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Archive for the ‘Basic Science’ Category

An Abbott and Costello routine meets…science, I guess.

August 26, 2011 2 comments

Gotta love Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal!


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Sagan’s “Cosmos” Getting a Sequel…on FOX?!?

August 11, 2011 Leave a comment

In some very interesting news, the classic PBS documentary ‘Cosmos‘ starring Carl Sagan will be getting a sequel in 2013.

It will star Neil deGrasse Tyson, whom you may recognize from the PBS show NOVA scienceNOW!

File:Neil deGrasse Tyson - NAC Nov 2005.jpg

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo: NASA/JPL

The new Cosmos show will be produced by ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth McFarlane, who is well known to be frustrated with the scientific literacy of the United States, or lack thereof.

What is especially interesting about this is that the special will be aired on FOX, which has never been known to support scientific literacy of its audience. Fox News in particular comes to mind…

Anyway I hope this actually goes through and we get to see it. It probably won’t top the old-school charm of the original ‘Cosmos’, but should be great nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

Why You Should Always READ Papers You Cite…

July 21, 2011 1 comment

Also, why anti-gay activists need to do a little more reading.

Al Franken is awesome.

 

Creationism is Stupid

July 11, 2011 2 comments

And it’s being taught in schools. I know its an issue that has been around for awhile (and isn’t going away), but I think it’s good to remind people this is happening.

"Doonesbury" by Garry Trudeau

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 8, 2011 1 comment

This from Fake Science.

What Do the Party Platforms Say About Science and Research?

April 19, 2011 4 comments

As with every Canadian election, the primary issues are healthcare, the deficit, and the “scandal” de jour (Conservatives being in contempt of Parliament is this year’s scandal).

But what about science and research? This is an issue which gets lost in the fray of other issues, but is vital to Canadians maintaining a strong image around the world, as well as strengthening the economy.

So I went through all the party platforms in an effort to summarize their views on science, technology, and research. As a first step, I counted the number of times each of the words “science”, “technology”, and “research” each appear in the party platforms.

The results certainly jump out at you. The Green Party seems to be most interested in funding research and technology. This mainly stems from their wish to increase funding to “green” technologies, in an effort to save the environment.

The Conservatives and Liberals are pretty similar. In the Conservative Party platform, their promises regarding scientific endeavours are:

  • Establish 10 additional Canada Excellence Research Chairs;
  • Support the outstanding work of the Institut national d’Optique in the fields of optics and photonics;
  • Invest in strengthening the Perimeter Institute’s position as a world-leading research centre for theoretical physics; and
  • leverage funding to support Brain Canada’s efforts to support new diagnostics, treatments, and cures for brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s Disease.

In addition to these measures, the Conservatives discuss their “Digital Economy Strategy”, which includes (I’m summarizing here)

  • Extend broadband coverage to 200,000 additional rural homes
  • Increase competition in the wireless market
  • Support projects between colleges and small businesses to accelerate the adoption of new technologies
  • Promote enrollment in science, technology, engineering and math post-secondary programs

These points sound very well and good, but are very vague and I wonder how they would actually get implemented.

The Conservative Platform also states the Liberals and NDP “opposed” these measures when they forced this election. However I believe this is misleading, because rejecting a budget does not mean they reject every expenditure in the budget.

So what about the Liberals? What are they up to? Here are a few key points pulled from the Liberal Party platform:

–  A Liberal government will work with provinces, territories and the research community to bolster innovation in the health and bioscience field, improve the health of      Canadians, and help bring Canadian products to global markets.

– A Liberal government will make digital technologies one of its Canadian Champion Sectors, boosting incentives for investment in innovators seeking to conquer world markets.

– A new Innovation and Productivity Tax Credit (IPTC) that will grant Canadian investors a 15 percent tax credit for investments in small, early-stage start-ups that don’t yet have the track record to seek financing from more traditional sources such as banks and the stock market.

– An extension of the popular “Flow-Through Shares” tax model to start-ups in the three Canadian Champion Sectors. This tax incentive would allow venture companies with little or no revenue to pass on tax deductions to investors, creating a significant incentive to invest in Canadian entrepreneurs from promising sectors where Canada can become a world leader.

– A Liberal government will launch a new Innovation Gateway providing a “single window” approach that consolidates government support for innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging fields as well as long-standing areas of strength like aerospace, manufacturing and natural resources.

The Liberals also take advantage of the Conservative government’s poor record of investing in “green” technologies and taking action on climate change, which he once called a “socialist scheme”.

