Posted by: Rosebud | January 25, 2013

The hunt for life on Mars and Monty Python

From a “Voice of Russia” story on water and search for life on Mars:

“…These conditions are ideal for bacteria to appear, scientists say….”

Welcome to the rebirth of “Spontaneous Generation” theory, or so I thought to myself when I read the line above.  For fairness sake, here’s the whole paragraph:

Mars is smaller than the Earth, and the gravity power on Mars is three times weaker than on the Earth. Thus, scientists suppose that if underground waters have once existed on Mars, the soil layers that contained water were thicker and more clay-like than they were on the Earth. These conditions are ideal for bacteria to appear, scientists say. It is not ruled out that there is still water under the crater’s bottom and that bacteria still live there.

Spontaneous Generation, I recalled it as the scientific theory that life “sprung” from the right collection of inanimate (or animate) materials.  Mud and leaves produced frogs, dead animals produced maggots and flys, etc.  Through the rigorous application of the scientific method by Louis Pasteur and other scientists the “Theory of Spontaneous Generation” was relegated to the ash heap of history where it belonged. Why the public schools I attended bothered to teach Spontaneous Generation I’ll never know, but it did come in handy today.  Before making any smart remarks in the comments section I decided to confirm my memory on what “Spontaneous Generation” was.  A little wikipedia entry on the subject matter confirmed that I had at least gotten the name right, and it also had the following little gem.

Disproof of the traditional ideas of spontaneous generation is no longer controversial among professional biologists. Objections and doubts have been dispelled by studies and documentation of the life cycles of various life forms. However, the principles of the very different matter of the original abiogenesis on this planet — of living from non-living material — still are under investigation.[3][4]

This sounds like a Monty Python skit, I can hear the uptight British scientist with his shrill voice and accent: “We, of course have disproven that old superstition that life can arise from non-life! Ha! Silly it was! And we are now working hard on the cutting edge of science to show how life arises from non-life!”   

You can’t make this stuff up folks!!!


Posted by: Rosebud | May 22, 2012

Bleach the shirt….

Posted by: Rosebud | May 22, 2012

Match the Message to the Audience

Posted by: Rosebud | October 15, 2010


Headlines Scream around the world:

New Earth-like Planet Found – The Guardian

New Planet May Be Able to Nurture Organisms – NYTimesA Habitable Exoplanet – for Real This Time –

Gliese 581g: the most Earth like planet yet discovered – Telegraph


 Complete with Beautiful Renderings:   


Gliese-581 g I See Green on the Continents!


Gliese 581g

Mapping new territory is always exciting.  Of course, I’d love to go to an Earth-like planet with water and an atmosphere I can breathe and comfortable temperatures.  Talk about amazing!

But, a quick look at the methodology behind this discovery may sober you up in a hurry.  Without further adieu, two paragraphs from an article titled: “Doubt Cast on Existence of Habitable Alien World” from

The planets in the Gliese 581 system were discovered using spectroscopic radial velocity measurements. Planets ‘tug’ on the star they orbit, causing it to shift in position (stars and planets actually orbit a common center of mass). By measuring the star’s movement in the sky, astronomers can figure out what sort of planets are orbiting it.

Multi-planet systems create a complicated signal, and astronomers must tease out the spectral lines to figure out what represents a planet, and what is just “noise” – shifts in the star light not caused by an orbiting planet. Astronomers have developed various ways to reduce such noise in their telescopic observations, but it still creates a level of uncertainty in detecting extrasolar planets.

The point of the article is to report on some scientist’s that are trying to confirm the discovery of Gliese 581G but are unable to confirm the calculations based on the data. 


I was counseled once that individuals with a strong commitment to a vocation generally considered that vocation to be the solution to many of the world’s problems. For example, a teacher thinks the world would improve if there was just more and better teaching going on.  An artist would think the same thing about art; a doctor tends to think more medicine and medical research and availability of medical treatment will solve the worlds’ problems.  So, you’d think that a scientist would have a similar viewpoint and want more people to know more about science, and maybe the ones involved in this did.  But, someone with a different viewpoint (perhaps an entertainment viewpoint) decided this would make “great copy” for the news.  A description of finely tuned readings of spectroscopic radial velocity measurements was translated into a possible life-supporting planet with water and an atmosphere. You’d think that a scientist would want more science in the world to improve the lot of mankind, but this possible discovery exploded in the news media to become a huge fantasy.  You’d think that the scientists’ would want to prevent this type of propagation of fantasy.


I hate cynicism, and I really don’t want to promote skepticism, but this type of yellow science journalism makes it really hard.

Posted by: Rosebud | July 6, 2010

If Horses Were People …

The Compassion of The Wicked…

If horses were people….

82nd Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim

Fascinating brochure printed by the National Park service illustrates as clearly as a parable the differences between government and private industry.  I’m sure the anonymous authors of this little brochure did not intend to create a parable about government-run health care, but that’s how it comes off.

83rd Annual Pony Swim in Chincoteague VA

Fans of “Misty of Chincoteague” already know the story of the wild horses of Assateague Island, the NPS brochure gives the background story if you don’t know it.  One detail left out is that the swim generates a lot of tourist interest as these photos seem to indicate.  Presumably there would be some tourist industry dollars generated by this interest. 

 On the Maryland side, it isn’t clear if anyone owns the horses and there certainly is nothing like the Chincoteague pony swim.

The NPS brochure illustrates the difference between “caring” about something because it has monetary value and “caring” for something because you want everything to stay the same or everything to be considered equal.  Personally, I see it as an allegory for Government run anything.  The government cannot want anything or anyone to be considered more valuable than anything or anyone else.  Justice must be blind, and everyone is endowed by their creator with inalienable rights.  However, business requires a competitive edge, after all “every skill under the sun is the result of a man striving with his neighbor.”  One of our implied freedoms is to fail, it is this freedom that creates the risk that drives innovation and economic growth. Also, this whole matter of “caring,” institutions cannot “care” about anything, only people can care. 

Now, for a comparison of the facts presented in the NPS brochure, everything below is a direct quote from the NPS brochure.

Misty of Chincoteague and Pony Penning

Many visitors first learn about the Assateague horses from Marguerite Henry’s famous book Misty of Chincoteague. Written in 1947, this classic children’s tale tells the story of a young horse called “Misty” and the children who loved her. While the story is fiction, the characters (including the horses) were real.

 The story takes place during a traditional Chincoteague festival called “Pony Penning”. On the last Wednesday of July, the Virginia herd of horses is rounded up and swum from Assateague Island to nearby Chincoteage [sic – this misspelling of Chincoteague is in the NPS brochure] Island. On the following day most of the young foals are auctioned off.

 Proceeds from the sale benefit the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department, which is responsible for the care and management of the Virginia herd.

 Virginia’s privately owned horses are kept separated from Maryland’s wild horses by a fence that runs across the Maryland/Virginia state line. Maryland’s horses are not rounded up or sold at auction.

 Q. Do they receive veterinary care?


Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department provides some veterinary care.


Action may be taken to end the suffering of a gravely ill, seriously injured, or dying horse, no measures are taken to prolong the lives of Maryland’s wild horses.

Q. How is the population controlled?


Virginia’s privately owned herd produces 60-90 foals every year.  Most of the foals are sold at the annual auction, which keeps the number of horses at or below the 150 adults allowed by the grazing permit.


Researchers working in conjunction with the NPS developed a non-hormonal , non-invasive vaccine to prevent pregnancy.  This vaccine is delivered by a dart to the hindquarters of selected mares each spring.  This vaccine has successfully lowered the birth rate of Maryland’s horses to fewer than 10 foals per year.


In Virginia the horse herd is managed by selling off most of the young which earns dollars.  Thanks to a creative book the herd performs a pony swim which draws tourist dollars to also support the town.  The herd is cared for like the valuable investment it is.  In Maryland the herd is “free” but the government uses birth control to enforce a zero growth policy and the health plan is only euthanizing and only for those suffering.

Posted by: Rosebud | May 27, 2010

Barb Mikulski in READER’s DIGEST

Inspired by a true-story! Read for yourself and find the reference here:

And hilarity ensues...

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