Archive for January, 2010

Saskatchewan Science Trivia

Posted in Skeptic with tags , , on January 31, 2010 by saskskeptic

From The Bathroom Book of Saskatchewan Trivia by Glenda MacFarlane:

The oldest fossils found in Saskatchewan are 1.7 billion-year-old microscopic cells of blue[-green] algae known as stromatolites. [blue algae is now considered to be bacteria]

[Big] Bert,” the fossil, of a 92 million-year-old type of crocodile a Teleorbinus-was discovered in the Carrot River area in 1991.

In 1994, “Scotty,” the fossil of a 65 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex, was found near Eastend.  The skeleton is about 65 percent complete and ranks among the top specimens in the world. [Scotty is prime attraction of the T. Rex Discovery Museum in Eastend.]

Scientists discovered some dinosaur dung the following year, again near Eastend. The single carnivore “coprolite” was the largest ever found.  It contained pieces of undigested bone and weighed almost 7 kilograms!

Dr. Gerhard Herzberg, who worked at the U of S for a decade in the ’30s and ’40s, was the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1971).  His field was the study of atomic and molecular spectroscopy.

Henry Taube of Neudorf won the 1983 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work with dissolved organic solids.  He also won the Linus Pauling Award.  Dr. Taube said, “Science as an intellectual exercise enriches our culture and is in itself ennobling.”

Rosthern-area farmer Seager Wheeler practically invented farming on the prairie.  He developed new machinery, wrote about agricultural subjects and, starting n 1911, won five world wheat championships, a record that has never been equaled.

The first Canadian experiment aboard a space shuttle was designed by U of S professor Louis Delbaere.  The Discovery shuttle conducted Delbaere’s experiment about crystallization in space in 1990.

U of S particle physicist Chary Rangacharyulu helped to discover a new subatomic particle.  The find came in ninth on Discovery magazine’s 2003 list of the “Top 100 Science Stories.”

And in 1951, a team of researches—including future Lieutenant-Governor Sylvia Fedoruk—designed the Cobalt-60 and began using cobalt radiation to treat cancer patients.  Their first patient , a 43-year-old mother of four, beat her cancer and went on to live for another 50 years!  Fedoruk later developed the Dosimeter, which helped to regulate radiation dosages and a device to test for thyroid cancer.

Robert Moody of Saskatoon co-discovered the Kac-Moody algebras the basic mathematical structure that underlies superstring theory.

In the 1950s. Raymond Lemieux of the U of S was the first chemist to produce table sugar by synthetic means.

Margaret Newton, one of the first women in the country to study agriculture at university, became the leading Canadian authority on cereal rusts in the 1920s.

Professor Akira Hirose of the U of S’s Department of Physics constructed Canada’s first “tokamak” a doughnut-shaped fusion device.

More science and other trivia are found in the book.

Darwin Day Declaration

Posted in Skeptic with tags on January 30, 2010 by saskskeptic

Dear Premier Wall,

As a Canadian who values scientific inquiry and integrity, I urge you to issue a provincial proclamation recognizing Darwin Day on February 12. Darwin Day is celebrated every year on the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday in 1809, and is a day in which people gather together to commemorate his life and work. Charles Darwin was the first to propose the groundbreaking scientific theory of evolution by natural selection—a theory that has done more to unify and bring understanding to the life sciences than any other—and Darwin Day is a celebration of this discovery and of scientific progress.

I believe that issuing this declaration will send a powerful message that scientific discovery and integrity in our society are top priorities—priorities that are needed now more than ever as extremists with narrow ideological agendas are attempting to undermine science in our schools.

Please stand with me and countless others who value science and discovery by issuing the following or a similar declaration on Darwin Day.

A Declaration

Charles Darwin was the first to propose the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. On Darwin Day, celebrated on the anniversary of Darwin’s birth on February 12, 1809, we celebrate the life and discoveries of Charles Darwin and express gratitude for the enormous benefits that scientific knowledge, acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity, has contributed to the advancement of humanity.

It is sobering to imagine where the human race would be today without advances in science. Science has helped us to live longer by enabling us to find cures for diseases and alleviating pain and suffering. It has allowed us to travel before unimaginable distances, to interact with and understand people of other cultures and recognize what makes us similar as well as what makes us unique. It has allowed us to understand and maneuver in our world and has provided us insight into the complexities of life.

Charles Darwin recognized the importance and power of scientific discovery, and perhaps no one has influenced our understanding about life on earth as much as he. Darwin was an English naturalist, who on his legendary five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle made important observations about the geological and zoological diversity of the lands he visited, which helped spark his theory of evolution by natural selection. Most of what we understand about the diversity of life and the process by which it has adapted and changed has come from his profound insights, and his contribution to the cannons of science cannot be overstated. On this anniversary of Darwin’s birthday, it is important to recognize the contributions he has made to the advancement of science. It is also important that we continue to educate future generations about evolution by natural selection in our science classrooms. We must not water down the significance of Darwin’s theory, nor the breadth of evidence supporting it, and we must at every turn challenge efforts to undermine science so that we can keep alive in our children and grandchildren the wonder of discovery and the eagerness to obtain knowledge.

