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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Daily Drift

Why my Dad is so cool ...!
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Today in History

1572 The Sea Beggars under Guillaume de la Marck land in Holland and capture the small town of Briel.
1778 Oliver Pollock, creates the dollar sign.
1863 The first wartime conscription law goes into effect in the United States.
1865 At the Battle of Five Forks, Gen. Robert E. Lee begins his final offensive.
1868 The Hampton Institute is founded in Hampton, Va.
1905 Berlin and Paris are linked by telephone.
1918 England's Royal Air Force is formed.
1920 Germany's Workers Party changes its name to the Nationalist Socialist German Worker's Party (Nazis).
1924 Adolf Hitler sentenced to five years in prison for the "Beer Hall Putsch."
1928 China's Chiang Kai-shek begins attacks on communists.
1929 The yo-yo is introduced in the United States by Louie Marx.
1939 The Spanish Civil War effectively ends with the official recognition of Franco's government.
1942 The U.S. Navy begins a partial convoy system in the Atlantic.
1945 U.S. forces launch invasion of Okinawa.
1946 A miner's strike in the U.S. idles 400,000 workers.
1948 The Berlin Airlift begins, relieving the surrounded city from the Soviet siege.
1951 United Nations forces again move northward across the 38th Parallel in Korea.
1954 The U.S. Air Force Academy is founded in Colorado.
1968 The U.S. Army launches Operation Pegasus, the reopening of a land route to the besieged Khe Sanh Marine base.
1970 The U.S. Army charges Captain Ernest Medina for his role in the My Lai massacre.
1982 The United States transfers control of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama.

Extinguishing Sound Waves

Dousing flames with sound waves, new fire extinguisher makes no mess
Like a gadget from a superhero's gizmo-kit, two engineering students have invented a device to battle blazes with noise – water and toxic chemicals not required.

Dementia and identity

Excerpts from an essay at Aeon:
Memory becomes like a flickering signal from a faraway shortwave radio station: people can do and say things, then promptly forget them, and then do and say them again. They can no longer read obvious social cues. They become easily distressed as a thickening fog descends upon them, causing them to lose track of everything. As the disease progresses, only fleeting glimpses of the once capable person can be seen; for the rest of the time, everyone is stuck with an uninvited guest. Eventually, the sufferer fails to recognize even loved ones.
Dementia raises deeply troubling issues about our obligations to care for people whose identity might have changed in the most disturbing ways...
It’s no wonder that carers feel everything from mild annoyance to profound grief as they take on ever more onerous responsibilities of shoring up someone’s fading sense of self. ... ‘The person I’m dealing with, the person I’m yelling at, the person who’s making me weep with frustration, is like a stranger. He looks like my husband, but Howard’s gone.’
...highlights the significance of physical routines, which, like recalling the steps in a dance, become more important as the ability to follow written instructions dwindles. Even the simple act of walking can restore a dementia sufferer to feeling fit, healthy and capable...
If the environment is cognitively overloaded, with bewildering signs, forms and instructions, not to mention smart devices, then it will make someone with dementia feel less capable and more distressed...
People with dementia need environments that are constant and reliable, and so require little new learning. Living with such people entails embracing the pleasures of patient repetition rather than constant novelty.

