Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hydrogen bond angles and...cancer?

Occasionally alties throw out some really wierd things, but this just takes the cake I think:
Fifty years ago the hydrogen bond angle in water was 108° and you rarely heard of anyone with cancer. Today, it's only 104° and, as a result, cancer is an epidemic!! By using our machine you can increase the bond angle to 114° and, unlike any other water, doctors can see an immediate change in the red blood cells under a microscope! It's truly amazing!!
Hmmm, that certainly does sound convincing to me! Who would have thought that hydrogen bond angles would be the cause of all those pesky cancers. Who would have then guessed that someone had come up with a solution for it that you could easily pay for right now! Orac gives this little piece of nuttery the shake down over at his blog.

I wonder how people come up with this stuff though.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rothschild pwnage

The prosecution lawyer Rothschild, came out with an excellent pwn (again) against Michael Behe at the Dover trial now that I've managed to find the time to slog through the transcripts. During a discussion on the origin of the flagellum, Behe was asked about the scientific dialogue concerning possible evolutionary pathways from the type III secretion system:
Q. Okay. But scientists, as they do with many
subjects on which there's disagreement, may continue to
be making arguments and writing papers and submitting
them to peer review journals and doing experiments to
see if they can come up with a consensus answer on the
A. Sure. And they may write books to try to come up
with an answer, too, as well.
Q. That's how you get the royalties, right?
A. (No response.)
ZING! I wonder what sort of look Behe gave...

Friday, October 21, 2005

More Behe fun

This trial is a never ending source of pure comedy from Michael Behe. First he tries to redefine the term "Peer review" and now he's trying to redefine the term "critical reviewer". This comes from the cross examination by the prosecution lawyer Rothschild when questioning Behe over his role as a 'reviewer' of the ID textbook of Pandas and People.
Q But you actually were a critical reviewer of
18 Pandas, correct; that s what it says in the acknowledgments
19 page of the book?
20 A That s what it lists there, but that does not mean
21 that I critically reviewed the whole book and commented on
22 it in detail, yes.
23 Q What did you review and comment on, Professor Behe?
24 A I reviewed the literature concerning blood
25 clotting, and worked with the editor on the section that
1 became the blood clotting system. So I was principally
2 responsible for that section.
3 Q So you were reviewing your own work?
4 A I was helping review or helping edit or helping
5 write the section on blood clotting.
6 Q Which was your own contribution?
7 A That s -- yes, that s correct.
8 Q That s not typically how the term "critical review"
9 is used; would you agree with that?
10 A Yeah, that s correct.
11 Q So when the publishers of Pandas indicate that you
12 were a critical reviewer of Pandas, that s somewhat
13 misleading, isn t it?
14 MR. MUISE: Objection. Assumes that he understands
15 what their purpose for listing him as a critical reviewer.
16 THE COURT: He just answered the question that
17 that s not a critical review, so the objection is overruled.
18 You can ask that question.
20 Q Advertising you as a critical reviewer of this book
21 is misleading to the students, isn t it?
22 MR. MUISE: Objection, that s argumentative.
23 THE COURT: It s cross examination. It s
24 appropriate cross. Overruled.
25 THE WITNESS: I m sorry, could you repeat the
1 question?
3 Q Telling the readers of Pandas that you were a
4 critical reviewer of that book is misleading, isn t it?
5 A I disagree. As I said, that s not the typical way
6 that the term "critical reviewer" is used, but nonetheless,
7 in my opinion I don t think it is misleading.
So Pandas has blatantly false information in it and yet it is not being 'misleading'? I guess Behes definition of 'misleading' must be similar to his definition of 'Peer review'. In other words, one that nobody else happens to share.

Behe castrates himself at ID trial

As with all creationist attempts to insert their babbling into classrooms, it always ends up being decided in court because they are unable to convince anyone in the normal 'peer review' systems all other scientists do. Michael Behe, author of the somewhat interesting work of fiction Behes Black Box (or was it Darwins Black Box?) has claimed on the stand his book went through:
peer review for Darwin's Black Box was analogous to peer review in the [scientific] literature
Oh really? One of the reviewers that Behe cited for this 'peer review' was a Dr. Michael Atchison, who is the head of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania vetinary school. Of course, I would immediately point out if you're going to criticise evolution in your book, wouldn't it be best to have reviewers who are evolutionists to begin with? Anyway, discrepancies aside let's look at an article published by Dr. Atchison around the same time that the prosecution then presented:

While I was identifying myself as a Christian in Philadelphia, a Biochemist named Michael Behe at Lehigh University was writing a book on evolution. As a Biochemist, Behe found the evidence for Darwinian evolution to be very thin. In fact, when he looked at the cell from a biochemical perspective, he believed there was evidence of intelligent design. Behe sent his completed manuscript to The Free Press publishers for consideration. The editor was not certain that this manuscript was a good risk for publication. There were clearly theological issues at hand, and he was under the impression that these issues would be poorly received by the scientific community. If the tenets of Darwinian evolution were completely accepted by science, who would be interested in buying the book?

The editor shared his concerns with his wife. His wife was a student in my class. She advised her husband to give me a call. So, unaware of all this, I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately 10 minutes on the phone. After hearing a description of the work, I suggested that the editor should seriously consider publishing the manuscript. I told him that the origin of life issue was still up in the air. It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript. We hung up and I never thought about it again. At least until two years later.

So in other words, this 'peer review' that Behe claims comes down to 10 minutes on the phone with someone who has never read the actual book. Behes response to this?
Rothschild (Prosecution lawyer): "Is this your understanding of the kind of peer review that Dr. Atcheson did of your book?"

Behe: "No"

Rothschild: "he didn't review it carefully, he didn't review it at all."

Behe: "My understanding is different."

Oh your understanding is different is it Behe? I'm sure it is, just as your understanding of the evidence for evolution concerning things like the immune system and bacterial flagella is different too? Very well done Behe, you just ruined whatever remaining credibility the ID movement had left in one fell swoop. You should feel really proud because it's not often that someone just completely pwns themself in that manner in one fell swoop and in court.

For more trial shenannigans go to the ACLU blog on the case. It's hillarity the whole way through as the ID proponents get eviscerated, usually with their own words too.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A rare personal type post.

Finally completed the last of my main hurdles before the end of the year with my oral exams being finished today. Now I'll have plenty of time for blogging and other aspects of general internet fun. Of course it's time to start looking for a job, considering options for moving onto a PhD and importantly deciding if I want to go overseas for a bit. Although I would have liked to walk in the graduation ceremony in december I missed out due to being busy with other things (so forgot to submit the form, doh!). Oh well, the ceremony in may sounds more attractive anyway because all of my other friends who are still studying will be around to see me graduate.

Overall I've found my time at Otago University to be extremely enjoyable. I've learnt a lot in the four years I've spent there, and developed considerably as both a person and as a scientist. Additionally I've met a lot of great people along the way and made excellent friends. Sometimes things have become a little disconnected as I started originally trying to do multiple degrees (biochemistry and microbiology at first), which just unfortunately made for too much of a workload that certainly didn't help the old stress meter.

19th Skeptics Circle has been posted

Nurse Kelly has gone with a carnival themed skeptics circle this week over at time to lean. Once again there are some excellent examples of skeptical writing available for your edification.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Arachnids faking it during sex

I've always had a fascination with the way that spiders decide to mate with one another. Being heavily armed predators by having webs, a bad temper and a nasty bite, mating is a very dicey affair at the best of times. Male spiders pretty much face an up-hill battle as the female is usually bigger, meaner and hungrier than he is. Worse, many species of spiders are almost blind or their eyesight isn't the best meaning males have an even harder time. This has resulted in males often having odd mating behaviours or very elaborate dances so that they avoid being eaten.

A recent paper published online in Biology Letters discusses the mating behaviour of Pisaura mirabilis males. These spiders use a strategy where the male attempts to distract the female by giving her a 'nupital gift', which consists of an insect he's caught and wrapped up in silk. While she dines on his gift, he sneaks in to mate and then gets away as quick as he can. Unfortunately, this strategy doesn't always work and instead of going for the tasty gift, she decides the male would be a more tasty snack!

The clever male however has a devious way of getting around this problem, he falls into thanatosis (plays dead) putting her attention back on the gift and not him. When she moves on to dine on the snack, he slowly gets up and proceeds to sneak in a mating while she isn't paying attention. This strategy works remarkably well as most males succeed in mating by doing this. Of course, the male sacrifices any form of defence he may have previously had and is more open to being cannabalised than he was originally. Additionally, the male also doesn't get as long to mate with his rather bossy mate as one who succeeds in the original courting.

Interestingly, playing dead is a relatively uncommon strategy among spiders and many other invertebrates as well. This is probably due to the large amount of risk that is involved, particularly as it does leave the male utterly defenseless and with some predatory insects it might not be overly much of a defence (female would attack anyway). Overall, it's yet another file to add in the kinky sex files of spiders.

Image hosted by
Quite cute! (Picture found here, which also has pictures of other spiders as well. The site is in German though).

Evidence for his noodly designer

Thomas D. Schneider, Ph.D., who I am sure is going to become a leading ID proponent, has published an amazing experiment verifying the intelligent designer as the noodly one. The paper, covering the spontaneous appearance of Noodleous doubleous has appeared in the peer reviewed internet site As the author shows with a highly convincing set of experiments, the formation of these unusual double pasta lifeforms is so improbable it must be the work of an intelligent designer. Sadly, the lifeforms were consumed at the end of the experiment, but Schneider has promised future work to validate the exact mechanisms of how the flying spaghetti monster may be achieving the observed effect. The full paper is printed for free on the internet (no subscription required, like evilutionist journals) and may be read here: Origin of Noodleous doubleous.

PS: Irony meters may be required for viewing.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I'm still around and have finished my course for the year (aside from a mere two exams). Now that everything is out of the way I can get back to doing, erm, whatever it is I normally do on here.