Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

by Pete Talbot

The message Tuesday night: school board elections are coming up and there needs to be some changes.

More than 50 people crammed into a meeting room at the county courthouse to watch the video that was banned at Big Sky High School, The Story of Stuff. The film ran about 20 minutes and was followed by an impassioned discussion.

“It’s a vocal minority,” one said, kindly, “It’s the lunatic fringe,” said another — comments aimed at the critics of the video shown in a science teacher’s classroom. There were comparisons to the Scopes Monkey Trial.

The video seemed innocuous to me; simple, almost cartoonish, but informative. It raised questions – which is what high school should be about.

The big issue was balance. Does a teacher have a responsibility to present opposing views? The teacher in question encouraged discussion after the film. And we’re talking science here but some parents keep challenging evolution and global warming and consumption — and all they’re kids have to do is turn on the TV for balance: don’t question, buy this, you’re not cool if you don’t wear that, listen to this, drive that.

So at what point does a teacher offer balance against truth?

The meeting was sponsored by the Missoula County Democrats. They passed a resolution, unanimously, condemning the board’s vote and supporting a teacher’s right to present a thought-provoking curriculum.

Ana, a Hellgate High School student, says it more eloquently than I.

by Pete Talbot

This is more than a promotion of the upcoming Missoula County Democrats monthly meeting.

What the heck is the Missoula School Board thinking? Here’s the skinny, from an email I just received:

Subject: Central Committee Meeting

Are we really back to banning media in our schools?…

Last Thursday The Missoula County School Board held a special meeting to discuss a film shown by a popular science teacher at Big Sky High School: The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. The movie is about the impacts of consumerism and global warming on our planet.

A motion was passed by the School Board (4-3) that found the movie violated policy 2330 of MCPS. Essentailly claiming the film was biased and according to Lemm “full of untruths.”

Decide for yourself at The Missoula County Democrats next central Committee Meeting. We will show the film and discuss the School Board’s decision.

Who: You
What: Censorship and Science, Missoula Dems monthly meeting
Where: Missoula County Courthouse Room 210
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, February 10

This is the first I’ve heard about the school board meeting or the board’s ruling. I’ll try to get details and update this post. Comments that fill in the gaps would be greatly appreciated.

Until then, I figure that high school students can decide for themselves if the movie is biased and “full of untruths.” I mean, these kids aren’t kindergardners.

by Pete Talbot

I didn’t see this in any Montana media outlets and just stumbled across it in Google news. Then I noticed jhwygirl had the story in her “Various and Sundry,” so I guess it’s old news.

Still, I’m toying with the idea of not paying any of my bills this month, and I’ve got a lot of them. If we’re facing Armageddon, though, my accounts payable can wait.

Here’s the story, as reported by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (they’re into volcanoes over there).

You’d think this would be front page/lead story news around our state, especially in the Bozeman area, which sits about ninety miles due north of the caldera.

by jhwygirl

Saying brucellosis “does not belong in our future,” Suzanne Lewis, the superintendent of Yellow-stone National Park, pledged Monday to work with Montana’s Board of Livestock to eradicate the disease.

That, from today’s Billings Gazette.

…eradicate the disease”? From Yellowstone?

While the Bridger-Teton National Forest, to the south, is approving new leases on Wyoming state elk feedgrounds?

While the National Elk Refuge continue to feed elk?

That’s just plain lunacy speaking, Ms. Lewis. I simply can’t see it any other way. Maybe someone can please – please tell me why I’m wrong to think that.

It’s time for the NPS and Montana and the livestock industry to put pressure on Wyoming (and the USFS and the National Elk Refuge – a branch of the USFWS) to stop feeding wildlife, for Christ’s sake.

Until then, you’ll be pissin’ $$$$$$ into thin air doing anything else – including rounding up elk and bison to slaughter.

I had to add a new category because of this one: Common Sense.

by jhwygirl

Art Burns, owner of the cow which recently tested positive for brucellosis told the Bozeman Chronicle that his cattle had never been near any bison, though elk are frequently in the area.

Burns runs a small operation – about 50 head of Corriente cattle – out there in the middle of heaven, near Pray. He’s been doing increased monitoring and testing since last year.

Even more discouraging, livestock officials say Burns had taken all the appropriate steps to guard against a transmission by vaccinating and testing his cows frequently for disease. Burns had vaccinated his cattle twice and had a “whole-herd” testing plan.

According to officials, tests are being run on the diseased heifer to determine if the cow got the disease from other cattle, elk or bison. In last year’s case, tests found that while the source was not other cattle, there was inconclusive evidence as to whether it came from bison or elk. The owner of that herd said that if his cattle tested positive for brucellosis, elk from Yellowstone National Park had probably spread the disease.

Meanwhile, debate continues between the Montana Cattlemen’s Association and the Montana Stockgrowers Association over the Governor’s split-state proposal, which would require vaccination and more intense testing for cattle around Yellowstone National Park.

Christian Mackay, executive officer for the Montana Board of Livestock said that those plans won’t be discussed until the Board of Livestock meets again in late July.

Common sense must prevail – hopefully the Board of Livestock will act to take steps towards moving to a split-state status. It’s unfair to to ranchers in all other parts of the state. Get the politics out of this issue and let the interests of all cattle ranchers and the state’s livestock industry prevail.

by Rebecca Schmitz

The glow from the chandeliers and pendants at Western Montana Lighting provided an interesting backdrop for the introduction of the Brown-Daines ticket to Missoula voters yesterday, if only because of irony. The candidates were surrounded by light on Reserve Street, but Steve Daines’ far, far-right politics will drag Montana back into the darkness of superstition. How can we trust these two men to lead our state in the 21st century when one of them was the Montana chairman for Mike Huckabee’s campaign?

