Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Random Ten (29 July 2005)

Religion and Statistics Edition

Oxford emeritus professor Richard Swinburne is running around Australia telling attendees at his lectures that it "is 97 per cent certain that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead," according to the Aussie paper, The Age. How does he come to this conclusion? He claims by mathematics, and not faith, but -- from the article -- the math seems tenuous at very best and absolutely absurd at worst.

In order to calculate the probability of the resurrection, according to Swinburne, one must first determine whether or not there is a God (50%), if he would "become incarnate" (50%), and whether he would live as Jesus did. We also need to know whether the gospels would report Jesus' story in the manner they do (10%) and if we would have the evidence if it was not true (0.1%).

Somehow (the statistics are not clearly described in the article) he calculates the probability God raised Jesus from the dead as 0.97. Mixing religion and science, Swinburne deserves to be lumped in with the intelligent design crowd.

Of course, the probability that this week's Friday Random Ten will be better than last week's is 1*. Enjoy:
  1. Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry
  2. Satanic Surfers - Forfeiture
  3. Living End - The Room
  4. The Distillers - L.A. Girl
  5. Less Than Jake - Descant
  6. The Searchers - Sugar and Spice
  7. Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
  8. The Slackers - Wasted Days
  9. 311 - I'll Be Here Awhile
  10. My Chemical Romance - Helena

*There was no Friday Random Ten last week as I was busy attending a small meeting hosted by my university.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tangled Bank #33 -- 27 July 2005

Tangled Bank – Table of Contents Alert

A New Issue of the Tangled Bank has been made available:

27 July 2005; Vol 1, No. 33


Submissions to this issue of the Tangled Bank come from the physical sciences, biological sciences, biomedical sciences, and other related fields. They have been organized, for your convenience, according to research areas.

Journey Through Time
Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble
Pat Hayes goes to the Grand Canyon and uses the evidence he finds there to refute creationist claims.


What’s the Deal With Fluoride?
Steve Pavlina at Steve Pavlina’s Personal Development Blog
A critical look at fluoride in your drinking water. The author questions the use of fluoride, much like Gen. Ripper speaking to Mandrake in Dr. Strangelove, and comes to the conclusion that the addition of fluoride to water supplies does more harm than good.

Systems Biology – Biology of the Future or Newest Fad?
Alex Palazzo at The Mad Scientist
Biologists have an inferiority complex, or so the author claims. They look up at physicists with envy as studies of atom smashing and telescopes garner attention from the popular press, while insights into cell division only see publication in scientific journals. What’s a poor biologist to do other than go interdisciplinary and create Big Biology?

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., Wanker
Heinrich Gompf at She Flies With Her Own Wings
A U.S. Congressman attempted to de-fund an NIH grant because he does not believe that the National Institute of Mental Health should support research on pigeons. Dr. Torrey’s Wall Street Journal op-ed inspired this defense of studying neurobiology and behavior in model organisms and the peer-review process in general.

Go Practical
Adam Ierymenko at Grey Thumb
The author presents an alternative approach to going after anti-evolution groups. He suggests that instead of debating creationists, scientists should take advantage of what evolution does for the non-scientists. One such approach is to market technologies that take advantage of evolutionary theory as such.


Super-Adequate Structural Homologies, or The Ornithorynchus Shuffle
Scott Eric Kaufman at Acephalous
Charles Darwin was not the only person writing about evolution in the nineteenth century; he simply had the best mechanism – natural selection – for the evolutionary process. Inspired by a recent review of a book about another book published prior to On the Origin of Species, the author compares Robert Chambers’s Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation with Darwin’s more legendary work.


Deep Impact (Live): Much Cooler Than a Mediocre Blockbuster
Millagan at EGAD
An astronomer’s play-by-play account of the Deep Impact probe’s collision with the comet Tempel 1. He provides images of what happened along with descriptions of what to look for in those images.

