Thursday, September 25, 2008

Math News - Number Sense Looks Like a Powerful Predictor

New research suggests that children with good number sense, who, for example, can make good estimates of how many objects are in a sample, are more likely to develop into powerful, intuitive mathematicians. Check out an article from the Eides.

Great Possibility for Energy - Ocean Currents

If interested in new potential energy sources, check out the Scientific American article on a new turbine design that rides deep ocean currents like a kite rides air currents. If we were to put R&D funds into such technologies, imagine what we can do. For instance, I can imagine using something like this not only to power shoreline towns, but also other facilities such as desalination plants (which are presently expensive because of their energy costs). Like any new technology, once resources are put into research and development, more often than not I like our chances of figuring out how to raise efficiencies and lower costs.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Fascinating 4 days for McCain

Four days, four flip-flops. Such is life on the campaign trail for John McCain.

He made another statement a few days ago, after the Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch demise, that the 'fundamentals of the economy are strong.' I am waiting for someone to ask him what, exactly, are these fundamentals. There are the theoretical and technical economic variables and defined quantities that may or may not be in value ranges that are strong, but McCain is missing the point that average Americans absolutely do not care about economic theory. Rather, we are struggling through everyday life with $3+ milk, $4+ gas, foreclosures down the street, declining home values, college costs that far outpace inflation, and so on. Within a day he flipped to say that he is concerned with the economy, after being blasted by both Democrats and some Republicans, as well as being beat to the punch by none other than the Bush administration, which said the economy is not as strong as once believed.

He then comes out solidly against any more government bailouts of the large financial firms, specifically AIG. That same evening, the Federal Reserve goes through an $85 Billion loan and effective takeover of AIG. The following morning, he is fully supportive of the Fed's action.

The solution to Wall Street's problems? During his career, McCain has wanted less government interference, free markets and deregulation. He ran on this in the primaries. His present stump speech, we need strict regulations and a new government agency to manage the business sector through this period.

In the primaries, 'straight-talking' McCain was in Michigan and flatly stated lost automotive manufacturing jobs were gone, and they are never coming back. He lost Michigan to Mitt Romney. In Michigan yesterday, he was at a GM plant saying he is a fighter for the workers, as he helps resurrect car manufacturing! Yee-hah, how about that flip?!

He is 4-for-4 this week, and this does not even include the blatantly misleading and false ad on Sen. Obama's vote on sex education when an Illinois state senator (one more example of lowering the bar with personal attacks, after starting the campaign a fervent supporter of issues campaigns, especially after what Bush did to him in 2004). Can't wait to hear what comes up tomorrow, as he continues his evolution from straight-talk to experience to the change agent. He continues to do and say everything and anything that might help him in the campaign. "Country First" is the fictional slogan that should truly be "Campaign First." We'll see what happens, but I have lost respect for the man, and do hope the increasing news coverage of the changing McCain continues, such as what I just saw on "Nightline." Will Americans be fooled by all this nonsense and lack of principles on where he stands on issues?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Palin to finally sit down for an interview later this week

Sarah Palin, John McCain's choice for running mate, will (finally) sit down and face the type of probing questions we want all our candidates to answer. Charles Gibson of ABC News will get the first interview, at an undisclosed date and time, but later this week. When this happens, it will have been over two weeks that the McCain campaign has sequestered her from answering questions before the American people.

While some in the GOP have wondered if they can switch the ticket to Palin-McCain based on her rocketship trip to national and international fame and interest (wait, is she not now a 'celebrity candidate' running for the second highest position in the land? We had better not hear any more ads about an Obama celebrity run, now that he has been in the pressure cooker of a national campaign for over 1.5 years, and has taken on hundreds of interviews on all issues and dozens of debates through the primaries...this argument has no more footing for the GOP), it is probably time for her backers and potential backers to actually learn where she stands on real issues of national concern, and what her true record is over the past decade. Some questions I would like to hear answers to include:

