Playing Chess with Pigeons turns six years old today!

6th birthday pigeonWow, they grow up so fast! I can hardly believe it has been six whole years since I started this blog.

Thanks for reading everyone!

Of course it is probably about time it started pulling its own weight around here. Maybe it could get work as a carrier pigeon or something…

Every little bit helps (especially right now). Many Thanks!

A plea for (non-financial) help

journalsOK, here is the situation; I do not work for a university, a museum, or any other educational and/or research organization. I am not paid to do the research on and write substantive refutations of creationist propaganda. I do it because I am passionate about science (especially biology and paleontology) and extremely annoyed by people who peddle lies, half-truths and misinformation about it.

It would be nice if more working scientists could take the time to familiarize themselves with the machinations of creationists so as to be better prepared to counter them but I understand that they have more important tasks to do, like actually doing science. And I —as an interested and more knowledgeable than most layperson— am more than happy to stand in for them in the trenches, without remuneration or recognition. All I ask is that I be given the tools, the ammunition if you will, to fight the fight.

In this case, it is free and unencumbered access to the scientific literature!

If I am doing research, working on a rebuttal to some creationist claim, buying copies of the articles myself is simply not an option as I live paycheck to paycheck and the miscellaneous science journals charge outrageous prices for individuals to download their articles, often as much a $25 or $35 dollars each (if they charged $1 a pop, like an mp3 download, I might sometimes spend the money)!

Instead, to get what I need, I have to pester and cajole, via e-mail, working scientists and/or university professors I am acquainted with to send me PDF copies of scientific papers.  Alternatively, I have to get in my car (which is currently broken down and I cannot afford to fix it), drive to a local university, plug a flash-drive into one of the computers in their science library, and download them, which is a big hassle and still costs money for gas and parking.  

What I would like is to be given some sort of unpaid (though I wouldn’t say no to stipend!), ceremonial position at a university, museum, or other institution that would grant me access to the primary scientific literature to which they are already subscribed (the more the better).

A couple of my university professor friends have tried without success to get me something like this, only to have the “higher up” say no.

So, I am putting out this plea to any scientist, university professor or Dean, or anyone who is sympathetic to my cause and who has influence at their institution, please, please, please, help me to get access to the science I need to do what I can to combat the forces of ignorance that threaten to overwhelm us all.

Thank you for your consideration!

Another new toy…eventually

After my friend Don gave me a microscope he had rescued from being throw away I wrote in a post about it and mentioned there about how I would like to also have a dissecting microscope (something more suitable for examining fossils & macroscopic critters etc.). Well upon reading this Gary Hurd, a long time colleague in the Creation/Evolution conflict, contacted me via Facebook and told me that if I really wanted a dissecting scope he had one I could have if I just came and got it.

So I went and got it…

d_micro_smIt is a Bausch & Lomb 0.7x – 3x with, from what Gary tells me, a storied history of archaeology fieldwork. The base was pretty rusted (which I imagine was due to Gary’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean) but some steel-wool and some WD40 took care of most of that (as you can see).

There is however one tiny little problem with the scope (for which Gary apologized profusely) and this is where the “eventually” comes in, it lacks eye-pieces! Unfortunately the eye-pieces apparently got misplaced, so until I have some extra cash (who knows when that will happen) it will remain a very cool looking (and very heavy) paper-weight in the corner of my office.

hurd_britain

Yours truly and Gary

Anyway, regardless of the missing bits, a big thank you to Gary Hurd for the microscope!

Soon I will have the makings of a genuine science laboratory! Bwahahahaha!!!

Also, Gary blogs over at Stones and Bones, give it a gander.

A new toy for Troy

My friend Don has given me a microscope! He salvaged it from his work where they were apparently just going to throw it away. It’s a bit old but still serviceable and a quantum leap above the even older toy one I had.

microscopeSomeday I would like a decent dissecting scope (since my interests run more towards the not quite microscopic but still sometimes small). Maybe something with a digital camera built into it…

Regardless, thank you Don!!! Much appreciated!

Recent critter encounters

As I continue to try and adapt to having a significantly longer commute to work, settle into our rental house, and generally try to get my crap together, here are some pictures of some critters I’ve encountered over the last few months.

First a mollusk:

I discovered this rather large (approx. 10cm) slug making its way across my front walk. Not sure about my ID but I’d say it was possibly a Limacus flavus, which would make this an introduced ALIEN SLUG! [Scream!]

Limacus

Secondly a couple different arthropods, one terrestrial and the other aquatic:

This dangerous little bugger was hitchhiking in a load of horse manure that my mother was unloading from the back of her pickup truck. A centipede, probably a Scolopendra polymorpha. After I told my mother that I wasn’t interested in adopting it she ended up feeding it to her chickens, which was probably a little spicier than their usual fare.

centi-sm

OK, there is a bit of a set up to our next crawly, or rather swimy critter. I was on my way to work one morning and while driving by a vacant lot around the corner from my house, I noticed three adults standing around a large puddle in middle of the lot that was left over from some recent rain. My brain noted that this was an unusual thing to see, so I slowed down a bit and saw that a couple of them were holding small fishnets, of the sort that an aquarist might keep handy. Quickly running through the possibilities of what three adults with fishnets standing around a small ephemeral body of water in a generally arid environment might be up to and my brain instantly hit upon what seemed to be the only logical conclusion…BIOLOGISTS!

