Is There Anything More Pathetic Than Flood Geologists at GSA Meetings?

Yup. Actually, there is. And this is why the announcement that Flood geologists, those poor dumb souls who are so besotted with a Bronze Age work of fiction, are once again coming to the GSA’s annual meeting should have you rubbing your hands with glee. Because, you see, the only thing more pathetic than Flood geologists is the fact that their own research has disproved their inane flood hypothesis.

Oh, yes, my darlings. That’s delicious, isn’t it? Tuck your napkin under your chin and go sink your teeth in to this bit of yum: “The defeat of Flood geology by Flood geology.” It’s eleven meaty pages of pure, savory, gourmet geo-goodness.

Really, all you need to do is grab Figure 1 and print it. Carry it with you. It’s got everything neatly laid out, with little icons showing what bit of evidence says that the whole entire earth couldn’t have been underwater at that time. And remember, this is evidence creationist geologists have found through their own research.

Here’s my own quick-and-dirty summary:

Subaerial deposits – raindrop impressions, dessication cracks, continental basalts, in-situ root beds, dinosaur eggs, glaciation, fossil charcoal, eolian dunes, paleosol, trackways.

Low- energy deposits and long pass ages of time: Cretaceous chalk, algal growths, various sea critter beds, reefs, lacrustine (lake) deposits, fluvial (stream or river) deposits.

Diversification of terrestrial animals: “Because such speciation cannot occur during a single year when the entire planet is underwater and during most of which the relevant animals are dead, [flood geologist S.J. Robinson] argued that the entire post-Carboniferous portion of the geologic column must be post-Flood.”

The Mountains of Ararat: can’t have Noah landing there if they don’t exist, and any flood deposits would have to be on top of them, so, uh, y’know, it was some other mountains of Ararat!

When you plot where examples of all of the above are found on a handy geologic timescale, you end up eliminating every bit of it, except for the Hadean Eon. It just doesn’t work. It can’t work.

And some of them know it:

In the words of Flood geologist Max Hunter (2009:88), “It is somewhat ironic…that, almost a half century after publication of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris in 1961, the geologic record attributed to the Genesis Flood is currently being assailed on all sides by diluvialists…[and] there remains not one square kilometer of rock at the earth’s surface that is indisputably Flood deposited.”

So what’s a Flood geologist to do?

The continued denial of the implications of their own findings is an example of what I call the gorilla mindset: the attitude that if something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, but religious dogma says it is a gorilla, then it is a gorilla.

According to Flood geologists, this is a gorilla.

Yup. Pretty much. And these poor inane souls are going to be at GSA, shouting “Gorilla! It’s a gorilla!” every time you show them a duck.

Show them Figure 1, and they might just cry.

Dear Famous Scientists: Please STFU About Areas Outside Your Expertise

Erik Klemetti, on Twitter, had steam coming from his ears on Wednesday:

WHY, OH WHY did Bloomsberg talk to instead of a geologist about the VA earthquake? Come on, people!

That’s probably because some journalists seem to find it impossible to distinguish between various types of scientist. They also want a big, recognizable name in their headline. So when an event happens and a scientist needs to be consulted, they call the first big name scientist who comes to mind, no matter their discipline. To quote Rocko’s Modern Life: “Those guys are idiots.”

And perhaps, just perhaps, if we smack them for stupidity often enough, they’ll develop an ability to distinguish between different types of scientists, and figure out whom to call for a quote when various events occur.

But I have a beef with the big-name scientists *coughKakucough* who blabber about subjects they have little or no relevant expertise in rather than calmly saying, “Damn it, Jimmy, I’m a physicist, not a geologist. Go phone a geologist. Quote me as saying, ‘I have no idea, as I did not study geology.'”

It’s that simple. And someone who does science for a living should know enough to know when they don’t know, and be intelligent enough and tough enough to be comfortable saying, “I don’t know.” Observe Professor Rowena Lohman, who teaches geophysics at Cornell. After delivering kick-ass accurate answers to a variety of questions within her area of expertise, is perfectly comfortable telling a CNN reporter that she is not omniscient:

CNN: Is the East Coast ready for an earthquake?

Lohman: That’s a question for a different kind of scientist or engineer.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done. Alas, that does not seem to be how Kaku does it.

