Monthly Archives: May 2007

“Spam King” Arrested

Oh, frabjous day… the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on the arrest of Robert Soloway in Seattle. With millions lost in civil cases, Soloway is now facing criminal charges concerning his spamming activities.

One commenter asserted out in response to the article there, though, that the criminality stemmed from Soloway’s fraudulent “business services” angle, and not from the simple fact that he was victimizing millions of people with his billions of spam emails each day. It seems like we ought to set about providing some legal protection on that score, too.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/29

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • SPACE
    Array of new planets found, but none like ours

    HONOLULU – An international team of astronomers on Monday announced the discovery of 28 planets outside the solar system, the greatest single haul since the first so-called exoplanet was found 12 years ago. By John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer.

  • ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
    Bill heats up talk of solar water systems

    The Assembly measure offers incentives for using the sun’s energy instead of gas or coal. Utilities fear they could lose millions of dollars. By Margot Roosevelt, Times Staff Writer.

  • WHALE WATCH
    Wandering whales take turn for the better

    Humpback mother and calf travel about 24 miles and are two-thirds of the way home. Scientists are optimistic about their chances of survival. By Matt Lait, Times Staff Writer.

  • TECH HISTORY
    Preserving semiconductor’s history, one bit at a time

    For seven years, retired semiconductor materials salesman Duane Wadsworth has been collecting industry memorabilia so that the origins of computing can be preserved for future generations. By Michelle Quinn, Times Staff Writer.

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When Farli Met the Spider

PZ Myers linked to a tale of brown recluse spiders. We have a spider story of our own to tell.

Back in 1999, we were living in San Diego, California. Diane had some agility equipment set up in the backyard so that she could practice with Farli, our Vizsla, who was then six years old. After Farli went through a tunnel obstacle, Diane noticed that Farli’s face was swelling up. Here’s a picture from a couple of days into Farli’s ordeal:

BlackwoodsLindenFarli dw056 cpp

(Picture is a frame-grab of a videotape.)

The spot ventral of the right ear is the bite site. As you can see the swelling has spread quite a bit. Much of the skin around the bite site necrotized. A veterinary surgeon used the normally loose skin a Vizsla has in the throat area to fill in the missing skin. Farli lost her right salivary gland to that bite, too. Farli ended up having two surgeries, since the stitches put in during the first surgery were lost in spreading necrosis.

Just to put you at ease, here is Farli in a picture taken in the last couple of months:

WRE 2383 ws

Farli has so far survived the spider bite, a broken foot, a rattlesnake bite, and a burrowing foxtail seed, plus having a tumor removed twice.

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Fraptorday: Weekly Raptor

These are pictures of Rusty from this past January.

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Rusty’s approach to perches here put her in a nice relation to the setting sun.

WRE 7713 ws

Then Rusty spent some time watching ducks and coot on a pond.

Nikon D2Xs with Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens, ISO 800, IIRC.

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Stool Pigeon Bags Hawk-Killing Pigeon Fanciers

The LA Times has the story on the Southern California indictments of seven men charged with numerous counts of violating the Migratory Bird Act. Their particular crime? Killing hawks. Lots and lots of hawks.

As motivation, they are all pigeon fanciers who had apparently gotten fed up with hawks feeding up on the latest spastic sports they’ve managed to breed. According to the report, a law enforcement agent infiltrated the pigeon groups to find hawk traps have been sold openly at meets, and one prominent pigeon fancier was observed approaching a trapped Cooper’s hawk on his house roof and shooting it with a pellet gun. All told, the raptor deaths attributed to the seven named people sum up over 2,000.

These folks can be fined up to $10,000 and sent to prison for up to six months. I don’t know whether that applies per raptor or in aggregate.

The sheer scope of this raptor-killing is mind-boggling. It seems doubtful that the practice is confined to SoCal, though. It is likely that more education and law enforcement effort are needed generally to get people to stop killing hawks.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/25

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE
    Common chemicals pose danger for fetuses, scientists warm

    In a strongly worded declaration, many of the world’s leading environmental scientists warned Thursday that exposure to common chemicals makes babies more likely to develop an array of health problems later in life, including diabetes, attention deficit disorders, prostate cancer, fertility problems, thyroid disorders and even obesity. By Marla Cone, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE
    Cancer risk rises for those near rail yards

    Residents who live in the shadow of Southern California’s booming rail yards face cancer risks from soot as much as 140% greater than in the rest of the region, according to new studies by state air regulators. By Janet Wilson, Times Staff Writer.

