Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rick Santorum on Science Education

It is my firm opinion that people like Rick Santorum should be kept as far away from writing ANY policy. This clip illustrates why.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Is Humanity Frozen in its Current Form?

Professor Michio Kaku shares his thoughts.

I need your help...

Your mission should you choose to accept it is to help me become a better writer and a better teacher. I am currently applying for an Assistant Professor position in evolutionary biology and am drafting my first "teaching philosophy." If you are so inclined and would like to read what I have come up with so far I would appreciate your comments and criticism.
Thank you for your time and help.

Teaching Philosophy

Draft as of 11/17/2011

"Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution"   ~Theodosius Dobzhansky - 1973

I am aware that access to knowledge is not always the barrier to obtaining an education. More often, the barrier is the ability to maintain enthusiasm for learning. It is my intention not only to give my students the tools to gather the information they need to excel in my class, but also the critical thinking skills to analyze that information, and a genuine interest in doing so. By the end of my course I intend students comprehend the mechanism of evolution and have a clear understanding that evolution is a unifying idea in all fields of life-science.

In addition to understanding the mechanism of evolution I think it is important that students be able to explain it to non-scientists. The lack of dialogue between scientists and layman is one of the biggest hurtles in academia, leading to skepticism toward science in general. To promote dialogue, I plan to incorporate an extensive writing assignment and small-group problem-based-learning assignments along with regular midterm exams for a well rounded student assessment.
 I appreciate that there will be students with various backgrounds in my classes. I hope to unfold the story of evolution in a way that is challenging yet entertaining and infused with enough variety so that students from all backgrounds may find something worth further investigation. I realize that evolutionary biology as a topic may be difficult to reconcile with some cultural beliefs however I will present the physical evidence in a matter-of-fact way such that class discussion remains in the realm of the observable world. This being said, I will not tolerate any form of disrespect to anyone in my classroom and will make that clear at the onset of all courses I teach.

When I think about my time as a student the best instructors I had were those who had an infectious enthusiasm for the subjects they were teaching. When a professor has this ability it is apparent by the number of students that rush the lectern after class. I plan on using all tools at my disposal to garner this reaction from my students. I will carefully use punctuated theatrics to bring life to my lectures. As a student I could always remember the content of a class better if it were wrapped in a story. Whether it was a professor’s dance interpretation of mitotic spindle attachment or the bumpy feeling of a fossilized trilobite being passed around the class while learning about the Cambrian explosion, a unique presentation was always more memorable. I plan on utilizing a wide range of sensory-stimulating techniques in my class to reach as many students as possible. 

Accepting that scientific knowledge is not stagnant, some of the most important lessons a student can walk away with are not necessarily the content of a lecture or a class, but the lessons which teach us how to use the tools that keep us learning. It is a Professor’s obligation and opportunity to give students the keys to unlock the scientific literature enabling them to expand their independent thoughts. By actively thinking about the current understanding in a given field and then identifying the new knowledge a journal article brings into the public sphere, students will be able to assess for themselves whether they think the conclusions made are valid or not. It is my goal in teaching evolutionary biology to work up to a group discussion on a current paper in a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal. These conversations are not only lively and entertaining but also provide the keys for students to independently investigate questions they have outside the core content of my class.

Providing sufficient feedback to students will be high on my priority list. I plan on staying personally engaged with students inside as well as outside scheduled class time and office hours. Recently the use of online discussion forums, assignments, and online grades has become more and more pervasive. My experience with the blackboard online learning system, science blogs, and scientific journal clubs gives me the ability to communicate with students fast and effectively. Maintaining a presence online, both an open discussion forum and an anonymous forum, benefits the entire class as well as future classes. In an open forum students are free to identify themselves and take credit for their work in helping their classmates, while an anonymous forum provides the space and freedom for students to ask questions they may feel intimidated not to ask otherwise. In all cases I want to maintain transparency in my classroom while concurrently respecting students’ right to privacy.

At the end of my course I hope students feel eager to continue investigating topics in evolutionary biology by taking one of many available paths; whether it is picking up an issue of the latest scientific journal or joining a research lab so they might make the next discovery in the field. I hope students see how understanding evolution provides a unified logical framework to build on research interests in all biological fields.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Whenever I need a genuine moment of Zen I watch this.

The known universe.

The Janus Cat

We were sitting next to the ocean in Newport, OR the other day when Amelia showed us a newspaper clipping of a two-faced cat aka a "Janus" cat. Named for the Roman god with two faces - Janus. This is where we get the name for our month "January" which makes sense since it was thought the two heads of this god were looking into the past and the future at the same time - like we look back at the year gone by and make resolution for the year to come on January one. 

Looking into this condition I found that the likely cause of this is an over-expression of a gene dubbed "SHH" or Sonic hedgehog. I'm not kidding on the name - fruit-fly geneticists historically had a sense of humor in naming their knock-out flies.

