Ha Ha Ha Whoops. Also: Help Me Keep an Eye on Creationists

I’ve had myself so buried in Christianist textbooks, frantically trying to get this talk pulled together, when I wasn’t compulsively reading about the awful things police in Ferguson are up to now, I haven’t thought to keep an eye on my email… and it turns out that due to unforeseen circumstances, FtBCon’s postponed anyway. We’ll be trying again in a few months. So what does this mean? It means you’ll still get a talk on Why Geology Matters – To Creationists, only it will be a much better talk, because I’ll actually have gotten through these books. Well, at least through all the geology bits of the books. Ye gods, it takes ages to fact-check and debunk this stuff now that we’re in to the portions of Earth science Christianists love to hate.

Image shows an orange kitten sitting in a terra cotta pot, with one paw over an eye. Caption says, "Whew! Close Call!"

Thank you, all of you who helped me calculate mammoth populations! You’re amazing. You’ll also love the resulting post, although it’ll take a while before it comes up in the queue – trying to do this stuff in order.

Now I’m going to ask you all now to do me another favor: over the next few months, would you keep an eye out for any news about creationists and geology? It can be things like creationists infiltrating the American Geophysical Union or Geological Society of America meetings (again), creationists trying to sneak “Flood geology” in or fighting earth science standards, creationists trying to pull the wool over journal editors’ eyes and attempting to slip religion in to science publications, anything like that. You can send tips to dhunterauthor at gmail.

Some of you who are interested may want to join me for a private dry-run of said talk when it’s finished – if you’d like to help me not suck in public, and be one of the elite, exclusive ETEVers who gets to hear it first, let me know. We’ll set up a Google Hangout and do the thing when I’ve got it all written. And, if there’s room on the schedule and you’d be interested in joining me for a panel on Women in the Geosciences, also let me know that.

But wait! There’s More!

Continue reading “Ha Ha Ha Whoops. Also: Help Me Keep an Eye on Creationists”

Ha Ha Ha Whoops. Also: Help Me Keep an Eye on Creationists
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How Pompeii Perished

(Yes, I will be watching and reviewing that bloody film on Pompeii for you. Perhaps even within a month! Meanwhile, enjoy this repeat while I despair of my country, deal with the war zone that is my uterus, and try to wrestle a bunch of creationist crap into a presentable form for you. Also, for my mental health, we are going to the zoo later this week to look at cute fuzzy animals. Even if it means I’m up 48 hours straight before this talk I haven’t actually scheduled yet… I’m afraid my brain is going to actually divorce me and take the cat when it leaves if I don’t give it a day off. And you yourselves will need cute fuzzy animals when I’m done. Creationism hurts, folks. Sigh.)

 

I see you jumping up-and-down with your hand in the air, saying “Ooo! I know this one!” I see you, too, over there groaning, “Doesn’t everybody know?” And I see you, glowering, wanting your Mount St. Helens and annoyed I’m spending time on Pompeii instead.

The ruins of Pompeii, with Vesuvius brooding in the background. Image courtesy Perrimoon.
The ruins of Pompeii, with Vesuvius brooding in the background. Image courtesy Perrimoon.

Look, I’ve got reasons. And Mount St. Helens has a little something to do with it. We’ll get to that. But first, let me tell you why I’m on about Pompeii. It’s because there’s one sure way to make a geologist howl: Continue reading “How Pompeii Perished”

How Pompeii Perished

The Cataclysm: “From Unbaked Fragments to Vitreous Charcoal”

There’s a fundamental fact one learns about trees when growing up in dry country forests: they’re flammable. Folks in Flagstaff, Arizona can tell what part of summer it is by the smell. If it’s all piney-fresh, it’s May or early June, and everything’s still safely damp from the spring snowmelt; if it smells like warm turpentine and dust, it’s mid-June; and if it smells like winter with all of the fireplaces cozily burning logs, its the late-June-early-July dry-lightning season, and you’re hoping the monsoon rains come before the whole county burns. I’ve seen smoke that looks like a volcanic eruption billowing from fierce fires. I’ve felt like someone caught in the middle of the apocalypse. I’ve choked on wood ash on hot summer nights. Our forests gets so dry you find yourself avoiding heated language in them. Our trees ceased being lovely green oxygen-producers with sweetly-scented wooden trunks and become tiki torches, just waiting for one stray spark to light the place up. Continue reading “The Cataclysm: “From Unbaked Fragments to Vitreous Charcoal””

The Cataclysm: “From Unbaked Fragments to Vitreous Charcoal”

Help Me Calculate Wooly Mammoth Populations

Ya’ll, I’m sorry, but I need you to put on your calculating hats and help a woman defeat creationists. I have numbers, but no higher math skills to work ’em out*. Any of you care to calculate?

Here’s what I need to know: how many wooly mammoths can we expect 900 years after the Food?

Let’s give creationists the benefit of the doubt, and pretend Noah kept two wooly mammoths aboard. Let’s further say they were of breeding age when they got off the boat, and there was lots of forage, and they got it on right away. Here are the relevant stats, pulled from their closest living relatives, the Asian elephant.

Breeding age: 10-15 years until around 50-55

Gestation: around 18-22 months

Weaning: around 3 years

Which gives us a birth interval of about 4-5 years.

Life expectancy: roughly 60-70 years.

So, if our wooly mammoths pump out bebbies on the regular, and all is ideal, and we even let ’em all live to ripe old ages, how many mammoths will we have after 900 years?

Herd of wooly mammoths. Painting by Charles R. Knight, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Herd of wooly mammoths. Painting by Charles R. Knight, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve got plenty of other ways to show that the creationist crap being spouted about wooly mammoths in this textbook is utter bunk, but it would be nice to hoist them by their own petard, while we’re at it. Thanks for your help, my more numerate darlings!

*Gawds, I can’t math. Up until pre-algebra, I was actually pretty good at the stuff, but I got jumped ahead before I had the proper foundation, then had a string of truly awful math teachers and never recovered. I shoulda kept up on the tutorials I was doing back in the early aughts, but I let my skillz atrophy because hey writers don’t need math right?

Let this be a cautionary tale to all aspiring authors: keep your math skills polished. Otherwise, you’ll end up on the intertoobz at three in the ay-em begging your readers to do the math for you and feeling a right nitwit.

Help Me Calculate Wooly Mammoth Populations

Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*

It’s a very good thing other folks have written things about Brian Dunning’s wire fraud shenanigans, because you won’t find anything about it on his site. Not even his it’s-my-fault-only-kinda-not-and-everybody-was-doing-it-and-it-didn’t-really-make-me-any-money-and-who-cares-about-eBay-never-mind-the-other-affiliates-I-probably-ripped-off-and-anyway-I-once-helped-some-people-who-got-stuck-and-hey-listen-to-my-podcast-while-I’m-in-prison! letter. In fact, if you’re only a Skeptoid fan, you may not really know anything about what’s going on, especially since he or someone in his organization has set up the Twitter feed to neverever let on that anyone’s talking about him being a big fat fucking fraudster: Continue reading “Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*”

Skeptoid’s Dunning: The Story of a Man Who Hoodwinks Unskeptical Skeptics*

Interlude with Cat Eating Bacon Jerky

You knew bacon jerky was inevitable, right? Here is Misha enjoying some with me while we read our newest creationist textbook.

Image shows Misha sniffing a bit of bacon jerky I'm holding out for her.
Misha getting her jerky on. It’s BACON!

Turns out she adores the stuff, so I’ll have to get more. Look, 20 year-old kittehs get what they want. Well, aside from my attention when I’m sleeping, no matter how loud she yowls directly in my ear. Damn cat. I think it’s because I haven’t been filling her porch kibble bowl due to rainy weather. She thinks food on the porch is far tastier than food inside. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for it.

In case you’re dying of anticipation: yes, A Beka’s newest earth “science” text is as whacked as SPC. Only difference is that it’s got more room to expand on ridiculous ideas, and they’ve corrected a few of the glaringly-wrong facts that made SPC’s geology chapter snigger-worthy. You’ll see what I mean shortly.

Now off to continue grinding through ES4. And possibly feed the cat moar bacon.

Interlude with Cat Eating Bacon Jerky

White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after a day spent reading about 18 year-old unarmed black kid Mike Brown’s murder by a white cop with a god complex. It’s 2014, and we’re still a society in which black parents have to explain to their kids how not to get killed by the police, and a society in which a black man can get executed for selling untaxed cigarettes, a black woman for opening her door to police, a young black man for lying face-down as the police compelled him to., and a black man can’t be assaulted by a white one without getting pepper-sprayed and detained. Meanwhile, white people can carry assault rifles wherever they wish, and even brandish them at police without getting shot instantly, but a black man can’t carry a BB gun in Wal-Mart without getting executed by police. An unarmed black teenager gets murdered by a policeman, and a white pundit wants to know why President Obama won’t offer the murderer condolences for having given in to the impulse to destroy an innocent human being.

Are we happy, white Americans? This is the country we’ve made. Remember all that tough-on-crime talk that’s kept us electing people who’ve promised more cops with more powerful weaponry? Remember how we all panicked after 9/11 and decided it was okay if our police were turned into paramilitary units? And how we’ve put all this heavy weaponry in the hands of white people who disproportionately target black people?

I want you to look at what’s happening in Ferguson, to the people who are peacefully protesting a black teenager’s murder.

An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT
An unarmed black protestor retreats from police, who have enough firepower to reduce him to random chunks of meat. Image credit: Whitney Curtis, NYT

Continue reading “White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black”

White America Has Outlawed Existing-While-Black

Cryptopod: Home Sweet Hornet-Made Home

I went for butterflies, and came back with some sort of hornet, probably. Or mebbe a beehive. Dunno. All I know is, it was a big blob in the tree branches that got my attention.

Image shows a tree-top with a blob of something hanging in the branches.
Cryptopod I

Up til then, I hadn’t had much luck. I’d come over to the Seattle Times building because it’s close, and there’s a park, and I’ve had good luck seeing butterflies there in the past. I yearned for butterflies. There haven’t been that many in the places I’ve been this summer. Nor dragonflies, although the backyard is full of them. They don’t land on my porch railings often. When they do, it’s always when I don’t have a suitable camera handy. So I popped down to the park when I needed walkies, and had a lovely encounter with a fluttery white butterfly that zipped back and forth past me for a while, but didn’t ever land. No photographs, but plenty of happy.

On the way back, I noticed a great blob hanging in the branches of one of the trees, and decided to investigate. Continue reading “Cryptopod: Home Sweet Hornet-Made Home”

Cryptopod: Home Sweet Hornet-Made Home

ParĂ­cutin: “Save Me From the Dangers in Which I am About to Die”

Dionisio Pulido suddenly found himself having a very bad day.

A few moments before, he had been living an ordinary life, clearing brush from his land while his helper plowed and his wife and son watched the sheep graze. Aside from the earthquakes that had driven the presidente of San Juan Parangaricutiro to send a delegation to a larger town in search of answers, and the fact that a pit on his land had just split open, life was fine.

Now, he was feeling thunder. That’s the word he used, “felt.” We usually think of thunder as a thing you hear: when you feel it, when it’s that loud and insistent, the sensation travels right through you, setting your organs dancing and your teeth on edge. We can extrapolate from what Sr. Pulido said that his teeth and organs were very likely the same. The trees seemed to feel it, too: he and his wife saw them trembling and swaying. Continue reading “Parícutin: “Save Me From the Dangers in Which I am About to Die””

ParĂ­cutin: “Save Me From the Dangers in Which I am About to Die”

Fundamentals of Fungi: Blue-Gray Beauties

Remember way back to those first heady days of freedom after giving ye olde daye jobe the old heave-ho, when B and I celebrated by taking a last-minute trip down the Washington-Oregon coast? Good times, good times! Especially when I stumbled across this beauty at Cape Disappointment which is sure to delight all lovers of fine fungi – and may inspire the next blockbuster horror movie flick. Continue reading “Fundamentals of Fungi: Blue-Gray Beauties”

Fundamentals of Fungi: Blue-Gray Beauties