Smart car shines in crash tests

The Smart Fortowo car has the highest safety rating in crashes. The microcar has front and side airbags that protect the driver and passenger. That does not mean that it would stand up to being hit by something much heavier, which will have much more momentum. But it’s nice to know.

“Threadless” T-shirt art

art- chaos

I don’t know what this is. Actually, I do. It’s just what it looks like. It’s the chaotic power of life, love, and mystery socking the artist in the solar plexus.

And it has tentacles.

You can order the T-shirt from Threadless.

Posted in art, people. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Why are so many of my posts about pseudoscience and religion?

Left to myself, I’d write the kind of posts I want to read, all about

  • the therapod transition to birds: the development of feathers , the evolution of feathered dinosaurs into birds, and the continuing controversy about whether flight developed from the bottom up ( by running) or top down (by gliding from trees)
  • the sequencing of the platypus genome and what it can tell us about the roots of mammalian evolution
  • how a couple of cancer cells have evolved into free-living parasites (Tasmanian devil facial tumor and canine venereal tumor)
  • how viruses moved mouse breast tumor genes into the human genome and what that means for the chances of getting breast cancer, e.g. breast cancer is more common where there are mice
  • remnant populations from long ago: There’s one small carnivore in the U.S. – the kit fox, the swift fox? – that’s descended from the previous, less specialized group of carnivores
  • more remnant populations: Giant peccaries that were thought to have gone extinct 10,000 years ago until a small population was discovered in Paraguay in the 1970s by a wandering biologist
  • most remnant populations: a recently re-discovered tree in Australia is basically tree 1.0; or maybe 2.0 if you want to call the cycads the first version.
  • island biodiversity: It’s a great tragedy that ants were introduced into Hawai’i, because for 25 million years the insects there developed without the need to protect themselves from the fierce little predators, and they are unique–and now, probably doomed.
  • a primitive ant discovered, lost, and re-discovered in Australia
  • an insect so primitive it dates from before the split between ants and termites
  • scanning electron micrographs of fossil embryos from 570 million years ago, before the Cambrian explosion (if you can call something that lasted millions and millions of years an explosion)
  • Nanobes: are they real organisms or just chance accretions?
  • Is there some primitive life-form in the earth’s crust that is manufacturing new oil?
  • What effect are we having on deep-sea life by removing whale carcasses from the ecosystem?
  • whatever happened to that cave where life evolved for thousands of years without direct sources of oxygen or sunlight?
  • Is there any way to get all that floating plastic out of the oean before it kills off the albatrosses, the sea turtles, and who knows what else?
  • Homo floresiensis evolution: did she descend directly on Flores Island from Homo erectus? Why are some scientists trying very hard to prove that she’s just an abnormal Homo sap.?

It was H. floresiensis that got me science-blogging, when my local paper, which bills itself as “Canada’s national newspaper,” based its article on a misconception of how evolution worked.

Here’s the problem:

Read any popular science book and you’ll find that it’s all about science: the joy of discovery, the wonder of the natural world, the hunt for the truth, the solving of mysteries, and the intellectual fascination of deciphering complex systems. It’s not about hating God, denying god, replacing god, or promoting amorality. If there’s religious feeling, it’s usually of the “God made this wonderful universe” variety.

But Biblical literalists who are set on denying any scientific discovery that conflicts with their tiny universe provoke bewilderment, irritation, and finally anger when they engage in quote-mining, rhetorical tricks, double-standards, misrepresentation, and finally outright lying, perjury, and slander as they struggle to hang on to their world-view. Lying is the scientist’s greatest sin.

That many anti-science advocates rake in huge salaries and lucrative speaking engagements and the regularity with which they are caught with their pants down engaging in sexual practices for which the publicly and tirelessly condemn others is just the icing on the cake.

So the pure science posts tend to get stuck at the draft stage or even the good intentions stage, while I deal with an anti-science movement that will debilitate the U.S. as an economic and political power if it ever gets the upper hand.

Elephant art!

Painted by an elephant:

elephant art - learned images

Sure, they do it, but do they know what they’re doing?

One project includes selling paintings by elephants to support the elephants and raise money for conservation. It’s clear that elephants can be taught to use brush and paint and even to paint images.

Hong in Thailand has learned to paint quite detailed images:

Artist's Gallery

The project personnel caution:

“Just for clarification, with these realistic figural works, the elephant is still the only one making the marks on the paper but the paintings are learned series of brushstrokes not Hong painting a still life on her own.”

It’s the same for Paya in Thailand:

Artist's Gallery

The site has a video of the elephant Paya (above) painting with great concentration and deliberation.

Without stroke-by-stroke instruction, the elephants develop their own painting habits. Lakshmi Kutty in India seems to be exploring the medium on her own:

Lakshmi Kutty #001” Lakshmi is very focused when painting. She favors a watery to and fro motion of the brush as she creates beautiful expressionistic landscapes. Her movements are very slow and controlled. With each small adjustment of her trunk, dreamscape strokes subtly escape her brush in astonishing patterns across the canvas.”

And elephant Duanpen is painting what she wants to:

Duanpen #74“Duanpen has a very unique style of painting. She is the first and only abstract pointillist elephant artist to date. She fills the paper with dots and only dots, but she will not stop until the canvas is covered. Duanpen has an amazing sense of composition and framing. She focuses on the blank canvas before beginning painting, then she repeatedly strikes the paper with the brush — dat-dat-dat-dat. Her work is very beautiful – done with a medium brush, she covers the paper with bright, vibrant colors.”

But is it just something to please their trainers? Or would they want to paint on their own? They might, you know. We have seen that elephants offered a mirror will peer at their teeth and look at their rumps. If adorned with a spot on their foreheads, they will peer at it in the mirror and try to touch it. It seems clear that they’re self-aware. So they might be interested in painting for pleasure!

Posted in art, science, world. Tags: , , . 3 Comments »


The LOLluscs are coming!


more funny pictures

Posted in humor. Tags: , , . 1 Comment »
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