Monthly Archives: November 2008

Repeal Science for the Holidays, Just $25.95!

You have to look at this holiday ticket offer from the Cincinnati Zoo:

This holiday season, save more by visiting two of the areas fantastic attractions. Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum. Ticket is valid for one day regular admission to each attraction plus the holiday events PNC Festival of Lights (Nov. 28-Jan.4) and Bethlehems Blessings featuring a live Nativity scene(Dec 12 Jan. 4)

Save more with our new Combination Attraction Ticket:
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and Creation Museum The Creation Museum, located seven miles west of the Cincinnati Airport, presents a walk through history. Designed by a former Universal Studios exhibit director, this state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life.

Care to comment? Make sure to send a note to the Cincinnati Zoo.

Something about destroying any pretense to scientific credibility in one fell swoop sounds about right.

Update: The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Cincinnati Zoo has removed the double ticket package with the AIG Creation Museum. The CZ flacks apparently still don’t get it, saying that they did so because all the negative feedback was a “distraction”. So don’t expect them to get it right in the future; they have not indicated that they have had a learning experience.

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Sunday’s Outing

It’s been a rough fall. Sunday marked our first serious falconry outing of the season. Between colds for Diane and I, extra work and various other complications, things only came together this past Sunday. We had made a couple of brief outings to a nearby nursery where there are lots of rabbits, but also loads of rabbit holes, too.

Beka, our mini-dachshund, hasn’t quite figured out what exactly is happening, but she is showing some promise. She mostly followed Ritka, our Vizsla. At one point, she flushed a rabbit. Beka is not yet interested in going down rabbit holes. She’s seven months old now, so there’s time yet for her to figure it out.

Rusty and Shelby were ready for action. Rusty actually grabbed a rabbit after about twenty minutes in the field. Diane made in and pulled out a rabbit leg to give to Rusty. Unfortunately, Rusty let go of the rabbit and it departed at high speed — to its hole about fifty yards away. Rusty used to make sure someone had the prey item in hand, but it seems that we need to make certain that’s under control before making the food visible.

More text and pictures below the fold.

Continue reading

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Identify that Mollusk

Given the confusion over the Queen Conch photograph I recently pointed out, I was looking at gastropod pictures via Google Images. I ran across this page that supposedly pictures a Florida Fighting Conch (Strombus alatus), a common conch species. However, I think they’ve misidentified this gastropod. Given the picture, I think it is much more likely to be the Crown Conch (Melongena corona), an even more common gastropod of Florida’s bays and inshore waters.

Some clues are handy. There is the nearly-oval operculum seen in the photo. Melongena corona are commonly exposed during low tide, and the operculum makes a pretty good seal with the shell, preventing the snail from drying out too rapidly. By contrast, strombid opercula are usually sickle-shaped, and do a poor job of sealing the aperture when the snail retracts into the shell. The shell structure is overall lighter than in the strombids. There is a series of raised flutes near the anterior end of the shell, which are absent in Strombus alatus. There is no strombid notch, the gap in the line of the outer edge of the shell that a strombid uses to extend its stalked eye through when the whole shell rests on a sandy bottom.

The two species differ in more than shell morphology. The strombids feed on algae and detritus, but the Melongena corona are important predators of various species of bivalves. Melongena spp. have a very long proboscis with scraping radular teeth. Once they are able to weaken a bivalve and insert the proboscis, it is game over for the bivalve. Keeping a few of these snails in a tank meant that I could have cleaned-out bivalve shells any time I wanted, plus they don’t bore a hole in the bivalve shell like the moon snails do.

Of course, I’m reaching back about thirty-five years to when I was actively visiting the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean around Florida, and these mollusks were all good acquaintances of mine. I looked for an email address for the person credited with the page, but wasn’t able to find it.

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Incredibly Rare Sinistral Queen Conch Sighted!

