Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Invertebrate Goodies

Circus of the Spineless #8 is up on Get Busy Livin', or Get Busy Bloggin'

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:24 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Kristine nails it!

On this Point, I Differ with Dawkins...:
I am going to argue (and I do think that Dawkins would agree with me) that there are, indeed, very practical reasons for why it matters what one chooses to accept as true. The reason, as it applies to evolution, is not unlike the old adage, "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." Well, those who would write our past for us, in direct defiance of scientific fact, are in fact interested in controlling our future.
Read the rest - it just gets better and better!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:53 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Obligatory Reading of the Day

Here is a great long essay on the current state of journalism, with Bob Woodward as an example of what is wrong, and Bill Moyers as an example of what is good. Here are some choice excerpts, but you have to go and read the whole thing - it is brilliant:

Fatal balance: An Ice Age falls on the newsroom by Hal Crowther.
I have a serious problem with Bob Woodward. As venal conglomerates, an indifferent public, a septic culture and a hostile government rapidly drain the lifeblood from a free press that was once the envy of the world's democracies, it's no time, I know, for journalists to turn cannibal. But this legendary reporter, who took a crooked president's scalp and was once the torchbearer for every journalist who hoped to make a difference, has become, instead, a symbol of everything that's desperately wrong with the media culture in Washington, D.C.
This nonsense is the final insult. After 40 years in that same business, I can't recall a time when it was easier to form opinions with confidence. Without benefit of Woodward's high-level sources, I've yet to make a prediction about the Iraq war that proved inaccurate, or offered a criticism of this administration that proved to be unfair--though many were too timid or too generous. In spite of its obsessive secrecy, the Bush White House is as obvious as Donald Trump's combover. Liars, bullies and bunglers, these conspirators are the authors and owners of the single worst mistake an American government has ever made. Ever. It takes no insight whatsoever to see through them, yet considerable courage to oppose them. They've created a national crisis where every credible voice can make a difference, where experienced journalists who close their eyes or mask their responses are something worse than useless.
"I am completely exasperated by this approach to the news," Silverstein wrote. "The idea seems to be that we go out to report but when it comes time to write we turn off our brains and repeat the spin from both sides. God forbid we should attempt to fairly assess what we see with our own eyes. 'Balanced' is not fair, it's just an easy way of avoiding real reporting and shirking our responsibility to inform readers." In a column headed "A False Balance," Paul Krugman of The New York Times mocked "journalists who believe they must be 'balanced' even when the truth isn't balanced."
There are two critically important messages in Clooney's film. The explicit one, expressed by David Strathairn as Murrow, is that certain events--in this case the Communist witch hunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy--push a responsible journalist beyond the convention of reportorial "balance." There are times when it's a question of right and wrong, not Right and Left, and a journalist's "objectivity" becomes a lame excuse for cowardice.
The word "liberal" has been too ruthlessly overworked and misused to retain any stable meaning. The innocent creatures it once called to mind exist only on hermetically sealed college campuses and small magazines, a remnant slightly less influential than the Branch Davidians. In current usage, "liberal" seems to cover everyone who doubts that the United States of America can survive much more of George W. Bush. "The Hollywood liberal," that vain, superficial limousine lefty who pontificates on talk shows, has become such a weary cliche that every time I hear it I expect, in the next breath, to hear about "liberal bias in the media." Maybe entertainers like Clooney and Warren Beatty, not to mention Michael Moore, shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden of dissent because self-serving celebrities like Hillary Clinton and Bob Woodward--and a timorous host of other politicians and journalists--lack the clarity and courage to take the lead.
On the Richter scale of history, Watergate and the McCarthy hearings were mild tremors compared to this globe-rending, nation-grinding earthquake with its epicenter in Iraq.
Impartial? Think instead of Tom Paine, of Martin Luther King Jr.--of Martin Luther. Moyers has at least 95 grievances to nail on the door of the White House; his hammer is raised and ready. He sees bad faith, arrogance, atrocious judgment and irreversible damage. The media and the Democrats, he believes, are nearly all intimidated or self-servingly supine. It breaks his heart to see Americans accept deceit and abuse from an empty suit like George Bush, whom every unposed photo seems to expose for what he is--an inept con artist, a furtive low-rent hustler about to be caught in the act.
As Murrow demonstrated in 1954 and Moyers is telling us now, any journalism of substance has a moral, judgmental component. Two sides, sure--but rarely two sides of equal merit. And at the point when the side with the power begins to ignore the facts, the laws, and other people's rights--a point Bush passed years ago--anyone with special knowledge, access or influence is ethically obligated to tell the public what he knows and what he thinks. No matter who proclaims it, "objectivity" that ducks this responsibility is a contemptible sham.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:54 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Obligatory Reading of the Day

PZ Myers was invited to publish a response to that awful anti-atheist screed on Raw Story from last week. You can read it on his blog or on Raw Story - there are comments at both places.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:02 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tar Heel Tavern #62

The new Tar Heel Tavern is up on Bull City Bully Pulpit - the best blogging about what's best in North Carolina.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:52 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


Decorabilia turned two today! Go say Hello.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:57 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Social networking for scientists

Does anyone have experience with Connotea yet? It does look interesting in light of our recent discussions on science Web 2.0, citing blog-posts as academic references etc.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:49 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Obligatory Reading of the Day

Good answers to bad questions: Foreign policy rant at Happening-Here.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:00 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

You cannot trust the government when the Republicans are running it

This article is long but well worth reading, about the power social conservatives have right now, which includes the power to place lies and misinformation on governmental websites concerning health - especially women's health and reproductive health - and science in general. Chris Mooney has a whole chapter or two on this topic, but this article is exceptionally good as well:

The new lies about women's health.

Here are a couple of choice excerpts, the article is longish, but read the whole thing (the image at the top of the article may not be entirely safe for work, or, more correctly, your work may not be safe for such an image. Bolding is mine):

Dr. Shaber tries hard to separate fact from fiction because, she says, "rumor and hearsay can start to seem real." In the past, she'd sometimes refer patients to government websites and printed fact sheets, or rely on those outlets to help create her own materials. Not anymore. "As a physician, I can no longer trust government sources," says Dr. Shaber.
Yet this decidedly mainstream doctor and administrator says, "I no longer trust FDA decisions or materials generated [by the government]. Ten years ago, I would not have had to scrutinize government information. Now I don't feel comfortable giving it to my patients."

