Posts from the ‘Government’ Category


Todd Akin and the Anti-Science House Science Committee

Aside from the sheer biological ludicrousness of Todd Akin’s ideas on female physiology, one unsettling subplot to the debacle is his presence on the House of Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

That’s right: A moron who, to put it gently, ignores what science tells us about how babies are made, helps shape the future of science in America. It would be shocking, but for the fact that many of the committee’s GOP members have spent the last several years displaying comparable contempt for climate science.

Now, there’s no question that climate change is less well understood than human reproduction. The rate at which warming permafrost will release methane is open for debate, whereas it’s a long-settled fact that women can become pregnant from rape. But in both cases, there exists a factual proposition that can be studied through observation and hypothesis-testing — and it’s the scientific method itself that’s ultimately under attack in the House science committee.

The committee’s chair, Ralph Hall (R-Texas), lumps “global freezing” together with global warming, which he doesn’t believe humans can significantly impact because “I don’t think we can control what God controls.”Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) thinks cutting down trees reduces levels of greenhouse gases they absorb. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) still trots out the debunked notion that a scientific consensus existed in the 1970s on “global cooling,” which he portrays as a scare concocted by scientists “in order to generate funds for their pet projects.”

Dan Benishek (R-Michigan) strikes that climate-scientists-as-charlatans note, dismissing contemporary research as “all baloney. I think it’s just some scheme.” Paul Broun (R-Georgia) says that “Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community.”

Broun, who likens the CDC’s encouragement of fruit and vegetable consumption to “socialism of the highest order,” is also seen by some people as anti-scientific for asserting that an embryo is a human being, though that criticism is unfair: When life begins, and whether and how to value the existence of an embryo, are moral questions, and science can’t answer them except to contrast the properties of embryos with people.

Also tarred as anti-scientific are votes against funding certain types of research, from studies on embryonic stem cells to sociology, government support of which has been recently attacked. Funding, however, is ultimately a political decision. It’s possible to reject support for certain scientific endeavors without denying the fundamental validity of science itself, just as it’s possible to think climate change isn’t a terrible problem while respecting the science describing it.

But when it comes to climate and the House science committee, the rhetoric shows that it’s about the validity. And whatever Ralph Hall purports to support when he says, “I’m not anti-science, I’m pro-science. But we ought to have some believable science,” it’s not science.

In-depth look at what’s wrong with our House science committee. Stay informed, and you can be more effective in spreading science literacy!


Joe’s Science Buzzkills, Episode “Mosquito MAV”

Real or not real?


More after the original post…


Is this a mosquito? No. It’s an insect spy drone for urban areas, already in production, funded by the US Government. It can be remotely controlled and is equipped with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID tracking nanotechnology on your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it in your home. Given their propensity to request macro-sized drones for surveillance, one is left with little doubt that police and military may look into these gadgets next.

And for all you who automatically say “fake” because you don’t think your glorious government is funding this… do some research.

Actual research paper
Actual footage
Another source
And another

Here’s a photo going around of a supposed micro aerial vehicle modeled after a mosquito, with various scary Big Brother-esque abilities such as taking DNA samples and installing RFID tags in your skin. It’s completely fake, although it’s a very nifty idea. I don’t mean to ruin your fun. I only bust these lies because I love you.

But the original post says I should do some “research” before declaring it fake, so here’s some more info: Although there are RFID tags smaller than the head of a needle, that’s still be larger than the needle shown in this picture. Also, the “sources” listed are to press releases about a lab that takes high speed videos of butterfly flight, like the one I featured last week, and not referring to any “mosquito spybots”.

The current smallest MAV is a recent DARPA project called The Hummingbird (video included at the link), thus named because it is the size and shape of a hummingbird. There’s lots of “artist’s interpretations” and such, like the one above, but wind instability of these tiny imaginary things that have never been built means that they will remain unbuilt for the near to distant future. 

So you and your precious bodily fluids are still safe from tiny robo-insect spy invaders. However, these awesome autonomous bots that play the James Bond theme all by themselves? Totally real, and totally awesome.

Science: busting myths and taking names. Really though, it’s important to make the distinction between fact and fiction in these sorts of situations. Fear-mongering is an often misused tool and it’s good to stop it in its tracks.