Check out the picture of the Queen Conch on p.34 of the November/December 2008 Florida Wildlife magazine. It shows the incredibly rare sinistral form of this gastropod. Most gastropod shells have a turn to the right, or dextral, form. A well-known species of gastropod in Florida that typically has a turn to the left, or sinistral, form is the Lightning Whelk, a very common inhabitant of Florida’s bays and inshore waterways. But the Queen Conch doesn’t go to the left that often. One can only imagine the trouble Florida Wildlife photographers had to go through in order to find not just a sinistral Queen Conch, but a live sinistral Queen Conch. The conch page at the website shows the normal, dextral form.

Either that, or the editor “flopped” the photo. Rembrandt famously did the same thing, although carving a whole etching is rather more involved than flopping a photo.

Queen Conchs are a protected species, so please leave them where they are when you visit Florida.

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Texas: Your “Weaknesses” Are Weak — And Old, Too

Yesterday, the Texas State Board of Education had a hearing on the science curriculum. As expected, the big issue was over evolutionary science and how it would be taught in Texas K-12 classrooms. Kathy Miller Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network and Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science did liveblogging from the hearing (TFN, TCS).

The thing that interests me about the content of the hearing is how plainly the antievolutionist board members espoused the standard religious antievolution ensemble of talking points as their “weaknesses”, and not anything approaching any sort of technical content worthy of being considered a “weakness”. As Texas Freedom Network people noted, “Your Weaknesses Are Weak”. Not only that, as part of the standard religious antievolution ensemble of arguments, they go back a long, long ways. These are not just old, but moldy. They represent stuff that was at home in the mouths of the Rev. William Paley in 1802, William Jennings Bryan in 1925, and various explicit creationists, “scientific creationists”, “creation scientists”, and “intelligent design” creationists since then.

Here’s a list gleaned from the liveblog records and listening to the audio:

Piltdown man (Ken Mercer) [CC001]

Mercer said that Piltdown Man was held to be “the missing link”.

Haeckel’s embryos (Ken Mercer) [CB701]

Mercer: “He drew the human embryo every time.” Mercer is absolutely incorrect; should we talk about Mercer in terms of “fraud” as he tosses it around concerning others?

Macroevolution not observed (Ken Mercer) [CB901]

Argument from authority (Paul Kramer, Terri Leo) [CA118]

Leo asked Kramer if the scientists signing onto the DI Dissent from Darwin list were doing so for religious reasons; Kramer said no. Mercer said he hoped they could keep their jobs after signing, reiterated assertion that no religion was involved.

Terri Leo asserted that “skeptics” with multiple degrees are their experts and are more qualified than people criticizing their stances.

Fairness argument (Paul Kramer) [CA040]

Nazis, party lines (Paul Kramer) [CA006.1]

What are they afraid of? (Paul Kramer) [Example: Pat Buchanan]

Evolution is only a theory (various) [CA201]

“Academic freedom” (Ken Mercer) ["AF" in Florida]

Mercer makes it clear that he is completely on board with the mis-named “academic freedom” approach. Ken Mercer questioned Joanne Richards, completely ignoring the comparative religion argument she made. He was all over misunderstanding “academic freedom”.

“But in the last twenty years we’ve just had the ability of academic freedom for children to be able to ask questions, and that’s just been a critical academic endeavor where they could raise their hands, and that’s just been there.”

Academic freedom is not the ability of children to ask questions. The Texas State Board of Education has some very confused people on it.

Evolution is not a fact (witness) [CA202]

Eminent scientists are rejecting evolution (Cynthia Dunbar) [CA110, CA111]

When does a theory become a law? (Don McLeroy)

This isn’t specifically in the index to creationist claims, mostly because it is too stupid even for most antievolutionists to take it out for a spin. It is another example of the breathtaking inanity of antievolution argumentation. There is no notion of a formal progression in science from theory to law. Implying that there is one shows remarkable ignorance of the content of science at a very basic level. Laws are observations of relationships that always (or almost always) hold, often expressed in mathematical terms. Laws do not deliver mechanisms, and often indicate places that are ripe for hypotheses and theories to be formed that would explain the regularity that a particular law reveals. Newton’s law of universal gravitation expressed a relationship in physics that has several current theories that are attempts to provide a mechanism that would explain that relationship, none of which has achieved general acceptance in the scientific community.

