire

NYT writes:

A national park ranger in the Democratic Republic of Congo struggles to protect gorillas from a brutal civil war.

How anyone could bear to harm such wonderful creatures I do not understand. But then the same applies to the children that are seen in the film. Unending war in this beautiful land harms both. Those who protect them are heroes.

November 06, 2014

Voters just made James Inhofe chairman of the Environment Committee

(Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Image)

Rebecca Leber at The New Republic writes:

In handing Republicans control of the Senate on Tuesday, Americans effectively voted for the party's hostile plans against President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy. Their votes also put the Senate's environment and climate policy into the hands of the worst science-denier in national politics: Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who is almost certainly the next chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

October 17, 2014

In celebration of hermaphroditic snails

("Snail Shell on Keys" by Garry Gay)

In an update on my earlier post regarding the new snail species Aegista diversifamilia, Manon Verchot at Treehugger.com quotes me, including my new lyrics channeling Cole Porter:

Bi-curious whales do it, quails do it,
New hermaphroditic snails do it.
Let's do it, let's fall in love.

Below, though sadly without benefit of my special lyrics, Billie Holiday gives her rendition. Use your imagination.

October 14, 2014

Love and snails

(Photo by Chih-Wei Huang)

Azeen Ghorayshi of the Guardian reports:

Researchers in Taiwan have taken the unusual step of naming a newly identified species of snail in recognition of same-sex marriage rights. Dubbed Aegista diversifamilia, the hermaphroditic species was so named to reflect the “diversity of sexual orientation in the animal kingdom”, said Dr Yen-Chang Lee, who co-authored the study published on Monday in the journal ZooKeys.

Today GLAA received the following media inquiry:


My name is Manon Verchot, I am a journalist working at TreeHugger.com. I'm writing a piece about a new species of snail being named in celebration of same sex-marriage (http://bit.ly/1tZE2Jk) and I would love to get a statement from your organisation addressing what your thoughts are on this and what you think it means (if anything).

I will be publishing this piece Thursday morning, I would really appreciate it if you could get back to me before then.

I look forward to hearing from you.



I like to be helpful to members of the press, so I replied:


It seems like a lovely tribute, though I am somewhat reticent because inevitably some confused social conservative will complain that the next thing you know, someone will want to marry his pet snail. As it happens, I have no pet snail, and do not wish to marry one. Thus what began so pleasantly ends up with my having to deny amorous feelings toward gastropods.

Rick Rosendall
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.

On a more serious note, those interested in the extensive examples of homosexuality that scientists have observed among animals should take a look at Biological Exuberance by Bruce Bagemihl.

September 24, 2014

A tale of two rallies

Climate Progress

From Climate Progress.

(Hat tip: Rand Hoch)