Saturday, September 24, 2011

Re: Troy Davis

A reader named Bill, having read the post on The Execution of Troy Davis, refers me to a column by Ann Coulter who lays out the facts of the case in her characteristically (and regrettably) acerbic style. It's not hard to see why none of Mr. Davis' appeals went anywhere. He certainly didn't have much going for his claim that he was innocent. Here's her lede:
For decades, liberals tried persuading Americans to abolish the death penalty, using their usual argument: hysterical sobbing.

Only when the media began lying about innocent people being executed did support for the death penalty begin to waver, falling from 80 percent to about 60 percent in a little more than a decade. (Silver lining: That's still more Americans than believe in man-made global warming.)

Fifty-nine percent of Americans now believe that an innocent man has been executed in the last five years. There is more credible evidence that space aliens have walked among us than that an innocent person has been executed in this country in the past 60 years, much less the past five years.

But unless members of the public are going to personally review trial transcripts in every death penalty case, they have no way of knowing the truth. The media certainly won't tell them.

It's nearly impossible to receive a death sentence these days -- unless you do something completely crazy like shoot a cop in full view of dozens of witnesses in a Burger King parking lot, only a few hours after shooting at a passing car while exiting a party.

That's what Troy Davis did in August 1989. Davis is the media's current baby seal of death row.
If you're interested in the official account of what transpired that night twenty two years ago (why does justice take so long?), and why none of the dozen or so courts which heard his appeals were moved to change the original verdict, read the rest of Coulter's column at the link.

Perhaps the most interesting fact that Coulter adduces was that all of the state's thirty four witnesses, and seven of the twelve jurors, were black. So much for the hoary old chestnut that since Davis was black and the twenty nine year-old policeman he murdered was white there must be white racism afoot in the court's verdict and sentencing.


A new video is out from Illustra Media that is both a paean to the beauty and wonder of butterflies and a challenge to Darwinian explanations of how these astonishing creatures could have arisen. The video is titled Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies. Here's the trailer:
More information, including information on ordering the DVD or Blue-ray version, can be found here.

As you watch the process of metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly unfold keep in mind that there are essentially two basic explanations of how this process arose in the first place. Either it came about as a result of a series of blind, unguided, purposeless genetic mutations which by chance conferred a survival advantage on the caterpillar, or it came about as the result of intelligent, intentional engineering.

Which of the two requires the greater miracle and the biggest leap of faith to believe?

Faster Than Light

Ever since Einstein it has been a dogma of physics that nothing can exceed the speed of light, and for decades every time the principle has been tested it has been confirmed. Until now. Jason Palmer, Science and Technology reporter at BBC News, has the story:
Puzzling results from Cern, home of the LHC [Large Hadron Collider], have confounded physicists - because it appears subatomic particles have exceeded the speed of light. Neutrinos sent through the ground from Cern toward the Gran Sasso laboratory 732km away seemed to show up a tiny fraction of a second early.
Neutrinos are so tiny that they can pass through the entire earth without striking a single atom, which enables scientists to send a beam of them in a direct line to the detector some 440 miles away.
The speed of light is the universe's ultimate speed limit, and much of modern physics - as laid out in part by Albert Einstein in his special theory of relativity - depends on the idea that nothing can exceed it. Thousands of experiments have been undertaken to measure it ever more precisely, and no result has ever spotted a particle breaking the limit.

But Dr. Ereditato and his colleagues have been carrying out an experiment for the last three years that seems to suggest neutrinos have done just that.

In the course of doing the experiments, the researchers noticed that the particles showed up a few billionths of a second sooner than light would over the same distance. The team measured the travel times of neutrino bunches some 15,000 times, and have reached a level of statistical significance that, in scientific circles, would count as a formal discovery.
Dr. Ereditato has asked the world scientific community to investigate his result to try to find their error, if there is one, because much of the superstructure of modern physics will need to be revised if the result stands.
But the group understands that what are known as "systematic errors" could easily make an erroneous result look like a breaking of the ultimate speed limit, and that has motivated them to publish their measurements. "My dream would be that another, independent experiment finds the same thing - then I would be relieved," Dr Ereditato said.

But for now, he explained, "we are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result - because it is crazy, and of course the consequences can be very serious."
We note in passing that this is a refreshing example of scientific humility. A well-established hypothesis stands to be over-turned but rather than trumpet their revolutionary discovery, the Cern team is asking for confirmation from other investigators or a theoretical explanation that would account for their anomalous result. Would that all scientists were as sober and circumspect in the conclusions they draw from their data.