Science on the Ballot


Sorry for the short notice, but I received this invitation from March for Science just this morning. Here is their e-mail in full:

March For Science is partnering with Science! The Show to bring you a night all about the science-related policies that are at stake this November. Reserve your tickets to watch live on Twitch!

This Wednesday, at 6:00 p.m. PT, join us for a night of comedy and science advocacy with Dr. Gretchen Goldman, a research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Goldman leads research efforts on the role of science in public policy, focusing on topics ranging from scientific integrity in government decision-making, to political interference in science-based standards on hydraulic fracturing, climate change, and chemicals.

Are Evolutionary Biologists Ignoring Science?

From Champneys' video. Evolutionary biologists ignoring the Second Law

At Uncommon Descent in April, Granville Sewell has called attention to a new video by Mark Champneys, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics: When Scientists Ignore Science”. Sewell’s post will be found here Recall that Sewell’s own videos and books feature a refutation of evolution by invoking something like the Second Law. The Discovery Institute often praises Sewell, who is one of their Fellows, and Sewell and Champneys say nice things about each other. So they all think that these arguments are good science, and that what evolutionary biologists say is most definitely not.

Champneys has shown up here once before: in 2017 he made some comments on a 2011 post by me about Granville Sewell’s arguments. He and I had a brief, mild exchange in the comments section. In those days we had no Recent Comments widget to allow people to find comments on older posts like that one, so no one else noticed this. So I put up a new post about Champneys’ arguments in the hope that he would join the discussion. Alas, he did not show up.

Now Champneys has a new video, which makes the shocking argument that when scientists say that evolution occurs by natural selection acting on mutations over time, they are ignoring the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The new video is 35 minutes long. For a more extensive and discursive version of the same argument, you could also consult a video of a lecture by Champneys where he also explains how easily he has refuted scientists who fail to take into account the Second Law.

Let’s take a look at what the new video says. I do hope that Champneys will come by and help us understand why he and Sewell think that we are ignoring this fundamental law of science.

The mystery of phosphine gas on Venus

Phosphine molecule
The chemical structure of phosphine according to Wikipedia.

Is there life on Venus? Yesterday, September 14, 2020, an article in Nature Astronomy reported careful measurements consistent with trace amounts of phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus. There is no known geochemical process that can produce phosphine. This phosphine might have come from life. Life on Venus, if this is what we found, might be microbes floating in the clouds.

Time will tell, but this may become a landmark publication.

Giant ichneumon wasp and mystery visitor


Photograph by Mark Sturtevant.

Photography Contest, Runner-up.

Giant ichneumon wasp
Megarhyssa atrata, giant ichneumon wasp. The photographer writes, "This large female ichneumon wasp is using her long ovipositor to drill into wood in order to lay an egg on a wood-boring sawfly larva. The smaller wasp riding her is probably a male in the genus Rhysella, and he appears to be mightily confused about his prospects for mating and passing on his genes."

Green hyalite


Photograph by Alan Rice.

Photography contest, Winner.

Hyalite glowing green, or fluorescing, under ultraviolet light (ultraviolet C 100–280 nm). The photographer writes, "Hyalite is a form of opal with a glassy and clear appearance. My brother builds ultraviolet lights for mineral exploration and is silhouetted by the abundant hyalite. This sample is deep underground in a tungsten mine in Nevada, USA."