Science Saturday: Building a jellyfish

In this case, the jellyfish was not built from scratch. They took the cells from a rat heart and equipped a silicone shell with them, set up in a protein structure in the manner of a jellyfish. This construct actually swims!

Artificial jellyfish built from rat cells

As the samurai said of the fly, “ah, but it cannot reproduce” — still, it is a useful platform upon which to test heart drugs.

The researcher describes his work as “engineering,” contrasting it with most tissue work which he describes as “arts and crafts.”

In the Nature article, they describe their ambition to go after octopuses in the future. I confess that I am less excited about that; I’ve got rather an affinity for that odd, intelligent creature.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Bachmann: “Turn Her Over” drives media frenzy

It seems that Michelle Bachmann has elicited the disapproval of many in Washington, including a number of Republicans, when she asked questions about the Muslim Brotherhood. I wasn’t tracking on this; my recent post on the MB was because of what happened to a former neighbor of mine (he became the new jihadist president of Egypt). In case you’re wondering what a Muslim Brotherhood jihadist was doing in Southern California: he was teaching college. Yes, it’s true that he was only teaching engineering, but Usama bin Ladin was studying architecture when a Muslim Brotherhood professor convinced him to join the jihad. Continue reading

Candid Camera in Egypt

Being an actor in Egypt’s version of Candid Camera is a dangerous business, apparently. Here, the “joke” is for various Egyptian celebrities (apparently actors, actresses and comedians) to suddenly think that they are on an Israeli TV channel.  The woman interviewee’s reaction is to stop the process and apparently storm out; the mens’ reaction is to physically attack the crew.  One had his hand on his gun, but was told that it was a prank before he drew and fired.

Two particularly disturbing moments: First, the man who had slapped the female interviewer, slamming her into a wall and rampaging across the set, throwing and kicking furniture. After learning that they are really Egyptian, not Israeli, he suggests that the woman brought it on herself, and that she should come out to his car so that he can “put lotion on” her back. She declines, still holding her face.

Second disturbing moment: In the last seconds of this video, the interviewer has recovered enough from the last guest (who assaulted one of her crew, dragging him around by his head and hair) describes this as “Egyptian patriotism” and notes that every Egyptian is like this. She says it proudly.

Here’s a YouTube video: Continue reading

Special Interest

One politician wrote rather candidly of the influence of big money on his campaign:

… I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met … And perhaps as the next race approaches, a voice within tells you that you don’t want to have to go through the misery of raising all that money in small increments again. You realize that you no longer have the cachet you did as the upstart, the fresh face; you haven’t changed Washington, and you’ve made a lot of people unhappy with difficult votes. The path of least resistance—of fund-raisers organized by the special interests, the corporate PACs, and the top lobbying shops—starts to look awfully tempting, and if the opinions of these insiders don’t quite jibe with those you once held, you learn to rationalize the changes as a matter of realism, of compromise, of learning the ropes. The problems of ordinary people, the voices of the Rust Belt town or the dwindling heartland, become a distant echo rather than a palpable reality, abstractions to be managed rather than battles to be fought. Continue reading

Skeptic Failure

I became a member of CSICOP (the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) decades ago.  My Lady and I were there when they held a big fundraising event in the 1990s, featuring legendary comedian Steve Allen and some other guy named Jerry Seinfeld whom I was less impressed by.  Mr. Allen performed a skit using my Lady as the foil, which we both enjoyed tremendously. But in recent years, the organization and its many affiliates have disappointed me.

Readers here know that I have written in favor of science for a long time indeed; on LiveJournal for more than a decade, and in other venues for multiples of that time.  And their magazines (Skeptical Inquirer directly from CSICOP and Skeptic Magazine from the overlapping Skeptics Society) have often disappointed me in their credulous acceptance of global warming catastrophism, while at the same time deriding such a blind swallowing of poor science.  Another affiliated group that champions the teaching of evolution in schools has now adopted global warming as something else worth defending at all costs, even to lying about it.  (CSICOP has carried fawning articles on both Hansen and Schnieder, two catastrophist scientists who have openly advocated lies and exaggerations for the cause.)

The current issue of Skeptic is more of the same dishonesty, and the cover story is “How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused.”  Ironically, the author buys into the catastrophism notion that Global Warming is Real (it’s in his title!) and We Have to Do Something About It! in the same issue that debunks other forms of catastophism.  Not only is there no trace of skepticism — he derides skeptics as “deniers.”

To support his case, he resorts to outright falsehoods, the most obvious one (to non-scientists) being that Peter Gleick’s fabricated document is real. Gleick has already admitted, very publicly,  that it did NOT come from the Heartland Institute, but such details are evidently of no consequence to defenders.  The fraud, error, deceit, and incompetence that has been revealed in the small group of climate scientists at the core of global warming catastrophism don’t faze him.

The Heartland Institute has published a brief commentary, and Christopher Monckton’s response linked in it is worth reading.  As Monckton explains, it isn’t that skeptics “deny global warming” — it is that we note the lack of credible evidence that it amounts to a catastrophe.  In order to get to the much-vaunted “consensus,” catastrophists disingenuously count me as one of them.