What it's like to teach evolution at the University of Kentucky

James Krupa has taught University of Kentucky non-science majors their required biology course for 20 years, and he views the job as a mission, to undo the cowardice or squeamishness or lack of rigor that leads Kentucky's children to arrive at university never having learned the foundations of evolution, on which the whole edifice of biology rests.
The University of Kentucky has been an oasis championing evolution for a century. John Thomas Scopes, the Tennessee teacher whose insistence on teaching evolution led to the "Scopes Monkey Trial," was a Kentucky alum who credited his teachers there with impressing evolution's importance upon him.
About half of America denies evolution in whole or part, and many of those deniers are also young earth creationists who put the age of the planet at less than 10,000 years and hold that humans and dinosaurs co-existed in antiquity. Many students in Krupa's class come from deeply religious backgrounds and have been indoctrinated with myths about evolution, such as the old saw that Darwin recanted evolution on his deathbed.
Krupa's essay on his decades of experience with these students talks about three groups: students who believe in evolution but have never studied it in detail because the conflict-averse teachers they've had until then have avoided the subject; students whose religious beliefs are so firmly seated that they won't listen to his arguments, and students who are in the middle, minds open, but unconvinced either way. He says that it's this last group he tries hardest to reach, but one of his most inspiring triumphs comes from the second group, a fervent evangelical who was infuriated by Krupa's patient teaching, but found the rebuttals offered by his evangelical teachers so unconvincing that he threw over his belief in biblical creation and became an MD.
Krupa goes to pains to reconcile faith and evolution. Three consecutive popes have endorsed evolution (a Vatican astronomer called creationism "paganism"). Many evangelicals, including Jimmy Carter, profess belief in evolution. From the sounds of things, Krupa often encounters a blank cognitive dissonance:
Some students take offense very easily. During one lecture, a student asked a question I’ve heard many times: “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” My response was and is always the same: We didn’t evolve from monkeys. Humans and monkeys evolved from a common ancestor. One ancestral population evolved in one direction toward modern-day monkeys, while another evolved toward humans. The explanation clicked for most students, but not all, so I tried another. I asked the students to consider this: catholics are the oldest christian denomination, so if Protestants evolved from catholics, why are there still catholics? Some students laughed, some found it a clarifying example, and others were clearly offended. Two days later, a student walked down to the lectern after class and informed me that I was wrong about catholics. He said baptists were the first christians and that this is clearly explained in the bible. His mother told him so. I asked where this was explained in the bible. He glared at me and said, “John the baptist, duh!” and then walked away...
Of all the lectures I give, this one provokes the most discussion after class. Yet it often results in students expressing concern that I might not be saved. I never say anything about my personal religious beliefs, yet it is assumed I am an atheist. One student told me she hoped I could find dog soon. Several simply let me know they will be praying for me and praying hard. One student explained that as a devout catholic he had no choice but to reject evolution. He accused me of fabricating the pope’s statements. When I explained that he could go to the Vatican website for verification or call the Vatican to talk to a scientist, he insisted that there was no such information available from the Vatican. He then pointed his finger at me and said the only way he would believe me is if then–pope John Paul II came to my class to confirm these quotes face-to-face. The student then stomped out, again slamming the auditorium door behind him.

Convicted fraudster escaped from prison with faked bail email

A convicted fraudster used an "ingenious" escape plot to trick prison wardens into letting him go free, a court has heard. Wandsworth inmate Neil Moore was on remand when he used an illicit mobile phone to create a fake email account. He posed as a senior court clerk and sent bail instructions to prison staff, who released him on 10 March 2014. His deception was uncovered when solicitors went to interview him three days later, only to find him gone. Moore, 28, from Ilford, east London, handed himself in three days later. Southwark Crown Court heard he had set up a fake web domain which closely resembled that of the court service's official address. He then emailed the prison's custody inbox with instructions for his release. The court heard Moore registered the bogus website in the name of investigating officer Det Insp Chris Soole, giving the address and contact details for the Royal Courts of Justice.

Prosecutor Ian Paton said: "A lot of criminal ingenuity harbors in the mind of Mr Moore. The case is one of extraordinary criminal inventiveness, deviousness and creativity, all apparently the developed expertise of this defendant". The judge, Recorder David Hunt QC, described the behavior as "ingenious" criminality. Moore had previously used four different aliases to commit fraud worth £1,819,000 in total.
Posing as staff from Barclays Bank, Lloyds Bank, and Santander he managed to persuade large organizations to give him vast sums of money. Sometimes he answered calls from victims using a man's voice and then pretended to transfer the call to a colleague before resuming the conversation in a woman's voice, the court heard earlier. He was so convincing police initially co-charged his partner Kristen Moore with the deception. All charges against her have now been dropped. Moore, who has pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud and one count of escape from lawful custody, will be sentenced on 20 April.

Woman offered ride in police car arrested after asking if it was okay to bring her weed along

A woman from West Volusia, Florida, is facing drug charges after trying to take marijuana into the patrol car of a sergeant who offered her a ride, according to a sheriff’s report.
The sergeant responded at about 10:40pm on Wednesday to a home near Orange City for a possible domestic dispute and met with Michelle Sanford “who was extremely intoxicated,” the report states. The sergeant determined Sanford had not been struck by her boyfriend, but asked if Sanford had somewhere else she could stay and offered to take her there.
Sanford, 36, brought clothes and an open beer, which the sergeant advised she could not bring. “Why don’t you take your weed with you,” Sanford’s boyfriend, Thomas Laudenslager, 46, said. Sanford said she would and asked the sergeant if she could take her weed and smoke a joint at her father’s house.
Laudenslager then asked Sanford why she would actually say something that could get her sent to jail. “It’s just weed and he might be cool with it,” Sanford said. Sanford, after showing the marijuana to the sergeant, was arrested and charged with possession of paraphernalia and a misdemeanor drug offense.

