Quote of the moment: William Faulkner, on the passing of the past

June 24, 2010

William Faulkner, with dogs

William Faulkner, with dogs

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.

— William Faulkner’s character Gavin Stevens, Requiem for a Nun, 1951

Tip of the old scrub brush to Michael Sacasas at The Frailest Thing

See also:


Virginia county judge tells Cuccinelli to cool his jets

June 24, 2010

Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a heckler of higher education in his state (and probably all states) and a climate science heretic, must wait to get the information he asks of the University of Virginia and its association with super-researcher Michael Mann, at least until a hearing August 20 on whether Cuccinelli is trying to act bigger than his breeches beyond his constitutional powers.

A report in the Danville Daily Progress and Go.Danville.com explains:

Albemarle County Circuit Judge Cheryl V. Higgins has temporarily stayed a subpoena that demands the University of Virginia produce reams of documents related to the research activities of a former climate change researcher.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a civil investigative demand – which carries the legal force of a subpoena – in search of documents relating to Michael Mann, a prominent climate change scientist who worked at UVa from 1999 to 2005.

Cuccinelli, a climate change skeptic, has said he is seeking evidence of possible violations of Virginia’s anti-fraud law in connection with five grants totaling $466,000 that Mann obtained while at UVa.

UVa has challenged Cuccinelli’s CID in court, arguing that it is unprecedented, overly broad, oversteps the attorney general’s authority, and violates the basic tenet of academic freedom.

Higgins’ order allows UVa to hold off on Cuccinelli’s demand until the dispute is resolved in court.

A hearing date has been set for Aug. 20.

Resources, and more:

It’s not just that Mr. Cuccinelli has presented no real evidence that Mr. Mann did anything “fraudulent” while conducting his research, applying for his grants or analyzing his data; in fact, Mr. Cuccinelli’s targeting of Mr. Mann appears to be based on little more than a misreading of e-mails the scientist wrote. Multiple scientific review committees have examined Mr. Mann’s work, and all have cleared the scientist of wrongdoing.

We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.


Rachmaninoff on Mercury: A double ring crater

June 24, 2010

Rachmaninoff Crater on Mercury, NASA photo

Rachmaninoff Crater on Mercury, NASA photo

Rachmaninoff crater on Mercury - NASA photo

Click on the thumbnail image for a much larger version of the photo

News from NASA about a cool picture and feature on Mercury:

Rachmaninoff on Mercury

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) recently approved the name Rachmaninoff for an intriguing double-ring basin on Mercury. This basin, first imaged in its entirety during MESSENGER’s third Mercury flyby, was quickly identified as a feature of high scientific interest, because of its fresh appearance, its distinctively colored interior plains, and the extensional troughs on its floor. The basin’s name honors the Russian composer, pianist and conductor, Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).

IAU names craters on Mercury after “deceased artists, musicians, painters and authors who have made outstanding or fundamental contributions to their field and have been recognized as art historically significant figures for more than 50 years.” The process of proposing a new crater name includes gathering fundamental information about the crater, such as the crater’s central latitude, central longitude, and diameter. Justification is provided as to why the crater is of sufficient scientific importance to be named, and details are provided about the name choice, including sources that support the worthy contributions made by that individual. Ten newly named craters join 42 others named since MESSENGER’s first Mercury flybyin January 2008.

Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Tip of the old scrub brush to Eric Koenig.


Creationism crash covered

June 24, 2010

Judge Sam Sparks’ rebuke of the Institution for Creation Research (“Biblical.  Accurate.  Certain.”)  appeared in a number of venues, in addition to those I mentioned earlier (go see here); for the record, you ought to go see:

An ICR spokesperson sent the following statement via e-mail:

The Institute for Creation Research has received the ruling of Judge Sam Sparks from the U.S. District Court in Austin in the case ICR Graduate School v. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board et al. The attorneys and leadership of ICR associated with this case are currently reviewing Judge Sparks’ ruling and we are weighing our options regarding future action in this matter.  In addition to other options, ICRGS has 30 days in which to file an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. ICR has no further comment at this time.


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