230 posts categorized "Science"

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

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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

Chris_Christie
(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.

Konnichiwa

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

2015_insert_by_Bigstock

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

Hubble_image_of_Eagle_Nebula
(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....

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(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

Andromeda_if_it_were_brighter

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

November 19, 2014

Slackers at the Chalkboard

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(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

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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

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(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-garry-gay
("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

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:

Hi,

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.

Sincerely,

Manon

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

Manon,

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
President
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)

Leo at the UN: the urgency of addressing global climate change

Leonardo DiCaprio's opening remarks at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit in New York City.

September 23, 2014

Ben Carson: Evolution Is An Absurd Myth, 'Give Me A Break'

Ben-carson

Right Wing Watch reports:

In a “Faith & Liberty” interview posted last week, potential GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson discussed his rejection of the theory of evolution, arguing that the science of evolution is a sign of humankind’s arrogance and belief “that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything.”

He claimed that “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.”

Carson pointed to the “complexity of the human brain” as proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.”

Next we'll put the nucleotide sequencing in Dr. Carson's DNA molecules up for a popular vote. Because science is dependent on popular opinion. Actually no. Because, as Neil deGrasse Tyson recently told Stephen Colbert, "That's the good thing about science: It's true whether or not you believe in it."

August 01, 2014

9 former leaders of 'ex-gay' movement apologize

Maya Rhodan at Time reports.

July 26, 2014

Applause from an adversary

The group Faith and Action says on its "About" page:

The missionary outreaches at Faith and Action are targeted specifically toward our nation’s public policy makers and particularly to Capitol Hill. We believe such a narrowly targeted effort is the most effective method for accomplishing our mission – to challenge our leaders with Biblical TRUTH.

If you suspect they are not big fans of GLAA's work, you are right. But on Friday, I came across this tweet in response to my article, "Free Speech and the Bible Museum":

Here is the praise from Faith and Action blogger kaitlynn:

We’re often too quick to condemn and too slow to compliment. So, this time we wanted to make a point to applaud the writer of this article for standing up for religious freedom to back a cause that we happen to agree with, and HE happens to disagree with.

Richard J. Rosendall (President, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance) there are plenty of things we fully disagree with you on, but find your willingness to champion the freedom of speech and religious freedoms of everyone (despite the fact that you disagree with their views, and probably taking some heat for it) impressive.

I replied:

Oh, dear, I'm in trouble now! But thank you. I hear faint echoes of the famous Christmas ceasefire in WWI. Or to quote JFK: "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Best wishes and God bless America,

Rick Rosendall
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance

A friend joked that I would be run out of town by angry liberals, and offered me sanctuary in another state (which I will keep confidential in case I need it); but joking aside, it is foolish and ahistorical to think we weaken our position by defending the free speech rights of our opponents. Censorship by our side is not only obnoxious and hypocritical, it is (as my article points out) unnecessary because we have the better arguments. As another friend put it yesterday, GLAA's approach demonstrates the maturity of our movement. (Or at least our corner of it, as I said back to him.)

July 02, 2014

Evangelism as Therapy

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My latest column is now online at Metro Weekly, arguing that faith-based advocacy should not be disguised as licensed healthcare. Here's an excerpt:

Encountering the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg in the D.C. Council Chambers on June 27 took me back five years to our battles over the District's marriage equality bill. This time it was a hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Sprigg was furious at the attempt to deny choice to troubled teens seeking to overcome their gay desires.

One should always be skeptical toward right-wing busybodies who use "choice" as a rallying cry, and so it is in this case. Gay and lesbian teens whose ears are filled with cries of abomination know the sound of rejection. If choice is a concern, shouldn't they be given the choice of a supportive environment? And if professional therapy is the way to help, shouldn't we mention that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder in 1973?

The anti-gay groups represented at the hearing, including FRC, PFOX, and the International Healing Foundation, are frozen in amber on homosexuality, which they deem forever sick, sinful, and illicit. With the pathologizing and criminalizing of gayness having ended in America, and with many faiths affirming LGBT lives, the dwindling band of demonizers resorts increasingly to shrillness and deception at home and proselytizing overseas.

The homophobes conceal their faith-based motivation behind a veil of pseudoscience. The trouble is, they dictate nature rather than observing it.

Read the whole thing here.

Tag: #BornPerfect

June 28, 2014

Friday's hearing on bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors

I spent 5 hours on Friday in a D.C. Council hearing on a bill to prohibit conversion therapy for minors (so you wouldn't have to). One highlight was Peter Sprigg of FRC expressing his fury over the bill. Special thanks to Bishop Rainey Cheeks and Rev. Graylan Hagler for their testimony, to Saul Cruz for representing GLAA, and to Alison Gill of HRC for coordinating the coalition effort. Frank Kameny would be rolling in his grave (if he had one) over the repeated invocations of NARTH and other quacks by our opponents. But we have the science, the DC Council, and 2 federal courts on our side.

Lots of groups got involved, including the DC Center, Wanda Alston Foundation, SMYAL, SPLC, The Trevor Project, American Academy of Pediatrics, PFLAG, National Association of Social Workers, American Counseling Association, Alliance for Progressive Values, People of Faith for Equality, plus survivors of reparative therapy. It was a fine demonstration of a broad and strong coalition effort. Thanks to all of them. But oh, how happy I was when Graylan Hagler's voice boomed from the witness table. It made up for so much nonsense and lies I had been listening to from our opponents.

Oh, and though HIV Testing Day and other matters kept Metro Teen AIDS from attending, they are submitting written testimony. Speaking of which, anyone is free to weigh in. From the hearing notice: "For those unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. Copies of written statements can be emailed to rsmith@dccouncil.us or mailed to Rayna Smith at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Room 115, Washington, D.C., 20004. The record will close at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 11, 2014."

In the next few days I will post links to various groups' testimony over at GLAA's main website.

June 25, 2014

#BornPerfect: the Campaign to End Conversion Therapy

On Friday, June 27 at noon in the D.C. Council chamber, GLAA and others will testify on Bill 20-501, to prohibit so-called conversion therapy for minors. The above video from National Center for Lesbian Rights, with whom GLAA is in coalition, is from their #BornPerfect campaign against this dangerous and discredited junk medicine.

June 22, 2014

'Reparative therapy' platform plank misunderstood, Republican delegate says

This guy says he doesn't want to be misunderstood as being anti-gay. He just wants to preserve dangerous quackery as an option.

June 13, 2014

A rare, satanic confluence!

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It is extremely rare to have a full moon on Friday the 13th. The next one won't come until 2049.

Even rarer and more satanic, says brave dyslexic Michele Bachmann, is when Friday the 13th and a full moon coincide with Halloween.

May 27, 2014

Google doodle for Rachel Carson's birthday upsets Teabagistan

CARSON-doodle

The Google doodle today honors environmentalist author Rachel Carson, born on this day in 1907.

Joe Jervis notes that Tea Partiers are having a fit over it.

(Hat tip: Craig Howell)

April 29, 2014

Truth In Action Ministries Film Decries Climate Scientists As Idolaters And Communists

Right Wing Watch reports:

Truth In Action Ministries, which has released several over-the-top films (including one likening the rise of gay rights to the sinking of the Titanic), in its latest project takes on the “religion” of environmentalism and climate science. The film closely resembles “Resisting the Green Dragon,” the 2010 “documentary” in which Religious Right activists unironically accused environmentalists of religious fanaticism.

In the new film from Truth In Action, formerly known as Coral Ridge Ministries, Southern Baptist Convention official Richard Land describes environmentalists as “watermelons” who are “green on the outside and pink on the inside.”

April 11, 2014

Krauthammer on 'thought police'

Charles-Krauthammer

Check out Charles Krauthammer's latest column.

I hardly know where to start with Krauthammer's attempt to turn liberals into totalitarians. He blames "activists" for a grassroots effort by Mozilla employees and developers. He ignores the legal and constitutional issues at the core of the marriage equality fight and pretends it is all moral and philosophical -- because the religious bullies on his side of the aisle are determined to cast themselves as victims. He pretends that Obama had the same position as Brendan Eich in 2008, but Obama opposed Proposition 8. I was not happy with Obama's position back then, and criticized his slowness to "evolve" on the issue; but ballot measures were a key battleground, and Obama opposed their use to attack gays.

Krauthammer's argument on climate change is not with Obama but with scientists, who (despite his tendentious cherry picking) overwhelmingly agree that human activity played a role in it. And he mocks the reference to "change" instead of "warming" as if it is an evasion, when it more accurately reflects the science, which does not claim uniform effects. Here Krauthammer flirts with those who confuse weather and climate, though he knows better.

What is the point of all this furious and smug propagandizing? It is to make the relentless assault on gay families look like a mere dinner table argument, and to make those defending themselves look like the aggressors. It is to deflect attention from plutocrats like the Koch brothers who use fights on social issues to distract people from the harm being done to their own interests, as with Art Pope hijacking North Carolina and installing minoritarian government.

Just get everyone arguing over free contraceptives and women being sluts, and somehow the women whose reproductive freedom is under aggressive assault become the aggressors. All of this would be hilarious were it not so pernicious.

March 19, 2014

Rafael Cruz: 'Sexual orientation is a choice, it’s not a civil right'

The senator's wacky dad has an odd way of showing his love for gay people.

Setting aside the fact that sexual orientation is not a choice (just ask homophobes when they chose to be straight), the notion that something chosen cannot be a civil right is awfully strange coming from people who make a lot of noise about their chosen religion.

February 27, 2014

Resistance is Futile

You will be assimilated into the Google hive mind.

The internet is noting what happened to this woman in a bar in San Francisco when she wore Google Glass.  She has called this a hate crime.  As she notes the product hasn't even been released yet. But when it is released it will be irresistible.

Think of some of the possibilities. An app has been announced Where when you meet someone new in a bar you can take a photo of them and it will search a database and identify who they are. A woman could know if this person is who they say they are, if they are married or has a criminal record. Gay men could know if the guy was on the downlow and what they were packing in their pants. And you could get a review of their performance in bed from your trusted social circle. Priceless. Grindr for Glass can't be far away. And the amazing thing is that people will pay to be assimilated. A lot.

Keep in mind that this is just the start. They are already working on contact lenses that have video displays in the lens. In 50 years the technology will be light years along. Instead of having a earpiece for sound you will have implants. So while non-enhance humans are sleeping you could be learning new things. And Google could improve your mental health by assuring you that you have nothing to worry about from technology and your retirement is perfectly safe in a 401k plan invested in their company. In 50 years the non-enhanced will be at a distinct disadvantage. This woman is a visionary not a clueless Glasshole.

February 14, 2014

Study confirms a genetic link to sexual orientation

Wayne Besen writes at Truth Wins Out:

Sexual orientation is not a choice and the evidence is quite clear that it is caused by biological factors.This study helps further debunk myths and misconceptions spread by anti-gay activists who falsely portray homosexuality as unnatural.