News quickies, part n

By Phil Plait | September 2, 2011 12:02 pm

Just some quick notes, to fill my quota give you some interesting reading:

1) Scientific American has a great article online about why it’s important to vaccinate, and how to talk to parents about it. [via George Valenzuela]

2) Speaking of which, the Autism Science Foundation — a non-profit that supports real research into autism, instead of trying to link it to vaccines despite all the evidence — was chosen as the number 1 startup charity in the "Disabilities" category by Philanthropedia/Guidestar. Congrats to them! [via Dawn Crawford]

3) The Discovery Institute isn’t completely honest? Unpossible!

4) Bill Nye helps create a sundial at Cornell University that glows when the Sun reaches its daily peak in the sky. [via Beth Quittman (my agent!)]

5) Frying pans that look like planets. Seriously. Very cool.

Comments (27)

  1. Congrats to the Autism Science Foundation. It’s great to see an Autism organization that’s not wasting their time and money perusing something that’s been disproved a dozen different times and is instead serious about researching Autism!

  2. Kirk Aplin

    I still think it would be great if someone interested in autism could define the “disease”.

  3. Naomi

    Yeah, definitely not supporting the Autism Science Foundation in any way, given that it’s run by Alison Singer. You know, the psychopath who once calmly discussed murdering her autistic daughter – in front of the daughter – because she didn’t like the idea of sending her to a special ed school, and only decided against it because of her ‘normal’ daughter. (And just to rub salt into the wound – this came immediately after the autistic daughter attempted to give her a hug. She pushed her away.)

    Yeah, it’s not pushing vaccinations as a cause. Whoopie. Given that Singer apparently has no remorse over publicly discussing murdering her daughter because she’s inconvenient, I wouldn’t be surprised if their angle was to, say, find a prenatal test to abort any foetus showing the slightest hint of neurodiversity. Special ed schools = bad! Murder the autistics! Talk about it in front of them! They can’t talk, therefore they can’t understand when their mothers say they want them dead!

    So yeah. No thanks.

  4. VinceRN

    OK, those frying pan pictures are seriously cool. I’ll have to try that out myself.

  5. CR

    Citation(s), please, Naomi…
    I’m not being snarky, I genuinely know nothing about the ASF nor about the accusations you are levelling against Alison Singer. (Your comments seem to hold an intense dislike of her, which lead me to wonder if you would still distrust the organization if she were not running it.)

  6. Timbo

    CR, Naomi’s problem could be that Alison Singer is a former VP of Communications and Awareness at Autism Speaks. She now runs this Autism Science Foundation. Alison Singer has made comments about killing her daughter, and in fact, there’s a video called “Autism Every Day.” So, right before she discusses her plan of killing her autistic child, her autistic child tried to give her mom (Singer) a hug, but Singer rejected her daughter’s hug and then goes into discussing how she wanted to kill the daughter that she just rejected. The reason for wanting to kill her own child was because she didn’t want to possibly have to enroll her child into a school for people with Special Needs. It’ actually somewhat disturbing when you watch it.

    Autism Speaks was big into pushing the vaccine theory until that was proven to be bogus. Alison Singer fully supported this, although she tries to deny it now. They also claim that people with Autism are in fact diseased, not different, and that’s not really widely accepted amongst scientists. Autism Speaks believes Autistics need to be cured and want to be cured. They don’t advocate for any support programs or services for autistics or the autistic parents. No, they need to be cured because they have a disease. This is stuff she supports and still apparently promotes, but now she has apparently changed her tune on the vaccine part. She loves using double speak.

    Next, Autism Speaks is not supported by many in the Autistic/Asperger’s community, if any. Their name is deceiving since there isn’t anyone with autism or asperger’s on their board or in higher positions. It’s a bunch of NT”s (Neuro-Typical aka Normal people) speaking for people with autism/asperger’s. They’re are plenty of autistics that can advocate and speak for themselves, yet Autism Speaks and Singer won’t allow them into the club or her new club.

    Alison Singer site indicates she supports everything that Autism Speaks does, except the vaccines part, at least for now. This woman is despised by the Autism/Asperger’s community and Naomi and me, but I’m an Aspie – means I have the Asperger “disease.” :) Autism Speaks is hated just as much, but they tend to stay away from discussing “how to kill your autistic child.” :P

    Sad that Phil promotes this lady on his blog. :(

  7. CR, certainly. Click my name for the film Autism Every Day – specifically, 5.58 to 6.32. It was produced by Autism Speaks, of which she was vice president at the time.

