Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

>Playing catch-up plus an undercover ex-gay investigation

February 2, 2010

>Catch up on your Joe Openshaw writing.

In case you didn’t see yesterday’s Birmingham News, here is my letter to the editor about marriage. The letter is just below the one that you see when you open the page. so scroll down past the ALDOT and Riley letter.

Parade magazine, on Sunday, included an article on intersex fish, which I wrote about on Bessemer Science. It’s a little disturbing, since we drink the water that these fish live in, and don’t know what is affecting them.

The American Prayer Hour will take place on Thursday, with an event here in Birmingham.

Preview my book, Those Others, by reading the preface and first chapter here and then commenting and rating at that site. The book is being formatted and should be available for purchase by springtime.

Read my Facebook note, “At Peace.” I think you can read it even if you are not a facebook member.

Enough of me? I will be back to commentary on Bingo, Lulu, Teabaggers, and such soon.

In the meantime, read this article about another ex-gay exposure, by journalist Patrick Strudwick who entered an ex-gay program undercover and then spilled the beans.


Apparently they try to find anything to blame the natural orientation of gays on.

From the article:

Lynne explains that people only identify as gay when they are already depressed. “There’s a confusion, there’s an anxiety, there’s a lot of pain,” she says. “Often the thought can be, ‘Oh I’m confused about my sexuality so I must be gay’.” She says that at the heart of homosexuality is a “deep isolation”, which is, she says, “where God needs to be”.

“Did you have a difficult birth?” she asks. No, I say. Why?

“It’s just something I have noticed. Often [with homosexuality] it is quite traumatic, the baby was put into intensive care and because of the separation from the mother there can be that lack of attachment.”

She moves on. “Any Freemasonry in the family?”

Another therapist he sees offers this:

“…his central thesis is that you have to replace homosexual sex with what he calls, “the Four Intimacies: intimacy with God, intimacy with oneself, intimacy with the masculine and intimacy with the feminine.” By strengthening your relationships in all these areas, and particularly by having more platonic contact with men, he says, your need for sexual contact is negated.

He later confronts both of the therapists with the truth, that he is a journalist. Read the article to see what happened.

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>Jobs, jobs jobs

January 11, 2010

>Jobs are coming to Bessemer.

The Birmingham News is reporting that a Pennsylvania company will create 80 new jobs with a new plant in Bessemer near the CSX railroad hub in Interstate Industrial park. This is at the former site of the Pullman-Standard rail car manufacturing plant.

Update: By the way, the Bham News claims “News Exclusive,” when in reality this was reported and printed in the Western Tribune on December 2, 2009. Looks like the News snoozed when the story broke.

Also, J C Penney at Colonial Tannehill has a “now hiring” sign up. The planned opening of the store is in March of this year. I don’t know how many people they will be hiring, but now is the time to apply.

I took this picture near the JC Penney yesterday. Think this driver is interested in a job?

Today is a good day to spend watching video.

At Bessemer Science and Nature, the Symphony of Science videos are entertaining and educational.

At The Examiner, there is a video that can convince anyone to stop the hate and that equality for gays and lesbians is the right thing. Also, there is a link to the video of the Prop 8 trail which begins today in California.

>Nature

September 28, 2009

>New Rule for Bessemer Opinions.

No comments will be allowed that use the word “communism” or any derivative of the word, unless the original post was about communism. The same goes for socialism, fascism, and Nazism.

Remember, this is not a forum for spreading hatred or lies. I know you “haters” will claim this isn’t fair and will let me know by trying to say so in a comment, but those won’t be posted either.

This is an action shot of a butterfly I was chasing around the back yard last week.

Finally I got the money shot. This is a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae. Butterflies are making a comeback, it seems.

These brilliant butterflies can be found far out over the water at times, but its range extends to Baja California, north to San Francisco, the southern U. S., Mexico, and emigrating northward into the Great Basin, Rockies, Midwest, Great Lakes and mid-Atlantic States. See more pictures at Bessemer Science.

This tree is in a bad place in my back yard and for 8 years I cut it down each spring when it was just a little twig trying to recover. This year I didn’t, and discovered it is Koelreuteria bipinnata or Chinese golden-rain tree, also known as Bougainvilla golden-rain tree. The orange or salmon colored fruit capsules will persist into fall.

