208 posts categorized "Science"

March 17, 2013

The Shaky Science Behind George Will’s Column On Same-Sex Marriage

Zack Ford at ThinkProgress dismantles George F. Will's recent column titled "The shaky science behind same-sex marriage" in which Will cites a brief by Maggie Gallagher’s Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. Ford writes:

Will endorses two arguments here, both of which are unsupportable. The first is that any social science that supports a liberal position shouldn’t be trusted because social science already has a liberal bias. The second is that it’s reasonable to conclude that it’s impossible to measure anything that hasn’t been legalized, even if legalizing it is the only way to test it. Together, these form a tautological argument that social science is only valid and useful if it supports keeping things the way they already are, which is not only a very narrow dismissal of the work social scientists already do, but also a philosophy that inherently prevents change.

February 15, 2013

D.C. is the gayest state

Gallup makes it official.

To those of you who say it would be more meaningful to compare D.C. to other cities, be quiet and let us savor our moment of glory.

Riding a great white

I'm adding this to the things I have no intention of doing. It reminds me of an attorney-client conference.

(Hat tip: AMERICAblog)

Meteorite hits Russian Urals

Just a fragment. If the entire asteroid had hit, the results would have been cataclysmic. The video above has no sound. The video below has audio.

February 04, 2013

My kingdom for a parking space!

130203200652-leicester-richard-iii-skull-story-top

I love science! CNN reports:

DNA tests have confirmed that human remains found buried beneath an English car park are those of the country's King Richard III.

British scientists announced Monday they are convinced "beyond reasonable doubt" that a skeleton found during an archaeological dig in Leicester, central England, last August is that of the former king, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a Canadian cabinetmaker and direct descendant of Richard III's sister, Anne of York.

Experts say other evidence -- including battle wounds and signs of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, found during the search and the more than four months of tests since support the DNA findings.

The skeleton was discovered buried among the remains of what was once the city's Greyfriars friary, but is now a council car park.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Grimly entomb'd 'neath asphalt in Leicester.

January 22, 2013

Video: Dolphin seeks help from scuba divers

Here's a mental health break from politics: Martina S. Wing of Ocean Wings Hawaii, who was taking video of manta rays off Kona Hawaii on January 11, took this video of a wild dolphin that approached divers for help in disentangling it from fishing line. Look how calm the dolphin remains as diver Keller Laros (at about 3:48) examines it and then pulls out a knife to begin cutting the line from its left pectoral fin. A remarkable, moving encounter between species.

(Hat tip: AMERICAblog)

January 19, 2013

Signs of extraterrestrial life: "Fossil Diatoms In A New Carbonaceous Meteorite"

In a still-disputed claim, scientist Chandra Wickramasinghe claims that fossilized diatoms in a meteorite found in Sri Lanka in December prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.

December 28, 2012

Neigh away the gay

Evan Hurst at Wonkette reports that, and we are not making this up, Pastor Raymond Bell of the Cowboy Church of Virginia claims he can cure your homosexuality with Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. Okaaaay.

December 27, 2012

Whales give dolphins a lift

The American Museum of Natural History wrote about the above video on Jan 10, 2012:

Many species interact in the wild, most often as predator and prey. But recent encounters between humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins reveal a playful side to interspecies interaction. In two different locations in Hawaii, scientists watched as dolphins "rode" the heads of whales: the whales lifted the dolphins up and out of the water, and then the dolphins slid back down. The two species seemed to cooperate in the activity, and neither displayed signs of aggression or distress. Whales and dolphins in Hawaiian waters often interact, but playful social activity such as this is extremely rare between species.

The video below was taken near Maui.

December 13, 2012

Colbert takes on ex-gay therapy ban

"These kids need our help. Not only are they gay, look how blurry they are."

December 11, 2012

Barber trots out old Cameron junk-science pedophile smear

Matt Barber is at it again, disguising his anti-gay hatred as concern for children and cloaking it in fake science that traces its origins to the notorious, long-ago-discredited Paul Cameron. The lies are refuted here, here, here, and here.

It occurs to me that we should add a category "Whackjobs" to this blog.

November 28, 2012

AP: NY Gays Accuse NJ Therapy Group of False Claims

The plaintiffs fighting this "ex-gay" therapy fraud are represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

November 19, 2012

Pastor arrested for molesting men under pretext of curing their homosexuality

Cambridge, Minnesota pastor Ryan J. Muehlhauser has been charged with eight felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting men while counseling them on overcoming homosexuality. So they're still gay, and now they've been abused by someone claiming to help them. Your faith offerings at work, Cambridge! Pardon my irreverence in the face of people being victimized, but the more this keeps happening, the more a sense of unreality sets in. The frauds who keep hiding their personal issues being this poisonous junk science need to be exposed and stopped from doing any more damage.

November 07, 2012

God Bless America

Going into this election, I didn't think we could have another moment to compare with Grant Park in Chicago four years ago as the election was called for Obama. But tonight brought victory and vindication on so many fronts, reminding ourselves, our fellow citizens, and the world that Americans will not accept government by fanatics and bullies, we will not tolerate their war against women, and we will not continue to deny gay and lesbian couples and their families equal respect and protection.

I was taking a taxi home after congratulating D.C. Council reform candidate David Grosso on his upset victory against ethically challenged incumbent Michael A. Brown, and passed along U Street past Ben's Chili Bowl, the Lincoln Theater, and the Republic Gardens. People were dancing in the street and chanting, "Four more years!" in celebration of President Obama's victory. But this is about so much more than the top of the ticket. What a glorious moment for this country's rich diversity, which has defeated the angry voices of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia. Deepest gratitude to every activist and community worker, living and dead, who helped pave the way for this moment.

Update: Mara Keisling wrote on Facebook:

Had it not been for the aggressive and immoral (and effective) redistricting process the Republicans did after the 2010 census, last night would have been more clearly a generational repudiation of the increasingly extreme Republican Party. The Republicans only held the US House because they redrew the maps to solidify their extremism. Everything else went the Dems way. Republicans need to get their adults back in charge and just knock it off.

Amen to that.

October 29, 2012

Fabulous fake

Fake_nyc_storm_photo

When I saw the above photo this morning, I thought it was too spectacular to be true. I was right. The debunking website Snopes.com reports that this photo, purportedly taken of the storm last night over New York City, is:

a digital manipulation created by merging a picture of the Statue of Liberty with a separate photograph of a supercell thunderstorm snapped in Nebraska by photographer Mike Hollingshead on 28 May 2004.

The original Hollingshead photo is below.

Nebraska_storm

October 01, 2012

Jerry Brown signs bill banning 'ex-gay' therapy for children

California Gov. Jerry Brown struck a landmark blow in the battle against junk science by signing legislation banning so-called reparative therapy for LGBT youth. The Chronicle reports:

California has become the first state in the country to ban controversial therapy practices that attempt to change the sexual orientation of minors after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to outlaw them Saturday.

The bill, SB1172 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County), bars mental health practitioners from performing so-called reparative therapy, which professional psychological organizations have said may cause harm. Gay rights groups have labeled them dangerous and abusive.

"This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery," Brown said in a statement to The Chronicle.

Truth Wins Out, which has led the effort to expose the fraud of "ex-gay" therapy, celebrates the bill signing:

“This is a historic day that protects LGBT youth from child abuse disguised as genuine therapy,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “We thank Gov. Brown for signing legislation that can serve as a model for similar bills across the nation.”

August 30, 2012

Wall cloud

Wall_cloud

This photo from The Cloud Appreciation Society shows a wall cloud from Tropical Storm Isaac heading toward the Florida coast earlier this week. Beautiful, ain't it?

August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong, 1930 - 2012

Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on the moon, has died at age 82. Above is footage of one of the greatest moments in human history.

Update: Our friend Kim Corsaro shares this:

Best Facebook status update on Neil Armstrong today, from Armistead Maupin: "I met this nice man around a campfire last year in Santa Fe. As the moon rose in the sky, he talked, with extraordinary modesty, about landing on it. Later, when I introduced Chris to him as my husband, he smiled as if this were the most ordinary thing in the world. It occurred to me that there's been more than one giant leap for mankind since 1969."