Physics and Chemistry

Two cheers for string theory
Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance
A physicist, “who is not personally identified as a string theorist,” gives us some insight into an often misunderstood realm of physics. We learn that string theory explains quantum gravity better than any other approach. The author proceeds to defend the theory explaining that it does have applications despite what some critics claim.

Moral Relativity
Matt at Pooflingers Anonymous
Einstein came up with the theory of general relativity (E=mc2) and was the first person to relate the energy and mass of an object in a simple equation. The author offers a similar equation for moral relativity complete with a derivation and application.

Not All Things Freeze
Jeff Shaumeyer at Bearcastle
Spurred by an offhand remark in a book, the author questions the idea that “all things freeze when they get cold enough.” The discussion centers on helium, the only element that will not freeze under its own vapor pressure, and the physical characteristics of the different states of matter.


Dynamic Forces
Rock of Ages
Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble
A journey through the Grand Canyon reveals insights into the formation of rock strata and how geologists use inference to reconstruct earth history.

Cellular and Developmental Biology

The History of Tubulin Detyrosination
Alex Palazzo at The Mad Scientist
Discoveries over thirty years ago revealed that the alpha-tubulin protein is modified in nerve cells. The author discusses the history of these discoveries as well as how they were interpreted and future directions in tubulin modification research.

Development, medicine, and evolution of the neck and shoulder
PZ Myers at Pharyngula
The development of neck and shoulder bones has confused biologists long after they solved the major developmental patterns in the hindbrain and spine. A new study uses transgenic mice to follow the fate of neural crest and mesodermal cells in order to unravel the mystery. The findings also shed light on a bone that has gone missing in most tetrapods, but is found in fish.


More Pelican Puzzlement
Mike at 10,000 Birds
One of the nation’s largest American White Pelican nesting colonies is losing members and at a rapid pace. This piece explores a few possible hypotheses, but none of them can explain the phenomenon. Maybe there’s too much fluoride in their drinking water.

Close Encounters
Pamela Martin at Thomasburg Walks
The author writes about an encounter with a deer and a fawn when visiting a region near Thomasburg, Ontario. This particular encounter may explain previous observations of deer in the wild.

Formicidae Imports: The Argentine Ant
Chris at Organic Matter
The common, household ant found throughout the southern United States is actually an invasive species from Argentina. Eradicating this invader has been problematic as different environmental factors exist in the native and ancestral populations.


Ancestral Magnitudes
DarkSyde at Unscrewing The Inscrutable
The author intertwines genealogy with evolution to determine how many grandparents it takes to get from humans to different human ancestors, such as early primates, primitive mammals and early vertebrates. The article attempts to trace human ancestry back to the beginnings of the universe.

The Genotype and the Phenotype and How to Measure Divergence
RPM at evolgen
While calculating percent divergence from molecular data is a fairly straightforward procedure, morphological measurements are tainted with subjectivity. The author argues that comparing sequence level estimates of divergence to phenotypic estimates can only lead to faulty conclusions about the relative roles protein sequences and regulatory elements play in anatomical evolution.

Sleeping the summer away 2: converging in on an epiphragm
Aydin Örstan at Snail’s Tales
Two distantly related families of snails close their apertures with calcareous epiphragms, whereas close relatives of these families have a membrane-like epiphragm. The article describes these physiological differences in snails, and the author argues that they arose independently via convergent evolution in the two taxa.

Information From Randomness?
Jim Clark at JC’s Blog
In Richard Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker the author uses a computer algorithm to change a random string of letters into a predetermined sentence by selecting for letters that match the target string. This article argues that Dawkins’s “Weasel” algorithm does not accurately simulate the origin of information from a zero information state.


Andrew at Universal Acid
A recent study on how your brain processes images while you blink leads to this discussion of how the human brain interprets visual input.

Immunology and Medicine

Infectious Disease Genetics
Hsien-Hsien Lei at Genetics and Public Health Blog
Despite improvements in disease prevention and treatment, many people still die from infections. An epidemiologist suggests that new developments in the field of pathogenomics will provide the next step forward in combating infectious disease.

Andrew MacGinnitie at Dr. Andy
In the earliest days of anti-microbial treatments, some researchers tried developing bacteriophages to combat infections. These attempts went by the wayside with the advent of penicillin and other antibiotics. With the increase of antibiotic resistance amongst virulent strains of bacteria, researchers are once again turning to phages to treat bacterial infections.

Dealing with conflict
Orac at Respectful Insolence
Dr. John Ioannidis, M.D. recently examined high profile, highly cited medical trials and their follow-up studies and determined that at least 1/3 of the original publications were refuted by subsequent papers. Orac explains what this means for medical research and how to interpret the results in the light of alternative medicine.

Applied Biological Sciences

Rediscovering Nature
Ironman at Political Calculations
Car designers at DaimlerChrysler turn to the sea with their newest concept car. Using the boxfish body plan as guidance, they came up with a vehicle that had low drag coefficient and a lightweight yet sturdy structure.

Agricultural and Plant Biology

Science can be tasty!
Kitty O’Neil at Science and Sarcasm
New potatoes are young tubers that are not fully mature. The author describes the differences between these and regular potatoes, and why she enjoys them as a summertime delicacy.

The Poetry of Leaves
Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis
A look at how leaves are arranged on a stem. A mathematical view of leaf arrangements focusing on similarities and patterns found amongst different plant taxa, and why they are arranged that way.


Human Habitation of the Canyon
Pat Hayes at Red State Rabble
The earliest human settlers in the Grand Canyon arrived over ten thousand years ago. The author explores some of the evidence for these humans on the walls of the canyon.


The Wizarding Apprentices' Surprising Discovery
GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life
A university instructor deals with scheduling an exam that conflicts with the release of the newest Harry Potter book, only to discover that the lecture professor is also a Harry Potter fan.


Hybrid vs. Hybrid and how the Times gets it wrong
Joel Shurkin at …Of Cabbages and Kings
The New York Times recently ran a front page article on hybrid cars in which they claim hybrids “improve performance but don’t save gasoline.” The author takes umbrage at this claim, arguing that pure hybrids do, in fact, improve gas mileage, and the Times did not consider pure hybrids in their article.

To receive Tangled Bank e-tocs as an RSS feed, please use the following link:

The next issue of the Tangled Bank will be at Creek Running North on 10 August 2005. The editors invite you to submit your entry directly to or

Monday, July 25, 2005

Hooray Beer!

A new study by Justin Fay and Joseph Benavides reveals that vineyard (grape wine) yeast and sake (rice wine) yeast come from two separate wild populations. Previous hypotheses on the origins of Saccharomyces cerevisiae assumed that the species originated from a single domestication event of a wild yeast strain. Furthermore, it was thought that wild populations of S. cerevisiae were due to the release of fermenting, baking, or research strains back into the wild.

Fay and Benavides analysis, however, indicates that wild strains of S. cerevisiae harbor more genetic diversity than any of the domesticated strains. Also, the sake strains and vineyard strains cluster into separate clades. This leads the researchers to propose a model whereby S. cerevisiae underwent at least two domestication events (one for sake and one for wine making) from a much more diverse natural population. Strains used for making whiskey and ale and baking bread were not included in the analysis as previous research has shown them to be quite similar to those used for wine making.

The authors estimate that the sake and vineyard strains diverged about 11,900 years ago, and the domestication events occurred some time after that divergence. This is consistent with the earliest known evidence of wine making, ~9,000 years ago (the strains had to diverge prior to the domestication event).

