Skepticism, Medicine and Science News

2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition is an annual event hosted by the Natural History Museum in London and BBC Wildlife Magazine. The winners this year has just been announced, and they include some absolutely striking pictures. The overall winner was Steve Winter for his picture of a leopard in a snowstorm:

Other awards in separate categories were also announced, and some of my favorite images are:

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October 31, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Does Life Begin?

A recent international poll, arranged by Reproductive Biology Associates, showed that there are a lot of different opinions about when a human embryo is considered to be “alive”. The full results have not yet been published, but here is the information released so far.

International results:

  1. At detection of fetal heartbeat (23.5%)
  2. At fertilisation (22.7%)
  3. At implantation of the embryo in the womb (15%)



  1. At detection of fetal heartbeat (43%)
  2. At fertilisation (13%)



  1. At fertilisation (47%)
  2. At detection of fetal heartbeat (7%)


North America: 

  1. At fertilisation (27% )
  2. At detection of fetal heartbeat (24%)
  3. At implantation of the embryo in the womb (18%)


Result by group affiliation: % choosing “at fertilisation”:

  1. In vitro fertilisation patients (38%)
  2. Roman Catholics (31%)
  3. Jews (30%)
  4. Agnostics (29%)
  5. Muslims (27% )

October 30, 2008 Posted by | General Science, Medicine | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Golden Calf

Did you know that yesterday, October 29th, has been dubbed the “Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies” by some christian named Cindy Jacobs? And that she and a bunch of other Christians gathered at Wall Street to pray for an amelioration of the current financial crisis? Well, they did, and I guess there is nothing wrong with that, but there is just one peculiar aspect of this whole seance, and that is that they chose to gather in front of the Wall Street bull statue (read here for more information about bull/bear markets). Wonkette has a fantastic picture of this:

Now, is it just me, or does that remind you of a certain, quite famous, biblical story? Something about a golden calf and the 2nd commandment? And just for a comparison: 

Wow…I guess someone forgot to read up on their bible, something other blogs also have pointed out.

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Horizons in Science

Every year the New Horizons in Science meeting is held for science journalists. It is a 4-day event which includes lectures and field trips intended to provide an in-depth look at toady’s cutting edge research. It is sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, and the location this year is Palo Alto, California. 

Some of the topics this year has so far been research into subconscious biases and how they influence decision making, the usage of viral testing chips to quickly identify unknown viruses in patients and research into how the voice of your sat nav can influence your driving. Read more here.

Science journalism is, in my opinion, a sort of “lost art” in most popular media, and it would be great if the big news outlets would send some more representatives to these conferences. Maybe then the reporting of science news would not be as appalling as it has been lately.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | General Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Answers (or not)

Nothing really spectacular in the news right now, so I thought I’d give you all a treat in the form of some especially ludicrous quotes from the answers in genesis web site (and I swear, I’m not making this up): 

Time and time again I have found that in both Christian and secular worlds, those of us who are involved in the creation movement are characterized as ‘young Earthers.’[…] I want to make it VERY clear that we don’t want to be known primarily as ‘young-Earth creationists.’ AiG’s main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.

So….what are you saying exactly? 

If there were Vulcans or Klingons out there, how would they be saved? They are not blood relatives of Jesus, and so Christ’s shed blood cannot pay for their sin.

Aww, the poor Klingons, what did they ever do to hurt anybody?

Jesus is now and forever both God and man; but He is not an alien.

Sure glad that’s been resolved. 

In an evolving universe, life should have developed everywhere. Space should be filled with radio signals from intelligent life forms. Where is everybody?

Everybody is stuck on their individual planets because some of the aliens decided science was bad and that they all should worship the flying spaghetti monster instead, thus preventing the creation of radio wave-emitting devices. 


October 28, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Science Quickies 2

Study shows that ballet dancers are fitter than international swimmers. Well, it’s not exactly shocking, is it?

Scientists have created robotic “ants” that they believe can help colonise Mars sometime in the future.

And check out NewScientists cool space-themed Halloween gallery.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | General Science | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Epsilon Eridani

It’s the name of a nearby solar system that just might be habitable. It’s located about 10.5 light years from our sun, so even though we’re not going to get there anytime soon, that is still pretty close. SETI scientist Dana Backman said that the system kinda looked like our own solar system used to look like when life first originated on earth, so Epsilon Eridani might therefore show us whether the evolution of our solar system is what typically happens, or if it was a one in a billion shot…

Taken from this site…

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Astronomy | , , , | Leave a comment

You’ve Got Mail!

And an STD… It’s the latest craze, you can now notify people you have had sex with that you have an STD with just a couple of mouse clicks. From this site you can send out eCards (you know, e-mail cards) to all your friends informing them that they might want to go and get tested for STDs. Some of these cards are hilarious, and here are just a few examples:

I got screwed while screwing, you might have too.

Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason. I got diagnosed with STDs since we played. 

You’re too hot to be out of action. I got diagnosed with STDs since we played. 

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news…but I got diagnosed with STDs. (You might have one too)

Got laid. Was happy. Got tested. Wasn’t healthy. 

Wouldn’t you just love to get one of those in your inbox?

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Other | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Palin Flaunts Her Scientific Ignorance

I haven’t commented much on the ’08 election on this blog yet, because I would rather stick to the science and keep it non-political. However, Sarah Palin recently gave an interview where she said some things that were just so appalling it deserves some comment. 

So she basically talks about how she thinks scientific projects are expensive, and then she says this:

 You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

Oh. My. God. Did she just say that? How ignorant can a person get? And this person just happens to be running for VP! Yeah, scientists do a lot of research on fruit flies. Would she rather they did it on humans? Fruit flies, or more specifically Drosophila, have been extremely valuable for scientific progress. Where would genetic research been without it? Just as an example, a search for “Drosophila” on PubMed yielded an astounding 65480 articles…. Nothing to do with public good, she says? Is she for real? Seriously? How ignorant can you get?

October 26, 2008 Posted by | General Skepticism, Other | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coffee = Smaller Breasts?

A team of Swedish scientists lead by Helena Jernström at Lund University found that drinking 3+ cups of  coffee per day resulted in a reduction in breast size for women expressing the CYP1A2*1F genotype. It is believed that this genotype is present in about 50% of women, and in addition to reducing breast volume coffee also correlated with a lower risk of breast cancer. It is believed that it is caffeine’s impact on estrogen levels that causes these effects. The full paper can be found here.

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment