Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Treehugger is the place to go for BS science news

Based upon the drivel in their article "Could a Link Exist Between Super Moons and Erupting Volcanoes?" it's probably a safe bet that's science editor was dropped on their head a few times as a child.

The article features Donna O'Meara writing about Stephen James O'Meara. Gee, wonder why they have the same last name... The article is a fawning love letter to Stephen O'Meara that makes passing mention of him having a theory, but never provides any real indication that he has evidence to back it up. The "evidence" consists entirely of "Hey, this guy who photographs VOLCANOES thinks the Moon might make them erupt sometimes! He says he has some data too! He's really smart so you should believe him! Galileo! Einstein!"

The piece is peppered with pleading attempts to cast O'Meara as a luminary. Galileo is brought up as a comparison. There's also this bit of artistic license:

In 1985, Steve defied every written word about the limits of the human vision and became the first person on Earth first to visually recover Halley's comet on its 76-year return, using a 24-inch telescope and bottled oxygen at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

That's a breathless way of saying he went up really high and used new technology to see a comet, but his breathless biographer claims he "defied every written word about the limits of the human vision" by simply using new technology in the way its designers intended. You could say the same thing of the first astronomer who ever used the Hubble telescope. This of course assumes the claim is even true.

It's not until after a few paragraphs of irrelevant biography that you get to the actual claims hinted at in the article's title:

On a five day observing trip to Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica O'Meara's disciplined astronomy background led him to recognize a pattern in the volcanic eruptions that correlated with lunar tides and the Moon and Sun's gravitational pull. The 'Light Bulb' was lit!"

In the historic records a few people have noted lunar phases when viewing volcanic eruptions, but no one has ever investigated a serious link between the Moon and volcanoes and put it to a conclusive scientific test.

That's pretty much it. The article goes on to describe a few mechanics of tidal forces and further speculate on how the moon might impact volcanoes but never provides any evidence. Einstein is mentioned. A vague claim is made that the data exists, but no hint at what that evidence could be or when it is being published is ever offered.

It's clear the article writer doesn't really understand even the vague hints she makes as to what's being claimed. At one point the article points out that "In the historic records a few people have noted lunar phases when viewing volcanic eruptions". The problem with that is the actual PHASE of the moon isn't all that important to the theory. O'Meara's theory, such as it is, cares about the tides. The phase is merely the result of the Earth's shadow being cast upon the moon, not the gravitational pull the Moon is putting on that portion of the Earth at that given moment.

O'Meara's apparent incompetence as a researcher is highlighted, although unintentionally. Many volcanic eruptions are very well documented. If O'Meara is serious about proving his theory, why hasn't he gone over old eruption data and calculated the position of the moon in relation to those eruptions? The data to prove, or disprove, his theory is already recorded, all he has to do is process it. Why hasn't he? If he doesn't have enough confidence in his own theory to spend a few weekends doing rudimentary research to back it up, why should anyone believe him when he espouses it?

One of the final whimpers in the article comes in the form of a tired old chestnut popular among cranks, quacks and con artists.

new scientific ideas have been difficult, if not impossible, to prove to the prevailing scientific community.

People with no evidence often lament the pesky need scientists have for evidence. The bar can be high, especially when unseating an established idea, but it's this resistance to accept every new notion that floats to the top of a man's mind that keeps science grounded in fact and not fantasy. Anytime someone uses the boogieman of an entrenched scientific community as a way of defending their lack of evidence it's a red flag that can't be ignored. In the real world established theories are overturned on a regular basis. It's how science progresses and how scientists make a name for themselves. You don't get grants to re-prove something that's already established.

