News-watch: yet another incident of mass violence in FL, USA — where is this nihilism coming from?

First, condolences and prayers for victims and families. Daily Mail has a useful header that seems to capture key themes to ponder as we head into the weekend: These was of course — within minutes — the usual talking point exchange on firearms, gun-free [= target-rich] zones, mental illness and effects of certain antidepressants, affiliations […]

Can Wikipedia be fixed? (And, should we care? [Is it time to walk away and lock it out like a virus?])

By 2012, the longstanding Encyclopedia Britannica had published its last print edition. Microsoft’s Encarta has long since bitten the dust, and so has Collier’s notable effort. Wikipedia, like it or lump it — mostly the latter — seems to have taken over that go-to first source slot. Indeed, for a great many subjects a Wikipedia […]

Giant virus shares genes (core histones) with complex life forms. But what exactly does that imply?

From ScienceDaily: “It’s exciting and significant to find a living family of giant viruses with eukaryote-specific genes in a form that predates the latest common ancestor of all eukaryotes,” says Albert Erives, associate professor in the Department of Biology. “These viruses are like time machines that tell us more about how life on our planet […]

At Nautilus: Scientists should not accept unreplicated results – yawn

From Ahmed Alkhateeb at Nautilus: Widespread irreproducibility is often misconceived as intentional fraud—which does occur, and is documented by websites like Retraction Watch. But the majority of irreproducible research stems from a complex matrix of statistical, technical, and psychological biases that are rampant within the scientific community. The institutionalization of science in the early decades […]

Researchers: Arginine may have been a secret ingredient in the recipe for life

That is, if RNA world is correct. From ScienceDaily: Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have now found evidence that the amino acid arginine (or its prebiotic world equivalent) may have been a more important ingredient in this soup than previously thought. “People tend to think of arginine as not being prebiotic,” said Irene Chen, a […]

From American Council for Science and Health: Journalists’ war on science

From Alex Berezow at ACSH, who treats the journalism war as one of three fronts: Of the three, this one may be the most insidious, since the war is conducted in high-profile media outlets by practitioners who don’t understand science or hide behind a false pretense of “transparency” and “balance.” Indeed, the journalistic war on science […]

Are some infinities bigger than others?

From theoretical physicist Paul Davies at Cosmos: It turns out that the set of all points on a continuous line is a bigger infinity than the natural numbers; mathematicians say there is an uncountably infinite number of points on the line (and in three-dimensional space). You simply can’t match up each point on the line […]

Were there humans in North America 100 kya? Or was the find just heavy construction equipment damage?

From Ewen Callaway at Nature: When researchers made the astonishing suggestion last year that early humans settled the Americas 100,000 years earlier than thought, they asked doubters to keep an open mind and consider the evidence backing their claim. But their study1, which proposed that mastodon bones from California were broken by an as-yet-unidentified group […]

At Chemistry world: Is Richard Dawkins’ selfish gene a dated idea?

From Philip Ball at Chemistry World: Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The selfish gene, which topped a poll last year for the most inspiring science books of all time, has set the agenda for how we think about genes and DNA. ‘We are,’ he famously said, ‘all survival machines for the same kind of replicator – […]

Math prof asks Rob Sheldon: But how do we know that it isn’t a conscious machine?

Math prof Peter Zoeller-Greer writes in response to “Rob Sheldon: Why human beings cannot design a conscious machine”: — I became a theist years ago because of my works in quantum physics (by the way: I did my Dissertation in Math on a quantum-mechanical problem). I came to a similar rejection myself when I read […]

Further to Wikipedia as “censor”: Wikipedia is merely responding to the implicit wishes of the people it misrepresents

Because those people agree to use it at all. Referencing Tyler O’Neil’s article above, At ENST, David Klinghoffer writes, All the same, Klinghoffer did not say Wikipedia was worthless. “You can rely on Wikipedia for things that nobody cares about. If you want to know the population of Peoria, you can absolutely trust Wikipedia, but […]

What about the elusive dream: metallic hydrogen?

With metal-like superionic water already on the table, why not look at the seemingly evasive metallic hydrogen? A year ago, there was a happy announcement (and an article in Science), but doubts have since been entertained; indeed Science issued a correction to the original paper. Science: >>Producing metallic hydrogen has been a great challenge in […]

Rob Sheldon: Why human beings cannot design a conscious machine

Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon offers some thoughts: — Some have suggested that we could replace the neurons in a human brain one at a time with, say, electronic circuits. Size shouldn’t be an issue, but even if it is, we can imagine thin silver wires connecting the electronics cabinet with the brain under […]

New book: Life is “a flowing stream” and “order does not entail design”

From Oxford University Press, Everything Flows: Towards a Processual Philosophy of Biology, edited by Daniel J. Nicholson and John Dupre, – A radical new conception of biology and the metaphysics of the living world – Offers a new kind of process philosophy with a naturalistic grounding – The Introduction provides a state-of-the-art survey to orient […]

Is Wikipedia actually a “censor”? Maybe something more ominous… Updated!

From Tyler O’Neil at PJ Media: Each February 12, the scientific community celebrates the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday as both Darwin Day and Academic Freedom Day. The Discovery Institute also celebrates by naming a “Censor of the Year,” and on Monday they announced that “award” goes to none other than “the free encyclopedia,” Wikipedia. […]

Bargaining With a Machine

In the film The Matrix, the character known as Cypher or “Mr. Reagan,” has grown weary of the endless war with the machines and his dreary living conditions.  In this scene we see Cypher contemplating a deal with Agent Smith.  In return for betraying his comrades, the Agents will return him to the Matrix as […]

Albert Einstein vs quantum mechanics and his own mind

From Philip Cunningham at YouTube: It all began in 1922, when Einstein and Bergson met in an unplanned but fateful debate. Einstein had been invited to give a presentation in Paris on his theory of relativity. Time was central to Einstein’s work. It was, however, also the central issue in Bergson’s philosophy. Their conflicting views […]

Why is it that there is discussion of superionic water as being both solid and liquid?

One of the things that struck me in looking at superionic water is how it is so often spoken of as though it were partly liquid and partly solid. I did a spot of reflection, which I am thinking it may help to headline. Where, some of the ideas being brought up will help us […]

Researchers: Standard explanation for how Earth’s core formed is not possible

From Brandon Spektor at LiveScience: Earth’s Inner Core Shouldn’t Technically Exist In the paper, the researchers argued that the standard model of how the Earth’s core formed is missing a crucial detail about how metals crystallize: a mandatory, massive drop in temperature that would be extremely difficult to achieve at core pressures. Weirder still, the […]

The cancer theory of the Cambrian explosion of life 541 million years ago

No really. From Evolution News: You thought you’d heard it all? All the desperate materialist theories seeking to explain the burst of biological novelty some 530 million years ago that Meyer writes about in Darwin’s Doubt? You were wrong. Along comes Lund University in Sweden with a “Novel hypothesis on why animals diversified on Earth.” […]

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