The DNA Testing Act gives inmates access to evolving scientific technology, but it was not intended to allow an inmate a second chance to perform DNA testing which was available at trial.

That’s Nebraska Supreme Court Judge Michael McCormack, writing for the court in a decision to deny an inmate’s request for DNA testing of evidence in a 2007 murder for which the inmate is serving life in prison.

So … rather than allowing a couple of tests that will help determine whether or not Antoine Young committed the murder for which he’s serving life in prison, the Nebraska Supreme Court is arguing that he should have asked for the tests back in 2008.

They’re right: His lawyer should have done so. But if the DNA Testing Act can’t account for mistakes made by lawyers, and potentially keeps innocent men in prison because of those mistakes, there’s a problem with the law.

As for Young, maybe he’s innocent, maybe he’s guilty … but it doesn’t much matter to the judges. Their job isn’t to make sure an inmate has access to any evidence that might raise doubts about his guilt; their job is just to determine whether or not the state, which has an interest in not considering any more evidence in this case, is following the law as it avoids doing so.

Justice!

(Source: omaha.com)

# criminal justice # Nebraska # science # justice # politics

Study: 11% of Americans Think HTML Is an STD
Hmmm … 11% seems low.
reblogged from infinite hope

Korean designers Je Sung Park and Woo Jung Kwon have developed an invisible umbrella that will keep you dry by repelling rain.  Consisting of a simple plastic stick that creates an artificial wind at the top, the ‘umbrella’ deflects raindrops before they hit you by sucking in air at the bottom. The intensity of this wind-shield can be varied depending on weather condition and number of people sharing the device—the length of the stick is also adjustable.

so it’s basically a force field

I’m pretty anxious to try this out when it isn’t raining and I can point it at people. Because sure it’s cool to repel rain with your force field … but not nearly as cool as repelling people with your force field.

(Source: travelingcolors)

# science # Korea

reblogged from bitter blogger

The most pressing questions of the day:

Do you think you could spend 10 minutes talking to these people? What makes you think so?

# science # religion # evolution # sadness

Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K

Today in things I just don’t understand:

People are paying attention to a “debate” where one of the parties is absolutely certain that the creation story in the Hebrew Bible is what literally happened.

# religion # science # comedy # sadness # internet

As dysfunctional as Washington is these days, change is still possible when ‘We the People’ get engaged, run for office themselves or make their voices heard. After all, how else could a country doctor from Muskogee with no political experience make it to Washington?

That’s Senator Tom Coburn, announcing his retirement.

Coburn’s question is a good one. How indeed can a country doctor with no political experience make it to Washington and participate — some might even say participate in a way that’s directly responsible for some of the dysfunction — in what many people would suggest is the most dysfunctional Congress in anyone’s memory? How indeed. I can only imagine that when the good people of Oklahoma sent Dr. Coburn to Washington without a shred of political experience, they expected precisely what they ended up getting … like the blockage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, or holding up passage of legislation to create the Lewis and Clark Mount Hood Wilderness Act, or placing a special hold on the Veterans’ Caregiver and Omnibus Health Benefits Act, or protesting NBC’s decision to air “Schindler’s List” in prime time because it contained nudity, violence, and profanity.

Anyhow, fare thee well, sir.

Now which brave soul will step into the breach and take up the mantle of desperately trying to stop political scientists from receiving federal funding to study American politics?

# politics # Oklahoma # political science # NSF # education # comedy # Coburn # movies # Holocaust # Uganda # television # science

The way I’ve described this state is that a part of the organism is still alive, obviously, but the organism as a whole — the human being — is gone.

That’s Dr. James L. Bernat, the Louis and Ruth Frank professor of Neuroscience at Dartmouth’s medical school, discussing brain death and the cases of Jahi McMath and Marlise Muñoz.

McMath’s parents want to keep a ventilator running because they’re hoping for a miracle; the hospital wants to turn it off since McMath is legally dead. Muñoz’s parents and husband want to turn a ventilator off, but the hospital won’t allow it because Muñoz is pregnant.

I’ve written a fair amount about brain death, human life, and human personhood in the past — and there’s a whole chapter that deals with the topic in my first book — but these case are fundamentally different from the ones I’ve written about. The cases I considered were, in some ways, more challenging; they dealt with patients whose higher brain function has ceased but whose lower brain function, in contrast to McMath and Muñoz, continued.

McMath and Muñoz aren’t in some legal or medical gray area. In the first case, the family is, not unexpectedly, having a terrible time coping with an inexplicable tragedy. In the second case, the family is attempting to come to grips with their tragedy but the state is insisting that no harm come to the fetus she is carrying.

The mess, in both instances, seems to stem from religious belief butting heads with scientific understanding. McMath’s parents are praying for a miracle; the state insists that the fetus that’s been saved by keeping Muñoz alive is a rights-bearing person. In the former case, the harm done by keeping the patient on a ventilator is difficult to pinpoint; in the latter case, it’s very clear that the state’s intervention is doing direct harm to the Muñoz family.

(Source: The New York Times)

# politics # science # women # California # Texas # religion # philosophy

In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.