I have no issue with the vague details mentioned about the alleged theory. The notion that the Moon's gravitational pull could have some kind of vague influence on volcanic eruptions is, on the surface, plausible enough to warrant a closer look. My issue is with O'Meara pimping the theory using "science by press conference" with no data or research to back up his assertions. Supporting his claims with research would be more useful. Based on the claims made about his career in the article, O'Meara should know scientists need more than a smug smile and a few self-aggrandizing mentions of Einstein before they accept a theory.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No, it's not because people think he's gay

Unmarried Pastor, Seeking a Job, Sees Bias

Mr. Almlie, 37, has been shocked, he says, at what he calls unfair discrimination, based mainly on irrational fears: that a single pastor cannot counsel a mostly married flock, that he might sow turmoil by flirting with a church member, or that he might be gay. If the job search is hard for single men, it is doubly so for single women who train for the ministry, in part because many evangelical denominations explicitly require a man to lead

I don't think this guy's problems are because of fears that he might be gay. The fact that he's unmarried means any attempts he makes at tasks like marriage counseling will be purely theoretical. I've spoken to a few Catholics who insist that it's a GOOD thing Priests providing marriage counseling aren't "tainted" by experience, but damn it, if I want advice I want it from someone who has some relevant experience, not a theoretician who never put the theory into practice himself.

A big part of Christian theology is the human aspect of Christ. His coming to Earth and becoming one of us is part of the redemption. He KNOWS what it's like to face death and pain, to be temped as a man. Having walked in the shoes of the person you're speaking to is a major advantage in any kind of counseling, be it spiritual or secular.

As far as fears of him flirting with parishioners, that too is likely not a real issue. Single pastors are targets in a church. Plenty of marriage minded women set their sights on single minsters. This is to be expected. True, pushing 40 and being unmarried is going to trigger some "so what's WRONG with him that no one has married him?" speculation, but the lack of relevant experience is probably a bigger issue.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Equal" Does Not Mean What You Think it Means

It's important to remember that Huck isn't talking about "Equal" by the definition of things like "All men are created equal" but in terms of making Fundamentalist interpretations of Biblical text equal in standing to secular law. It's not about equality between citizens, but about dissolving Separation of Church and State.

Exploiting the Japanese Nuclear Emergency

You add +10 to your saving throw against nuclear bombs!

There's tasteless, there's vile and then there's rank exploitation of fear and the vulnerable.

Bungling cops raid wrong home... for 41st time

The police should be wary of whoever rents this house next. There are plenty of militia groups in the US and UK who would LOVE an opportunity to set a trap for the police. All they'd have to do is rent it under a false or stolen identity.

On the flip side they might get lucky and the place will be rented by a hot nymphomaniac with a fetish for men in uniform, but I suspect psychotic militia freakjobs outnumber such women by a significant margin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Idaho Republicans pass bill to enslave their descendants

The Idaho bill, which excludes issues like class size and workloads from negotiations for the state's 12,000 unionized teachers, was given final approval by the Republican-led House and is expected to be signed by Republican Governor Butch Otter.

I've read some hand-wringing about the current anti-Union movements being the end of the USA and the rise of a feudal plutocracy, but this is not the end of the USA by any stretch of the imagination. What's happening is conservative states are being reworked into pools for uneducated labor. The Idaho bill specifically removes issues like class size and teacher workload from union negotiations, pretty much guaranteeing teachers will be overworked, underpaid and be teaching more kids than is reasonable for providing a decent education. 20 years from now these states will find industries requiring educated workers will be leaving the state, while industries requiring uneducated workers will find cheap labor.

Part of the result is that American Citizens with no viable skills will be taking under the table jobs that currently go to illegal immigrants.

This isn't the death of America, just the death of education in Idaho and any other states that follow this absurd lead. Unless this movement spreads to the federal level, then what we'll see is an increase in the education and income gap between red states and blue states. Red states, lacking educated workers, will have higher poverty, drug use, unwed pregnancy and crime rates than blue states.

Here comes the genius. Prison workers often get a pittance for their labor. They're basically slave labor pools. Patriot missiles are assembled in part by US prison labor. As the crime rates in red states increase in proportion to the impending rise in poverty and unemployment, there will be a swelling in the prison population. The end result will be a massive slave labor pool right here in the USA. At that point the intellectual aspects of commerce and industry will have moved to the blue states, but the manufacturing and product assembly will be happening in the red states. We'll be able to take much of the manufacturing work currently being done in China and bring it back to the USA to be done by our own slave labor pool.

In short, this isn't the death of America, just the enslavement of the red states for the benefit of the blue states. I find it sadly ironic that many racist white Americans are voting for bills that will enslave their children and grandchildren, and they're doing so largely because the black man in the white House scares them.