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Evolution 21 Feb 2009

Posted by Jessa in Science.
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One problem I have noticed when discussing the Theory of Evolution with people is that I find that many people have serious misconceptions about what the theory actually says, and what it doesn’t say.  Does it say that a monkey can morph into a human?  Does it say that dogs can give birth to cats?   Why aren’t there crocoducks?

For those who might be interested in a very simple primer on evolution and misconceptions about it, watch the video below.  Yeah, I know it’s 10 minutes long, but it’s educational and amusing.

“There’s Obviously a Difference in Opinion” 21 Feb 2009

Posted by Jessa in Humor, Money.
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It looks like a few Verizon employees need a remedial lesson in math:

I found it amusing (and also a bit pathetic) that the manager didn’t even get it when the guy tried to explain it step-by-step:

Caller: Do you recognize there’s a difference between one dollar and one cent?

Manager: Definitely.

Caller: Do you recognize there’s a difference between half a dollar and half a cent?

Manager: Definitely.

Caller: Do you therefore recognize that there’s a difference between .002 dollars and .002 cents?

Manager: …No.

Wow.   I also loved how the manager stated, “There’s obviously a difference in opinion.”  Um, no.  It’s math.  It’s not subject to opinion.  It’s not like 2+2=4, except on alternate Thursdays.  A value in dollars is not the same as the identical value in cents. Case closed.

I wonder if Verizon would appreciate it if their customers made the same mistake in reverse.

Rush Limbaugh: n00b 18 Feb 2009

Posted by Jessa in Humor, Politics.
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Oh, Rush.  You never cease to amuse me.  When you’re not popping Oxycontin or Viagra, you’re proving that you don’t know how to use The Computer-Thingy:

LIMBAUGH: In addition, they have reformatted the bill — they’ve made it a PDF file when they posted it. Now, for those of you that don’t use computers, basically what that means is that it cannot be keyword searched. A PDF file is essentially a picture of a page. And, so, you can read every page, but you cannot keyword search it. It’s not a text file as legislation normally is as posted on these public websites. They don’t want anybody knowing what’s in this; they want it happening as fast as possible so nobody can know what’s in it.

That’s right – he doesn’t know how to search a PDF. Never mind the little binoculars featured prominently on the toolbar.  Or Ctrl-F (cloverleaf-F for the Mac weirdos).  Yep. he’s a computer genius.

Happy Darwin Day! 12 Feb 2009

Posted by Jessa in Uncategorized.
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Go forth and celebrate!

Andrew Wakefield: Faking His Data? 11 Feb 2009

Posted by Jessa in Non-Science, Science.
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Even if you might not know Andrew Wakefield by name, chances are you have heard of his work. He is the man who almost single-handedly started the current anti-vaccination scare.

A brief history: In 1998, he published a paper in the British medical journal The Lancet that claimed to have discovered a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and autism. The study caused a sensation among parents of autistic children, and has led to a dramatic decrease in childhood vaccination in England:

Despite involving just a dozen children, the 1998 paper’s impact was extraordinary. After its publication, rates of inoculation fell from 92% to below 80%. Populations acquire “herd immunity” from measles when more than 95% of people have been vaccinated.

The “herd immunity” is the important part.  In any population, there are some individuals who cannot be vaccinated for a variety of reasons.  These people rely on high vaccination rates among their neighbors to keep the disease from spreading among a population and ultimately to them.  When vaccination rates fall too low, this “herd immunity” disappears, and the disease reappears.  Unfortunately, such an outcome has occurred:

Last week official figures showed that 1,348 confirmed cases of measles in England and Wales were reported last year, compared with 56 in 1998. Two children have died of the disease.

The worst part about this is that Andrew Wakefield may have faked his data:

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

If this is true, it’s unconscionable and horrifying.

For a more detailed description of events, go here.