My friend Jakke asks some good questions about these numbers:

Hey so this is super confusing to me because that Republican number is a shift well outside any reasonable margin of error. Has the population identifying as Republican changed that much? Or have Republicans started answering the question differently? Or what’s going on?

Undoubtedly, from my perspective, it’s just been a weird few years for Republicans. A bunch of my friends who once identified as Republicans stopped doing so in the late 2000s. It’s not necessarily that they drank the Obama Kool-Aid and joined the Democrats; it’s just that they felt increasingly out of place in the contemporary GOP, a feeling that actually seems to have intensified for them over the past three or four years.

If I’m speculating, as I’m wont to do, maybe this shift has something to do with the growing connection between the GOP and Evangelical Christians (64% of whom “say that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” And maybe it has something to do with a feeling that it’s increasingly acceptable to publicly assert one’s own beliefs in place of science without fear of being judged by those who hold similar political positions to one’s own.

Or, to put it all another way, maybe it’s just that the GOP base has gotten a whole lot closer to what used to be its wacky fringe.

# science # religion # politics # evolution

reblogged from jakke
Apropos of my most recent post — about the special terribleness of “Homeland” — have you been watching Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” which wrapped up its first season this past Sunday?
As vacuous and heartless as “Homeland” has become over the past two seasons, “Masters of Sex” is thoughtful, clever, and built on good old fashioned human emotions. When I first started watching, I wasn’t sure where the show was going to go or how it would actually be a show; the conflicts they developed over the course of the season, and the possibilities for future seasons, put to rest any criticism I had in the first couple of episodes. And the performances of both Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen are the best I’ve seen in 2013.
If you’ve been watching this season, what did you think of it? And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Apropos of my most recent post — about the special terribleness of “Homeland” — have you been watching Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” which wrapped up its first season this past Sunday?

As vacuous and heartless as “Homeland” has become over the past two seasons, “Masters of Sex” is thoughtful, clever, and built on good old fashioned human emotions. When I first started watching, I wasn’t sure where the show was going to go or how it would actually be a show; the conflicts they developed over the course of the season, and the possibilities for future seasons, put to rest any criticism I had in the first couple of episodes. And the performances of both Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen are the best I’ve seen in 2013.

If you’ve been watching this season, what did you think of it? And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

(Source: i.huffpost.com)

# television # science


The universe is a hologram and everything you can see - including this article and the device you are reading it on - is a mere projection.
This is according to a controversial model proposed in 1997 by theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena.
Until now the bizarre theory had never been tested, but recent mathematical models suggest that the mind-boggling principle could be true.

And now the students in my contemporary theory class this semester can stop asking whether all that Foucault we read has any practical value …

The universe is a hologram and everything you can see - including this article and the device you are reading it on - is a mere projection.

This is according to a controversial model proposed in 1997 by theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena.

Until now the bizarre theory had never been tested, but recent mathematical models suggest that the mind-boggling principle could be true.

And now the students in my contemporary theory class this semester can stop asking whether all that Foucault we read has any practical value …

# science # philosophy # Foucault

Beings who recognize themselves as ‘I’s.’ Those are persons.

The New York Times has a piece today — “Considering the Humanity of Nonhumans" — that’s a very interesting read, especially for people with an interest in human rights:

The Nonhuman Rights Project, an advocacy group led by Steven M. Wise, filed writs of habeas corpus in New York last week on behalf of four captive chimpanzees: Tommy, owned by a Gloversville couple; two at Stony Brook University; and one at the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls. The lawsuits were dismissed, but Mr. Wise said he planned to appeal.

He believes that the historical use of habeas corpus lawsuits as a tool against human slavery offers a model for how to fight for legal rights for nonhumans.

His case relies heavily on science. Nine affidavits from scientists that were part of the court filings offer opinions of what research says about the lives, thinking ability and self-awareness of chimpanzees.

Mr. Wise argues that chimps are enough like humans that they should have some legal rights; not the right to vote or freedom of religion — he is not aiming for a full-blown planet of the apes — but a limited right to bodily liberty. The suits asked that the chimps be freed to go to sanctuaries where they would have more freedom.

It’s an interesting question; I wrote about this in a very tentative way in my human rights book, in a chapter on human dignity and evolutionary biology. I’ve also written about it here on the blog on a number of occasions.

Ultimately, I think my conclusion fits with what some of the people in the NYT piece are doing, insofar as I argue that personhood (and, in particular, a sense of self over time) grounds our dignity which grounds our rights.

Talking about dolphin rights or chimpanzee rights makes some sense to me; they might not have the precise language to claim their rights, but they could nonetheless conceive of themselves as individuals with a distinct sense of self and we could, on that basis, make a rights claim on their behalf.

# human rights # animals # dolphins # chimpanzees # politics # philosophy # science

Ummm … that’s not an opinion, NBC.
That’s what we call a fact.
HT: Sara Kohen.

Ummm … that’s not an opinion, NBC.

That’s what we call a fact.

HT: Sara Kohen.

# science # media # kids # health care

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