Comprehending the mechanism of action of the SHH protein in development is an excellent exercise in seeing how there is no greater "plan" from God but rather an "apparent plan"  that manifests because of our relatively complacent evolutionary era.  There is nothing unethical about a genetic disorder. It is what it is and the affected either lives or dies. This cat was not cursed by God. Its existence is a window for mankind into one possibility of mutation.  One out of a million might be useful. On a long enough timeline that one doesn't just become more likely but rather inevitable. 

One of the coolest things I can think of in the age of you tube and Facebook is our collective ability to rapidly be aware of rare occurrences.  This will not be the last cat in history to have this rare condition. What interests me is the subtle differences in expression of this gene from human to human as the SHH gene also regulates the organization of the human brain. There are clinical examples of babies born with the Janus condition who did not live. Thinking about this leads me to speculate that a viable two-faced human may have actually lived to adulthood at some point in history. Is such an individual responsible for the depictions of the Roman God Janus? We may never know. But a viable two-brained adult would be a marvel to have a game of chess with :)

Koseoglu K, Gok C, Dayanir Y, & Karaman C (2003). CT and MR imaging findings of a rare craniofacial malformation: diprosopus. AJR. American journal of roentgenology, 180 (3), 863-4 PMID: 12591714

What is Thunderf00t up to these days?

Does this qualify as civil discourse?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Carl Zimmer tells his story

I listened to this RadioLab episode last night on highway 5 here in Oregon. Carl Zimmer wraps enlightenment around the hard truths of his life in this week's RadioLab short "Sleepless in South Sudan" Worth a listen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eugenie Scott tells her story

Eugenie Scott remains on my short list of heroes. In the video below I hope you can see why.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Save the Children!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Full Circle

This is a phenomenal story and worth the 17.5 minutes required to watch it. Jana Levin - Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College - tells an unlikely story of romance while researching. I was in the room for this and she certainly has an electric personality. The story was told at the Player's Club on Manhattan as part of the 2010 World Science Festival in association with The Moth - probably one of the most ingenious non-profit organizations of our time. The Moth is a story-telling series where all stories are true and told live, without notes. I have listened to hours and hours of the most real entertainment I've ever been exposed to. Usually I listen to The Moth on my iPhone through the Stitcher Radio app. From Nobel Laureates to high-ranking politicians to prison inmates, the Moth has featured story-tellers from all walks of life. If you have never heard of the Moth, Tom Paine's Ghost highly recommends their content.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daniel Radcliffe performs Tom Lehrer's "The Elements"

I missed this last year. I'm amazed if he really memorized this in one night!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Porphyria! The Mystery of the Vampire Myth Explained 

TPG CLASSIC - REPOST from 31st October 2008.

Teeth lengthened by receding gums glow in the shaded valleys of the Carpathian basin. The genetic milieu of the Visigoths, Huns, Carpians, and Slavic peoples have swirled over centuries as granite crags pushed populations into shallow gene pools. A ghoulish thing of legend emerged from Transylvania and has since soaked literature and pop-culture with a reddish froth. Science and medicine have given us reason not to fear for our necks in a story that is truly stranger than fiction...

The glowing teeth mentioned earlier occur because of an accumulation of light sensitive molecules called porphyrins in victims of a rare genetic disease. Porphyria affects one of the steps in heme production. A heme is the chemical group that holds iron atoms in their proper position in hemoglobin (the protein of blood). The name "porphyria" came from the Greek words for purple and pigment. Victims of this disease have an uncanny similarity to historical descriptions of vampires and phenotypes of this disease have been suggested as possible explanation for the origin of vampire legends.

Mal-formed porphyrin molecules accumulate in affected people's skin and teeth. When activated by light these molecules activate oxygen molecules into destructive radicals that can wreak havoc on surrounding tissue. When exposed to light individuals appear to be burned with caustic lesions left on their skin. Enter: Nosferatu's pale countenance shrieking in terror as the sun rises.

Though no blood-lust is reported by sufferers some historians speculate that drinking the blood of animals may have been attempted as a folk remedy in treating the disease. It has since been proven that the heme molecule is in fact robust enough to survive digestion indicating that replenishing mal-formed blood molecules by drinking blood may indeed help those that happen to exhibit anemia in conjunction with porphyria. When watching vampire movies the whole garlic premise never made any sense to me. Why couldn't you use mushrooms, or cinnamon, or toothbrushes to scare away vampires? What was it about garlic. With the Porphyria hypothesis in mind it makes sense however. Garlic has vasso-dilator chemicals and is reported to exacerbate the affects of porphyria. Sufferers may have learned to avoid it indeed!

In the genetically secluded valleys of Transylvania it is not hard to imagine disorders like these occurring more than expected in a diverse population. Before the renaissance and the spread of the scientific revolution a vampire myth may have grown from accounts of these individuals with their glowing long teeth, aversion to sun and garlic, and maybe even sucking blood in the night!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your Inner Fish

This interview is from 2008 and I just now discovered it after searching for some inspiration over at the Scientific American Blog Network. Thanks to Guilty Planet blog for showing me this fantastic interview with Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish.

Obama Opens the Gates on American Education

I am in Munich, Germany at the moment. I've met people from all over Germany and the rest of Europe here at the Oktoberfest celebrations. I am constantly impressed with the number of languages all Europeans seem to speak with ease. Though I question the status and rigor of education in the United States I do not think we are at the point of no return. Watching President Obama make his address this week fills me with pride at the continued promise of America. There are many among my close friends who say "the American Dream is over." To them I say Nay, it is alive, changing, adapting. And education is portal to see the metamorphosis. Bully for you Obama!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pleaching a Plant Palace... and a Meat House?

I like the idea of a "Pleached" plant matrix for the outer shell of the home. However, I'm not sure the meat house is scalable in the real world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Post from Wakkerzeel, Belgium!

Where am I and What am I doing?  I am staying with good friends, Kristiaan and Mieke at their home in Wakerzeel, Belgium.

Kristiaan is a special person in my life as his name inspired my Mother to spell my name as she did – Kristopher. My mother met Kristiaan as he was one of the 17 children in the host family that took her in as she did a semester abroad in Antwerp, Belgium while at SUNY Fredonia in the 1960s. Fredonia happens to be my alma mater as well J.

What have we learned in one day here? On the way from the airport in Brussels to Wakkerzeel (the village of his lovely home) he explained how the roads were commissioned in 1750 by the Empress of Belgium, Maria Terezia to be very straight and aligned from church steeple to church steeple.  This was also the year that the first map of Belgium was completed – was a state secret as any army that obtained a copy could use it to invade – yet somehow Kristiaan has managed to obtain a copy of this map J Along the route home we stopped at “Bols” a wholesaler of mussels to buy 6 kilos of the delectibe shelfish . The young man scooping the mussels was quick to point out that the mussels we were about to enjoy originated in Holland.  When he announced this Kristiaan seemed surprised yet we enjoyed the mussels in all their flavorful glory nonetheless..  We also crossed a canal which Kristian said was also commissioned in 1750 we followed the road along the canal to Wakkerzeel through Haacht and a town named Wespellar - “where the wasps go.”  Here there is a huge walled grounds with a large arboretum that is opened once a year. This land is owned and operated by the family that originally owned Stella Artois.  Kristiaan seemed to think the family was not involved with the brewing any longer.  Speaking of brewing, while we passed through the town of Haacht we also observed a large and intricate set of new brick buildings – the Haacht Brewery.

When we arrived at the stand-alone row house of Kristiaan and Mieke we were greeted by Mieke who was busy with her daughter Saskia making preparations for the wedding of Kristiaan and Mieke on August  20th. Keep in mind that Kristiaan and Mieke are in their 60s and are getting married after 7 years living together as it will make things easier if anything were to happen to either one of them.  A wedding is a wonderful excuse to send out a quorum call to a family of 17 siblings anyhow. I am surely getting excited to experience this wedding as it will be an all day event at the local “feast hall” here in Wakkerzeel. 

Stay tuned for more stories from Flanders as they happen :) If you have any questions for this traveling disscussion please comment and I will query the Flemish perspectives.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Aldo Leopold Center

Speaking of permaculture... I visited the "shack" of Aldo Leopold today in Baraboo, Wisconsin. This site might be one of the first attempts at modern "permaculture."

It was a muggy mosquito-laden day biking through the oaks, chestnuts, and pines on the way to the birthplace of  A Sand County Almanac, a classic in conservation ecology. I had seen video footage of the site this past earth-day at a screening of Green Fire. being here in person I gained an appreciation of what a family-man Aldo Leopold was. Walking around the fire pit and reading circle, I saw how the proactive conservation at the shack was team-oriented, family-centered. They changed the once-cleared farmland back into a thriving Oak savannah. The variety of birds darting through these carefully spaced trees is dizzying. This family created a living legacy beyond written words they left their mark, their secular "spirit" in the physical plane, in the growing ecosystem that germinated decades ago, in their minds. Being there I sensed how this was a family of survivors. 

One of the most striking artifacts in the Center was a beautiful hand-crafted bow Leopld had made. Apparently, the entire Leopold family were accomplished archers. Aldo's wife Estella was the best shot as she won the state archery championship! A family of trained hunters does not go hungry :)

Here is a video clip from my pilgrimage. 

The river I speak of is the Baraboo River and the living daughter or Aldo and Estella Leopold is Estella B. Leopold - professor emeritus of botany at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I posted this interview with Mark Shepard of Forest Agriculture Enterprises a few months ago. With today's feature in the New York Times on the rise of "Permaculture" I thought it appropriate to revisit. I can not emphasize enough how empowering this video is for me. After watching in-depth I have been turned on to several new ideas, like producing food energy by planting perennial rather than annual crops. I am inspired to plant forest gardens filled with hazelnut trees! I highly encourage my readers to take the time to watch. And for those of you of the skeptical mindset I am right there with you. When something sounds to good to be true, it usually is. If you have counter arguments to Mark Shepard's philosophy please share.