Neil_armstrong
(Neil Armstrong in lunar lander on July 20, 1969. NASA photo)

August 20, 2012

The truth behind the Mars mission

The_truth_behind_the_Mars_mission

(Hat tip: James Hawk Crutchfield)

"Legitimate Rape": Todd Akin explains it all for you

Yes, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who is running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), actually said on camera:

If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.

Okay, how many more aggressive ignoramuses are American voters going to elect? Naturally, many Republicans are eager to push Rep. Akin under a bus and have the driver hit reverse to run over him again. Sen. McCaskill warns them to think twice. But let's not get too caught up in schadenfreude; McCaskill still has an uphill fight. And the right wing war against women is deadly serious, emphasis on deadly. Do not take this election for granted. And if you have friends who are disenchanted and plan to sit this one out, please find a nonviolent way of changing their minds. As the man says in Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Meanwhile, surprise surprise, Politico reporter Dave Catanese defends Akin.

August 06, 2012

Mission to Mars

Marvin_and_Curiosity

George Takei thoughtfully shares the first image of the Martian surface from the Curiosity rover. More of Marvin the Martian here.

Back on planet Earth, with a mohawk that recalls the brush on top of Marvin's helmet, is Bobak Ferdowsi at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, about whom Chris Geidner at Buzz Feed writes:

Bobak Ferdowsi works for NASA and is a flight director on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission. Few people — fewer than 200 on Twitter — knew him before Sunday night. He cuts his hair differently for each mission, though, and tonight he became known. With a mohawk featuring maroon highlights and shaved stars on the side, Ferdowsi came only second in attention paid to the Mars Curiosity rover landing itself. He went from 200 followers to more than 10,000 during and after NASA's livestream of the landing, which was shown live on several cable news networks as well.

NASAs_Bobak_Ferdowsi

July 23, 2012

Dr. Sally Ride dies at 61

Sally_ceo_at_desk

Physicist and former astronaut Sally K. Ride died today. Her science education company, Sally Ride Science, issued this statement:

Sally Ride died peacefully July 23, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, commitment, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the President and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

Sally’s historic flight into space captured the nation’s imagination and made her a household name. She became a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. After retiring from NASA, Sally used her high profile to champion a cause she believed in passionately—inspiring young people, especially girls, to stick with their interest in science, to become scientifically literate, and to consider pursuing careers in science and engineering.

In addition to Tam O’Shaughnessy, her partner of 27 years, Sally is survived by her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin, and nephew, Whitney; her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science; and many friends and colleagues around the country.

It appears that this statement was the first public acknowledgment that Ride had a same-sex partner. Condolences to Ms. O'Shaughnessy and all of her family.

July 10, 2012

Asteroid named for Frank Kameny

Kameny_1AP reports:

A Canadian amateur astronomer has named an asteroid he discovered after U.S. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny, who died last year in Washington.

Kameny, who earned a doctorate in astronomy at Harvard University, was an astronomer with the U.S. Army Map Service in the 1950s but was fired from his job for being gay. He contested the firing all the way to the Supreme Court and later organized the first gay rights protests outside the White House, the Pentagon and in Philadelphia in the 1960s.

Kameny died last year at age 86.

When astronomer Gary Billings read Kameny's obituary, he consulted with others in the astronomy world. They decided to submit a citation to the Paris-based International Astronomical Union and the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., seeking to designate Minor Planet 40463 as Frankkameny.

It's located in the asteroid belt, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. The Kameny asteroid is visible through a telescope and was first discovered in 1999 using long-exposure photography.

"Frank would show up as a little dot that moves between two points," Richard "Doc" Kinne, an astronomical technologist at the American Association of Variable Star Observers in Cambridge, Mass., said in an interview. He helped write the citation that would lead to the naming.

While comets are often named for their discoverers, those who discover asteroids have 10 years to suggest a name once the discovery is verified. The submission is subject to review by a 15-member international panel, said astronomy historian David DeVorkin at the National Air and Space Museum. Astronomers often use the names as an acknowledgement of someone's contributions to science or culture.

A published citation officially naming the asteroid on July 3 notes Kameny's history as a gay rights pioneer.

