Friday, May 18, 2007

A Soldier's Perspective

U.S. Army Specialist Colby Buzzell offers a dramatic animated narrative of a typical operation in Iraq. God help our young men who have to endure this kind of stress day in and day out.


Without a Trace

You've no doubt heard of the case of the disappearing honeybees. This editorial offers a nice summary of the problem along with what many entomologists think are potential causes. Here are the key graphs:

As many as a quarter of the nation's commercially kept bees went missing last year, presumed dead, in a phenomenon now called colony collapse disorder. Inspector Paul Jackson said it is as much a mystery in Texas as it is in 24 other states and half a dozen nations. He said it happens overnight without warning signs of distress and with no evidence left behind. The bees simply disappear.

Jackson has yet to find a pattern in this worrisome phenomenon. One beekeeper may lose 5,000 hives in a day's time while another down the road 10 miles loses none. In Texas, as elsewhere, it is the large commercial colonies that are most affected.

Pollination is the name of the game. Beekeepers in Texas and several other states send thousands of hives to pollinate crops around the country, moving them from state to state and crop to crop. Texas hives are deployed as many as four or five times a year, carried about the country on 18-wheeler trucks.

This constant mobility has been cited as a possible cause for the disappearing hives. The resulting stress depresses bees' immune systems, making bees vulnerable to a host of diseases and parasites. And their road food diet of high fructose corn syrup has been compared to a human diet restricted to soft drinks. Other possible causes include pesticides and other poisons and genetically modified crops that might introduce pesticide into the pollen.

The penultimate sentence about the bees' road food diet has me concerned that my daughter might be in danger of suddenly disappearing.


Bad Science

In an article about the controversy surrounding global warming a couple of scientists are quoted on their view of what science is:

James Wanliss, a space physicist who teaches at Embry-Riddle ...[said] "I fear that attempts are being made to purposefully subvert the public understanding of the nature of science in order to achieve political goals," he wrote in an e-mail. "Science is not about consensus, and to invoke this raises the hackles of scientists such as myself. The lure of politics and publicity is no doubt seductive, but it nevertheless amazes me that so many scientists have jumped on the bandwagon of consensus science, apparently forgetting or ignoring the sad history of consensus science."

Another Embry-Riddle scientist, John Olivero -- professor and chairman of the department of physical science -- allowed that skepticism is an essential tool of the scientific method.

"Science lives with internal conflict all the time," Olivero said. "Part of what we have to do is continually challenge each other."

That process, they say, leads scientists closer to truths that may be elusive for lifetimes.

I see. Science is about dissent and conflict, not consensus. Does this mean that the Darwinians on campuses all around the country who are demanding that non-Darwinians be silenced because they stand outside the scientific consensus are acting in a manner harmful to good science? Perhaps merely to ask the question is to answer it.