Measured Against Reality

Monday, April 30, 2007

International Journal for Creation Research calls for papers

Via Reason: The International Journal for Creation Research is having it's inaugural call for papers. Finally, the creationists have a journal that can not-take all of their not-papers. Maybe they'll stop whining about not being able to publish, and it'll be even better when they don't get anything. And we'll have a convenient reference for all of the crap they spout and all of the IDiots who believe it.

Honestly, I'm thinking of crafting a subtle satire and seeing if I can't get it published. Maybe embellish my credentials (under a pseudonym, of course) and write on a topic I'm woefully unqualified to discuss while taking potshots at creationism throughout it. I'm not sure if I know the material well enough to do it, but I might be able to come up with something. I also have no reputation to damage, but I would like to have one. It's a thought, if you think you could write a good mock-creationist paper give it a go.

At the very least laugh at the idea of creation research. It's funny!

EDIT: Browse around their course offerings for a bit. Some of them seem almost sane, then you'll get to something like "Data from traditional sources such as ice cores and sea-floor sediment cores will be interpreted in context of a young-earth model." If this weren't so pathetic it would be hysterical.

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Rhode Island Controversy

My home state, Rhode Island, seldom makes the news. But it has done so twice in the past five years or so over the same thing: a scholarship for white males. The first time this happened it was by the College Republicans at Roger Williams University (some five minutes from my house), this time it's the same group at the University of Rhode Island (this time they tacked on "heterosexual" to white male). It was even for the same amount, $100, not even enough to buy my Electromagnetics book.

Pretty much the same thing happened this time as last time, except this got slightly less national press and the university didn't handle it as well. Oh, and no one won it this time. Here's the backlash:

The student senate was not amused, and in February the Student Organizations Advisory and Review Committee demanded that the College Republicans: A) not award the $100 scholarship, B) apologize in writing for having violated the anti-discrimination section of the senate’s bylaws, and C) seek permission from the senate before mounting any programs in the next 12 months. The group cheerfully agreed to A – why not? – and declined to comply with B and C.

In response the Advisory and Review Committee exercised the nuclear option and voted to derecognize the group, in spite of the fact that Robert Carothers, the university’s president, had declared on April 6 that it was unconstitutional to require the College Republicans to “make public statements which are not their own.” (The relevant First Amendment category is “compelled speech.”)

The funny thing about this, and what most sane people usually recognize right away, is that white males are automatically denied many scholarships. Don't believe me? Go to any scholarship search service, and large numbers of them are directly for minorities. Even when I told Fastweb that I'm a white male, I still got tons of minority- or women-only scholarships. All that the college republicans are doing is pointing this out, and showing that when someone discriminates the other way people get angry.

I'll never understand why this matters to those people. This is like when College Republican groups have bake sales and charge more to minorities (reverse affirmative action), they want the backlash, they want it because it shows how intolerant the supposedly tolerant people are.

Honestly, tolerance isn't accepting people with different skin color or sexual orientation; it's accepting people with different ideas. Every decent human being understands that all people are the same when skin or sex is concerned. It doesn't take any kind of feat to accept them; it's much more difficult to accept people with whom you vehemently disagree. (Yes, I'm aware that there is still discrimination against some people in the world. I mean acceptance at an individual level, not at a societal level. We're not even close to acceptance at the societal level for many peoples.)

By pulling these stunts the College Republicans showcase one of the many hypocrisies of our culture. If the liberals who disagree with their positions want to deal with them in a liberal way, then debate their ideas, don't shut them down. I find that far too often that's the reaction to things that liberals don't like to hear (especially on college campuses), and it's more disgusting than some Republican positions.

What do I think about the scholarship itself? They make a good point that there are many scholarships that outright bar white males from applying. But there are two things to keep in mind: First, there are thousands of scholarships available, most of which are open to anyone; Second, it's private money and people are free to do what they want with it. If I wanted to give a bunch of money to college students, I'd pretty much go for those who need it regardless of outer characteristics, but some people feel the need to correct for past and present inequalities based on superficial characteristics. Just as they are free to offer scholarships to one group, so should the College Republicans be free to offer their puny scholarship. As a form of protest against the state of scholarships, I think it's weak. But as a demonstration of how intolerant college liberals are, it's beautiful.

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Pay Gap?

If you're concerned about gender equality, check out this piece from Reason. It's about the pay gap between men and women.

For those who just want the punchline, here it is:

June O'Neill, an economist at Baruch College and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, has uncovered something that debunks the discrimination thesis. Take out the effects of marriage and child-rearing, and the difference between the genders suddenly vanishes. "For men and women who never marry and never have children, there is no earnings gap," she said in an interview.

That's a fact you won't hear from AAUW or the Democratic presidential candidates. The prevailing impulse on Equal Pay Day was to lament how far we are from the goal. The true revelation, though, is how close.

Personally, I think this is good news. I guess that some people would rather still have an excuse to legislate equality, but sometimes the moral zeitgeist just works better.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Philosophia Naturalis

I'll be hosting the next Philosophia Naturalis on May 24th. This is a blog carnival about the natural sciences, so nominate the best posts on chemistry, physics, math, earth science, cosmology, or astronomy by sending me a link, either through the comments or by e-mail (it's on the sidebar). It's still a few weeks away, so no rush.

Check here for guidelines about submissions.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Science and Religion, getting along at last?

From this week’s issue of Science, an article about Science, Religion, and Climate Change, by Steven A. Kolmes and Russell A. Butkus:

A moment of agreement has arrived for scientists to join forces with religious groups on issues of climate change. This is signaled by the summary for policy-makers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'s Fourth Assessment Report, the AAAS Board's consensus statement on climate change, and the unanimity of scientists. Lynn White Jr. proposed in these pages in 1967 that "we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic [sic] crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man." In their Policy Forum "Framing science", M. C. Nisbet and C. Mooney mention the more contemporary and less divisive efforts of some evangelical leaders to frame "the problem of climate change as a matter of religious morality."

As faculty members at a Catholic university, we know the strong stance of Catholic documents on good science as the foundation for discussions of climate change. Two recent examples from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) make IPCC findings their scientific basis. The IPCC Third Assessment Report led to the USCCB's Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common Good, which states: "Global climate change is by its very nature part of the planetary commons. The earth's atmosphere encompasses all people, creatures, and habitats."

