Stories tagged Scientific World View

Jul
02
2007

Who has the most influence in a courtroom -- the wise old judge, the quick-witted attorneys, the unjaded jurors or popular TV showsScientific verdict: With a growing amount of court evidence relying on scientific methods, judges are under a growing need to know more about current science and what is accurate research and what is shaky. (Photo by Chili Media)
Scientific verdict: With a growing amount of court evidence relying on scientific methods, judges are under a growing need to know more about current science and what is accurate research and what is shaky. (Photo by Chili Media)
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A group of judges meeting in Ohio last week want to make sure it’s not that final item. But the special three-day seminar was set up due to the effects judges are seeing in their courtroom caused by episodes of the CSI TV series.

Television viewers like the mystery and intrigue shown on the Crime Scene Investigation shows, but the science presented there isn’t always correct. But jurors coming to courtrooms don’t always know that.

That all means that judges need to know a lot more about current science when managing their courtrooms. They’re the gatekeepers to the scientific data that’s presented in court cases. They have to decide if one side’s scientific expert on a case is actually sharing “junk science.”

One judge at the conference reported that a juror on a case she tried was sure that hand-writing experts can determine the gender of a writer based on information that the juror saw on a CSI show. In actuality, that’s not possible.

With the increased use of DNA evidence in court cases, science has taken on a larger role in courtrooms since the 1990s. In many cases, it can be the make-or-break piece of evidence to convict or acquit a defendant.

Another major portion of their conference was devoted to dealing with hypothetical scientific court cases of the future, such as parents who are not satisfied with the result of genetic make-up of their child that had planned to have; liability for unexpected outcomes of genetically-programmed prescription drugs; or the punishments that appropriate for certain lawbreakers who may have chemical or genetic make-ups that make them more prone to commit certain crimes; just to name a few.

It sounds like judges are going to have a lot more homework to do to handle all the new science coming to their courts.

What other areas of science do you think the law needs to be better informed about? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

May
29
2007

Creating controversy?: This week's opening of a new museum near Cincinnati has generated new discussions on the origins of the world. Visitors at the museum are first greeted by this giant sauropod dinosaur. (Photo from Creation Museum)
Creating controversy?: This week's opening of a new museum near Cincinnati has generated new discussions on the origins of the world. Visitors at the museum are first greeted by this giant sauropod dinosaur. (Photo from Creation Museum)
The Memorial Day weekend is pretty predictable in the news cycle. Lots of attention, and rightfully so, is provided about the military men and women who’ve given their lives for our country. Then there are the usual stories about the start of summer. And don’t forget the travel delays and stories on high gas prices.

But coming from out of right field this year was Monday’s opening of the new Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio. The $27-million facility had 4,000 visitors on its opening day. Its state-of-the-art animatronics were designed by a former Universal Studios exhibit director. It shows dinosaurs co-existing with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and also riding aboard Noah’s Ark.

With this museum opening, I’ve been amused reading letters to the editor on both sides of the world debate in the local newspapers, particularly in the deep passion expressed by all writers.

My question: is there room at the table for having a museum dedicated to presenting the creationism viewpoint?

Regardless of my personal opinion on the origins of life, I have to give credit to the creationists for putting their money where their mouth is in finding a popular way to express their view. And we all have the option on spending our money and time visiting such a place.

Professionally, I work at the Science Museum of Minnesota which hosts this website. It’s only fair that I let you know where I’m coming from on this. Here’s a link to this museum’s official position on the origins of life.

As a person of faith who does believe our Earth’s origins came several billion years ago, it amazes me that most people find this issue as a non-compromiser. Creationists have an absolute trust in the science they interpret from the Bible, even though through history, Biblical interpretations on things like the shape of the Earth (flat) and it’s position in our solar system (the center) have been proven wrong. Conversely, science does an excellent job of explaining how things work, like the biology of human bodies. But it does a miserable job of explaining how and why we interact with each other: our emotions and feelings.

So let’s have a discussion here on if it’s possible to have intersections between the trajectories of faith and science. Be forewarned, moderators of this blog will not permit long diatribes on one particular point of view. Stick to the topic and your viewpoint will be heard. Let’s explore where there might be common ground between science and faith.

Apr
17
2007

Friday nights at 9 pm.

"Numb3rs" is currently the most-watched program on Friday nights, attracting nearly 12 million viewers. Now in its third season, Numb3rs, along with the program's co-creators, Nick Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, will receive a National Science Board group Public Service Award for 2007 "for their contributions toward increasing scientific and mathematical literacy on a broad scale".

The annual Public Service Award recognizes individuals and organizations for their extraordinary contributions to increase public understanding of science. Recipients are chosen for their contributions to public service in areas such as: increasing the public's understanding of the scientific process and its communication; contributing to the development of broad science and engineering policy; promoting the engagement of scientists and engineers in public outreach; and fostering awareness of science and technology among broad segments of the population. NSF

Mathematical CSI

Cryptanalysis, probability theory, game theory, decision theory, principal components analysis, multivariate time series analysis and astrophysics are just some of the many disciplines employed in the series thus far. If you have not seen this show I recommend that you check it out.