Such doctor mistrust represents a major change. For the past 100 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been the world's premier government agency ensuring drug safety. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have similarly stellar track records. But recently, Dr. Shaber charges, the government has lost its most precious asset: credibility.

How did it happen? Many prominent figures in science and public health think they know the answer. "People believe that religiously based social conservatives have direct lines to the powers that be within the U.S. government, the administration, Congress, and are influencing public-health policy, practice and research in ways that are unprecedented and very dangerous," says Judith Auerbach, Ph.D., a former NIH official who is now a vice president at the nonprofit American Foundation for AIDS Research.
It's extremely rare for a scientific conference to turn into something more like a political rally. "Scientists do not normally engage in what is going on in Washington, D.C., or politics," says Wood. But at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science last February, a special conference was added to the agenda to discuss how politics have invaded the realm of science.

It quickly became a standing-room-only event, and scientists applauded as speakers like Wood and Nobel winner David Baltimore, Ph.D., president of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, condemned the government's interference in research.

Wood was struck by the overwhelming number of people who attended. "Scientists from across the country, from all kinds of fields, were there," she says, "because they care a great deal about how science is done and how data are analyzed and how the information is used." Why were they finally voicing their fears? "I think as people become more aware [of the interference in science], they are willing to step up and say, 'This is not what we want,'" Wood says.

For a group of researchers, the rhetoric was fiery. Baltimore accused the Bush administration of suppressing science. And when Wood said that morale at the FDA had sunk to a new low because of overwhelming pressure from social conservatives, she got a standing ovation.

Outside of the halls of science, who are the real victims of this political maneuvering? "The American public, particularly American women," says Trussell. "Who's hurt when you can't get EC over the counter? When there is a suggestion that abortion causes breast cancer—something that is entirely made up? When it's suggested that condoms are not effective against STDs, when in reality they are effective against HIV and even HPV? Women."

But many women can't imagine how these lies could possibly have an impact on them, Trussell says. "The first time one of them walks into a pharmacy and can't get her birth control pill prescription filled, that will have a wake-up effect. Most won't feel the effects until these rights are gone—they can't believe there would be a time when these things would be outlawed. I hope their belief is true, but I'm very worried."

(Hat-tip: Bitch PhD)

Update: A good take on this by Accidental Blogger

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:07 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Bosnian Pyramid, part 5

Alun makes additional measurements and calculations and points to a good new article on Archaeology Magazine.

Katja posted a trailer for the documentary movie on the pyramid.

BigHeathenMike chimes in with his take and a revealing excerpt from Osmanagic's book.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:58 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Coffee as treatment for ADHD kids?

From Myomancy, via Developing Intellignece, comes this article on a controversial idea: Coffee being used to calm kids:
Forget the apple-a-day cliché. A daily cup of coffee or tea — even for kids — could be just what the doctor ordered to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.

“I suggest drinking iced tea, black tea for improving the effects of medications,” said McAllen pediatric neurologist Dr. Leonardo Garcia.

“I prescribe it in very small amounts, specific amounts for each child, and that’s the same thing with medicines.”

But the idea of using caffeinated products for youth to calm the disorder’s symptoms such as physical restlessness, poor concentration and impulsive behavior is a controversial idea in medical circles. The limited studies available have not definitively linked caffeine consumption to abetting or worsening the disorder, so while some physicians suggest a latté, others warn against prescribing a substance that can interfere with sleep.
Read the rest.

What do you think?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:31 PM | permalink | (4 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Cant' wait for this movie to come out!

Yup, David Bowie will play Nikola Tesla in the new movie Prestige, based on the novel of the same title by Christopher Priest. On top of this, Scarlett Johansson also stars. Does anyone know the date of release yet?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:11 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Spineless

Yikes! The Circus of the Spineless is tomorrow and I, like, totally ignored Inverts this month! But if you have not, send your entry pronto.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:29 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

What's Your Theme Song?

Your Theme Song is Back in Black by AC/DC

"Back in black, I hit the sack,
I've been too long, I'm glad to be back"

Things sometimes get really crazy for you, and sometimes you have to get away from all the chaos.
But each time you stage your comeback, it's even better than the last!
What's Your Theme Song?

Why? Because all the cool people are doing this.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:24 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Friday, April 28, 2006


I am currently without Internet access. I am writing this from school. I spent the morning shuffling money around, so hopefully I'll be back online by tonight. If not, don't worry about me - I'll be back on Monday.

Update: I'm back on. Now I have to figure out where the rent will come from...

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:36 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

So, what kind of grammar do starlings really have?

Three takes on the recent study, by Chris of Mixing Memory, David Beaver of Language Log and Mark Liberman of Language Log. Nobody is trully impressed by the study, I gather.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:13 AM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Evolution, ethics and behavioral game theory

This weekend at Duke:

The Emotions as Norm Enforcers

The interface between evolution, ethics and behavioral game theory

April 28-30, 2006
Duke University
Durham, NC

Speakers include:
Cristina Bicchieri (Penn)
Sarah Brosnan (Emory)
Paul Griffiths(Queensland)
Jessie Prinz (UNC)
Ronnie de Sousa (Toronto)

Sponsored by:
Duke Center for Philosophy of Biology and
Certificate Program in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
Check the Program for details, times, etc.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:45 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


April is the National Poetry Month. It's almost over and I have not posted anything yet. So, here are two poems about salamanders and their larvae:

The Axolotl and the Ammocoete

by Walter Garstang
from "Larval Forms, and other Zoological verses", 1966

Ambystoma's a giant newt who rears in swampy waters,
as other newts are wont to do, a lot of fishy daughters:
These Axolotls, having gills, pursue a life aquatic,
But, when they should transform to newts, are naughty and erratic.

They change upon compulsion, if the water grows too foul,
for then they have to use their lungs, and go ashore to prowl:
but when a lake's attractive, nicely aired, and full of food,
they cling to youth perpetual, and rear a tadpole brood.

