Archive for: September, 2008

ScienceBlogs Book Club meets October 1-10.

Sep 30 2008 Published by under Book Club

The ScienceBlogs Book Club is back! The online fans of dead-tree books will be springing back into action tomorrow to discuss Autism's False Prophets by Paul Offit. It's worth noting that Dr. Offit himself will be participating in the discussion, so you won't want to miss it.
I'm planning in joining the discussion, but first I will try to post a brief review of the book here. Stay tuned.

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Periodic table of wow!

I suspect I'm late to the party on this one, but I just had occasion to check out The Periodic Table of Videos produced at the University of Nottingham. It's a collection of 118 short videos (ranging in length from approximately one to ten minutes each), one for each of the elements currently in the Periodic Table of the Elements.

I did not watch all 118 of them, but the ones that I did watch covered, among other things:

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Comments on the San Francisco millionth comment party.

As promised, we had a party on Friday night.

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Some highlights:

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Freelance chemistry for fun and (illegal) profit.

You know how graduate students are always complaining that their stipends are small compared to the cost of living? It seems that some graduate students find ways to supplement that income ... ways that aren't always legal. For example, from this article in the September 8, 2008 issue of Chemical & Engineering News [1]:

Jason D. West, a third-year chemistry graduate student at the University of California, Merced, was arraigned last month on charges of conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine, manufacturing methamphetamine, and possessing stolen property. West allegedly stole approximately $10,000 worth of equipment and chemicals from the university to make the illegal drug.
West, 36, pleaded not guilty to the charges and as of press time was in jail on $1 million bail. Police have found materials traced to West at three different meth labs and in one vehicle, says Tom MacKenzie of the Merced County Sheriff's Department.

The police ended up arresting West following an investigation by UC-Merced campus police of the whereabouts of a vacuum pump that went missing from West's graduate lab. Graduate students take note: your advisor will miss that expensive piece of lab equipment.

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Against over-specialization.

In the 12 September, 2008 issue of Science, there is a brief article titled "Do We Need 'Synthetic Bioethics'?" [1]. The authors, Hastings Center ethicists Erik Parens, Josephine Johnston, and Jacob Moses, answer: no.

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After school experiment: make your own indicator.

Yesterday, we had an urge to do some experimentation and I had a red cabbage that had overstayed its welcome in the refrigerator crisper drawer.

So of course, we made cabbage-water indicator.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: more science fair brainstorming.

Sep 26 2008 Published by under Kids and science

We continue discussions with the elder Free-Ride offspring about potential projects for the spring science fair.
Elder offspring: Maybe I could do an experiment with Mentos and soda.
Dr. Free-Ride: You mean that one where you use Mentos to create a fountain of soda?
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: That's not an experiment. It's a cliché.
Dr. Free-Ride: Like sticking battery-leads into a dill pickle.
Dr. Free-Ride's better half: But less illuminating.

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Argumentation: FAIL.

One of the big things philosopher-types like to do with their students is work on extracting arguments from a piece of text and reconstructing them. This can be useful in locating sources of disagreement, whether they be specific premises or inferences.
But some chunks of text that seem like they ought to have arguments that can be extracted and reconstructed end up being ... opaque.
For example, this question and answer between Katie Couric and Sarah Palin (transcript by way of Shakesville):

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San Francisco millionth comment party this Friday night!

Just a quick reminder that the San Francisco party to celebrate one million comments on ScienceBlogs is tomorrow, Friday, September 26, starting at 9:00 PM at Tonic, 2360 Polk Street (at the corner of Union). I'll be there, as will the brothers Bleiman, Craig McClain, Josh Rosenau, and Razib. If you show up, you'll be there, too!
Also, don't forget that until the end of September you can still enter the drawing for a fabulous trip to New York City, including a dinner with your favorite ScienceBlogger.

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Gimme the money -- hold the oversight.

From time to time on this blog, we discuss the obligation scientists assume by virtue of accepting public money to fund their research. These obligations may include sharing knowledge with the public (since public money helped make that knowledge). And they also include playing by the public's rules as enshrined in various federal regulations concerning scientific research.
If a scientist takes public money, she expects there will be some public oversight. That's just how it goes.
Of course, working from this mindset makes it much harder for me to fathom how someone (say a Secretary of the Treasury) could ask for a big chunk of public money (say $700 billion) with no oversight whatsoever. Indeed, in trying to make sense of such a request, I find myself entertaining some pretty odd hypotheses:

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