October 28, 2005

Genome project links illness and ethnicity

Interesting article in the Globe about a 3-year project that Canadians had a part in:
Using the DNA of 269 people from China, Japan, Nigeria and the U.S., the project has essentially compiled a new map of the human genome.

This one organizes the book of life encoded in human DNA into paragraphs -- known as haplotypes -- that make it exponentially easier to spot genetic mutations.

It also sheds new light on how humans evolved in different parts of the world.

For example, the Hap Map has discovered nearly four million mutations and of those, roughly 100 appear in extreme frequency in one group more than another, such as with the lactase gene type of Europeans that allows the lifetime digestion of dairy products, and the mutation that protects sub-Saharan Africans from malaria.

October 09, 2005

How far should fingerprints be trusted?

No one disputes that fingerprinting is a valuable and generally reliable police tool, but despite more than a century of use, fingerprinting has never been scientifically validated. This is significant because of the criteria governing the admission of scientific evidence in the US courts.
It's quite an interesting read at from New Scientist News. Lest you doubt that fingerprints can wrongly convict someone of a crime check this out:
The most high-profile mistake involved Brandon Mayfield, a Portland lawyer, who was incorrectly identified from crime scene prints taken at one of the Madrid terrorist bombings on 11 March 2004. Despite three FBI examiners plus an external expert agreeing on the identification, Spanish authorities eventually matched the prints to an Algerian.
Luckily, they caught that one in time. Terrorism carries a death penalty in many countries.

October 06, 2005

Seeing Creation and Evolution in Grand Canyon

In this NY Times article (free registration required) a couple of stats were mentioned showing the gap between the American public and scientists:
Though it did not ask specifically about the global flood or six-day creation, a November 2004 Gallup survey found that a third of the public believes the Bible is the actual word of God that should be taken literally and that 45 percent think God created human beings "pretty much in their present form" within the last 10,000 years.

Gallup found in another poll that 5 percent of scientists, and fewer than 1 percent of earth and life scientists, adopted the "Young Earth" view.
Forty-five percent?! I can at least understand a belief in God, but denying how old the Earth is?

The article is interesting in that is shows two groups visiting the Grand Canyon, one with the belief in the unscientific Young Earth theory looking for evidence of a world-wide flood, the other a group of scientist both amateur and professional studying the rock formations and discussing how to defend science in an age of growing mysticism. Creations sometimes argue that evolution is as much a faith as is religion but,
Dr. Scott and others cringe at creationists' charge that Darwin's theories have become dogmatic faith, that creationism and evolution are just two parallel belief systems, equally plausible and unprovable. "We have faith in science, but it's not a religion," said Herb Masters, a retired firefighter. "It's a faith in a body of knowledge."

October 01, 2005

Stellarium Astronomy Software

Stellarium is free GPL software which renders realistic skies in real time with openGL. It is available for Linux/Unix, Windows and MacOSX.
With Stellarium, you really see what you can see with your eyes, binoculars or a small telescope.
Stellarium is also used in planetariums.
Discovered this Open Source program. It's available for Linux, Windows and MacOS X. Check out the other screenshots at the website to see what I mean.