And newts Perrenibranchiate have gone from bad to worse:
They think aquatic life is bliss, terrestrial a curse.
They do not even contemplate a change to suit the weather,
But live as tadpoles, breed as tadpoles, tadpoles all together!

Now look at Ammocoetes there, reclining in the mud,
Preparing thyroid-extract to secure his tiny food:
If just a touch of sunshine more should make his gonads grow,
The lancelet's claims to ancestry would get a nasty blow!

The Axolotl
McCord, David (1897-)

The axolotl
Looks a littl
Like the ozelotl,

"Drink a greatl
More than whatl
Fill the fatl
Whiskey bottl.

"The food it eatsl
Be no morsl:
Only meatsl
Drive its dorsl.

"Such an awfl
Fish to kettl!"
"You said a mawfl

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:23 PM | permalink | (5 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Come to my neighborhood

Johnny will be in my neighborhood on May 15th raising money for the Habitat For Humanity, and we'll be there:

Hopebuilders' BBQ with John Edwards!
When: Monday May 15, 2006 from 5:00pm -7:30pm
Where: The Village Green at Southern Village
Cost: Tickets are $25. Advance purchase/or at the door. Kids under 12 are free.
Tickets are to be picked up at the ticket table.
Program with John Edwards begins at 6:15 pm.
Live music from Equinox
Face painting and balloon animals for kids
Bring a Blanket and/or folding chairs

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:51 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

All about Edwards

If you want to keep up with John Edwards' activities, the best thing to do is go and check out the weekly JRE News Diary by Lib_Dem over on the One America Blog.

Here is the latest edition. Go check it out - there is everything from the schedule of events, to media and blog coverage, to the information on polls and fundraising.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:22 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Edwards Online

Ed also noticed that Dave Winer blogged a short note about meeting with John Edwards in California. What went on in the meeting between Edwards and the big blogging honchos of the West remains a secret. Is there anything else that Edwards can do to make his online activity better? He is already lightyears away from all potential competition in the smart use of the Web.

Update: Michael Arrington gives a little bit more.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:58 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink


So, the second ConvergeSouth conference is already in its planning stages and the theme is Web 2.0 - ish, if nothing else for advertising purposes. Let Ed know if you have ideas. I know I'll be there even if they don't invite me, or even if they really, really don't want me there.

Update: Here is Sue's side of the story, and the new website is now up.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:53 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Obligatory Reading of the Day

Amanda on Satanic Panic.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:30 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tar Heel Tavern - call for submissions

This coming weekend, the Tar Heel Tavern will have a new host again - Bull City Bully Pulpit. Bull City Booster has posted a call for submissions so go get your info there. There is no special theme, but BCB is trying to engage others, who do not live currently in North Carolina, to send in entries about their memories of earlier visits to the state.

Send you entries to: bullcitybooster AT gmail DOT com

We need hosts for weeks to come. Volunteer at: Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:52 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

I And The Bird #22

A wonderful, geography-based edition of I And The Bird is up on Home Bird Notes.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:20 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The 33rd Skeptics' Circle

Effects of uncritical thinking on neuronal death in users and non-users of the baloney detection kit: a review of recent literature

by the Skeptic's Circle Institute.


Complaints like "hurts my brain" and "blows my mind" as a result of exposure to incredible stories have recently been definitevely tied to the neuronal cell death (apoptosis). Furthermore, the notion of the usefullness of the Baloney Detection Kit (BDK) in protection of brain cells against the negative effects of incredulity has recently garnered significant support. In this review, the authors gather the most notable examples in recent scientific and medical literature on the subject, evaluate the currently available data on the effectivness of BDK and propose new avenues for further research.

INTRODUCTION - Historical perspective

There is growing literature in the latter part of 20th and early 21st century on the negative effects of historical revisionism on the cortical cells of politically-motivated brains, most notably in the area of World War II and the Holocaust. In a recent paper, A note on UKAR. 'Barry the Terrible of Wherever', Sergey Romanov solves the mistery of a dog with curiously high concentrations in concentration camps (Holocaust Controversies, 2006).

Politicallly motivated incredulity also appears to be the underlying cause of the most recent case study, that of the Pyramid of Sun in Bosnia. Apart from the scholarly studies, this case has also garnered much media interest and coverage over the past two weeks, as the actual digging at the site has commenced. Alun (Archaeoastronomy 2006a,b,c) performed some online measurements which put to question the claims about the Bosnian pyramid. The same researcher also recently published the sad follow-up: The Price of a Pyramid and a final touch-down: Final thoughts on Bosnian pyramid.

AJMilne's take on this (The Accidental Weblog et al., 2006) can be gleaned even from the title of the study - Trampling history. And then, there is a follow-up.

Emperor (Cabinet of Wonders, 2006) is a geologist and archeologist and he says: Pyramid? I see no pyramid here.

Nature is quite capable of producing surprisingly regular shapes, which people may or may not modify further, and this may be the case in Bosnia as well (Hot, Cup and Joe, 2006).

Some shadowy characters provide further evidence for the political and religious motivations for this story (Science, Politics, et al. 2006d)

Elements of the BDK: Critical thinking

Although the Baloney Detection Kit has been available for a number of years, its use and application has been relatively rare and non-standardized. To address this problem, Zeno (Halfway and There, 2006a,b) published two studies recently. The first, The Church of the Null Hypothesis is about critical thinking and how the assumption that nothing is going on is often a better explanation than the notion that weird and mysterious forces are at play.

The second Zeno's paper is Miracles on Interstate 80, is an account of two incidents where Zeno witnessed inexplicable miracles. Of course, the true skeptic prefers a rational explanation to a miraculous one, and both "miracles" turned out to have perfectly reasonable explanations. In the final analysis, they're weren't inexplicable after all.

GreenSmile (The, Executioners, and Thong, 2006) published an important study earlier this year: Wired for priests. It uses religion as a teaching example for refining one's BDK technique.

A Review of Case-Studies in Medical Quackery

Joseph (Corpus and Callosum, 2006) has published two papers on the way one can figure out if a "new disease" is as real, or as prevalent, or as dangerous, as the pharmaceutical companies want you to think: Disease Mongering and the Calibration of Skepticism and Does Restless Legs Syndrome Exist?

Robert Todd Carroll (Skepdic et al., 2006) explains everything about Consegrity®, a species of 'faith healing' and yet another instance of the word "consilience" being misused since its invention, by Whewell, back in Darwin's day.

EoR (The, Second and Sight, 2006) gloomily reports on The Only Diagnostic Machine You'll Ever Need. From what we could understand, it is a broken radio.

Orac and collaborators (Respectful and Insolence, 2006a,b) continues his series of studies on medicine and evolution, with a two-part shot at Creationist Physicians, both of which elicitied some excellent discussions in the scientific and medical community: Medicine and Evolution, Part 4: Physicians seduced by "intelligent design" creationism and Medicine and Evolution, part 4a: Physicians seduced by "intelligent design" creationism (revisited briefly).

From the Amibidextrous Brain laboratory for mercury research (Left, Brain, Right and Brain, 2006) comes an interesting study of Rashid Buttar, Stephen Hawking And JB Handley.

Dr.Tara Smith (the General Editor of the journal Aetiology) has recently reported on an interesting case of credulity: *sigh* Influenza pandemic not guaranteed? Gee, no kidding... (Smith, 2006)

Clark Bartram (Unintelligent and Design, 2006) wrote a paper exposing, once again, the ridiculous claims of chiropractors who venture very far outside of the scope of practice that their "training" should allow: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart:More Chiropractic Nonsense.....

A Review of Case-Studies in the area of Paranormal Phenomena

Theo and collaborators (of Humbug and Online, 2006) recently took a look at the Wishful Thinking Fallacy in The Biggest Douche in the Universe which is about John Edward (sans 's', so he's not to be confused with my former Senator and favourite Vice-Presidential candidate who has an 's' in his last name).

The often-intimate connection between claims of paranormal and the financial interests of the claimants is further studied in Lennon Speaks – Maybe – If You’re Willing to Pay (Lord and Runolfr, 2006).

A Review of Case-Studies in the area of Pseudoscience

It's always Thursday on Polite Company (Polite, Company et al, 2006) as it is today. And while Thursday is not always posting on a Thursday, a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, while a banana is also not always a banana, and one does not even need Fredu to explain this: Religion: The Evolutionists Greatest Nightmare Is...

In a related paper (Lord and Runolfr, 2006), a very interesting and novel case-study - that of Babylon 5 Geekery - is analyzed in great detail.


Esbee (Life, In, and Forsyth, 2006) was playing broken telephones and thus misunderstood her Horror-scopes.


The next review of the literature on this subject is scheduled to appear in the journal The Second Sight on May 11, 2006 (my birthday!). Check the submission guidelines and send your submissions to the Editor at:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:14 AM | permalink | (12 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Did I Tell You I Like Books?

I keep forgetting, for months now, to tell you that I have an Amazon Book Wish List. I should probably make a link to it on the sidebar as well. So, if you are lacking ideas what to get me for my birthday in two weeks....

Or, if you'd rather support me and my family for our trip to New York City in May, there are PayPal and Amazon butons on the right sidebar. If we put together enough money to go, I'll blog about the Darwin exhibit, as well as the Seventh National Juried Exhibition at the Ceres Gallery, where my brother and his wife will exhibit their multimedia art show.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:05 AM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Science News

* Birds grasp key rule of grammar, study finds:
The European starling has an unsuspected ability to pick up "human-only" language skills, researchers suggest.

* Brain cells that track values of objects:
Researchers say they may have found some brain cells that participate in our purchasing choices.

* Order from chaos:
One of nature's deepest puzzles is illustrated by some surprisingly common events in which disorder, inexplicably, produces its opposite.

* Face transplant patient said to be healing:
The world's second face transplant, performed in China, has been a success so far, Chinese media reported.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:33 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Addendum on the future of online science

Blogger did not let me edit the previous post on the topic, so here it is as a new post. Bill Hooker just posted a reply to Orac.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:48 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Carnival of the Liberals #11

Carnival of the Liberals is up on Dr.Biobrain's Response. Unfortunately, it is hosted by Dr.Biobrain's conservative alter-ego (or Mr.Hyde!), Dr.Snedley, so you'll see how this carnival may look if hosted by an ultraconservative - what fun!

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:26 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tangled Bank - The Return of the Jedi

The Star Wars edition of the Tangled Bank is now up on Inoculated Mindd. Viewed best with your monitor tilted away from you...

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:58 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Obligatory Reading of the Day - Effect of Chernobyl explosion on birds

Last night I took a humorous look at the Chernobyl anniversary. Bootsrap Analysis takes a more serious look at the 20 years of research on the effects of the disaster on the birds. Even if you do not personally care about the birds, think of the "canary in the mine" and read this anyway.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:48 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

2006 Blogads blog survey results are out

Check out the summary on the Blogads blog, then sink your teeth in the numbers. Very interesting trends...

In contrast with previous years, they took a more detailed look at political blogs, gossip blogs, music blogs and mom blogs. I hope next year they will also crunch some numbers on various "expert" blogospheres, including blawgs, edublogs, medblogs and sciblogs.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:40 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

EduBlogging of the week

Carnival of Education #64 is up on Education Wonks and Carnival of Homeschooling #17 is up on Common Room.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:53 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

And even more on science online publishing

I am quite glad that my post on publishing hypotheses and data on blogs has received so much attention around the science and medical blogs.

For instance, Peter Frishauf, founder of Mescape and big promoter of Medical Wikipedia stopped by Terra Sigillata and left a comment, which prompted Abel PharmBoy to write another post on that topic.

Today, Orac chimed in with a very throughtful post on the pros and cons of the Medical Wikipedia, with some excellent comments by his readers.

Sandra Porter of Discovering Biology In A Digital World reminded me that she has actually blogged her ongoing research several times, most importantly her series:
Hunting for huntingtin, Part I
Hunting for huntingtin, Part II
Hunting for huntingtin, Part III
Hunting for huntingtin, Part IV
Hunting for huntingtin, part V: BLASTing on forward
As well as:
Anti-freeze for winter weather
Thinking like a programmer, searching like a fool

Now, inspired by the whole discussion, RPM of Evolgen decided to publish, on his blog, some of his old data on aldolase, never published before and likely never to be published in the future in a peer-reviewed journal. Why not let people be aware of the results? The first installment is here.

