Instant Theory

Monday, November 14, 2005

You're so mind-controlled and you don't even know it

To all who live in constant fear of that most personal invasion -- mind control -- the most time-honored line of defense has now fallen into disrepute. It turns out that tin-foil hats not only fail to protect the wearer from malevolent broadcasts, but actually AMPLIFY signals in the range most commonly used by the Government. Using a $250,000 signal generator, researchers have all but proven Reynolds foil is useless as a prophylactic against "The Voices" (especially if The Voices use the same radio frequencies as GPS sattellites!).

Thanks to that juggernaut of scientific advancement, MIT, maybe we can soon rest a little easier... that is, if they ever develop a technology to actually keep the invisible rays out of our heads.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Heavy exploration, little return

According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, the oil industry has little to show for several decades of fossil fuel exploration on public and private lands of the western US. The study comes on the heels of the Bush Administration’s Energy Policy Act, which emphasizes and provides large incentives for home exploration.

Between 1989 and 2003, on 229 million acres in 12 western states, the industry has extracted enough oil to power the nation for a paltry 53 days. Natural gas finds haven’t been much better—the industry has only extracted 221 days worth, according to the EWG report, Losing Ground.

In the same era, industry has taken advantage of the “split estate” land designation, which gives the government mineral rights even on privately owned land. These claims are often sold to the highest industry bidder. In fact, the EWG report states that the oil industry controls lands inside, or within 5 miles of, 69 percent of the West’s national parks. The figure jumps to 75 percent in wilderness areas.

In many of these places, the goods are not easily gotten. On the Roan Plateau in Colorado, for example, natural gas deposits are found deep beneath undulating sedimentary formations. In this landscape, explosives and chemicals are used to puncture the ground and tap these deep reserves. Once these reservoirs are “cracked” however, “gushers” rarely follow, as the hundreds of abandoned natural gas wells on the Western Slope of Colorado testify.

A strange event nearly 35 years ago perhaps best illustrates the depths the industry has gone to tap stubborn western reserves. In 1969, near the town of Doghead Mountain, Colorado, engineers detonated a 40-kiloton atomic bomb, 8,500 feet underground to crack open a sandstone reservoir. Ironically (i.e., fittingly) the fuel released was too radioactive to sell.

With the oil industry’s poor returns, in spite of its carte blanche access to private and public lands, we might well ask whether the small energy returns justify the large environmental costs. We should demand greater accountability from the Bureau of Land Management and stricter management of those digging for elusive--perhaps illusory--gold beneath the ground while spoiling the real treasures found at the surface.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ever donated sperm? It might catch up to you.

A 15-year-old boy has just tracked down his father (an 'anonymous' sperm donor) by using DNA analysis, genealogical records, and the internet. Basically, the boy used the DNA to identify men with similar DNA, two of which had the same surname . The boy's mother had been told the donor's date and place of birth, so he found all the men born in that place on that day. Only one matched the surname: his father.

I wonder how this man reacted? The story mentions that banks may not be able to guarantee anonymity to donors if their offspring have the same detective abilities (and a computer and $289 for the DNA-testing) as the boy had. A bioethicist was quoted as saying, "The case shows that there are ethical and social concerns about assisted reproduction that we did not think about."

Wow. It kind of seems obvious that there would be unforeseen consequences to assisted reproduction. Even if they were college students just "trading their sperm for beer money," donors should have realized that they could have a dozen offspring out there. Maybe they even crossed them on the street or worked with them or taught them in school. And maybe they'll even ring their doorbell and say, "Hi, Dad!"

This technique might not work for everyone, but wouldn't it be cool if everyone in the world could participate in this? We could create a great, giant family tree and see how we're all related. That might even be more powerful than the first images of a border-less Earth from space.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ok, "design" but what else?

Looks as if the Intelligent Debate is getting a lot more... um... tedious. This paper by Stephen C. Meyer, posted last month on the Discovery Institute website, is a position statement about the scientific status of Intelligent Design. But, once again, instead of setting forth a problem solving agenda or defining the movement further in terms of of what ID "can" do, the paper attempts to bash the idea of "science" into a mash of confusion. Apparently, since no plausible case has ever been made that ID is science, ID-ists are bent on redifining "science" to fit their multiplicitous agenda. Time and time again, the only thing ID-ists prove they can do is wheedle on about being against something.

The failure of the movement to do anything but be against something is only half the problem -- the other half of the problem, of course, being that ID doesn't measure anything, make any predictions, or solve anything. But what's most frightening about this paper is that, since ID-ists are not out wasting time observing anything or collecting data, they have all the time in the world to refine their bluster and pontifications. The result is a very nuanced, sophistocated set of deconstructions that most evolutionary biologists would be hard pressed to counter -- partly because tautology and circular reasoning are hard to refute, and partly because evolutionary biologists have a bigger job than sitting around merely opposing things.

The time for dignified silence against ID is over. Scientists and philosophers of science should and must now engage this movement head on. The Discovery Institute has so perfected the use of babbly sci-jargon that, to an indifferent and ignorant audience, their hornswoggling silver-tongued blather might start to pass as actually having meaning.