Frank was nothing if not particular about getting details right, so I must offer one small correction: There is one error in the astronomers' citation, as reported by AP: Frank did not shepherd D.C.'s marriage equality law to passage. (Marriage was not one of his issues, and other than expressing his support he was not involved in that legislative effort.) His contributions to the gay rights movement are legion; there is no need to pad the list. But that is a small quibble. Great thanks are due to Frank's fellow astronomers for honoring him so many decades after he was forced from the profession he loved. This is a fine day.

(Photo by Patsy Lynch © 2006)

July 02, 2012

Preventing the Tragedy of LGBT Youth Homelessness

The infogaphic below is from Brian Pesner, Community Manager for the web-based Master of Social Work program at the University of Southern California School Of Social Work. They recently created the Social Work License Map to show the steps for obtaining a social work license in each state.

The infographic, on which USC partnered with the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, "highlights some of the unique challenges and mental health risks faced by homeless LGBT youth, in addition to some of the solutions being implemented by homelessness non-profits, federal agencies, and LGBT advocacy organizations."

Preventing the Tragedy of LGBT Youth Homelessness

Via Social Work License Map and MSW@USC

June 23, 2012

Happy 100th birthday, Alan Turing

Alan-turingToday would have been the 100th birthday of British mathematician Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern computing who helped the Allies win World War II by breaking the Nazi Enigma code — and who was repaid by being driven to an early death for being homosexual. Winston Churchill said he should have received a peerage.

The above clip from the movie Breaking the Code shows Derek Jacobi as Turing explaining the Turing Machine, a conceptual precursor to digital computing. I hasten to point out that Jacobi's stutter is entirely put-on for his performance, since Turing stuttered. This was not the first stutterer played by Jacobi, whose twitching, stammering Roman emperor in the title role of I, Claudius 35 years ago made him a star. Some people thought that Jacobi himself had a stutter. A fan once approached him and told him how wonderful she thought it was that someone with his disability was able to find employment as an actor.

Back to Turing. In celebration of his centenary, Google changed its logo today to a puzzle inspired by Turing:

349656-turing-doodle

The following video shows how to solve Alan Turing's Google Doodle.

June 12, 2012

HRC rips flawed study disparaging lesbian and gay parents

The Human Rights Campaign critiques a study written by right-wing author Mark Regnerus and largely funded by the anti-gay Witherspoon Institute, which purports to find that gay men and lesbians are bad parents but mostly fails to look at children raised by committed same-sex couples:

Regnerus is well known for his ultra-conservative ideology and the paper was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation - two groups commonly known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the Family Research Council, NOM, and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei.

Key problems with the “New Family Structures Study” include:

  • The paper is fundamentally flawed and intentionally misleading. It doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring.
  • Given its fundamental flaws and ideological agenda, it’s not surprising that the paper doesn’t match the 30 years of solid scientific research on gay and lesbian parents and families.
  • In addition, the paper’s flaws highlight the disconnect between its claims about gay parents and the lived experiences of 2 million children in this country being raised by LGBT parents.
  • The paper fails to consider the impact of family arrangement or family transitions on children, invalidating any attempt on its part to assess the impact of sexual orientation on parenting.

As HRC notes, the claims by Regnerus contradict the positions of groups like the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Social Workers, all of which state that gay and lesbian parents make good parents. Follow the link above for more details.

Update: Wayne Besen weighs in.

May 30, 2012

The Spitzer Study of Ex-Gays: Flaws and Abuse

(Hat tip: Box Turtle Bulletin)

April 19, 2012

Dr. Robert Spitzer retracts his 2001 study on "curing homosexuality"

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rachel Maddow on Wednesday interviewed Gabriel Arana of The American Prospect, who last week published the story, "My So-Called Ex-Gay Life," subtitled "A deep look at the fringe movement that just lost its only shred of scientific support." That support was a 2001 study by Dr. Robert Spitzer, who now says he was wrong and regrets publishing it. So PFOX and their fellow "ex-gay" zealots have nothing left to lean on but their junk science.

March 22, 2012

Are straight people born that way?