Fay JC, Benavides JA (2005) Evidence for Domesticated and Wild Populations of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. PLoS Genet 1(1): e5

Tangled Bank -- Final Call For Submissions

The Tangled Bank

This is the final call for submissions for the 33rd installment of the Tangled Bank, to be hosted here, at evolgen, on Wednesday, July 27. Please submit all entries to or by Tuesday, July 26.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Genotype and the Phenotype and How to Measure Divergence

PZ Myers has ventured out from Minnesota to visit Toronto. His car died on the way back to Morris, and he decided to do some reading, which led to some blogging on, what else, evo-devo, which, in turn, led to a discussion of Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and Jerry Coyne's review of the book. Coyne was somewhat critical of the book, and I'm a bit more apologetic of Coyne (being a population geneticist) than is Myers (being a developmental biologist). Myers writes:
"Carroll begins by noting the disparity between the rates of evolution in proteins vs. the rates of anatomical change. Compare chimpanzees and humans, for instance, and you see major differences in morphology, but the differences at the level of the gene sequences are relatively small."
My biggest problem with comparing sequence level divergence with anatomical/morphological/phenotypic change results in how well we understand the two processes and how we measure the two types of divergence (genotypic vs. phenotypic).

For those unfamiliar, sequence level divergence is much easier to calculate and is extremely more objective than phenotypic divergence. Of course, choosing the sequences to study is somewhat subjective, but with whole genome sequences we can examine the entire genome at whatever scale is appropriate (DNA level for closely related taxa, and protein level for more distantly related taxa); this removes some of the subjectivity.

Morphological divergence, on the other hand, is more difficult to get your head around. How do we choose characters to study? How do we measure those characters? What role do our predispositions and preconceptions play in these analyses? Molecular data is not immune from these limitations in any way, but they pose a much bigger problem for anatomical characters (in my opinion).

Who is to say that the "major differences in morphology" between humans and chimps can't be explained by the protein divergence between the two species? Well, me, for one. I do believe that expression divergence (in both cis and trans), as well as splicoforms, is important for morphological/phenotypic diversification. I'm not sure, however, what proportion of morphological divergence is due to changes in cis elements and what proportion is because of evolution of protein sequence. Oh, and don't forget the role gene duplication can play in allowing genes to evolve novel expression profiles.

We have a hard enough time trying to figure out how to measure expression divergence, and this seems to be the next step up in complexity from the sequence level. I'd shy away from comparing sequence level divergence to morphological divergence until we have better statistics for estimating phenotypic divergence (at any level, from mRNA expression to anatomy). Some neat work on the evolution of gene expression, by the way, is being done by one of Sean Carroll's former students, Tricia Wittkopp. Wittkopp is working to unravel the relative roles cis elements (i.e., regulatory sequences) and trans elements (transcription factors and their cis and trans elements) play in the divergence of gene expression. Plus, she gets mad props for doing a post-doc with Andy Clark, a top-notch population geneticists, showing you can straddle the line between developmental biology and population genetics.

Basically, comparing sequence divergence to anatomical divergence is -- to overuse the metaphor -- like comparing apples to oranges. Before anyone starts saying the amount of morphological divergence cannot be explained by the amount of protein sequence divergence, wait until we have more objective measures of morphological divergence.

Tangled Bank -- First Call For Submissions

The Tangled Bank

The 33rd installment of the Tangled Bank will be here (in the virtual sense) on Wednesday, July 27. Please send submissions to or by Tuesday, July 26 if you would like to be included in Tangled Bank #33.

The Tangled Bank, a version of the "Carnival of the Vanities" for science bloggers, showcases good science blogging, selected by the authors themselves (that's the vanity part). Anyone and everyone who has written a science related post in the last couple of weeks is welcome to submit their entry for consideration.

Appended: Please include the following in your email:
  1. Your name (or alias)
  2. The name of the weblog
  3. The weblog's URL
  4. The post/article title
  5. The URL of the post
  6. A trackback URL to ping
  7. A short description of the post/article

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Random Ten (15 July 2005)

"It's Pronounced Throatwarbler Mangrove" Edition

There's a lot going on the world today -- all of it getting tons of attention on the internets. Turd Blossom's been connected to the Valerie Plame leak. Cardinal Schadenfreude (oops, slipped up on that one) is trying to take away our science in favor of his middle eastern tribal mythology. And that Downing Street Memo is still some, how you say, hot shit.

