Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why boys do better at math

For decades, researchers and educators have debated why boys tend to perform better than girls in math. ... Girls living in countries where there is more gender equality perform better in math, sometimes outpacing boys, than girls who live in countries with more male-dominated societies. ...

According to Sapienza, she and her colleagues were somewhat surprised by the findings.

"At some level, we were looking for it," she said. "We were surprised at how strong the correlation was."
What she is trying to say is that she was hoping that the points in the above chart would fall in a straight line, and she was surprised at how close it is to being a line. Does it look like a line to you?

A comment says:
"In Turkey, which scored low in gender gap equality, girls performed the worst: on average, 22.6 fewer points than boys." Maybe there really is a big disparity between the genders in mathematics. What else could explain the researcher being unable to interpret her chart correctly (hint: Brazil has a bigger gap than Turkey)?

Dietary fat does not cause cancer

More reseach debunks another myth about fat causing cancer:
There were no statistically significant associations between intakes of total fat, the subtypes of fat, of the P:S ratio [polyunsaturated to saturated] and risk of prostate cancer.

Thus, the totality of the evidence indicates that a higher intake of dietary fat is not a risk factor for prostate cancer.

Texas tries to justify its raid

Here is how the Texas CPS justifies seizing kids from the FLDS YZR. In its own brief before the Texas Supreme Court, it cites its own experts:
Angie Voss, supervisory investigator of the Department... The girls refused to answer questions ... The children gave no explanation ...

Ms. Voss testified it would not be safe for "any child to return to the ranch" because the adults on the ranch expressed that they "aren't doing anything harmful to their children", and that the "practice of children being united and having children is part of their culture and belief system".

Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry is a child psychiatrist who specializes in child maltreatment and child development. ... Dr. Perry testified that when you are raised in an environment where it is a blessing to have children and to be compliant to your father and the prophet, free choice is not really possible.
I think that it is clear that the authorities want to shut down the cult for its beliefs. If they could prove criminal charges, then they would do so, and skip these other bogus arguments.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Texas cult kids to be released

USA Today reports:
Children removed from the polygamous sect in West Texas will start going home Monday, under an agreement reached today.

An attorney for Texas Child Protective Services said parents will need to show identification, pledged to take parenting classes and stay in the state, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The agency is to be allowed access to the children 12 hours a day.
Okay, but the Texas Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to seize the kids. Why haven't they been returned immediately? Why are there any conditions? The parents should not have to attend classes to assert their constitutional rights.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

School reports mom as abuser for missing a meeting

The NY Post reports:
May 25, 2008 -- Bronx HS of Science senior Michel Dussack has a "B" average, an 1890 SAT score and an almost full college scholarship for the fall.

But Dussack's mother was accused of "educational neglect" two weeks ago and was reported to the city's child-services agency - because she missed a scheduled meeting to discuss her son possibly failing gym.

Karen Dussack, 40, is now under investigation by the Administration for Children's Services, the city's welfare agency that protects kids from neglect and abuse.
These agencies are out of control. There is no law requiring attendance at parent-teacher conferences.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Silly gripes about an honorary degree

Chancellor Mark Wrighton of Washington University, St. Louis has put out this lame statement:
I apologize for the anguish this decision has caused to many members of our community.

In bestowing this degree, the University is not endorsing Mrs. Schlafly's views or opinions; rather, it is recognizing an alumna of the University whose life and work have had a broad impact on American life and have sparked widespread debate and controversies that in many cases have helped people better formulate and articulate their own views about the values they hold....
One student complains about the voting:
The committee's recommendation of Ms. Schlafly was based on a complicated voting system. Voting occurred in two stages. In our first meeting, we ranked our preferences from approximately thirty names. The nominees were ranked based on the first balloting, and the top five were collected in a slate. We voted yes or no on the entire slate. An objection by one student was met with hostile opposition. The block of five names was then approved unanimously.
This list of protest letters includes these gems:
First, let us state clearly and firmly that our opposition to the selection of Mrs. Schlafly is not based on a rejection of her political, social, and ideological opinions. ...

When Mrs. Schlafly writes in her nationally syndicated column in 2006 that "Boys [sic] do not want to go to a college that eliminates the macho sports," she insults so many in our community: members of presumably non-macho male sports teams, ...

Mrs. Schlafly writes in a 2004 column that "For years, the universities have sanctimoniously proclaimed the sanctified value of diversity, but they define diversity to mean only giving space to radical leftwingers and feminists." ...

(Signed by 40 faculty, staff, and students in Arts & Sciences and the GWB School of Social Work)
Here is a bitter female writing prof who is mad at the world:
I hope I'm not telling your something you don't already know when I say that Washington University is not an ideal climate for women, although it is not unlike the world at large. The discontent that women academics feel here is chronic and grating.

Mary Jo Bang, Professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program
This engineering prof is worried that he'll lose grant money if Wash. U. loses its left-wing reputation:
Finally, let me mention a concern near to my heart as an active, federally funded researcher. Every grant application that I submit to the National Science Foundation must address the broader impacts of my work, including how it supports the education of women and underrepresented minorities. ... I shudder to think of how our actions today may bias the reviewers of future grant proposals from Washington University.

Jeremy Buhler, Associate Professor, Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering
The Social Work profs say that different opinions are encouraged, as long as no one disparages college profs:
She routinely disparages whole groups of people, such as ... college professors ... Universities are places where people are invited to voice opinions across the political spectrum.
The Art profs don't like her style of art:
Moreover, she has brought zeal to her denunciations and often mocks those with contrasting views. We know a performance artist when we see one, and Ms. Schlafly qualifies as such.
The English dept. chairman took offense to this column:
What was the motive behind 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui's killing of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech? Why was he consumed with hate, resentment and bitterness?

Cho was an English Department major and senior. As a frequent lecturer on college campuses, I have discovered that the English Departments are often the weirdest and/or the most leftwing.
He complains that her opinion is "unnuanced" and disrespectful of opposing views:
have raised my voice in part because graduating English Majors, and others among our students, expressed their shock at Mrs Schlafly's comment about the Virginia Tech murderer (I presume I don't need to repeat it here), and bewilderment that the university can be honoring one who can write such things. I cannot think of anything more offensive directed at my professional discipline and my students throughout my career. I do not believe that the expression of that opinion, which is corrosively irresponsible, assists any process of rational civic discourse whatsoever. What complicates the free speech defense is that opinion is sometimes the enemy of truth; and manufacturing such opinion, unnuanced and polarizing, has been Mrs Schlafly's work. Her disrespect for opposing views is unhappily evident even from today's newspaper. I doubt that she would share your value of diversity; but thank you sincerely for restating it.

David Lawton, Executive Director, New Chaucer Society, Professor and Chair, Department of English
A law prof's main objection is that she criticized the protesters:
Ms. Schlafly's principles are antithetical to the values for which Washington University purports to stand.

Indeed, Phyllis Schlafly's recent statements referring to the protesters - hundreds of faculty and students - as "a bunch of bitter women," "a bunch of losers," who need "to get a life" only highlights how antithetical her views are to those of rational discourse that should prevail in a great university.

Richard Kuhns, Professor of Law
Mary-Jean Cowell complains about her not support female college sports enough:
Moreover, considering that much of the WU achievement in collegiate sports in recent years has been the gift of our female athletes, we certainly do not show them respect in honoring a woman who is far from a supporter of equal participation for women in sports.
There are more wacky letters. They just prove how narrow-minded leftist academics can be.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New study says some girls don't like math

The Boston Globe reports:
Now two new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.

One study of information-technology workers found that women’s own preferences are the single most important factor in that field’s dramatic gender imbalance. Another study followed 5,000 mathematically gifted students and found that qualified women are significantly more likely to avoid physics and the other “hard” sciences in favor of work in medicine and biosciences.
Is this really "startling"? What else did people think?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Salt is good for you

ScienceDaily reports:
Contrary to long-held assumptions, high-salt diets may not increase the risk of death, according to investigators from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. They reached their conclusion after examining dietary intake among a nationally representative sample of adults in the U.S. The Einstein researchers actually observed a significantly increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) associated with lower sodium diets. ...

After adjusting for known CVD risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes and blood pressure, the one-fourth of the sample who reported consuming the lowest amount of sodium were found to be 80% more likely to die from CVD compared to the one-fourth of the sample consuming the highest level of sodium.
It is a big myth that table salt is unhealthy. The only known adverse effect is on those with high blood pressure, and they can compensate by taking high-blood pressure drugs.

Man-hating advice columnist

The Minneapolis newspaper has this Ask Amy column:
Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I were watching my 5-year-old niece. She came to me and told me that my boyfriend said he was going to punch her in the nose. I know that when my boyfriend is playing with the kids he plays around and says things, but he is adamant that he didn't say that.

I spoke with my niece's parents, and we chalked it up as a misunderstanding.

But now my boyfriend does not want her playing with him, and he refuses to watch her unless someone is with him every minute.

He is in law enforcement and says he sees things like this all the time, ...

Amy says: Most of what young children say has some basis in reality. ... this incident highlights his own immaturity.

I do agree with him about this one thing, however: He should not be alone with your niece because he can't be trusted to treat her well.
Amy's advice justifies the boyfriend's paranoia. If adults are going to automatically believe the false and petty accusations of a 5-year-old with an overactive imagination, then he has good reason to be cautious.

Update: Amy Dickinson is also criticized by Glenn Sacks.

Bernie Ward was caught in the act

KGO radio host Bernie Ward was recently convicted on child pornography, and today Brian Copeland, one of his fellow hosts, revealed on KGO that Ward was once caught masturbating while doing his Sunday morning "God Talk" religion show! He was on the air talking to callers, and doing perverted sex chat at the same time.

Ward is an Angry Left Bush-hater, and his story is that he was distributing child pornography as part of his research into right-wing hypocrisy.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

People have stereotypical beliefs

Scientific American magazine reports:
"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life,” Jesse Jackson once told an audience, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

Jackson’s remark illustrates a basic fact of our social existence, one that even a committed black civil-rights leader cannot escape: ideas that we may not endorse -- for example, that a black stranger might harm us but a white one probably would not -- can nonetheless lodge themselves in our minds and, without our permission or awareness, color our perceptions, expectations and judgments.

Using a variety of sophisticated methods, psychologists have established that people unwittingly hold an astounding assortment of stereotypical beliefs and attitudes about social groups: ...

Now researchers are probing deeper. They want to know: Where exactly do such biases come from?
One of the themes of this blog is that when researchers attempt mindreading, they often devise overly complex theories when simple ones suffice. In this case, there is a simple explanation for why someone might fear being robbed by a black man more than a white man.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Requiring photo id

A reader writes to favor photo ID for voting, and claims that her bank requires photo ID just to make a deposit. But after a couple of questions, she admitted that she had never tried making a deposit without photo ID, and does not really know what the bank policy is!

I think that a lot of people probably like to present photo ID. It is their way of saying, "I am not an illegal alien." They also like to show off their major credit card, as a way of saying, "I am not a deadbeat with a low credit score." California is crawling with illegal aliens and deadbeats. You have to show off your status however you can, I guess.

Update: The reader writes to say that the bank teller told her that it is bank policy to ask for photo ID or an ATM card. She does not know what the bank would do if no such card were presented.

Mohammedan man kills daughter

Here is news from Iraq:
For Abdel-Qader Ali there is only one regret: that he did not kill his daughter at birth. ‘If I had realised then what she would become, I would have killed her the instant her mother delivered her,’ he said with no trace of remorse.

Two weeks after The Observer revealed the shocking story of Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, murdered because of her infatuation with a British solider in Basra, southern Iraq, her father is defiant. Sitting in the front garden of his well-kept home in the city’s Al-Fursi district, he remains a free man, despite having stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed his student daughter to death.

Abdel-Qader, 46, a government employee, was initially arrested but released after two hours. Astonishingly, he said, police congratulated him on what he had done. ‘They are men and know what honour is,’ he said. ...

‘Death was the least she deserved,’ said Abdel-Qader. ‘I don’t regret it. I had the support of all my friends who are fathers, like me, and know what she did was unacceptable to any Muslim that honours his religion,’ he said. […] ‘That girl was a mistake in my life. I know God is blessing me for what I did,’ he said, his voice swelling with pride.
These folks are not going to be civilized any time soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How girls get knee injuries

The NY Times explains how Title IX has led to thousands of girls getting seriouns knee injuries:
Title IX, the federal law enacted in 1972 mandating equal opportunity in sports, has helped to shape a couple of generations of girls who believe they are as capable and as tough as any boy. With a mix of resignation and pride, Rich Pierson said to me: "We've raised these girls to be headstrong and independent. ...

By Janelle's and her mother's count, her club team, with 18 players, had suffered eight A.C.L. tears — eight — during her high-school years: Janelle's two, another player's two and four other girls with one each. A high-school teammate one class above Janelle endured chronic ankle problems and, according to a Miami Herald article, six ankle operations — three in each leg — over the course of her four years on the varsity soccer team.

This casualty rate was not due to some random spike in South Florida. It is part of a national trend in the wake of Title IX and the explosion of sports participation among girls and young women. From travel teams up through some of the signature programs in women's college sports, women are suffering injuries that take them off the field for weeks or seasons at a time, or sometimes forever.

Girls and boys diverge in their physical abilities as they enter puberty and move through adolescence. Higher levels of testosterone allow boys to add muscle and, even without much effort on their part, get stronger. In turn, they become less flexible. Girls, as their estrogen levels increase, tend to add fat rather than muscle. They must train rigorously to get significantly stronger. The influence of estrogen makes girls' ligaments lax, and they outperform boys in tests of overall body flexibility — a performance advantage in many sports, but also an injury risk when not accompanied by sufficient muscle to keep joints in stable, safe positions. Girls tend to run differently than boys — in a less-flexed, more-upright posture — which may put them at greater risk when changing directions and landing from jumps. Because of their wider hips, they are more likely to be knock-kneed — yet another suspected risk factor.

This divergence between the sexes occurs just at the moment when we increasingly ask more of young athletes, especially if they show talent: play longer, play harder, play faster, play for higher stakes. And we ask this of boys and girls equally — unmindful of physical differences.
Phyllis Schlafly warned about this five years ago.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

People like cheap wines that are labeled expensive

Here is wine research:
The researchers scanned the brains of 21 volunteer wine novices as they administered tiny tastes of wine, measuring sensations in the medial orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain where flavor responses apparently register. The subjects were told only the price of the wines. Without their knowledge, they tasted one wine twice, and were given two different prices for that wine. Invariably they preferred the one they thought was more expensive.
The best wines are the cheap wines that have been relabeled as expensive wines.

Michael McClish to be charged with murder

I commented previously that Michael McClish was tried and convicted of rape on some very flimsy evidence. He did not get a fair trial. It appeared to me that he was framed because the authorities suspect him of murder, and could not prove it.

Now he is being charged with murder:
SANTA CRUZ - The only person ever publicly named a suspect in the 2006 murder of a pregnant Ben Lomond woman was arrested on two counts of murder Tuesday.

Michael Patrick McClish, 38, will be charged with the slaying of Joanna "Asha" Veil, 28, and her unborn child, Anina, today, according to authorities at the Wednesday afternoon press conference at the District Attorney's Office.
I hope he gets a fair trial. The authorities have finally revealed that the father of the unborn baby was the victim's estranged husband, not McLish. No motive or murder weapon has been reported.

I will be waiting to see the actual evidence. I know that there are a lot of local folks who think that McLish must be guilty because he has shifty eyes, or because he was once rude to a customer, or some similar reason. I hope that someone has better evidence than that.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No American science grad shortage

A new Nature mag article addresses the myth that the USA has a shortage of skilled scientists and engineers:
In absolute numbers, the U.S. has more top-scoring kids in math and science than any other country studied–by far. ...

The answer, of course, is that the groups that stand to benefit from a public perception of an S&E shortage–the tech industry (who want an expanded H-1B work visa program for its cheap labor), the immigration lawyers (who want an expanded H-1B for obvious reasons), the education lobby (”Give us more money so we can remedy the shortage”) and so on hire the slickest PR people money can buy. They’ve been at it for years, to the point at which many people in Congress, the press and the public at large simply take it for granted that “Johnnie can’t do math.”
We are producing as many college grads in science and engineering as we can use. We do not need to import cheap labor from elsewhere.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Phyllis gets honorary degree

Some people are complaining that Wash. U. (St. Louis) is giving Phyllis Schlafly an honorary degree. The quote that seems to bug people the most is:
By getting married, the woman has consented to sex, and I don’t think you can call it rape.
Until about 30 years ago, the word "rape" was used for serious crimes other than marital sexual relations. Even today, many people do not accept the notion that marital rape is comparable to stranger rape, Eg, this article says:
Today there is considerable evidence that marital rape is still perceived as a lesser crime than other forms of rape within our culture and some studies have found a significant number of participants still question whether it is possible to rape one’s wife (Whatley, 2005; Kirkwood & Cecil, 2001). In a recent study of attitudes among college students, Monson, Byrd and Langhinrichsen-Rohling (1996) found that marital rape was perceived as less serious than rape perpetuated by a stranger and only 50% of the male students thought that it was possible for a husband to rape his wife.
There are some feminists who argue that marital rape is worse than stranger rape. Most people disagree.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Fast food and liver damage

Here is a science scare story about fast food:
Diets high in fast food can be highly toxic to the liver and other internal organs, but that damage can be reversed, says one of the country’s leading experts on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, who offers four steps to undo the effects of a 'super-size me' diet.
Late in the story we learn:
etri is quick to emphasize that fast food per se doesn’t causes liver damage. Rather, he says, the harm comes from eating too many calories and ... “The big issue here is caloric content,” says Tetri.
Yes, calorie content. If you go on a super-size movie diet where you double your calories eaten and avoid all exercise, then you will gain weight and have other health problems. The mice is the study displayed an increase in liver enzymes.

The article suggests avoiding fast food, but the research doesn't really show that fast food is any worse than any other food with the same calories.

Here is a funny cartoon about bacon being bad for your health. In reality, bacon is good for you.