Evolution critics are censored (Ken Mercer) [CA320]

*Polystrate fossils/Lompoc whale (Gail Lowe) [CC331, CC335]

Science changes (Steve Smith) [CA250]

Paradigm shifts (Steve Smith)

This one doesn’t have an entry in the Index. I’ll bug Mark Isaak about this.

Intermediate fossils between species are missing (Steve Smith) [CC200, CC202]

Monkey DNA code only leads to monkeys (Steve Smith) [CA640]

Censorship! Expelled! (Steve Smith) [CA320]

Board member Cargill complimented Smith on ‘sticking to the science’ and specifically endorsed his Gish Gallop as being the sort of “weaknesses” that the board is promoting. This will make an excellent “smoking gun” at any trial that arises in Texas.

Darwin’s ideas are a sacred idea for scientists (Tom Lancaster) [CA610, CA611, CA612]

Phillip Skell skepticism (Tom Lancaster) [CA215]

Sagan said life evolving is improbable! (Board member Lowe(sp?)) [Search on 'Sagan']

Cambrian explosion (Hannah Weissgerber ["D" 0:30]) [CC300, CC301]

Miller-Urey experiment (Hannah Weissgerber ["D" 0:30]) [CB035

Evolution has no effect on medicine (Hannah Weissgerber) [CA215, Relevance of evolution: medicine]

Ms. Weissgerber expresses absolutely standard religious antievolution arguments and demonstrates her ignorance of her chosen field of study all at once.

“Origins science” has no effect on science study (Hannah Weissgerber) [CA221, CA230]

Theory is not a total and complete fact (Hannah Weissgerber) [CA042]

(D 1:57) Have you ever discussed or studied Borel’s law of probability? (Board member Lowell questioning Sam Scorpino) [Borel's law FAQ]

[In a book about probability for the lay audience, Emile Borel proposed a rule of thumb that events less likely than 1e-50 never happens. This has been seized upon by the antievolution movement as "Borel's law". Outside of the antievolution movement, Borel's conjecture is essentially a footnote in the history of the study of probability. Thus, Scorpino was probably somewhat taken aback by Lowell asking him about "Borel's law", since unless you have a thing for history of probability or the antievolution literature, you are very unlikely to even have heard of it. It certainly makes Board Member Lowell look like a poseur for trying to appear erudite with her pompous question. I seriously doubt that Lowell herself could do more than parrot the usual antievolution drivel about improbability if questioned about the topic.]

Pure censorship in the classroom, denying free speech and academic freedom (Jonathan Saenz, Director of Legal Affairs, Free Market Foundation)

No lawsuit in twenty years. Quotes Edwards decision, can teach scientific criticisms. Lawsuit talk is intimidation. TFN study “A bio prof at Texas A&M said, ‘”Strengths and weaknesses” exist in any scientific theory or paradigm. Scientific skepticism and challenging is central to how science gets done.’. That’s their own report.”

[Fails to fully quote the passage: "Strengths and weaknesses" exist in any scientific theory or paradigm. Scientific skepticism and challenging is central to how science gets done. But this component of scientific methodology is being exploited by the creationists/ID types to attempt to insert their ideas into the curriculum. These attempts are not being done in the professional scientific realm, where they are supposed to be done, but in the political realm, so their approach is a distortion of how science reaches a consensus of understanding. I don’t hear calls for discussion of the "strengths and weaknesses" of quantum theory, or gravitational cosmology.]

Dunbar: If a valid constitutional attack was available, there would be no financial impediment.

Saenz: Right.

Saenz: Policy could not be challenged on its face.

Saenz: About out of state experts: Darwin was from England and Einstein was from Germany.

Saenz: How many of these professors did not respond? Implies non-respondents did not respond due to fear of reprisal. Board member explicitly says that.