Yet, there is an important and overlooked issue that is not getting its deserved respects: the proper spelling of "evolgen." You see, it's spelled "evolgen," not "Evolgen." And, no, it has nothing to do with e e cummings. It's just the way it is -- look at the top of the page . . . and if you're reading this in a "news reader," click through to my site so I can get an idea of how many readers I have (by the way, this sentence will include all possible forms of punctuation: commas, quotes, parentheses, elipses, semicolons, colons, etc.); I'm nearly complete (am I missing any?), and boy am I elated!

It's spelled "evolgen," but it's pronounced "Throatwarbler Mangrove."

Here it is, your momment of zen Friday Random Ten:

  1. Rocket From the Crypt - Heart of a Rat
  2. Kinks - Tired of Waiting For You
  3. Dropkick Murphys - On the Attack
  4. Billy Joel - My Life
  5. Tiger Army - Trance
  6. Tilt - Unravel
  7. Foreigner - Feels Like the First Time
  8. The Hives - Main Offender
  9. Long Beach Dub Allstars - Sunny Hours Reprise
  10. Rancid - Spirit of '87

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ayala and Miller Question Pope

Francisco Ayala and Kenneth Miller (along with Lawrence Krauss) have sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI in regards to the recent statements from Cardinal Schonborn. For those unfamiliar with Schonborn's position, he essentially questions the unguided nature of the modern scientific view of biological evolution.

"Three scientists, two of them Roman Catholic biologists, have asked Pope Benedict XVI to clarify the church's position on evolution in light of recent statements by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, an influential theologian, that the modern theory of evolution may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

"The scientists asked the pope to reaffirm earlier statements on the subject by Pope John Paul II and others "that scientific rationality and the church's commitment to divine purpose and meaning in the universe were not incompatible.' It is crucial, their letter says, 'that in these difficult and contentious times the Catholic Church not build a new divide, long ago eradicated, between the scientific method and religious belief.'"

Both Ayala and Miller are well respected biologists (and Krauss is a famous physicist) who have published numerous books and peer reviewed articles. Ayala, who studied under the famed evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Both biologists are known for publicly reconciling their Catholic beliefs with their scientific pursuits. I consider Ayala and Miller much more informed and better equipped to discuss the interface of biology and religion than a Cardinal who was unknown in the biology community until his article was published by the NYTimes.

This is a big litmus test for the Pope -- will he side with the John Paul or Cardinal Schonborn? Of course, for those of us who couldn't give a rat's ass what the Vatican thinks about biology, this is merely a nice little story.

I do wonder, however, how the church's position on evolution affects the careers of Ayala and Miller. Does it really matter to them whether or not the Pope understands or supports the modern view of evolutionary biology? It seems to me that both are rational men capable of coming up with their own conclusions based on evidence and independently of church doctrine. Maybe they're just looking out for the large majority of Catholics who are not knowledgeable of the wealth of data supporting biological evolution; they probably don't want the average Catholic to be misled by poorly crafted religious ideology.

Monday, July 11, 2005

More BiDil News

BiDil, the anti-heart-failure drug marketed toward African-Americans, has recently been approved by the FDA. This opens up a whole can of worms on the genetics of race with debates lingering at the intersection of sociology, pharmaceuticals, and evolutionary genetics. What is race? What are the important differences between races? Is it fair to offer certain drugs only to specific racial groups? Is race (as it's defined in the sociological context) even a biologically meaningful classification?

Nature Genetics just published a letter to the editor from Jonathan Kahn, a faculty member at the Hamline University School of Law. Dr. Kahn is an expert in the law of biotechnology, and he makes a few important points which I quote below.

"The FDA approval of BiDil for only African Americans would give the federal government's stamp of approval to using race, in effect, as a genetic category. But race is not genetic, as even the BiDil researchers admit. Once we sanction such talk, it is a short step to talking about races as inferior and superior. Given our nation's troubled history of racial oppression, this should not be taken lightly.