This are different than Koelreuteria panniculata, the golden-rain tree that is more common along my street and known for the showy yellow flower clusters.

Here is one of the fruit capsules from the Chinese golden-rain tree.

Speaking of nature, Ken Burns PBS series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea premiered last night. I’m recording it because we weren’t here to watch it, but here is the (extended) preview.

Remember, Tuesday, September 29, 2009, to vote if you live in District 56. And Wednesday, September 30, 2009, at 6:00, City Council meeting.

>Rollin’ On: Progress

March 9, 2009

>Could it be spring? Oh, I know that spring doesn’t really begin for a couple of weeks. But the weather sure was spring like this past weekend.

We set out three peach trees, three apple trees and helped with 50 pounds of seed potatoes. I told you the garden space was huge.

But remember, it was just a week ago we were playing in the snow. Watch this video of the snow in Auburn, sent by Jim and by the folks at the University.

On to the news:

While understanding that the economy is and should be the main focus of the president and congress, the world does continue to turn and other issues are being addressed.

For instance, today the president is expected to reverse the ban on federal funding for stem cell research, using “science – not political ideology” to guide his administration. Scientists now will be able to apply for federal money for research, and have “eight years of science to make up for,” according to Curt Civin, founding director of the University of Maryland Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

On the LGBT front, many are anxious for an indication that President Obama’s promises to move forward on the issues will be fulfilled. Some of us are being very patient without worry, and an article in the recent Advocate backs up this feeling.

Joe Solmonese, executive director of The Human Rights Campaign, was quoted in the article.

“You could just wander around the first floor, anywhere you wanted to go,” he adds later, and so he idled through the hushed,high-ceilinged rooms until it was time for President Barack Obama to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first major piece of legislation to pass Congress after Obama took office. Solmonese recalls that during the ceremony, “I turned around where I was sitting and I looked into the eyes of so many of the staff people, like David Axelrod and Rahm [Emanuel], and all of those people had tears in their eyes, and it filled me with a renewed sense of hope about changing things for GLBT Americans.” Solmonese, who speaks in sleek, rapid-fire sentences, is wary of sentimentality — “It sounds hokey,” he says — but still he goes on.

After the bill signing, Solmonese says, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile asked him, “ ‘What are you thinking about?’ And I said,‘I’m envisioning this moment for the GLBT community and watching the president sign a bill that will bring this measure of equality to our community.’ As if on cue, a number of White House staff people came over and said to me, ‘We look forward to working to make sure that this happens in pretty short order for the GLBT community.’


We’ve got plenty of time, and we are patient (although at times it may not seem so). Remember, I gave the president a year , saying:

Barack Obama may not immediately grant all of our wishes, but I would be willing to bet that the first legislation that mentions sexual orientation to be passed
and signed by a president will occur within the first year of his administration.

And then we will be on the way to a nation that values each of its citizens.


in this column from The Western Tribune.

>Science and Time

March 2, 2009

>The Birmingham News arrived today only after a call letting them know I had not received it. I guess I am going to keep calling them out on this until they get it right, or until I see an explanation and apology in print. Judging from emails and comments a lot of people are affected by this.

I’m finding it hard to concentrate on writing a blog post today. I watched these shows on the Science Channel about time, yesterday, and am not sure I can find the time to do this.

For those who believe, as I do, that time has no beginning and no end, it makes sense to realize that this moment, regardless of when the moment occurs is equidistant from the earliest time and the most distant future time.

Coincidentally, the earth is about midway through its life, having been formed about 4.6 billion years ago (using the descriptive “about” seems kind of odd when estimating in the billions, doesn’t it) and depending on a sun that has only 5 billion years left in it.

To underscore how insignificant we are, Michio Kaku assigned one year to one millimeter. His birth, therefore, was 5.8 cm from the present. Watch here. (The link may not work, but you can also find the video from the Science Channel link above.) Travelling back in time this way, our “AD” time was a little less than the length of his dining room table, and recorded history was still within his New York City apartment. Then he drove about 2500 miles, to San Francisco. That distance, at 1 mm per year, approximated the 4.6 billion years that our earth has existed.

Earth sat lifeless for a billion years, and then the first signs of life appeared. These simple life forms did nothing but reproduce for 2.5 billion years, then about 570 million years ago an “explosion” of life forms began in the oceans.