Any more?

Update: Chad Orzel gives a perspective from physics in Science Blogging or Blogging Science?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:58 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Not more scientists, but more science-literate citizens

James Oblinger, the new President of North Carolina State University (promoted from within after many years as the Dean of the School Of Agriculture And Life Sciences), has a good editorial in today's News and Observer:

Nurturing success in the sciences:
We've all heard the line from President Bush: We need more students to join the "nerd patrol." It's an overly simple solution for a complex problem that imperils the traditions of invention and innovation that America prides itself on.
To prepare our students to be successful, high-quality education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is critical. These so-called STEM disciplines are increasingly driving innovation, discovery and economic growth. Some estimates indicate that about one-third of all jobs in the United States require a science or technology competency. The U.S. Department of Commerce projects that science and engineering will be responsible for more than 70 percent of job growth between 2002 and 2012.

Undoubtedly, the focus on problem-solving and critical thinking found in the STEM disciplines serves us well in a variety of fields and in daily life. Basic scientific literacy is necessary to understand many of the complex issues of our day. A solid background in science and math is fundamental to informed participation in modern society and, further, to wise decisions based on sound public policy.
Among other things, we discussed roadblocks to reasserting U.S. competitiveness, including a poll indicating that 70 percent of American parents believe their school-age children are getting the right amounts of science and math. These parents also, the poll suggests, don't believe the jobs of the future will require more proficiency in science and math.

Perception and reality are on a collision course.
I cannot find which poll he is refering to, but I can imagine that there were three answers: a) my child is getting about the right amount of math and science in school; b) too little math and science, or c) too much math and science. I bet that the percentage of respondents answering c) was not zero. Those would be some fundies, I assume, though their children may not be in public schools anyway. But 70% stating that what they get in US public schools is enough?
Perhaps the most basic and most important strategy is to attract more students to these disciplines. To adequately address the issue on a long-term basis, we must improve our outreach to students and support education in STEM disciplines from kindergarten through graduate school. We must help our children become more aware of career choices in these fields and make careers in them more accessible. And we have to seek ways that will ensure success for students when they come to these subjects and college majors.
It is equally important that as we educate tomorrow's science and math teachers, we're prepared to support them throughout their careers by providing continuing education, mentoring opportunities and classroom support.
I bolded that last sentence.

I think what Oblinger is hinting at throughout the article, but an unprepared mind may not understand, is that arguing for stronger science education does not mean more science majors, or more science Masters, or more science PhDs, or more science professors, but instead more science-literate citizens, people who can understand science reporting, people who can find and evaluate scientific information in libraries and online, people who have been trained in the art of critical thinking, people who are well-educated and well-informed participants in the democracy.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:23 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

What 20 years can do to a horse...


Chernobyl Hanoverian:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:00 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Watch the rise in carrot prices!

Some people engage in serious discussion about the evolutionary origins of female orgasm (unfortunately some of the important links within those links are now dead, because the folks at Philosophy of Biology have deleted the blog, not realizing how harmful that is to the blogosphere).

Some other people (mostly in Australia) relish in the artistic beauty of female (and male) orgasm.

Yet some other people engage in efforts to ban female orgasm.

Of the three groups of people, who do you think has the least healthy outlook on life?

I first saw this on Ed Brayton's blog: The War on Orgasms (Dispatches from the Culture Wars)

Ah, pandering to the sex-haters and woman-enslavers in the South! A Republican mysoginist proposed to ban sex-toys in South Carolina: Bill would make sale of sex toys illegal in South Carolina (AP - note the beautiful double-entendres):
The South Carolina bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Ralph Davenport, would make it a felony to sell devices used primarily for sexual stimulation and allow law enforcement to seize sex toys from raided businesses.
Ms. Gillespie, 49, said she has worked in the store for nearly 20 years and has seen people from every walk of life, including "every Sunday churchgoers." "I know of multiple marriages that sex toys have sold because some people need that. The people who are riding us (the adult novelty industry) so hard are probably at home buying it (sex toys and novelties) on the Internet. It’s ridiculous."
At Sugar ‘N Spice, sex toys are displayed in a separate room. Buyers include men and women who "need a little help" because surgery or medical problems are affecting their marriage, Ms. Irons said.
"We’ve been selling these sex toys for 27 years," she said Friday. "Even pastors shop in here. They send couples in here they counsel for marriage problems. It’s probably going to hit people like that harder than people realize."
Though the laws don’t punish people for owning sex toys, banning their sale is a backdoor attempt to discourage their use, Mr. Lopez said.
I am assuming that Mrs. Davenport's drawers are full of hidden paraphernalia - I just cannot imagine her husband being without some serious hangups about sex.

For the really funny take on the story, read this: Legislating boredom ( DARE Generation Diary)

One of the commenters suggests investing in South Carolina cucumber farms. Another notices that this bill can ban artificial insemination of farm and zoo animals. Another is already inventing alternative products, like vibrating paperweights. This is such a great topic to have fun with bacuse it is so ridiculous to begin with.

But, on a more serious note...if this bill becomes law (as it already is in Texas, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi) how are South Carolinians going to invite Anne Coulter to give a hate-speech?

Since no man has courage to date Anne - and who can blame them, it would be like mating with a praying mantis and waiting for decapitation - I can just imagine her impressive armamentarium, the whips and chains and stainless-steel spiky dildos in her bedroom.

On the other hand, with no danger for guns ever been outlawed in South Carolina, perhaps Anne can bring one of her favourite toys to play with:

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 7:43 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Environmentally-friendly business

If you are in the business of producing something that environmentally conscious people and communities are looking for, you can make a lot of money:

Government, Environment, and Construction Help Grow Outdoor Lighting Market to $3.8 Billion by 2010:
Light pollution, a growing environmental concern, is also factoring heavily into industry growth. Sky glow, energy waste, and visibility issues are impacting the quality of life of both humans and wildlife. Among health issues are the disease-causing potential of light and disturbances of human circadian rhythms and animal breeding cycles. These and other hazards of lighting, however, are having a positive effect on emerging light technologies.
Who says that business and environment have to be at each others' throats all the time?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:00 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Grand Rounds

Grand Rounds 2:31 is up on Health business blog

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:13 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

The Duke Lacrosse case....

...from a vantage point of a NYC escort.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:28 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why real philosophers aren't very interested in Ayn Rand?

Following this story about the integrity of faculty at Meredith College, Nick of Back To The Woom looks deeper into the Ayn Rand cult and I really like what he has to say.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 11:50 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Politics of Periodicity

How I wish I could see this seminar at The Johns Hopkins University:

Thurs., April 27, 4 p.m. "Circadian Oscillators in the Brain: Politics of Periodicity," a Biology seminar with Eric Herzog, Washington University; 100 Mudd. HW

Eric is a great speaker - I wonder what is he going to talk about! Anyone there at John Hopkins who can go, watch and blog this?

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 4:51 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Books on Evolution

Evolving Evolution is a nice review (by Edward Ziff and Israel Rosenfield) of three recent books about evolution:

From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design by Sean B. Carroll, Jennifer K. Grenier, and Scott D. Weatherbee

Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom by Sean B. Carroll

The Plausibility of Life:Resolving Darwin's Dilemma by Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart

We now have a far deeper understanding of evolution than even a decade ago.[4] And although our knowledge is still incomplete, our new understanding, as the books under review admirably show, has opened the way toward a comprehensive account of evolution and has supplied solid answers to the critics of evolutionary theory.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:47 PM | permalink | (3 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Global Warming restructures plant (and animal) biogeography

Climate change forces plants to search for better places to live:
Climate change is reshaping the landscape of Britain as rising temperatures allow orchids and ferns to flourish in the north, while other species retreat to cooler conditions on high land and mountainsides.

The conclusion, published today in a comprehensive survey of the nation's flora, suggests that the changing climate has already brought about a rapid and dramatic shift in the country's plantlife, a trend researchers say will be exacerbated by future warming.
So, individual species migrate, proliferate or die-out. This also means that entire ecosystems are being remodelled.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:23 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Antarctic Bloggers

Listed here and here.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 9:15 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Obligatory Reading of the Day

Pam Spaulding has secured an exclusive interview with Virginia Delegate David Englin (D-45), a staunch fighter for the LGBT rights.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:45 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Link-Love: More science blogging - Part XI

I realize I have not done this in a while. Forget the alphabetical order! I have so many new blogs on my Bloglines, only half of which (that it, of the new-to-me blogs) I can link to today. Here we go:

A Few Things Ill Considered has a whole series of posts on How To Talk To a Global Warming Skeptic.

A Theory of Power is Jeff Vail's Critique of Hierarchy and Empire.

More evidence of evolution on Agnostic Mom.

Cargo Cult Science and The Quantum Shortcut on Antecubital Fossa.

Genes. Code. For proteins. and Zombie hunting on a recent find of mine - the most excellent Bee Policy.

A pointless and gross story and Frontiers of AI novelty toys on Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk.

Scientific Storkism on BigDumbChimp.

Have you checked out Bioethics & Law and Biomedical Research Blog?

Improving crop quality and Chemists Improve Hydrogen Storage on Bionuz.

The library of airplanes, Avant-botany, The Myth of Solid Ground, A Shopper’s Guide to Urban Catastrophe and In space, no one can hear you pray...all on BLDGBLOG.

Thiolfighting 101 and Five out of five on Tenderbutton.

Political Psychology Testing at UNL, Campus Elections allow heuristic voting methods to be employed and Religious Survey on Blogata Amata.

Depression Targeted with Neurodevices Not Drugs and Neurotechnology Revenues Reach $110 Billion Says New Report on the Brain Industry on Brain Waves.

You can find a predaceous diving beetle and little King Kong on Burning Silo.

Tell me Why the Sky is So Blue Today, Your momma was a lobefinned fish and Snowman on Changing Places.

City Bees is a blog about keeping bees on the roof in the city.

U.S. Lawmakers Unaware We Landed on Moon in 1969 and The lamest way to use DNA, besides eugenics on frisky FrinkTank.

Climate Science Watch is....well, the title tells all.

Cocktail Party Physics knows the importance of being nitpicky.

From the Cogblog: Temple Grandin: thinking in pictures.

Animal brains hard-wired to recognize predator's foot movements and How odors are sensed: A complex system clarified on CogNews.

Hortus Botanicus and Response: Evidence for Strings on The College of Fools.

Ham Radios, Coding Theory and the Internet and Student Weblogs on Computational Complexity.

Science blogging; Undergrads: stupid or smart?, Supporting Anti-Intellectualism Since 1945 and Brain Activation, SSRIs, and Sexuality can be found on Cyberspace Rendezvous.

You probably already know that Daily Transcript has moved to a new location.

Cabinet of Wonders (aka Damn Data): Monkey dance and Virgin's blood.

In The incessant chirping of bioengineered crickets from hell, Dr.Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge announces an impending move to SEED's ScienceBlogs. See also Botanical pornography and Insect Torment - the road to sociopathy?

Robotic planes to track pollution and Smart glasses may soon replace bifocals on Emerging Technology Trends.

The History of Epigenetics Explored on Epigenetics News.

Editorial pages weigh in on mumps epidemic on Ethics of Vaccines.

EurekAlert! - Breaking News is not exactly a blog, but it is a must-subscribe science feed.

Everyday Scientist will tell you how to tell if your rabbit is dead. Also: nanoluddites?

How to make your city flat greener, by Evo-Karma.

Molecular evidence series is already on Part 5, on Evolution 101.

Compositional Evolution: The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution on Evolutionary Computation.

Eye On Science is TIME magazine's science editor's blog.

Firefly Forest Blog has moved to a new address. Adjust your bookmarks, blogrolls and feeds.

Emergiblog has moved to a new address as well.

An Observation and Description Exercise on Frogs And Ravens.

Genesalive is a brand new science blog.

PowerPoint: Less is More, by Glorfindel of Gondolin.

Good Math, Bad Math burst on the science blogging scene with a bang. And it's worth the accolades. Check out Mind-numbingly stupid math or The Bad Math of Paranormal Research: PEAR for a wuick taste.

