Brilliant news about dark matter

August 23, 2006

No, not “dark matters,” nor even “a dark matter.”  Dark matter.  The stuff that we can’t see that may make up three quarters of the matter in the universe.

And with news this big, it still took a couple of days to get to me, courtesy of P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula.  Why wasn’t this on the front page of every newspaper on the planet?

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced they have direct evidence of dark matter.  Here’s the photograph:

X-ray/Optical Composite of 1E 0657-56

Caption:  This composite image shows the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56, also known as the “bullet cluster.” This cluster was formed after the collision of two large clusters of galaxies, the most energetic event known in the universe since the Big Bang.

Hot gas detected by Chandra in X-rays is seen as two pink clumps in the image and contains most of the “normal,” or baryonic, matter in the two clusters. The bullet-shaped clump on the right is the hot gas from one cluster, which passed through the hot gas from the other larger cluster during the collision. An optical image from Magellan and the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxies in orange and white. The blue areas in this image show where astronomers find most of the mass in the clusters. The concentration of mass is determined using the effect of so-called gravitational lensing, where light from the distant objects is distorted by intervening matter. Most of the matter in the clusters (blue) is clearly separate from the normal matter (pink), giving direct evidence that nearly all of the matter in the clusters is dark.

I am old enough to be able to recall that the news of Wilson and Penzias’ confirmation of the Big Bang, and consequent disproof of Steady State, also was not front page news.

All of which suggests newspapers have their priorities wrong.

NASA’s press release was headlined simply, but importantly:  NASA Finds Direct Proof of Dark Matter.  Go to the NASA site and look at the great animations.

Scientists usually have a few beers after such news.  It may be a good time to purchase stock in breweries.

Another report: Charter school performance lags

August 23, 2006

Gee, I wasn’t counting — is this the third report in a couple of months that notes no great improvements in performance at charter schools?

The National Center for Education Statistics released a report Tuesday showing fourth graders in public schools testing higher than fourth graders in charter schools.  According to the Los Angeles Daily News, for example:

Fourth-graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the federal Education Department.

Other news reports:  Associated Press in the Boston Globe; Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah; Jay Matthews in the Washington Post.

Twisting history still: D. James Kennedy

August 23, 2006

Voodoo history just will not die.

Several years ago I caught the tail end of a television program featuring the Rev. D. James Kennedy railing against evolution and especially Charles Darwin.  What caught my aural attention was a rant claiming that Darwin somehow bore responsibility for Stalin’s manifold evils perpetrated in the old Soviet Union.

That is bogus history of the first order, of course.  Stalin banned the teaching of evolution, and he banned research even based on evolution

Soviet genetics, top of the world in the early 1920s, was set back decades (and still has not recovered).  Some top scientists were fired; some were imprisoned; some were sent to Siberia in hopes they would die (and some did); a few disappeared, perhaps after being shot.  Soviet anti-Darwinian science contributed to the massive crop failures of the 1950s that led to the starvation of more than 4 million people.  Claiming that Stalin loved Darwinian theory is bad history revisionism of first order.  (If you’re Googling, look for the story of Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s henchman against biology.)

Kennedy is at it again.  The past couple of weeks have featured new rants against Darwin, leading up to a promised climax this weekend in which Kennedy will claim Darwin was responsible for Hitler and Nazi atrocities — again a fantastic claim, since Hitler directly repudiated Darwin, never expressed support for the idea of evolution, and since anti-Darwin quackery led to any number of stupid science moves in Nazi Germany, such as a ban on blood banks for fear that soldiers would get Jewish blood and turn Jewish (no, you can’t make that stuff up — see Ashley Montague’s essay in his 1959 book, Human Genetics).

Unfortunately for Kennedy and his Coral Ridge Ministries (CRM), his advance flackery got the attention of biologists like P. Z. Myers and others, like the Jewish Anti-Defamation League.

There is much bogus history to deal with there, and so little time.  Check out the links.  More to come from here, I hope.

More maps!

August 23, 2006

This is too good to leave in comments.  A reader named Chris commented on my earlier post about NOAA maps with a list of sources.

Humans generally take in information much faster visually, and retain it longer.  Maps provide a key tool for teaching history.  The more the better, I think.

Chris wrote:

The NOAA data center is one of many really neat places to get data, images, and materials. Here are a few more (and let me know if you want more on any one topic, as I collect links like these – and happen to work in the field!):

Earth Observatory Science site. Free! One of the best sites out there.

Visible Earth:

Find Space Objects! Easy views from your location. Cool.

Space weather/environment. Great insight into the sun and upper atmosphere.

Elevation, land use, maps, and lots of other GIS data:

Learning technologies. Some fantastic educational materials:

Direct Readout Data. Great images.

Distributed Active Archive Center.

More great free images.


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