5 million years ago the first man like apes appeared, and since then we developed into this warring, greedy species that we are now.

Watch a segment of Kaku’s series on Time.

When I get to thinking about science at this level, it’s hard to come back to the present and focus on world events, state legislatures and politics. I mean, science is more interesting, it doesn’t have an agenda (people have agendas, science does not) and there is always more to learn.

>Science and Sexuality

December 22, 2008

>I have a few thoughts about sexuality and science. A person who comments on this blog keeps trying to say that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is anything but a choice.

Let’s start with some visual evidence:

Here are Roy and Silo, the most famous gay penguins.

Homosexuality is well documented in penguins and other animals.

Do oysters make a choice?

While not saying that an oyster is gay, they do change gender once or more times during their lifetime. (And, as an aside, as the article asks, how hungry did someone have to be to eat the first oyster?)

Back to the subject. The oysters aren’t gay, but they are an example of the sexual diversity that exists among the animal kingdom.

Reproductive diversity in the animal kingdom is present in seahorses as well. Again while not addressing sexuality, the fact that the male gives birth reminds us that among animals, fish in this case, things are not so simple. Watch the male having babies.

Let’s see. Same sex behaviour is observed in over 1500 animal species. I won’t post a video of every species, but this video contains images from a documentary, “Out In Nature: Homosexual Behaviour in the Animal Kingdom”.

Now lets move to human research. Here is the first sentence and the last sentence of an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, by Dick Swaab (PNAS July 29, 2008 vol. 105 no. 30 10273-10274).

Current evidence indicates that sexual differentiation of the human brain occurs during fetal and neonatal development and programs our gender identity—our feeling of being male or female and our sexual orientation as hetero-, homo-, or bisexual.

Neurobiological research related to sexual orientation in humans is only just gathering momentum, but the evidence already shows that humans have a vast array of brain differences, not only in relation to gender, but also in relation to sexual orientation.

This is but one paper from recent research that explores human sexuality from a scientific standpoint. The paper (as most scientific papers do) asserts that more research is needed, and of course, this is happening.

I only wanted to give an example showing there is evidence, contrary to what the commenter said, that sexual orientation is not a choice.

Non-human animals don’t really have the option of choosing. Or do they? If you say yes, then that gives them a quality that once was reserved for humans. It makes us just a little more close to the rest of the animal kingdom than some Christian conservatives would like. But if they don’t have a choice, then it must be science that is making them behave in the ways they do.

I could go on and on about science, but that is enough for now.

Research is in our favor. Science is in our favor.

>ALICE

September 8, 2008

>Just in case…

The giant atom smasher gets fired up tomorrow near Geneva Switzerland at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Some doomsday folks are saying it could create a black hole that will suck the earth and all of us into it.

What scientists are hoping is that the Large Hadron Collider will come close, but not duplicate, I guess, the Big Bang that got us all here to begin with.

One of the installations in the 17 mile tunnel where all this is happening is called “ALICE”, A Large Ion Collider Experiment. Go here to learn more about ALICE. Skip that first graphic and scroll down to the “Welcome” section. Be amazed. Don’t be alarmed when the video shows a golf ball being sucked into a black hole, though.

Here is the story in comic book form for kids who are into particle physics and such, or for those of us who like the comic book format for learning.

I know this is a little different from most of my posts, but I wanted people to know why…uh, well, you know, if we aren’t here tomorrow.

>Can Science Survive the Bush Administration?

August 12, 2008

>One hundred and sixty days. Can science survive?

The Bush administration has 160 days left to totally destroy the fragile policy infrastructure that nature relies on. One policy at a time.

Remember when Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testified before the Senate on global warming?

Remember how the White House eviscerated her testimony, so the health risks from climate change were ignored or watered down?

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a piece for The Nation in 2004 titled The Junk Science of George W. Bush. In this he compared the Bush administration’s science polices to those of the Catholic church’s control of science in the 1600’s that insisted the earth was the center of the universe. Discoveries by Copernicus and Galileo that taught otherwise were stymied. “A less restrained heliocentrist, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive in 1600 for the crime of sound science.”