I’d love to try an experiment. Next time there’s big physics news, I’d love to interview a microbiologist, say, or a seismologist, and write up a big newspaper article using only them as experts, and then stuff it under the nose of Michio Kaku. “See what happens? See how infuriating it is when experts pop off on subjects they know nothing about?” Perhaps that would help him overcome the compulsion to spout on subjects far outside his realm. Perhaps that would convince him that he doesn’t need to babble any old response to clueless journalists, but hand out the phone numbers of relevant scientists instead. And perhaps after several instances of that, the clueless journalists will become clued.

Alas, I don’t work for a major paper. Anyone who does willing to try said experiment? It would be a kindness to several geologists whose heads are currently feeling a little prone to explosion.

(Shot glass raised to the poor nameless writer at CNN’s opinion section who was smart enough to head for an expert in geophysics and tectonics rather than a string theorist when the earth went wobbly. Kudos to you, unknown wise journalist!) 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bard?

It may seem bizarre that in the land infamous for a dry sense of humor, satire is banned. But politicians in both Great Britain and Ireland, it appears, are terrified of people like Jon Stewart. So terrified, in fact, that they’ve come up with inane rules meant to prevent the carpets in their halls of power from being trampled upon by the muddy boots of comedians.

In Britain, you’ve got Rule Four:

Guidelines on the use of the pictures are less prescriptive. They do specify that no extracts from Parliamentary proceedings may be used in comedy shows or other light entertainment such as political satire. But broadcasters are allowed to include Parliamentary items in magazine programmes containing musical or humourous features, provided the reports are kept separate.

And in Ireland, ye olde fine print in the Rules of Coverage:

Please note that use of Webcasts and broadcasts of the Houses and Parliamentary Committees must be in accordance with the Standing Orders of both Houses and the Rules of Coverage of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting and Parliamentary Information, in particular: “… that recordings or extracts of the proceedings shall not be used in programmes of light entertainment, political satire, party political broadcasts or in any form of advertising or publicity, other than in the form of news and current affairs programme trailers…”.

And these are the rules that kept the Daily Show off the air, for fear that a wee bit o’ satire could bring the whole House down. You can read the whole sad saga via Graham Linehan. And then you can watch the dread content right here.

Why yes, yes, I am laughing my arse off. Whyever do you ask?

Thing is, it makes a certain sort of sense, based on history. The whole thing reminded me of a bit I’d read on Irish bards many years ago. It set me galloping through my books looking for the relevant bit, and I found it in The Celts by Gerhard Herm:

When they [the filids and the bairds] rose to tell the old stories, to report on heroes still living, the warriors would hang on to their every word, like actors waiting to learn whether they had performed well or not. Adverse or favourable criticism from such a source could alone set the seal on, or ruin, a reputation; woe betide the prince who failed to reward a singer properly. One who did prove to be tight-fisted had a poisonous quatrain directed at him: “I know him/He’ll give no horse for a poem;/He’ll give you what his kind allows,/Cows.” This kind of thing struck home, and noblemen tried to be generous, to reward good singers, with at least a horse.

I should say so.

So it appears that instead of buying the bards off, these days politicians are attempting to outlaw their more dangerous practices. Knowing that those whom the bards would destroy, they first make ridiculous, they’re trying to legislate dignity. The problem with this is, America has freedom of the press, and the world has the internet. This means that the bard’s tale can cross oceans at the speed of light. And when these pathetic little rules cause Great Britain’s weekly dose of satire to go missing, curiosity gets piqued, and then you end up with articles in the New Statesman. Nothing a comedian could do to politicians is quite as bad as what they do to themselves.

We are quite amused.

[And yes, I know, this week’s been rather light on the geology. I assure you, that unhappy state of affairs shall not obtain for long. For one thing, I’ve been doing research to ensure that my next post on the Skykomish is not merely a gallery of rocks with captions saying, “Ooo, pretty!” Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, but I like giving you added value. Additionally, I’ve been working on the research for a series of posts on various consequences of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet that I believe will meet with your approval (with especial thanks to Evelyn Mervine, who slipped me a copy of a very delicious paper on drumlins). And, last (but only because I’ve saved the best for), my intrepid companion and I are headed up to Deception Pass this weekend. Three days of wandering about amidst some extremely delicious geology. You will have such pictures, my darlings. So do not despair: the drought will end, and geology shall be thine. Possibly sans cats, but I’ll see what I can do about gratuitous felid insertion.]