  • FOOD SAFETY
    Firm recalls frozen fish from China; toxin is found in tests

    Hong Chang Corp. of Santa Fe Springs said Thursday that it was recalling frozen fish from China that might have been mislabeled and could contain puffer fish, which carries a potentially deadly toxin. By Ronald D. White, Times Staff Writer.

  • MEDICINE
    Diabetes gets her best shot

    As someone diagnosed with diabetes at 16, Angie Ramos is part of a generation whose members could become the first in recent history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. By Mary Engel, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENTOMOLOGY
    After 17 years, the cicadas are back and ready to

    breed Millions of the bugs are emerging across the Midwest, to the horror of party planners and the delight of hungry wildlife. By P.J. Huffstutter, Times Staff Writer.

  • WILDLIFE
    Pigeon club members face U.S. charges

    Area hobbyists kill thousands of hawks and falcons annually, wildlife officials allege, because some raptors attack their birds. By Joe Mozingo, Times Staff Writer.

  • WHALE WATCH
    Scientists will try spraying water near wayward whales

    SACRAMENTO – Scientists attempting to return two humpback whales to the ocean said they would try a new technique today: using a fireboat to spray water near the pair. By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer.

  • REGGIE ALERT
    Alligator clipped: They say they’ve got Reggie

    A 6 1/2 -foot alligator believed to be Reggie – the elusive reptile that has been the subject of a closely chronicled “gator watch” since being illegally let loose in 2005 – was captured and subdued by city workers Thursday afternoon on dry land beside Lake Machado in Harbor City. By Steve Hymon and Ashraf Khalil, Times Staff Writers.

  • OBITUARIES
    Tod H. Mikuriya, 73; psychiatrist who championed legal

    medical marijuana Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya, a psychiatrist who was a leading figure in California’s medical marijuana movement, died from complications of cancer Sunday at his Berkeley home, his family said. He was 73. By Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/24

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • WAYWARD WHALES
    New tactics in humpback rescue effort

    SACRAMENTO – With two wandering humpback whales refusing Wednesday to budge past a bustling steel bridge across the Sacramento River, rescuers escalated their tactics to prod the wounded leviathans back to the sea. By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    A plot both wide and thick

    Untamed acres in San Diego County belonged to an Old World empire builder. A bitter feud concerns their future. By Mike Anton, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    State acts to limit use of coal power

    The California Energy Commission on Wednesday imposed new rules that effectively forbid the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and all other municipal utilities in the state from signing new contracts with coal-fired power plants. By Margot Roosevelt, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    7 beaches in L.A. County among most polluted

    in state, report says For the second straight year, Los Angeles County had the worst coastal water quality in the state for the 12 months ending March 31, with seven beaches ranking among the state’s 10 most polluted. By Valerie Reitman, Times Staff Writer.

  • HEALTH
    Minority women in L.A. County found to have higher rates

    of chronic disease Minority women living in Los Angeles County suffer disproportionate rates of chronic disease, according to a study released Wednesday by public health officials that examined the relationship between ethnicity and women’s health. By Susannah Rosenblatt, Times Staff Writer.

  • OBITUARIES
    Stanley Miller, 77; chemist was a pioneer in studying the origins of

    life Stanley Miller, the UC San Diego chemist who was the first to demonstrate that the organic molecules necessary for life could be generated in a laboratory flask simulating the primitive Earth’s atmosphere, died Sunday from heart failure in a hospital in National City. He was 77. By Thomas H. Maugh II, Times Staff Writer.

  • OBITUARIES
    Joseph Zuska, 93; Navy doctor developed treatment for alcoholism

    Inside a rusted Quonset hut at the Long Beach Naval Station, Dr. Joseph J. Zuska operated a clandestine program, treating sailors for an illness that in the eyes of the Navy did not exist. By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Times Staff Writer.