The scientific Summary for Policy Makers of the Fourth Assessment Report was addressed by the chairman of the USCCB's international policy committee. He said in a letter to congressional leaders that the IPCC "has outlined more clearly and compellingly than ever before the case for serious and urgent action to address the potential consequences of climate change as well as high-lighting the dangers and costs of inaction."

While I agree that religion should work together with science, I don’t think they’re going to. Remember, Genesis says that the world was created by God for man, and gives man dominion over it. Saying that we’ve screwed up the world and we need to fix it now runs contrary to this, and contrary to the notion that the world is eternal and unchanging (which seems to also flow from the dominion thing). There’s a reason that global warming deniers are largely religious, just like evolution deniers are largely religious.

I also want to say that scientists can’t pander to the religious and kowtow on certain points to get their help, if we do that then we lose our integrity. But if the Catholic church genuinely wants to help stem climate change, then great. I have absolutely no idea what they can actually do (just like I have no idea what most people could really do), but they should go for it. Maybe they’ll learn to stop worrying and love science (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help that reference).

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Friday, April 27, 2007

The First Ammendment strikes back

The full text of the essay that got a student arrested (as I talked about here) is below (with expletives erased).

Blood sex and Booze. Drugs Drugs Drugs are fun. Stab, Stab, Stab, S…t…a…b…, poke. "So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone…, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did." Umm, yeah, what to wright about…… I'm leaving to join the Marines and I really don't give a [expletive] about my academics, so why does the only class that's complete [expletive], happen to be the only required class…enough said. The model citizen would stay around to vote in new board member to change the 4 years of English policy, but no one really stays around to vote for that kind of local crap, so whoever gets there name on the Ballet with a pretty face gets to do what the [expletive] ever they want with local ordinance. A person is smart, but people are dumb selfish animals. We can't make rules for ourselves so we vote others to do it for us, but we can't even do that right, I meen seriously, Bush for President? And our other option was John Kerry who claimed to parktake in Vietnam Special Forces missions that haven't been declassified…. [expletive]. So Power Flower Super Mario. Pudge, hook, rot, dismember "Fresh Meat." Most new/young teachers are laid back, and cooperative with students as feedback and input into the curriculum and atmosphere. My current English teacher is a control freak intent on setting a gap between herself and her students like a 63 year old white male fortune 500 company CEO, and a illegal immigrant. If CG was a private catholic school, I could understand, but wtf is her problem. And baking brownies and rice crispies does not make up for it, way to try and justify yourself as a good teacher while underhandidly looking for complements on your cooking. No quarrel on you qualifications as a writer, but as a teacher, don't be surprised on inspiring the first cg shooting.

Wow. I can really see why this boy is an imminent threat to his peers. He doesn't like English! He doesn't like his English teacher! He has dreams! Holy shit, lock the bastard up!

Go here for some notes by the author. He has passed the psych exam needed to join the military (Marines), and notes that, "If I'm qualified to defend the country, I believe I'm qualified to attend school."

This was absolutely an overreaction by the school. Hands down, no doubt. They screwed up. They should have talked to him first, and found out what was up with him. Moreover, any teacher who has had a student for that long should have some idea if they were a screwed-up kid who was actually dangerous, and this kid comes off as completely normal. Granted, you can never truly know who's going to do something crazy and stupid, but if you suspect someone might the correct route is not to have them arrested (at least without specific threats).

I hope he takes that school to the cleaners, maybe then educators will finally come to grips with the first amendment.

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Feminists, continuous contraception, and choice

Cheryl Miller over at Reason has a great article on some feminist hypocrisy. If you want a good read about the pill and some hysterical reactions to it, check it out.

For what it's worth I don't know a single woman (or girl) who wants to keep her period. Everyone I've talked to says that it's painful, annoying, and can be dangerous (blood loss is never good). I, of course, have no personal experience with it, but I think that it should be entirely up to the woman in question if she menstruates. Saying that taking away the period will ruin a woman's self-esteem is just silly. So is saying that continuous birth control regimens are just so big Pharma can make good citizens out of women, and so is saying that this is just a way to accommodate men.

Maybe the women who said those things think they're true, but isn't it a woman's choice to decide? Or are we not all pro-choice?

The terrorists you never hear about

A bomb was found in a Texas abortion clinic's parking lot. There's no information on who did it, but I'm pretty sure it was one of the many anti-abortion terrorist groups. These people, like the anti-animal testing terrorists, are people who use terror to get their way. But we never hear about them. They're right here. They're in our country. They're terrorists. But they're not Islamic fundamentalists, so no one cares. It gets a three paragraph story. Imagine if an Islamic terrorist had been been foiled? It would be all over the news for weeks. But no one will hear about this.

It's just infuriating how out of whack our priorities are.

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On SWAT Teams

One of the things that really makes me angry is the overuse of SWAT teams. They will routinely serve minor drug warrants and break up poker games, and you hear terrible stories of them killing family pets for no reason, shoving gun barrels down children's throats, and frequently killing someone on accident. No-knock warrants scare innocent people, and when those people have a gun and think that they're being robbed, police and citizens die.

I think that we need a major overhaul of when SWAT use is acceptable, which should only be high-risk situations (they did a bang-up job in Virginia last week). We also need to reduce the number of no-knock warrants and night raids, so that when the police get bad information or make a mistake (neither of which are too problematic if the follow sane protocol) people don't die.

Radley Balko over at Reason Hit&Run has given me some hope that things might change. The well-publicized case of Kathryn Johnston, who was killed during a botched raid on her home, may bring about actual change. As always, Reason's staff does a better job with the story than I ever could, so check it out.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

The first ammendment surrenders

A Chicago high-school student wrote an essay, following his teacher's instructions to be creative, turned it in, and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

Disorderly conduct, which carries a penalty of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, is filed for pranks such as pulling a fire alarm or dialing 911. But it can also apply when someone's writings can disturb an individual, [Cary Police Chief] Delelio said.

"The teacher was alarmed and disturbed by the content," he said.

But a civil rights advocate said the teacher's reaction to an essay shouldn't make it a crime.

"One of the elements is that some sort of disorder or disruption is created," said Ed Yohnka, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "When something is done in private—when a paper is handed in to a teacher—there isn't a disruption."

