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Free Energy!

Okay, not quite. But certainly free-er in the sense that it could let you make do with other’s energy scraps. What the heck am I talking about? (Don’t worry, sometimes I wonder too.) The point of this particular rambling is a new device that captures ambient electromagnetic energy to power small electronic devices. Some folks have recently found a way to tap into the energy transmitted by power sources like radio and television transmitters, cell phone networks, and satellite communication systems. This energy has become more and more pervasive as our devices have proliferated, and it now looks like we may be able to use the spill-over from all of this broadcast energy to power our device’s microprocessors and communications chips.

Manos Tentzeris, a professor at Georgia Tech, is leading the research and says, “There is a large amount of electromagnetic energy all around us, but nobody has been able to tap into it. We are using an ultra-wideband antenna that lets us exploit a variety of signals in different frequency ranges, giving us greatly increased power-gathering capability.”

And the coolness doesn’t stop there… Tentzeris and his fellow researches are using inkjet printers to combine sensors, antennas, etc. on paper or flexible polymers. The devices can capture energy, convert it from AC to DC, then store it in capacitors and batteries. They can so far take advantage of frequencies from FM radio to radar (100 MHz to 15 GHz or higher.) Once I can start printing this kind of thing, the price of the ink I keep having to put in my printer might start to seem worth it.

A presentation on this technology was given on July 6th, at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium in Spokane, Washington.

This was actually a fun few weeks in science… in other news, it turns out that Polar Bears are Irish.

Invitation from CFI Michigan for the Secular Summer Retreat

CFI Michigan is having their annual summer retreat next weekend.

Jennifer, the Assistant Director of CFI MI, asked me to pass on the information to our readers as you are invited to attend as well! I personally have not been able to attend any of their events but I have many friends that say this retreat is a great time and recommend it for everyone. One of these days I will be able to get over to the left side of the state and meet Jennifer and Jeff in person but until then please go in my stead and tell me how much I missed out.

BTW: This is very short notice. Registration closes tomorrow so make sure that you register right away!


Long Lake Larue
"Tranquil Spot" at Long Lake, Courtesy of Charles LaRue"

Join us for the Fifth Annual Secular Summer RetreatFriday-Sunday, July 22-24, 2011 at the Long Lake Outdoor Center! There are nearly 90 people already registered for the retreat and cabins are filling up fast – so don’t forget to register ASAP!

Register - RedButtonSetRegistration Ends July 15th
Spots are filling up fast – Register Today!
Friends of the Center save 10% (full weekend price)

MystopherSpecial guests Mystopher & Family will provide magical entertainment with a skeptical twist throughout the retreat. Don’t miss the magic show and a chance to learn about magic and mentalism with hands-on activities for all ages!

Then enjoy bonfires by the peaceful lake, delicious freshly-prepared (and mostly local) food, canoeing and kayaking on Long Lake, hiking and biking in the adjacent Yankee Springs Recreation Area, swimming at Gun Lake, and great discussions with friends from our CFI communities.

There’s so much to do the weekend isn’t long enough!

Full details are available on the Secular Summer Retreat Information Page.

We look forward to seeing you at the retreat!

Event Details

Fifth Annual Long Lake Summer Retreat

2009 Summer Retreat GroupFriday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24, 2011

Long Lake Outdoor Center
10370 Gun Lake Road, Middleville, MI  View Map

Meals, lodging, activities & facility rental are included in registration. Vegetarian/ Vegan meals are provided. Other dietary needs can be accommodated with advance notice.

Cabins are assigned based on registration order – Register today to get your favorite! A variety of small (4-6 beds) and larger group cabins are available.

Retreat activities include: group activities for children & adults, games, various sports, canoeing/ kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, and of course socializing and great discussions with your freethinking friends.

Full details are available on the Secular Summer Retreat Information Page.

If you have any additional questions please contact Jennifer Beahan: [email protected] or 616-698-2342.

Registration Information

[object Object]Register - RedButtonSet

2011 Registration Prices
Registration Ends July 15th!

Adults: $65 (FOC $60)
Students (12+ & College): $50 (FOC $45)
Children (4-11): $45 (FOC $40)
Infants/ Toddlers (0-3): Free

Friends of the Center (FOC) save 10% on full weekend pricing. Join Today and Save!

Can’t come for the whole retreat?
Join us for the day on Saturday: Adults $20 and Children/ Students $10. (Include meals & facility rental fee)

Visit the Online Registration Page to register today. Credit/Debit payment required.

Cash/ Check Registration Form & Instructions (PDF).

Financial assistance is available on an as needed basis – Contact us for information.

<img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/11606.gif" border="0"></span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p></td></tr></tbody></table><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 10pt; color: rgb(68, 68, 68);"><u></u>&nbsp;<u></u></span></p><table style="width: 435pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: 1pt solid lightgrey;" border="1" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="580"><tbody><tr><td style="border: medium none; padding: 15pt;" valign="top"><div align="center"><table style="width: 100%; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;" border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" width="100%"><tbody><tr><td style="padding: 6pt;"><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 6pt; text-align: center; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;" align="center"><span style="font-size: 16.5pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Have you Registered for the Retreat?<br>Registration Ends July 15th – Don't Forget!<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt; text-align: center;" align="center"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13031.jpg" alt="Long Lake Larue" border="0" height="202" width="425"><br><em><span>"Tranquil Spot" at Long Lake, Courtesy of Charles LaRue"</span></em><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Join us for the <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=w5TKTPOGZdIf6rABzALrgQ.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Fifth Annual Secular Summer Retreat</span></a> – <strong><span>Friday-Sunday, July 22-24, 2011</span></strong> at the Long Lake Outdoor Center! There are nearly 90 people already registered for the retreat and cabins are filling up fast - so don't forget to register ASAP!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=nq6QeLt59SJagEGTtQLOyg.." target="_blank"></a></span><u></u><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=nq6QeLt59SJagEGTtQLOyg.." target="_blank"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13496.gif" alt="Register - RedButtonSet" align="left" border="0" height="40" hspace="10" vspace="5" width="140"></a><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=nq6QeLt59SJagEGTtQLOyg.." target="_blank"></a></span><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Registration Ends July 15th</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><br><strong><i><span>Spots are filling up fast&nbsp;– Register Today!</span></i></strong><br><em><span>Friends of the Center save 10% (full weekend price)</span></em> <u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><u></u><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/Mystopher-headshot-cards-sml.jpg" alt="Mystopher" align="right" height="230" hspace="5" vspace="10" width="175"><u></u><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Special guests Mystopher &amp; Family will provide magical entertainment with a skeptical twist throughout the retreat. </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Don't miss the magic show and a chance to learn about magic and mentalism with hands-on activities for all ages!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Then enjoy bonfires by the peaceful lake, delicious freshly-prepared (and mostly local) food, canoeing and kayaking on Long Lake, hiking and biking in the adjacent Yankee Springs Recreation Area, swimming at Gun Lake, and great discussions&nbsp;with friends from our CFI communities. <u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">There's so much to do the weekend isn't long enough!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Full details are available on the </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=kVVYl-bOBxaP9NkHiqbqpw.." target="_blank"><strong><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Secular Summer Retreat Information Page</span></strong></a><strong><span>. </span></strong><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">We look forward to seeing you at the retreat!<u></u><u></u></span></p><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 6pt; margin-left: 0in; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 15pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Event Details<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><b><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Fifth Annual Long Lake Summer Retreat<u></u><u></u></span></b></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><u></u><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13115.jpg" alt="2009 Summer Retreat Group" align="right" height="188" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="250"><u></u><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Friday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24, 2011</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Long Lake Outdoor Center<br>10370 Gun Lake Road, Middleville, MI&nbsp; <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=A9qXXo9WGpXLtuIzYO6lJQ.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">View Map</span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Meals, lodging, activities &amp; facility rental are included in registration. Vegetarian/ Vegan meals are provided. Other dietary needs can be accommodated with advance notice.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Cabins are assigned based on registration order - Register today to get your favorite! A variety of small (4-6 beds) and larger group cabins are available.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Retreat activities include: group activities for children &amp; adults, games, various sports, canoeing/ kayaking, hiking, biking, swimming, and of course socializing and great discussions with your freethinking friends.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Full details are available on the </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=dQx1LFXdtu-xIymgStOCog.." target="_blank"><strong><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Secular Summer Retreat Information Page</span></strong></a><strong><span>.&nbsp;</span></strong><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">If you have any additional questions please contact Jennifer Beahan: <a href="mailto:[email protected]" target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">[email protected]</span></a> or <a href="tel:616-698-2342" value="+16166982342" target="_blank">616-698-2342</a>.<u></u><u></u></span></p><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 6pt; margin-left: 0in; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 15pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Registration Information<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><u></u><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13111.jpg" alt="[object Object]" align="left" height="188" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="250"><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lmJ6cePNjDFIUAKhIWVg2g.." target="_blank"></a></span><u></u><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lmJ6cePNjDFIUAKhIWVg2g.." target="_blank"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13496.gif" alt="Register - RedButtonSet" align="left" border="0" height="40" hspace="5" vspace="5" width="140"></a><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lmJ6cePNjDFIUAKhIWVg2g.." target="_blank"></a></span><b><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><br><br><br><br><strong><span>2011 Registration Prices</span></strong><br></span></b><em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Registration Ends July 15th!</span></em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Adults</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">: $65 (FOC $60)<br><strong><span>Students (12+ &amp; College)</span></strong>: $50 (FOC $45)<br><strong><span>Children (4-11)</span></strong>: $45 (FOC $40)<br><strong><span>Infants/ Toddlers (0-3)</span></strong>: Free<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Friends of the Center (FOC) save 10% on full weekend pricing.</span></em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"> <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=8MCx-9L4nL7lukixzCcIuA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Join Today and Save!</span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Can't come for the whole retreat?</span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><br>Join us for the day on Saturday: Adults $20 and Children/ Students $10. (Include meals &amp; facility rental fee)<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Visit the </span></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=ceIrZEuXt6H7rK52qsymvQ.." target="_blank"><strong><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Online Registration Page</span></strong></a><strong><span> to register today. </span></strong><em><span>Credit/Debit payment required.</span></em><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><strong><i><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=MqH5L2nMNKd7XnnMl4idqQ.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Cash/ Check Registration Form &amp; Instructions (PDF)</span></a>. </span></i></strong><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Financial assistance is available on an as needed basis - <a href="mailto:[email protected]?Subject=Retreat%20Financial%20Assistance" target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Contact us for information</span></a>.</span></em><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><u></u><u></u></span></p><div style="border-width: medium medium 1pt; border-style: none none solid; border-color: -moz-use-text-color -moz-use-text-color rgb(221, 221, 221); -moz-border-top-colors: none; -moz-border-right-colors: none; -moz-border-bottom-colors: none; -moz-border-left-colors: none; -moz-border-image: none; padding: 0in 0in 2pt; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 6pt; margin-left: 0in; background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; border: medium none; padding: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 15pt; font-family: &quot;Georgia&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">About CFI Michigan<u></u><u></u></span></p></div><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Mission Statement<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">The mission of <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=HmRMjmSX5KiOo1MbEvq4KA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Center for Inquiry | Michigan</span></a> is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Get involved!<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=Haes953twrEEMS9RHBTDAA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Volunteers</span></a>&nbsp;are vital to the success of CFI Michigan. Learn more about <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=RKGGxmAgHY5JOD-nnSOF7Q.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">how you can help</span></a>.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Membership<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">&nbsp;<a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=wxc0PkiwQcV07rLpnoTAag.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Friend of the Center membership</span></a>&nbsp;entitles you to benefits including free or discounted event admission, 15% off Prometheus books, and a CFI window decal. <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=OeUoBGlYQQP_0QuTLLVlBA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Join now!</span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;">Donations<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom: 12pt;"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=cSBIH0meIoEoO8TD2rAbzw.." target="_blank"></a></span><u></u><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=cSBIH0meIoEoO8TD2rAbzw.." target="_blank"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/13011.png" alt="CFI Donate Button" align="left" border="0" height="47" hspace="10" width="140"></a><u></u><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=cSBIH0meIoEoO8TD2rAbzw.." target="_blank"></a></span><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);">Please <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=YApyaTwRsh-vcBpzODpwiA.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">make a donation</span></a> today! Your financial help is crucial to support science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values right here in Michigan. <a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=Avt52NSz9apZ4CJtgAJqrw.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white;">Learn about our goals for 2011</span></a> and how your donation will help us achieve our mission and goals.<u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-right: 0in; margin-bottom: 12pt; margin-left: 0in;"><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; color: black;"><a href="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/R?i=lgQEK8VjtezvWB5Zm7K3tg.." target="_blank"><span style="color: rgb(49, 96, 190); background: none repeat scroll 0% 0% white; text-decoration: none;"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/images/content/pagebuilder/12819.gif" alt="Facebook Logo" border="0" height="44" width="144"></span></a><u></u><u></u></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: 9pt; color: rgb(51, 51, 51);"><img src="http://action.centerforinquiry.net/site/PixelServer?j=FA0T13cD49BAjOSDAa2utA.." border="0" height="1" width="1">

Help the Atheists of Reddit Win $50,000 for Charity

Hemant Mehta, The Friendly Atheist, and a fellow Reddittor has posted about a charity drive that is happening over there.

Help Reddit Atheists Win $50,000 for Awesome Charities

Posted on July 13, 2011

You don’t have to donate any money for this, but a few clicks could help the Reddit Atheists win $50,000 for a variety of charities, including:

  • Secular Student Alliance
  • Doctors without Borders
  • Center for Inquiry
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation
  • Foundation Beyond Belief

What do you have to do?

  1. Click this EXACT link.
  2. Sign up under “Start Your Foundation” and check “I agree to the GiveBack Terms…” (I would uncheck “I agree to receive email communication…”)
  3. Verify you’re a human. Don’t bother filling out the optional “Name Your Foundation” information. Just click on “Save Changes” at the bottom of that page.
  4. You’ll get an email. Click on the link in there to verify your registration.

That’s it! (A fantastic visual explanation of all that is right here.)

Once you register, 50 points will be awarded to the Reddit Atheists for your work. We’re currently in first place, but we need to maintain that spot to win the money. Whoever has the most points on July 17th will be declared the winner (so sign up before then).

Tell your friends to do it, too. It takes a couple minutes and it could help a lot of really wonderful groups.

Who are these people that are trying to win this money? The project is called Atheists Give Back.

We are a group of atheists (primarily from Reddit) who are participating in an 100 day competition on Giveback.org with a prize fund of $50k to donate to charities. To win, we simply need to have the most people sign up to the site under our specific referral URL

Whether you are an Atheist or not, these charities are helping improve our world and could really use the donations. So would you please take 2 minutes of your time and sign up so we can win that money?

Thanks for the help!

Scientists Discover Biomarker for Autism

Siblings of people with autism show a similar pattern of brain activity to that seen in people with autism when looking at emotional facial expressions.

ScienceDaily reports that Scientists from the University of Cambridge have identified reduced activity in the part of the brain associated with emotional facial expression which could be a marker for familial risk of Autism.

Dr Michael Spencer, who led the study from the University’s Autism Research Centre, said: “The findings provide a springboard to investigate what specific genes are associated with this biomarker. The brain’s response to facial emotion could be a fundamental building block in causing autism and its associated difficulties.”

The Medical Research Council funded study is published on the 12th of July, in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Previous research has found that people with autism often struggle to read people’s emotions and that their brains process emotional facial expressions differently to people without autism. However, this is the first time scientists have found siblings of individuals with autism have a similar reduction in brain activity when viewing others’ emotions.

The problem with the potential biomarker they found was that it was ephemeral, meaning detection of the marker was temporary. Further adding to the problems is the fact that the marker is what is called a BOLD Signal. Which is a measurement of blood oxygen over a period of time. Biomarkers are usually extremely concrete things like a protein or a gene. A bit more or less blood in this-or-that part of the brain at this-or-that time is a much fuzzier thing.

The articles do not go into detail about the exact nature of the BOLD signal they discovered. So we don’t know if the signal is repeatable or somehow more clearly detectible than a normal BOLD signal.

The scientist remain enthusiastic that this will lead to greater discovery and possibly lead to causes and or cures for autism.

Professor Chris Kennard, chairman of the Medical Research Council funding board for the research, said:

“This is the first time that a brain response to different human facial emotions has been shown to have similarities in people with autism and their unaffected brothers and sisters. Innovative research like this improves our fundamental understanding of how autism is passed through generations affecting some and not others. This is an important contribution to the Medical Research Council’s strategy to use sophisticated techniques to uncover underpinning brain processes, to understand predispositions for disease, and to target treatments to the subtypes of complex disorders such as autism.”

Arsenate-Tolerant Bacteria from Mono Lake. Part 2

Over six months have passed since the world was introduced to GFAJ-1, a bacterium reportedly capable of incorporating arsenic (As) into biomolecules as a substitute for phosphorus (P). I previously summarized the paper and some of the initial peer-reviewed responses. Since then, scientists have voiced their concerns, primarily focusing on the quality and type of experiments performed and the relative instability of arsenate compared to phosphate. Early June, the journal Science published a set of eight technical comments that represented the key objections to the paper, along with a response from the authors, who stand by their work. A summary that links to all the comments and response can be found here. The comments and responses are behind a pay wall but if you are interested in reading them yourself, let me know and I should be able to help you. Basically, nothing new was presented. Disappointingly, there was no new data presented to help address some of the critics of the paper. What is noteworthy is that the strain GFAJ-1 is now being distributed directly from the original laboratory. Strains often distributed through ATCC but there is an initial processing time. Distributing the strains directly from research lab has allowed researchers to access the strain now rather than later.

A leading skeptic of the work, Rosemary Redfield of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has received the strain and is currently blogging about her progress as she works with the strain. So far, she has been having trouble growing GFAJ-1 in liquid cultures (in accordance to the experimental procedure reported in the original Wolf-Simon paper). According to Dr. Redford, the strain grows quite well on the solid support of agar within a petri dish. If the issues with the poor growth in liquid cultures are not resolved than Redfield will have to discontinue this side project and focus on the work she is being funded to do.

This brings up the issue of replicating published work. Some principal investigators are reluctant to spend their resources, and their students’ time, replicating published results. It is both not novel and relevant research, which is a major factor for a journal to accept and publish a scientific manuscript. By relevant I mean, it does not contribute useful scientific information. If it does not contribute anything significant of value then it, in all likelihood, will be rejected by the peer review process. Furthermore, a student who is assigned to replicate the work will not be able to get a job based on working on such a project. Students that are striving to become the next generation of scientists do not benefit from repeating work. Well, it could be useful if used as a means to train a student how to do research but time is better spent training on a project that is relevant to the principle investigator. Part of the criteria for receiving a degree requiring a thesis is to show that during their time in graduate school, they contributed something significant to the science community (i.e. science publications and inventions). Similarly, the adviser of the student would benefit little from such work. They would have to pull resources and money away from other research projects to replicate such work. Else, a professor would need to apply for a separate grant, a grant application that would likely be rejected for the same reasons why the research would not be published in a journal.

These issues and others are critiqued by PZ Myer as being, if true, as “symptoms of something rotten in the world of science.” As a scientist that is still in training to be an academic researcher, my initial reaction is that all these things are of little surprise to me. It is just how things work. In my opinion, the scientific community on a whole just does not feel that replicated work is ‘sexy’ enough. It’s boring. There is very little incentive. What usually ends up happening is that the questionable research paper is, for the most part, ignored and will receive very little citations. Problem solved by just ignoring it. Is this the most ideal way to deal with it? No but it is just reality for now. Hopefully, there will be follow up research published.

The July Get Together is Coming Up

This Saturday, July 9th will be our Monthly Get Together.

It’s also our one year anniversary! It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this for a year now. Over the past year we’ve had quite a few amazing guests come out and give some pretty amazing presentations. We’ve also had some awesome celebrations. Just a few months ago was our End of the World Party where we celebrated the rapture, which strangely enough did not come. We also had our Darwin day celebration and and great Michigan UFO Hunt.

