Time Machine: The Wright brothers (1908)

Looking back in time, I’m just astounded how fast we got from this:

To this:

Really, this is just 106 years. I think I’m more confounded by the fact that we didn’t have flying machines a hundred years earlier.

By the way, the Wright brothers footage says 1903 on the frame, but it’s from 1908. If you paid attention in history class, you know the first flight was solo and went about the length of a football field. This is a two-man flight and it traveled a great deal farther.

Where is Ukraine?

That’s what 2,066 Americans were asked in a survey.

This is where they put it:


In case you can’t figure it out, the red dots are closer to Ukraine than the blue dots are. What’s really unbelievable is that some people put Ukraine in the middle of the U.S. I really hope they were joking.

But how could this get any worse? Political scientists from Dartmouth and Princeton tell us (from the Washington Post):

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

So people who were the most unlikely to know where Ukraine is were more likely to say we should intervene militarily in Russia’s takeover of Crimea. Yeah, let’s send American troops to battle the Russians on the Russian border. I wonder how that would end?

The theory of inflation and Marilyn Monroe


OK, here’s one of those complicated science stories that make sense to maybe three dozen people on the planet. The chart above represents a confirmation of a hyphothesis on the Big Bang theory. As the chart says, physicists have been studying this for the past decade, and the result is one of those things that end up winning the Nobel Prize for Physics, but I can’t understand it any more than I can explain the theory of relativity. However, if you ever saw the movie “Insignificance,” you saw Marilyn Monroe (played by Theresa Russell) give a pretty good explanation of it to Albert Einstein (played by Michael Emil):

Anyway, the theory of relativity and the Big Bang theory are two of the most important findings in physics. In the scientific community, the discovery of the waves shown in the chart above is huge. According to the Washington Post:

Yet the theory of inflation has an even more profound implication. It suggests that the universe we can observe, everything we have seen or known on Earth and in the sky and ever will, is just an accident, and that the forces that caused inflation — whatever they may be — might have created other universes elsewhere, forever hidden from us by the laws of physics. What “elsewhere” means in this context, though, is uncertain.

But the theoretical physicists who posited the theory of inflation, an explanation that the universe went from nothing to … the universe in “a billionth of a billionth of billionth of a millionth of a second,” was overwhelmed to find his theory was proved.

Again, the physicist and his wife hear what was only random numbers to me, but they realize “discovery.”

So, why do I believe this, even though I don’t understand it, but I can’t believe the creationist concept that the world was created 9,000 years ago and man roamed the land with the dinosaur, which is a hell of a lot easier to understand?

I’ll quote an architect here. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said:

“God is in the details.”

He was talking about restraint in design. The physicists who gave us relativity and Big Bang and inflation are what “intelligent design” should stand for … a meticulous examination of science and physics delving into billions of years of possibility. A theory is presented and they test it and test, in this case over decades, it until it’s either proved or disproved. That’s the epitome of restraint in design.

And the result of scientific discovery is that we live in a world where our everyday luxuries are things that would have been designated as “magic” a century ago. Think of smartphones and iPads. Things that weren’t even conceivable 40 years ago. These are the products of physics and chemistry and science.

But the “intelligent design” of creationism boils down to: “I can’t figure this out, so let’s just say God did it. After all God is all knowing and all seeing, and I’m not God, so why should I worry my beautiful mind about it.” And what do we get out of that? At its high point, witch burning. At its low point, an embrace of ignorance that has set us back centuries in development and brought us closer to extinction.

I posted a few days ago on the mistake Bill Nye “The Science Guy” made in going to the Creation Museum in Kentucky to hold a debate on evolution. Today I read something that boiled down in fewer words what I meant to say in that post:

The choir hears someone saying “Hey, can you believe that in 2014, some crazy person still believes the earth is flat?” But someone else hears, “Some people still believe the earth is flat. Others call them ‘crazy.’ ” Every time the Round Earthers resoundingly win a debate, you perpetuate the notion that it’s a debate, not a set of facts that are simply not up for discussion. This is probably making a mountain out of a little good-natured Twitter fun. Still, it’s worth considering every time you “win” an argument over a fact that you SHOULD NOT EVEN BE ARGUING ABOUT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

So the way to win arguments is to make discoveries like the theory of inflation. And don’t “debate” the matter with people who are unwilling to examine their own theories because their belief system encourages them to to ask questions.