"In fact, the data from the clinical trial of BiDil (called A-HeFT, for African American Heart Failure Trial) says nothing about whether BiDil works differently or better in African Americans than anyone else. This is because A-HeFT enrolled only "self-identified" African Americans; there was no comparison population.

"Why then did NitroMed, the corporate sponsor of the A-HeFT trials and holder to the rights to BiDil, seek race-specific approval for its drug? Perhaps the answer lies not in medicine but in commerce. NitroMed holds a patent for a non-race-specific use of BiDil, which expires in 2007; it also holds a race-specific patent that lasts until 2020. This extra 13 years of patent protection may present a compelling commercial reason for seeking to cast BiDil as a racial drug, even though to do so is not supported by the medical evidence."

The case for this being an opportunity to extend a patent seems circumstantial, but Kahn does make an important point regarding the non-comparative nature of the testing. Shouldn't the drug be shown to perform statistically better in African-Americans than non-African-Americans before it's marketed specifically to one group? I'd think so.

Kahn also spends a bit of time discussing the general topic of race-specific medications, questioning whether racial differences in response to drugs are genetically based. He takes issue with many of the racially targeted treatments on the grounds that there is not any good evidence yet that racially designed treatments target genetic differences important to the disease.

The main concern, however, is the reification of race as genetic. While there are genetic components to what we consider race, we still aren't sure what the genetic differences between racial groups mean. There is an enormous amount of genetic diversity within African populations (more than the rest of the world combined), but there are also many genetically unique African populations. I would expect that the variance in response to a treatment would be much greater among Africans (and people of African ancestry) than among any other racial group. If this is the case, BiDil may only work on a specific subset of African-Americans and not the entire population.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday Random Ten (8 July 2005)

I Want Iraq Edition

Get it? It's a play off Twisted Sister . . . never mind.

So I'm only medium influenced by "Hair Bands" according to this survey. I guess I don't really wanna rock. I only kinda wanna rock. But I agree with Orac: where the hell are the Clash?

Your Taste in Music:

90's Alternative: Highest Influence
Classic Rock: Highest Influence
Punk: Highest Influence
Ska: Highest Influence
90's Rock: High Influence
80's Alternative: Medium Influence
Alternative Rock: Medium Influence
Hair Bands: Medium Influence
80's Pop: Low Influence
80's Rock: Low Influence
90's Hip Hop: Low Influence
90's Pop: Low Influence
Adult Alternative: Low Influence
Gangsta Rap: Low Influence
Hip Hop: Low Influence
Old School Hip Hop: Low Influence

Maybe now the Friday Random Ten will make more sense to you (and boy is it diverse!):
  1. Moby - South Side
  2. AFI - Advances in Modern Technology
  3. Republica - Ready to Go
  4. No Use For A Name - A Postcard Would Be Nice
  5. Bruce Springstein - Ghost of Tom Joad
  6. Tilt - Unlucky Lounge
  7. Allman Brothers - Jessice
  8. Flock of Seagulls - I Ran
  9. My Chemical Romance - You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison
  10. Jurassic 5 - The Game

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

New Globin Paralog

Scientists working at the Zunami Research Center in Olympia Washington have discovered a new globin gene in humans that they have named Cluster Water. The researchers say,
"Cluster or free water is able to move freely through the cell walls and is instrumental to transport nutrients, remove waste, and maintain proper communication between the cells."
In a move of absolute understatement, the researchers include their findings of cell walls in humans (the first such description of these structures in animal cells) as an aside.

This new globin paralog is an extreme generalist, as globin genes go -- able to transport almost anything in its tiny active site. It resembles water in structure, but "has been raised to a high level of electromagnetic power," differentiating it from your typical H2O.

There is some evidence for variable activity of cluster water in different human populations, and the researchers plan to undertake a follow-up study of polymorphisms at the cluster-water-globin locus.


