Snowflake Barbarians

Why did liberal democracy arise in the West and nowhere else?  Because of the influence of Christianity on Western politics.  Consider the most famous expression of classical liberalism the world has ever known, the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by […]

Steampunk Darwin

Recently I read my first steampunk novel, Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass.  For those of you who have never heard of steampunk, it is a sub-genera of science fiction that anachronistically fuses Victorian steam powered technology into the digital age. It occurred to me that Darwinism is “steampunk science.”  It is an analog-based Victorian relic trying […]

How plants see, hear, smell, and respond without animal sense organs

From Josh Gabbatiss at BBC: In their experiments, Appel and Cocroft found that recordings of the munching noises produced by caterpillars caused plants to flood their leaves with chemical defences designed to ward off attackers. “We showed that plants responded to an ecologically-relevant ‘sound’ with an ecologically-relevant response,” says Cocroft. … For example, despite lacking […]

Self-organization paper of interest: Biological regulation: controlling the system from within

Friends note, from Biology & Philosophy (Springer): Biological regulation is what allows an organism to handle the effects of a perturbation, modulating its own constitutive dynamics in response to particular changes in internal and external conditions. With the central focus of analysis on the case of minimal living systems, we argue that regulation consists in […]

No need for a fine tuner for fine-tuned universe?

From philosopher Hans Halvorson at Nautilus blog: This new fine-tuning design argument claims the imprimatur of physics, and is presented in quantitatively precise terms: among the set of all possible universes, the percentage that could sustain life is so small that the human mind cannot imagine it. By all rights, our universe shouldn’t have existed. […]

Rabbi Moshe Averick divides naturalist morality by zero

And gets anything, everything, and nothing as a result. From Moshe Averick, rabbi and author of Nonsense of a High Order – The Confused World of Modern Atheism at Algemeiner: For the non-believer, the statement “murder is immoral” does not reflect some underlying existent reality or truth about our universe. It is simply a statement […]

False start for complex life 2.5 bya?

In a “ so-called Lomagundi Event” when deep sea organic carbon might have suddenly increased between 2.3 and 2.1 billion years ago, ue to “biologically complex, oxygen-breathing animals.” From Colin Barras at New Scientist: “The take-home message is that the oxygen level was high enough to support eukaryotic life and, by some arguments, maybe even […]

Science under siege by government? This time, in Argentina

From U Buenos Aires molecular biologist Alberto Kornblihtt at Nature: To complete the landscape of nonsense, the chief of the cabinet of ministers, Marcos Peña, attacked one of the fundamentals of science by saying that “critical thinking has done too much damage to our country”. He continued: “Some people in Argentina think that being critical […]

One theory on the origin of time: It’s all in our heads

FromDaily Galaxy, a revisit of cosmologist Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time (2010): The relativity of time depended upon a new theory, and if we stand back, we discover that all views of time are human constructs. If time seems linear, that’s because we humans have modeled […]

Weird streaks suggest life on Venus?

From Keith Cooper at Venus has long been a focus of Russian planetary science, which has the proud legacy of the record-breaking Venera space probes that landed on the Venusian surface in the late 1970s and early 1980s. [Mysterious Venus: 10 Weird Facts] Time to bone up on Venus; probes are under developent. With […]

What? Is no political party the “party of science”?

New Republic intern Eric Armstrong thinks that no U.S. party deserves the crown, at any rate: The time has come for Democrats to remove the beam from their own eyes, so to speak. Taking up the mantle of scientific liberalism—that is, adopting an evidence-based view of reality in pursuit of progressive policy—would serve both the […]

Moon formed from smashed moonlets?

From Hanneke Weitering at LiveScience: Earth’s moon may be the product of many small moonlets that merged after multiple objects as big as Mars collided with Earth, leaving disks of planetary debris orbiting the planet, a new study suggests. This idea that multiple impacts led to the moon’s birth challenges the most prevalent theory of […]

Fun: Experiments on antimatter are now possible?

From Joshua Howgego at New Scientist: On 11 November last year, a small birthday party was held in an apparently unremarkable hangar onthe outskirts of Geneva, Switzerland. Nothing too fancy, just a few people gathered around a cake. The honourees were there. Well, sort of – they were still locked in the cage where they […]

Cosmology struggles from hand-waving toward exact science, despite its friends?

Interesting point from a response by mathematician Sheldon Glashow to Daniel Kleitman’s review of Max Tegmark’s 2015 book, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality,  again in Inference: Chapter 9 is devoted to what can only be called mathematical epistemology. Tegmark alleges the plausible hypothesis that there exists an external physical […]

We have infinite selves in a multiverse? No, sorry, goodbye all youse, says math prof

 In a review of Max Tegmark’s 2015 book, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, mathematician Daniel Kleitman observes at Inference: Tegmark’s chief argument now follows. Our local universe arose through the process of inflation; since this inflation happened, it had a finite non-zero probability of happening. In an infinite universe, […]

Is logic rising or falling and what difference does it make?

From philosopher Catarina Dutilh Novaes at Aeon: In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781), Immanuel Kant stated that no progress in logic had been made since Aristotle. He therefore concludes that the logic of his time had reached the point of completion. There was no more work to be done. Two hundred years later, after […]

Epigenetics: How many methylation patterns can be attributed to ethnic ancestry?

From Anna Azvolinsky at The Scientist: In a study published last week (January 3) in eLife, Burchard and colleagues showed that about 75 percent of methylation signatures could be explained by the children’s genetic ancestry. The other 25 percent, however, is likely due to social or environmental factors that co-vary with self-identified race/ethnicity. The study […]

Astrobiologist: Are humans freaks of nature?

Taking issue wth paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch writes at Air and Space Smithsonian: Since we doubtlessly did originate from animal ancestors, the gap between us and them must have been bridged at some point in time. Perhaps it was not a jump, but a continuous evolution. Were the mental abilities of the […]

Researchers: The dinosaurs died of darkness and cold

After the asteroid hit. The extinction of the dinosaurs is, in certain ways, the pop science equivalent of the falls of great houses in ancient literature. It’s  fascinating and it accommodates dozens of plausible explanations and hundreds of possible ones. Good for business. From ScienceDaily: “It became cold, I mean, really cold,” says Brugger. Global […]

Researchers: Life originated from simple fats, amino acids – but we will likely never know

From ScienceDaily: As they were able to see, the catalysis of the reaction took place when the fatty acids formed compartments. As they are in an aqueous medium, and due to the hydrophobic nature of lipids, they tend to join with each other and form closed compartments; in other words, they take on the function […]

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