FBI’s bogus forensics

The public loves the television cop shows about crime-solving by means of  forensic science.  But we might want to reconsider the popularity of all of those CSI series.  The FBI is now admitting that over 95% of the forensic evidence from human hair over  two decades was mistaken.  These revelations affect hundreds of cases, including 32 death sentences and 14 defendants who have been executed or died in prison. [Read more...]

Language as “Darwin’s problem”

Noam Chomsky is not a conservative Christian but is rather a leftwing radical.  But in his day job, he is a pioneering linguist, having shown how all languages depend on “deep structures”–complex grammatical processes that are built into the human mind–that all languages have in common and that children can master almost without effort.

He has teamed with a famous anthropologist, Ian Tattersall, and other scholars (Johan J. Bolhuis and Robert C. Berwick) to pose the question How Could Language Have Evolved? They certainly believe in evolution and they try to find a minimalistic feature that might have evolved, but the article shows that language, with its irreducible complexity (the intelligence design term, not theirs), is very difficult  to explain in terms of random selection over time, to the point that the authors describe language as “Darwin’s problem.” [Read more...]

Nutrition with a grain of salt

Nutritionists have taken back their warnings against dietary cholesterol.  Now some are challenging the warnings against salt. [Read more...]

Scientists look at Crucifixion

Scientists have been studying the mechanics, physiology, and history of crucifixion.  They have learned that it was more horrible than people had assumed.   Details and a link to some of the findings after the jump. [Read more...]

Weird matter

Dark matter constitutes 85% of the universe.  New research shows how weird this stuff is.  Not only is dark matter invisible, it can pass through not only ordinary matter, but also other dark matter. [Read more...]

Happy Super Pi Day: 3.14.15

Today is “Pi Day,” the 14th day of the 3rd month (3.14).  Not only that, it is “Super Pi Day,” with the rest of the date giving the next two numbers: 3.14.15.  Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Though circles are everywhere, their numeric ratios can never be exact.  The mysterious number represented by the Greek letter π has been proven to be an “irrational number,” one which has an infinite number of non-repeating decimals.  And, yet, the ratio has to be used in all kinds of common calculations, from figuring the area of a circle to analyzing subatomic and astronomical phenomena.

After the jump, an excerpt and a link to an essay on π and pi day by Cornell mathematicisn Tara S. Holm.  Do go to the link for an account of the history of our knowledge of the concept, including a government attempt to regularize it at 3.2 by passing a law.  My favorite part is how Prof. Holm is celebrating the day:  Getting her family together at 9:26 and 53 seconds (the next five numbers) and eating a piece of pie. [Read more...]