On Science & Technology: The Forum

The odds of actually seeing this take are someplace between slim and none – so, why not here? After all, these two topics are more important than ever, and are the center of numerous important issues that the candidates frequently ignore, skirt, or poorly answer.

We should note that neither political party would agree to these rules and the debate topic because they prefer rules that favor them – not the voters. Therefore, our aim is getting the answers that Americans need to hear or identifying the fraudulent candidates.

Welcome to the aFrankAngle Theater for the Performing Arts as it hosts the Presidential Forum on Science and Technology. This first-ever event is co-sponsored by the aFrankAngle Center of Blogging Decency and the aFrankAngle Foundation for Candidate Accountability and No-Campaign-Bullshit. We’ve invited all the candidates from both major parties

First, the rules.
Rule 1) The moderator makes the rules, asks the questions, and runs the debate. Anyone disagreeing with any of the moderator’s questions, rules, or actions during the debate should always refer to Rule 1.

Rule 2) When answering the question, talk back to the audience through the moderator. For instance, start your answer by paraphrasing the question as your introductory phrase. For instance: (Q) What is your favorite color? (Ex) My favorite color is blue. Bad examples of starting an answer include (which some, maybe all, on this stage have used):

  • I think a better question is ….
  • Let me tell you what I think.
  • I’m not going to talk about that, but I will say …
  • That’s a good question, and I’m happy to be here.
  • I believe the American people are looking for someone to speak the truth.
  • First of all, …

Rule 3) After your answer, provide several supporting statements for your answer. (Ex) My favorite color is blue because it was the most prominent color at my grandparent’s house. I would spend time with them each summer amidst all that blue. I would go outside to work and play with all that blue sky – endless on the open plains – simply beautiful. I also resemble my grandmother, and wouldn’t you know it, I inherited her blue eyes. Those are the main reasons why blue is my favorite color.

Rule 4) Focus on answering the question and staying on topic. If you babble, go off topic, criticize the current administration or any fellow candidate, the moderator will turn off your microphone and enclose you in the Cone of Silence. On the third offense, you will be removed from the stage in an unexpected manner as a trap door, hooked cane, or a vaporizer.

Rule 5) If you answer the question to the moderator’s satisfaction, there will be no follow-up questions.

Also note that we prepared as many questions as possible without an introductory premise because we want to avoid leading questions and bias. The audience should know that the candidates did not receive the questions in advance, however, received a list of topics as science/science processes, evolution, genetics, health, technology, energy, and the environment.

Topic 1:Science
Q1) What is science?

Q2) Give examples of good science and bad science – but each example of one requires an example of the other.

Q3) Does science have limits on its area of study?

Q4) How do you define a scientific theory?

Q5) Is it acceptable for elected officials to hold back or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views, and how will you balance scientific information with politics and personal beliefs in your decision-making?

Q6) Do science and religion compete against each other?

Q7) Explain why Intelligent Design and 7-day Creationism should or should not get time in the science classroom.

Topic 2: Genetics
Q8) The field of genetics has exploded possibilities. What is the right policy balance between genetic advances and potential risks?

Q9) What is your position on government regulation and funding of stem cell research?

Q10) Assuming health insurance companies cannot deny health insurance, is the information from genetic testing/screening the same as a pre-existing condition?

Q11) How should we use and not use genetically modified plants?

Q12) Scientist created seedless watermelons by chemically changing the chromosome number in watermelons. Should seedless watermelons be banned?

Topic 3: Health
Q13) How do you see science, research, and technology contributing to improved health and quality of life?

Q14) How do you protect citizens from pandemics?

Q15) What role do vaccines have in our society today?

Q16) Should a public school and a private school have the authority to deny admission of a student whose parents decided not to vaccinate their children?

Q17) In a time of fiscal restraint, how do you secure more funding toward combating mental illness?

Q18) Should the Federal government financially fund research in science topics as health and energy?

Topic 4: Technology
Q19) Should the internet be considered a public utility?

Q20) How can science and technology spur innovation?

Q21) In an era of budget cutting, how can promote research while reducing spending on research?

Q22) What role does science and technology play in national security?

Topic 5: Energy and the Environment
Q23) Water is necessary. Should the Federal government provide financial assistance to arid states and/or states with considerable droughts?

Q24) What role do alternative energy resources have in our society?

Q25) What role does the United States have in the global community regarding climate change?

Q26) Explain 3 concerns you have about the climate change issue.

Q27) In the recent nuclear negotiations with Iran, why or why not should physicists be on the negotiating team?

Q28) Would you abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? If not, why not? If so, how would environmental regulations be protected and enforced.

Topic: Questions From the Audience
Because all the candidates have been removed from the stage for repeated rule violations, let’s bring back all of them because it’s time for questions by the audience.

