Trump doesn’t exercise and doesn’t think you should either

President Trump never ceases to amaze me, this is the latest:

Trump himself says that he is “not a big sleeper” (“I like three hours, four hours”) and professes a fondness for steak and McDonald’s. Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.

That’s stunningly misinformed. Really, in what century was he born? Vox points us to other links, such as this:

Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. ‘‘All my friends who work out all the time, they’re going for knee replacements, hip replacements — they’re a disaster,’’ he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. ‘‘That’s exercise.’’

And they include this quote:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

So add personal health to the things that Trump is completely wrong about.

The March for Science

The March for Science (you should go if you believe that science is important) is today and so we get stories like this:

That is why, Michel said, he plans to take to the streets (and play his accordion) Saturday at the March for Science in Boston, an offshoot of the main event in Washington and one of hundreds of such marches across the country that aim to celebrate science and champion its role in advancing the health, safety and well-being of society.

The marches are nonpartisan, but have generated criticism that they threaten to turn scientists into another political interest group protesting the new administration, thereby undermining the credibility of scientific research and one of the organizers’ key messages: that science is apolitical.

Science is apolitical, but when one party consistently denies the science when it goes against their beliefs it becomes political. Many, and sometimes most, Republicans don’t believe in global warming or evolution or the problem with certain pesticides (going all the way back to Rachel Carson) or how abortions are performed (and how they affect the woman–it does not cause them to be depressed). And when a man gets elected President who specifically denies global warming, wants to cut money going to all kinds of scientific research, wants to make it harder for scientists to come to the US (either to work or just to come to a conference) and cuts scientists out of the decision making process in multiple departments, then you’re going to get push-back from the scientific community.

President Trump and Republicans have made parts of science political and this should hurt them politically. It hasn’t, partially because of articles like this.

It’s in the stars

This is more than a little funny:

The kerfuffle began in September, when Cosmopolitan cited a NASA Web post about the origins of the Western zodiac. In the 3,000 years since the Babylonians drew up the zodiac, the post noted, the Earth’s axis has shifted slightly, and thus, so have the astrological signs.

For those who check their horoscopes alongside their morning e-mails — and avoid making big decisions when Mercury is in retrograde — this was no small thing. Those born in, say, late February through mid-March went to bed thinking they were a gentle, compassionate Pisces only to awake the next day a temperamental, uncompromising Aquarius. Perhaps more disconcerting, those born between Nov. 29 and Dec. 17 learned they were no longer Sagittarius, but the strange and little-known Ophiuchus, “the Serpent Bearer.”

Oh dear, Astrologists claim that the star you’re born under affects you so they I guess they’re going to have to recalculate everything:

Many fans have simply vowed to ignore it. And Eugenia Last, whose internationally syndicated horoscope column appears in various publications, including the Globe, has no intention of tailoring her work to the new dates outlined by NASA (“Absolutely not,” she writes in an e-mail).

Now that’s real science–if new information comes up, just ignore it. I guess the star we weren’t born under is what really affects us … or, ok I’m just confused.

And then there was life

This (via here) is pretty impressive:

The nature of the earliest ancestor of all living things has long been uncertain because the three great domains of life seemed to have no common point of origin.
Their starting point was the known protein-coding genes of bacteria and archaea. Some six million such genes have accumulated over the last 20 years in DNA databanks as scientists with the new decoding machines have deposited gene sequences from thousands of microbes.
Genes that do the same thing in a human and a mouse are generally related by common descent from an ancestral gene in the first mammal. So by comparing their sequence of DNA letters, genes can be arranged in evolutionary family trees, a property that enabled Dr. Martin and his colleagues to assign the six million genes to a much smaller number of gene families. Of these, only 355 met their criteria for having probably originated in Luca, the joint ancestor of bacteria and archaea.
Genes are adapted to an organism’s environment. So Dr. Martin hoped that by pinpointing the genes likely to have been present in Luca, he would also get a glimpse of where and how Luca lived. “I was flabbergasted at the result, I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
The 355 genes pointed quite precisely to an organism that lived in the conditions found in deep sea vents, the gassy, metal-laden, intensely hot plumes caused by seawater interacting with magma erupting through the ocean floor.
This doesn’t show that life originated there but it does show it was there 4 billion years ago. It also shows how far the theory of evolution has come. Scientists can now follow life back through common genes to see how life has evolved in different ways.