Now, Therefore, I, Brad Wall, Premier of the Saskatchewan, do hereby declare February 12, 2010, as Darwin Day. I call on the people of Saskatchewan to recognize the importance of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection, to endeavor to preserve scientific discovery and human curiosity as integral to Saskatchewan’s future, and to commemorate this day with appropriate events and activities.

Tailored from the US version.

Secular Parenting Group

Posted in news with tags on January 30, 2010 by saskskeptic

Meeting Friday Feb. 5 at 7:00pm

This group meets at the Mayfair Library on 33rd, use the side doors.

For this month’s meeting, we’ll have our own version of “show and tell.” Bring an article, a question, a resource you find valuable (book or video, etc), or just something to talk about to this month’s meeting.

As always, feel free to bring your kids, spouse, or anyone interested in the issues of secular parenting.

Café Apostate

Posted in Skeptic on January 30, 2010 by saskskeptic

The next Café Apostate will be Sunday, February 7th from 7-10pm at the Mackenzie Cole coffee house in Sutherland (located at 815A Gray Ave, right off Central Ave).  We’ll be in the side room of the café — so there should be lots of space for us godless folk to chat.  Come on out and bring a friend!

If you’ve got any questions, feel free to drop me an email. As always, everyone is welcome to come check out Café Apostate, whether or not you’ve got religious baggage.  Hope to see y’all there.

Saskatoon Darwin Day

Posted in Skeptic with tags , on January 28, 2010 by saskskeptic

Come Help Us Celebrate Darwin’s 201th Birthday


Film with open discussion

Birthday Cake

Friday Feb. 12, 2010

6:30PM to 9:30PM


Rusty Macdonald Branch Library – Auditorium
225 Primrose Drive, Saskatoon, SK Canada, S7K 5E4
Phone: (306) 975-7600

For more information email

Sponsored by the Saskatoon Skeptics Society and the Saskatoon Freethinkers

Test the Nation: IQ – Atheists vs. Believers vs. Nerds (Results)

Posted in Media, news with tags , , , , on January 27, 2010 by saskskeptic

The CBC held its second national IQ test on Sunday.  To make it interesting, they had six teams: twins, nerds, politicians, contact sport athletes, believers and atheists.  The audience could play along either on paper or online.

I took the test online.  It asks a bunch of demographic information at the start like age, gender, shoe size, political affiliation, and religious leanings.

Before the show I was predicting that the nerds would do well.  Better than even the atheists.  After all many skeptics would certainly qualify as nerds.

How did it turn out?  The in-studio teams, the atheists beat the believers, but amusingly the politicians beat both the atheists and believers.  The nerds of course had beat everyone.  This is fun but not necessarily statistically significant and there wasn’t a huge difference between the groups.

In the results from the online tests.  The atheists scored higher than the believers, but the agnostics scored even higher.

choice Total Respondents Lowest Score Highest Score Average Score Average IQ
Religious 6182 0.0 50.0 31.21 111.48
Agnostic 3955 0.0 50.0 33.4 115.37
Atheist 3584 0.0 50.0 33.41 114.26
Other 4544 0.0 50.0 30.62 109.87

How did the Nerds do?  That is a self described group and the CBC did not explicitly ask are you a nerd. They did ask a question that is a good proxy.  What do you read and the science fiction/fantasy readers scored higher than any of the other categories.

choice Total Respondents Lowest Score Highest Score Average Score Average IQ
Non-fiction 5105 0.0 50.0 31.72 112.5
Fiction 7270 0.0 50.0 32.02 113.05
Literature 1124 0.0 50.0 32.86 114.04
Horror 368 0.0 50.0 29.36 105.96
Romance 450 10.0 50.0 29.85 106.89
Science Fiction/Fantasy 1464 11.0 50.0 34.24 115.38
Crime/Detective 862 0.0 50.0 32 112.69
Comedy 281 13.0 50.0 31.49 109.24
Any other Genres 249 0.0 50.0 29.71 107.17
I don’t like to read 1092 0.0 49.0 31.25 109.27

There are a lot of other cool things in the statistics.  I find the total respondents on the religion question amazing.  There are 6182 religious people vs 3584 atheists and 3955 agnostics.  This is a much higher ratio than almost any other estimate of the percentage of atheists and agnostics in the general population.

Of course this is a self selected sample that desires to take an IQ test and not the country wide census.  The census does seem a tad low, but it asks a somewhat different questions.

There are other fun things in the results.  Such as the bigger the shoe size the higher the IQ.  You know what they say big feet, big hands-big brain.

Café Apostate

Posted in news on January 21, 2010 by saskskeptic

Were you once a member of a church but no more.  Consider hanging out with other Apostates at Café Apostate.  The next monthly get together is Sunday Jan. 17, 7:00pm – 10:00pm at Mackenzie Cole coffeeshop, 815A Gray Ave.