Texas – The Ultimate FAIL


Texas science teachers will no longer be required to teach weaknesses of scientific theory, including evolution, under new curriculum standards tentatively adopted by the Board of Education Thursday.

The requirements were approved Friday by the State Board of Education in a 13-2 vote adopting new state science curriculum standards that will be in place for the next decade.

In a compromise plan, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize “all sides” of scientific theories, a move criticized by evolution proponents.

The vote caps a week of impassioned debate that had scientists, teachers and textbook publishers from around the country focused on Texas.

Supporters of evolution hailed the vote but were critical of amendments adopted by the board that they said could create new paths to teaching creationism and the similar theory of intelligent design in public schools.

If given final approval in a vote expected Friday, the new standards will drop a 20-year-old rule that requires both “strengths and weaknesses” of all scientific theories to be taught. Critics say the requirement is used to undermine the theory of evolution in favor of religious teachings.

The new standards, which would be in place for the next decade, govern what appears on standardized tests and material published in textbooks. As one of the largest textbook purchasers in the nation, Texas has significant influence over the content of books marketed across the country.

“Publishers are waiting to hear what to put in their textbooks,” said Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network.

In approving a handful of amendments Thursday, the board “slammed the door on creationism, then ran around the house opening up all the windows to let it in another way,” Quinn said. “We hope the vote tomorrow will reverse a lot of that.”

In one amendment, the board agreed to require high school biology students to “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of natural selection to explain the complexity of the cell.”

Board member Don McLeroy said his amendment was intended “to account for that amazing complexity. I think it’s a standard that makes it honest with our children.”

Federal courts have ruled against teaching public schools teaching creationism and intelligent design, which holds that life is so complex that it must have come from an intelligent higher power.


From Physorg.com

Where the Wild Things Are Trailer


The trailer for ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ has dropped onto the net.  You can find various high quality versions over at Quicktime.

I know there has been a lot of fuss over this film.  The trailer was originally attached to the Grinch way back in 2000.  Spike Jonze, who directed the picture, had several issues with the way Universal was handling the flick and took it to Warner Brothers shortly thereafter.  It was shot in 2006, but in 2008 rumors began dropping on to various websites that Warner Brothers was considering reshooting the entire film.  Alas, all was sorted in the end and the film is now marked for an October 16, 2009 release.

Underwater eruption off Tonga


Scientists sailed out to have a closer look at the eruptions of an undersea volcano off the coast of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean today. Tonga’s head geologist, Kelepi Mafi, said there was no apparent danger to residents of Nuku’alofa and others living on the main island of Tongatapu. Officials also said it may be related to a quake with a magnitude of 4.4 which struck last March 13 around 35 kilometers from the capital at a depth of nearly 150 kilometres. (Photos by Dana Stephenson)


Check out more photos at boston.com

Teeth of Columbus’ crew spit out tale of new world discovery

Skeletons that may represent the remains of crew members from Columbus’ second excursion to the New World in 1493-94 were exhumed in 1990 by archaeologists from Italy and the Dominican Republic. The burials were a part of La Isabela on the island of Hispaniola, now a part of the Dominican Republic and that was the first European settlement in the New World. Now, a chemical analysis by University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist T. Douglas Price and colleagues of the teeth of these skeletons promises details of the individuals early life history, showing where they were born and what they ate, information that promises to reveal new clues about the first European explorers of the New World. Read more…

Photo of the Day – Hippie Burial

Cheddar, England
March 2009

The Cheddar Man museum features this faux skeleton as its final exhibition piece.  At first I thought it might be the Shanidar skeleton, what with all the flowers, but the skeletal morphology is clearly not Neanderthal.  Then I thought it may be the Cheddar man, but he was buried inside the cave, where flowers don’t necessarily flourish.  So I’ve resolved to think that it’s just the remains of some prehistoric hippie.

Star Wars Live-Action TV Series Casting Underway

A live-action TV series set in the “Star Wars” cosmos has been an elusive, tantalizing prospect for years. News of the potential production first surfaced in 2005 while George Lucas was promoting “Revenge of the Sith.” Work on the “Clones Wars” animated feature film and Cartoon Network series, though, took creative precedence. In late 2007, Lucas revealed that he and his team were about to begin writing scripts for the live-action show. Now MTV News has learned that casting for the series is currently underway.

During the junket for the Nicolas Cage thriller “Knowing,” star Rose Byrne let slip that Team Lucas is casting a wide net for actors to join the show. “A lot of my friends have been auditioning for it,” she said.

According to Lucas, the show will focus on minor characters from the saga and be set in the time period between “Revenge of the Sith” (Episode III) and the original “Star Wars” (Episode IV). The action will follow the Rebel Alliance as it slowly gains strength against the Empire. There will be Stormtroopers, but no Jedi or Darth Vader will appear on screen. As he did with the “Clone Wars” series, Lucas will write and shoot an entire year’s worth of episodes before looking for a cable channel on which to air the series.

Thus, with casting just now moving forward, it looks to be quite some time before fans will be able to catch some live-action “Star Wars” on the small screen.

Bryne couldn’t have been more pleased about her time working with Lucas on 2002’s “Attack of the Clones.” “My experience was wonderful,” she said. “George is a great guy. I was just there for a week, standing behind Natalie [Portman] looking very demure and supportive. 95% of the fan mail I get is from ‘Star Wars’ and I’ve never seen them.”

As much as she enjoyed the “Star Wars” experience, Byrne, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work on FX’s “Damages,” will not be auditioning for the live-action series. “I’m on a show,” she said. “I don’t know if I look that good in space.”

Who would you like to see cast in a live-action “Star Wars” TV show? Which cable channel would be the best outlet for the series?

More Than 1,500 Stolen Afghan Artifacts Return to Kabul

With so much bad news coming out of Afghanistan these days—a resurgent Taliban, spreading violence, and a booming opium trade—it might be easy to overlook another tragedy taking place: Across the war-shattered nation, scavengers, looters, and thieves are pillaging antiquities from more than 1,500 ancient sites around the country and smuggling them abroad.

“It’s like a sickness that kills us slowly,” said Omara Khan Masoudi, director of the National Museum of Afghanistan. “Every day, we lose a bit more of our cultural heritage.”

But now Afghanistan is finally getting something back. The British government, with the help of the National Geographic Society and the British Red Cross, has returned 3.4 tons of stolen antiquities that were confiscated over the past six years at London’s Heathrow Airport. (Read more…)

Geek Out Moment of the Day – The Han Solo / Indiana Jones Crossover

How does something like this get by me?  I must be slipping in my old age!

In 2004, Dark Horse published a short ten page comic as part of the Star Wars Tales series.  In this comic Han Solo and Indiana Jones cross paths, albeit not in the way some would suspect.

Allow me to explain:  While being pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer, Han and Chewbacca make an uncalculated jump to lightspeed, which any geek knows is a dangerous move.  Consequences include flying right through a star or bouncing too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?


But as luck would have it, they survive the jump and find themselves in an unfamiliar galaxy.  With the battle damaged Falcon failing fast, they head for a nearby planet.  Unfortunately, the rear repulsors fail and the Falcon crashes.  Han and Chewie, trapped on a world reminiscent of Endor, are forced to set out and find help.


While exploring the forest, they are attacked by Native Americans and Han is fatally wounded.  Chewbacca, who the Native Americans think is a Sasquatch, manages to escape and carries the dying Han back to the Falcon.  The story then picks up 126 years later, with Professor Henry Jones and his sidekick Short Round, trekking through the woods on the hunt for the mythical Sasquatch.  Their guide leads him to a mysterious cave which we can recognize as the Falcon.  Indy and Short Round creep inside and discover Solo’s skeleton sitting in his pilots chair.


The sight feels “somehow familiar” to Indy and, in a change of heart, he decides to call off the search.  The final panel shows Chewbacca, perched in a tree above, looking sullenly down at the remains of the Falcon.

As a fan of both Star Wars and Indiana Jones, this is a dream come true and I feel ashamed for just finding out about it now!  Shame on me.  Anyways, the entire 10-page story can be found in Star Wars Tales #19 or in Volume 5 of the graphic novel of the same name.  The story is non-cannon, obviously, but is still an enjoyable read and a nice nod to Harrison Ford.

Flickr Update

I’m embarking on a new endeavor on my Flickr site.  For the next year I’ll post a picture each day with the intention of underscoring the truth that life is not about where you end up, but about the journey that gets you there.  It’s something I’ve really come to understand over the past few years and I believe my little project is one of the best ways I can express that.

Head over to my Flickr site now to check it out.