Saenz: Elitism and fanaticism in opponents.

Ken Mercer: Points out Saenz’ quote mine of the TFN report. But reiterates that policy has been there 20 years.

Saenz: This is all about science, not religion. They want to ban students from hearing half of what goes on.

Board member notes TFN is there, could they speak to this? McLeroy: No.

Strengths and weaknesses doesn’t originate with the Discovery Institute (McLeroy responding to Terri Burke)

[Terri Burke missed a trick here, since "strengths and weaknesses" is used by the Discovery Institute, and the DI's use certainly may inspire people to take up antievolution. The origin of the term is a digression, as Burke's original statement wasn't about its origin, but its use.]

Terri Leo says the Kitzmiller case had nothing to do with the teaching “intelligent design”.

Dunbar: Information pertaining to evolutionary theory better determined by courts or by scientists working in labs?

I’ll expand on these later as I get time.

I get the feeling that there were a lot more of these moldy oldies spouted during the proceedings. Does someone have a recording they can point me to? [I've gotten the recordings and, yes, there's a whole pile of reeking moldy oldies that weren't liveblogged.]

* Hat tip to Nick Matzke. Missed that on the skim.

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Follow-Through: Sheehan v. Franken Dismissed

One thing the media doesn’t often do is follow-through. Some juicy news story pops up on the radar, and everybody is all over it. A resolution that occurs days or weeks later, though, gets little coverage.

Something of that phenomenon can be seen in the defamation lawsuit incumbent Minnesota senator Norm Coleman filed (via his campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan) against challenger Al Franken. That story was reported nationally.

More recently, though, a judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Coleman had not provided the necessary information to show a violation of the statute cited in the lawsuit. That information has only turned up on a few sites so far. I found it on a TV station’s website, and there are a couple of other weblogs that have noted it.

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Complainant has failed to demonstrate
probable cause to believe that the Respondent violated Minn. Stat. § 211B.06
with respect to the statement that Senator Coleman was ranked or named the
fourth most corrupt Senator by a bipartisan watchdog group. Accordingly, the
Complaint is DISMISSED.

Further information in the dismissal reveals that Franken had asked for legal costs, and the court denied that, saying that the complaint was not frivolous.

The story, though, stayed static through the critical final days of the campaign between the two candidates. The dismissal of the lawsuit should have no effect on the recount. The same may not be true of the election itself, where Coleman had a lead of just over two hundred votes over his rival in the first count.

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Texas: 19 Out of 20 Science Professors Prefer Science

Dr. Raymond Eve of the University of Texas at Arlington conducted a survey of Texas science professors on whether evolutionary science should be taught or evolutionary science and “intelligent design” both should be taught, and the Dallas Morning News reports that 95% responded that evolutionary science should be taught.

Of course, most science professors should, when asked whether both science and anti-science should be taught together, ought to prefer that science is what students should be taught. It is really quite simple: Texas ought to teach as science those things that have scientific accountability, and refrain from teaching things that are either simple misrepresentations of science or things long known to be bogus religious antievolution objections to science. When one examines what are offered as “weaknesses” by the antievolution crowd, they inevitably are entirely comprised of those two categories of argument, none of which does any student any good to be taught as if they had scientific accountability.

New science standards are expected to be approved early next year by the education board, where a majority of members have voiced support for retaining the current mandate to cover both strengths and weaknesses of major scientific theories, notably evolution, in science courses.

“This is something we’ve been doing for over 20 years in Texas, and we should keep doing it,” said board chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station.

The same sort of thing was said about slavery and then racial segregation. McLeroy apparently knows his preferred ensemble of religious antievolution objections can’t pass muster for having scientific accountability.

It’s actually pretty good news that the not-thinking-clearly contingent of Texas science professors is as little as 5%. I would have estimated something higher myself.