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NatGeo’s “Seconds to Disaster”: Challenger Disaster

Tonight’s broadcast of National Geographic’s “Seconds to Disaster” series took a look at the Challenger disaster. This covered the usual stuff like the cold-sensitive O-rings in the solid rocket boosters, but added in something that I either missed the first time around or forgot, which was the presence of winds close to 200 miles per hour above 30,000 feet. Analysis of the footage taken of the 73-second flight of the Challenger showed puffs of smoke escaping the right-hand (IIRC) solid rocket booster while the Challenger was getting off the launch pad. These puffs stopped seconds after they began. After the Challenger hit the high-altitude high wind, a flame appears at that point on the solid rocket booster. The show’s expert speculates that aluminum slag blocked the gap left by the non-functioning O-ring a few seconds into the launch, and held all the way up to the level where Challenger encountered high winds, where the stress could have dislodged the slag.

The show concludes that if the Challenger had not met that region of high wind, it may have been possible that the slag blockage might have held the remaining fifty seconds or so to the point of solid rocket separation, and the rest of the mission could have been completely uneventful.

Seeing the program took me back to those days. Something not really broached in the program was the political situation at NASA. 1986 was in the midst of the Reagan era, and programs like space exploration and education were high on the list of things that the administration was eager to find reasons to cut back funding, the better to “cut taxes” with. And President Reagan had linked the two together by proposing that NASA send a teacher into space on a shuttle mission. While many saw this as touching symbolism, I was more cynical, seeing it instead as a stunt to distract attention away from the fundamental hostility of the administration to public education. So when it came to the decision to launch Challenger despite the objections of the Morton-Thiokol engineer on the spot, the NASA managers had more on their minds than just the technical issues. They were under pressure to perform, to deliver a timely launch of the already-delayed Challenger mission. As the Wikipedia article relates, Reagan’s State of the Union address was originally scheduled for the night of the launch. Was that entirely out of mind of the NASA managers making the decision to launch that day?

So I think that the NatGeo program did a nice job of covering the technical issues, showing what went wrong and when, but was a bit skimpy on putting that into the wider context of why NASA managers might have made the bad choices they did. Another gap was that I didn’t hear any mention of Richard Feynman’s participation in the investigation that followed.

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Those “Esurance” Ads

There’s an auto insurance company, Esurance, that has a series of animated ads for their service that depict an Emma Peel-like female protagonist who thwarts thieves, ninjas, and other ne’er-do-wells.

In one of these commercials, a hapless guy who is talking with our heroine has his car creamed by one of the bad guys, who crashes his jet-ski on top of it. Mr. Hapless whines that it is too late to report his claim. Ms. Heroine reminds him that he has Esurance, and can report a loss 24/7. Happy ending.

So, this leads me to wonder… does Esurance really offer coverage that would actually pay out for the damage done to a vehicle due to what could reasonably be interpreted as terrorist activity? My guess is no, and that whether one can call in that claim 24/7 or not, one will be left out in the cold when it comes time to try to collect on it. Making the commercial only about reporting a loss, though, allows Esurance to skate right on past truth-in-advertising regulations. ‘We never said Esurance covered that sort of loss,’ they might point out. Uh-huh.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/23

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • MEDICINE
    Concerns about diabetes drug Avandia aren’t new

    WASHINGTON – Federal investigators warned nearly five years ago that the diabetes drug Avandia might be causing heart failure, according to an internal government memo released Tuesday by a consumer group. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Times Staff Writer.

  • MEDICINE
    FDA approves first pill to stop periods

    The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the first birth control pill designed to eliminate a woman’s monthly period. By Karen Kaplan, Times Staff Writer.

  • MENTAL HEALTH
    Suicides a symptom of larger UC crisis

    DAVIS, CALIF. – As 20-year-old Jennifer Tse was dying in January, she typed a message on her laptop to the coroner’s investigators she expected would examine her body. The lonely UC Davis sophomore, depressed and struggling with her studies, had swallowed cold pills, antidepressants, dishwashing liquid and insect poison. Tse’s death is another grim statistic in what university administrators say is an escalating mental health crisis on campuses across the nation. By Richard C. Paddock, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    California urges EPA to change greenhouse gas rules

    WASHINGTON – California presented its case Tuesday for permission to impose tough new limits on greenhouse gas emissions by cars and trucks, pressing a campaign that state officials hope will set the stage for aggressive action nationwide on a major contributor to global warming. By Joel Havemann and Johanna Neuman, Times Staff Writers.

