Archive for July, 2008

Statler and Waldorf on the Internet

July 30, 2008



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Government Blocking Atheist Web Pages

July 30, 2008

Over at Pharyngula, PZ Myers reports on a recent action by the city council of Birmingham, West Midlands, UK, installing blocking software on staff computers to block access to atheist webpages. As noted, this is not a matter of blocking religion pages in general to avoid disctractions from work. Instead, as noted in the BBC article:

The authority’s Bluecoat WebFilter computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with “witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

As Prof. Myers notes:

I’m always peeved at this inconsistent categorization. If you’re going to group undesirable topics under the heading of “Forms of mysticism”, then atheism does not belong there, but Christianity and Islam do, right along with witchcraft, the occult, voodoo, and New Age nonsense.

Personally, I’d note that this is the UK, and what else can you expect from a country that still has an established church?

Fish Armor

July 30, 2008

This is interesting, if light on the actual science: “Incredible Fish Armor Could Suit Soldiers,” from LiveScience.

Day Jobs

July 30, 2008

From The Deadbolt: the Top 5 Super Hero Day Jobs.

MEMS and Stiction

July 30, 2008

Scientists have devised a way that may reduce the Casimir-Polder force, and the resulting “stiction,” possibly paving the way for smaller and better microelectromechanical systems, according to iTnews.com.

“Tax the Rich”

July 30, 2008

The Wall Street Journal does the math on “tax cuts for the rich.”

The idea that this has been a giveaway to the rich is a figment of the left’s imagination. Taxes paid by millionaire households more than doubled to $274 billion in 2006 from $136 billion in 2003. No President has ever plied more money from the rich than George W. Bush did with his 2003 tax cuts. These tax payments from the rich explain the very rapid reduction in the budget deficit to 1.9% of GDP in 2006 from 3.5% in 2003.

Read the rest.

Bat-Gadgets

July 30, 2008

Wired.com gives real-world comparisons to Batman’s gadgets in The Dark Knight.

Smartocracy

July 30, 2008

John Derbyshire has some interesing thoughts on social inequality, intelligence, merit, meritocracy, and American anti-elitism.

We Americans are easygoing about inequalities of wealth, much more so than Old World countries. There is something about inequality of smarts that just sets our teeth on edge, though. One of the first jokes ever told to me by an American was this one:

A man finds an old-fashioned oil lamp on the beach. He takes it home and starts cleaning it up. A genie pops out. Genie: “I’ve been in there so long my powers are weak. I can only grant you one wish, and it’s a choice of two. I can either make you super-rich or super-smart. What’ll it be?” Man, after a moment’s though: “Y’know, I’ve always been bothered about being kinda slow. Always felt people were laughing at me behind my back. Well, no more of that! Make me super-smart!” Genie: “Done!” The genie vanishes. The man smacks himself on the forehead: “Jeez, I shoulda taken the money!”

More on Title IX for Science

July 30, 2008

Tom Swanson gives another reason why trying to apply Title IX to science the same way it has been applied to sports is a bad idea.

Men and women don’t compete with and against each other in these sporting events. Title IX has been very successful at expanding womens’ participation in sports, because it focused on equality of opportunity and did not assume equality of ability — women are not fighting for a roster spot on a single football, soccer or baseball team, etc. Title IX did not require adopting direct competition between the sexes; there are obvious physiological differences that make this impractical. Certainly there are situations where the women would do better (the uneven parallel bars in gymnastics springs painfully to mind), but would have anywhere close to a 50-50 mix in most sports, if we had mixed-gender teams and ability were the only metric? The lack of opportunity for women that prompted Title IX was the lack of teams on which they could compete, and one could (and did) create and fund these teams. The situation in science is very much different in the difficulties that exist and the solutions that can be proffered.

NYT on UFOs

July 30, 2008

Both PZ Myers and PalMD speak on the recent piece in the New York Times calling for the government to do more research into purported UFOs. As if our government isn’t wasting enough money as it is.