Can people who believe in God be moral?

The LA Times looks at an interesting study:

Here’s a discovery that could make secular parents say hallelujah: Children who grow up in nonreligious homes are more generous and altruistic than children from observant families.

A series of experiments involving 1,170 kids from a variety of religious backgrounds found that the non-believers were more likely to share stickers with their classmates and less likely to endorse harsh punishments for people who pushed or bumped into others.

Looking at the actual study, I don’t think it really says all that much. Still it’s fun to tweak the religious, given that 40% of Americans say they would not vote for a candidate that was an atheist and given that some people don’t think atheists can be moral, oh such as this one:

What society loses when it discards Judeo-Christian faith and belief in God is something far more difficult to replace: the value system most likely to promote ethical behavior and sustain a decent society. That is because without God, the difference between good and evil becomes purely subjective. What makes murder inherently wrong is not that it feels wrong,but that a transcendent Creator to whom we are answerable commands: “Thou shalt not murder.” What makes kindness to others inherently right is not that human reason says so, but that God does: “Love thy neighbor as thyself; I am the Lord.”

Obviously this doesn’t mean that religious people are always good, or that religion itself cannot lead to cruelty. Nor does it mean that atheists cannot be beautiful, ethical human beings. Belief in God alone does not guarantee goodness. But belief tethered to clear ethical values — Judeo-Christian monotheism — is society’s best bet for restraining our worst moral impulses and encouraging our best ones.

The atheist alternative is a world in which right and wrong are ultimately matters of opinion, and in which we are finally accountable to no one but ourselves. That is anything but a tiding of comfort and joy.

It’s nice that he allows that atheists could be good people. Oh, and Jeff, it seems that evolution might have made morality innate in people.

Ben Carson is one crazy person

Here’s Ben Carson from a commencement speech (the video is here) he made back in 1998:

“Now, my own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson continued. “Now all the archaeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big — when you stop and think about it, and I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time — to store that much grain.”

“And when you look at the way that the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they’d have to be that way for a reason. And various of scientists have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they had special knowledge and that’s how they were —’ you know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.

“That’s really the key. People may not even be able to explain what it is that you’re accomplishing, but they don’t have to be able to explain it when God is there. All you have to be able to do is to accept his presence and his total understanding of everything and link yourself with that. What a difference that makes. It makes you calm.”

“I remember once, a few years ago, there were about eight or nine panelists. They were all Nobel Prize-winners. And the question came up: how did life originate? And after all their machinations, they finally came to the conclusion that life emanated as a result of a bunch of promiscuous biochemicals getting together. That was the best that they could come up with.”

“I recently had a discussion with a well-known physicist. He was talking about the Big Bang Theory and how all this obviously culminated into this wonderful, extraordinarily organized solar system that we now have, which you can set your watch by, where scientists can predict 70 years away when a comet is coming. That’s an incredible amount of organization to have originated from just a large explosion.”

“Well of course he has no answer for that. They never have an answer for any of these things,” he concludes, broadening his story into a universal. “And see that’s the wonderful thing about having a relationship with God. God has already told us what happened, so we don’t have to come up with fanciful theories so that we can take the place of God. We don’t have to do that.”

So, Ben Carson has no clue about history (or archaeology), no clue about evolution, no clue about the physics, but, hey, he believes in God so he’s good. And he’s leading in polls for the Republican nomination. Makes me proud to be an American.

Pluto

The New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to Pluto tomorrow. Here’s a picture it took on Saturday (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI):

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New Horizons is currently around 500,000 miles from Pluto travelling just under 31,000 mph (by the way, NASA has a nice app of this here) and will make its closest approach tomorrow morning at 7:49:57. It will have travelled for 9 years and 3 billion miles.

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