Daines called Huckabee a consistent leader with down-to-earth credentials that are solid and consistent with the majority of Montanans.

Really? The majority of Montanans support putting AIDS patients in, essentially, internment camps? Most of us don’t believe in or understand the science behind the theory of evolution? We want to abolish the rule of law in favor of the Word of God? Something tells me many Montanans aren’t comfortable with the level of religious fundamentalist and big government intrusion in our private lives that will be part of a (highly unlikely) Huckabee administration, a level presumably supported by his state chairman. Not only that, but if we want our state, and our nation, to enjoy economic success in the new millennium we need to embrace science and education. As Lawrence M. Krauss, writing in The Wall Street Journal, states:

America’s current economic strength derives from the investments in fundamental research and technology made a generation ago. Future strength will depend upon research being done today. One might argue that many key discoveries occurred as a result of importing scientific talent. But as foreign educational systems and economies flourish, our ability to attract and keep new talent could easily erode. Even with a continued foreign influx of scientific talent, it would be foolish to expect that we can maintain our technological leadership without a solid domestic workforce as well. Almost all of the major challenges we will face as a nation in this new century, from the environment, national security and economic competitiveness to energy strategies, have a scientific or technological basis. Can a president who is not comfortable thinking about science hope to lead instead of follow?

Can Montana’s future workforce, today’s students, get the scientific literacy necessary for the 21 century economy from a Brown-Daines administration? Steve thinks so:

“Elections are about the future,” Daines said. “It’s going to take a steady hand to guide our economy through what appear to be unsteady times.” Daines said the Republican team will emphasize jobs and the economy and lay out plans for the more efficient operation of state government.

Sorry, Steve. If Mike Huckabee’s brand of anti-science, anti-human progress “down-to-[flat]-earth credentials” are an indicator, any administration in which Huckabee’s state chairman plays an important role isn’t ready to guide tomorrow’s workforce, let alone today’s economy, in this new century. Our state’s educational and economic success depends on having people in office who understand basic science.  Daines is right in one respect, though. Elections are about the future. And his leadership role in the Southern Baptist minster’s presidential campaign reveals a lot about what he thinks the future should hold for Montana: a return to the ignorance of the past.

A bus koan

by Jay Stevens

Here’s science hard at work on your everyday problems: a study performed by a Harvard University mathematician on late busses, and whether you should stick out a wait, or move on.

The answer, of course, is obvious. You wait it out. If the bus goes by while you’re tramping to another stop, you’ll have to wait even longer for the next bus.

But the study begs some questions. First, why in h*ll would you go to the next stop? It’s not like there’s a reward for going to the next stop. After all, even if you reach it before the bus arrives, you’ll arrive at your destination at the same time you would have had you waited at the first bus stop. And – as anybody knows who’s tried this little trick – the odds of the bus going by while you’re still hoofing it are pretty d*mn good.

So, really, I didn’t find this study very helpful at all.

Here’s a more realistic situation for our Harvard friend. Say you get to the bus stop one minute late and there’s no sign of the bus after a five-minute wait, so you’re not sure it’s late, or you missed it. Say the bus comes only once an hour, and it’s -3 degrees F outside? Wait, there’s more. It’s 8:59am, it takes forty minutes to walk, and you have a 9:30 am conference call?

Do you walk? Or wait? Or go back home for a 40-minute nap?

Just askin’…

by Rebecca Schmitz

Hey, I know. Look at what I typed up there. That’s an incendiary title for a post. But I’m not going to pretend otherwise; I’m not calm, cool and rational about my access, or that of any other woman, to safe abortion and birth control. You and I know, reader, that both strike at the very heart of what it means to be a woman in the 21st Century. Thanks to the pill and legalized abortion, we’ve been liberated from the idea of biology as destiny for nearly fifty years. I don’t care what your politics are–nearly every single one of us uses birth control, knows someone who’s had an abortion, or has faced an unplanned pregnancy thankfully knowing there are medically safe options out there for us. No, instead I’d like to win you over, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or Democrat, female or male, to what I’m about to say.

I think Rick Jore’s initiative should be allowed to make it to the ballot next year. Yes, that’s right. I’m rabidly pro-choice and yet I think he should be allowed to gather signatures and try to make it to Montana’s 2008 ballot without our lawsuits or other rigmarole. I’ll admit, normally the very idea that my body, my genitalia, my civil rights should be up for a vote incenses me in a way I imagine Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. DuBois felt when they saw the outcome of Plessy vs. Ferguson and the encroachment of Jim Crow on American culture and politics over 100 years ago. They were not defined by the color of their skin and I am not the sum total of my uterus, vagina and fallopian tubes. The idea that people out there still want to control all three disgusts me to my very bones. But you and I are able to fight back in this case, thanks to the very person who’s bringing this initiative forward. That’s why we should let Representative Jore gather signatures and that’s why we should be there every time someone thinks about signing one of his petitions.

Continue Reading »

by Rebecca Schmitz 

Expect to hear a lot of tortured arguments over the next few days from our friends in the Flat Earth Society about how a Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t mean anything scientifically.

*Newt’s new book, A Contract with the Earth, outlines a free market-based plan for curbing global climate change.

by Jay Stevens 

I know the “creationism” versus “evolution” hubbub is dead in the water (thanks, Pennsylvania!), but I recently re-found this passage from Catch-22 by Joseph Heller:

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling on over objection. “There’s not nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about — a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

“Pain?” Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. “Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.”

“And who created the dangers?” Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. “Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! Why couldn’t he have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn’t He?”

“People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes in the middle of their foreheads.”

“They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony or stupefied with morphine, don’t they? What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead. His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It’s obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping clerk!”


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