November 2013 Archives

Comet Ison: Perihelion is now


Nice video here, along with a sky map telling you where to look in the early morning. Instructions for viewing it in daylight here – wear sunglasses and take their advice to use a stationary object, not your thumb, to block the sun. And latest images here. I am going out now with my trusty camera and looking for a lamp post, but it may be too close to the sun already.

Update: Here is a remarkable picture from the Nasa site above, taken on November 25.


Freshwater: Motion for reconsideration filed


The Rutherford Institute, acting on behalf of John Freshwater, has filed a motion for reconsideration with the Ohio Supreme Court. On a first fast scan, the main argument seems to be that the Court erred in giving weight to Freshwater’s insubordination as opposed to the constitutional issues alleged in his appeal, and that in doing so, the Court somehow made it easier to fire teachers in general. The motion even quotes a comment on my previous post, though with a bad link.

I may have more to say about the motion later.

Corvus corax


Photograph by Karen Dobson.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.


Corvus corax - common raven.

25 years ago, according to a recent article in Science magazine, Richard Lenski put samples of E. coli bacteria into a dozen flasks filled with a solution of glucose and other nutrients, incubated them, stirred them, and every day removed 1 % and repeated the process, day after day, for 25 years (except for a brief interruption when he moved from one university to another). The author of the article, Elizabeth Pennisi, notes that Lenski’s bacteria

When President Kennedy was shot


A number of people across the web have posted their memories of where they were the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Mine is short: I was at sea aboard the ship of the U.S. Navy that he visited less than a week before he was shot.

The National Center for Science Education has just announced a webinar on what to do when science comes under attack. Details below the fold.

Freshwater: Ohio Supreme Court affirms his termination


By a narrow 4-3 vote, the Ohio Supreme Court today affirmed (pdf) the termination of John Freshwater as a science teacher in the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, city schools. That brings to an end more than 2,000 days of administrative hearings and court proceedings in the case. In her opinion for the majority, Chief Justice O’Connor concluded that

After detailed review of the voluminous record in this case, we hold that the court of appeals did not err in affirming the termination. The trial court properly found that the record supports, by clear and convincing evidence, Freshwater’s termination for insubordination in failing to comply with orders to remove religious materials from his classroom. Accordingly, based on our resolution of this threshold issue, we need not reach the constitutional issue of whether Freshwater impermissibly imposed his religious beliefs in his classroom. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals because there was ample evidence of insubordination to justify the termination decision.

I have a few comments on the decision below the fold. There’s a comprehensive story on the decision at Court News Ohio.

Genie Scott has announced her retirement, and Ann Reid will take over as new Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education. Congratulations to both Dr. Scott and Dr. Reid! Dr. Reid is a research scientist whose team sequenced the 1918 influenza virus at the Air Force Institute of Technology. One colleague credited her with the additional ability to herd cats. See the NCSE press release here.

Hyla versicolor


Photograph by Darren Garrison.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.


Hyla versicolor – gray tree frog.

Ark Park as Xanadu?


A Slate article the other day compared the Ark Park to Coleridge’s Xanadu: “an extravagant vanity project born out of boundless narcissism and ambition.” An apt comparison, except of course that in the poem Kubla Khan actually builds his stately pleasure-dome – and he does not float junk bonds to do so.

Platypuses at Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology

The platypus is currently tied for my favorite mammal (along with hedgehogs and manatees). Platypuses have a lot of unique characteristics, but one of the features I find most fascinating is their sex chromosomes. Before a post about their chromosomes, there’s a few things we need to clear up.

Coconino Sandstone


Coconino Sandstone, Walnut Canyon, near Flagstaff, Arizona. Mr. Woolf adds, “Look carefully and you can see crossbedding preserved from the sand dunes that were lithified to form the Coconino.”

Working Again


After doing some server maintenance, comments are working again.

Megachile rotundata


Photograph by Ben Rossi.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.


Megachile rotundata – alfalfa leafcutting bee. Mr. Rossi adds, “I studied the mating behavior of these solitary bees for my PhD. This is a female sitting inside of a styrofoam nesting block, which is a styrofoam cube with many long tunnels running through it. The back of the block was resting against the glass inside of a glass tank, so I pointed my camera at one of the nesting holes from the outside of the tank.”

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