Kennedy also cites several examples where Bush Science has endangered the public. Declaring the air at ground zero after 9-11 “safe to breathe” on September 18 while 25 % of EPA air quality tests taken before September 18 showed asbestos levels to be above the public safety benchmark is one example. Seventy eight percent of rescue workers had lung ailments as a result.

Or there is Dr. James Zahn, a researcher with the Department of Agriculture, who “ had identified bacteria that can make people sick–and that are resistant to antibiotics–in the air surrounding industrial-style hog farms.” His supervisor ordered him not to reveal his findings, after prompting by lobbyists from the National Pork Producers Council.

The article cites many other examples.

So today, I read this in the Birmingham News (link from The Tennessean, with more information than the local paper printed).

The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants.” New regulations such as this do not require congressional approval, so they can just do away with the independent oversight that scientists have been performing for 35 years.

Interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne said these changes were needed to prevent the Endangered Species Act from being used as a “back door” to regulate greenhouse gases.

The draft rules also would bar federal agencies from assessing the emissions from projects that contribute to global warming and its effect on species and habitats.”

Can you say, “goodbye Polar Bear?”

The polar bear, of course, was declared a threatened species in May, with the U. S. Interior Department saying it must be protected because of the decline in Arctic sea ice because of global warming.

These rule changes would allow federal agencies to ignore the threat posed by global warming and decide for themselves whether or not to comply with the endangered species Act.

“If adopted, these changes would seriously weaken the safety net of habitat protections that we have relied upon to protect and recover endangered fish, wildlife and plants for the past 35 years,” said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming initiative. “

This is the fox guarding the hen house. The interests of agencies will outweigh species protection interests,” said Eric Glitzenstein, an attorney representing environmental groups. “What they are talking about doing is eviscerating the Endangered Species Act.”

160 Days. Can Bush destroy the world?

1. Iowa 2. Creationism 3. Recipe for left over ham

January 4, 2008

1. The big winner in last night’s Iowa caucus was…the Democratic Party!

Barack Obama walked away with 38% support, and John Edwards followed with 30% and Hillary Clinton with 29%.

Clinton would have like to have won, no doubt, but this is not a death knell for her candidacy. Look at history, in 1988 Richard Gephardt won the Iowa Caucus, but fizzled after that, and Michael Dukakis became the nominee. The results were so close, that any one of the three leaders could go on to secure the nomination.

But the Democratic Party attracted over 220,000 participants, compared to only 114,000 Republicans. This was almost an 80% increase in the number of particpants for the Democrats, compared to an increase of about 30% for the Republicans. The White House will be painted Blue in 2008! Figuratively, don’t worry.

The Democratic Party also showed that in conservative (60% of Republican identified as evangelicals), white (>90%) Iowa they are not afraid to support a minority candidate. This is in a system where your vote is not secret…you stand in a corner with like minded voters and somebody counts heads. You wouldn’t see this in the Republican party, that’s for sure.

And here is a reason Hillary’s third place finish is not as significant as it looks. As an example of how the Democratic caucuses work, CNN took actual numbers from the first round of a caucus, then showed how those with less than 15% of the votes had to drop out, so their voters had to re-align with other candidates. In the example they showed, Clinton had the most votes in the first round, but of the re-aligned votes, she got none, so Edwards and Obama benefitted. As Bobby said, Obama won in a state where people get to vote twice. If in Iowa everyone got to vote just once, Clinton probably would have won.

If anyone felt the death knell, it was Mitt Romney. Good. He is so lame, here is what he said trying to explain his lie that he once saw his father march with Martin Luther King, Jr. “You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, ‘I saw the Patriots win the World Series,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there. Excuse me, the Super Bowl.”

The Patriots play at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro in Romney’s home state, and he can’t even keep it straight what sport they play? Romney thinks his looks can get him elected, but if looks were all it took then Tom Brady would be running as Massachusetts’ favorite son:

from Most Beautiful Man

But even this didn’t just happen. Here’s Brady’s NFL Scouting Combine picture from 2000:

from The Big Lead

How quickly the focus can shift from politics to…

2. Science, Evolution and Creationism. This is the title of a new book published by the National Academies that was featured on NBC nightly news last night and is being released today. The book explains why Creationism or Intelligent Design should not be taught in Science classes, although it may have a role in other subjects in schools. Read the Summary Brochure or view or buy the book here .

Read my post on Intelligent Design is not Science here.

3. Tired of leftover ham. Ham or other parts of the pig are commonly served on New Years Day, and leftover ham sandwiches get old. Try this soup. I cooked it last night and got good reviews. Of course, the cornbread I made to go with it helped.

Ham and Bean Soup.

1 pound dried Great Northern beans

6 cups of water

1 1/2 pounds cubed cooked ham

2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried thyme (whole or powdered)

4 peppercorns

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

2 cups water

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 carrots, scraped and cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 medium onion, chopped

With the beans, sort and wash and cover with water and let soak overnight, or do like I did and bring to a boil and gently cook about an hour or so. Drain. Then add 6 cups of fresh water, and the ham and the next 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer about an hour or so, then add the remaining water and vegetables. Cover and simmer about 30 more minutes until the veggies are tender.

If you need the cornbread recipe, let me know. Yum

>1. Iowa 2. Creationism 3. Recipe for left over ham

January 4, 2008

>1. The big winner in last night’s Iowa caucus was…the Democratic Party!

Barack Obama walked away with 38% support, and John Edwards followed with 30% and Hillary Clinton with 29%.

Clinton would have like to have won, no doubt, but this is not a death knell for her candidacy. Look at history, in 1988 Richard Gephardt won the Iowa Caucus, but fizzled after that, and Michael Dukakis became the nominee. The results were so close, that any one of the three leaders could go on to secure the nomination.

But the Democratic Party attracted over 220,000 participants, compared to only 114,000 Republicans. This was almost an 80% increase in the number of particpants for the Democrats, compared to an increase of about 30% for the Republicans. The White House will be painted Blue in 2008! Figuratively, don’t worry.

The Democratic Party also showed that in conservative (60% of Republican identified as evangelicals), white (>90%) Iowa they are not afraid to support a minority candidate. This is in a system where your vote is not secret…you stand in a corner with like minded voters and somebody counts heads. You wouldn’t see this in the Republican party, that’s for sure.

And here is a reason Hillary’s third place finish is not as significant as it looks. As an example of how the Democratic caucuses work, CNN took actual numbers from the first round of a caucus, then showed how those with less than 15% of the votes had to drop out, so their voters had to re-align with other candidates. In the example they showed, Clinton had the most votes in the first round, but of the re-aligned votes, she got none, so Edwards and Obama benefitted. As Bobby said, Obama won in a state where people get to vote twice. If in Iowa everyone got to vote just once, Clinton probably would have won.

If anyone felt the death knell, it was Mitt Romney. Good. He is so lame, here is what he said trying to explain his lie that he once saw his father march with Martin Luther King, Jr. “You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, ‘I saw the Patriots win the World Series,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there. Excuse me, the Super Bowl.”

The Patriots play at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro in Romney’s home state, and he can’t even keep it straight what sport they play? Romney thinks his looks can get him elected, but if looks were all it took then Tom Brady would be running as Massachusetts’ favorite son:

from Most Beautiful Man

But even this didn’t just happen. Here’s Brady’s NFL Scouting Combine picture from 2000:

from The Big Lead

How quickly the focus can shift from politics to…

2. Science, Evolution and Creationism. This is the title of a new book published by the National Academies that was featured on NBC nightly news last night and is being released today. The book explains why Creationism or Intelligent Design should not be taught in Science classes, although it may have a role in other subjects in schools. Read the Summary Brochure or view or buy the book here .

Read my post on Intelligent Design is not Science here.

3. Tired of leftover ham. Ham or other parts of the pig are commonly served on New Years Day, and leftover ham sandwiches get old. Try this soup. I cooked it last night and got good reviews. Of course, the cornbread I made to go with it helped.

Ham and Bean Soup.

1 pound dried Great Northern beans

6 cups of water

1 1/2 pounds cubed cooked ham

2 tsp salt

1 tsp dried thyme (whole or powdered)

4 peppercorns

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

2 cups water

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 carrots, scraped and cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 medium onion, chopped

With the beans, sort and wash and cover with water and let soak overnight, or do like I did and bring to a boil and gently cook about an hour or so. Drain. Then add 6 cups of fresh water, and the ham and the next 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and simmer about an hour or so, then add the remaining water and vegetables. Cover and simmer about 30 more minutes until the veggies are tender.

If you need the cornbread recipe, let me know. Yum