Tag Archives: Science

Science marches on – challenging chaos and supersistion

Tami Carlow and Kristen Swanson at the rainy Science March

Tami Carlow and Kristen Swanson at the rainy Science March

Tami Carlow said, “Rain will not stop Kristen Swanson and I from marching for Science in Washington, D.C.”

Tami is a gardener with undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology, concentrating in entomology.  “Ever since I was little, I was fascinated by insects.”  Tami has published papers on the flightless weevil (Eisonyx Crassipes) and parasitic wasps on the backs of dragon flies.  Little wonder that she was a taxonomist, studying weevils at the Natural History museum in DC.  Also little wonder that she would join the Science March on Washington this past Saturday.



Science March on Washington

Science March on Washington

Kristen K. Swanson, of Lovettsville, is an artist but her technique requires some craft at science.  Kristen takes a soft lump of stoneware clay, thrown on a potter’s wheel (if not made from clay slabs), shapes the clay by hand, paints or “carves” designs on the clay body, and fires the clay twice, the second time at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Kristen received her Bachelor of fine Arts in Ceramic Art in 1998 from the Virginia Commonwealth University.

Tami and Kristen joined thousands in Washington DC on Earth Day and many others in 600 cities on 6 continents including research scientists in Antarctica.

There are many instances to insist on science as your guide this year.  The Science March itself was inspired by the Women’s March, and has been characterized by the slogan, “There is no Planet B.” Continue reading

Rick Peck – Loudoun’s “Mr. Wizard”

Rick Peck

Rick Peck

Lovettsville’s Rick Peck, the 6th grade science teacher at Seneca Ridge Middle School in Sterling, Virginia is a passionate, endearing, latter day pied piper, leading his young pupils into the frontiers of the mind like the not so long ago popular TV personality, Don Herbert, more widely known as “Mr. Wizard.”

Like the original Mr. Wizard, Rick has earned a deserved reputation as “the friendly, neighborly scientist.”

I met Rick at the height of his homestead’s rolling hills, by an old-fashioned red country barn.

Rick was puzzling how to straighten 14 hollow plastic tubes slightly curved to use at his 6th grade Monday science class.

Dodging a cloud of no-see-ems, Rick manipulated the tubes, “deformed” by slight arcs, because his intended lesson on fluid density required the students to pour less dense fluids over heavier fluids, without spilling a drop, and then Rick would suggest to the class a last addition to the experiment, a surprising touch of chemical legerdemain, that would disrupt the layered quiescence, guaranteeing the attention and curiosity of his students. Continue reading

We fiddle while the world warms

globalwarmgraphIt’s hard to believe there is any one on this planet not truly alarmed at our planet’s yearly warming, with huge glaciers melting, waters rising, islands submerging, weather systems changing, water supplies declining, droughts increasing, and, with the most advanced scientific observers saying, we may have passed the tipping point on our way to global disaster.

World leaders have converged on Paris and have a working outline how to address global warming while “leaders” in our Congress resist EPA efforts to restrain the outpouring of carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

“Climate change” is the term preferred by those who don’t get the science and believe somehow or other an unseen beneficent force will save the planet.

Comedian Robin Williams had a line in his stand-up act when the audience missed a joke. Williams would say, “Catch up!” We have some evidence that there are folk who never will.

The most sinister and deceitful participants in this crucial worldwide dialogue are the fossil fuel adherents, the oil and gas industry tools, and motor city defenders, resisting change to alternative energy sources, stifling the truth, busy buying politicians who put us all at risk, while recklessly flooding the air waves with false promises and assurances. They busy themselves publishing Disney fantasy claims, saying that coal can be clean, and that they are going to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – someday – if it doesn’t cost too much.

The average High School student knows that carbon dioxide is a gas unlike oxygen or nitrogen; that it’s not transparent to sun light, and that it blocks and traps infrared light rays when reflected back from the earth. Continue reading

We Are Mything the Point

Russell Crowe as Noah, the 600-year old shipbuilder of the Ark

Russell Crowe as Noah, the 600-year old shipbuilder of the Ark

During previews of the upcoming blockbuster movie, “Noah,” starring Australian actor, Russell Crowe, as that grand biblical figure, inspired by his creator to build a huge wooden Ark that saved some few righteous persons and pairs of animals drawn from everywhere on earth, you could hear some saying, sotto voce, “that’s how it must have been.”