Bill Nye (the creationists’ guy)


Bill Nye, a creationists’ best friend, at a Feb. 4 debate on evolution at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

Remember a few weeks ago when Bill Nye “The Science Guy” went to the Creation Museum in Kentucky to hold a debate on evolution. In my non-blogging real life, I was telling anyone who would listen that he was a complete idiot for doing that.


Because there is no debate. Creationism is religion. Evolution is science. The only thing Nye would end up doing would be to draw more attention to the Creation Museum. And in the real world, publicity goes a lot further than “book learnin’.”

But Nye went and did it anyway. And the result was a disaster.


Because this was the state of things for the Creation Museum in 2012 (Via Yahoo News):

The people behind this museum are looking to erect something much bigger: a 160-acre park with a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark built to stand 500 feet long and 80 feet high. …

The group initially announced that it expected to break ground on the park in 2011, before eventually pushing that date back to 2014. But in June, in an interview in the Creation Museum’s “Noah’s Cafe,” Ark Encounter vice president Michael Zovath told Yahoo News that the group no longer has a date in mind for the construction to begin. It has been unable to raise sufficient amounts of money, despite pleas to the Creation Museum’s visitors to donate to the project.

“Fundraising is really tough,” Zovath said, blaming the recession. “It’s not moving so fast as we hoped.” The private LLC that is building the park would need to raise another $20 million before it can break ground, he said. So far, it’s taken in $5.6 million in donations and $17 million in private investments.

To add to the bad news, the Creation Museum is having its lowest attendance year yet. Last fiscal year, 280,000 people visited, compared to 404,000 the first year it opened in 2007.

And what happened after the Bill Nye debate? (Via NPR)

Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum who last month debated TV personality Bill Nye “The Science Guy” pitting his Biblical literalism against Darwinian evolution, says the highly publicized showdown has been like manna from heaven for a foundering $73 million Noah’s Ark theme park. …

Nye is widely viewed as having won that debate, but Ham may have gotten the last word: On [Feb. 27] he announced that his Creation Museum’s proposed Noah’s Ark theme park, including a 510-foot replica of the Biblical vessel, had against all odds secured a last-minute $62 million municipal bond offering. The miracle was God’s, he said, but Nye also had something to do with it:

“The date of my debate with Bill Nye had been on our calendar several months before we knew the final delivery date of the Ark bonds. But in God’s timing, not ours—and although the bond registration had already closed before February 4 and no more bonds could be purchased— the high-profile debate prompted some people who had registered for the bonds to make sure they followed through with submitting the necessary and sometimes complicated paperwork.”

And that’s why Bill Nye can now take full responsibility for ratcheting up the dumbing down of America. He owes us all an apology.

As I’ve said before, there is more legitimate science in the theme song of “The Big Bang Theory” than there is in the entire Creation Museum.

More evidence of the mass extinction

There are a number of books out referring to how we’re in the midst of another mass extinction. I’ve recently finished reading “Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction,” and have just picked up “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.”

As the promotional material for “The Sixth Extinction” explains:

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

(First of all, to the creationists: Yes, the Earth is billions of years old.)

That’s the theme of both books. We regularly see stories about disappearing bees, millions of dying bats and regular mysterious deaths of sea creatures.

But let’s look at what this really means. This is a chart of the total weight of land animals on Earth (via XKCD):


There aren’t that many wild animals left. Human behavior is killing everything. Mass extinctions take thousands of years. None of us will be around when the one we’re currently in is over, but more important, the way things are going, the human species may not exist when this mass extinction runs its course.