106 Acre Profitable Permaculture Farm - Interview with Owner Mark Shepard from The Socio Capitalist on Vimeo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spirits of Iron - Creative metalwork

Passing through  Elbe, Washington on our nomadic adventures we came upon these metal sculptures.  Truck hitches as elk chins and monkey-wrenches as Moose legs, these random acts of creativity embody the DIY fronteir art mentality of this American west. Happy to see these spirits thriving. Hats off to the artist - Dan Klennert. Worth the stop.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Real-Time History from Dad

I see that someone from Endicott, New York is reading Tom Paine's Ghost.  I tell my father this and immediately he says.

Did you know IBM started there?

Also, Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company started there.

The things that you learn when you talk to Dad

Just a quick series of possibly-interconnected points from an early-morning conversation with my father.

My Dad opens the paper and says

"Do you like NASCAR? I don't see the appeal."

I say "No, seems like a boring way to spend our precious time."

Dad - "You know, the origin of race-cars in the US was guys trying to supe-up their cars in order to out-run the cops with bootleg booze."

Me - "Wow, I did not know that."

Dad - "Did you know that the term bootlegging came from smugglers who snuck booze around in hip flasks tied to their shins under high leather boots?"

Me - "I can't say that I did.."

Dad - "You know that smuggling alcohol has played a huge role in American History right from the start? George Washington had to deal with frontier-men from Western Pennsylvania in his administration as president. These people were upset with the first real federal tax - a whiskey tax - and were starting to get violent with the federal tax-man. Our first violent civil conflict was the Whiskey Rebellion."

Me (having just traveled to mount Vernon last week) - "Do you think George Washington ever seized the 'contraband' whiskey?"

Dad - "I don't know."

Me - "I only ask because I noticed at Mount Vernon a bit of information that may be applicable. One display pointed-out that George Washington would often enter a tavern and pay everyone's bar tab to gain political favor. I am wondering if Washington had a deal with the tavern-keepers to supply them barrels of whiskey if they made it appear as if he was being generous."

Dad - "I guess we'll never know ;)"

Good Answer


Anatomy of a nuclear reactor

Evelyn Mervine, founder and author of Georneys has WON this year's Post with the Most Competition! She submitted a series of interviews with her father, Commander Mark L. Meverine in March 2011 addressing deep-seeded public concern in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. For her overall clarity, sense of urgency,  attention to detail, and integration of new-media formats she has proven a champion of real-time open-access philosophy.  Cheers and Hoozah to free information on this independence day!

And a big congratulations to a new member of the ever burgeoning blog community - Evelyn Mervine!

Listen to and read the entire series here.

One Q&A from this excellent series of interviews.

Evelyn Mervine - Do you think nuclear  power plants should be built in an earthquake prone area such as Japan?"

Commander Meverine -  I think it’s important for the nuclear industry, to be unemotional  about what has happened here. So, like I said, it does appear that all  of the design features that were required for the earthquake,  functioned, and the plant was going through a normal shutdown sequence.  Obviously, when the tsunami came, that was something that was not  designed for, because it flooded the location where the emergency diesel  generators were and caused them to lose all power, and we're now in a  scenario that's well beyond any design contingencies that were designed  for that plant.

So, I think the nuclear industry has to take a serious look at what has  occurred in Japan. Although nuclear power is an important source of  electricity, I think we have to seriously question any plants that are  located next to the ocean and the worst case scenario for this type of  event, an earthquake followed by a tsunami, as to the impact it would  have on that plant, and the emergency backup system.

Clearly, in this case, this was not taken into account and the net  result is, we have a nuclear plant that appears to be very very close to  a core meltdown.
Listen to the entire first interview below.

Interview 1 | 3/12: Nuclear Engineer on Japan Nuclear Disaster from Evelyn Mervine on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ancient Greek Computer Alive in Legos

Thanks to Nick for the tip on this! :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Origin of Species - Animated, for Kids!

 "The aim of the series is to educate children in an interesting and informative way about evolution."
      ~Bob Etchingham

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wind-up BIKE! aka - the Flywheel Bicycle

Here see Maxwell von Stein show you his flywheel bicycle. This piece of work earned him the Nicholas Stefano Prize for an outstanding mechanical engineering awarded by The Cooper Union. Read more about it on SciAm!

Links with your iced tea

One of my old favorites - onegoodmove - periodically has "Links with your coffee."  I've always liked these quickie updates and therefore will link with whatever drink I'm craving at a particular moment here on TPG.

Being somewhere in the center of the oppressive heat index I present you
              Links with your Iced Tea.   
                         Bits of information swirling around my head...

Tour de Fat! Kicks off tomorrow in Durham, North Carolina Saturday June 25th. Go Todd and Meg! Fly the Fort Collins, Colorado banner HIGH.

Post with the Most - Blog post contest on Tom Paine's Ghost is now closed.  A full list of entrants is coming soon. Winner to be announced July 4th, 2011.

I joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was immediately disappointed in the distinctly moneyed-east-coast attitude pervading the completely disconnected article on stopping renewable energy projects for fear they will "drastically compromise the integrity of the landscape." 