Unfortunately I was already a little late for work and couldn’t stop and talk to them, however I immediately vowed to myself that I would visit the puddle ASAP to see what might have drawn a trio of probable biologists to this vacant lot. So on my way home from work I stopped at the lot and checked out the puddle.

At first I didn’t see anything but once my eyes adjusted to what I was looking at I noted some small (maybe 2cm) things swimming fairly vigorously around the puddle. At first I thought that they might be fish, perhaps Gambusia which are often stocked in our local waterways to control mosquitoes. This wasn’t totally crazy as there is a catchment basin immediately adjacent to the lot and I thought that, while it was unlikely, it might be possible for some Gambusia to have somehow made it into this puddle.  However given that this was a very ephemeral body of water and that Gambusia would be considered “junk fish” by an ichthyologist I quickly dismissed this idea.

Looking a bit closer at the tiny swimming creatures I realized what their true nature was and why thy might be of interest to biologists became much less of a mystery. They were fairy shrimp, possibly of the Family Streptocephalidae, some members of which are very endangered. In this case possibly Streptocephalus woottoni A.K.A. the “Riverside fairy shrimp“, though this puddle was a little shallow (under 30mm) for the normal bodies of water that S. woottoni are supposed to inhabit.

Anyway, after seeing that they were indeed fairy shrimp I rushed home and got one of my critter keepers (a small plastic aquarium) and fashioned a small, pitiful, net out of a coat-hanger and one of my wife’s old nylon stockings. Pitiful as my jury-rigged net was, it allowed me to catch a few of the shrimp.

Fear not for the shrimp though, after I photographed them (which isn’t an easy thing!) I returned them to their puddle which remained habitable for three or four days longer.

Shrimp1

Shrimp3

Last but not least a couple different chordates, in this case both mammals:

While driving through a local rural area (Reche Canyon) my wife and I spotted a herd of feral burros (Equus africanus asinus) that we had heard (get it?) lived in the area. I wasn’t able to get too close to them and only had my cell phone camera so these are not the best pictures. However if you look carefully at the second picture below you’ll get a glimpse of some “hot donkey action” going down (brown chicken, brown cow!).

Apparently there is something of a mystery involving these burros lately. It seems that several of the newborns have gone missing and it becoming a concern for the locals who watch over them.

ass_2

ass_1

Finally a rough pair of middle aged male apes (H. sapiens). Yours truly with Dr. Sean B. Carroll Professor of Molecular Biology, Genetics, and Medical Genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison at U.C. Riverside on 2-11-2013. Dr. Carroll had just given a very entertaining talk: Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species about the adventures and scientific contributions of Alfred Russel Wallace, Charles Darwin and Henry Walter Bates in honor of Darwin Day 2013 (Photo and my shirt by Lani Britain, a.k.a. Mom).

OK, so this wasn’t a scathing dissection of creationist silliness, but it was something…

Creationist ‘champion’ Dr. Duane Gish has died

Young Earth creationist Dr. Duane T. Gish died yesterday (March 5th) at the age of 91 or 92 [depending on which birth date on Wikipedia is correct. I e-mailed ICR for a clarification]. Dr. Gish, a biochemist,  was a founding member of the Institute for Creation Research (which he was the long time vice president of) and noted for his frequent debates with defenders of evolution and several books attacking evolutionary theory, primarily on the basis of the fossil record.

My sincere condolences to his friends and family.

I first ‘met’ Dr. Gish in 1994 at UCLA where he was to debate Dr. Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society. My friend Don Frack and I knew roughly where on campus the debate was to be held but didn’t have an exact route on how to get there in mind. So at one point we took a short cut through a building and when we got to far end, which we figured should be near our destination, we opened the door and literally came face to face with Dr. Gish himself (who as I recall was looking for the restroom). Don laughingly told me that I looked like I had seen a ghost.

Yours truly with Dr. Gish at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies 1998 Summer Conference (August) (Photo by Don Frack)

Yours truly with Dr. Gish at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies 1998 Summer Conference (August) (Photo by Don Frack)

I have a few other minor stories I could tell about Dr. Gish and a mountain of criticisms I could relate about his work, but this is not the time.

Again, my condolences to his family.

Goodbye Neil…

One of my earliest memories is from the day after my fourth birthday in July of 1969. It is just flashes of my parents being very excited about something and images of a large rocket on a TV, it was, of course, the launch of Apollo 11 which carried the first humans to land on the Moon.

Yesterday we have lost the Commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong (1930–2012), however as long as long as our species endures something of him should endure with us, the memory of the first person to set foot on another world.

Goodbye Commander and thank you for risking it all to take that giant leap for mankind.

[A bittersweet coincidence of sorts. I didn't hear of Armstrong's death until early Sunday morning because my wife and I were watching a marathon of old Star Trek shows (Enterprise/Voyager/DS9).]

New shirt designs from Evo-T’s

You may want to wash this one before you wear it, it looks a little funky:

The Germ

Yes, Evo-T’s is breaking out of the text only genre and moving into the world of graphics. Our first offering is a stylized germ (an original creation by yours truly) in both black (pictured above) for lighter colored shirts and white for darker ones. As always there are both men’s and women’s cuts available.

A percentage of every purchase goes towards keeping this blog running and keeping my lights turned on.

So give a hoot and buy a dang shirt! You won’t care much for the alternative…

Special thanks to my brother-in-law, George Pizarro, for helping clean up my pencil drawing into a presentable computer graphic image!