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Pitfalls of Popular Writing About Science

I won’t cover the gamut, but rather wish to point out a case. In the 16 Oct. 2008 Nature, Clive Wynne of the University of Florida had a review of a book by Irene Pepperberg. His review was titled, “Psychology’s Pet Subject”. The book reviewed was Pepperberg’s “Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence — and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process”. In his review, Wynne says precious little that is about the book being reviewed. Instead, Wynne sets himself up as an arbiter of the worth of Pepperberg’s scientific career.

Alex and Me is an engaging narrative because it has the intimate relationship between one human and one parrot at its centre. But as an exploration in science, it is deeply worrying that nobody can replicate its central findings, given the ease with which the subjects and equipment can be acquired. Even Pepperberg has been unable to replicate Alex’s achievements using other parrots.

Irene Pepperberg has responded in a letter to Nature (Vol. 456, 13 Nov. 2008, p.166), “Peer-reviewed parrot studies speak for themselves, as he did”. Pepperberg points out the obvious problem with Wynne’s dismissal:

As a memoir for a general audience, [the book] does not contain in-depth technical detail. But Wynne’s questioning of the underlying science is answered by my publications in the peer-reviewed literature — one of which won the Frank A. Beach comparative psychology award (I.M. Pepperberg and J.D. Gordon J. Comp. Psychol. 119 197-209, 2005).

Dr. Pepperberg summarizes various of the technical details present in her papers that Wynne somehow failed to convey any cognizance of. While Dr. Pepperberg did not take the obvious next step, I think that it should be stated succinctly: it appears that the reviewer, Wynne, did not have any familiarity with the body of technical work whose value he chose to publicly denigrate (and I use the word advisedly).

The technical level of Wynne’s critique in his review nowhere rises above that of sophomore psychology student. The ghost of Clever Hans is summoned, Led Zeppelin lyrics are alluded to, and pigeon cognition gets a mention. Oh, yes, freshman philosophy takes a bow with Descartes and his views on animal vocalizations; we should not overlook that, as it forms a major portion of Wynne’s critical structure. One might be inclined to cut Wynne some slack since, after all, space is limited in a review article. However, that tendency is rather severely dampened by Wynne’s lack of charity in the review. It’s a hit piece, and it isn’t even a challenging hit piece. Wynne’s criticism everywhere is premised upon generalities, the things that could be wrong with studies of cognition in another species, and nowhere does it appear that he took the effort to find out whether the research that he was ultimately talking about actually suffered from the faults he offered as reasons for skepticism. Is Wynne as careless in his technical work as this review paints him? It makes me wonder if UF has been declining since I earned my B.S. degree there. His final dismissal of Pepperberg’s research is an indictment of his own scholarship:

For those who did not know him personally, the tragedy of Alex’s passing is that the records that remain are not enough to prove the case one way or the other.

Dr. Wynne, you actually have to read the records that remain in order to have the standing to have an opinion like that one. The fact that Dr. Pepperberg was able to concisely show that so many of the dismissals you made were contradicted by the technical papers indicates a critical lack of preparation for the review on your part. Intellectual laziness was compounded by either callousness or simple lack of charity.

Dr. Pepperberg was, I feel, gracious and reserved in her final comment on Dr. Wynne’s review:

Wynne has no basis for implying that my methods might be flawed — other than a possible inherent skepticism, which, ironically, is a common bias discussed at length in the book.

I think Dr. Wynne owes Dr. Pepperberg a prominent public apology. I hope to see it in Nature soon.

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Uncommon Upheaval

William Dembski’s weblog, Uncommon Descent, underwent a recent facelift. Following a server change and software upgrade, Dembski announced his retirement from heading the weblog, citing work going on with Robert Marks. Dembski announced that Barry Arrington would now be in charge of the weblog. That left people speculating about “blog czar” David Scott “DaveScot” Springer, the person who handled most of UD’s heavy moderation duties in the past.

Wonder no longer. Barry Arrington had a thread titled, “DaveScot is no longer with us”, this morning, saying that Springer had “resigned” from his moderator post.

I had no idea Barry Arrington was that fond of spending time in the WordPress administration console.