Mar
29
2007

Star-crossed lovers have nothing to worry about: Astrology plays no role in finding a mate.  Photo by KoenigNazgul at flickr.com
Star-crossed lovers have nothing to worry about: Astrology plays no role in finding a mate. Photo by KoenigNazgul at flickr.com

A researcher in England has determined that astrology is “useless when it comes to sizing up a mate.”

No kidding. I could have told him that for free.

Dr. David Voas of the University of Manchester looked at the latest British census and compared the birthdates of 10 million married couples. He found there was no correlation between spouses’ signs. Says the doctor:

"When you have a population of 10 million couples, then even if only one pair in 1,000 is influenced by the stars you would have 10,000 more couples than expected with certain combinations of signs. “

Mar
08
2007

The US version of the comedy series, "The Office" featured a funny little nanotech reference on a recent episode.

The setup: The always ridiculous Dwight is trying to pick a health care plan and everyone is doing their best to sabotage their efforts with false medical claims....enter nanobots.

Nanotech is breaking its way into pop culture more and more every day. Its good to see someone lampooning the grey goo nano robots.

Mar
04
2007

Quarters: Found these in my pocket...
Quarters: Found these in my pocket...

With this year's round of state quarters entering circulation, it's enlightening to see how many of the new coins focus on science and nature. The first three quarters of 2007 place wildlife in the spotlight, with a bison head on the Montana coin, a salmon on Washington state, and a peregrine falcon on Idaho. The menagerie of state coins also entails buffalo roaming on Kansas, wild mustangs running across Nevada, and full-bodied bison on North Dakota.

An oak tree takes center stage on the Connecticut currency, and there's plenty of plant life on other coins too. There's a Mississippi magnolia and a Georgia peach—just to name a few. Wisconsin pays tribute to its agricultural heritage, and it's hard to overlook the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado coin. Nature scenes decorate several other state quarters as well.

The 10,000 lakes on Minnesota's quarter have lots of company, with Crater Lake on Oregon, and the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan. Coining itself "The Ocean State," tiny Rhode Island pays homage to the enormous Atlantic, and water scenes flow over more state coins too.

Of the handful of state quarters highlighting people, California singles out conservationist John Muir, while the Missouri coin shows the Lewis and Clark expedition. Two states put money on the Wright Brothers' success, with North Carolina featuring the historic Kitty Hawk flight, and Ohio honoring the birthplace to Orville and Wilbur—along with astronaut Neil Armstrong. Transportation technology travels across many other state quarters, with Indiana giving credit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Just about every state quarter can have a scientific slant, with a little homework. That one-room schoolhouse on the Iowa quarter comes from an "Arbor Day" painting by Grant Wood. The U.S. Mint launched the first five coins in the 50 State Quarters Program in 1999. The final five coins will enter circulation in 2008.

Feb
26
2007

America is growing more science literate.: Free map from geography.About.com
America is growing more science literate.: Free map from geography.About.com

Jon Miller, a professor at Michigan State University, has been tracking scientific literacy for nearly 20 years. He presented his latest findings recently at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The good news: the percentage of Americans with basic scientific literacy has almost tripled in the last two decades. We are now second in the world, ahead of Japan and most of Europe. Only Sweden beats us out.

The bad news: it's not so much that we're so good, but that the rest of the world is so bad. Only 28% of Americans have basic science literacy. As the article points out, citizens are asked to make decisions on issues such as nanotechnology, stem cell research, climate change, etc. We need a basic understanding of the science behind these topics.

However, I must take issue with the last point the professor makes:

Surveys he did starting a year before the 2004 election found that the frequent debates about [stem cell research] ... actually left more voters undecided than they had been before the campaigning began.

I don't think that's a bad thing. In fact, I believe there's a very simple explanation: politicians often take complicated issues and boil them down to simple "soundbite" solutions, designed to get people to agree (and vote) with them. Learning more about any subject makes you appreciate how complex it is, and how very often there are no clear-cut answers.

Feb
08
2007

Watch this funny video to learn about where you should be coughing. Just say no to using your hands.

I have to say that I've started coughing and sneezing into my sleeve in the recent years and discovered that the only side effect is that every once and a while I get a little glob of snot on my sleeve. GROSS! But hey, who really washes their hands every time they cough, sneeze, or touch their face? So sacrifice a little snotty fabric and cough and sneeze into your sleeve.

Jan
22
2007

Nanohazrd: What will come next?
Nanohazrd: What will come next?

You can design the next hazard symbol for nanotechnology. The entries will be judged by the ETC, a group interested in sustainable development of new technologies. You can see some of the initial entries in their hazard symbol gallery.

I don't want to get stuck on talking only about the potential negatives about nanotech. Whether we proceed safely or not there will be hazards that need to be addressed. I thought this was a fun way of thinking about involving the public.