Archive for the 'science' Category

the space shuttle program and the ISS

As I write this, Space Shuttle Atlantis sits on its launch pad awaiting its takeoff. Its mission will be the last of the 135 in the program’s history. The United States has spent billions and billions of dollars on the Space Shuttle, and what do we have to show for it? Not much. Along with its fellow boondoggle, the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle program has been a colossal waste of money.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I want my spaceflight tax dollars going toward kick-ass stuff, the sort of stuff that would make a seven-year-old boy’s jaw drop. Going to the moon? That was cool. Going to Mars? That would be even better. A giant telescope that gives us amazing pictures of deep space? Pretty damn impressive. But most of the Space Shuttle’s and ISS’s science experiments did little to live up to the gigantic price tag of each mission. Head over to NASA’s website and take a look for yourself. There’s some great stuff there. One of the first ones I saw listed was about “Skeletal Development in Embryonic Quail.” Okay, I understand that people’s bones weaken in space and that animal studies about bones in microgravity could be useful, but do we really need to spend the money to send quail eggs into space? Continue reading ‘the space shuttle program and the ISS’

the anti-vaccine movement

Most of y’all probably got a bunch of shots as little kids. And let’s face it, nobody likes shots. They hurt. But I’m awful glad that I never got polio or measles or smallpox. And if the chicken pox vaccine had been widespread when I was a kid, it would’ve been awful nice to miss out on that terrible week in fifth grade where I was itchy as hell and miserable.

So while vaccination has had hugely beneficial effects for society, in recent years a number of ill-informed, misguided fools have decided that vaccines are bad. For a while people were pissed off about thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound used in some vaccines. They suggested that thimerosal caused autism. So the CDC asked vaccine makers to get rid of it, and they did, even though no studies ever showed a link between thimerosal and autism. In fact, one of the world’s leading experts on vaccines, Dr. Paul Offit, even suggested that this policy shook parents’ (and even doctors’) “faith in the vaccine infrastructure.” He says that “about 10 percent of hospitals suspended use of the hepatitis B vaccine for all newborns,” leading to the death of a 3-month-old born to a woman infected with hepatitis B. Furthermore, the idea that thimerosal and mercury were linked led to many bogus claims of an autism cure through chelation. According to the article, about 10,000 autistic children a year receive this pointless treatment, and in one case, this led to the death of a 5-year-old. Continue reading ‘the anti-vaccine movement’

the intelligent design movement

You’ve probably heard about the so-called theory of intelligent design. Its advocates suggest that the world (or life, or intelligent life, or whatever) must be the work. Now, as far as the origin of the universe is concerned, it’s pretty hard to prove or disprove this; I actually agree with them, but that’s beside the point here. It’s a philosophical question, and in philosophy, most of the questions which were raised by Plato or Aristotle or any of those other dead Greeks still haven’t been answered with any greater confidence than they were more than two thousand years ago. If the intelligent design advocates limited themselves to philosophy, I really wouldn’t have any problem with them. What I have a problem with is what they have to say about the origin of living things, and of intelligent life. They dismiss all of the evidence in favor of evolution, put forth a few nonsensical theories, and then stir up all the controversy they can in an attempt to discredit evolution. What they are doing is taking a philosophical/religious concept and insisting that it is a scientific concept, when, in reality, it is about as far from science as possible, regardless of any validity it has in a philosophical context. Continue reading ‘the intelligent design movement’

people who aren't organ donors

I was watching Law & Order: SVU the other day and as you may or may not know, it’s quite possibly the preachiest show on TV. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I completely disagree. One episode I saw recently dealt with organ donation, and while the episode focused mostly on the black market for organs–raising some of the arguments in favor of allowing people to sell their kidneys–it also dealt with the severe shortage of organs which arises from the relatively low percentage of people who sign up to donate organs. Even though people are able to opt-in when they get their driver’s licenses, less than 40% of people do so.* This should be automatic. After all, hearts and kidneys and lungs don’t do you a bit of good when you’re six feet under. Yet millions of people, whether out of nonsensical superstition, misunderstanding of religious doctrine, or sheer stupidity, refuse to donate their organs. This pisses me off. Continue reading ‘people who aren't organ donors’