First New York Times article this month that caught my eye - My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant  By JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS - NYT's 20 article limit not so scary when I consider maybe I'll look at a handful a month.

Thought this job posting for Director of Sustainability at Wikimedia was my dream job until I realized it was a different kind of "$ustainability."  My approach would have been to rebuild all Wikipedia offices with the help of the Amish somewhere in the Pacific northwest where their funding would come from local barter of eggs, chickens, sheep's wool, honey, and kale. Since almost all other commerce in the United States is floating on a large bubble of oil.

Still trying to write this interactive blog-post linking the singularity, nerve regeneration using pig veins and spider silk, and spider silk protein made with genetically engineered goats! Trying to synthesize these ideas into a post about being able to accomplish secular reincarnation by wiring a human brain into an animal's body. Imaging hooking into a whale's nervous system as a literal after-life.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Illusion of Certainty - via WSF

The Illusion of Certainty brought to you here on TPG via the World Science Festival.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Motivated Reasoning

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Four Days to Post with the Most!

The 2011 POST with the MOST competition on Tom Paine's Ghost will soon be closed to new submissions.

You have until midnight on June 21st, 2011 to nominate any post on any blog ever written you feel has power enough to change the world.

Nominate by commenting here, emailing me, or @PwtM or #PwtM on twitter - link to your nomination!

The winner will be selected by a secret panel formed to judge superiority in the realm of revolutionaries.

As I have been happily distracted lately this year's list of entries is short. We have four days to scour the internet in search of the fountain of youth, the goose that laid the golden egg, and most importantly, the POST with the MOST. Please please please link (, retweet, mention, and NOMINATE! Nominate YOURSELF, your friends, your mother. It's all good. Winner gets $100 and a certain publication on epically sacrificed trees.

POST with the MOST entries so far include -
Single, Saved, and Sewn In: The Gospel of Getting Your Hair Done by Ashaf
Nuclear Engineer on Japan Nuclear Disaster by Evelyn Mervine
Nothing to plunder – the evolution of Somalia’s pirate nation by the Southern Fried Scientist

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Who's House? OUR HOUSE!

"Who’s House?  OUR HOUSE!"
Chanted the crowd on June 14th, 2011.  Prior to arms around the capitol in Madison, WI, a rally led by Mahlon Mitchell (President of Proffessional firefighters of Wisconsin).  People sang loud and proud ‘We will overcome”, while holding hands surrounding the capitol so as to allow no one in.  A response to Governor Scott Walker's disregard for the rights American workers have struggled decades for.  

Collective bargaining makes this country great to live and work in.  It separates us from China and Mexico where cheap goods are made at the expense of human rights.  The People of Wisconsin are mad.  There are better ways to fix a broken budget. 

The voice of the people was to no avail.  “Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers. jsonline

The court found that the hasty backroom legislation by the Wisconsin GOP did not in fact violate the open meeting law it was accused of.  A shady act committed by the right shortly after last year's elections, while members of the democratic minority were out of state, a strategy used to stall negotiations.  A video of some of wisconsins current state of politics can be seen here.

Even Worse…

Leinenkugels, The Milwaukee Brewers, New Glarus, and Stevens Point.  Beer.  This shit just kills me.  Scott Walker's attack on craft breweries. Just five days ago tucked neatly into the governors budget was a provision to make it more difficult for craft breweries to operate in Wisconsin.  The provision will make it illegal for craft breweries to sell directly to liquor stores and restaurants, and preventing them from selling their own products onsite.  The craft brew industry is one that has continued to grow despite the recession in nearly all areas of the country.  This is small business expanding and actually creating jobs.  Scott Walker who calls himself a “champion of small business” wants to treat these breweries as if they were big corporations.  It's only fair I guess since MillerCoors donated $22,675 to his campaign.

 I wonder if he puts ice cubes in his bud light? 

Wisconsin has always been an idyllic place.  It is the home of Richie Cunningham and Eric Foreman.  It provided the setting for “Grease.”  Good, wholesome, hardworking representations of America.  Then there is the Green Bay Packers, the NFL’s third oldest team.  A team owned by the community of Green Bay and named after factory workers who canned (packed) meat.  Named after the people and owned by the people.  It is a shame that this State's good reputation of community is being steamrolled by big business (Koch bros) and greed (Scott Walker).  I really love however, to see the people get mad and I’m damned sure that Wisconsonites will overcome and get the recall they desperately deserve. 

I was recently at an event in which Steven Weinberg, arguably one of America’s brightest scientists, gave a speech on the future of big science.  In the address he stated that “We need to make a teaching career look attractive to our best college graduates.”  I could not agree more.  I mean God forbid we have intelligent people working in government.  You aren’t helping, Scott.

“The role of Government is to help those who cannot help themselves.”
-Abraham Lincoln

The role of government is not to “know what’s best” and rule deceptively.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jesus Emerges from an Alternate Universe

In an act of guerrilla reporting from the World Science Festival in New York City last week Inflaton - the newest TPG affiliate captured this entertaining bit of logic vs. faith. This iPhone gem was shot just moments after Steven Weinberg delivered the inaugural On The Shoulders of Giants address titled - The Future of Big Science. I wonder the probability of the Webb space telescope seeing Jesus seared on the side of a piece of cosmic toast?

Friday, June 10, 2011


‘We the people’ takes on a literal meaning for the people of Iceland this year as the government has reached out to the populace to help draft a new constitution. In the wake of economic collapse, and protesting, the government of Iceland has decided to script a new constitution. Brand new, unlike the original drafted in 1944 which is a tweaked version of Denmarks constitution.

This truly transparent new document is on the internet and citizens have a duty to examine it and send in their own tweaks, truly making it by the people and for the people. It can go without saying that everyone won’t get what they want, however if enough voices are heard on enough issues, the document will be the greatest example of democracy in the world.

The great communicator (internet) is proving to make leaps and bounds for this world in a very short time it seems. The people are able to come together, as we have seen in Tunisia , Egypt, Libya and others. I have hope that our species will persevere. Speak Out!

On the other hand… Back here across the water. Ego’s continue to get in the way…

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Science in the Constitution of the United States of America

Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution reads -  

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"

This bit codified prose is pressing on my mind.  Is it possible that promoting the "Progress of science" now requires a new approach different to that agreed upon over two centuries ago?

World Science Festival 2011

Hello from New York City. For all you faithful Tom Paine's Ghost readers out there you may have noticed a marked decline in my actual written-word of late.  Apologies as I was composing my dissertation and being distracted with flowering aloe plants good music and LOVE all at the same time.  Having defended my dissertation and driven a few thousand miles I am here in New York City to live-blog the 2011 World Science Festival.

I am a big fan of the overall mission of this festival which is...

"The Mission of the World Science Festival is to cultivate and sustain a general public informed by the content of science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future."

Keep your eyes here at Tom Paine's Ghost and catch me blogging for the official WSF blog over the next few days!

PS - please excuse grammatical and spelling mistakes for the time being. I am of the philosophy that content is more important than the frame it is presented in. I promise I will  go back and tidy it up after I come up for air sometime next week but for now you get my thoughts raw!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chicken Antitrust Action

Attorney General Eric Holder Chokes Tyson's Chicken!



Lawsuit Seeks to Restore Competition for Chicken Growers in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today challenging George’s Inc.’s acquisition of Tyson Foods’ Harrisonburg, Va., chicken processing complex.  The department said that based on the information gathered thus far, the acquisition eliminates substantial competition between the two companies for the procurement of services of chicken growers in the Shenandoah Valley area.

The department’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg requests that the court declare the acquisition to be unlawful under the antitrust laws and order appropriate equitable relief, such as divestiture of the Harrisonburg complex.

“The department’s lawsuit alleges that George’s acquisition of Tyson’s Harrisonburg chicken processing facility would reduce growers’ ability to receive competitive prices for their services,” said Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “America’s farmers deserve competitive prices and terms for the sale of their services, and the Antitrust Division will vigorously pursue anticompetitive acquisitions that stand in the way of achieving that goal.”

Chicken processors, such as Tyson and George’s, are also referred to in the industry as “integrators.”  Integrators typically contract with farmers to grow chickens that are then transported to plants for processing.  The processors provide the chicks and the feed, and the growers provide the housing and labor.  Feed is delivered on a regular basis and since it is costly to transport grown chickens long distances, processors typically contract with growers that are located close to the processors’ plants and feed mills.

Prior to the acquisition, three chicken processors – Tyson, George’s and JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride – competed in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley region for the services of local chicken growers.  By combining the Tyson plant with George’s Edinburg, Va., operations, the sale decreased the number of processors in the area to two, reducing competition for grower services.

Tyson and George’s publicly announced the acquisition on March 18, 2011.  Upon learning of the proposed acquisition, the department’s Antitrust Division opened an investigation into the proposed deal.  The department sought information on the potential competitive effects of the transaction, and George’s proposed business justifications for purchasing the Edinburg plant.  On Saturday, May 7, despite the parties’ awareness of the department’s serious antitrust concerns about the transaction, and without providing a response to the information requested by the department, George’s and Tyson entered into an asset purchase agreement and simultaneously closed the transaction.

The acquisition was not required to be reported under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, which requires companies to notify and provide information to the department and the Federal Trade Commission before consummating certain size acquisitions.  The purchase price of the transaction was less than the minimum reporting threshold.

George’s, headquartered in Springdale, Ark., is the 15th largest chicken processor in the United States, with output of more than 20 million pounds of chicken per week.  In addition to its Shenandoah Valley operations, George’s processes chicken in Springdale, Ark., and Cassville, Mo.

Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale is the largest chicken processor in the United States, with output of more than 205 million pounds of chicken per week.

JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, headquartered in Greely, Colo., is the second largest chicken processor in the United States, with output of more than 160 million pounds of chicken per week.

# # #

Date. Interrupted.

Greatness on Parade

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nature's Cosmopolitan

Snapped this magnificent specimen Saturday afternoon.