OMG..what is wrong with this? is just one of the recent entries on Graduate Students.

Top-Down or Bottom-Up Quantum World?, asks Guide To Reality.

Undercover creationists on Halfway There.

Helmintholog has A better vat for the brain in your life.

Here's some real data, but we do not know what they are all about. Also, Michael Pollan, NPR, and biodiversity on HodgesLab.

Go birding with Aimophila Adventures.

Macro Art In Nature is a blog of a professional nature photographer.

Some good questions from Samuel, Meet Dr. Will and Canadian fossil important new find are some of the most recent posts on the most charming blog ever - I Love Dinosaurs! It is written by kids. No, actually, it is typed by Mom and dictated by kids who are dinosaur fans and who ask questions from experts and post the answers.

For Invertebrate Porn, check out Pornfest and More Porn on Journal of the Plague Year.

Life After Shrimp Porn is TA-ing a BIO 103 lab: Top 10 things you shouldn't do when writing a lab report.

Science Unfair on Live Granades.

Dutch Stork Population Up – Way Up and other bird stories, on Magnificent Frigatebird.

Dover's dominos- part 4: How IDC lost in the Dover case (and yes, there are parts 1, 2 and 3) and On Writing - part 5 (yes, there are parts 1,2, 3 and 4) on Mano Singham's Web Journal.

The amphibian Xipe Totec and Ground Dragon meets 'Earth Lizard' on Microecos.

Is Single Cell Electrophoresis ('Comet Assay') an 'Imaging Technology'? on Medical Museion Weblog.

Mom Seeks Tenure is celebrating: My First PhD Student!

So far, a total of 324 blogs that cover science more or less regularly. We'll continue next week or so with more of them, including those that start with the letters T through Z.... As always, check the title, or a "Home" button and look around those blogs for more of their stuff. Do the same for the blogs I have already linked to in previous installments of this series:

Link-Love: A little bit of science blogging
Link-Love: some more science blogging
Link-Love: science-blogs down the alphabet, Part III
Link-love: more Alphabet Soup of science blogs
Link-Love: science-blogs down the alphabet, Part V
Link-Love: Continuing with the Alphabet of Science Blogs
Link-Love: Continuing with the Alphabet of Science Blogs - Part VII
Link-Love: Science Blogs Qs and Rs
Link-Love: Continuing with the Alphabet of Science Blogs - Part IX
Link-love: Catching up with the shifty alphabet of science blogs

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:14 AM | permalink | (9 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

New Carnival!

First edition of the Pediatric Grand Rounds is now up on Unintelligent Design.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 12:42 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Carnival of the Green #24

New Carnival of the Green is up on The Evangelical Ecologist.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 10:44 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

I like sugar and fresh air and I am full of energy...

OK, Afarensis is Cytosol, John Lynch is Endoplasmatic Reticulum and RPM is a Chloroplast. And I am the real deal:

You scored 73 Industriousness, 32 Centrality, and 19 Causticity!
You're a mitochondrion!

The mitochondria is a "power plant" of the cell. Nothing could ever get done in the cell without you creating energy. Since both the Citric Acid cycle and Oxidative Phosphorylation happen inside the mitochondria, you are critical to every eukaryotic cell.

You are always a hard worker, no matter what you are tasked to. Most of the time, you tend to be working in the background, but that often suits you just fine. You get along with almost everyone, and aren't these the most important things?

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 94% on Industriousness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 42% on Centrality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 26% on Causticity
Link: The Which Cell Organelle are you? Test written by fading_shadows on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:23 PM | permalink | (1 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Even more on science online publishing

Continuing with the topic about publishing hypotheses and data on a blog, publishing data on blogs and blogs as cited references in scientific papers, here are some more interesting dvelopments and links (check out the three links above as they have a number of recent updates with links to the discussion around various blogs) on open access content, searches of academic literature and the future of online science publishing.

As for using blogs in research, Economists are doing it.

Via If:book I saw that Google Scholar now has additional search options, i.e., by date and not just by relevance. You can get more details here.

Pasta&Vinegar has an interesting excerpt from an essay by Bruce Sterling that looks into the future of science publishing in a similar way that I did a long time ago.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 6:04 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

A Politician for Sale. Really?

If you don't believe it, check out this campaign sign on Blue Ridge Blog.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 4:44 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Tar Heel Tavern #61

The Bicycle edition of the Tar Heel Tavern is up on Nicomachus. Cool - some new bloggers on the carnival.

Next week, the carnival will be hosted on Bull City Bully Pulpit. After that, we need hosts! To avoid having your arm twisted by flocks of quail, volunteer today at: Coturnix1 AT aol DOT com.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 4:21 PM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Anti-atheist sentiment on the Left?!

Melinda Barton wrote an absolutely atrocious piece on - of all places - Raw Story. I thought for a moment I was on the WingNutDaily! What were the Raw Story folks thinking! Fortunately, the comments there are excellent, refuting the article point by point (Hat-tip: TNG of Neural Gourmet - Update: this link now points to TNG's response to the article)

Update: The Editor of Raw Story wrote an incredibly stupid and insulting preamble to the article, defending Melinda Barton. You can also no longer access the article from the Raw Story front page, only via links from blogs (my link above is still working OK, for now). Whoever hired him to be an editor! Raw Story is going to suffer from this story for a long time, as the amateurishness of the editorial team was exposed brightly.

Read more comments on the piece (there is a link to comments at the very bottom with 200+ comments so far) and also check out some excellent responses by bloggers:

Melinda Barton, Religious Bigot: Most Atheists are Whackjobs
Hey, bigotry lovers!
Et tu Brute?
Wanker of the Day
Look, Ma, I'm a 'secular whackjob'!
Defending Melinda Barton
The atheists under the bed
I'm a Secular Whackjob!
Raw Story Columnist Attacks Atheists and Secularists
Obnoxious article in Raw Story
You Might Be An Atheist Whackjob If...
Melinda Barton: Whackjob
For Future Reference
Look Ma You're a Secular Whackjob or Atheist Theological Disputation part N
The left's own religious whackjobs
Rebuttal to Raw Story’s ‘Extreme Atheism’
Well, *Somebody’s* a Whackjob Here
I have a new label - ’secular whackjob’
Atheist Whackjobs Of The World Unite!
Why I am an atheist whackjob

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 2:18 PM | permalink | (5 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Scientists Are Hotttt!!!!!

