Sadly, this loses a lot without the visual aids, so I’ll have to make a point of embedding a few images that I still have on my laptop from what was emailed to me. This is Desiree Schell, Bug Girl, PZ Myers, Emily Fincke, and Sharon Stiteler. The audience was completely packed to the point of overflowing, and I had to pinch-hit doing the A/V after a last-second realization that there was nobody to run it, and no way to get the pics and videos onto the projector. My netbook came in handy!
I also managed to get a better recording app that isn’t limited to the default built-in sound recorder’s 8kHz, so this one’s recorded at 22kHz, and should be much easier to understand than my last. I’m pretty sure there’s also a video of the panel somewhere, but I’m not sure if it’s up anyplace just yet.
Okay, this is not the greatest recording in the world. As it turns out, a Google Nexus 4 appears to only be able to record at 8000Hz mono. If I’m going to keep doing this, I’ll have to invest in a better sound recorder. Or maybe use my old iPhone, because that’s literally the only thing the iPhone has that my Nexus has not been able to duplicate or improve upon.
Something funny happened in my and Stephanie’s trackbacks today. On Adelaide Atheists’ Meetup group, one of their male members wrote up a post asking women to endorse the Skeptic Women petition. The thread was titled, “I wish to promote the statement below issued by a group of women atheists/(true) skeptics and ask women to consider supporting their position.”
Let’s ignore the “no true skeptic” for a brief moment here, and the fact that the two women replying both strongly disagreed — and that the poster and two other guys argued with them, explaining to them why they’re wrong.
The Availability Heuristic is a well-known cognitive bias that primes people to more readily believe something when they can easily come up with examples. Of the cognitive biases that I’ve encountered among rationalists in the skeptical and atheist communities, this bias is the one I’m most capable of coming up with examples. I am therefore primed to believe more readily that atheists and skeptics are not immune to this bias — myself included.
I love the idea of simulating evolution through computer models. The purpose of such an exercise is not so much to prove that evolution happened, or to prove that complexity can evolve from simple rulesets (though that’s certainly important), but to show that randomness and flexibility in solving tasks can create novel approaches that are more creative even than anything that intelligences like ourselves have worked out.
This particular example shows some behaviours from creatures built out of four types of blocks that emulate hopping, running and dragging themselves along a course, in a simulation where creatures that make it across a trial field quickest are rewarded by having more offspring in subsequent generations.
I’ve had this link to Climate Crocks on my tabs for forever, intending to blog about it as soon as possible. Today I was listening to Minnesota Atheists Talk Radio, on AM 950 KTNF, and Stephanie Zvan was interviewing Greg Laden about the climate denialists who’ve been trying to sue him into the ground for talking about the settled science that is whether or not the climate is changing for the worse, and whether or not humans are responsible. During one of the intro/outros Stephanie mentioned how similar the astroturf seems to the progenitor of the corporate-interest-sponsored organized disinformation campaign that was the Big Tobacco industry in the 90s, and I remembered this tab immediately.
This talk documents the origins of the US’s “Tea Party”, built by corporations to prey on the anti-liberal sentiments of the far-right segments of the already-far-right Republican party, calving off a chunk of them to be a populist movement against corporate regulation.
The specific laws they’re talking about, that are preventing kids from receiving counselling? The “change therapy” laws of course, which forbid religious “therapists” from trying to un-gay-ify kids. Their reasoning is that children who are predated upon by pedophiles have no recourse but to go with any gay feelings they have thereafter.
The premise that gays and transgender folks end up “that way” because of abuse as kids is patently wrong. And even if it was right, it is no justification for subjecting children to the mental and emotional abuse that reparative therapy represents.
I especially like that they’re trying to change the name “reparative therapy” to “change therapy”. It ain’t going to work. We already know that it doesn’t work [pdf], and we know what appropriate responses are to homosexuality.
It’s an incorrect and damaging response to a problem that’s entirely fictional. We don’t even have to get into the motivations these people have to attack homosexuals for their orientation — yes, the thin and threadbare rationale they have for their judging homosexuality as a problem is, of course, their religious beliefs. Otherwise they wouldn’t have called the ban “bullying and abuse” — devaluing both words, in the face of the very real abuse they’re being told they can no longer perpetrate.
I’m posting this to prove a point, on top of the obvious squee and funny factors.
That point is, human beings can be complete monsters sometimes. Treating cute little turtles as sport, as though there was any contest between the turtle and an automobile. For shame. Look at that turtle, having trouble eating a raspberry! Look at its raspberry beard! They are adorable and nigh helpless and people still swerve to hit them.
Maybe humanity doesn’t deserve to survive this global warming nonsense we’ve brought on ourselves. Bah.
Earlier in 2012 only a few observations of AG5 could be made before it got too close to the Sun to see. Those allowed the crude estimate of where it would be in 2040, and that big fuzzy volume of space included the Earth.
However, new observations taken with the monster Gemini telescope in Hawaii allowed a far better orbit to be calculated. The path of the asteroid in 2040 was found, and now clearly does not include the Earth. It will be a clean miss, by about 900,000 kilometers (550,000 miles). This is more than twice the distance to the Moon, if that helps.
With this new calculation, we have little to worry about in 2040. Though, it seems, humanity does love a doomsday. I don’t expect this will truly dissuade people who want another hit of that doomsday high.
The idea that there’s a single scalar value that measures anything like “general intelligence” (“g”), commonly known as “IQ” or “intelligence quotient”, has been pretty much blown out of the water by this comprehensive study by the University of Western Ontario’s Brain and Mind Institute.
Our attempt to answer [the question of how to quantify relative intelligence] dates back more than five years, when Roger [Highfield] encountered work that I had conducted with Adrian [Hampshire] at the Medical Research Council in Cambridge on a reliable way to carry out cognitive tests online so we could monitor rehabilitation after brain injury, the effect of smart drug trials and so on.
Roger wondered if we could use this test to carry out a mass intelligence test. Drawing on earlier data from brain scans, Adrian and I came up with a series of tests which we knew would trigger activity in as much of the brain’s anatomy as possible, combining the fewest tasks to cover the broadest range of cognitive skills.