Experts say the charge against Lee is troubling because it was over an essay that even police say contained no direct threats against anyone at the school. However, Virginia Tech's actions toward Cho came under heavy scrutiny after the killings because of the "disturbing" plays and essays teachers say he had written for classes.

Simmie Baer, an attorney with the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University, called the Cary incident an example of zero-tolerance policies gone awry. Children, she said, are not as sophisticated as adults and often show emotion through writing or pictures, which is what teachers should want because it is a safe outlet.

This is absurd. I could see the school taking some kind of disciplinary action against him (which may or may not be justifiable), but arresting him? If creative writing doesn't fall under the first amendment, then what does?

I hope the kid gets a good lawyer and sues the crap out of that school and that police department. I hope that every idiot involved with this decision is fired and never works again. I hope that every administrator learns that you can't inhibit free speech when it's not threatening anyone. But that won't happen.

The kid will probably get off, but the idiots who put him through this won't learn their lesson or get their comeuppance. There's no justice in the world.

[Edit: Several people have asked, so I thought I'd mention that I have no idea what the essay specifically said. All I know is that it was violent (or scary) enough to make the administrators think that arresting him was a good idea, and that it contained no specific threats against any individual. But I do know that instead of discussing the matter with the student they sent policemen to his house to arrest him, which is ridiculous and irresponsible.]

[Edit 2: A reader gave me a link to an updated story that includes some of the actual essay. Here are some parts:

[First assistant state's attorney] Carroll said the complaint against Lee quotes his essay as saying: "Blood, sex and booze. Drugs, drugs, drugs are fun. Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab, s ... t ... a ... b ..., puke. So I had this dream last night where I went into a building, pulled out two P90s and started shooting everyone, then had sex with the dead bodies. Well, not really, but it would be funny if I did."

According to Carroll, another passage said, "as a teacher, don't be surprised on inspiring the first CG shooting."

Lee said he was "just following the assignment." Asked if the Virginia Tech massacre had anything to do with the content of his essay, Lee said: "I had no influences outside the class."

Lee's essay, written in class Monday, also refers to lyrics from a song by the band Green Day and violent images from a Super Mario Bros. video game, according to Jamie Emling, a close friend of Lee's who is in the same creative-writing class.

Emling is scheduled to begin Marine boot camp with Lee in October. He said he has talked to his friend several times since the arrest, Emling said.

"He wrote about the dream of killing with P90s, which is a sci-fi gun from the show 'Stargate,'" Emling said. "It's a really cool gun. Top-loaded. And it's in 'GoldenEye,' the Nintendo 64 James Bond game."

The new article also quotes the teacher as saying "Don't censor yourselves." Sounds like she meant "Don't censor yourselves unless what you have to say is somewhat violent."

Now that we have this I think that I'm even less sympathetic with the school. Why didn't they just go talk to him? He probably doesn't even have access to weapons and he clearly wrote "I had a dream..." I don't know about other people, but I've had dreams that involve shooting before, better arrest me before I go on a shooting rampage! Ridiculous.]

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The FCC and violence on television

Reason is so good that I might just have to give up blogging. There's nothing I can add to that, it's so perfect. Read the link if you want a primer on why violence in our culture is almost certainly not hurting our children, despite all of the loud shouting to the contrary. As happens oh so often, the loud shouting is to make up for the lack of any real evidence to back up their point.

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God loves Saudi Arabia

This is appalling.

A Saudi woman was kidnapped by five men and gang-raped. Then her brother found her and beat her for bringing shame to her family. She got 90 lashes for being alone with a man (who was trying to blackmail her for having an out of wedlock relationship), the men who raped her got 10 months to five years, and her brother got nothing.

Oh, and she tried to kill herself too.

Remind me again why I'm supposed to like religion.

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What's the deal with magnetic monopoles?

So what are magnetic monopoles, and why are they important?

A monopole is just something with only one pole (enlightening, I know). Normal permanent magnets (or the Earth) are dipoles, they have a North and a South pole. If you cut a magnet in half you don’t get one North and one South pole, you get two smaller and weaker dipole magnets.

Imagine an electron. You probably picture it as a point in space, and you probably picture its electric field as lines pointing radially outward. That’s a monopole, an electric monopole. Now if you switch from it having electric charge to having magnetic change, you’ll have a magnetic monopole.

You might be saying right now, “Well that’s all well and good, but I’ve never seen one of the magnetic monopoles, why should I think they exist?” If you are thinking that, then you’re on to something. No one ever has seen a magnetic monopole. If you look at Maxwell’s Equations, you won’t see any magnetic charge anywhere. But Maxwell noticed that it could easily be added, but the lack of evidence for them dissuaded him from including them.

I just said that no one has seen a magnetic monopole, and this is true, in a sense. Valentine’s Day 1984, Blas Cabrera, my advisor, saw a signature on a detector that is exactly what you’d expect if a monopole had passed through. However, further experiments made it vanishingly unlikely that this was an actual monopole, and Blas will tell you it almost certainly was not. (Personally I’d like to believe it was, and I’m impressed Blas can admit that it wasn’t.)

Now you’re probably thinking, “If we’ve never seen one, why do we care about them?” That’s also a good question. It turns out that if you take quantum mechanical principles and mix them with electrodynamics, you can prove that if there exists one magnetic monopole anywhere in the universe, then both electric and magnetic charge will be quantized. This is called Dirac’s quantization, and is a pretty stunning result. I’ve seen the calculation done and it’s quite beautiful (but too complicated and lengthy for a blog entry). There’s no real reason for the quantization of charge without this (at least that I know of), so the fact that charge is indeed quantized is a good indicator that there is a monopole somewhere out there (maybe it did go through Palo Alto in 1984). Unfortunately for any monopole lovers, there’s probably less than one per cosmic horizon, which means your odds of finding one are just about nil.

Besides that, Grand Unification Theories and other high-level theories, such as String Theory, demand their existence. For a while, theories demanded too damn many of them, and people were concerned about why there were so few. Alan Guth’s Inflationary Cosmology did a fantastic job of explaining the small level of monopoles, which is one of the many reasons it’s so widely accepted.

