Archive for May, 2009

Put your signature where your science is.

Friday, May 29th, 2009

I don’t have near the influence that PZ does, but I’m sure that since this item is of concern to us here in Florida, we can sure pitch in! Sign the petition.

The Johnson-Sea-Link I & II submersibles are owned and operated by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Fort Pierce, Florida. They are launched from the HBOI research vessel R/V Seward Johnson, a 204-ft ,purpose built ,state of the art platform redesigned in 1994 which displaces 1282 tons and has a 6,000 nautical mile range. An experienced captain and crew constantly maintain the R/V Seward Johnson as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) Fleet of research vessels.

Unfortunately, the current administration of HBOI has announced its decision to sell the R/V Seward Johnson and retire the JSL submersibles in spite of a lack of technologies with similar or better capabilities at HBOI, FAU or any other institution on the East coast of the U.S.

Since FAU is a state university, the submersibles and research vessel are property of the State of Florida and the taxpayers should have a say in choosing whether these amazing technologies which are helping us discover and protect our underwater assets should be maintained. These are expensive technologies to maintain, but their benefits far outweigh their costs. If you believe that the state of Florida should invest in science, education and technology, please sign this petition to indicate to our legislators that you believe the HBOI ship and submersibles should be saved from sale or retirement and supported by the state of Florida.

Learn more here. And here. And here.

Get ye a Galileoscope!

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, is helping to promote a cool science gadget: the Galileoscope! It’s an inexensive telescope being offered in conjunction with the Year of Astronomy. But Phil says that in order for production to continue, folks need to buy ’em! So, I placed my order for two, and I hope you’ll stop by the site and order some yourself. They’re only 15 bucks.

Meanwhile, in Texas …

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

… their creationist board of education chairman was essentially fired. Yeah, Texas! But some of those arguments used by Don McLeroy’s supporters sure do sound familiard, don’t they?

“A theory is just a theory. They are not irrefutable facts of nature.”

“Why do we care” what the rest of the country says, Sen. Patrick asks.

“If this isn’t about evolution, if this isn’t about what the Bible teaches, what is this about?”

Opposing Faiths Clash over Evolution

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

The Discovery Institute – the Seattle-based headquarters of the intelligent design movement – has just launched a new website, Faith and Evolution, which asks, can one be a Christian and accept evolution? The answer, as far as the Discovery Institute is concerned, is a resounding: No.

The new website appears to be a response to the recent launch of the BioLogos Foundation, the brainchild of geneticist Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and rumoured Obama appointee-to-be for head of the National Institutes of Health. Along with “a team of scientists who believe in God” and some cash from the Templeton Foundation, Collins, an evangelical Christian who is also a staunch proponent of evolution, is on a crusade to convince believers that faith and science need not be at odds. He is promoting “theistic evolution” – the belief that God (the prayer-listening, proactive, personal God of Christianity) chose to create life by way of evolution.

This has always been a delicate issue,particularly in teaching evolution in the science classroom. Reconciling science and religion has never been easy and perhaps a decision better left to the individual?

2009 Science FCAT

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Science FCAT scores are out. The bottom line: fifth and eighth graders had gains, but they’re small; whereas 11th-graders dropped a bit.

Fifth graders have been slowly making gains over the years, which is, of course, what everyone wants to see. According to this sheet (pdf), they went from 43% of all fifth graders passing at level three or higher last year to 46% passing. But, as I’ve mentioned in years past, that still means a dismal 54% are not passing.

Eighth graders also are still on an upward trend, with a one percent gain from 40% last year to 41% this year.

Before I go any further, I want to quote here what each of the five achievement levels are on the FCAT:

Level 5– This student has success with the most challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards. A student scoring in Level 5 answers most of the test questions correctly, including the most challenging questions.
Level 4 — This student has success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards. A student scoring in Level 4 answers most of the test questions correctly, but may have only some success with questions that reflect the most challenging content.
Level 3 — This student has partial success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards, but performance is inconsistent. A student scoring in Level 3 answers many of the test questions correctly but is generally less successful with questions that are the most challenging.
Level 2 — This student has limited success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards.
Level 1 — This student has little success with the challenging content of the Sunshine State Standards.

Now take a look at the achievement level spread on the fifth grade mathematics FCAT:
2009 1st:14 2nd:24 3rd:26 4th:27 5th:9

Then take a look at the achievement level spread on the fifth grade reading FCAT:
2009 1st:14 2nd:14 3rd:34 4th:29 5th:8

What stands out to me is the nice split between the 3rd and 4th levels. Plenty of students are up to the challenge of the 4th level in those subjects. Now compare those to the science FCAT spread in fifth grade:
2009 1st:21 2nd:32 3rd:34 4th:10 5th:2

Not many students are making it to the 4th or 5th levels in science in any of the grades in any of the years. That’s a very ugly fact deserving of some attention.

Now let’s move on to the bad news: 11th-graders. They dipped a percentage point from 38% last year to 37% this year. Keep in mind that means a full 63% of 11th graders apparently have “limited” or “little success” with the material. I welcome your thoughts on this in the comments.

Pensacola science lecture

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will be in Pensacola today to present a public lecture about the relationships between science and the community it serves.

Relationship issues to be discussed include embryonic stem cell research and the teaching of evolution.

The lecture begins at 6 p.m. and will take place at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, 40 S. Alcaniz St.

Call 202-4462 for the reservations.

Final week to enter!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Stick Science cartoon contest is winding down. This is the final week for entries. You can’t win the great prizes if you don’t submit your creative idea!

Dr Scott Honored with another Award

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The Stephen Jay Gould Prize is awarded annually by the Society for the Study of Evolution to recognize individuals whose sustained and exemplary efforts have advanced public understanding of evolutionary science and its importance in biology, education, and everyday life in the spirit of Stephen Jay Gould. Eugenie C. Scott. Dr. Scott has devoted her life to advancing public understanding of evolution. As the executive director of the National Center for Science Education she has been in the forefront of battles to ensure that public education clearly distinguishes science from non-science and that the principles of evolution are taught in all biology courses. Congratulations again Genie from all at FCS.