Monthly Archives: January 2015

Let’s Stop A “Sham” Bill

I wrote previously about Senate bill 665. Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-District 6) says he wants to help teachers with controversial topics (essentially, science that he doesn’t like) but really it’s just an anti-science bill.

Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education has a fantastic post on why this is a bad bill. They call it a “sham” and point out that “no teacher group or scientific organization supports this bill“. In a nutshell, the OESE says this about the proposed bill, “In effect this bill would encourage students to simply reject parts of science they don’t happen to like. This will clearly confuse our students about the nature of science, inhibit their ability to understand important scientific issues facing society, and reduce their competitiveness for science related jobs.” Very well said.

The OESE will be tracking this bill as it makes its way through the legislature. They say the best way to stop it is by contacting the committee members where the bill will first be heard. Once those names are announced the OESE will post their names and contact information on their website.

This is super-duper important. Our state cannot afford to have bills like this become law.

Anti-science Bill Proposed

A bill has been proposed in the Oklahoma senate that is, without a doubt, anti-science. Senate bill 665 was written by Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-District 6). The bill would create what Sen. Brecheen calls the Oklahoma Science Education Act. A bunch of words that say one thing but mean something entirely different.

SB 665 would force school districts and the state to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.” The bill does not mention what those controversies may be but, when you understand Sen. Brecheen’s history, it’s very clear evolution and climate change are two of his targets.

The National Center for Science Education has a good write up on Sen. Brecheen’s attempts to give biology teachers a way out of teaching evolution.

This all follows the roadmap set forth in the Wedge Document. It was a campaign introduced in the late 90’s by the Discovery Institute. The point of the Wedge Document is to show how a wedge can and should be driven between public opinion and policy makers to create a more theistic approach to science education, specifically evolution.

You can contact Senator Brecheen at brecheen@oksenate.gov. Please let him know that Oklahoma needs more science education and less interference from lawmakers.

Getting Aquilops Ready for its Debut

Aquilops americanus is the oldest horned dinosaur ever found in North America. It was discovered in Montana with the help a University of Oklahoma paleontologist. You can read about it here and here.

It’s going to be displayed at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman. But first it needs to be prepared. I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at how the tiny fossil is be made ready for display.

The plan is to have it make it’s public debut on February 4th.

Born To Do Science

(A note from Dan: Born to do Science actually meets every other Sunday. Here’s the schedule.)

Monty Harper knows how to make science fun. He sings. He writes songs. He plays guitar. He puts it all together to produce songs about science for kids.

But wait, there’s more…he also hosts science program for kids at the Stillwater Public Library called Born to do Science. The first in this year’s series was last Sunday featuring Allan Axelrod, a scientist with Oklahoma State University who is working on how to teach computers to predict. The series continues on Sundays through February. The topics include the Higgs Boson, ancient water fleas, and how the body regulates its chemistry.

It’s free and lots of fun. Take your kids, you’ll both enjoy it.

 

HPV Vaccine- Safe, effective, does NOT increase Sexual Activity

The HPV vaccine prevents cancer. Simple as that. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that leads to cervical cancer as well as a number of other cancers. It can be prevented, however, with  a simple vaccine.

Recent studies have found that the HPV vaccine is very safe. One study looked to see if the vaccine causes multiple sclerosis or any other nervous system related diseases. It does not. Another looked to see if girls who get the HPV vaccine become more sexually active. They do not.

This is a safe and effective vaccine that prevents cancers. Can’t say that enough. Dr. Amy Middleman is a researcher with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She’s studied how parents and health providers approach the vaccine. Her research has found a disconnect between the two, something she says needs to be resolved quickly.

Climate Talk with Dr. Kevin Kloesel

Dr. Kevin Kloesel is the director of the Oklahoma Climate Survey. He’s trained as an engineer and meteorologist. He studies climate change and its potential impact on Oklahoma.

In this brief video he talks about climate change…what it is and what scientists are looking for when they study it.

This Scientist Is OK- Dr. Richard Broughton

Dr. Richard Broughton is an Assistant Professor with the Oklahoma Biological Survey and the Department of Zoology at the University of Oklahoma. He recently developed a new classification system for fish. For example, he discovered that tuna and seahorses are related.

Dr. Broughton is the focus of this edition of This Scientist Is OK. He told me that, as a kid, he would just play around outside and that got him hooked on biology. Next thing you know (and a lot of hard work) he’s a biologist making incredible discoveries.

Free Science Learnin’

Ever wanted to take a college level course about evolution and not pay a dime? The University of Oklahoma has your ticket. You can take Practical Importance of Human Evolution taught by Dr. Cecil Lewis an Associate Professor of Anthropology. Dr. Lewis says the course will focus on human evolution and why it’s important to understand the way it works. The cool part is you don’t need a background in biology to take the course, just a willingness to learn.

The course is part of the University’s interactive program called Janux. It offers free courses for anyone (without college credit) as well as courses for college credit that do cost a little. It’s all done online and on your own time.

Some of the courses include A History of the United States, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources, and Introduction to Computer Programming.

Click here if you want more information on how the program works.

Paleo-Americans Looked a Lot Different

National Geographic has an interesting graphic that shows how the bodies of Paleo-Americans were different than modern day Native Americans. The graphic shows that Paleo-Americans had larger and longer skulls and that the men were taller back in the day than modern Native American men.

Paleo-Americans came to the Americas between 40,000 and 17,000 years ago. How they got here and where they came from is still up for debate. The most widely known theory is that Paleo-Americans walked across the Bering Straight when it was covered in ice or the water was so low it exposed the land underneath it. But Jim Chatters has a different theory. He’s a forensic anthropologist who says that Paleo-Americans came to this part of the world in waves. Chatters thinks the earliest immigrants came across the Bering Straight but that others came from the Pacific Rim. He says the early Americans show traits common in early humans from Australia and Africa. Chatters was the first scientist to investigate the Kennewick Man.

The bones from the 9,500 year old man were found in Kennewick, WA in 1996. There’s been a debate ever since about his relation to modern day Native Americans. The tribes in the Northwest say he’s an ancestor and have asked that all scientific studies be stopped. Chatters thinks he’s not related at all but, instead, comes from a different line of Humans that is now extinct.

There was a recent find in Mexico that may have Chatters changing his mind. The bones of a 12 year old girl were discovered in an underwater cave on the Yucatan Peninsula. Scientists say the girl fell into the cave about 12,000 years ago. Her skeleton is similar to the Kennewick Man and researchers first believed the two were related (not like father/daughter but genetically). DNA taken from the girl’s teeth show she’s related to modern Native Americans.

Of course, like all good science, the definitive answer takes time and until the powers that be decide to allow genetic testing of Kennewick Man we may never know.