Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Boffins create zombie dogs

New research:
Boffins create zombie dogs

Eerie ... boffins have brought dead dogs back to life, in the name of science. Scientists have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.
No, it is not a movie review.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

RFK Jr on vaccines

John sends this NY Times article on childhood vaccines and autism. I've been critisizing vaccine policy for years, including the policy that allowed thimerosal (mercury) in vaccines, but now some leftist kooks have gotten on board.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote on this subject in Salon and Rolling Stone, and Salon had to issue this correction:
The article also misstated the level of ethylmercury received by infants injected with all their shots by the age of six months. It was 187 micrograms -- an amount 40 percent, not 187 times, greater than the EPA's limit for daily exposure to methylmercury.
Science reporter Fumento reports in the WSJ that Kennedy got is worse 4 days later:
But Mr. Kennedy isn't to be relied upon for facts. He told Mr. Scarborough in a June 21 interview: "We are injecting our children with 400 times the amount of mercury that FDA or EPA considers safe."
See also Skeptico. I guess we shouldn't trust any figures from Kennedy.

Fired for personal beliefs

WorldNetDaily.com says:
A former manager with Allstate has sued the insurance giant, alleging the company, which financially supports homosexual advocacy groups, fired him solely because he wrote a column posted on several websites that was critical of same-sex marriage and espoused his Christian beliefs.
I'm glad I don't work for AllState.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Roger Ebert says:
The fatal flaw in almost every zombie movie I've seen is the fact that they are so easy to kill.
He gives thumb's up anyway.

Spielberg repents

Movie news:
STEVEN SPIELBERG is glad he made alien invasion classic CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND before he became a father - because the movie would have had a very different ending if he had been a dad at the time.

Spielberg admits he could never have a father turning his back on his family to leave earth with aliens because he could never imagine doing the same thing, now he's a father.

The father of seven says, "Close Encounters was about a man whose insatiable curiosity, more than just curiosity, developed into an obsession and the kind of psychic implantation drew him away from his family and, only looking back once, he walked onto the mother ship.

"That was before I had kids. That was 1977. So I wrote that blithely. Today, I would never have the guy leaving his family to go on the mother ship. I would have the guy doing everything he could to protect his children.
In 1977, the mainstream media were dominated by feminists who viewed dads as extraneous to child-rearing. Someday the public will wise up.

Charlie says, "The aliens chose him. That's plausible as hell to me!" Yeah, I like movies too.

Why Gender Matters

Some goofy child psychologists and educators think that things like competitive sports and other traditional activities for kids are bad because they promote aggression. But promoting aggression is actually beneficial, to a degree. Boys in particular learn to fight other boys, and to later make friends with those boys. This and similar issues are explained in Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences, By Leonard Sax.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Scientologist Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise lectures Matt Lauer:
I've never agreed with psychiatry, ever," declared Cruise. "Before I was a Scientologist I never agreed, and when I became a Scientologist, I never agreed. As far as the Brooke Shields thing is concerned you have to understand, look, I really care about Brooke Shields ? she's a wonderful and talented woman, and I want her to do well, and I know psychiatry is a pseudoscience. She doesn't understand the history of psychiatry, just as you don't understand it, Matt. I do. ... All it does is mask the problem.
You can find some Scientology info here.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Married men earn more if wives do the chores

A new study says:
LONDON (Reuters) - Married men earn more than bachelors so long as their wives stay at home doing the housework, according to a report on Wednesday from Britain's Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER).

Academics Elena Bardasi and Mark Taylor found that a married man whose wife does not go out to work but is primarily responsible for the cooking and cleaning earns about 3 percent more than comparably employed single men.

But that wage premium disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don't do most of the housework.

"It has been fairly well documented that married men earn more than single men," Taylor, a labour economist, told Reuters.

"However, our research established the wage premium is related to the wife doing the chores," said the academic who teaches at the University of Essex.
My guess is that a man earns less if the wife is a feminist with an attitude.

Talking to Strangers

Bruce Schneier says:
In Beyond Fear I wrote: "Many children are taught never to talk to strangers, an extreme precaution with minimal security benefit."

In talks, I'm even more direct. I think "don't talk to strangers" is just about the worst possible advice you can give a child. Most people are friendly and helpful, and if a child is in distress, asking the help of a stranger is probably the best possible thing he can do.
I told my kids that an 11-year-old boy was lost in the Utah wilderness for four days because his parents taught him not to talk to strangers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Intersex and ambiguous toilets

John sends this story about a local restaurant:
The Saturn -- a gay-friendly vegan/vegetarian eatery that has been a Santa Cruz institution for a quarter-century -- is not just the place to go for the quintessential Santa Cruz dining experience. The Laurel Street restaurant is at the heart of a small but growing movement aimed at making transgender and ``intersex'' people -- those born with genitalia that aren't typically male or female -- feel more comfortable using public facilities.