I hope that now you have a decent grasp of magnetic monopoles, what they are and why they matter.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Christian Vandals and Gay Rights

I think this photo pretty well summarizes the gay rights debate:

Of course, what religion actually practices what they preach about tolerance and acceptance and love? I don't recall hearing "Love thy neighbor, unless he's gay, an atheist, pro-choice, a Muslim, a democrat..." But what do I know, I'm just a godless heathen.

The article is really funny, because local church leaders say that the ad campaign is "built on false statements and distorted readings of scripture." But when was the last time they sacrificed animals or kept kosher? I bet they've broken nearly every damn rule in Leviticus. But those parts of scripture don't count, they're the silly metaphorical (by which I mean, "hard to obey") ones.

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Magnetic Fields Do No Work

Every time I head about a perpetual motion machine (or some other kind of free energy), I know immediately how it works. It’s one of a short list of well-known but poorly-understood (at least among the general population) physical principles. The two big ones are magnetic fields and the Casimir Effect. I’m going to be talking about magnetic fields today, and why they can never be used to make any kind of perpetual motion machine.

Everyone loves magnets, and if they don’t they should. I know I do, I have about 40 neodymium super-magnets on my desk. They’re fascinating, and with their invisible and seemingly magical attraction, they have mystified child and adult alike for generations. Surely there must be some way to harness this power and get free energy!

There’s just one problem with this: magnetic fields do no work.

Some physics background for those who don’t have it, work is basically force times distance. If you apply a force over a given distance you do work, any time you move an object you’re doing work (however, sitting at your computer and playing solitaire is not work). Work has the units of energy, and (ignoring friction) the work done moving an object is exactly equal to the change in its energy.

So if magnetic fields don’t do work, then we can’t get any energy out of them without dissipating the field itself.

But, you ask, how do I know that magnetic fields don’t do work? The answer to that requires some vector calculus (unfortunately, no one likes vector calculus), but it’s not too bad. Skip it if you don’t care, but I promise I’m not going to kill you with Math.

The magnetic field (B) is defined as:

That X in the middle does not mean “times”, it’s the cross product, which basically means that the force from a moving charge in a magnetic field is perpendicular to both the field and to the velocity of the charge.

Work, in the true mathematic form, is:

F is the force and ds is a bit of the path, “dotted” into the force. But we know that ds is equal to the velocity time a small bit of time, dt (because that’s the part of the path that the object moves in time dt).

Now recall that the force is equal to the field crossed with the velocity, and to get work we have to dot it with the velocity:

The cross and the dot products have a peculiar property that if this happens, the result is always zero. Geometrically this happens because the cross product creates a vector that is perpendicular to both the initial vectors, but the dot product evaluates the length that two vectors have in common. If they’re perpendicular, then the answer is always zero.

So magnetic fields do no work, and hence you can’t get any energy from them (without dissipating the field).

If you don’t like that argument (although it’s perfectly solid), I’ve got another one for you. The energy density of the magnetic field is:

If you integrate that over all space, you get the entire amount of energy contained in the field. Because every magnetic field falls to zero as the distance away increases, that integral is finite, and hence the total amount of energy one can extract from a field is finite. This is why I repeatedly added “without dissipating the field” to the end of “magnetic fields do no work.” This is also why objects (such as paper clips) will go flying towards magnets: they modify the field, changing how much energy is stored in it. You could conceivably extract energy from this, but only as much as you put into it (and actually less because of losses due to friction), just like every other physical system.

So, while magnets are fun and fascinating, anyone who claims that they’ve harnessed free energy from them is either mistaken or a liar, and they have an incomplete grasp of electromagnetism. Remember, magnetic fields do no work!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The bizarre and intriguing story of Oleg Jefimenko and the solutions to Maxwell's Equations

I recently heard the story of Oleg Jefimenko during a lecture on Electrodynamics, specifically the general solution to Maxwell’s Equations.

Jefimenko’s tiny bit of fame comes from Jefimenko’s Equations, which are the general solution to Maxwell’s equations expressed solely in terms of sources, that is charge and current distributions. The equations are messy and difficult to work with, and aren’t used much in practice. But they do reveal certain bits of physics (such as the applicability of the quasistatic approximation (the link goes to a thermodynamics page, but the idea is the same) and that fields must be created by sources), and it’s always nice to have the general solution to a problem available.

These equations weren’t written down until 1966, about a century after Maxwell’s Equations were known. Some people will claim (as the Wikipedia article cited does) that Jefimenko’s Equations were written down earlier, but those earlier versions are always slightly different and not quite complete. What’s really funny is that Jefimenko wrote them down in an attempt to formulate an alternative to Maxwell’s equations.

When my current Professor, David Griffiths, was in the process of writing a paper on the subject, he independently derived Jefimenko’s equations, and tried to figure out if anyone had done it before. Other than some slightly tricky and annoying math, they’re not hard to derive, so someone must have done it. He found that Jefimenko had written them in a book that was published by a company that had only published one other work, also by Jefimenko (apparently regular publishers wouldn’t take his books, so he went to a prestige press). He contacted Jefimenko, and Jefimenko didn’t believe that he had solved Maxwell’s equations, but that he had created an electromagnetic theory separate from (and doubtless better than) Maxwell’s. Of course he had done no such thing, his formulation is exactly equivalent to Maxwell’s, but he wasn’t buying it.

According to Griffiths, Jefimenko currently submits one or two papers a week to American journals, gets denied, then publishes them in Europe (where review is apparently not as stringent). I don’t know what they’re about, the Wikipedia article says he focuses on overthrowing Einstein’s General Relativity and Maxwell.

I found this story behind some esoteric equations to be pretty amusing, and thought others might agree. I hope you’ve enjoyed the convoluted and intriguing story behind Jefimenko’s equations.

[Most of my information comes from a lecture with Griffiths, and as such could not be found online. Anything that is available online has been referenced.]

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Monday, April 23, 2007

The worst thing you'll hear all week

I wasn't planning on saying any more about the VT massacre a week ago. No matter what I said about it I felt dirty afterward, as though I was using the tragedy the same way that the vile snakes were. But I have to mention this, which is by far the worst, insulting Liviu Librescu, the professor who gave his life to save his students:

He was protecting the ultimate symbol of a degenerate multicultural-promoting institution, where Jewish professors like himself reign supreme, indoctrinating moldable young student minds with filthy Jew propaganda. Note that the student who credited him with saving his life was an Israeli Jewish student Asael Arad. However, the media plays up the Professor's Jewishness, while simultaneously playing down the race of people he allegedly saved.

