Estate Tax

There are more rumblings that the Estate Tax will be repealed, another hard sought win for Paris Hilton. Seriously though, there is a lot of misinformation regarding who the estate tax actually impacts. For a look at what taxable estates actually pay, and the idea of a 'double tax', visit Factcheck.org and their analysis, Estate Tax Malarkey. Also, it is worth noting that Bill Gates and a large number of other billionaires and millionares think this is a bad idea. See here for the the full article.


Pick Your Poison

Ever since 9/11 there have been calls from various groups (including the present administration) that some scientific research should not be published as it may find its way into the hands of terrorists who would abuse it. In particular, we are talking about information related to bioterrorism. Scientists of course don't like the idea of censoring their information. Those who speak out agains censorship are called irresponsible and do not fully understand the war on terror. In a letter to the journal Nature today, D. Whitlock rightfully points out that since 2001 only 5 people have been killed through bioterrorism (the short lived anthrax scare). On the other hand, 30,000 people a year are killed by guns in the U.S. (more than the next 10 industrialized countries combind). Yet, whenver gun laws come up there is nothing but shrill protestations from the NRA about obstructing constitutional rights. So, what's worse: bioterrorism or guns? Personally, I'd feel a lot safer it the assault weapons ban were back in place. It's also worth noting that the Senate is considering a bill (which will likely be passed) that would absolve gun manufactures from any wrong doing when their guns and ammunition are used in crimes. The pretense (according to Bill Frist): manufacturers would eventually go out of business. So, is the Second Ammendment more valid than the First? Time will tell.


Why String Theory?

It's been a while since my last post as I've been on vacation in Wyoming. However, I found a nice post about string theory from Sean Carroll over at Cosmic Variance. String theory is often ridiculed by other scientists for its lack of testability. Is it science? Math? Philosophy? Well, Sean provides his opinion as to the usefullness of continued study of this fascinating subject. Click here to read on.

UPDATE: If you've read the post on string theory, it's worth scrolling through the comments to read the thoughts of some physicists who don't think as highly about string theory. Interesting to get their take.


Gravity? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gravity!

This comes from Paul S. Kemp over at Dark and Empty:

I maintain that gravity does not exist. Instead, I believe that a nearly infinite number of tiny, invisible, undetectable, ethereal faeries spend their lives intertwined in living faerie-chains that span the universe, extending between objects and bodies. It is the pull of the faeries and the interaction of their magical auras that create the phenomenon we have heretofore called gravity.

While it's true that my theory cannot explain all the evidence associated with the thing we've previous thought to be gravity, I confidently believe that the faeries are somehow involved. They are merely inscrutable, beyond our understanding. It is also true that my view is not testable by the scientific method, since my faeries are, by definition, undetectable. But that merely illustrates the sublimity of the faeries, not a failing of the theory.

I hasten to add that belief in invisible faeries goes back over a thousand years, and can be found in many cultures. Thus, the weight of tradition supports the view that faeries exist.

I demand, therefore, that faerie chainism henceforth be included in school textbooks as an alternative to the teaching of gravity. After all, even scientists who do not believe in faeries acknowledge that gravity is little more than a mere theory.

If faeries are responsible for gravity I would love to see what causes plate tectonics!


The Big Unknown

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, the journal Science has published a special section of the 125 top questions that scientists are currently seeking answers to. Fascinating stuff. Click here for the pdf.

Cover Figure

A Crash NASA Can Be Happy About

NASA's Deep Impact collided with comet Tempel-1 today. By doing so, scientists hope to understand comet formation and how it relates to the formation of our solar system and its constituent parts. For a movie that shows actual footage of Deep Impact approaching and crashing into Tempel-1 click here.