  • POINTS WEST
    Dying of hospital indifference syndrome

    When he saw The Times’ story about the woman who died on the floor of the King-Harbor hospital emergency room while staffers ignored her pleas for help, Eric Johnson was more relieved than shocked. The 47-year-old South Los Angeles man counted himself lucky that his own recent visit to King-Harbor hospital hadn’t ended the same way. By Steve Lopez, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    L.A. County considers ban on polystyrene containers

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to consider banning plastic foam food containers from restaurants and stores in unincorporated areas because they add to the region’s mounting pollution problem. By Susannah Rosenblatt, Times Staff Writer.

  • WAYWARD WHALES
    Fresh water takes its toll on whales

    SACRAMENTO – After 10 days cruising the Sacramento River and delta, two wayward humpback whales are beginning to show the first signs of ill health from prolonged exposure to fresh water, experts said Tuesday. By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer.

  • FOOD CHAIN
    Hot topic: our fragile food system

    Monterey, Calif. – WITH all the talk about “sustainable” agriculture, sustainable fishing and sustainable eating, it was remarkable how little agreement there was last week at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2nd annual Sustainable Foods Institute about what sustainable actually means. By Corie Brown, Times Staff Writer.

  • WILDFIRE
    Report lists factors in deaths of Forest Service crew

    Deadly miscalculations, unpredictable fire behavior and a misguided decision to save homes in the path of a fast-moving wildfire led to the deaths of a U.S. Forest Service crew overrun by the Riverside County fire in October, according to a report by state and federal fire officials released Tuesday. By Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta, Times Staff Writers.

  • OBITUARY
    Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, 74; won Nobel Prize in physics for

    liquid crystal work Nobel Prize-winning scientist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, who was dubbed the “Isaac Newton of our time” for his pioneering research on liquid crystals, has died. He was 74. From Times Staff and Wire Reports.

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IDC Alarming Sen. Brownback

Kansas Senator Brownback offered his two cents on the tenure case of Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture Senior Fellow Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State University:

“When I was informed that Professor Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure, I was puzzled given his excellent academic record of achievement and faithful service. I understand that now two of Dr. Gonzalez’s colleagues have indicated that Gonzalez’s interest in intelligent design theory was, at least in part, responsible for this denial of tenure. This is rather alarming.”

Yes, that is alarming. Interest and documented participation in a sham to evade court decisions on establishment of religion should have been of concern to all of the tenure committee members. Complacency is complicity. The IDC advocates cannot be allowed to have it both ways: when approaching school boards, they claim that they are all about science and nothing else, then when one of them gets recognized as an advocate of putting a narrow religious doctrine into science classes, suddenly it is all about “religious discrimination”. Either way, though, proper assessment of the facts puts them behind the eight ball. They don’t have any science to offer; all they can do is regurgitate old religious antievolution critiques of evolutionary science, as was documented in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. And when you consider “religious discrimination”, what could be more discriminatory than their project of teaching special creation as if it were science, which is exclusionary of the theological views of 40 to 50% of the country? (Though it bears repeating that the constitutional provision is just as forceful for exclusion of one, or even the potential that there could be one excluded.) Rejecting IDC advocacy is rejecting religious discrimination.

But it appears that Guillermo Gonzalez’s tenure committee had other factors more closely in mind, such as the lack of evidence that he was intiating his own independent research program at ISU, the lack of external funding for his research, and his poor record on graduate student mentoring. Any one of those things could be a show-stopper when it comes to tenure considerations. Much of the whining from the IDC advocacy PR machine has to do with hyping the potential Gonzalez showed in his early career. Part of the reason for having a probationary period for tenure is to allow evaluation of how well potential turns into practice. In Gonzalez’s case, this appears to have shown that he was coasting on the residual glory of his postdoc days, and wasn’t developing the new research directions that his department likely expected of him.

In this case, it appears that the tenure committee had plenty of other justifications for denying tenure. I would argue, though, that it is perfectly legitimate for a state institution to consider IDC advocacy as something that they likely do not want to associate themselves with.

Update: Nature has published something on the Gonzalez/Iowa State thing.

Gonzalez, who has been at Iowa State in Ames since 2001, was denied tenure on 9 March. He is now appealing the decision on the grounds that his religious belief, not the quality of his science, was the basis for turning down his application. “I’m concerned my views on intelligent design were a factor,” he says.