Ruchira Paul of Accidental Blogger wrote about the study of stereotypes of scientists some time back. I have included that post in the Carnival of Education a couple of weeks ago.

A commenter on that post allerted Ruchira to the existence of a new blog called Sexy Science, profiling sexy scientists, including grad students and post-docs, with the size of the image of the habanero pepper indicating the degree of hotness.

So, Science Diva, haven't you seen my picture there in the right corner? I even play the guitar, and the piano, and ride horses, and have a black belt in karate? Now if that's not hot what is? Or how about Jenna or Tara? And no, I am not going to comment on PZ Myers or John Wilkins...

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 5:14 PM | permalink | (2 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Bosnian Pyramid, part 4

Saga continues.

They have started to dig.

I'd also like to pull up a comment an Anonymous reader left on my last post on the topic:
As a graduate with two degrees in archaeology, I am simultaneously saddened and outraged once again at the media's (enabled by the public at large) willingness to promote and turn a blind eye to hucksterism, dubious claims, and incompetent scholarship in the name of a good story.

Anyone who has ever done serious archaeological research knows full well that the final conclusion of what a given site is is generally rendered after analysis of the excavation has been completed. It isn't boldly announced before even preliminary surveys have been completed, which appears to be the case here.

I also have to take issue with the oft-held notion of the "amateur archaeologist"; while the role of amateurs in the research and completion of many contemorary excavations is absolutely essential, untrained individuals such as Mr. Osmanagic do untold harm to the discipline by continuing to promote the idea that "anyone" can do this. Anyone can't; archaeology is an academic discipline that requires no less respect than medicine, law or engineering. Yet one never hears of an "amateur" medical doctor, or an "amateur" lawyer making a discovery or defending a star client in the media the same way that we periodically read about amateurs such as Mr. Osmanagic.

Ultimately, it takes 50 decent, trained, skilled and qualified archaeologists to undo the damage that a Schliemann, Evans, Von Daniken or Osmanagic does.

On a final note, I saw a photograph of Mr. Osmanagic's "excavations" in a story on Yahoo and I can tell you that they are slipshod and poorly done; that alone tells me he has no business destroying a site that may have potentially valuable archaeological evidence.
Commenters on Alun's article also bring up interesting points. For instance, Ron Zeno found Osmanagic's Alternative History website, which shows clearly the guy is a hack. And Aydin wrote:
All the photographs show the same 2 sides of the “pyramid” from different orientations. Presumably, this is because from the other side the hill doesn’t look like a pyramid. The topo map doesn’t actually show a pyramid.
Emperor on Cabinet of Wonders also has some interesting thoughts.

Updates: There is now a Wikipedia page on this.

Here is an excellent article in The Art Newspaper.

Accidental Weblog has an excellent run-down.

There are several more links on YakimaGulag

Every now and then I get a comment that calls me a chetnik and a lover of Greater Serbia, etc. which shows that the person has not read my posts on the pyramid, even less anything else on my blog, for instance my posts about anti-Milosevic demonstrations I participated in, or my barely-hidden glee when Milosevic died, or on scientific skepticism in general.

No, you see on the top of the page that I am Serbian, and just assume that I want to kill poor Bosnians because, of course, every Serb only dreams of killing Bosnian Moslems! And every American is in love with Bush! And every Russian is a communist. And every African-American voted for Sharpton. And every German is a Nazi, and every Jew is a Christ-killer! Knee-jerk ethnic stereotyping of the worst kind! I see this attitude on forums, too, e.g., this one (but not this one).

What does this all have to do with politics? Why is it so important for Bosnian national identity to have a pyramid? Why is everyone who doubts it an enemy? What frustrations are bolstered if this is indeed a pyramid?

Can't we just look at the actual site, check out Osmanagic's credentials, see what the experts have to say about it, wait until more stuff is dug up, then make a conclusion. All we are doing is detective work, with no particular goal - we do not have a special wish for it to be or not be a pyramid. Perhaps it is a pyramid, perhaps it is not. More the time passes, less likely it seems that it is a pyramid, because more and more facts and analyses are coming out, not because one political faction is winning a PR war over another.

But the jury is still out. It has nothing to do with national, ethnic or religious conscience. Evaluate the facts, people, don't just jump to conclusions out of your personal emotional needs.

Will Bosnia be any less beautiful if this pretty mountain is not a pyramid? Don't think so. Will Bosnian people be in any way demoted if this is not a pyramid? Don't think so. Will everyone laugh in the end at those Bosnians who uncriticially swallow this story bait, hook and sinker? You betcha! Will anyone laugh at skeptics if this indeed is a pyramid? No - a skeptical attitude is rational, and if the data show this is a pyramid, skeptics, unlike fanatics, will readily change their minds. That is what mature people do.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:44 AM | permalink | (26 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink

Oppenheimer is 102 today

From today's Quotes of the Day:

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born at New York City on this day in 1904. In school he took the math and science classes befitting his early genius, but he really thrived on languages. He was known to learn a language just to read a single book in the original language, and he once accepted a speaking assignment in the Netherlands that allowed only six weeks to learn the language before his presentation. He graduated from Harvard, but language was no barrier to getting his PhD in Germany before taking teaching positions at Berkeley and Cal Tech. He was tapped to head the Manhattan Project to build the first US atomic bombs, but like many of the brilliant characters involved, he chose to examine the ethics of creating such weapons. In the anti-communist furor of the early fifties, Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance, which ended his influence on science policy:

This is a world in which each of us, knowing his limitations, knowing the evils of superficiality and the terrors of fatigue, will have to cling to what is close to him, to what he knows, to what he can do, to his friends and his tradition and his love, lest he be dissolved in a universal confusion and know nothing and love nothing.

There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any asssertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

We knew the world could not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: "I am became Death, the destroyers of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.

The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.
- All from J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1904 - 1967

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 8:26 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink