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Image credit: Dr. Phil Plait/Bad Astronomy Blog

Rant warning: I’m about to go on a major rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

There’s simply no way else to put it, science classrooms in Tennessee’s public schools are fucked. It’s clear that our Republican Governor Bill Haslam didn’t actually like the so-called “monkey bill” that will allow teachers in TN public schools to teach creationism and climate change denialism under the guise of “scientific weaknesses,” but unfortunately he proved to be a coward by finding the political equivalent of “having your cake and eating it too”- allowing it to pass without his signature. The bill is nothing more than Bible-thumping socially conservative legislators trying to create a seemingly politically correct path for religious-based ideas to be taught alongside thoroughly proven scientific principles in our public schools. Honestly the state Board of Education is who should be making decisions like this, not state lawmakers. The separation of church and state is made crystal clear by the US Constitution, and teaching pseudoscience that is solely based on religion- creationism and intelligent design- should never EVER be allowed in public schools. Climate change denialism, while not religiously motivated per se, is very politically motivated and not supported by scientific evidence. Both evolution and climate change are overwhelmingly supported by rock-solid scientific evidence. Both are large and complex topics, the minor details of which are constantly going to be debated/improved/clarified, but the overall facts of both are very certain. They are not “scientifically controversial,” they are only politically controversial. It’s times like these that I’m quite ashamed of my home state. Dr. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy Blog has much better and more professional commentary on this than I, so I suggest reading his blog post about it.

However, things like this Elon Musk interview from last night’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart bring me right back up when I’m down. Watch part 1 here and part 2 here, because you can’t embed Comedy Central videos on a wordpress hosted blog. 😦 It’s awesome and inspirational to see people like him be successful. People who have both the money and the vision to do great things and push the boundaries of mankind’s knowledge and capabilities. Elon Musk is one of many who are pushing the human race forward. The religious right pandering morons in the TN legislature and our coward of a Governor are among those pulling the human race backward.

End of rant.

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NMDinosaurs01The theory that the dinosaurs were wiped out from an asteroid impact near the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula is beginning to face major challenges. There’s no doubt that a huge impact caused the Chicxculub Crater, but some recent findings suggest that the impact may have occurred some 300,000 years earlier than originally thought. This comes as a second blow to the impact theory, with the first being the discovery/dating of the Deccan Traps in India. This gigantic volcanic feature is the result of a huge eruption that is believed to have lasted around 30,000 years. Can you imagine a massive volcano erupting for 30,000 years and covering an area equivalent to 1/2 of modern India with lava? Trust me, something on that scale is hard for the human mind to comprehend, but that much volcanic ash and gas in the atmosphere would’ve had a devastating effect on the ecosystem, and almost certainly played a major role in the extinction of the dinosaurs. Get ready for science textbooks to be re-written, because the asteroid impact theory is about to see the same fate as the dinosaurs themselves. (Via Daily Galaxy)

NASA recently teamed up with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to test a new, Earth-friendly type of solid rocket fuel. I’m not exactly sure of the details, but somehow they’ve managed to make rocket fuel out of aluminum powder and ice. Yes ice… as in frozen water. The secret apparently is that the aluminum powder is so finely ground that it’s considered “nanoscale.” The nanoscale aluminum has so much surface area in contact with the water ice that the exothermic reaction when it burns is more efficient than normal solid rocket fuel, which is usually powdered aluminum (not nanoscale) mixed with an oxidizer such as ammonium perchlorate and a binding agent. Seriously though, who would’ve ever thought you could make rocket fuel out of ice and aluminum? It just sounds crazy, but it’s true. (Via EurekAlert)

When you think of the type of person who becomes an astronaut, you don’t typically think of race car drivers or musicians, but two of the astronauts about to launch on Space Shuttle Discovery tomorrow morning are just that- a former off-road truck racer and a drummer. Check out this Space.com article to find out more about Commander Rick Struckrow, formerly a Baja off-road race driver, Pilot Kevin Ford who is also a drummer, and several other astronauts who come from surprising backgrounds.

It’s pretty rare for me to instantly fall in love with a band/artist these days. I’ve just become so “Nashville” about everything- jaded/oversaturated/desensitized/insert-apathetic-synonym-here. But RCRD LBL posted some mp3’s from this dude named Evan Voytas on Friday, and I was instantly blown away. It feels good to be totally into something new. This guy’s stuff is a little bit of everything- the tracks I’ve gotten my hands on so far range from a shoegazy, fuzzed out slow pop jam to electro-driven rock with a touch of twee to a full on summery disco-pop groove. That last track I’m describing is called “Getting Higher,” and I have hereby proclaimed it to be the official jam of the summer 2009. Please, PLEASE go to RCRD LBL and download it now! Then go to the Hype Machine and you’ll be able to find several other great tracks. But “Getting Higher” is where it’s at. It’s an instantly love-able dancey track, complete with a 70’s funk bass groove, and straight-up disco beat, and uplifting sunny guitars and syths bathed in a healthy but tasteful dose of reverb.

In local news- Makeout With Violence, the locally made feature-length film starring several members of our music scene, pretty much owned the Nashville Film Festival, taking the best feature-length narrative film and best music awards, along with a few other smaller awards. It’s good to see these guys finally getting the recognition they deserve for their 3 years of hard work on this thing.

My love of science fiction is no secret. That’s why I’m quite pleased to know that one of my favorite TV series Eureka, has finally been scheduled to return to action on July 10th on the SyFy channel. (Yes, the SciFi channel is now SyFy…. go figure.) I read about this on io9, and I agree with their sentiment that moving the show to Battlestar Galactica’s old slot of Fridays at 10pm/9 central was a bad idea. That means I’ll end up watching most of it online because I’m normally out & about by that time on a Friday night…

So we all know that the dinosaurs were killed because of a giant asteriod hitting just off the Yucatan Penninsula in Mexico, right? That’s what they taught us in middle school science class, afterall…. Not so fast. As more and more new evidence is uncovered, that theory is starting to look more and more… extinct. Universe Today posted this morning about some new discoveries that date the actual impact at least 300,000 years prior to the mass extinction. At the same time comes the discovery of a supervolcano eruption (or even a series of supervolcano eruptions) called the Deccan Traps in India. Such an eruption could easily have thrown enough dust and ash into the air to block out the sun and cause a sudden massive cooling. My personal hunch is that the asteroid surely did have some degree of impact on the global climate, (pun fully intended) and obviously would’ve killed a ton of dinos in the immediate area, but ultimately it may have been the volcanic activity that dealt the lethal blow to our bird-like ancestors.

I’ll leave you today with this great image of the next space shuttle crew… I must say NASA has been doing a great job of marketing lately. First the whole C.O.L.B.E.R.T. thing, and now this:

Click to enlarge

I hope everyone enjoyed yesterday’s tomfoolery. Everyone seems to hate April Fool’s but I enjoy all the jokes. I always look forward to what kind of ridiculousness Google will cook up each year. Here’s the Wikipedia page with a history of their pranks.

Photo by Steve Cross

Photo by Steve Cross

Shoot the Mountain have been getting a lot of buzz lately and playing a lot of shows, but everyone’s been wondering when their first release would happen. Well, it’s finally happening on May 16th on Theory 8 Records, and it’s an EP (presumably self-titled?). A release show will happen on that date at the Basement with Totally Snake (WTF?!?) opening. They’re also playing on April 9th at the End opening for Appleseed Cast.

The Features just released details of their upcoming tour with The Dexateens. They’ll be hitting clubs all over the southeast, northeast, and midwest later this month and into May. Oh, and they’ll also be featured in the July issue of Nylon Magazine.

More comprehensive local music news coverage can be found at We Own This Town and Out The Other.

Four Russian cosmonauts and two European astronauts volunteered to be locked up together in a simulation of a spacecraft for 105 days. This is part of an experiment to study the psychological and physical effects of being stuck with 5 other people for an extended period of time in cramped quarters. The experiment will help scientists and engineers plan for an eventual manned-mission to Mars. This will be very interesting to monitor.

I’ve been reading a few different posts and articles over the last week or so regarding a recent vote on science standards for the Texas Board of Education. The board held a vote on several standards for science education and it was mostly a travesty, the biggest of which was the deletion of the statement that the universe is “roughly 14 billion years old.” Sure, there are several different numbers out there that vary by a few million years, but everyone in the entire scientific community agrees that it’s pretty damn close to 14 billion years. A variance of a few million years is NIL when you look at the big picture, and is definitely covered by term “roughly.” There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise! One faint glimmer of hope is that the board voted down a proposed change that would allow the teaching of “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. If this had passed, it would’ve been just one more way for Creationism to creep its ugly way into the scientific classroom. This article on the NewScientist blog sums it all up very well. I suggest reading it. I cannot get over the quote of board chairman Dr. Don McLeroy, who is quoted as saying, “I disagree with these experts. Someone has got to stand up to experts.” HA! Yea, you tell ’em Dr. McLeroy! Tell those experts that they don’t know what they’re talking about! Afterall, they’ve spent the majority of their lives studying REAL science, FACTS and EVIDENCE… how could they possibly know what they’re talking about? I find it amazing that this man (a dentist) was able to get through medical school with such anti-scientific beliefs. I sure as hell wouldn’t want someone that dumb working on my teeth.

Ok enough ire for one day. I’ll leave you with this hilarious video clip from a 50’s sci-fi movie. I really hope this is how they dance in the future.

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