Predictable, really. It certainly wasn’t the case that the “cutting-edge”, “paradigm-shifting” science of intelligent design creationism proved an asset to Gonzalez’s curriculum vitae. That only left the “religious discrimination” card to play. And there it is.

Later in the article, there is a quote from an unnamed biologist:

Nevertheless, proponents of intelligent design point to the signature drive as evidence of a widespread academic hostility to those who support the idea. “There is a pattern happening to everybody who’s pro intelligent design,” says one pro-design biologist, who declined to be named because his own tenure process has just begun. “The same thing could happen to me,” he says. “I don’t want to get into trouble.”

Anybody can be pro-design, in the sense that they believe God is responsible for creation of the universe, life, and life’s diversity. Lots of people manage to be religious and do well in science. But the “intelligent design” movement is a different kettle of fish. Born as a simple sham in 1987 to evade the Edwards v. Aguillard decision, it has continued a campaign into the present of trying to hide its sectarian religious character and obtain government endorsement under false pretenses. People generally, and this includes members of tenure review committees, know about this. The answer to not getting into trouble is not to give up on faith, but to honestly recognize faith as faith and give up on ever-more-sly subterfuge to try to gussy it up as if it were science. In other words, to tell the IDC snake-oil salesmen to take a hike. That’s a route that is both morally and intellectually satisfying.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/22

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • MEDICINE
    Diabetes drug Avandia boosts heart attack risk, study finds

    A widely prescribed drug to treat Type 2 diabetes substantially increases the risk of heart attacks and death from cardiovascular disease, according to a study released today that critics say questions the government’s ability to monitor drug safety. By Karen Kaplan and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Times Staff Writers.

  • MEDICINE
    Aspiring abortion doctors drawn to embattled field

    Medical students cite defiance and conscience as a reason to choose the career. ‘It doesn’t matter what you believe if you don’t back it up with action,’ one says. By Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer.

  • SPORTS DRUG TESTING
    Landis expert calls lab results unreliable

    Implications that Tour de France winner Floyd Landis may have used testosterone to bolster his endurance or add a shot of aggressiveness late in the race were dismissed by an expert Monday. By Michael A. Hiltzik, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    Whales linger on return toward sea

    SACRAMENTO – A pair of wayward humpback whales continued their improbable trek through the inland waterways of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta on Monday, pressing toward the Pacific before stalling out near a steel bridge 60 miles from the sea. By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer.

  • MOONBOWS
    Beauty in the misty moonlight

    Elusive moonbows have long graced Yosemite Falls. Now a team of astronomers can predict when they will occur. By Eric Bailey, Times Staff Writer.

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SciAm’s “Quantum Eraser” Home Experiment

Rachel Hillmer and Paul Kwiat have an article in the May 2007 Scientific American called “A Do-It-Yourself Quantum Eraser” (starts on p.90). This is a variant on one of the classic quantum mechanical experiments, the two-slit experiment. That’s the one where in trying to determine whether light has a wave or a particle nature, one comes to the answer that it has both.

Hillmer and Kwiat’s home experiment requires a laser pointer, a staple or paper clip, some metal foil, some stands to hold the laser pointer and other bits in place, and polarizing film ($7 on special from one source). And, of course, a room that is as dark as you can manage.

A pinhole in foil is used to restrict the laser pointer’s output. A rubber band or piece of tape can be used to keep the laser pointer on during the experiment. A straightened-out staple or paper clip (“the thinner the better”) is placed in front of the laser pointer such that it is in the middle of the beam. (Depending on the make of your laser pointer, you may need to use a piece of the polarizing film just in front of it to obtain a polarized beam. See the instructions in the article.) In the dark and beyond that, one should see an interference pattern on a wall or piece of paper. That’s a series of vertical bars, and it indicates that the laser beam is acting as a wave as it passes around the metal obstacle.

H&K discuss the construction of what they call a “path labeler” from two pieces of polarizing film abutted such that their planes of polarization are perpendicular to each other. The metal obstacle goes exactly at the join between those pieces. This means that laser light going around one side of the metal will be polarized in one direction, and going around the other side it will be polarized at a 90 degree angle to that. The effect should be that there are no longer the bars of the interference pattern seen at the screen. In this setup, one can learn about which path a particular photon took, and the laser beam acts as a stream of individual particles.

Up until now, this has all been essentially replicating the two-slit experiment, but in your home. Now comes the “quantum eraser” part. Take another piece of polarizing film and put it in the light path after the metal obstacle and path labeler, where its plane of polarization is at a 45 degree angle to one of the parts of the path labeler, let’s say by turning it clockwise. The interference pattern will again be seen. This is described as the result of the path becoming indeterminate again since the polarization cue to which path a photon took no longer exists. The polarizer has acted as a “quantum eraser” of information. There is also a description of an “antidiagonal” quantum eraser, made by using a piece of polarizing film rotated 45 degrees counterclockwise. One can construct a piece that applies both “erasers” at once, yielding an interference pattern that display bars and gaps at the top and bottom, where a bar on the top is matched with a gap on the bottom.

This experimental setup got my attention. It is simple, cheap, portable, and produces clear results that bring quantum weirdness right into your living room. The author biographical information with the article reveals that Rachel Hillmer is an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, and Paul Kwiat is Bardeen Chair of Physics there. My hat’s off to both of them.

Addition: Consider the effect of adding a pellicle or beam-splitter following the metal obstacle/path labeler but before the quantum ereaser. I need to set this up to try out; a simple beam-splitter could be just a piece of flat optical glass, like a microscope slide.

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Question for Dembski: Is Torture Morally Acceptable?

I find it strange to even have to pose the question, but William Dembski said something on his blog today that would seem to imply that he is OK with the use of torture:

n writing this, Gore no doubt is thinking about protecting his views on global warming and the environment from criticism. But I expect his intolerance of any attacks on reason, as he understands reason, will apply as well against intelligent design. From the Time Magazine excerpt, Gore comes across as an Enlightenment rationalist who, in the best Jacobin style, won’t tolerate any challenge to his conception of reason.

Gore seems to miss the irony in all this. He bemoans Bush’s intolerance of terrorism and Bush’s willingness to use torture to bring terrorists to heel, and yet is ready to be intolerant of anyone who violates his “rule of reason.” Question: Which would you rather live under: intolerance of terrorism or intolerance of the rule of reason?

Is the the use of torture morally acceptable, Bill? Or is there some other way of reading the above text that I’m not seeing?

Also, I see no inherent difficulty in being intolerant of terrorism without adopting the tools of terrorism. In fact, I would think it obvious that once one has adopted the tools of terrorism, one cannot be said to be intolerant of what one is actually practicing.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/21

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    Wayward whales are headed back home

    A mother-and-child pair of wounded humpback whales stranded in the Sacramento River Delta were headed toward the ocean late Sunday after roaming for a week in brackish inland waterways. By Peter Hong, Times Staff Writer.

  • MONDAY HEALTH
    Put to the test

    More schools are asking students to take drug tests, saying it gives them a reason to ‘say no.’ Addiction experts contend results are unreliable. By Shari Roan, Times Staff Writer.

  • MONDAY HEALTH
    Suspects, but not all perps

    Contaminants that apparently cause mammary tumors in animals are identified. But more study is needed to determine if they’re a risk to humans. By Mary Beckman, Special to The Times.

  • MONDAY HEALTH
    The risky-behavior gender gap narrows

    A study shows a rise in fatal car crashes among young women of drinking age and a shrinking male-female divide in a range of dangerous activities. By Melissa Healy, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    Rare birds living on the edge at park

    Fires and human encroachment threaten the habitat of the endangered least Bell’s vireo and other species at Hansen Dam recreation area. By Louis Sahagun, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    Mayor touts L.A.’s climate plan, then jumps in SUV

    In case you missed the news, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a selected posse from the City Council traveled by bus to Debs Park in northeast L.A. last week to announce how they’re going to lasso global warming. By Steve Hymon, Times Staff Writer.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/19

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    Farm air pollution targeted

    California plans to enact the most costly pesticide regulation in state history as it cracks down on use of fumigants in farm fields to comply with a court-ordered deadline to combat smog. By Marla Cone, Times Staff Writer.

  • GLOBAL WARMING
    As a carbon ‘sink,’ Southern Ocean may be plugged

    The Southern Ocean, a massive storehouse for carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is slowly losing its capacity to buffer the world from rising concentrations of the greenhouse gas, researchers reported Thursday. By Alan Zarembo, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    First try fails to put lost whales back on course

    Scientists broadcast humpback sounds into the Sacramento-area shipping channel. By John M. Glionna and Steve Chawkins, Times Staff Writers.

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    Two indicted in tortoise smuggling

    A Diamond Bar man allegedly sold the endangered reptiles shipped from Asia. By Andrew Blankstein, Times Staff Writer.

  • FOOD SAFETY
    China’s additives on menu in U.S.

    It is the leading supplier of many ingredients in packaged food. Barring the imports is difficult. By Don Lee, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    Edison wants ratepayers to fund study

    Southern California Edison wants to study how and where it could build the nation’s first advanced-technology “clean” coal power plant and Thursday asked the California Public Utilities Commission to require the utility’s customers to foot the $52-million bill. By Janet Wilson and Elizabeth Douglass, Times Staff Writers.

  • GLOBAL WARMING
    Saving the planet, one chord at a time

    Kevin Wall moves the fight against global warming to a worldwide concert stage. By Tina Daunt, Times Staff Writer.

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Weekly Raptor

shelby w brian baer 3523

Here’s a picture from May 6th showing Shelby, our male Harris’s hawk, perched on the glove of Brian Baer. Brian is a collegue of mine at the Devolab at Michigan State University.

We took Rusty and Shelby out for a bit of a walk in the backyard as the last hawkwalk before putting them up for the molt. Each year, our birds shed old feathers and grow new plumage. This is a metabolically demanding process, and it is easier simply to keep their weight high during this period. Since much of the responsiveness of raptors to their falconer is due to food motivation, it’s not advisable to free-fly a hawk significantly over “flying weight”. It’s not that they have any trouble getting around, it’s just that they don’t have much motivation to come back, at least not on our schedule.

We’ll be looking to bring their weight back down at the end of summer to prepare for the fall hunting season.

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LA Times Science Files for 2007/05/17

These are items compiled by staff of the LA Times.

  • WEAR AND TEAR
    McCain: Physically fit to serve as president?

    WASHINGTON – As he exited the stairs of his “Straight Talk Express” campaign bus on a chilly March day in Iowa, Sen. John McCain carefully took one step at a time, his left hand gripping a rail and his right knee looking stiff. By Ralph Vartabedian, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENDANGERED SPECIES
    Wrong-way whales draw a crowd

    WEST SACRAMENTO – Two lost humpback whales continued their four-day odyssey up a busy delta river channel Wednesday as hundreds looked on with amusement and concern. By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer.

  • SPACE
    Planet’s icy-hot profile intrigues astronomers

    A hot snowball sounds as contradictory as a frosty forest fire, but European astronomers think they’ve found one orbiting a dwarf star about 33 light-years from Earth. By John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer.

  • ECOLOGY
    Study tallies West Nile virus’ toll on North American birds

    Since West Nile virus began to spread across North America in 1999, it has ravaged seven different bird populations, according to a study published today. By Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer.

  • ENVIRONMENT
    Company joins Navajo fight for uranium cleanup

    WASHINGTON – El Paso Natural Gas Co. is lending support to a new Navajo effort to force federal cleanup of one of the Cold War’s last major toxic legacies. By Judy Pasternak, Times Staff Writer.

  • STEM CELLS
    Hurdle to stem cell funds cleared

    The California Supreme Court gave final clearance Wednesday to California’s landmark $3-billion stem cell research effort, declining to hear an appeal of two lower court rulings upholding the constitutionality of 2004′s Proposition 71. By Mary Engel, Times Staff Writer.

  • FIRST RESPONDERS
    Rescuers’ alleged errors are probed

    State regulators have launched investigations of three cases in which ambulance and fire department rescuers in Los Angeles and Orange counties allegedly failed to provide proper patient care, a top official said. By Robert J. Lopez and Rich Connell, Times Staff Writers.

  • OBITUARIES
    John Eargle, 76; award-winning audio engineer

    John Eargle, an award-winning audio engineer who wrote technical books on sound recording and worked as a consultant for electroacoustical product development, was found dead May 9 at his home in the Hollywood Hills. He was 76. By Claire Noland, Times Staff Writer.

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