I’ll see this marvelous movie but I know it’s a parable – not an historical account.

Recently, in Petersburg, Kentucky, Ken Ham, also from Australia, and the director of the “Creation Museum,” debated whether the flood described in Genesis was a myth.  He insists it’s not a myth and he knows this because the Bible tells him so.

Mr. Ham mistakenly invokes a biblical text for its “science” rather than its ethical and spiritual wisdom.  This is not new. Continue reading

A visit to Patrick Henry College

Patrick Henry College hosts an ongoing “newsmakers interview” series, and the guest Friday afternoon is a woman named Rosaria Butterfield, a resident of Purcellville. Dr. Butterfield “will discuss her new book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, detailing her conversion to Christianity and her former lesbian lifestyle before marrying a pastor.”

This is the bio offered by World Magazine:

When Rosaria Butterfield was 28 she declared herself a lesbian. Her Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies led to a tenured position at Syracuse University, where she advanced a leftist agenda. Then God used her desire to write a book on the religious right, and the friendship of a biblically orthodox pastor, to draw her to Christ. She became a voracious Bible reader and gradually saw that her new beliefs required her to upend her former life. It’s a fascinating story—although she interrupts the narrative several times to insert speech text. Her book also shows the power of love and hospitality to soften hearts: Butterfield is now married to a pastor and the mother of four children by adoption.

I have not had a chance to read the book. However, I can say knowing nothing else about it that this is someone’s personal journey, which she cared enough about to put into words for others to read. Although it sounds like another “ex-gay” narrative, and although there is a robust history of “ex-gay” spokespeople being exploited by the anti-gay industry and later renouncing (or quietly abandoning) their “conversion” experience, I think we make a mistake when we fail to seriously listen to a person’s story, and instead act as if we know how it will, or should, end up. However this woman’s story ultimately unfolds, it is hers, and it’s no more kind to insist that her life will conform to that narrative than it is for those promoting an anti-gay agenda to demand that we “change” to suit their narrative.

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Fundamentalist postmodernism

The clip below is a near-perfect illustration of the fundamentalist mind at work. Notice that Perry doesn’t even seem to grasp the concept of empirical evidence as something that ought to be considered in formulating policy, and is flummoxed that the question is framed that way. As an abstract idea, “abstinence works.” Pointing out that abstinence-only education doesn’t actually work in practice is missing “the bigger and better issue.” To the fundamentalist mind, it’s making sure that the correct ideology is expressed – not an actual reduction in teen pregnancy – that has become the policy goal.

This is not “conservatism.” It’s a form of insanity that rejects evidence from the observable, material world, and it’s undeniable that it has fully infected the Republican party. When it’s welcomed as a “brave act of political suicide” for a Republican candidate to stand up to the anti-science know-nothings claiming to speak for his party, there is an obvious problem.

In the interest of having a series of adult conversations about policy in the real world (and not a situation in which anyone thinks the best long term solution is to accelerate the implosion of the infected GOP by voting “for the most right-wing crazy-crack-pot candidates”), is there a Jon Huntsman figure in the house? Anyone? Or will we just get more of this: A primary race in which none of the candidates can be distinguished from Dick Black. A slate of candidates willing to suck up to Eugene Delgaudio, a man who has not only shown himself to be morally unfit to hold office, but whose persona is entirely driven by a postmodernist rejection of empiricism, an emotional caricature who makes up his own facts. Or how about this classic response to a policy question about protecting the source of Loudoun’s drinking water from silt and pollutants: “God gave us the land to use. Are you against God?”

As can be seen from the comment thread on the previous post, it’s possible for people of good will to disagree and struggle with each other about what works best to solve problems in the real world. The only premise required is that there is an actual real world in which to test those solutions. Is anyone willing to insist on that?

Medicine, Progress, Politics and HIV

An incredible, amazing headline was posted on CurrentTV’s website this morning:

San Francisco Man First Person Ever To Be Cured Of AIDS

In essence, a bone marrow transplant from a man with an incredibly rare immunity to HIV was able to, apparently, cure another man’s HIV. This is the kind of “miracle of science” we’ve become all too used to. We will do well to reflect on where these incredible advances come from.

This incredible breakthrough is the direct result of progressive perspectives and policies, and flies in the face of conservative opposition and backwardness. At each step of the way towards this advancement, progressive ideas made things possible, even as conservative voices decried the emergence of hope or acknowledgement of human need.

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