Sunday, February 18, 2007

Weekend Edition or, I spend Sunday morning with the headlines

I suppose most people look at the weekend as a slow time for news. Well, except for politicians who are trying to slip something through and issue their press releases so late on Friday that they don't hit the media in a meaningful way until Saturday. But sometimes I think that the most interesting news emerges on the weekend, when it has time come through all the weekday political news.

For instance, there's this: A new study presented Saturday before the American Assoication for the Advancement of Science claims that people in the United States know more about basic science than they did 20 years ago. The research, by Michigan State University professor Jon D. Miller, says that only 10 percent of the population knew enough about science to understand news articles reporting on scientific topics, but that by 2005 that number had reached 28 percent. That's still not a lot, but it definitely represents an advance. The study attributes most of that advance to the fact that college students are now required to take at least some science classes, no matter what their major.

Of course, a panel of researchers still expressed concern that more college students say now that they are "unsure" whether the theory of evolution or creationism represents the truth about how life has developed on the planet, and that more people believe in things like astrology and UFOs. They passed off the higher belief in "space aliens" on television shows such as The Twilight Zone and Star Trek that "endorsed a link between UFOs and alien spacecraft". This according to Carol Susan Losh, an associate professor at Florida State University.

Well, that last is kind of a conventient rationalization in my humble and nonprofessional opinion, especially considering the fact that establishment science hasn't really bothered to look into the issue of UFOs based on their perception that they couldn't possibly exist anyway. The last mainstream scientific study on UFOs, after all, was conducted by the Condon Committee, and by all accounts that I've ever seen that study wasn't really all that unbiased. But never mind. The major points of the new study are well taken.

Especially in light of another story I found, also reported by AP via Yahoo! News. It seems that a state representative in Georgia circulated a memo which claimed that the teaching of evolution should be banned from the schools because it is a myth that originated in Kabbalah, a system of Jewish mysticism. State Representative Ben Bridges says he didn't write the memo, but the Anti-Defamation League is demanding that he apologize anyway.

Apparently Bridges didn't write the memo himself, but Marshall Hall, the president of something called the Fair Education Foundation, says that Bridges asked him to write the memo, which was then distributed to state legislators in several states. Hall is a retired teacher who maintains an anti-evolution website that advances the theory that the Big Bang originated in Kabbalah centuries ago.

The Yahoo story provided a link to Hall's website. Following that link was an interesting experience. Not only was Darwin wrong, according to Hall, but so was Copernicus. In his world, the earth does not revolve around the sun, nor does it rotate. It just hangs in space, unmoving. Oh, and the universe is not as big (or as old, of course) as billed. All that is what he calls a "religious conspiracy".

Hall claims, of course, that his site is not anti-Semitic. But on one page of his site, he claims (as near as I can tell; his writing, and his logic, is a bit circular) that the Big Bang theory and the idea of an old universe come from kaballah. He claims that idea is wrong, and he calls it a "conspiracy". Sounds fairly "anti" to me.

The scientific panel at the AAAS meeting was complaining about pseudoscience. Well, as far as I can see, there's plenty of that on Hall's site.


And now, for something completely different...Unless you've been living in a cave since Friday night (or just have a life, which I clearly don't), you know that Britney Spears has shaved her head. This disturbs people for some reason.

Well, yeah. Spears has been acting out a bit recently, if you believe the reports. But, really. The press is acting like she...oh, I don't know, dangled the baby over a balcony railing or something. There has been lots of pontificating about how her life is "spiralling out of control."

Come on, people. It's hair. It's very likely to grow back. And, honestly, I think it may be the most healthy thing she's done in awhile. I'm not the only one, either. I saw one story where a psychologist said that the act could be her way of trying to take control of her own life after having been told for so many years what to do, how to look, how to be a model little pop star. Of course, everyone else seems to be calling for Spears's mother to ride to the rescue, take her daughter in hand, and make her behave. Turn her back into a little pop princess.

Sheesh, people. Leave the woman alone. Perhaps if she hadn't had the world press passing judgment on every move she's made for the past few years, maybe should wouldn't be acting out like she reportedly has been. I'm not a fan of Spears's in any way, shape, or form. But I know it would drive me crazy if people were doing that to me.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I Catch Keith Olbermann in an error...

I was sitting here, as I often do at this time of day, minding my own business and watching Countdown on MSNBC. And before I gloat, I have to say that I think Keith Olbermann is a pretty smart guy. But I caught him in a mistake. Not a big mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

He was referencing the fact that today was Hugh Beaumont's birthday. If you are very young and/or never watch TV Land, Beaumont is probably best known for portraying Beaver Cleaver's dad on Leave it to Beaver between 1967 and 1963. Which has nothing to do with Olbermann's error.

Olbermann said that Beaumont was one of the stars of a 1950s B-movie, The Mole Men. Oops. The movie was actually called The Mole People and was made in 1956. I know this because it is one of my favorite bad movies.

Well, I thought, maybe that was an alternate title. Could have been. Olbermann doesn't make that many mistakes on his show. So I checked. The closest I could find on IMDB was Superman and the Mole Men (1951). Checked the cast list. No Hugh Beaumont. Instead, Superman and the Mole Men starred George Reeves, Phyllis Coates, and Jeff Corey and, while it was released in theatres, was the pilot for the 1950s series Superman and was Reeves's first appearance as the Man of Steel.

Okay. Maybe I shouldn't gloat. I make mistakes all the time. And many times, when I think someone else has made a mistake I end up being wrong. So, when I think I'm right and I discovere that I am right, I can't help but enjoy it. Kind of like when I saw Jurassic Park when it was first released. One of the characters references Disneyland's opening, which he says occurred in 1956. No. It was 1955. I didn't even need to look that one up to make sure. I was a little disappointed in that case that Steven Spielberg hadn't done his homework.

I'm not as disappointed in Olbermann's error. It's a natural mistake. People. Men. It's a cultural thing. I don't care how enlightened you are, the two get used interchangeably.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I'm what?

I do these quizzes from time to time, but I've never posted the results from one before. But I thought this one was, well, interesting.

Your Animal Personality

Your Power Animal: Shark

Animal You Were in a Past Life: Polar Bear

You have a strong character - you are an aggressive, ambitious, go-getter.
You were born to lead.

I can buy the shark. I can buy the polar bear...there has to be a reason that I like the cold so much more than the heat. And I do have a pretty strong personality, I'm fairly ambitious in my own way, and if I want something I definitely go out and try to get it.

But aggressive? I can think of a lot of words to describe myself, some good and some bad, but aggressive is definitely not one of them.

The most interesting thing, though, is that "born to lead" thing. It seems like I often end up in leadership positions, always have. But I've never stood up and raised my hand and said, "Me, me...I want to be the leader." I don't particularly like being the leader. Too much responsibility. Finding myself in those sorts of situations has a lot more to do with my seeming inability to say, "No." That's something I'm better at now than I used to be. But still.

Oh, well, maybe what it means is that it's my destiny to lead, whether I want to or not, whether I like it or not.