New Math

From the three you then use one
To make ten ones…
(And you know why four plus minus one
Plus ten is fourteen minus one?
‘Cause addition is commutative, right.)
And so you have thirteen tens,
And you take away seven,
And that leaves five…

Well, six actually.
But the idea is the important thing.

Tom Lehrer, “New Math”

Let’s Get Rid of Zero!

What can we take from this introduction? Well, our author can’t be bothered to define basic arithmetic properly. What he really wants to say is, roughly, Peano arithmetic, with 0 removed. But my guess is that he has no idea what Peano arithmetic actually is, so he handwaves. The real question is, why did he bother to include this at all?

My own experience is primarily with physics crackpots and creationists, but there are obviously math cranks out there, too.

Don't Bother Me With the Details

Such as the definition of theory in a scientific context.


ACT, the state’s testing company, interviews professors to figure out the things most important to student readiness for college, which sounds like a smart thing to do. Unfortunately, those professors have bad news: If you want students to do well in biology classes, they have to know about evolution.

I’m not sure how the Kentucky politicians equated not teaching evolution with better critical thinking skills, but I’m not surprised they don’t see the problem.

This Just In: Bearing False Witness No Longer a Sin

Apparently, anyway.

How American fundamentalist schools are using Nessie to disprove evolution

Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as “evidence that evolution couldn’t have happened. The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived.

“If it was millions of years ago then that would be ridiculous. That’s their logic. It’s a common thing among creationists to believe in sea monsters.”

Private religious schools, including the Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana, which follows the ACE curriculum, have already been cleared to receive the state voucher money transferred from public school funding, thanks to a bill pushed through by state Governor Bobby Jindal.

This Does Not Constitute a Recommendation to Buy

Electricity generated from water: BlackLight Power announces validation of its scientific breakthrough in energy production

The “validation” here is that they got some money for further development, and this is reported on a business site. Getting backers does not preclude them being, as Bob Park has put it, “investors with deep pockets and shallow brains”. The purported mechanism is the formation of Hydrinos, which is a state in Hydrogen below the ground state. Which is, needless to say, at odds with basic quantum mechanics.

BlackLight’s continuously operating, power-producing system converts ubiquitous H2O (water) vapor directly into electricity, oxygen, and a new, more stable form of Hydrogen called Hydrino, which releases 200 times more energy than directly burning hydrogen

If it’s “more stable” than regular Hydrogen, one has to wonder why we don’t see it everywhere. Oh, wait, we apparently do:

The identity of the dark matter of the universe as Hydrinos is supported by BlackLight’s spectroscopic and analytical results as well as astrophysical observations.

Except, of course, that spectroscopy means photons, and dark matter doesn’t interact electromagnetically, because if it did, we’d see it. If you can get to this Hydrino state electromagnetically, why doesn’t it happen spontaneously? We should be up to our armpits in Hydrinos.

If Only Certain Journalists Could Be so Persuasive

Warm spring weather and global warming: If only scientists could be so persuasive

Gah. What an unconvincing piece of tripe, which is too bad, because the message itself has a lot of merit.

It’s true that the recent warm winter weather has softened the American public’s stance on global warming, and that a colder winter has/will make them more reluctant to accept. This shows the lack of scientific literacy, in the form of a basic scientific disconnect between weather and climate, that the average person has. It’s also true that scientists should do more in the form of outreach. It’s too bad the article doesn’t connect how the latter would affect the former.

Generally, those who know the most about climate – and other important scientific fields – are locked up in their university ivory towers and conference rooms, speaking a language only they can understand.

And they speak mostly to each other, not to the general public, policymakers, or business people – not to those who can actually make things happen.

This is dangerous. We live in an age when scientific issues permeate our social, economic, and political culture. People must be educated about science and the scientific process if we are to make rational and informed decisions that affect our future. Indeed, a well functioning democracy requires it.

But instead, the relative absence of academics and academic scholarship in the public discourse creates a vacuum into which uninformed, wrong, and downright destructive viewpoints get voiced and take hold.

There are several scientists who are quite vocal in explaining climate change. And what do they get for their trouble? The get verbally attacked and threatened with violence, they get their emails hacked, and the people who have already decided that global warming is a fraud or hoax go right on believing so. The denialist camp can trot out a few “experts” to counter anything that is said in support of climate change, and the discussion is couched in language that subverts the process of science (such as the implication that having any level of uncertainty is a failure, or that because we don’t know everything that we know nothing) The press is complicit in this when they present a false balance to the story by presenting both sides of the issue, giving the impression that the scientists are split equally.

Scientific literacy through general education is another requirement that scientists can’t directly affect, either. You can lead a horse to water, and all that — if you don’t speak the language, any effort to explain details is wasted, but that’s not to say that the attempts aren’t being made. A big problem here is that the average (scientifically illiterate) person can’t tell if it’s shit or shinola — they see or hear some word salad and they think it’s the real deal. And they aren’t motivated to go and learn anything. That, however, is one avenue where outreach can help — getting people excited about science, and getting them to want to become literate.

Which means that people have to make an effort to meet scientists halfway, and improving that requires a very broad effort. It’s not something you can simply blame on scientists residing in their “ivory towers”. But that’s an uphill battle, because if parents don’t value education and scientific literacy, it probably means their kids won’t get the exposure that they need.

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Scamming the Tourists

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This has nothing to do with the earth rotation and the Coriolis force. It’s purely for the suckers.

Here’s the trick: notice how he pours the water into the basin on each attempt. You don’t see it for the original one; it’s been sitting there for a while and has settled while he does the little demo with the compass and probably some more lecture. But he pours the water off-center for the next two experiments, so there is already some rotation of the water, and the result is exactly the direction you’d expect from the pour. When he pours on the left side of center, it drains clockwise, and when he pours on the right side, it drains counter-clockwise.

One, of course, should do this with both pour techniques in the same location to be a real experiment.

A Conjuror Makes a Great Companion

Why Magicians Are a Scientist’s Best Friend

[I]t is long overdue that my peers in the conjuring profession try to take a more active role in the elimination of nonsense science by joining forces with scientists, and that scientists be open to the proposition.

Please bear with me while I offer you a peek behind the curtain, a cursory glance at what we magicians are — and aren’t. First, we’re entertainers, actors, showbiz people who have as our primary objective the delight of our audiences. We’re deceivers, yes, taking on roles and characters to express our art, just as any actor does.