    What’s more, this film was deliberately staged to show the worst possible outcome. An interview with the film maker Lauren Thierry (I won’t link it as that’ll cause it to be moderated, but Google ‘lauren thierry autism every day alternet’ – the third link down, on Left Brain Right Brain, goes into it and links to the interview) revealed these three snippets:

    “”The party line is supposed to be that anything that raises awareness you’re supposed to be happy about. That notion is 10 years old. At this point we need to be showing the world what the vast reality truly is.” She says that reality includes images of kids not sleeping through the night, banging their heads against the wall or running into traffic — not images of kids setting basketball records or passionately playing the violin.”

    And yet while those may be realities, so are the mad basketball skills or the virtuoso violin talent. Excluding the good gives a distorted view of the bad.

    “Thierry told her subjects not to do their hair, vacuum or bring in the therapists. She showed up with her crew at their homes sight unseen and kept the cameras rolling as a mom literally wrestled with her son to get him to brush his teeth, as a 9-year-old had a public meltdown, as a 5-year-old had his diaper changed.”

    To clarify – she asked parents not to do day-by-day maitenance – including deliberately messing up their kids’ therapy schedules – in order to show the worst possible view.

    (About the Singer controversy:)
    “If most mothers of autistic children, Thierry responds, look hard enough within themselves they will find that they have played out a similar scenario in their minds. “If this is not your reality, then God bless you,” she says.”

    I think I can safely say that God has nothing to do with my mother being sane enough to not want to murder me.

    Four days after the film was released, incidentally, Karen McCarron murdered her autistic daughter Katie. Okay, it’d probably be grasping at straws to say that this film prompted her to do so, but it’s not actually outside the realm of possibility. When you casually have someone talk about murdering their autistic child and only stopping because of their ‘normal’ child, and when you have a film which is showing every single possible negative and no positives, it’s hard not to be influenced by it.

    The ASF, ordinarily, WOULD be something I support. I don’t believe a cure is possible or necessary, a large amount of the autistic community believes the same, but research and knowledge is still a good thing. But when it’s been run by someone who condones the murder of autistics? Yeah, I can’t get behind that.

  8. Georg

    I remember a film from the 60ties out of the English series “The Avengers”
    when John Steed gave Emma Peel a “Sundial with illumination” as a gift.

  9. Possibly another miscellaneous news story of interest here :

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Journal-editor-resigns-over-fundamentally-flawed-paper-Roy-Spencer.html

    (Click on my name for another report on that via BBC world news too.)

    Sorry if that’s too far off-topic or something.

    Also on Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating matters see :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/08/30/bill-nye-is-good/

    while this link :

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14757926

    from the BBC World News looks at the growing problem of space junk and a warning to NASA about it.

  10. Daniel J. Andrews

    The Discovery Institute isn’t completely honest? Unpossible!

    “Unpossible”? I believe the correct word that a science-type person should use is, “Incontheivable!” :)

  11. Should send some of those frying pan photos over to Nancy Atkinson of Universe Today for one of their “Where in the Universe” images. ;)

  12. Joseph G

    @#6 Timbo: They also claim that people with Autism are in fact diseased, not different, and that’s not really widely accepted amongst scientists. Autism Speaks believes Autistics need to be cured and want to be cured. They don’t advocate for any support programs or services for autistics or the autistic parents. No, they need to be cured because they have a disease.

    I may be taking things a bit personally here, but the “Autism isn’t a disease at all” position really disturbs me. I think it’s because it reminds me a lot of”Deaf culturalists” who are opposed to curing deafness and insist that it be recognized more like an ethnic group. Some have even gone so far as to advocate against genetic research that could prevent chilren being born deaf.
    I’m sorry, but this is pure self-deluded bull***t. Admittedly, I have a dog in this fight, as I was functionally deaf for most of my life (surgery and hearing aids ultimately got me to a relatively un-impaired state, at least when there isn’t too much wind or background noise). I cant help but think that there’s a “sour grapes” element to a lot of the Deafhood (yes, it’s a word) movement. It’s much more palatable to see yourself as a unique minority group then someone who is missing out on a beautiful part of life.
    I’m not on the spectrum, so I’m not going to make any sweeping statements there, or assert that the two situations are analogous, only that I work with an autistic individual, and after seeing what he goes through… If I could cure him, I would. In a heartbeat. Without asking any long-winded philosophical questions or consulting his parents or anything. Any fallout I’d suffer would be worth it to me. I’d be out of a job, and I’d be thrilled. It absolutely breaks my heart seeing the depths of despair he falls into which are directly attributable to his ASD.
    Now, I’ve heard it said that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. If others on the spectrum are happy, that’s just great. And certainly I believe in working for
    education and support programs for Autistics and their families. And it does, as far as I’m aware, seem like actually curing ASDs is out of the question – it’d have to be a question of prenatal prevention.
    But I’m still holding out for a cure (or an identified cause and prevention plan). Try as I might, I just can’t see it as anything other then a disorder.