What questions do you have for the candidates? (Caution to questioners: Respectfully ask your question in nonpartisan manner; plus the question is to all candidates, not a specific candidate.)

A reminder to the candidates. Let’s see if you’ve learned anything about answering questions in a debate. The rules still apply, and to see if you’ve learned anything, no leniency.

Mr. Producer, is the buzzer ready?

On a Science Project

The science process starts with a question. I had a question, but it didn’t involve an experiment. It’s a good question and one that could be answered by direct observation. After all, direct observation is very much part of the science process … and its data is important and reliable.

It’s interesting how some conveniently dismiss direct observation. As a matter of fact, many who dismiss evolution love to imply the lack of experimentation involved in evolution while also dismissing all the data Darwin compiled from direct observation. For those who didn’t know, Darwin’s recorded notes were very detailed.

My question: At our hummingbird feeder, what is the ratio of hummingbirds that perch while they drink/feed to those hovering while the drink/feed?

My controls were simple: We have only one feeder, it didn’t move, and we used the same food source. On the other hand, we admittedly recorded our observations randomly – that is, when looking out the window.

Findings: After observing recording 100 feedings, 75 perched and 25 hovered.

Conclusion: Hummingbirds at our feeder who perched outnumbered those who hovered by a 3:1 ratio. This ratio was established early, thus maintained through the remaining observations.

Q&A Discussion
Is this is true at all feeders?

Absolutely not because I confidently say that if my feeder didn’t have perches, no hummingbird would perk on it when feeding – thus all would hover.

Do multiple hummingbirds feed at once?

As a general rule, the ruby-throated hummingbird is very territorial as we frequently observed birds keeping others away. Three key points: 1) we didn’t keep any data about this, and 2) this may not be true for other hummingbird species. (See this picture)  3) this behavior does not seem to be very energy-efficient.

How many different hummingbirds were involved in the study?

I didn’t gather this data because I did not identify individuals by traits or tags. Typically, the most hummingbirds saw at one time on and/or around the feeder was 3. However, my wife observed 5 once. I also observed a day of swarming – thus seeing up to 7 hummingbirds at once on and around the feeder. I would predict other nearby feeders were empty on that day.

Does gender and age influence their choice?

Unclear. As an Equal Opportunity Feeder, we did not require hummingbirds to provide birth certificates or proof of residency. Although distinguishing males and females is easy, we didn’t record data based on sex or age. I can say that I don’t recall seeing a male hover to feed. However, I observed females in both feeding positions. Plus, it is possible that only 3 different hummingbirds regularly visited our feeder, thus the youngest was the one hovering because it didn’t know better.

The Next Question
Often, the science process leads to more questions. For me it’s this: Do hummingbirds poop?

Researching What Is Known
Because they have a liquid diet, it would seem their kidneys are very active. Let alone accounting for their high metabolism. Hummingbirds lack a urinary bladder because carrying extra weight from stored urine decreases flight efficiency. Therefore, the ureter provides a passageway for the urine from each kidney to deposit directly into the lower large intestine.

Given that the solution in the feeder is sugar and water, hummingbirds (like the rest of life) also need proteins, fats, and salts – especially the proteins, whose root origins means of first importance. Because the food in our feeder won’t provide those nutrients and we didn’t add protein supplements, hummingbirds must balance their diet by eating small insects, insect eggs, and insect larva – and all those require digestion that will produce wastes to be eliminated.


When hummingbirds perform their version of defecation, they simultaneously release solid and liquid wastes – which means they poop and pee at the same time through the same opening.

On Selection

What initially attracts a person to another? To some, it’s the eyes. To others, it’s the face, physique, height, or butt. Then again, it could be breasts, hair, skin tone, or a combination of any of the listed. We could get into the finer details involving hands, personality, or cheekbones, yet the question remains – What initially attracts a person to another?

From a biology perspective, I see human commonality with the rest of the living world. After all, organisms select mates based on color, strength, the ability to sing or dance, and rituals. in the end, it’s about the best genes getting together to increase the odds of the species’ best genes being passed on to the next generation. Keep in mind that the biological purpose of any organism is to grow and survive so the species can perpetuate.

Yes, that’s natural selection – as opposed to artificial selection when humans decide which domestic organisms breed. In terms of passing along the best genes, artificial selection is similar to natural selection, but it occurs outside of the rules of nature. Breeding dogs and other domestic animals is big money because pedigree is important. Breeding race horses is even bigger money, but in the end, it’s artificial selection.

In general, celebrities fascinate the masses – and how often to we see attractive celebrities with another attractive person. The parents pass these attractive genes to their offspring, but that’s natural selection, not artificial selection.

