Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Solar System: It's Big!!!

If you ever wondered how big our home planetary system is, take a look at this site:

This is a scale model, and it really makes you think:
[...] the planets here are also shown at their true-to-scale average distances from the Sun. That makes this page rather large - on an ordinary 72 dpi monitor it's just over half a mile wide [...]
Thanks to the Bad Astronomer for digging out that great link!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Anti-vaccine Propaganda Comes In Many Shapes

There is a very interesting article, originally from Chicago Tribune, making its rounds in the blogosphere:

Autism treatment: Science hijacked to support alternative therapies

The stories in the article are just additional examples that the antivaccine and autism "movement" is not really looking for answers. They are just ideologically inspired to get their point of view across, even if it means subjecting children to dangerous and unproven therapies:
[..] doctors have treated children with a blood product typically reserved for people with severe immune system disorders like the one known as "bubble boy" disease. They have used it to justify sealing children with autism in pressurized bags and submarine-like metal chambers. Other children have been given a drug used to treat extremely rare genetic disorders.
I'm sure there is money to be made there too, but that's the case with most of the SCAMs (So-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine).

Monday, November 23, 2009


I hear the movie "2012" is pretty bad (well, there is no "cliffhanger" there, we all know how this one ends), and for all the believers out there, here is an excellent site to compare the Internet nonsense to the real stuff:

2012: End of the World?

There are some other great visualizations there worth checking to change your perspective.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Genetic Profiling

No, not the type you'd seen in "Gattaca"... this time it is a SCAM from the present, not the future.
A company, called My Gene Profile ( seems to be offering genetic profiling for children to discover their "hidden" talents. I can't stop thinking that this is like the company that used to sell Moon property... oh, wait, they still do it:!!! One must wonder, who would ever fall for obvious scams like the ones above?

I guess, like P.T. Barnum once allegedly said: "There's a sucker born every minute".

Thanks to Pharyngula for the amusing link.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

I finished reading Richard Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth" and I have nothing but praises for the author. As a layman, who got drawn into the world of biology, and especially evolutionary biology, late in my informal education (after enjoying formal education in Computer Science, and informal interests in modern physics and astronomy), I enjoyed this book immensely.

Richard Dawkins has an incredible gift of holding your interest in the topic, presenting some of the most incredible facts about biology and the current state of evolutionary science to the reader. He presents a step-by-step case for evolution, producing evidence based on the newest research in multiple fields. I especially liked his intuitive explanations of the geological "clocks" and how scientists can date the past events and artifacts. But what really blew my mind (so to speak) was the chapter on embryological development. It's simply amazing to see "our inner fish" during that short period of nine months, when we can trace our evolutionary development condensed in time.

If you are looking for a good popular science introduction to the current state of cutting edge biology, this book is for you.

In addition to the great scientific content, this book also presents a terrible state of education in the U.S. (and Great Britain too). Having around 40% of Americans still believe that the Earth is 6000 years old, in the age of the Internet, space exploration, and many other technological advances, shows you that we are consistently failing to educate our children. Scary, but unfortunately, true.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Suzanne Somers - The Doctor is in Again - Part 2

Read the next installment of Orac's excellent analysis of the latest book by Suzanne Sommers: "Knockout":

That last story revealed just how deep Somers' pool of medical ignorance is, given that she denied being on steroids, even though right after that she pontificated about how the doctors were obviously "so out of touch with new medicine," have "no clue," and don't "understand cortisol replacement as part of the menopausal experience." I hadn't been aware that cortisol (hydrocortisone when given as an evil "allopathic' drug that is also, by the way, "bioidentical") was in Somers' witches' brew of "bioidentical hormones" designed to give her body levels of estrogenic hormones equivalent to that of a 25-year-old. Never mind that estrogens are steroid hormones, and cortisol is a corticosteroid that can suppress the immune system, the latter simple fact meaning that it it is quite possible that it was Somers' own fault that she got disseminated coccidioidomycosis (commonly known as Valley Fever) rather than a mild or asymptomatic version. I say that because, if Somers was taking large amounts of hydrocortisone--excuse me, cortisol--then she very well may have had steroid-induced immunosuppression that left her open to a disseminated infection when she happened to breathe in the fungus that causes the disease.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anti-vaccination Propaganda in the Age of Internet

Los Angeles Times has a good follow up on the recent Wired article on vaccines and autism:

Childhood vaccines, autism and the dangers of group think
The rise of computer literacy, high-speed Internet connections, blogging and social networks has emboldened the common man to tell his own story and, sometimes, to disdain trappings like a university degree, professional training or corporate affiliation. The citizen activists often frame themselves as truth tellers fighting against an establishment that is hopelessly venal. No matter that the corruption, routinely claimed, is seldom supported by more than innuendo.
I guess the above sums it up... we are in for a bumpy ride in the future, as more and more will challenge authority. What's even worse, the media (at least what we call the mainstream media) is not helping, since it prefers catchy stories with controversy, rather than solid, scientific reporting.

Thanks to Orac for the link...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Sprinkle of Reason in HuffPo

It's hard to believe, given their stand on alternative medicine, vaccines, and a whole bunch of other nonsense, but Huffington Post has a rational blogger: Cara L. Santa Maria

Her short post is a nice introduction to science and rationality, especially for "reason-challenged" audience of the HuffPo:
Science is riddled with doubt, and religion is completely founded on faith. Rely on faith, and the scientific method falls apart. Insert doubt, and religious certainty quickly dwindles.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Suzanne Somers - The Doctor is in Again

In case you run into Suzanne Somers, promoting her newest book on the airvawes, Orac started disecting her woo-woo claims on his blog:
I can only say that, after having perused the next couple of chapters after Chapter 1, I can already feel my brain melting and oozing out through my ears, screaming as the neuron-necrosing stupidity liquifies it. I've also noticed that, by and large, this book is written in grade school level language with short chapters.
It'll be a fun read for sure.
I'm sure, it's just a matter of time (short time) when she's on Oprah, selling this nonsense to the public.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Scientology Trouble

Scientology is getting some bad press recently, which is not surprising, given that it must be one of the worst cults out there.
First, they lost a case against them in France, and were found guilty of fraud (also here). Too bad their practices were not banned, like in Germany.
Now, our local paper, St. Petersburg Times, is running another series of revealing articles, following their original series a few months ago.
One only hopes, this will save a few poor "souls" from joining their ranks. There is no hope for Tom Cruise anymore I guess.