Oh, Yes. Very Frivolous

A while back, our own Chris Rhetts asked me to unlimber the Smack-o-Matic and deliver an epic beatdown. He pointed me to this:

And I watched the trailer:

And I grew very, very angry. Verily, I wished to unleash the Smack-o-Matic upon the deserving. Because, you see, I’d been taken in by that: by the media and the comedians and all the rest who had made bitter fun of the woman who sued McDonald’s for spilling a cup of coffee. None of them ever made any mention of the fact that she’d suffered life-threatening burns in the process. They just laughed: silly wench. She should’ve known better than to spill coffee on herself. What a trivial thing to sue a corporation for.

When the corporation serves its coffee at 180 degrees F – 85% of the boiling point of water – it’s not trivial.

This is how not trivial it is:

Each year, approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths occur in the home due to scalding from excessively hot tap water. The majority of these accidents involve the elderly and children under the age of five. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges all users to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to preventing accidents, this decrease in temperature will conserve energy and save money.

Most adults will suffer third-degree burns if exposed to 150 degree water for two seconds. Burns will also occur with a six-second exposure to 140 degree water or with a thirty second exposure to 130 degree water. Even if the temperature is 120 degrees, a five minute exposure could result in third-degree burns. [emphasis added]

Go spill some water on yourself. I guarantee you will be exposed for more than two seconds. Now, imagine that cold water is 180 degrees, and you are elderly, and thus already vulnerable to burns. Look at the wet bits of you, and imagine this is what you see (don’t go below the fold if you can’t handle graphic):

Photo courtesy Brown University

Now imagine that is your face.

Corporations should know basic things like, “Even tap water can kill if it’s over 120 degrees. And even very cautious people can spill things in paper cups.” You would hope they’d then say to themselves, “Maybe we shouldn’t serve our coffee at nearly the boiling point of water, then. Our paying customers might get hurt.”

McDonald’s didn’t follow that train of thought. And when their product nearly killed a woman, they offered her a pittance, and a lot of people banded together to turn her into a laughingstock. People didn’t look at the temperature and the fact that McDonald’s was serving an ultra-hot product without warning that it was far hotter than what people normally expect their hot beverages to be, and their subsequent refusal to do anything approaching decent when the inevitable happened and someone got hurt. No, people just tittered over the fact that a woman had spilled coffee on herself and sued.

Well, she’d nearly died, she was left permanently scarred, but she gave them a chance to make things right. A multi-million dollar lawsuit turned out to be the only language McDonald’s could understand.

Tort reform in a country without meaningful regulations and a way outside of lawsuits for consumers to hold companies accountable for their actions is a sick, evil joke.

So yes, I would love to take the Smack-o-Matic to this subject in some depth, but I don’t get HBO, so I can’t do it in tandem with the documentary. But luckily, people with bigger Smack-o-Matics than mine are all over it. Go. Read.

And the next time someone tries to use an elderly woman’s nightmare as an example of a frivolous lawsuit, tell them that only native decency keeps you from suggesting they spill 180 degree coffee on themselves to prove how trivial it is.

A ‘Nym is Not an Unknown

I like Google+, I do, but I’m not liking their recent purge of pseudonymous folk at all.  It’s not right that people like Bug Girl and DrugMonkey face the choice between revealing their real names or getting banned.  And we’re not talking just having their profiles deactivated, no, it’s worse than that: they were exiled completely from Google+, not allowed to even follow along in silence, all for the terrible crime of not writing under their “real” name.  Fortunately, it seems they’re now allowed to view, but nothing else.

Google+ is going to have to deal with a few facts or shrink dramatically.

A ‘nym is not an unknown.  Names are easy to fake.  Reputations are not.  Over the months and years, pseudonymous folk build up a reputation, and that reputation follows the ‘nym.  So let’s not pretend that a pseudonym is the same as anonymous.  Some people still get confused about that – apparently, Google+ is, too, and it’s pathetic at this late stage in the game.  Allowing people to use their pseudonyms will not throw open the gates to barbarians and trolls.  Disallowing ‘nyms won’t prevent people from being assclowns.  What Google is doing is about as sensible as banning all Muslims from airports because the vast majority of people who hijack planes are Muslim.  You harm a lot of very good people for very little gain.  There are better ways of guarding against undesired behaviors.  Such as, banning the people who actually engage in those behaviors, regardless of whether they use their real names or not.