``This is the new wave -- to really look at bathrooms,'' said Deborah Abbott, director of the Lionel CantĂș Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex Resource Center at the University of California-Santa Cruz. ...

``Single-sex toilets give bigots another excuse to hit people,'' Ian Ayres, a Yale Law School professor, argued in a recent commentary published by the online magazine Slate.
Instead of trying to list all the deviant possibilities, I think that they should call their organization the Queer Center, and advocate a third bathroom just for queers.

Picky eaters may be healthy

The NY Times reports on picky eaters:
"From 1 year of age to about adolescence, there's a dearth of research," said Dr. Stephanie A. Atkinson, a member of a dietary panel at the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

"For children, there are no relationships established between nutrient intake and disease prevention," largely because lifelong studies beginning in childhood are difficult and expensive to conduct, she said. ...

In any case, picky eating does not seem to put children at risk for overall nutritional deficiencies, experts said. Although picky eaters do tend to take in fewer nutrients than more diverse eaters, a majority of American children meet the recommended intakes for most nutrients, according to national data, though there are increasing numbers of malnourished children among low-income families. ...

Researchers say that as onerous as it sounds, parents should expose a child to a food at least 10 times before giving up. Most parents give up after five attempts.

If the battle is staked over vegetables, experts say, give it a rest.

"Nutritionists tend to lump fruits and vegetables together," Dr. Birch said. "But for kids and most of us, these things are not all alike. Kids tend to eat fruits, which have a lot of the same nutrients as vegetables."
Parents of picky eaters often devote a lot of effort to force dietary preferences, but there is no scientific proof that such efforts do any good. Nearly all kids can get a healthy and balanced diet from food that they like.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Designer dresses v retailored breasts

Fashion news:
"I gave up my wardrobe to show off my breasts," says Tara Fierstatt, a national merchandiser for Buffalo Jeans in New York, who had implants in 2000 and now fits a C cup.

"Your options are so much better, but it's funny: I used to wear button-down shirts, and now they don't fit," she says. "I might have to go up a size on the top if it's too tight around the chest, but then it does not fit in the shoulders or the arms."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Elderly with friends live longer

New Scientist says:
Close friends make longer life more likely

Friends, not family, are the key to a longer life, a new study suggests. ...

The new study followed almost 1500 Australians, initially aged over 70. Those who at the start reported regular close personal or phone contact with five or more friends were 22% less likely to die in the next decade than those who had reported fewer, more-distant friends. But the presence or absence of close ties with children or other relatives had no impact on survival. ...

It is possible that close connections with friends might have a positive physiological effect on the body, in contrast to the negative effect caused by stress, adds Carlos Mendes de Leon of the Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, US, in an editorial accompanying the paper.
I think that it is more likely that sick and dying old people are abandoned by their friends. The healthy ones have a lot more friends.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bad educator ideas

Friday was the last day of school, and my kid was sent home with a pamphlet saying:
Summer Support Activities for first and second graders

Read to your child daily. This is the best thing that any
parent can do.
Then the principal herself told me some crazy story about how accelerated students are at risk for teenage suicide.

A problem with these educators is that they pay no attention to actual research on what works and what does not. Her ideas about accelerated students are completely false. And studies have found no benefit from parents reading to kids. It may even be more beneficial for a kid to watch TV than to listen to a parent read from a book.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Celebrate Father's Day

New Phyllis Schlafly column:
On this Father's Day, Americans should ponder the appalling fact that an estimated 40 percent of our nation's children are living in homes without their own father. Most of our social problems are caused by kids who grow up in homes without their own fathers: drug abuse, illicit sexual activity, unwed pregnancies, youth suicide, high school dropouts, runaways, and crime. ...

For 30 years, feminist organizations and writers have propagated the myth that women are victims of an oppressive patriarchal society and that marriage is an inherently abusive institution that makes wives second-class citizens. Feminists made divorce a major component of women's liberation and their political freedom. ...

During the Clinton Administration, the feminists parlayed their hysteria that domestic violence is a national epidemic into the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This created a gigantic gravy train of taxpayers' money, known as feminist pork, that empowers pro-divorce, anti-male activism.
Congress will soon have to vote on renewing VAWA. Part of it had been found unconstitutional.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson acquitted

Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist on Fox News, complained about the Michael Jackson verdict, and said this of the 13-year-old accuser:
He didn't really get his experiences and his feelings validated. ... I think it is very sad for this boy, and for all children who have been molested.
Her analysis was that the prosecution coached the boy to tell the wrong set of lies, and that it didn't have "good expert witness psychiatric testimony". She claims that she has the ability to discern the truth, even in cases where the accuser changes his story multiple times.

She is an expert witness against Jackson is his child custody case.

