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Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday Random Ten: Functionalized Nanotubes Safe Edition

C&EN reported this week on a PNAS article (that I can't seem to access) dealing with the absorption of functionalized carbon nanotubes to mammallian tissues. It looks like they may, in fact, be safe for drug delivery engineering:

In the study, mice were intravenously administered water-soluble carbon nanotubes, either single-walled or multiwalled. Electron microscopy analysis revealed that both types of nanotubes are excreted intact in urine.
...
"This is the first time carbon nanotubes have been administered intravenously and fundamental pharmacokinetic parameters have been obtained," Kostarelos tells C&EN. "It is also the first description of carbon nanotubes circulating in the blood of live animals and the first report showing blood clearance and urine excretion of the nanotubes."

OK. On with the music!

Morphine - "Shame" [mp3]
RZA - "Fuck What You Think"
Mindless Self Indulgence - "Daddy"
Creedence Clearwater Revival - "Up Around the Bend"
Le Tigre - "I'm So Excited"
David Bowie - "Young Americans"
De la Soul - "Buddy"
Cars - "Touch and Go"
Gorillaz - "Kids with Guns"
Tomandandy - "Ambient Dixie"



Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"I love you, but..."

While there's something to be said for love and romance, they so very rarely meet the expectations we hold for them. So why try to fool ourselves with sweet treats and misleading lyrics? They just set the bar too high. Here's a mix I put together to celebrate The True Meaning of Valentine's Day. I think you'll find it much more realistic.

1. Debra - Beck
2. Until the Real Thing Comes Along - Billie Holiday
3. Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind
- Christine Lavin
4. You're the Reason Our Kids are Ugly
- Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn
5. My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker
6. Kind Hearted Woman - Robert Johnson
7. Ilovetoloveyourlovemylove - Self
8. When I Change your Mind - Cherry Poppin' Daddies
9. Saw Red - Brad Nowell
10. It's Not Love but It's Not Bad - Merle Haggard
11. Buggly Eyes - NoFX

Bonus Track: Get Your Biscuits In the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed - Kinky Friedman, 2006 Gubernatorial Candidate of Texas. Seriously.



Monday, February 13, 2006

The Smackdown

Even with all the Intelligent Design hype, the proportion of American adults who believe in the creation story has held consistently at about 50% for decades. Despite the evidence we get from the media, even many Christians don't see a real "controversy" that needs to be settled publicly. From Science (I think subscription is required, sadly):

[Randy Moore of the University of Minnesota] says students don't necessarily know how to define ID, which asserts that there must be a "designer" because life forms are too complex to have arisen solely from the process of random mutation and natural selection. But when Moore presents them with a range of beliefs, 15% to 20% side with the ID movement. And "virtually none" has changed his or her mind by the end of the semester, he notes. Colbert [Iowa State University] agrees that although postcourse surveys show students have learned a good deal about evolution, they tend to stick to their views on God's role in creating humans.

This is likely because people view their faith as a personal issue and if there is any controversy between ID and evolution, it is a personal struggle. When I teach evolutionary concepts, I give my students the evolution smackdown without remorse. I've found most students keep to themselves and don't really care to express what their personal beliefs are because they are personal beliefs and don't belong in a science class. My experience seems to be the norm:

But teachers say they rarely have in-class clashes with such students. Rather, says biologist Robert Dillon of the College of Charleston in South Carolina, students will come by "several times a semester" to express their concern that "if there was no Adam, that means Christ died in vain for our sins. We'll have a theological discussion," he says.

Wooo-hooo! My alma mater mentioned in a science magazine article! I actually took a genetics class with Dr. Dillon at CofC and I recall one lecture where he had to field some crazy questions from an outspoken member of the Campus Crusade for Christ. (Too bad I can't recall any of the questions.) He did a great job of keeping his own faith out of the classroom (I got the impression that he was Christian when he showed up to a test review session in his Boy Scout's Uniform and sang campfire songs to us. Maybe I'm wrong.)

Lately, some representatives of my home state have embarked on their own ID escapade, endorsed by Governor Sanford. United Press International:

"The idea of there being a, you know, a little mud hole and two mosquitoes get together and the next thing you know you have a human being is completely at odds with, you know, one of the laws of thermodynamics."

But College of Charleston physics professor Bob Dukes and biology associate professor Robert Dillon Jr. criticized the governor for his statements. They told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier there aren't "chinks in the armor of evolution," and Sanford's citation of the second law of thermodynamics was also incorrect.

Well, even though I have to claim nativity of a state where people think humans may have descended from mosquitoes, there are at least some liberal (i.e. intelligent) safe-havens like CofC, which had the decency to expand the Darwin Celebration to more than just one day. It's currently hosting its 6th Annual Darwin Week.



ID RIP?

In the latest issue of Science, Elizabeth Culotta asks, "Is ID on the Way Out?" She tells the story of El Tejon (CA) Unified School District's decision to pull a slated course titled "Philosophy of Design":

Last month, a teacher in a rural southern California high school began a monthlong course on the "Philosophy of Design," exploring issues such as "why is intelligent design [ID] gaining momentum?" In response, 11 parents, with help from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, sued the El Tejon Unified School District on 10 January. Fresh from a decisive December win over proponents of ID in Dover, Pennsylvania, evolution's defenders geared up for another court battle.

But they didn't get one. Facing projected legal costs of $100,000, the school board agreed to a settlement, ending the course early and promising not to teach any course that "promotes or endorses creationism, creation science, or intelligent design."

After the ID defeat in Dover, it seems that proponents of Intelligent Design education have softened their stance in an attempt to win the support of skeptical parents. The slogan, "teach the controversy", may gain them some mileage, but this only seems to rile the nerves of the informed. So far, cooler heads have prevailed, and the intended goals of the IDists may in fact come back to bite them.

[T]he battle over teaching evolution "isn't over," says Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science. "These people are well-financed and ideologues in the true sense, and they are not giving this up."

I would argue that they would be wise to give it up. Parents across the country, wary of the manufactured outrage may be motivated to win back their school boards, running on platforms centered around keeping religion in the churches and out of the classroom. If it comes to that, the anti-evolutionists will only have themselves to blame for bringing up the "controversy" in the first place.