The Liberals discuss investing in cleaner technologies for processing the oil sands and reducing carbon emissions, though details on their plans are sketchy. Indeed, they state that investment in these fields will occur “as the economy improves”, which certainly allows plenty of room for interpretation on timelines for implementing these strategies.

Let’s take on the NDP next. As you can see from the above graph, the NDP does not talk about science to the extent of the Liberals and Conservatives. Part of this has to do with the fact that the NDP’s platform is quite a bit shorter than the other parties, but it also deals with the fact that the NDP’s primary concern is healthcare, job creation in all sectors, and social programs.

When they do discuss scientific issues, it deals with climate change and renewable energy. Some points from their platform (again, I’m summarizing):

  • Reduce green-house gas emissions to 80 percent below that of 1990 by 2050.
  • Introduce a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system
  • Cut subsidies to non-renewable energy
  • Federal financial incentives for “clean” energy, such as solar, wind, tidal and biomass
  • Support for research of “made in Canada” green technologies
  • Establish “Green Bonds” so Canadians can invest in green technologies and energy

The NDP chooses to spend their money directly helping Canadians. Which is all well and good, but I feel they don’t do enough to help bolster the economy, which is increasingly dominated by the technology industry.

Ok, now as for the Bloc. Well they hardly mention science at all, and I feel this political cartoon summarized not only their debate strategy, but their platform too, so let’s not waste any time on them.

Cartoon by Brian Gable - The Globe and Mail

Ok, so now we come to the dear Green Party. As I mentioned earlier, their platform discusses science and research more than any other party.

Of course to be fair, the Greens have exactly zero chance of winning this election (and a very slim chance of even winning a seat), so they are free to talk about how much money they want to throw at “green” technology research, without worrying about where this money is actually going to come from.

[Aside: I’ve been writing this post over about a week. It would appear that the Green Party platform I used to generate the graph at the top of the page is no longer the “official” platform. The document is now called their Vision Green and they describe it as “a comprehensive statement of our policies and programmes”. I’m not sure why they aren’t using it as their official platform anymore, but I just wanted to make that clear so you guys don’t think I’m making stuff up.]

So when the Greens talk about science and technology is pretty much always has to do with the environment and climate change. Some of the major points include:

  • Retrofitting Canada’s buildings to a high level of energy efficiency by 2025
  • Upgrade all low-income housing by 2025
  • Provide grants to cover 50% of the cost of solar-powered roofs
  • Rapid deployment of wind turbines to generate 17 GW of power (enough to power ~14 DeLorean time machines, FYI)
  • All bikes and bicycle gear will be tax-deductible and GST free
  • Massively increase funding to public transportation systems
  • 85% reduction in vehicle emissions by 2040
  • By 2017, no landfill will be able to operate without methane capture

And the list goes on. And on, and on…

All these changes will require a huge investment in researching of new technologies, assuming they ever got put in place.

These policies are well-meaning, and many of them have been implemented in other countries. But to try and get them to work in Canada, and so many of them at once, seems unfeasible.

In addition “science”, “research” and “technology”, I also made a chart searching all the party platforms for the word “homeopath”,

Indeed, as Skeptic North pointed out, the Green party would put a greater emphasis on homeopathy and other alternative medicine in our health care plans.

It makes me wonder how a party that talks a big game about using science and research to better our planet, can so greatly miss the mark on science and research in healthcare. Something to consider.

Be sure to vote on May 2. Check Elections Canada for all pertinent information.

Can Statistics Predict the Body Count in Scream 4?

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m usually not a big fan of slasher movies, but Scream was an exception. It has a self mocking, ‘we know it’s kinda stupid but it’s entertaining so shut-up!’ attitude which I found very refreshing.

The sequels weren’t as good as the original, but they were ok. And with Scream 4 being released on April 15, the question is: What will the body count be?

Well, you have to follow the rules of the sequel, of course.

There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger.

Forrest Wickman and others on Brow Beat went through the data and created a chart detailing the body count as a function of franchise installment number for many popular horror franchises. They were looking to see if the body count “rule” was actually followed. These are the results:

As you can see, in general the body counts do go up with sequel number.

They also came up with an empirical formula for predicting the number of kills in each installment. This takes into account certain factors such as the ‘zombie factor’ and the number of colons in the title of the movie.

Using this formula, they predicted the body count in Scream 4 would be 11.

One can only hope that David Arquette will be one of those 11.

Hurray for using statistics for something useful!

 Update (April 15, 2011) *SPOILER*

Turns out, the actual body count is 15. Meh, not bad.