  1. Is it warmer now than during the 1970s? Yes.  (But perhaps not warmer than in the years around 1940 — it isn’t in the US, and the records have been tinkered with to the same magnitude as the “catastrophic” warming.)
  2. Is CO2 capable of causing some atmospheric warming? Yes.  (But this is vastly overstated — with modeled positive feedbacks that evidence indicates are negative in reality.)
  3. Are humans contributing to the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere?  Yes.  (But to what extent is unclear, and the result of an increase of CO2 is likely to be a net gain, especially for crops.)

The “Yes” answers to these three questions make me a catastrophist, and variations of them appear on the surveys counting “consensus.” This is not honest. Nor is the Skeptic cover article.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The Obama Plot (viewed from the left)

This is an interesting phenomenon to me.  A young man (Ulugbek Kodirov) was arrested about a year ago for plotting to kill President Obama, and was just sentenced to 15+ years in prison.  He was a jihadist, involved with al Qaida and Muslim Brotherhood online sites, and had acquired a full-auto machine gun and four grenades (from undercover US agents) to kill the President. The jihadist aspects are clear enough in this Guardian article (though they never use that word).

The Huffington Post article is much more sympathetic — you have to work your way deeper into the article to pick up his beliefs and motivation.

An Uzbek man who came to America pursuing an Ivy League medical degree but wound up working seven days a week at a mall kiosk in Alabama…

Later, they describe this mall as “massive” as if that were somehow relevant, and that the fellow had “poor English skills” and quoted that “he’s a victim to a degree of social media.”  The tone is clear: America failed this man. The HuffPo article actually uses “jihadist” toward the end of the article (and follow the first mention of Islam by a statement that local Muslims helped the case). By this time in the article, you’re favorably inclined toward the poor fellow, who “is not some big, bad terrorist” (a quote in the piece). No, of course he’s not. Unless he had succeeded…

The Huffington Post commenters had to struggle with this — it’s a threat to Barack Obama, but implicating jihadists is uncomfortable.  As of this writing, 100% of the comments (that address this at all) blame Fox News (spelled several different “creative” ways), “conservative propaganda,” “baggers,” “Southerners,” and anyone they can other than jihadism. Multiple commenters cited the Obama administration’s rushed-out report showing that radical right-wing extremism. As they described this threat at the time: people interested in the Constitution and gun rights, returning military, et cetera) were a great danger to the country. Left wing terrorists, not so much — they were treated with sympathy, as I wrote about here.

So the commenters this morning stated that “Southerners” are far more dangerous than “jihadists” and suggested that this fellow’s case is a reason that Fox News should be forced off the air.  Was Kodirov a Fox News watcher? It seems unlikely, and the articles make clear that his radicalization came from jihadist web sites.  That seems to matter not at all to the three pages of commenters I just read.

Somehow, they’ve blamed Sarah Palin for a left-wing illegal immigrant jihadist attempting to kill an American president.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The July 9 DNS Changer attack

Many news outlets have been talking about a virus and July 9. This connection is a bit peculiar: The virus doesn’t take effect then, but a government “patch” that has been supplying service will be removed that day (tomorrow). This is a bit complicated, but you can check quickly to see if you have a problem by clicking here:

As it says on the page, if it shows a green background, you’re good.

The original malware rerouted domain lookups so that you thought you were looking up but the request was intercepted and replaced with information under the control of bad guys.  (In many cases, some popular sites are “faked” so that it wasn’t obvious at first that you’d been hijacked.)

The malware does more than that, though, so if you DO have a problem, I’d suggest starting with and using their free tool.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

The Confederate Flag: Patriotic

Half a century ago, the Confederate flag was considered to be simply one of the patriotic symbols of America. This was especially true in the South — remember the “General Lee” car from the Dukes of Hazzard?

Unquestionably this flag was (one of several) used for the Confederate States during the Civil War (a topic I’ve written about before, especially here in connection with the Second Amendment). But it was also, in a sense, the symbol of the Democratic Party. Continue reading

World War II Preparations

My most recent career is interesting. I have a security pass and clearance and have made several recent trips to the famous “Skunk Works” facility featured in Scott Kellogg’s “21st Century Fox” comic strip. I’ve also had occasion to visit a number of aerospace facilities near my home in Southern California, from the Hughes satellite assembly facility to the Deep Space Network dishes in the California desert. (Climbing around those was enjoyable.)

But these are big facilities, and thus big potential targets in wartime. My office for many years was located on an airport that used to be a military airbase — and in fact my building before we reconstructed it had been an Army mess hall built in 1939. There was (and still is) another military base not far away, which had huge storage of bombs and other military ordinance. A fat target indeed, and being on the Pacific coast quite reachable. Someone got the bright idea to use our airbase as a decoy — so they build rows and rows of fake bomb storage bunkers. They were empty, and not even built to full scale (not obvious from the air) — and they are still there, nearly seventy years later.

But what did they do with the real facility they were trying to protect? Here’s a good set of pictures to give you an idea, including this one:

The image above is on top of a weapons manufacturing facility, the Lockheed plant in Burbank. It has fake grass, hills and trees, a fake residential area, and is all constructed on a giant cloth net covering over the entire facility.

More pictures are visible here.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle