Inca suspension bridges

The Incas built fibre suspension bridges across canyons in the Andes mountains. They spanned at least 150 feet in some places, while the longest Roman bridge in Spain had a maximum unsupported span of 95 feet. This sounds fascinating.

P.S. This is my 1,000th post on Science Notes, in just over 2.5 years. I started on October 29, 2004.

How to make money on the Web: find your fans

The New York Times has an article about singer & songwriter Jonathan Coulton, who is currently making a modest living by writing and posting songs for download. He is also keeping a blog, and thus keeping in touch with his fans, who become his supporters and tell others about his music. They also enable him to recruit audiences and decide where to give concerts. It’s the “long tail” of music marketing.

The article has a link to an interview with Jonathan about one of his songs, “Code Monkey.”

Textbook warning stickers

Swarthmore College has added to our archival collection of warning stickers for science textbooks.

Neocon scientists

The Strange Brew cartoon shows a heated controversy in the ranks of neoconservative scientists.

Review of reviews of Dawkins’ The God Delusion

In his foreword to the paperback edition, Richard Dawkins categorizes reviewers’ stances on The God Delusion.

Evolution Crackpot Index

I don’t know how I missed this earlier: John Wilkins has developed a specialized Evolution Crackpot Index based on the well-known Baez Crackpot Index. Commenters on the original thread have enthusiastically added more ways to score crackpot points.

A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to biology:

  1. Start with -5 points as a starting credit.
  2. Add 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
  3. Add 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
  4. Add 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.
  5. Add 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.
  6. Add 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.
  7. Add 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).
  8. Add 5 points for each mention of “Heackel”, “Dawkin”, “Steven Gould” or “Eldridge”.
  9. Add 10 points for each claim that genetics or evolution is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).
  10. Add 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity.
    • An extra 5 points for citing your engineering, dentistry, medical or computing degree as authoritative in biology
    • An extra 5 points for a pseudomedical qualification (such as homeopathy or holistic massage)
  11. Add 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it.
  12. Add 10 points for mailing your theory to someone you don’t know personally and asking them not to tell anyone else about it, for fear that your ideas will be stolen.
  13. Add 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or finds any flaws in your theory, or to anyone who can prove evolution is true.
  14. Add 10 points for each statement along the lines of “I’m not good at genetics, but my theory is conceptually right, so all I need is for someone to express it in terms of equations”.
  15. Add 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is “only a theory”, as if this were somehow a point against it.
  16. Add 10 points for arguing that while a current well-established theory predicts phenomena correctly, it doesn’t explain “why” they occur, or fails to provide a “mechanism”.
  17. Add 10 points for each claim that Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, or some similar recent view in biology, is evidence of creationism (or some similar view such as Intelligent Design), or claim that modern biology is fundamentally misguided (without good evidence).
  18. Add 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a “paradigm shift” and that we need to go beyond Darwinism.
  19. Add 20 points for suggesting that you or your hero deserve a Nobel prize.
  20. Add 20 points for every use of religious or science fiction works or myths as if they were fact.
  21. Add 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.
  22. Add 20 points for each use of the phrase “hidebound reactionary” or “Darwinist establishment” or cognates.
  23. Add 20 points for each use of the phrase “self-appointed defender of the orthodoxy” or cognates.
  24. Add 30 points for suggesting that a famous figure secretly disbelieved in a theory which he or she publicly supported (e.g., that Darwin recanted on his deathbed).
  25. Add 30 points for suggesting that some major scientist, in his later years, was groping his way towards the ideas you now advocate.
  26. Add 30 points for claiming that your theories were developed by a pre-industrial culture (without good evidence).
  27. Add 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, eugenicists, stormtroopers, or brownshirts.
  28. Add 40 points for claiming that the “scientific establishment” is engaged in a “conspiracy” to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.
  29. Add 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.
  30. Add 40 points for claiming that when your theory is finally appreciated, present-day science will be seen for the sham it truly is.
    • 30 more points for fantasizing about show trials in which scientists who mocked your theories will be forced to recant, especially after their death, or for announcing the “death of Darwinism”
  31. Add 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions, formal models, or exact hypotheses.
  32. Add 10 points for every claim of lurker e-mail support.
  33. Add 100 points for asserting that molecular evolution of complex proteins is impossible because of the large neutral gaps that selection would have to cross, or that there are boundaries between species or other groups of organisms that evolution cannot breach.
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