Also note that he claimed to be a "Holocaust Survivor," what Jew old enough to pull it off DOESN'T these days? I think it's a good bet that he found a way to incorporate Jew Holocaust lies into his teachings, or at the very least Jews will find a way to profit from these killings by propping up this guy in their media in order to solicit some donations for Holocaust myth perpetuating causes, or some other Jew benefit.

Don't click that link. I include it only so that you can be fairly confident that I'm not making this up. But for the love of all that is good, do not give that evil piece of shit a pageview.

Saying that this was caused by videogames or liberals or gun control or lack of gun control or the media or society or Korean movies or whatever other crap people are blaming is bad enough, but this is its own league. This ghoul is saying that someone who sacrificed his life is evil, because he was Jewish. And he's a holocaust denier. I don't think there's anything left for me to say about him, except that the bar has been lowered so far that I don't think anyone can match it.

[Via Respectful Insolence]


Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Young British Soldier - Rudyard Kipling

When the 'arf-made recruity goes out to the East
'E acts like a babe an' 'e drinks like a beast,
An' 'e wonders because 'e is frequent deceased
Ere 'e's fit for to serve as a soldier.
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
Serve, serve, serve as a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!

Now all you recruities what's drafted to-day,
You shut up your rag-box an' 'ark to my lay,
An' I'll sing you a soldier as far as I may:
A soldier what's fit for a soldier.
Fit, fit, fit for a soldier . . .

First mind you steer clear o' the grog-sellers' huts,
For they sell you Fixed Bay'nets that rots out your guts --
Ay, drink that 'ud eat the live steel from your butts --
An' it's bad for the young British soldier.
Bad, bad, bad for the soldier . . .

When the cholera comes -- as it will past a doubt --
Keep out of the wet and don't go on the shout,
For the sickness gets in as the liquor dies out,
An' it crumples the young British soldier.
Crum-, crum-, crumples the soldier . . .

But the worst o' your foes is the sun over'ead:
You must wear your 'elmet for all that is said:
If 'e finds you uncovered 'e'll knock you down dead,
An' you'll die like a fool of a soldier.
Fool, fool, fool of a soldier . . .

If you're cast for fatigue by a sergeant unkind,
Don't grouse like a woman nor crack on nor blind;
Be handy and civil, and then you will find
That it's beer for the young British soldier.
Beer, beer, beer for the soldier . . .

Now, if you must marry, take care she is old --
A troop-sergeant's widow's the nicest I'm told,
For beauty won't help if your rations is cold,
Nor love ain't enough for a soldier.
'Nough, 'nough, 'nough for a soldier . . .

If the wife should go wrong with a comrade, be loath
To shoot when you catch 'em -- you'll swing, on my oath! --
Make 'im take 'er and keep 'er: that's Hell for them both,
An' you're shut o' the curse of a soldier.
Curse, curse, curse of a soldier . . .

When first under fire an' you're wishful to duck,
Don't look nor take 'eed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you're livin', and trust to your luck
And march to your front like a soldier.
Front, front, front like a soldier . . .

When 'arf of your bullets fly wide in the ditch,
Don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch;
She's human as you are -- you treat her as sich,
An' she'll fight for the young British soldier.
Fight, fight, fight for the soldier . . .

When shakin' their bustles like ladies so fine,
The guns o' the enemy wheel into line,
Shoot low at the limbers an' don't mind the shine,
For noise never startles the soldier.
Start-, start-, startles the soldier . . .

If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!

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Friday, April 20, 2007


There's a good post over at Bad Science about how bad people are at seeing real patterns.

People are great at seeing patterns, it's one of the things we do really well. But sometimes were too good, and we see patterns that aren't there. For example, we see faces everywhere we look. Just Google image search "ghosts" and you'll see a whole bunch of shadows that are interpreted as faces (as well as photoshopped images). Another good example of this is the well-known face on Mars, which is just a plateau that was photographed at a convenient time, the face was in the shadows, not the planet.

An example given in the Bad Science piece is "runs", and why random patterns can look decidedly nonrandom. He gives a specific experiment that demonstrates this effect, but there's another well-known one. If you've taken a class in or read any material on probability theory, you've probably heard this story. It goes that a Professor of a large introductory probability class gives an odd assignment the first day of class: half the class flips a coin 100 times and records the result, while the other half just makes up data. He goes through the results and can separate most of the people who made up data from those who didn't.

How would this be done? As it turns out, people hate putting down long strings of the same result, but in a large data set they're virtually guaranteed to occur. So the results that contain strings of 6 or so in a row are usually real, and those that don't aren't. Of course, this is probabilistic, it doesn't always work, but it does with pretty good probability.

Not only are people horrible at creating random patterns, we're just as bad at making random numbers. Some folks over at Scienceblogs (specifically Cognitive Daily) did an experiment to demonstrate this, and it has been verified by others in the science blogging community.

The result is that if you ask people, 17 is the most random number (between 1 and 20 anyway). I guess it "feels" more random, whatever that means.

I think this can be generalized even further, in that we really like for there to be patterns behind things, for events to have causes that aren't random. Einstein famously said, "God doesn't play dice" in voicing his opposition to Quantum Theory, but indeed, the universe is probabilistic, whether we like it or not (according to a new study, nature might be even weirder).

This is why, I think, we have such a hard time accepting that certain events were random. People still think that the Kennedy Assassination was a conspiracy theory, despite thorough debunking of all conspirator's claims (see, for example, Penn & Teller's episode of Bullshit! on it). I'd even go so far as to say it's behind the reactions to the VT massacre earlier this week (at least those not obviously motivated by grinding axes), and the seemingly universal desire to believe that there's a greater cause driving the world, that things happen for a reason.

We see patterns everywhere, and so they must be everywhere. It's too bad that sometimes the world just is random, and we have to learn to deal with that.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thank you Mr. Mapantsula

This may be the most beautiful thing I have ever read.

Nothing I say other than that will do it justice

Oklahoma declares watermelon state vegetable

As if we needed any more proof that politicians are idiots. Oklahoma has named watermelon its State Vegetable.

OKLAHOMA CITY Oklahoma already has the strawberry as its official fruit, so the state Senate cleared the way Tuesday to declare the watermelon the state vegetable.

The measure was introduced in the House by Democratic Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, site of an annual watermelon festival in August.

Sen. Don Barrington, R-Lawton, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

"The controversy on whether watermelon is a fruit or vegetable has been officially decided by the Oklahoma Legislature," Barrington said. He said watermelon comes from the cucumber and gourd families, which are classified as vegetables.

I like that this Barrington character thinks science is up for vote. Sorry buddy, that’s not how it works. The botanists say that watermelon is a fruit. In fact, it’s a special kind of fruit called a pepo (or more technically an epigynous, or false, berry). In fact, contrary to what mister Barrington claims, cucumbers and gourds are indeed fruits.

A fruit is the ripened ovary (seeds included) of a flowering plant, while a vegetable is pretty much any part of a plant that you eat that’s not sweet (or a nut, grain, herb, or spice). Things (like cucumbers and tomatoes) can be both, since one is technical and the other traditional (which is why asking “Is it a fruit or a vegetable?” is fairly meaningless).

Because the word vegetable isn’t precise, but generally doesn’t include sweet fruits, classifying a watermelon as a vegetable is pretty dumb. But hey, non-technical words can mean pretty much whatever people want, so Oklahoma can say that they’ve expanded the meaning of vegetable to include any part of a plant that we eat, but they can’t say that they’ve settled the matter and watermelon isn’t a fruit. That’s just stupid.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blogging Day of Silence

I think I reacted too soon yesterday (to be fair, I was reacting too soon to people who were reacting in ridiculous ways). So I've decided that I'm going on a blogging day of silence (actually two, I'm not posting until Thursday at the soonest).

I think that the only way to give any kind of respect to the dead after a tragedy is to let your sympathy be known, and then shut up. So that is what I'm doing. I hope that others will join me.

There will be plenty of time to use this terrible incident to further your own political, moral, or social ideas later. Please, for the love of all that is decent and good, do it later.

Thank you.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Thoughts on VT

By now we have all heard of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. As soon as I saw it after returning from class today, I immediately thought of a friend who goes there. Thankfully she's ok, but there are (so I've heard) 33 people who should still be alive right now. I wish there were something I could do for them, or for their families, but nothing I can say will do justice to the magnitude of the loss.

There have already been some inevitable reactions. People are calling for gun control, people are blaming videogames, and people are blaming the current US culture. I want to say a bit about these points.

First, gun control may have prevented this. We need to remember that while gun control is remarkably good at keeping guns away from people who obey the law, it's not particularly good at keeping them out of the hands of criminals. I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the issue, but I ask those who hear this to remember that we can't be certain about how things would be different with gun control. As one commentator said, "Don't fear guns, fear cars." We hear about shootings but not fatal crashes, 42,884 Americans die in car crashes a year, which is almost 5 per hour. Just something to keep in mind.

Second, videogames almost certainly had nothing to do with it. A recent study found that videogames don't influence people with "stable" personalities, and that those who are influenced can be made calmer or angrier, and that it's a passing effect. However, the study was done with fairly small samples (22 in the "influenced and angrier" group), so it might not be right. Even so, the evidence indicates that videogames do not cause violent behavior.

Lastly, is our culture to blame? Perhaps we do ingest too much violence for our good, perhaps the murder just snapped under the weight of his failure to meet society's standards. It's entirely possible, and I'm not going to say that I love the US's culture right now; it is despicable in many ways. But I'm hesitant to blame society for this one. While we don't know who this young man was or why he did it, it's best to assume nothing about him. I think the most likely scenario is that several bad things happened to him in a row and he just snapped.

I know that people don't like to believe that extraordinarily bad events can be explained by mundane reasons, they like big events to have big causes. They also like to find blame, whether it be lack of gun control, videogames, or a bad culture. I hope we can move the blame to the back of our minds and instead grieve for the dead, and save reactions until a time when the facts are known and can be weighed with calm minds.

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Am I just young?

I can hardly read the news any more because it makes me so angry. I see SWAT teams serving minor drug warrants, getting the house wrong, and killing someone. I see nearly one out of every hundred Americans in prison, most for ingesting a substance the government doesn't think they should ingest. I see an absurd imbalance between how the law is applied to different races. I see loving people who are unable to marry because, for some inexplicable reason, other people don't want them to. I see a $200 billion dollar deficit in the budget declared a win. I see an insane war in a far-off country started for no reason, fought for no reason, and continuing for no reason. I see politicians with no ideas, the same ideas, and bad ideas. I see a country that can't continue existing like it has been, because it will collapse under its own weight.

But I'm not dumb. I know that people have always thought that the present is different than, more urgent than the past. And I know that young people (more or less) always feel cheated, always hate those in power, always rebel against it.

For the past few weeks I've been wondering if I should be so pissed off. I'm never going to stop caring about the injustices in the world, but I can't help thinking that maybe the present isn't so different, isn't so special. I feel like it is, but I have no perspective. I wasn't even old enough to vote in 2004, how can I know what people my age felt like in the past?

So I'm asking those who are older, those who have seen more, read more, heard more, and experienced more than I, should I be so pissed off? Is this hour somehow different from the last? Is there cause to worry that we may soon pass the point of no return on the descent into our self-destruction? Or am I just an uppity young man discovering the ugliness and absurdity of the world for the first time, and finding its taste too bitter?

I'm not asking whether or not I should pay attention and get involved, there's little choice in that matter. But I must know, should I get so angry, or is it just my youth?

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

This just in, teens like sex!

This just in, teens like sex! I know you're quite shocked by this news, but given some people's desire to deny our human nature, I feel it's important news to propagate.

That article cites a new study showing that abstinence-only sex ed does nothing, but everyone knew that already. I think the better question is who teaches abstinence-only? My school taught "abstinence is the only 100% safe, but if you're going to do something use protection." Which is sensible, and what we should teach.

But what I really liked was this study, which finds that:

Contrary to the public perception that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, the study shows that even among women who were born in the 1940s, nearly nine in 10 had sex before marriage.

The new study uses data from several rounds of the federal National Survey of Family Growth to examine sexual behavior before marriage, and how it has changed over time. According to the analysis, by age 44, 99% of respondents had had sex, and 95% had done so before marriage. Even among those who abstained from sex until age 20 or older, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.

