The Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate

If you are in Kentucky and have an extra 30 bucks lying around (mainly because you wouldn’t want to donate that money to scientific cancer research or anything like that) then you can go visit the Creation Museum!

Quit frankly it seems like a really fun place, especially for kids. If it wasn’t pushed as the ultimate truth, and it were left as a fun children’s playground, I might not be so opposed. The issue is that the founders of the Creation Museum seem to think that scientific theories are just something that you sit around and make up based on what you believe. There seems to be a huge disconnect between understanding the scientific process and how it leads to scientific theory. The museum doesn’t end at creationism. You can also catch shows at the planetarium such as “The Christmas Star,” where you can learn about “possible” explanations for the “star” that led the wise men to Christ.

This brings us to the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the head of the creation museum. Bill Nye has been a fierce advocate for science, and Ken Ham has been a strong preacher of creationism. Before the debate, there was a fair amount of criticism regarding Bill Nye actually debating a creationist. I am personally am all for it. You absolutely need to talk with people who have opposing views to share your ideas, and not turn your nose up at them.

For an overview of the debate, you can click here. I’m posting  the full debate below:

“So it sounds to me, just listening to you over the last two minutes, that there are certain parts of this document, the bible, that you embrace literally, and other parts that you consider poetry. So it sounds to me in those last two minutes like you’re going to take what you like, interpret literally, and other passages you’re going to interpret as poetic descriptions of human events.”

-Bill Nye

HAHA LOL—It is cold so global warming doesn’t exist!

If you are living in the United States right now, chances are you have noticed that it is a bit chillier than usual. Maybe you even have some lovely snow on the ground to add to this blissful chill.

This cold weather has been quite popular on the radio, especially since the news casters get to use the words “polar vortex.” It has the word polar in it so it sounds really cold. Sometimes it is referred to as “this phenomenon called a polar vortex,” and sometimes it is “a polar vortex is bringing cold air down south.” What you really should know though, is that the polar vortex is the winter time jet stream.

Ultimately though, my favorite part about these little cold snaps is the responses that people have to them. There always has to be that person that comes along with a jolly laugh and says, “Where’s that global warming now?” Some of the arguments by pundits are fascinating (in a terrifying way) but when you start to read the Q and A on popular news sites like CNN, you can actually start to understand how easy it can be to take advantage of those who grew up with an American science education. Questions like this were actually used on the CNN website:

How dangerous is a polar vortex distortion as compared to a tornado or hurricane?

Sigh, and this is what happens when people on the news talk to viewers like they are 5 year olds.

What should they be telling us? Well, they could at least take a stab at explaining it more scientifically.

Climate change and colder weather

Why would a changing climate cause colder winters?

Well, this fascinating thing called the polar vortex (or winter jet stream) generally moves wind zonally around the world (which means in the west to east direction). At certain points this vortex weakens and can become more disrupted by large scale waves, or even break apart entirely, which is what happens in a sudden stratospheric warming event. During these breakdown events, cold air is displaced to lower latitudes.

Events where the vortex splits or breaks down for a few days are normal and have been recorded throughout history. The issue is that these events are becoming stronger and more common. There is a reason for this.

As described in this article (that includes a great video link and a plot), the zonal winds associated with the jet stream have decreased in more recent years, and this correlates with decreases in arctic sea ice.

So, when the jet stream is weakened, more breakdown events will occur. This means more cold snaps. We see this happening right now.

Female Vloggers and Sexism

Emily Graslie, host of “The Brain Scoop,” talks about some of the sexist mail she receives. I thought this video was really well done, especially since she discusses some more personal notes about how sexist comments aimed specifically at women drive women away from making video blogs.

Here are some candid quotes from her video, but the whole video is excellent.

“While there are at least 13 STEM channels hosted by men with more than 400,000 subscribers, and 7 of those 13 which have topped 1 million, there are only 4 channels hosted by women that have more than 160,000. None of us have more than 1 million.”

“What is preventing women from reaching the same number of people? I feel like in general women don’t have enough time to do these things because of the pressure that every episode has to be flawless in execution. This could be a deterrent for both men and women, but I feel like women are going to give up more easily because of comments like this, ‘I’d still totally do her.’”