Update: UD’s Infinitely Plastic Past shrugs and, behold, the post now has a friendlier title: “DaveScot has resigned”.

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Science and Math Elemetary Exploration

Back on November 8th, Diane and I spent half the day helping Lansing Community College put on their Science and Math Elementary Exploration event. We were assigned to the biology section where we provided owl pellets for the students to pick apart and identify bones found therein. We had instruction sheets and a handy one-page bone identification guide.

We had a lot of students come through the doors during the SMEE activities. Diane had me go around to other SMEE events to get pictures as well. I’ll post some as I get a chance.

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They’re Playing His Tune

In an AP story, Georgia Rep. Broun (R) warns that Barack Obama could be dangerous:

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.

“It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force,” Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. “I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism.”

Where was Rep. Broun while the Bush administration concentrated power in the executive branch, authorized torture as policy, set up the Department of Homeland Security, introduced us all to “rendition”, and generally set about making many of our civil liberties null and void? I don’t remember getting a peep out of him then. And all that stuff actually happened.

The tune mentioned in the title for Rep. Paul Broun should be obvious. Yes, it does sound crazy, Rep. Broun. Full stop.

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With the Race Lost, Now is the Time for the Real Negative Campaigning

The blame game seems to be the rage in Republican circles. Various news items are now being published about “off the record” information… sorry, but “off the record” doesn’t mean “only publish when stale”, it means not for publication at all.

I made no excuses for criticizing Sarah Palin in her role as Republican candidate for vice president. I thought she was anti-intellectual with anti-science leanings. But it seems that Palin’s gaffes, petulance, and ignorance are being blamed for the overall failure of the McCain campaign, and to that end we’re hearing campaign staffers as sources for things that retrospectively pile on Palin. From the Huffington Post, we learn that:

However, perhaps one of the most astounding and previously unknown tidbits about Sarah Palin has to do with her already dubious grasp of geography. According to Fox News Chief Political Correspondent Carl Cameron, there was great concern within the McCain campaign that Palin lacked “a degree of knowledgeability necessary to be a running mate, a vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency,” in part because she didn’t know which countries were in NAFTA, and she “didn’t understand that Africa was a continent, rather than a series, a country just in itself.”

Palin was apparently a nightmare for her campaign staff to deal with. She refused preparation help for her interview with Katie Couric and then blamed her staff, specifically Nicole Wallace, when the interview was panned as a disaster. After the Couric interview, Fox News reported, Palin turned nasty with her staff and began to accuse them of mishandling her. Palin would view press clippings of herself in the morning and throw “tantrums” over the negative coverage. There were times when she would be so nasty and angry that her staff was reduced to tears.

OK, if someone is going to publicize a failing of a candidate for high office that is highly relevant to assessing their worthiness to enter a post that requires understanding foreign policy, it seems to me that the appropriate time to do so would be before the election. Having withheld the information this long, and given that the public isn’t now threatened with having a geographical ignoramus as a vice president, it just seems churlish to make an issue of it. What it makes it look like is that there’s a scapegoating campaign going on, with Sarah Palin as the scapegoat. She hasn’t made herself sympathetic, but that isn’t the issue. I’ve seen comments to the effect that Palin’s political aspirations need to be crushed entirely. I assume that burning those hopes to ashes and scattering at midnight are just unstated parts of the plan. Maybe terminating her political career is a worthy goal. But what I’m wondering is what, exactly, is this bit of spite distracting us from? I wouldn’t expect that McCain will be looking for a rematch in 2012. So whose political prospects are advanced on the Republican side by making sure that Sarah Palin’s credibility is turned into chutney in the post-election period? I’m assuming that this is an intra-party thing, since her Democratic opponents likely would have sought to make the revelations clear pre-election.