  13. Joseph G

    Oops, double post.
    Anyway, thanks for letting me vent… No offense intended to any folks on the spectrum who may see it differently or have a problem with my deafness comparison. We can agree to disagree.

    Edit: Naomi: That’s… interesting. I can’t get the video to work, so I’ll take your word for it.
    Talk about your awkward interview moments…

  14. @10. Daniel J. Andrews :

    The Discovery Institute isn’t completely honest? Unpossible!
    “Unpossible”? I believe the correct word that a science-type person should use is, “Incontheivable!”

    That word. I don’t think it means what you think it means!? ;-)

    (Click on my name for inconcievable montage.) :-D

    @13. Joseph G : No worries & no offence taken. :-)

    Now, I’ve heard it said that if you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.

    That’s definitely NOT the case in my experience.

  15. DaveN

    RE item #3… Press-Release-Gate? Discovery-Gate?

  16. CR

    Thanks to those who responded to my citation request… I’ll check out the info after this busy weekend. (Some of us in the US actually work over Labor Day weekend.)

  17. A few more miscellaneous news stories of note :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2011/08/26/former-sun-like-star-is-now-a-diamond-planet/

    A crystalline former star becoems a giant diamond shining on .. who knows what worlds. ;-)

    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/4700/new-mars-site-more-favourable-life

    Mars news with the Opportunity taken for an Aussie twist on some place names.

    Plus :

    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/galleries/gallery-e6frecgc-1226126742497?page=1

    purty piccies from Lake Eppalock, near Bendigo, Oz. Enjoy. :-)

    PS. Click my name for the bonus musical item from Fred Watson, Director of the Australian Astronomical Observatory -formerly the Anglo-Australian Observatory. :-)

  18. mike burkhart

    Hate to plug Astronomy magazine again but this months issue has an article on what came before the big bang ,looks at the curent theorys on what ma have caused it and what was before.

  19. Now you’ve made me feel bad, Phil. My frying pan just looks like a… frying pan!

  20. Joseph G

    @14 MTU: That’s definitely NOT the case in my experience.
    You mean all autistic people are very similar?

    @18 Marianne: Mine looks very much like the surface of a metallic asteroid, but that’s because it’s extremely old :-P

    Also, I would think Mercury and Venus would be the only appropriate objects to represent on a frying pan (maybe hypothetical Vulcanoids, too). Most everything else would be better represented on things like ice cream bowls :-P

  21. Daniel J. Andrews
  22. Nigel Depledge

    @ Joseph G (12) –

    Have you ever read Elizabeth Moon’s novel Speed of Dark?

    In it, a group of gifted autistic people are offered the opportunity for a “cure”, and there’s a great deal of debate about whether such a fundamental change to a person would prevent them from being the same person afterwards. I’ll not go into detail in case I spoil the story.

  23. @ ^ Nigel Depledge : I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of that Elizabeth Moon novel and read that – hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks. :-)

    @20. Joseph G :

    @14 MTU: That’s definitely NOT the case in my experience.
    You mean all autistic people are very similar?

    Er, no, the opposite of that. Maybe I misunderstood the original comment?

    @20. Joseph G :

    Also, I would think Mercury and Venus would be the only appropriate objects to represent on a frying pan (maybe hypothetical Vulcanoids, too). Most everything else would be better represented on things like ice cream bowls.

    What about Hot Jupiters, Mustafar-like exoplanets* and Sun-grazing comets? ;-)

    * Some have been perhaps discovered such as COROT-7b (click my name for wiki-basics), Kepler-10b & Gliese 581 e.

  24. Nigel Depledge

    @ MTU (23) –
    No worries!

  25. Joseph G

    @22 Nigel Depledge: Sounds interesting. I’ve never heard of that one, though I have read some other stuff by Elizabeth Moon that I liked. Going on the reading list :)

    @23 MTU: Cool! I love reading about exoplanets. I almost forgot to post because I wandered off for an hour googling exoplanet links :P

  26. Chris Winter

    RE: Item 1, I’ve just finished a good book on vaccines (among other topics):

    Denialism
    Michael Specter
    New York: Penguin Press, 2009

    The Introduction and the first chapter are somewhat disorganized, but the rest of the book is good. Especially check out Chapter 2 — “Vaccines and the Great Denial”. Every chapter is full of information, but this is the best in my opinion.

  27. Here’s an article from the Cornell Chronicle about Bill Nye and the dedication of the new clock. :D

    http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Aug11/NyeSolarClock.html

    [“Look at that — it’s fantastic!” exclaimed Bill Nye ’77, as a sun-shaped circle on the face of the new Bill Nye Solar Noon Clock at Rhodes Hall began to glow against a cloudy bright sky. A crowd of hundreds at Hoy Field cheered.]

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