Physics Quest

Unfortunately, an electrical glitch has put the breaks on the Large Hadron Collider's grand reboot this week -- but it's not the end of the world.

Space Martinis

Astronauts hoping to sip drinks in style may soon have an open-top cocktail glass to look forward to.

Alien Intelligence

Astronomers have devised an instrument that could lift the veil of doubt over whether we're alone in the universe.

Baby Super-Earths

Jupiter's early migration through the inner solar system caused gravitational mayhem, but it ultimately settled to allow Earth to form in a relatively quiet neighborhood.

Saturn's Day

The ringed planet might have a longer day than originally calculated.

Nitrogen on Mars

Add nitrogen to the list of potential biological ingredients on Mars sniffed out by NASA’s Curiosity rover.

Rover Opportunity

Good news from Mars: Rover Opportunity has been uploaded with new software and the memory issues that plagued the mission for several months have been fixed. For now.

Rover Champion

It's official, Mars rover Opportunity has completed a marathon on Mars!

2,000-year-old Date Palm

Break out the cigars! Long the only lonely representative of its kind, the Judean palm in now reproducing and giving researchers a glimpse back in time.

From Siberia with size: 'New species' of big dinosaur found

In Russia, scientists say they've found enough bones to now identify something we might want to call the Sibirosaurus. And it's a doozy.
by Chris Matyszczyk

One fossil from the reportedly new species.
It's a little like fracking. The more we dig, the scarier our findings.And now, it seems, something terribly scary has been dug up, according to Russian scientists in the heart of Siberia.

My chillingly irregular reading of the Siberian Times tells me that bones boffins at Tomsk State University have unearthed what they believe is a new species of dinosaur.
The fossils were originally dug up in 2008. Having carefully extracted them from the rocks of Siberia, scientists have tried to piece them together and decided that this is a dinosaur of the Titanosauriformes, a group of sauropod dinosaur.
These were creatures with small heads and massive bodies. Perhaps they were the politicians of their day.
The Siberian Times quotes researcher Stepan Ivantsov, who said: "It was the first scientifically described dinosaur from this group in Russia. Now after work on the extraction of all the remnants and the restoration [of the bones] are almost completed, we can confidently say that we have found a new species, and maybe even genus."
I have contacted Tomsk State University to confirm the findings and offer some elucidation on their significance. I will update, should I hear.
These bones, though, are said to come from the banks of the Kiya River in an area known as Shestakovo village.
Siberia has long been regarded as a place where dinosaurs roamed 100 million years ago. Indeed, last year bones from the very same region were said by scientists to be those of Psittacosaurus sibiricus, gazelle-sized characters with a big, pronounced beak.
When it comes to the big boys, though, last year Argentinian scientists declared that they'd found what they said was the biggest dinosaur ever, another variety of titanosaur.
Clearly the dinosaur discovery business is going strong.
The Tomsk State scientists said that they hope to be able to put at least certain body parts on display soon. They also said a foot found in 1995 might have come from the same new species.
It's bracing that this new dinosaur appears to have been named after Siberia. Surely one day someone will discover a Detroitasaurus or a Losangelesaurus. Now they would be monstrosities.

A Lion In Gabon

Good news from Gabon: Conservation efforts in Batéké Plateau National Park are rewarded with a sighting of an animal thought to have disappeared from the region.

Woolly Mammoth Genes

Genes from frozen woolly mammoth remains have been copied and pasted into the genome of an Asian elephant by researchers led by George Church at Harvard University. They spliced the genes for the mammoths’ small ears, subcutaneous fat, and hair length and color into the DNA of elephant skin cells in tissue cultures. Popular Science reports that this is the first time that mammoth genes have been functional since the animals went extinct some 4,000 years ago. “Just making a DNA change isn’t that meaningful. We want to read out the phenotypes,” Church said. So will the team be able to get the mammoth genes to become specialized tissues that behave properly? Artificial wombs could eventually be developed to nurture an elephant/mammoth hybrid embryo, and then an elephant that could survive in colder climates. Perhaps one day the team could try to revive the mammoths by integrating larger amounts of mammoth DNA into the hybrids. To read in-depth about another project being conducted by George Church, see "Should We Clone Neanderthals?"

Animal Pictures