- Do you promote teaching creationism/intelligent design in high school science classes?
- What decisions have you had to make involving the Alaska National Guard? When the McCain campaign was asked this question, they could not come up with an answer (keep in mind any deployment of troops overseas is federally managed, and governors have nothing to do with it).
- What is your relationship with 'Big Oil' companies? Why did BP sponsor and pay for your inauguration when you became governor? Have you ever promoted any other type of energy source while in Alaska?
- Is the war in Iraq a 'holy war?' Why did you say we are in Iraq doing 'God's will?' And is this not a truly dangerous type of rhetoric for a potential U.S. President? Could one argue this is a religiously extreme statement (are we not fighting against extreme religious-based violence in the first place)?
- Did you really wish the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), which primarily promotes the secession of Alaska from the U.S., well and good luck at one of their conventions while governor? Is your husband registered, or has he been registered, with this group? Do you think Alaska should secede? If so, what does this say about your views of the U.S. (and perhaps your patriotism)?
- It is clear you take a 'pro-life' view on abortion. Do you resist abortion in the cases of rape and the threat to the mother's life?
- How large a role did you play in bringing the latest pipeline to Alaska, for which you took credit during your speech at the RNC? Was the deal mostly done when you took office, and simply had the benefit good timing in order to claim credit?
- What do you mean when you say building pipelines and pumping more oil in Alaska is 'God's will?'
- What is your view of other Christian denominations, as well as other religions such as Islam?
- Why did you campaign for governor as a strong supporter for the bridge to nowhere, but then pulled your support when it became clear national outrage was going to force Congress to pull the funding, and flip-flop to the position of a 'reformer' who rallied against earmark and special interest funding? Did you not ask for and receive tens of millions of dollars in earmarks while mayor of a town of less than 9000 people?

We'll see if these or other 'hard questions' are asked, as they have for Sens. McCain, Obama, and Biden. In the future, other possible questions may have to revolve around the investigation of Palin's possible abuse of power as governor (the so-called 'troopergate') because of Palin's self-proclaimed fight against political corruption.

McCain a "Maverick?" 31 other Senate Republicans can claim the title over him

Just a quick check of Senate voting records show that there are 31 Republicans who have voted against the Republican Party's stance on issues (which essentially lines up with the views of the Bush White House) more frequently than John McCain. Based on these data, is it fair for him to continuously call himself an 'independent thinker' and self-proclaimed 'maverick?' It's difficult to claim these titles when the real record is in front of you.

Science Debate 2008

I just came across the Science Debate site, which began with 6 individuals who wanted to promote getting science related issues back into the political debate process. I am so glad this developed into an enormous movement, with tens of thousands of scientists endorsing it, along with the major scientific agencies and institutions ranging from the National Academy of Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and numerous universities. Many of my friends and colleagues in science and engineering have been placed into a state of 'shock and awe' during the Bush years, for their interference and blatant editing of scientific manuscripts (mostly those related to climate change and the impact humans have had on climate)coming from science agencies within the federal government. Regardless of who wins the election, we need to place an end to such interference.

This group finalized a list of 14 science policy questions, and submitted them to Sens. Obama and McCain. Obama has responded; McCain has not yet done so. See Sen. Obama's responses here. The questions range from energy to health issues, and genetics, stem cells, climate change and water supplies.

I do hope Sen. McCain submits answers. I worry about some of his judgment regarding science when his running mate selection of Sarah Palin was made. She promotes ideas including creationism/intelligent design in high school science classes, insistence on abstinence-only sex education (even though this has been shown to not be as effective as other types of education programs in high schools; unfortunately her daughter's pregnancy may be further evidence), and a conclusion that humans have not contributed to climate change (and has been as aggressive as anyone to promote more oil development and usage - it is unclear to me, at least, how serious she is for other types of energy development), and I can only assume a strong dismissal of stem-cell research and perhaps some genetics research. Should McCain win, and should something happen to him, we would then have a President with these strong views.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

How did Rove spin his comment? Find out about that, and much more.

Classic video clips of the before and after comments from Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, and others, relating to the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. This is from the "Daily Show," and is funny and sad at the same time.