But the initial question remains – What initially attracts a person to another?

A ratio is a relationship between two numbers. Mathematics provides the Golden Ratio, which some artists, designers, architects, and others apply this because they believe the Golden Ratio is the most beautiful and most pleasing shape.

Maybe a ratio is what first attracts one person to another. If so, which one?

Various ratios influence what a person finds attractive. Shoulder-waist ratio, waist-hip ratio, torso length to leg length, face length to face width, and other facial ratios.

Whatever the ratio or body feature that initially captures one’s attention, it’s different for each of us. Gender, age, and culture account for some of the differences in our preferences. In the end, these are selection factors – yep – natural selection.

… and I couldn’t resist these fitting musical selections …

On the Most Beautiful Species

Sunrise, sunsets, rock formations, the star-filled sky, a brilliant moon, a blooming meadow is a valley surrounded by mountains, and much more … Natural beauty is all around us.

Beauty within the living world is easy to find – rainforests, coral reefs, grasslands, deserts, marshes, under the water’s surface, in a cave, around the house, in the soil, many more places – let alone in the microscopic world.

Because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, some find their ultimate beauty in flowers ranging from exotic orchids to a wide variety of houseplants. Others find the ultimate biological beauty in the wild animals of Africa, in the colorful fishes in the warm ocean waters, or in our domestic pets. Bloggers as Bulldog, Cathy, Cindy, Nia, Robin, Suzanne, and many more wonderfully capture this beauty.

Yet, at least to me, the most beautiful species is hidden among us – masked in selfishness, horror, ego, and deceit – thus I present three reasons supporting my surprise nomination of the most beautiful biological species – Homo sapiens – humans.

Do you think the markings on every peregrine falcon are exactly the same?

Variation within a species is an important aspect of evolutionary success. Look at the spectrum of variations with some external human traits as skin color, hair color, – let alone ranges of straight to curly plus the hairstyle of individual choice – Add eye color, height, body shape, lips, then toss in personalities and abilities – there’s something for everybody, thus humans display beauty in so many ways!

Most, if not all, organisms have variations. the beautiful cheetahs don’t have many variations, thus one of the reasons they are in biological trouble. One may think all the leaves on a certain type of tree are the some, but they aren’t. One may think all the spots on the underbelly of a specific bird are the same and in the exact same pattern, position, and number – but they probably aren’t. Variation within a species is important, and the range within humans is extraordinary.

The second aspect of the most beautiful species is the human brain, which allows a great range of communication, individuality, creativity, problem solving, culture, learning, and more. While we can easily criticize the choice many make from the result of having the most complex neural masses in the biological community, humans demonstrates the greatest range of creativity – and much of it relates to human ability to problem solve.

Think about the questions and decisions one encounters every day. Consider all the material items we contact every minute of every day in every year – and all these manufactured products have a story centered around problem solving.

Think about all the ways we communicate – facial expressions, mathematical, written, visual, musical, and oral – let alone in so many languages. Look at all the styles in the visual arts – after all, the visual arts are communicating, thus touching us in different ways.

The arts with all its styles and media are a story in itself. The painting world alone is huge. Toss in music, literature, pottery, sculptures, jewelry, photography, and many others – no wonder I proclaim the arts as the ultimate expression of human creativity.

In order to accomplish what we can, humans must be capable of learning – and the capacity for the human brain to learn is overwhelming – then alone the ability to apply the learning to a problem solving and/or creative situation. Human learning is a story in itself, yet as a species, I wonder if there are limits to learning besides the self-imposed and the impaired.

Although some human behavior is instinctive, human learn behaviors (good and bad), and have the ability to learn new ones (good and bad) – and each of us are a collection of behaviors that gives us our own individuality. Thus, one of the challenges of being human is the ability to deal with so many personalities.

There is no question that today’s world has it share of human-created issues that are based in culture – but culture is the last reason for humans being the most beautiful biological species. Culture is a set of shared, learned behaviors, and beliefs that are passed on from one generation to the next. (Thanks BSCS) (A culture post from the aFa archives)  There are many aspects to culture: dress, dance, food, language, art, religion, behaviors, holidays – well, only to name a few.

While leading a training session in Boston years ago, I encountered a participant who embraced her heritage with her clothes. The colors, the patterns, and the design were so stunning, each day I looked forward in anticipation to seeing her attire. What beauty! Whether from someone sharing photos from their travels or daily surroundings, I see similar beauty through images on blogs as with the lady in Boston.

Given the variations within the humans species, the human brain, and human culture, there is no doubt that humans are the most beautiful species on this planet. Yes, it depends how one defines beauty – let alone their perspective. Yes, variation within a species is common throughout the biological world. Yes, other organisms communicate, problem solve, and have societies – but no other organism does it to the level of humans … and yes, we have a tendency to deny our own good because of the negatives in today’s world.