That's also quite obvious, but it's really nice to have as the conclusion of a study. People have always had premarital sex, they always will, so let's just make sure that they're not making premarital pregnancies that lead to premarital abortions. That way everyone's happy.

I'll never understand why some people care so much about what other people do with their genitals, but at least now we have concrete proof that their concern has not, and never will affect anyone else. Now if only this would get through the skulls of the idiots enforcing these useless policies.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why Free Speech is Necessary

I got a bit more negative reaction to my recent free-speech post than I was expecting. This is one of those things I find so obvious that I didn't really consider that any thinking person would disagree with me. I realize now that this is not the case, and I will briefly present the rationale behind my stance.

I think that the case against the "total and complete" free speech position that I take is most sensibly voiced by commenter JeNn:

I think you're inflating the importance of freedom of expression. Heck, it's probably because people like you think it's ok that "if they want to make a big effigy of Muhammad and burn it then they should be able to do that too" that Muslim extremists are able to recruit radicals so easily - because they can then justifiably say that Americans are bigoted and disrespectful of the beliefs of other people.

I would argue that freedom of expression is not a right; it's a privilege that's accorded to responsible and mature people who will not abuse this power to influence others. If you're going to abuse the religious beliefs and cultural identities of others under your right to freedom of expression, you're just going to create discord and make the world a worse place than it already is.

Even if it is a right, it should still be exercised responsibly, with respect and brevity. That's why censorship exists, because they're impressionable people who could easily be influenced negatively and because they're irresponsible people who would use this to their advantage.

In short, I think your stand's too extreme. I'm all for freedom of speech and whatnot, but not if it's going to cause me to turn against my neighbours or create a climate of fear and social instability. Better safe and alive than living in fear under a false distorted notion of freedom.

This is about as well as I've seen it put, so I'm going to argue against this (and more or less only this).

First, the slippery slope. I don't generally like slippery-slope arguments, but here it is totally valid. If my (admittedly ridiculously extreme) example of burning an effigy of Muhammad shouldn't be allowed, where do we draw the line? Am I allowed to call Islam stupid? Am I allowed to condemn radicals? Am I allowed to condemn the moderates who allow the radicals to get away with their radicalism? Am I allowed to criticize Islam at all, on any level? I don't think that there's a clear place to draw the line, and trying to put it at something like "respectful criticism" just won't work, because to many people the only respectful criticism is none. We're seeing this happen in Europe right now, where people are being sent to prison for criticizing Catholicism, and the UN is trying to go the same for Islam (and presumably other religions).

If you put the cutoff somewhere, then what's stopping someone from moving it? If I say "Christianity is full of shit", should I be arrested? What if I say "I believe that Christianity is wrong"? It's the same exact statement, one is just worded provocatively. If I can't use provocative language, then I've effectively been neutered as a writer.

And moving further along the slope, what stops people from banning unpopular but valid opinions? What's stopping the grand arbiters of censorship from declaring the President (or any politician/party/idea) beyond critique? You could try to put careful laws in place, but once you do that you're setting precedent for outlawing more and more speech. What starts as a campaign to keep the mouths of the citizens clean and decent could very, very easily result in stifling dissent. I think everyone can agree that is a very, very bad thing.

Moving past the slippery-slope, we get to "Speech is a privilege, not a right." I can't think of any new way to combat this other than to say, "Says who?" Every document I know of (which I will admit is only the UN Declaration of Rights and the US Bill of Rights) explicitly lists freedom of speech as a universal, unalienable human right. Saying that speech is a privilege is pretty silly when it's so universally regarded as a right.

Moving on to offensive speech. No counting the slippery-slope arguments against restricting offensive speech, I only have one left: No one has the right to not being offended. I'm not certain where this idea came from, but it's flat-out stupid. If I say something that offends you, have you not considered that it might be your problem? If the offensive remark is baseless, then you can dismiss it out of hand, but if the remark has a basis in truth, then perhaps you need to reconsider your beliefs. For example, offensive racial remarks speak loudly about the person saying them. However, offensive religious remarks tend to speak loudly about the religion (or at least that's my view).

People sometimes forget how powerful a tool indignation is. Some of the best, most powerful, and most poignant works are offensive or controversial, and that's precisely why they're so powerful. TV shows like South Park use ridicule as a tool to point out flaws in people and organizations, and it works. Taking that away would kill an entire means of expression and argument, perhaps the most effective one.

JeNn mentioned Islamic extremists being inspired by acts against their religion, and perhaps they are (however, extremism is built into Islam itself, and I very much doubt that the actions of individuals in the west inspire radicals in the Middle-East). But if they are, is that the fault of our speech? Should we kowtow to their demands? Again I refer to South Park, that did a brilliant two-parter on exactly this topic:

Woman: Mr. President, we're awaiting your orders!
Kyle: Sir, just think about what you're doing to free speech!
Cartman: No! Think about the people who could get hurt!
FOX President: Ah... I don't know who to listen to!
Cartman: Okay, I'll make it easy for you. [pulls out a gun and aims it at the president] Pull the Mohammed episode, now!
FOX President: Okay, I'll listen to you. [gets back to the phone] Julie?
Kyle: Noo! Wait! You can't listen to him! He's a lying deceitful monster who only wants Family Guy off the air!
FOX President: But he has a gun.
Kyle: You can't do what he wants just because he's the one threatening you with violence!
Cartman: Shut up, Kyle!
FOX President: I can't be responsible for people getting hurt. Especially me.
Kyle: Yes, people can get hurt. That's how terrorism works. But if you give into that, Doug, you're allowing terrorism to work. Do the right thing here.
Cartman: Give the orders to pull the episode, Mr. President!
FOX President: I shouldn't even be in the office still. It's supposed to be half-day Friday.
Woman: Mr. President, thirty seconds to airtime. What do you want us to do?!
Kyle: Do the right thing, Mr. President.
FOX President: How about I allow the episode to air but, just censor out the image of Mohammed again.
Kyle: I wish that was good enough, but if you censor out Mohammed, then soon you'll have to censor out more.
Cartman: No gay speeches, Kyle!
Kyle: If you don't show Mohammed, then you've made a distinction what is okay to poke fun at, and what isn't. Either it's all okay, or none of it is.
Woman: Five seconds, Mr. President! [the programmer J. Walker has his finger hovering on the button]
Kyle: [softly] Do the right thing. Show Mohammed. [Cartman still has his gun on the president] Do. The right. Thing.
Woman: Mr. President, we need a decision now!
FOX President: Family Guy goes on air as planned. Uncensored.

