One Celled People

This has to be one of the best ever commentarys on those who oppose stem cell research:


WHAT'S NEW   Robert L. Park   Friday, 13 Apr 07   Washington, DC

The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act passed the Senate 63-34,
but President Bush promises a veto. He said the use of embryonic
stem cells in research "crosses a moral line." In case you're
wondering where this "moral line" is drawn, WN has looked into
it. George W. Bush and other conservative theologians believe a
"soul" is assigned to the fertilized egg at the instant of
conception. That makes it a person, even though it's not counted
in the census. In-vitro fertilization makes a lot more of these
one-celled people than it needs; leftovers are stacked in the
freezer until it starts filling up. President Bush cares deeply
about these helpless one-celled people and wants to ensure they
are properly flushed down the disposal rather than exploited by
godless scientists interested only the reduction of suffering.



AP Gets Pi Wrong

The Associated Press is running a story on Pi. Or rather, people who like Pi so much they get together to talk about it.

But in yet another example of poor understanding (or poor writing at least) about science in the mass media, AP reports that Pi is:

"made up of a chain that is known — so far — to be more than one trillion digits long"

Of course, it is known that Pi is an infinite number of digits long, of which more than one trillion are actually known. A minor difference, perhaps, but maths are funny that way: even small distinctions matter.


Total Lunar Eclipse Only "Expected"

In anticipation of the then-upcoming lunar eclipse on Saturday March 3, 2007 the AP released a story entitled "Total lunar eclipse expected on Saturday", which appeared in the USAToday and elsewhere. "Expected"? Excuse me, but that's just a bit lame. Rain may be expected, or not. Even taxes may be said to be expected. But lunar eclipses simply are. Characterizing one as merely "expected" requires us to toss out the very idea of "certainty". I can think of nothing more certain than a lunar eclipse.


NASA: One Step Closer to DoD

By signing the new National Space Policy, President Bush moves one step closer to placing NASA within the Department of Defense. Conceived as a weapons system in the Cold War, NASA has in many ways floundered since achieving it's major objectives of securing the high ground and contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union. But NASA has always maintained a patina of civil, scientific and peaceful goals even if defense concerns were always just beneath the surface.


Pluto: I coulda been somebody

2500 activist scientists in Prague considered expanding the league of planets from the present 9 to 12 by adding Ceres, Charon (Pluto's moon) and Xena (officially 2003 UB313). Neo-con scientists waited for the last day of the meeting when all but 424 of the original 2700 had left and spang their counter attack, ousting the little bitty bits and Pluto too, reducing the solar system to 8.

Alas poor Pluto, we hardly knew yee.

The demotion of Pluto to non-planet has been called "embarrassing" by the lead scientist on Nasa's New Horizons mission, Nasa's first mission to the 9th and last (aka 'late') 'planet'.