10 posts

The power of O at TED Conferences

This is not about Oprah. CHE has a very interesting little piece about presentations given at TED conferences. He contrasts two speakers, one who “got the whole nerdy hipster thing going” and another who wore a blazer (but cut brains into thin slices like deli meats. I was the MC for TEDxPSU last year at Penn State and I may offer a presentation this year, so I have been thinking about what makes a good […]

Closing in on the end of an era

No matter how many times humanity does this it is amazing. My father spent most of his career with NASA and so we grew up watching and rooting for space flight. I have to say that as I have gotten older I have questioned the ethics of the amount of money we spend on such research (thinking that was spurred in no little part by this song from Adam Again: Inner-City Blues and which I […]

Not what I thought: Shark Teeth Found Stuck in Ancient Ammonite

When I saw the title I thought perhaps it was a discussion of leviathan exacting revenge on the ancient peoples of the Transjordan or some such. Which would have been odd, given the Ammonites’ geographic location, but still perhaps there was some biblical connection. Nope. Apparently an “ammonite” is an ancient, and extinct creature akin to the modern nautilus. A shelled fossil discovered in an amateur’s collection may harbor the first direct evidence of prehistoric […]

Which would you choose, wings or stronger claws?

I was watching the Discovery Channel’s “Wild Pacific” tonight with my son and they featured “the world’s heaviest parrot” (this is the parrot whose amorous adventures were noted here before). The narrator is Mike Rowe, but I am sure he did not write the script. At one point we were told that because of the kakapo’s great weight and small wings “it evolved strong claws in order to climb trees” in order to reach their […]

Evolution & Climate Change: Trojan Horse or Straw Man?

(You can tell this will be an academic-type post because I used a colon in my title.) In the past few weeks we have had several different events, two conferences and one speaker, on campus relating to climate change. Conservative Christians, I was told, refuse to accept climate change because they feel that it is a trojan horse, admitting to anthropogenic climate change would require that they also admit that evolution is true, thus (I […]

Francis Collins named new head of NIH

This announcement was a long-time coming. I actually spoke with Dr. Collins several months ago to invite him to PSU to speak on science and religion and he declined. He did not say way (“taking some time”) but I had a pretty strong hunch, as did anyone else following this nomination process. I read the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education articles with interest to see if and in what way they mentioned […]

Happy Birthday Space Station!

This is the last project my father worked on in his career with NASA. This year is the 10th birthday of the station, although it continues to grow and be rebuilt. CNET has some great photos. The space station as it looked in August 2005. For most of its habitable history (about eight years), the ISS has had room for just three crew members. But in just the last few weeks, that capacity has doubled […]

Academic Sacrilege

Remember the “Frackin’ Cracker” debate? A biologist from U of MN mocked the Catholic community’s response to a student having removed a consecrated host from a service. Well Myers made good on his promise to destroy, mock, and desecrate a host if sent to him. Inside Higher Ed has a good round up of the results. Myers is a biologist at the University of Minnesota at Morris who has a national following for Pharyngula, the […]

Gaining Atheists’ respect?

Drew Tatusko has a very good post , linking to a university altercation that had escaped my notice, addressing whether or not atheists should respect religion.I have come across this quite often, particularly in a debate with Jonathan Culler at Cornell (I will post about that some day, it happened years ago now), where the atheist will insist that they do not need to "respect" ignorance. Here, I will let Drew explain and be sure […]

Aquanauts Go! (It’s Marine Boy, brave and free!)

This story is just too cool not to link. Penn State faculty are collaborators on this project and they will be spending 8 days underwater at aquarius, the world’s only underwater research station. This is SO cool! When I was a kid I used to love Marine Boy. I was a swimmer (up until college when I realized that I was getting a little tired of seeing the same *&($ black line on the bottom […]