Biochemical Soul Musings on Nature, Science, Evolution, Biology, and Education

18Sep/08Off

Science Blogging Conference in Research Triangle Park, NC!

January 16th-18th

January 16th-18th

I had no idea such a thing existed, but thanks to Bora at A Blog Around the Clock, I am now registered for what seems like a truly enlightening and fascinating conference on science blogging.

It's called ScienceOnline09 and will be held Jan. 16-18, 2009 at the Sigma Xi Center in Research Triangle Park, NC.

To quote the ScienceOnline09 website:

This is a conference to explore new ways in communicating scientific exploration.

Our conference addresses a variety of issues and perspectives on science communication, including science literacy, the popularization of science, science in classrooms and in homes, debunking pseudoscience, using blogs as tools for presenting scientific research, writing about science, and health and medicine.

So if you live in North Carolina (or don't mind traveling), and write or blog about science, or if you are simply interested in science outreach, register for the conference online.

There are currently 37 49 people registered (you can find out who's registered here).

I hope to meet some interesting fellow bloggers soon!

17Sep/08Off

Biological Databases and the Logos I Designed

I recently designed a couple of logos for Dr. J. Christopher Ellis to adorn his biological database website. I thought I'd throw him a link as well as showcase the two logos I made.

The first is for the frontpage of his site evolveathome.com. I made this using the 3D animation software, Maya 7, and Flash. Note: if you click on the logo, there are three possible animations that will occur. I know next to nothing about flash animation, but I managed to get it so that it picks one of the three events at random. As such, you may have to click several times to see all three. Yes - they are completely pointless - but I wanted to learn at least a little ActionScript. The pixelation is due to resizing to fit into this blog.

I also designed the following logo for his snoRNP database. For those of you not in the know, snoRNP stands for "small nucleolar ribonucleoprotein", which bind to snoRNAs, or "small nucleolar ribonucleic acids". Together they are involved in modifying rRNAs, or "ribosomal ribonucleic acids", which are themselves part of the structure and function of the ribosome (your protein making machines).

So for those of you involved in snoRNA research, you may find his database useful. He also has a couple of applets for finding motifs within UTRs (untranslated regions). FYI: the sites are still in early construction.

The snoRNP Database

17Sep/08Off

Tangled Bank #114 is Live

The latest edition of the blog carnival, the Tangled Bank #114 is now up over at Science Made Cool. Go check out the latest in science blogging from the past fortnight.

They have included my own recent post on using the new Vaccine/Autism study, which further confirms the LACK of any connection whatsoever between the two, to teach science students about the "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacy" in pseudoscience.

"post hoc ergo propter hoc" means "after this, therefore because of it", and refers to the phenomenon where something will happen to someone, then something else will happen, and the person will erroneously conclude that the first caused the second.

An example: a child gets a vaccination, then a child develops autism, then the parent says "vaccines caused my child's autism."  This is false logic. The causation could be true, but studies would have to prove it. In the case of autism/vaccinations, this has been repeatedly falsified.

11Sep/08Off

Doctrine: the Antithesis of Evolution and All Science

Dr. Jim West has implicitly claimed that because evolutionists often defend the theory of evolution so passionately and vociferously (or as he puts it, with "religious zeal"), then that must mean that evolution is "doctrine" [1. in this argument, I am only referring to the common usage of doctrine meaning "dogmatic system of beliefs" as opposed to the more innocuous "codified system of teachings". Of course evolution is a codified system of teachings. But it is a system that inherently acknowledges its own fallibility and tenuous nature]. (his post title: If It’s Not A Doctrine, Why Are People So Defensive?).

I hear this argument all the time, in multiple variations - claiming that because we defend evolution passionately, that means that evolution is "dogmatic" or "religious."

This is specious logic at best. I originally responded to his post in his own comment section, and I reproduce my thoughts here:

1) Just because someone is vociferous and passionate with any sort of claim, defense, proclamation, or simple statement, that does not have any bearing on its “religiosity”. Calling a passionate response “religious zeal” is simply an attempt to obfuscate the language and warp the debate.

2) Equating the passionate nature of a subject’s defense with anything concerning the nature of that subject is simple fallacious logic (i.e. what the hell does passion of a response have to do with whether or not it is doctrine?)

I will agree with the philosophical premise that ALL scientific knowledge is predicated on the prime assumption that sense relates to reality. Thankfully, simple pragmatism allows us to build science from the fact that it seems to work.

However, neither science nor evolution can be considered “doctrine” for the simple inherent acknowedgement within the scientific epistomology that it will always be possible that the prime assumption might be false. This is why science “fact” isn’t based on provability, but by falsifiability. Even the falsification of any scientific hypothesis is always considered inherently tentative. You cannot call something doctrine if that doctrine implicitly acknowledges its own fallibility.

(note: obviously in this argument, I am only referring to the common usage of doctrine meaning “dogmatic system of beliefs” as opposed to the more innocuous “codified system of teachings”. Of course evolution is a codified system of teachings. But it is a system that inherently acknowledges its own fallibility and tenuous nature.)

(Update: he has deleted my comments multiple times - maybe the word "hell" offended him? Or perhaps he couldn't argue?

Update 2: now they are online - apparently he doesn't like people to use pseudonyms. I guess I could have made up a name, but oh well - My name is easy enough to find.)

11Sep/08Off

Giant Animal Smasher to Search for the Elusive “Darwin Particle”

High-energy squirrels about to release the "Darwin Particle"

Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for finding this one.  I post it here for the simple fact that this is side-splittingly hilarious! Go get your giggles on.

Excerpt:

Malwin dismissed critics who claimed that smashing animals together at high speeds was cruel to the animals. He said, "The animals won't be feeling anything. The collision will vaporize the squirrels in a fraction of a second.  Their brains won't be able to transmit pain at those speeds, so it'll be painless for them."

Scientists currently rely on computer simulations to smash biological units, but simulations can only do so much, and without the visceral enjoyment of seeing two squirrels collide at thousands of miles an hour.