Thanks to Pharyngula for the link.

P.S. This is called taking and idea and running with it . . . way too far . . . like, off a cliff or something.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Get over it

If science has shown us anything in the past few decades, it's that for everything that makes humans unique, there a lot more things that we have in common with all other life on earth (especially other mammals). That's why this figure surprises me:

It comes from Science Magazine's recent issue on big questions in science. This article is entitled, "Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?" It's as if we have gene content envy, or something. Get over it. This isn't a big question. So what if plant genomes are larger than ours.

Science has committed the fallacy of assuming humans are at the top of some evolutionary hierarchy, and that we are the most complex organisms on earth. What is complexity? Can it be measured? Just because we are us does not mean we should assume we have more genes than every other organism on earth. Gene content does not a special creature make.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Friday Random Ten (1 July 2005)

Science Haters Edition

It's planes, trains, and automobiles for me this weekend. I'm flying down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school (trains as in wedding gowns). After bitching about how much I hated the weather in North Carolina, I can only imagine how miserable I'm gonna feel in Florida.

I picked up a copy of USA Today that was sitting around the Philadelphia airport. I don't regularly read McNews, but I thought I'd see what's inside.

Buried deep in Section A was an article entitled, "If Einstein was a genius, why didn't he cash in on it?" I figured I'd give it a shot, hoping to read about the intellectual satisfaction gained from a career in the pure sciences. Boy was I disappointed! The author, Joseph C. Priddle (the president of a digital medial company), paints a bleak picture of the financial rewards of a career in science. Here's a taste of what Mr. Priddle (who claims to have left rocket science to pursue a more lucrative career) has to say about science:
"And 100 years later [after Einstein published his papers in 1905], science is still a lousy profession. Why? Let me spell it out for you: m-o-n-e-y. Or lack of it."
. . .
"Being a scientist is a lousy job because we have no financial incentives."
. . .
"Want to be a scientist? Do the math first. Shaquille O'Neal made $27.6 million this year playing in the NBA. He played for 2,492 minutes. That's $11,000 per minute. Labor statistics show that the average starting salary for a graduate with a master's degree in chemistry is about $45K annually. Let me help: That equals 38 cents a minute."
Of course, that fails to take into account all of the time Shaq spends practicing (not quite enough of it spent on free throws, but we can excuse him for that). A professional athlete spends more time practicing with his team, working out, and meeting with his team and coaches than he does on actual games. Saying Shaq gets so much money per minute of actual game time, or A-Rod gets too much cash per at bat doesn't do justice to the amount of work these guys put in behind the scenes. That being said, professional athletes are still a bunch of overpaid, over-pampered babies.

I don't know a single person who applied to grad school with the goal of making money. Not everyone views monetary compensation as the equivalent of success. Some of us enjoy the discovery, creativity, and intellectual gymnastics involved in scientific pursuit. I'm sure Mr. Prindle didn't find science rewarding, but that doesn't mean everybody needs cash rewards to feel accomplished.

I feel kinda bad being totally negative; Prindle does make a good point about our nation's half-hearted commitment to science:
"We as a nation give lip service to science, not cash. There is a double standard that people in science should be above capitalism. If we invent a cure for cancer, we should give it away for free. If we discover a renewable energy source, we should post it on the Internet.'
It's kinda like the difference between communists and capitalists. I'm all for open source, open access, and sharing data. When people take financial ownership of their research they impede the progress of science.

Without further socio-economic comments, here is this week's Friday Random Ten:
  1. Goldfinger - Vintage Queen
  2. Green Day - Brain Stew
  3. U.S. Bombs - War Birth
  4. Union 13 - Manipulation, Globalist Deeds
  5. Specials - Farmyard Connection
  6. 311 - Sick Tight
  7. Tilt - Viewers Like You
  8. Mike Ness - Ballad of a Lonely Man
  9. Jimmy Cliff - Pressure Drop
  10. Lagwagon - Today