Now, that second quoted paragraph above… I think everyone knew already that John McCain has a long reputation for having a short fuse and a hot temper, and the notion that he’d have gone through the stresses of the past year without having reduced some people on his staff to tears seems to strain credulity. So why does finding out that his VP pick has something of a similar behavioral bent merit a lot of notice? Did anybody serve as campaign ethologist to tally the numbers of staffers made to cry by each of the people on the ticket, and where can we review that data? Again, I just wonder what the Palin gossip accomplishes. It seems to go counter to the claims that Palin has a bright future in the Republican Party.

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Book Review: “Gnuplot In Action” by Philipp K. Janert

A while back, I posted here about getting acquainted with “gnuplot”, a handy cross-platform plotting tool. Philipp K. Janert happened by and offered me a review copy of his book on “gnuplot”. I’m busily working up a manuscript for submission. Today, I was working on figures and dealing with “gnuplot” once again, and found occasion to refer to Janert’s text more than once on things that otherwise were a bit mysterious. That is despite the fact that “gnuplot” documentation is featured here and there across the web.

An example? I have some plots where I want to show two datasets at a time in the same plot. Here’s a trivial case where I actually plot the same dataset twice:

resource 900x600

This relies on the use of “pm3d” mode in “gnuplot”, something that gets a fair bit of attention in “Gnuplot in Action”.

OK, so where’s a real two-dataset example? Here’s one I was working on, where I simply added the specification for the bottom map as in the trivial example above, but used a different data set for the surface rendering.

blackres

Obviously, I have a problem. I actually spent a fair chunk of time Googling to see if I could find someone else addressing this issue, without success. Eventually, I remembered Janert’s book and started looking through it. The solution found there lies with a generic data-handling facility in “gnuplot” and not with something specific to the “pm3d” mode I’m using. What’s happening is that the scale from the second dataset is being used to color-map the first dataset, with unappealing results. Fortunately, I can rescale the first dataset on the fly, as Janert points out in section 3.3, “Data Transformations”. I simply multiplied the value from the first dataset to fit it into the range of the second dataset.

rw2

And, of course, mixing a surface mapped dataset with one presented as lines is not a big deal.

gen cl 3 10 57488.run3

My research currently involves making sense of large amounts of data. Part of the attraction to “gnuplot” is its ability to render surface-mapped graphics based on relatively simple instructions. I have various Perl scripts that pre-process the data and emit “gnuplot” scripts, then make a system call to “gnuplot” with the appropriate script. If I were doing all this in Matlab, I’d have to settle for having far fewer graphics produced, since that requires a fair degree of interactivity getting from data to graphic.

There are a lot of techniques and ideas in “Gnuplot in Action” that I haven’t had cause to use yet. So far, it has been a substantial technical aid toward my goal of producing publication-quality graphics. “gnuplot” is a handy, flexible tool for getting from data to visualization, and Philipp Janert’s “Gnuplot in Action” is a good introduction and technical reference to have on hand when using “gnuplot”.

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Voting: Mission Accomplished!

Here in Williamston, MI, the polling place was full up at 9:30 AM. We had about a 20 minute wait in line, during which we heard that they had received about 1000 absentee ballots, where they usually have about 300 of those to process. Diane and I had printed off our sample ballots the better to look up the various candidates. This was a good thing, especially for the various judge positions, where no political affiliation is listed. I used the League of Women Voters site, the Lansing Association for Human Rights site, the Michigan Family Forum site (useful as an indication of trouble wherever they endorsed a candidate), and the Gannett Voter Guide site. Diane looked up somewhere that listed people who had received campaign funding from “animal rights” groups. One of those confirmed our likely choice of the opponent, but two of the people we were otherwise inclined to vote for were tainted by that association. We plan on sending them letters stating our opposition to the radical “animal rights” agenda.

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A Quiet Halloween

I gave up on the idea of partying on Halloween when a headache I got in the afternoon insisted on getting worse instead of better. Diane chose to spend the evening with me rather than head off to the party we’d been invited to.

The party was a costume party, and Diane had borrowed a pretty stunning cloak. For myself, I had a set of scrubs, a stethoscope, and a large pair of forceps. Unfortunately, that didn’t see use this year. Maybe next year.

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