Two senators are trying to promote the use of open-source textbooks.

Back in the mists of time, when I was in college, my textbooks cost a lot of money. Upwards of $50 each. But that’s nothing now. Today’s college students can easily pay over $1000 on books a year. But two senators are trying to reduce the cost by encouraging colleges to use Open Source books. Books with an open license could be freely used by students. I hope these bills (S.1704 and H.R.3538) pass and students can have access to information for free.

This isn’t exactly new. The CK-12 foundation makes textbooks available at K-12 levels with an open license.

Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Evolution

On Feb 4th Bill Nye had a debate with Ken Ham at the Creation Museum on the question “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era?”. Ken Ham is a creationist, and was on the side of religious creation. Unsurprisingly, Bill Nye was on the evolution side.

First of all, this is a bad debate. It doesn’t matter who “won” the debate, because evolution isn’t something that can be decided by arguing. As Neil deGrass Tyson likes to say:

The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

Also, what’s the point in a debate if one of the people involved states that there is nothing you can possibly say to change his mind? That’s what Ken Ham said, while Bill Nye said he would need evidence.

But someone asked creationists for questions, and another person answered these questions on YouTube. He does so in a non threatening manner and it’s very nice. He’s a chemistry student, and it shows in his understanding of the fossil record, especially around Lucy, and on genetic mutations, but then those aren’t his areas of expertise. There are many more examples than just Lucy, and there are mutations that cause duplication of genes. But I recommend watching the video.

The Neuroscientist who discovered he was a Psychopath

This article at the Smithsonian talks about a scientist discovering that he’s a psychopath. While there is no formal definition of psychopath, the DSM does define Antisocial Personality Disorder as

The essential feature of antisocial personality disorder is a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. This pattern has also been referred to as psychopathy, sociopathy, or dyssocial personality disorder.

Most people commonly use psychopath to mean that the person is antisocial, has no empathy or remorse, and has low control of him/her self.

So this researcher, James Fallon, was looking at brain scans of serial killers. And schizophrenics, and normal people, and people in an Alzheimer’s study. He and his family were part of the Alzheimer’s study. When he got down to the bottom of the stack, he got to one that matched psychopath’s brains, and he also knew it was one of his family members in the Alzheimer’s study. He didn’t know who it was because he only had the numbers (it was a blind study).

Well, he shouldn’t have broken the blind, but really, what would you do in his position? He found out that the psychopath in his family was himself. Now what would you do? He decided that since he hadn’t acted psychotic and broken any laws, he would tell people. Not only tell people, but he wrote a book: The Psychopath Inside.

While he has genes that are associated with violent behavior, he hasn’t acted on it. He attributes this to a good, loving, childhood. It appears that genetic determinism can be overcome. Which means genetic determinism is wrong.

There’s more, and it’s quite interesting.