Google seems to have this idea that people only use a ‘nym because they’re up to no good.  That’s ridiculous.  There are plenty of excellent reasons why someone wouldn’t want to go by their real name.  I chose a pseudonym a long time ago (ye gods, nearly twenty years, how time flies), not because I wanted to hide my real self but because my legal name isn’t one I want on the cover of my books.  Grow up with a last name associated with a very kitschy retailer, deal with the endless no-longer-funny jokes, and on top of that have a character filch your first name, and before long, you’re having nightmares about doing very Not Nice things to fans who unwitting tell you the Not Funny Joke for the billionth-and-eleventy-first time.  In the interests of public relations, I have to be a ‘nym.

But there are deeper reasons.  Much, much deeper.

I do not want my identity stolen.  I do not want to be stalked.  I do not want current or future employers deciding my liberal tendencies or my atheism or whatever else makes me suddenly unemployable, despite an exemplary track record.  I do not want my rapist able to locate me simply by searching my name. Those, it seems, are reasons enough not to operate online under my legal name.  Besides, my legal name weirds me out, now.  I hear it and it sounds wrong.  I’m Dana Hunter, online and off (except at the office).  That’s me.  Not this stranger on my driver’s license.

There are ‘nyms out there who have even better reasons.  ‘Nyms who risk death by being who they are, and would potentially be tracked down and killed if they went by their real names – Muslims who deconvert, for instance, or women escaping abusive former spouses.  There are ‘nyms who would be ostracized were certain things about them known: that they’re LGBTQ, or atheists.  There are ‘nyms who would lose their jobs for saying what they do: whistleblowers, or simply people who have a lot to share but whose companies don’t want them to discuss anything even tangentially related to their employment in public.  All of these ‘nyms have something of interest to say, something of value to contribute, and the intertoobz would be a far poorer place were they silenced.  Google+ certainly will be a sanitized wasteland if they’re all exiled from it.

And how does it possibly make sense to force ‘nyms to use their real names, even if they’re able?  We don’t know who the fuck John B. Smith is.  We don’t care.  We know a ‘nym, and a ‘nym is who we’re looking for when we go to add that beloved person to our circles.  And how do you, Google, know that John B. Smith is the name behind the ‘nym?  Because it’s a “real” name, not something even the most drug-addled hippie parent would have named a child?  How do you know that real-sounding name wasn’t just cobbled together from a few random entries in a phone book?  We don’t present proof of identity when we sign up.  Google doesn’t have Dana Hunter’s driver’s license or birth certificate on file.  (Should they ever ask, though, I can point them to a rather large number of people in both my online and offline worlds who’d know who Dana Hunter is and could easily pick me out of a crowd.  Even my parents know me by my ‘nym.) 

The solution to whatever it is Google’s hoping to prevent by banning ‘nyms – whether it’s sock puppetry or trolling or general asshattery – isn’t the nuclear option of banning everybody with an implausible name (including Chinese ones).  Just witness the security procedures that put innocent kiddies on no-fly lists only to let a terrorist named Richard Reid on board, no questions asked despite the bomb in his shoe, to see how effective such tactics are.  Targeted tools that enforce consequences for actual bad behavior make better sense, don’t ensnare the innocent quite so often, and ensure actual results.  That’s much more useful to a community. 

Google+ is new, and there are bound to be growing pains.  The real test is to see how they respond to their mistakes.  If they’re smart, they’ll fix their policy and let the poor exiled ‘nyms back in with a swift apology.

If not, my profile may not be long for Google+, whether they cotton to the fact I’m a ‘nym or not.  I don’t think I’d want to be part of an environment that’s unremittingly hostile to my Bug Girl and DrugMonkey friends.

You can help them do the right thing by adding your name (or ‘nym) here.

Beware! The Health Water Pushers Want You Dead!

Well, brain dead, anyway, because how else are they going to transfer money from your wallet to theirs?

Take water.  Just yer basic water.  Now, I’ve fallen for the SoBe Lifewater scheme, not because of its supposed health benefits but because they add things to it that make it very tasty, and so I can drink something like Strawberry Dragonfruit and pretend I’m not really drinking water whilst still getting hydration.  And did I mention it’s so tasty?  There’s an adorable lizard, too.  So there we have added value I can taste and see.  But for other water needs, tap water run through a Brita filter works just fine.  It is healthy and cheap, a winning combo.