“We have a fear of the feedback from our subscribers and commenters because we’re afraid that our audience is more focused on our appearance than the quality of our content.”

“There’s a fear of the awkwardness that comes with being onscreen with anybody else because some assume that there must be some sort of personal relationship happening which makes work with that person later on awkward…That brings on self criticism like I’m not funny or intelligent or engaging enough on my own.”

“There’s a pressure to be the whole package. Not only do you have to be intelligent and articulate, but you also have to be attractive.”

The NASA MAVEN mission to study Mars

A NASA image of Mars from the Hubble Space Telescope

The NASA mission to mars, MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile     EvolutionN), will be launching in a little over a week on November 18. This very exciting mission is going to investigate what happened to Mars’s atmosphere. It is thought that at one time the atmosphere was dense enough to support water on the surface of Mars. The mission will give clues about whether Mars could have supported life at one time. MAVEN will take 10 months to reach the planet of Mars.

You can keep tabs on the mission here.

 

A Roundup of the Government Shutdown

Congress voted to repeal the affordable care act dozens of times. Yet, with 15.4 percent of Americans uninsured, there needs to be a discussion around health insurance.

However, instead of a discussion about health care, the government was shut down. A 72% majority of Americans disapprove of the government shutdown.

Here are just a few of the impacted agencies that have been impacted by the government shutdown.

The redirect for the Women Infants Children Program (WIC) website

The redirect for the Women Infants Children Program (WIC) website

NASA

The redirect for the NASA website

A message from Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency. The shutdown of US government is having impacts in countries outside of the US.

A message from Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency. The shutdown of US government is having impacts in countries outside of the US.

A message from NOAA

A message from NOAA

The National Parks are closed.

The National Parks are closed.

The National Institute of Standards (that place that oversees the atomic clock as well as other cool research) is closed.

The National Institute of Standards (that place that oversees the atomic clock as well as other cool research) is closed.

The department of education is also shut down.

The department of education is also shut down.

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Health and Human Services

Department of Veterans Affairs: "The President, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the administration strongly believe that a lapse in appropriations should not have occurred on October 1, 2013"

Department of Veterans Affairs: “The President, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the administration strongly believe that a lapse in appropriations should not have occurred on October 1, 2013″

Department of Transportation

Department of Transportation

National Institutes of Health: "Research into life-threatening diseases and other areas will stop, and new patients won't be accepted into clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health."

National Institutes of Health: “Research into life-threatening diseases and other areas will stop, and new patients won’t be accepted into clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.”

Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental Protection Agency

Small Business Innovation Research website

Small Business Innovation Research website

Department of Energy

Department of Energy

National Science Foundation

National Science Foundation

Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Jet Propulsion Laboratories

Meanwhile, Colorado has to pay the National Guard using state funds so that 200 miles of state highways can begin to be repaired, and some members of congress are still accepting salaries during the government shutdown.

The dangers of acetaminophen

Recently, This American Life did an episode on how easy it is to overdose on acetaminophen (also called paracetamol in countries outside of the US). You can listen to the entire episode in the link below:

505: Use Only as Directed

What I find interesting is why this drug is so dangerous.

In the liver, there are a group of enzymes that oxidize many of the drugs and organic substances that enter your body. In fact, there are genes for 57 various types of these enzymes. These are called Cytochrome P450s.

Whenever you see warning labels like “don’t eat grapefruit with this drug,” it is usually because of the way the liver cytochromes are processing these compounds.

So, what happens when you take acetaminophen? Most of it is processed to a non-harmful compound. However, 5% of this drug is processed by a liver cytochrome known as CYP2E1. This 5% becomes a toxic compound (NAPQI). Generally, the liver can take care of this substance through a reaction with a compound known as glutathione. However, in cases of overdose, there is not enough glutathione to convert the bad NAPQI, and it hangs out in the liver and reacts with cellular membranes. Essentially, your liver cells are slowly killed.

The marsupial frog

Apparently, even frogs can be marsupials. How cool is that?