We’ve got some great things lined up for the next year. So be sure to keep coming back. You never know what we are going to have in store.

Someone seems to let it slip that my birthday is also that month. It also seems that the someone that let it slip was me. Both are true. This month I am going to be [age redacted] this year. So be sure to come on out and help me celebrate both mine and Michigan Skeptic’s birthdays!

So be sure to RSVP for the Get Together this Saturday. You can let me know you are coming by either going on to out Meetup Page or by our Facebook page.

We look forward to seeing you this Saturday!

The Drunken Skeptics Episode 9: We Get Mail

It’s time for another episode of the Drunken Skeptics!

Beer mug with the MISkeptics logo
Frost your mugs, it's time for another episode!

Episode 9: We Get Mail!

In this episode, we have another Drunken Debate, we talk about some of the mail that we get and an always, our Whiskey and Shenanigans.

We get some strange emails. Here are just a few of the strange offerings to show up in our inbox. Feel free to take a listen and to try and figure out just what the hell they are saying!

You can find our show notes here.

Remember, Keep Thinking.

Taking Social Networking Into the “Real” World…

At the recent IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS)  in Minneapolis, Dong Xuan (associate professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University) introduced a smartphone App called eShadow that uses nearby wireless networks and smartphones’ wireless communications to tell users that a friend who also uses the software is nearby,  and even gives directions to that friend’s location. At first blush this seems a natural extension of social trends like foursquare and Yelp, which utilize the geolocation of an individual to interact with others online. Social networking is about interacting, so meeting in the “real world” would seem an obvious next step.

Actually, before I thought about that, I had to force myself to get past the similarity of Xuan’s name to Don Juan, and how a character like Juan could really benefit from an App that helped him pick up women. Is it just me, or does it seem that quite often the name given of a scientist in a study being covered in the news contains an irony fitting to that particular study? If it’s a study on mating habits of Chimps, the lead scientist’s name will be Ben Dover or something like that. I haven’t done a formal study on this, but one should be done. The coincidence seems unlikely. Anyway, back to the actual topic…

The researchers working on eShadow stated that their biggest challenge had to do with efficient use of the wireless signals. They had to develop algorithms that let the phones send and receive signals quickly to keep from clogging up the network. When tested on the Ohio State campus, eShadow took an average of 25 seconds to connect two users who were 20 to 50 yards apart, and 35 seconds for seven users.

Apparently Xuan suggested a military application for the software, allowing soldiers to locate each other on the battlefield. I’m a bit skeptical about the usefulness there, as it would also allow the enemy to easily lead soldiers into traps with a bit of hacking.

Despite my normal skeptical eye through which I peek at most new products (software included) I think that Xuan and his team are on to something with eShadow. As someone who’s developed websites professional for a bunch of years now, I’ve done a lot of following of online technology as it develops, and a lot of speculation on where it’s likely to lead to. What I’ve seen is that the success of a device/application is almost always directly connected to the ease of the interface. It doesn’t end up mattering if there’s a point to doing something – as long as you can make it easy to do, people will do it. (Twitter comes to mind.) A good example is the success of devices like the iPhone with touchscreens, over the old BlackBerry and Newton. The iPhone improved on the miniscule buttons that hamfisted guys like me couldn’t manage. But many of the tasks are the same, while admittedly a bit more developed.

What eShadow is hinting at is the world where we can automate a good deal of our societal interactions. We’ve seen this in science fiction for some time. There’s already been a progression from desktop to laptop to handheld, and the next logical steps are visual and then actual brain interfaces. (And people are definitely already working on that.)

My hope is that by the time software like eShadow is ubiquitous, that someone takes into consideration the role that chance plays in social interactions. Software can easily match up likes and dislikes, sorting us like a bunch of library index cards, but with us humans it’s not always the best way to find others that we hit it off with. It could be that your next best friend or partner for life is someone who has opposite viewpoints and tastes, or even somewhere in the spectrum between same and opposite. Once we have algorithms that can make sense of us on that level, things will really begin to change in interesting ways.