However.  It seems no item we put in our mouths is free from quacks.  I need to get Chaos Lee back here to tell you about that time he worked for a call center that took orders for infomercial products.  One company that contracted with them were selling “ionized water,” claiming all sorts of incredible health benefits.  During the meeting in which the company was extolling said benefits in order to make order-takers all excited about it, Chaos asked them unnerving questions based on basic chemistry, which ended in them claiming it was ionized because it had an extra neutron.  “That’s not ionized water,” Chaos said.  “That’s heavy water.”  Upon which the sales rep became upset, perhaps because health nuts might be hinky about buying something used to cool nuclear reactors.

But these days, “ionized” may sound a little too chemical, and we live in a society so obsessed with going chemical-free that some people market, with a straight face, a “chemical-free chemistry set.”  Deborah Blum had Things to say about that.  And this.  After that last episode, I really hope she doesn’t hear about this newest craze, because she might do herself an injury.  Still, the resulting blog post would be entertaining.

The newest craze, it appears, is for “organic water.”

Perched on a white tablecloth we noticed some very sleek water bottles, labeled Illanllyr SOURCE. A serious guy named Eric Ewell eagerly offered us a taste, “Try this pristine organic water.” We choked back a giggle. Organic? Really?

As the company’s website says, “Illanllyr … comes from our sources beneath certified organic fields in west Wales in the UK.” So, Ewell says, the water has never been tainted with chemicals, making it organic as it as it emerges from the ground.

Now, when I hear the word “organic” combined with “water,” I’m thinking of organic matter like cow shit floating around in it.  Especially since it’s beneath “certified organic” fields.  Already not really getting the super-healthy vibe.  And while the website touts the water’s location beneath a farm that’s never been farmed any other way than “organic,” thus supposedly ensuring the water is “organic” by proxy, those of us who know our geology are wondering about the details of the aquifer it comes from.  Water has this distressing tendency to travel, and who knows what non-organic ickyness it’s toured through?  I mean, really.  Never?  Never ever tainted with a single chemical?  Not in the whole history of the earth?  The gentleman has as much to learn about the water cycle as he does chemistry.

I notice Mr. Ewell or his staff have very carefully not put those “not tainted with chemicals” claims on their website.  Someone seems to have realized that their water does, in fact, contain chemicals.  They call them “minerals,” so as not to scare the anti-chemical crowd away, but it’s loaded with ’em:

As for his “never been tainted with chemicals” claim made in person, I hate to break it to him: minerals are chemicals.  So, in fact, is H2O.  That’s two hydrogens and an oxygen, bonding into a water molecule, which is (cue scary music) a chemical!!!eleventyzomgwe’reallgonnadiiiiieeeee!!!!!!!

And if you purchase it from Mr. Ewell, a very expensive chemical it is, too.

But let’s get back to this “organic” claim.  Those of us who aren’t instinctive chemists have skimmed that word, thinking of it in the colloquial sense of “what you tell people something is so they’ll pay twice as much for it, believing it’s all-natural and much better for you than that non-organic shit.”  But of course, chemists are already prone on the floor, pounding their fists in the carpet and laughing helplessly, and Ed Yong is horrified:

When I read that tweet, I fell on the floor pounding fists into carpet, etc.  I may not be as well-versed in chemistry as I should be, but I do know that in chemistry, “organic” means “it’s got carbon in.”  Now, let’s see what we get when we add a little C to our  H2O, hence making it organic:

So, my darlings, remember: no water on earth is organic, and if you ever have the pleasure of someone trying to sell you “organic” water in person, you are now free to ask them why they think one of the main ingredients in embalming fluid is so much healthier than plain ol’ dihydrogen oxide.

Gorgeous.

Sod This, I’m Holding Out for Ragnarok

Oh, my god.  What a surprise.  The End Times have not come.  I am so shocked.  I just do not believe it. I-

(Hee hee.  Ho ho.  BWAH-HAHAHAHA!)

I can’t keep a straight face. 

The excuses as to why the Rapture failed to happen on schedule will no doubt be mildly amusing.  Same ol’ song and dance, I’m afraid: some doofus predicts the apocalypse, the apocalypse mysteriously fails to happen.  (When reached for comment, Jesus Christ is reported to have said, “Ha ha ha PSYCH!  Matthew 24:36, bitches!”)  Wot an anti-climax.

I’m holding out for Ragnarok anyway.  The Twilight of the Gods is so much more awesome than all the silliness in Revelation.