On an Undeniable Review

UndeniableBillNyeIn February 2014, Bill Nye debated Ken Ham (President, Answers in Genesis, AIG) about evolution-creation at AIG’s Creation Museum on Cincinnati’s Kentucky-side of the river. This book, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, is a result of Nye’s preparation for and participation in the debate.

Although Nye initially trained and worked as a mechanical engineer, the general public got to know him as The Science Guy through his television shows in the early 1990s.

Bill Nye is noted for a fast-paced, engaging style to explain scientific topics in laymen’s terms to the masses – and that style is what readers get in this book. His wit, sense of humor, knowledge, and ability to stay at the layman level is his brand. Those familiar with him may even hear his voice while reading.

The chapters a short – actually rather bite-sized with most chapters being less than 10 pages. Nye intertwines stories and analogies amid the chapter’s main premise while using historical and present-day applications.

Typically, each chapter focuses on a specific topic; and Nye covers a wide range of topics, such as evolution, natural selection, punctuated equilibrium, biodiversity, fossils, thermodynamics, convergence, competition, extinction, gene flow, genetic bottlenecks, homologous structures, selection, mutations, and population isolation. Given these topics and his simplistic approach, Nye explains the natural process of evolution.

Although Nye frequently mentions claims made by Ham about evolution, he does not address faith … but to his defense, faith is not the intent of this book. Those desiring more about the interchange between science and religion will be disappointed.

Given that’s the science-religion interchange is not his intent, I don’t like the “Science of Creation” portion of the book’s title … but that’s me because of my level of understanding about the interchange. On the other hand, the “Undeniable” portion of the title is very appropriate – even for the pun lovers who see UndeNEYable.

Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation is Bill Nye’s latest effort in bringing science to the masses. Given the debate about appropriate subjects in public school science classes doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I applaud Nye’s efforts because the majority of the public is poorly informed.

One for the bookshelves? Maybe, depending on the reader’s background … but definitely not for those with a firm understanding of evolution and its subtopics. Yes, it covers the basics, thus Undeniable is a primer … a good place to start … but it lacks the depth and breathe that others may desire because Undeniable is not a book for extensive study of evolution.

Bottom line – the reader must decide if this is a good book for them … but for the vast majority of people, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation by Bill Nye is a good read.

On Perception

Look at the images below. Which image do you see first in each of four images in the gallery below? (To help, there is a question below each image.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Look at them again. Can you see the other?

Perception: The recognition and interpretation of sensory information mainly on memory

Perception: The nerve processes of recognition and interpretation

Perception: The insight, intuition, or knowledge gained by perceiving

Perception: The capacity for such insight

Watch the video below.

As humans we encounter many things each day as our senses are constantly processing data. For example, the bottom of our feet can simultaneously distinguish contact with a sock, the inside of the shoe, the surface on which one is standing or moving.

Our senses allow us to experience the world around us. Take a moment to think of all the things you perceive on a daily basis.

Perception is about our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli.

Perceptions include the organization, identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.

What the short video below.

All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs.

Perception depends on complex functions of the nervous system, but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness.

Perception is influenced by past experiences, the situation, the expectation, and the intensity of the perception.

Watch the last video for the final test.

What do you think?

On a Tribute to the Cosmos Giant

Image from the Center for Inquiry

Image from the Center for Inquiry

Friday afternoon I stumbled across an interesting tidbit – that is, this weekend is Carl Sagan Day – marked by the his birthday (November 9) – thus, this unplanned post.

We can put many tags on Dr. Sagan – take your pick – scientist, astronomer, author, philosopher, cosmologist, astrophysicist, professor, television personality, and others. To me, and no matter the role, there are two facts that stand above others: he was a tireless promoter of science, plus he stood in awe of universe.

The article that sparked this post was this small collection of his inspirational quotes. To celebrate this day, I’ve taken two of the quotes from the article, plus two others, and then supported them in my style of adding videos … or maybe I simply needed an excuse to display one of my all-time favorites.

Enjoy … which was your favorite? Do you know my favorite?

I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.


What distinguishes our species is thought. The cerebral cortex is in a way a liberation. We need no longer be trapped in the genetically inherited behavior patterns of lizards and baboons: territoriality and aggression and dominance hierarchies. We are each of us largely responsible for what gets put in to our brains. For what as adults we wind up caring for and knowing about. No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain, we can change ourselves. Think of the possibilities.


A blade of grass is a commonplace on Earth; it would be a miracle on Mars. Our descendants on Mars will know the value of a patch of green. And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being?

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.