The Atlantic is running an article called Are Straight People Born That Way?   While there has been a long argument over whether people are born gay or choose to be gay asks is there is any evidence that people are born straight?   This can be hard to prove since babies do not show arousal by sexual scenarios.  The question becomes do very young children show patterns that allow you to predict their eventual sexual orientation?  This seems rather obvious.  They go on to note:

Gendered behaviors are linked closely enough to sexual orientation cross-culturally that various cultures have developed third-gender categories that "normalize" a homosexually-oriented person. For instance, in Samoa, boys who are very feminine as young children are understood to be destined for attraction to males. They are relabeled "fa'afafine" -- meaning they will live "in the manner of a woman." Without changing their bodies, the fa'afafine are raised like girls and then live as women, and take straight men as their sex partners.

It is curious that they define the more masculine partner in a homosexual pair as "straight".  They go on to note this is called "homosexual transgenderism" and it is not always voluntary.  In Iran the alternative to being assigned this role is death.  And all cultures seem to put great pressure on people to appear straight.  It seems that at least some of the straight population were in fact born that way.  The final conclusion is that the evidence is inconculusive

In short, we don't really know where human sexual orientations come from yet. What we do know is that the evidence we have that sexual orientation includes an innate component doesn't seem to point to the existence of simple "gay genes" and "straight genes." The best scientific argument we have for the innateness of straightness is that evolution obviously would favor it. (Yup: The strongest empirical rationale religious conservatives could use for the idea that straight people are born that way would come from a branch of science they generally disregard.)

March 07, 2012

Slate asks: "Can animals be homophobic?"

In response to Kirk Cameron statement that homosexuality is “unnatural" Slate has pointed out that same-sex behavior is common throughout the animal kingdom.  They go on to ask if if there is any evidence of discrimination against animals that exhibit same-sex behavior.  The answer is there is no evidence yet, but that doesn't prove that some will be found later.  (Of course, that is true of all scientific knowledge.  For millenia people beleived what goes up always comes down.)

The claims of scientific support are the desperate attempts by opponent of LGBT equality to claim that not only is God on their side, but so is science.  They are being increasingly challenged on both of these fronts.  Same-sex behavior has long been observed but no one wanted to risk their careers by mentioning it.  But once someone did there was a flood of new reports.  Opponents claims are finding that more and more religious leaders are coming forth in support of gay rights.

February 21, 2012

Santorum aide: reference to Obama's "radical Islamic policies" was just a slip

Rick Santorum's press secretary, Alice Stewart, went on Andrea Mitchell's program on MSNBC on Monday to talk about her boss' comment over the weekend about President Obama's "phony theology" (which of course Santorum never intended to suggest that the President is not a Christian -- heaven forfend). But rather than putting out that fire, Ms. Stewart started another by referring to Obama's "radical Islamic policies."

Shortly thereafter, while Mitchell was still on the air, Stewart called her to say the line was a slip of the tongue. She had meant to refer to Obama's "radical environmentalist policies."

I mentioned this story at the coffee shop this morning, and my friend Walter said, "That happens to me all the time. Just the other day, I said, 'The funeral will be at an environmentalist temple.'"

Yes. When a person's campaign drops dog-whistle comments with such regularity, it cannot credibly be called a slip of the tongue. Keep talking, Senator. It may play well to your base, but come September....

January 26, 2012

Newt channels Dave Chappelle

Could Newt Gingrich have gotten his plan for a new space race from this old bit by Dave Chappelle?)

(Hat tip: Daily Kos)

What did Newt say?

I'm sorry, did Newt Gingrich say he wants to fund NASA or Massa?

January 23, 2012

Cynthia Nixon says she chose to be gay. Dear Cynthia: Can you say bisexual?

Actress Cynthia Nixon, interviewed in The New York Times, voices a very strong opinion:

“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.”

Ms. Nixon, if you were straight and then you were gay, what that really means is that you were bisexual all the time. Research shows that women's sexuality is more fluid. But you don't actually get to set aside the science by your choice of words. You can define words however you like, but that doesn't change the common usage and it doesn't change the science. Go ahead and get as angry as you like.

I agree with Nixon on one point: Our rights as gay people should have nothing to do with whether or not our orientation is a choice, any more than our religious freedom. It doesn't matter how we got here, as she says. We are here. This is the way we are and we have a right to equal protection of the law.

January 18, 2012

Stella monstrat viam

That phrase is Latin for "the star shows the way." In this case it shows that the observer took this series of time-lapse photos from Australia. From my latitude you can never see Alpha Centauri, the Southern Cross, or the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Toward the end of the video an upside-down Orion appears; to see that here, you could stand on your head. As for the Milky Way, you could view a different stretch of it from these parts, assuming there were a massive regional power outage on a cloudless night.

This piece is called "Ocean Sky" and is by Alex Cherney at Terrastro.com.

January 11, 2012

Francis accepts honor for Kameny from American Astronomical Society

Kameny Papers Project co-founder Charles Francis spoke in Austin, Texas on Tuesday to a gathering of the American Astronomical Society, of which Frank Kameny was once a member. Charles was accepting an award on behalf of the late gay rights pioneer:

On behalf of Dr. Franklin E. Kameny, I am honored to accept this Certificate of Appreciation from the American Astronomical Society....

55 years ago Frank Kameny was one of you.

He was an astronomer for the U.S. Army Map Service....

He had the education. He had the training. He had the experience. And just before him lay our golden age of space exploration.

Then, in 1957, at age 32, Frank Kameny had his "accident": the fatal accident of being "found out gay" in the 1950s. By definition, to be gay was to be an insane deviate -- subject to blackmail and a threat to national security.

Gay British mathematician Alan Turing -- the man who saved Britain by breaking the German Enigma Code -- had committed suicide in the face of government persecution only three years prior. Kameny received his letter from the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Map Service. It said, "It is necessary that you return at once to the Army Map Service in connection with certain administrative requirements." Frank was fired. His career in astronomy lay in ruins.

But unlike Alan Turing and so many others, he could see a way forward out of his personal crisis. He decided to fight. And he fought with a sense of confidence honed like a knife by his education and training. The one thing they could not take away from him was his belief in the integrity of his own mind, the logic, the data sets, and the integrity of facts. I don't think his opponents and detractors ever fully appreciated they were dealing with an astronomer -- an astronomer who would spark the LGBT movement for civil equality.

Thanks, Charles.

December 25, 2011

Gorillas out of the mist

A tourist gets a thrill of a lifetime: an up-close encounter with wild mountain gorillas near Uganda's Bwindi National Park. A young gorilla grooms the tourist, and an adult female kisses him, while a silverback and several others look on. This recalls a beautiful moment in the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist in which Sigourney Weaver, playing primatologist Dian Fossey, encounters one of the magnificent animals. The animals in these scenes with Weaver are wild gorillas. You can see that Weaver had studied how to behave in such a situation so as to appear non-threatening, as the tourist had also been taught to do. The gentleness and curiosity of these endangered creatures are both moving and a reminder of how vulnerable they are to the poachers who have killed so many of them — as indeed the poachers killed Fossey, who fought to protect the gorillas.

December 23, 2011

TWO: Top 10 Ex-Gay Stories of 2011

Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out runs down the sorry list of "ex-gay" frauds from 2011. Thanks to Wayne for his work on this issue.

December 21, 2011

Save that foreskin!

This just in from Germany:

A research organization is growing human skin in the hope of using it to trial cosmetics and medicines, reducing the need for animal testing. The synthetic skin is made using cells from infant foreskins.

The idea of a "skin factory" may sound sinister, but that is exactly what scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart have created. Their so-called Hautfabrik grows tiny swatches of skin - not for skin grafts, but for testing consumer products.

The renowned institute is presenting their ground-breaking invention as an affordable and sustainable alternative to animal testing, which many consider unnecessarily cruel.

(Hat tip: Joe Jervis)

December 11, 2011

Star clouds and petroglyphs



"Hierbas Buenas" Valley Petroglyphs (Night Time Lapse Movie) from Stéphane Guisard on Vimeo.

Astrophotographer Stéphane Guisard uses the ancient petroglyphs of Chile's Atacama desert as the foreground for this stunning time-lapse video of the night sky. On view are Rigel and the Orion Nebula, the Milky Way, the Small Magellanic Cloud, the Andromeda Galaxy and Jupiter, and finally the Pleiades. Keep in mind that this is the southern hemisphere, so objects appear upside down to northerners. Hint: click on HD and full-screen.