I am glad that juries are not always fooled by phonies like her. I had predicted here that Jackson would be acquitted.

Political Expediency v Science

John sends this:
A bill introduced by Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D, NY) that attempts to end financial conflicts of interest among FDA advisory committee members passed by a vote of 218 to 210. The bill prevents the FDA from empaneling scientists with financial ties to companies whose products they are evaluating by eliminating FDA fees to such scientists.
He says that only 32 Republicans voted for the Hinchey amendment, but they included 2 medical doctors (Ron Paul and Dave Weldon) plus the 2 members with the greatest expertise on vaccine injuries (Dan Burton and Chris Shays).

The article tries to defend FDA decisions being made by scientists with obvious financial conflicts of interest. I think that scientists on an independent advisory committee be independent. We've had several bad vaccine approvals in recent years because of a lack of critical thinking on the committees.

Rosie says no breastfeeding

Malkin's blog:
Comedienne Rosie O'Donnell banned her partner Kelli Carpenter from breastfeeding their daughter Vivienne just a few weeks after she was born--because she was jealous of their bonding sessions. ... O'Donnell admits she felt left out of the motherhood process whenever she observed her partner nursing their child.
Remember this, when you hear about lesbians wanting to adopt kids.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cats affect the brain

New British cat research:
The startling figures emerge from studies into toxoplasma gondii, a parasite carried by almost all the country?s feline population. They show that half of Britain?s human population carry the parasite in their brains, and that infected people may undergo slow but crucial changes in their behaviour.

Infected men, suggests one new study, tend to become more aggressive, scruffy, antisocial and are less attractive. Women, on the other hand, appear to exhibit the ?sex kitten? effect, becoming less trustworthy, more desirable, fun- loving and possibly more promiscuous. ...

He found the women infected with toxoplasma spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive. ?We found they were more easy-going, more warm-hearted, had more friends and cared more about how they looked,? he said. ?However, they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men.?
That explains a lot. I never could trust those easy-going sexy sluts!

No Mass. spanking

From Boston news:
In April, a Plymouth, Mass., father landed on the front page of local papers and behind bars after he used a belt to spank his son Josh, 12. ...

But now, lawmakers are considering making "the willfull infliction of physical pain on children under 18," illegal. The measure would prohibit corporal punishment including whipping, spanking and pinching. Also forbidden would be washing a child's mouth out with soap and administering electric shocks.
The kids may figure out that they can get out of doing homework if they claim that it causes headaches.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Female orgasm is genetic

Here is another goofy genetic theory:
After taking into account other factors that could influence orgasm, the scientists estimated that 34 percent of the difficulty women face in reaching orgasm during intercourse is due to genes.

Problems in sexual response during masturbation seemed to be more genetically influenced than orgasm ability during intercourse. The study found that 45 percent of the difficulty women have in climaxing during masturbation can be attributed to genetic makeup.

The results were similar to those of a study on Australian twins published earlier this year.
And there are 21 different evolutionary theories for how those genes evolved.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Italian court says gay man can drive

Here is news from Sicily:
The court on the Mediterranean island said being gay was merely "a personality disturbance" which had no bearing on a person's ability to drive, Ansa news agency reported.

The 23-year-old man, who was identified as Danilo G., got into trouble with the road licence authorities in the city of Catania after they discovered he had been exempted from military service because he was gay.

The authorities suspended his driving licence ahead of further checks on his "suitability" to take the wheel.

The man's lawyer, Giuseppe Lipera, denounced the move as "utterly scandalous and offensive" and has demanded 500,000 euros in damages.

"Danilo ... is deeply perturbed by what has happened. He has lost his hair and is suffering shock," Lipera was quoted as saying by Ansa.

In a written ruling released on Monday, the Sicilian court said: "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."

The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance".
Maybe his sexual preference is not a problem, but if he is so disturbed that he is in shock and losing his hair, then he probably should not be driving.

New milk study

A new milk study says:
The researchers examined the relationship between the children's milk intake between 1996 and 1999 and their weight over a one-year period. Those who drank more than three eight-ounce servings of milk a day gained the most weight, even after the researchers took into consideration factors such as physical activity, other dietary factors and growth. The association held, even though most of the children were drinking low-fat milk.
They could not have controlled for both calories and exercise, because if they did, they would have discovered that nothing else would have found that nothing else affects weight gain.

I think that their mistake was to single out drinkers of 3 glasses of low-fat milk. Low-fat milk has a higher percentage of its calories in carbohydrates, and may be fattening like sugary sodas. A better test might be to look at kids who only drink whole milk and low-carb drinks.

Update: According to the long-term San Antonio Heart Study:
Researchers analyzed patient information spanning 26 years. They found that those who drink diet sodas were more likely to become overweight. The risk of being overweight or obese increased 65 percent more with each diet drink per day.
Go figure.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Genetic factors

NY Times says:
Q. What is the latest thinking on why there are more right-handed people than left-handed people? Is it genetic?

A. "The best thinking is that there is no genetic basis for it," said Dr. Lee Ehrman, distinguished professor of biology at Purchase College of the State University of New York, co-author of a new study in the journal Behavior Genetics, with Dr. Ira Perelle of Mercy College.

Dr. Ehrman's research, covering 12,000 people, led her to conclude that the reason for the predominance of right-handedness is that most people are born with the language-generating part of the brain primarily in the left hemisphere. Some nerve fibers from the language area cross over and direct the right side of the body, handling writing and some other learned tasks, leading to one hand's becoming dominant in these tasks.
Scientific American says:
What is really going on, asserts Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, is that "a relatively small group of scientists and doctors, many directly funded by the weight-loss industry, have created an arbitrary and unscientific definition of overweight and obesity. They have inflated claims and distorted statistics on the consequences of our growing weights, and they have largely ignored the complicated health realities associated with being fat."

One of those complicated realities, concurs Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is the widely accepted evidence that genetic differences account for 50 to 80 percent of the variation in fatness within a population. Because no safe and widely practical methods have been shown to induce long-term loss of more than about 5 percent of body weight, Campos says, "health authorities are giving people advice--maintain a body mass index in the 'healthy weight' range--that is literally impossible for many of them to follow." Body mass index, or BMI, is a weight-to-height ratio.
I am skeptical when they talk about what is genetic and what is not.

Recognizing emotions

Here is some new psychology research:
Men's famous lack of emotional intelligence may have a scientific basis, according to British psychologists.

An experiment based on facial recognition at St Andrews University has concluded that a man's brain cannot pick up the facial expressions showing how his partner feels - supporting the long-held view that men are emotionally clueless.

To prove the theory, men and women were shown pictures of faces depicting a range of different feelings, from neutral to intense. The male subjects were substantially worse at spotting emotion and, as predicted, could pick up only sadness, surprise, fear, disgust and anger in the most obvious cases. ...

In the experiment, reported in the journal Cognitive Psychology this week, the researchers used pictures of actors to examine face processing in men and women aged 18 to 30. Each set of images range from zero to full- blooded emotion.
A flaw in this study is that the subjects were not detecting emotions like disgust, but rather the ability of an actor to fake disgust. It is not clear whether the men were worse at detecting emotion, or better at detecting lousy acting.
The findings make an interesting parallel with research into the abilities of people with autism - the majority of whom are male - which shows that they are weak at recognising even the most obvious clues in the human face. This has led some authorities to conclude that the condition can be described as an extreme form of maleness.
They could be weak at recognizing facial clues, or strong
at not being faked out by false clues.
Other research at the University of California has shown that men can improve on their recognition of facial emotions by learning to "mirror" what they see in others. They found that when people copied the facial expression they see in a partner, they are able to feel what the other person is feeling - a technique also recommended by experts in body language.

Some research shows that women do this more naturally than men. Observational studies suggest that when women are in conversation they empathise more than men, including adopting similar facial expressions.

Practitioners of the mirror technique are said to have included gothic horror novelist Edgar Allan Poe, although it is not known how this affected his prose.
This is too weird. It sounds to me as if the researchers cannot distinguish genuine emotion from fake emotion.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Genetic determinism

Here is new evidence that sexual behavior is genetic, and that IQ is genetic. It is funny how one is politically correct, and the other is not.
"The results are so clean and compelling, the whole field of the genetic roots of behavior is moved forward tremendously by this work," said Dr. Michael Weiss, chairman of the department of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University. "Hopefully this will take the discussion about sexual preferences out of the realm of morality and put it in the realm of science."
All they did was to chemically induce some behavior changes in fruit flies.

For a criticism of the gay gene thoery, see this book.

Questioned women's suffrage

News from Kansas:
TOPEKA, Kan. ? A state senator who once said that giving women the vote was a symptom of weakness in the U.S. family wants to be Kansas' top elections official.

Sen. Kay O'Connor said yesterday that she is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state next year. O'Connor, 63, has served in the Legislature since 1993.

In 2001, O'Connor received national attention for her remarks about the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.

"I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of," she said at the time. "The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs, and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family."
We would be better off if the 19A had never passed.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Feminists are crazed ideologues

An Ohio student says:
What is missing from both Ashley Herzog's article and Schlafly's critiques of feminism is a stated definition of what feminism is. It is clear from the above-cited quote (feminists tell women if they marry, their husbands will probably beat them) that both Schlafly and Herzog view feminists by their traditional stereotype: crazed, man-hating, extreme left-wing ideologues. This is a classic straw-man argument; if all feminists were crazed ideologues certainly they would alienate many women, but this is simply not the case.
Actually, feminists do alienate many women.