Distribution map from Wikipedia.

The sun reflecting off Sheldon lake lit his underbelly well in this one.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blue Jay from The Holler!'s new album: Gratitude.

Michael Kirkpatrick gives voice to a blue-feathered hero.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Profitable Permaculture

106 Acre Profitable Permaculture Farm - Interview with Owner Mark Shepard from The Socio Capitalist on Vimeo.


The landscape in the video reminds me of my back yard growing up in New York State. This was shown to me via the French political web site Rue89 last night. This is what the rest of the world is seeing when they think about the United States and our humble reflection on a historic assassination.

“Osama’s dead, baby. Osama’s dead.” 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Salmon: Running the Gauntlet

Watch the full episode. See more Nature.

Rush Praises Obama

While watching this and the FOX coverage I realize they are using this event to justify "enhanced interrogation techniques" used in the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Victory at the expense of virtue is no victory.

In case you missed it

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Obama on the Deficit: Articulation

Yesterday President Obama gave one of the most articulate speeches I have seen him deliver since taking office.  He sharply criticizes the Republican approach to tax cuts for the highest income earners. In my ears the apex of the speech begins below.

"Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.  Think about it.  In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined.  The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each.  And that’s who needs to pay less taxes?  They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs?   That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m President.

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.  As Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan.  There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.  And this is not a vision of the America I know. 

The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism.  We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share.  We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness.  We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare.  We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. 

This is who we are.  This is the America I know.  We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country.  To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms.  We will all need to make sacrifices.  But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.  And as long as I’m President, we won’t.

Today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years.  It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget.  It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future."

Read the entire transcript here, or watch it!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson

Though I respect his thoughts on religion enough to have had them prominently displayed on my facebook profile for years, it is another thought he had regarding meat that lately rings in my head.  From page 166 in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.

"Eating meat in the tremendous quantities we do (each American now consumes an average of two hundred pounds of meat a year) is probably not a good idea, especially from a highly industrialized food chain.  Several studies point to the conclusion that the more meat there is your diet - especially read meat - the greater your risk of heart disease and cancer. Yet studies of flexitarians suggest that small amounts of meat - less than one serving a day - don't appear to increase one's risk. Thomas Jefferson probably had the right idea when he recommended using meat more as a flavor principle than as a main course, treating it as a 'condiment for the vegetables.'"

Minchin Strikes Again!

This time with superb animation!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Creepiest Chorus

A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 - by Isao Hashimoto Non-proliferation anyone?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

California Raises the Bar on Renewable Energy

The State of California passed a law today requiring one third of the power supplied to the state come from renewable energy by the year 2020. All it needs is Gov. Jerry Brown's signature to be law.  I can't see him NOT signing it.

This might mark the beginning of what I have been predicting since Obama took office. A convergence of democrats and republicans on an energy bill in late 2011. Of course that lame energy bill brought to you by the three amigos - Kerry, Graham , and Lieberman didn't get passed last year.  It was too oily, and glowing red.  We now have the BP oil disaster and Fukushima fresh in the collective neo-cortex and are poised for RADICAL change in energy policy.  If we can pass a national energy bill that comes close to this Californina mandate we might actually wash off some of that stain left on our face by Mr Bush, and Mr Obama might just get a second term. What am I talking about, of course he will. No contender has even had the "equipment" to step out and say they are running against him.  The election is NEXT YEAR.   Come on Rush, come on Newt, come on Romney, Palin?  - What... what.

Alright, if we go into a double dip recession then they might try it. But all this public union busting has got them looking more evil than the most egregious of the teatards.

Keep your eye on the renewable sector tomorrow morning.  Top picks from me, Abound Solar, First Solar, Ascent Solar, Nano Solar, Advanced Energy, Vestas Wind, Iberdrola, and (even though they have received much negative attention lately) - General Electric.
Btw, what happened to being pissed off at AIG? GE may have received some back scratching from their well plumped congress people but I didn't see them getting the kind of unthinkably large bailouts some of those other giants got.  AIG is  old news I suppose, on to hating the next one. If we are going to talk about something over coffee tomorrow please let it be California and Jerry Brown's pending pen strokes!

PSA - Hey, if you like this website and want me to keep doing it support me by following TPG on facebook, sharing this or any post on your wall or, if you have some extra cash drop it in the tip jar (above the bearded bicycle gear man in the sidebar ----->).  Consider this as bad as my annual public-radio-like fund drive will ever get. I used to call them "the talkers" on PBS - "Mom make the talkers go away!" - Now I'm a talker : / but worse because you won't even get a DVD of Celine Dion fist pounding her chest for 2 hours with your donation. 

RePost: Beer, and the Bucolic Beauty of Bruegel

This following piece is all about tagging information to images uploaded online. I wrote this in 2008 and am wondering what the barrier is to obtaining a pair of the "meta-information goggles" I imagined once upon a time. Photosynth is up and available for use through Microsoft, but none of the "saints are labeled." As I am about to make extensive travel around this pale blue dot I want to know how I can tag meta-information to photos most effectively. Will Facebook eventually be the source of this data set? Did Blaise Aguera y Arcas sell out? Have we already moved into the age of meta-tagging? Are people and their willingness to share or lack thereof the limiting factor? Is there a webspace to post meta-information aside from Facebook I am unaware of? I guess Foursquare with their "tips" feature sort of addresses this request. I would like to see more seamless transparency so we can all see what the rest have seen or thought they saw! Enter the ARGUS!

The "winter landscape with a bird trap" painted in oils by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1565 testifies to what I consider immortality. Though the bones of Bruegel have long since returned to dust the preservation of his works allow his spirit to echo through recorded history. Along with digital record keeping the propagation and iteration of art will undoubtedly change forever as we are now passing into an age where social commentary will literally be attached to these echoes fully accessible to the curious observer. The following TED talk by Blaise Aguera y Arcas explains the attachment process and how social networks will add infinite detail to any object in the world with a story behind it. Imagine looking at the world through goggles that display any known history relating to that object.

In many ways society is already testing a beta-version of these "goggles" with the rise of you tube and other video sharing sites. The interface is the only cumbersome part. When a person sees a sculpture in a city square the vast information relating to that sculpture is entombed in libraries and brains throughout the planet. In the present day the "user" has to take the initiative to look up all those historical tales that give the piece a context on their own. What if all that information automatically displayed in your mind's eye just by glancing at an object? This would make going into a thrift store like having a microscopic assessor from the "antiques road show" sitting on your shoulder. The next step will be to bypass this information selection process and simply attach the relevant video/audio/smell-o-vision to the content on a users radar.
Of course, no person should be denied the privilege of an unadulterated view of cultural objects, but choosing to experience this type of contextual depth could speed general education exponentially. I use Bruegel as an example of the tagging process because, as the northern hemisphere is swinging away from the sun into the frosted part of the year, these winterscapes remind me that people have hustled and bustled and thrived through the cold for all of history. Viewing and thinking about this work on a blog in 2008 makes me realize that universally accessible collaboration across centuries is possible now even while we continue to learn how to collaborate in real time. In my mind, Bruegel = Belgium = Beer. During the summer of 2004 as I spent two weeks in Leuven, Belgium I became increasingly fascinated by the tome of culture Bruegel's simple recording of folk life in 16th century Flanders represented. Here were people from nearly 400 years ago alive in front of my eyes. There were many other historical pieces of art to which I wish I had added digital anecdotes as a family friend explained them and lead the tour of Leuven the home city of Inbev-Anheuser-Busch (then called Interbrew.) I was also entrenched in the Flemish appreciation for brewing good beer. Today the theme of collaboration and beer seemed to be jumping out at me. As the Rock Mountain Collegian student newspaper proclaimed their approval of an ingeniously sustainable green business initiative undertaken by Fort Collins' own New Belgium Brewing Company. The initiative involves collaborating with Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company by sharing each others' equipment in order to brew at the others market hubs. An elegant amber collaboration I might say so myself. While reading this article I was immediately taken back to a table at the choice city deli where I had shared a bottle of Signature Ale with the same friend who had so enriched my experience in Belgium. This was a brewmasters collboration bewteen the Port Brewing Company of San Marcos California and De 'Proef' Brouwerij of Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium. The Signature Ale was Belgian-American Collaboration and drinking it with great friends from Belgium made the idea of an otherwise forgettable beverage affect me. So in some way all these thoughts are on the same plane; Bruegel, Belgium, Beer, and all mean collaboration. And here I have giving three increasingly concentrated stories of beer co-operativeity and each on the terms designated by their size. Large: InBev and Anheuser-Busch - Corporate takeover. Medium - New Belgium Brewing Company and Elysian Brewing Company co-operation. Small - Port Brewing Company and De 'Proef' Brouwerij - collaboration. The latter extolled virtue is at the center of Tom Paine's Ghost.

David Kocieniewski's Article Prompts Jon Stewart to 'Give Up'

This stinging article in the New York Times prompted a spirited response from Jon Stewart! Where's the outrage in main stream?!?!?! The excellent piece of investigative journalism composed by David Kocieniewski has prompted much discussion between my political science friends and myself - see Facebook screen shot below.

Soda Can Solar Panels?

Mr. James Meaney of Cansolair out of Dildo, Newfoundland is wrapping recycling and renewable heating together to bring free energy to market!

Tip to John for the heads up!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hammer Time! Tool Cooperative

“it’s cool, a lot of the tools we get here are super-old, like dead-grandfather-style kind-of-things. Its really great, people have all theses old tools and they don’t know what to do with them. They’re really great and they work better than the new tools. You can fix them up, take them apart, and get them back and running. New tools sometimes don’t even have screws and nuts where you’d need to take them apart. It’s meant to be broken."
                                                                                                        ~ Garret Carr
This being the case, the radical forces-that-be have brought into existence a Tool Cooperative in Fort Collins, Colorado.  A new aspect of this nascent project will be a tool lending library. Keep up to date on all the Tool Co Op happenings on their website.