This has been quite long. Perhaps I haven't addressed everything, I probably can't. But I hope that I've convinced some people that free speech is not a privilege, or even just a right, it is a necessity. If you live in society where your speech is restricted in any way, you do not live in a free society. It's just that simple.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Peep Jousting

Peep Jousting: Get two peeps, lick their sides until sticky, put a toothpick on each, put them in the microwave, and whoever pops first loses.

In case you're a bit fuzzy about the technique (or doubt that it would work), here's a video:

I heard about this just too late for Easter, but it sounds like a great use for your leftover peeps.


Free Speech on Campuses

If you want to get really pissed off about the state of free speech in colleges and universities, read this. I'm definitely a strong believer in "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." I don't understand how anyone could ever try to limit anyone else's expression in any way (with the obvious exceptions of inciting riots or libel and that kind of thing).

If those students wanted to take a Hezbollah flag and stomp on it then they should be able to. Hell, if they want to make a big effigy of Muhammad and burn it then they should be able to do that too (provided, of course, that they're safe with the fire). And you know what, I have the right to call them idiots, and that's what should be done. It's the same reason that the KKK has the right to hold their rallies, and non-bigots have the right to have counter-rallies with 10 times the participants.

It just makes me so angry that this happens (and it happens all the time), and especially that it happens at the very places that tout themselves as havens for creativity, speech, and discussion. It's just sickening.

Remember, everyone has the right to free speech, whether it's unpopular, bigoted, hateful, or intolerant. If we lose that, then we have nothing.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Antibiotic interactions that select against resistance

There was a great paper in Nature this week, called Antibiotic interactions that select against resistance by Remy Chait, Allison Craney and Roy Kishony (subscription required). I’m frankly completely surprised that it’s not plastered all over the place, given how cool it is.

Here’s the abstract (citations removed):

Multidrug combinations are increasingly important in combating the spread of antibiotic-resistance in bacterial pathogens. On a broader scale, such combinations are also important in understanding microbial ecology and evolution. Although the effects of multidrug combinations on bacterial growth have been studied extensively, relatively little is known about their impact on the differential selection between sensitive and resistant bacterial populations. Normally, the presence of a drug confers an advantage on its resistant mutants in competition with the sensitive wild-type population. Here we show, by using a direct competition assay between doxycycline-resistant and doxycycline-sensitive Escherichia coli, that this differential selection can be inverted in a hyper-antagonistic [that is suppressive, the drugs are less effective together than individually] class of drug combinations. Used in such a combination, a drug can render the combined treatment selective against the drug's own resistance allele. Further, this inversion of selection seems largely insensitive to the underlying resistance mechanism and occurs, at sublethal concentrations, while maintaining inhibition of the wild type. These seemingly paradoxical results can be rationalized in terms of a simple geometric argument. Our findings demonstrate a previously unappreciated feature of the fitness landscape for the evolution of resistance and point to a trade-off between the effect of drug interactions on absolute potency and the relative competitive selection that they impose on emerging resistant populations.

That’s quite dense, and I’ll readily admit that I don’t understand everything they say in the paper itself, but the general gist is that there are combinations of drugs that will actually select against a resistant mutant rather than the normal (called ‘wild’) type. This doesn’t seem to make any sense, but it works because different concentrations of the two drugs promote the growth of the resistant and wild types differently, producing a spectrum containing spots where the wild type “wins” despite being more sensitive to the drugs on their own.

The way this works is quite complicated (and where I get lost), but it has to do with the fact that when drugs interact they don’t just do the sum of what they would normally do. They can synergize and become more effective, or suppress each other and become vastly less effective. The latter is responsible for preferential selection against the resistant type. In the authors’ words, “Our data show that in suppressing drug combinations, a drug can be used to exert competitive selection against its own resistance allele.” The biological rational for this is quite complicated and technical, filled with impenetrable jargon. However, none of that diminishes the striking result suppressive drug combinations can select against bacteria when they would select for those bacteria individually.

The authors insist that these findings are preliminary and that more research needs to be done. They only looked at one bacterium’s resistance to one drug, and attempting to generalize these results any further could be very misleading. However, this could open a new way to treat drug-resistant bacteria, which is a huge problem for modern medicine. This is a very cool experiment and result, and one of those papers that made me go, “hooray science!”

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bad News From Switzerland

This is incredibly bad news.

Let me back up some. The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in CERN is the next-generation particle accelerator. It will, at the very very least, tell us how correct the Standard Model is. It could show us the Higgs Boson (the so-called God Particle that I'll have to do a post on some time, the short version is that it gives all matter mass), and possibly even mini black holes. It could very well tear our knowledge a new one once it starts smashing protons together.

But in a stress test over the weekend the casing of one of a series of crucial magnets (in an accelerator magnetic fields accelerate and direct the particles) failed and broke (for more technical details see the link above). A press release from Fermi-lab (who designed the magnets) said it could delay the LHC up to three years. However, Scientific American link above cites CERN scientists as saying that it has yet to be determined how long the delay will be.

That is incredibly bad news. There are people working in every branch of physics, from String Theory to Cosmology, and especially particle physics, who have been waiting to see what will fly out when two protons hit at 7 Tera-electron-Volts. It will be a big blow for the LHC to be delayed, when it was so close to yielding the anticipated data. I'm sure that the entire physics community is hoping for some good news in the next few days (or weeks). I know I'll have my fingers crossed that this is only a minor problem. It would be devastating if it weren't.

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Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I've just gotten back from Spring Break and classes are starting up again. I should be back into a good rhythm soon.

But I want to take this time to ask a few questions of my regular readers. The first I've asked before, but it still bothers me. Should I have ads? This blog really isn't popular enough to generate any real revenue from them (a few cents a day), and I think they kind of detract from the blog. But I'll leave it up to you guys again: give me the say-so and they'll disappear.

The second thing is my title. I don't post daily any more, so "Daily Irreverence" doesn't make too much sense. I didn't exactly spend a lot of time on the title, and I'm awful at titling things, so that's just what came out. But if I get any good suggestions, I'd seriously consider changing it.

That's all, have a good Tuesday.