If you’d like to learn more:

E-Shadow: Lubricating Social Interaction using Mobile Phones
http://www.cse.ohio-state.edu/~xuan/papers/2011_icdcs_tzlbx.pdf

Climate Change vs. Evolution

According to a UC Davis study, plants and animals may not possess the capability of adapting fast enough to survive the threat of climate change. (The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.) I read about the study in a UC Davis website news post titled Can evolution outpace climate change?

The particular critter featured in the study was the tide pool copepod Tigriopus californicus, a tiny shrimp-like animal found between Alask and Baja California, and the primary focus of the study was whether they could evolve a tolerance to increased temperature. Morgan Kelly, a UC Davis grad student collected copepods from eight different locations and grew them in the lab for 10 generations, under increasing heat to see if natural selection would produce more heat-tolerant progeny. They apparently failed to do so.

UC Davis Professor Rick Grosberg concludes that this study implies widespread species don’t have enough genetic capacity to work with in order to adapt to climate change, and also blames human interference with disrupting and fragmenting habitats to the point of damaging the ability for many species to survive. Grosberg believes that many species are already at their “environmental limits” and that natural selection won’t necessarily save them.

Now, I’m not an evolutionary biologist, and I don’t even play one on TV. But I found myself with a lot of questions while reading the article. Whatever your political views on global warming, it’s fairly obvious that the Earth is constantly in a state of climate change in that the climate is, well, always changing. There are long and short cycles, but there is a form of chaos inherent to the process. This is why forecasting the weather is still so difficult. Lets also assume for the moment that we are on an upward trend in global temperature. I don’t want to get into the debate on whether it’s caused by man, or is part of a natural trend. What I find myself wondering is how this study applies to evolution as a whole.

Many more studies would have to be done to show any sort of evidence of a multi-species trend in a lack of ability to adapt to conditions, but my understanding of evolution and natural selection is that climate is often the major driving force. It’s also my understanding that it’s not about all the existing species finding some way to “upgrade” to the right hardware to get them through another year. Individual living things die, species die, and as a whole, life evolves to fit the new environment because what doesn’t fit is no longer around.

Climate change isn’t new. Around 2.4 billion years ago, Earth’s atmosphere had practically no oxygen. Life as we know it would have found it a toxic environment. Evidence indicates that back then, the planet was home to scattered smatterings of shallow-water, photosynthetic microbes that produced oxygen as waste. After enough of this waste built up, toxic to life common to that time, adaptations allowed new branches of life to flourish which could make use of this new environment. (See “Learning to Live With Oxygen on Early Earth”.) The rate of the change in environment will obviously have an effect on the particulars of which species change and which die, but it doesn’t easily change the process itself.

So while the study may do a good job at proving that Tigriopus californicus may not be around for the long haul, I fail to see how it indicates anything like what the main thrust of the commentary seemed to be. I find myself wondering if it’s not a case of confirmation bias involving political views.

(NOTE: this is intended to be an opinion piece not a scientific claim – whether you agree or disagree I invite you to comment and include your own thoughts, especially if you have additional science/evidence to bring with you.)

Episode 8 of the Drunken Skeptics Podcast

It’s time for another episode of the Drunken Skeptics! Episode 8: Quarantine is out and available for you to enjoy immediately!

In this Episode:

We talk with Bria Marie Wall on black Atheists in Detroit and about being a black Atheist.

We have a new segment. It’s called the Drunken Debate! Chris play the true believer role and tries to refute Michelle’s reason. It’s a good debate to hear!

As always we have our Whiskey and Shenanigans. This time we run the gamut from underwater spiders to steel making, with a slight layover in Wisconsin.

Don’t forget our July Get Together is coming up. It’s the one year anniversary of MISkeptics, so let’s gather and reminisce!

You can find the show notes here.

If you want to comment or ask us a question, you can email us at [email protected] or fill our our Contact Form. Also you can now call us on the phone! Give us a drunk dial on our Drunken Skeptic line, 734-719-0274 (U.S. number) and leave a message. If we like it, think it was a good comment (or the check clears) we may play it on the podcast!

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