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[ 20051028 ]

Special Mars Observing Nights at Powell Observatory

-- just in time for a big dust storm, begin tonight. I'm planning to cover tonight's and next Friday's. Come on down!

UPDATE: Tons of volunteers showed up, so we had about as many telescopes as guests. Be aware that Mars is not far enough above the horizon to be viewed through relatively little airmass until about 9 PM (daylight saving time; this is about to become 8 PM standard time). The skies are still dark enough at Powell to see the Milky Way (and, in season, the Zodiacal Light), but light pollution from Louisburg itself interfered with my attempt to find NGC 253.

Jay Manifold [2:09 PM]

[ 20051025 ]

It's That Time of Year

We happy not-so-few, we band of bloggers ... time to read the Saint Crispin's Day Speech, because it's October 25.

Jay Manifold [10:05 AM]


Graze on over to Gene Expression for Armand on Human Diversity, which references a link I sent to an article in The Scientist called, whaddaya know, On Human Diversity. A controversial topic, due I think not so much to the findings as to the past misuse of data to provide support for inhumane policies. The challenge is to approach the field with the right attitude -- as Armand Leroi writes: "Humans are, after all, the most phenotypically diverse species of mammal, perhaps animal, on earth." May a sense of wonder drive out our darker impulses.

Jay Manifold [9:12 AM]

[ 20051022 ]

The Matter With Kansas (IX) - Teach the Controversy (II)

Gee, now I've got dueling sets of Roman numerals in my post titles ... anyway, in the previous member of this series, Teach the Controversy!, I suggested teaching kids that the Moon landings never happened. Now it seems that I could have done better; astrology would be just as valid:

Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of “theory” was so broad it would also include astrology.

[Plaintiffs’ attorney Eric] Rothschild .... also pointed out that Behe’s definition of theory was almost identical to the NAS’s definition of a hypothesis.

Theory, hypothesis, whatever. Just as long as the kids get to hear both sides and decide for themselves. Virginia Postrel suggests we try teaching them that maybe the Trilateral Commission controls the world, or that maybe centrally-planned economies work -- as she puts it, "what J-school-style ping-pong objectivity looks like when everybody's viewpoint is truly given equal legitimacy." Hey, it's just equal time, right?

No whining when you can't find your way out of that wilderness of mirrors; I'm not in a helpful mood. The spirit behind ID is postmodernist nihilism in Christian clothing.

Jay Manifold [4:57 PM]


-- is the topic of my latest post on Chicago Boyz.

Jay Manifold [10:35 AM]

[ 20051019 ]

Amateur Astronomy in Iran -- Follow-Up

(Ref my report from ALCon 2005 back in August.)

Via IZ Reloaded: Online Refreshments, a Reuters article by Christian Oliver, Stargazing bug seizes the imagination in Iran, some of which is just about enough to make American amateur astronomers want to emigrate:

... further proof of the extraordinary importance of stargazing in Saadat Shahr: If there is some important astronomy to be done, [science teacher Asghar] Kabiri just gets the authorities to cut the town's electricity -- all the better to see the skies.

Now that's clout! RTWT, and hope for the strengthening of this slender bridge between Americans and Iranians.

Jay Manifold [1:45 PM]

[ 20051017 ]

John Dobson to Speak at ASKC General Meeting Saturday 10/22

That's Dobson as in Dobsonian ... there's only one of him, and he's 90, so there probably won't be too many more chances like this. For directions and start time, see the ASKC meeting page. For background, see John Dobson: the Official Site. Disclaimer: I'm not endorsing his ideas -- this isn't about agreement with, but respect for, a man who brought a new thing into the Great American Night. Be there if you can.

Jay Manifold [10:33 AM]

Why The Moon Looked Flat On One Side This Morning

All hail Fred Espenak, on whose site we find maps like this one.

Jay Manifold [7:18 AM]

[ 20051010 ]

Unanticipated Results of Federal Policy on Stem Cells?

Writing in The Scientist, Paul Sanberg suggests, in Stem Cell Research's Reversal of Fortune, that research may have benefited from the restrictions:

... the current policy has created a state-by-state movement unprecedented in medical research. Most prominently, the passage of California's proposition 71 provides $3 billion to that state's stem cell research institutes.

At $300 million per year for 10 years, the California initiative alone would dwarf the $24.3 million provided by the NIH last year under current guidelines. Furthermore, private and public universities and institutes within several of these pro-stem cell states have boosted their stem cell faculty and research enterprise by using internal and philanthropic funding mechanisms.

Stem cell research in companies may also have increased because of US policy. Many established companies have stem cell programs, which may be partially fueled by the concept that, with less federally funded academic research, more opportunity exists to develop intellectual property with in-house inventors or university researchers willing to take industrial funds and help translate research. In addition, many university faculty have had to increasingly look to the public sector for venture funding for their human embryonic stem cell research, thereby starting a number of university spinoff companies or out-licensing opportunities.

In what I regard as somewhat less favorable news, depending on location, other countries have also stepped up spending on stem-cell research. I am of two minds about the issue; my more libertarian side would prefer to see the Federal government, in particular, stay out of this area -- but my more protective side regards turning the field over to some other country as the 21st-century equivalent of blithely letting somebody else do the Manhattan Project. It's nice to see that we have functioning, independent, domestic alternatives to the NIH when we need them.

Jay Manifold [3:53 PM]

Welcome to the Blogroll

Via Jeff Soyer's Alphecca, I've added Carnaby Fudge, which appears to be a husband-and-wife blog with some serious astronomical content.

UPDATE: "Stickwick" writes to inform me that ".... we're a brother and sister team, not husband and wife. Although we do mention our spouses on there from time to time, which probably adds to the confusion." It's not much of a trick to add to my confusion.

Jay Manifold [1:47 PM]

[ 20051007 ]

Immediate Observing Opportunity

Another of my periodic, or rather aperiodic, admonitions to my North American readers: if it's clear and dark where you are, go outside, right now, and look southwest; the Moon is in a spectacular conjunction with Antares, which is just above and to the left; the very bright "star" to the right of the Moon is Venus.

Jay Manifold [7:11 PM]

[ 20051006 ]

Webcast on 2004 Mars Exploration Rover Mission - Water and Life

Via Dave Hudgins of the ASKC, notification of this webcast:

The 2004 Mars Exploration Rover Mission: Live Webcast on Oct. 13 at 7 PM CST.

Jay Manifold [2:34 PM]

[ 20051005 ]

Editor for 2nd Edition of The Substance of Style Found

Who's going to add differential equations to TSOS? Looks like Harriet Miers has the chops ...

(Masochists wishing to read my original review of TSOS are directed to start here.)

Jay Manifold [4:43 PM]

[ 20051004 ]

The Great Migration

It's not astronomy, but it sure is cool: on the drive to Fort Davis and back, I must have seen a hundred monarch butterflies along I-35, I-44, and I-20, all heading unnerringly south-southwest. For those of us who live near the center of North America, it's an annual sight. I saw several yesterday while walking around the ponds and restored tallgrass prairie near the building where I work. Now you can follow their progress via, among others, Journey North's Monarch PEAK Migration map. (Check out some of the other maps there too!)

Jay Manifold [7:51 PM]

[ 20051002 ]

Results of Latest Test

No surprises here:

You are a

Social Liberal
(65% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(78% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Jay Manifold [2:32 PM]