500. . . . . BILLION

You could buy a lot with that amount of money.

You can even buy five years of war, since on the 20th of this month Americans can 'celebrate' the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent occupation of Iraq.

Well before that (in fact, in four days) the total price tag for the war will exceed the title of this post, and the spending continues, to the tune of $275 million a day, over $190,000 per minute. You can learn more about what this is costing our government, and your community, at this site.

Why so costly? Because much of the monies is being used to build permanent American military facilities in the Iraqi desert, on a scale virtually unmatched in the history of the US military. Amazingly, many Americans I mention this to are either completely surprised to learn the depth of that commitment, or (even worse) completely unconcerned about what this commitment implies for the future of that region. It is naive to believe that the next Administration, whatever the party, is simply going to hand off such an investment to the Iraqi government. Iraqis may well have free elections and eventually reach a consensus on how to govern those parts of Iraq that we don't have a tactical interest in, but they will never be free to kick us out, it seems.

In the meantime, I will add a counter to my blog to attest to the most expensive military operation in the history of the world. A desperately sad memento, for which the documentation supporting its model is here.

Click here to learn more


What's in a name, that is. Here's the kind of personal story that is quintessentially American and also displays the sort of values that I think people of faith are called to. We need to do a better job of listening to each other, for starters, and that includes listening to people who are very different from us, and who may not share any of our assumptions about faith. Or, they may share our faith, and yet have a very different cultural experience, a different path to our common goal.

At any rate, I pray you consider it.


Contrarian pundit Vox Day, whose thought has graced my blog previously in this exchange, is profoundly skeptical about the scientific enterprise as currently organized. Here's his assessment:

Because at this time, there is no other group of humans on the planet that is doing more to imperil human existence and not very many that are doing more to imperil human liberty.

Well, I'm not going to debate libertarianism with Vox. I have plenty of people in my life who hold libertarian views that I enjoy talking with. However, I do have some quibbles about his attempt (which is more fully developed in his polemical book The Irrational Atheist) to redefine science in terms of activities that he likes and activities he doesn't care for.

Vox likes to talk of scientistry, scientody, and other self-appointed neologisms, and the unmistakable impression I receive is that he resents the relative standing of science in the intellectual world and would like to see it taken down a peg. In this respect Vox Day, the 'Christian Libertarian and Forensic Atheologist', has more in common with the science envy displayed by post-modern readers in the sociology of science. In fact, the two use much the same tactics, as described here:

"...the worst of the crank-turners have turned postmodernism itself into a fundamentalist doctrine. And the first commandment of this newfangled religion is to challenge “regimes of truth” wherever they may lurk. Unfortunately, a number of dogmatists have unreflectively applied this approach to science. The problem is that science already has an infinitely more rigorous screening process in the scientific method. Unlike the claims made in many of the so-called social sciences, scientific hypotheses are subjected to high levels of scrutiny and forced to withstand attacks from every conceivable angle."

Vox rather drolly ends his most recent broadside at the institution of science with these words:

And now, science fans, you may provide your socially autistic and rhetorically deaf responses for the amusement of the audience.

I responded on Vox's blog as follows:

Gee, Vox, why would I bother? The primary purpose of doing science is to investigate the natural world, not fulminate on this or that political/cultural issue. Science blogging is a very small subset of activity by scientists, and of course much of it isn't science or education, but whatever strikes the fancy of the blogger.

In other words, just like your place. Like the science bloggers, you've got yourself a little playground to talk about what interests you. And if it amuses you to taunt people like PZ Myers, that's what you do. But, if much of Pharyngula and other science blogs isn't real science, then it follows that they shouldn't be the primary basis for any criticism of science in general....eh?

Meanwhile, I urge all your posters to consider that the means by which we interact was, ultimately, made possible by the application of science. Al Gore aside, the Internet wasn't a product of rhetoric, tone-deaf or otherwise, nor was it wished into existence by fervent supplication. It came into being because some intrepid people investigated the natural world, discovered (at some cost) regularities, and then shared their findings with the world, where eventually their utility was exploited by the clever and inventive.

That's what I call science, Vox, and that's what people like me are eager to defend.

Anyway, that's what I wrote and I was getting ready to put this dog to bed when I came across a cute little note from fellow Molly winner Blake Stacey about the effects of a series of posts over at Pharyngula. Essentially, the owner of that blog (PZ Myers) was instrumental in marshaling his readership to investigate possible plagiarism and other sins in a peer-reviewed publication, as described here.

What makes this especially fascinating is that it shows that peer review is (of course!) not perfect, as it is done by human beings; at the same time, it shows that the larger role of the scientific community to 'review' the reviewers is well-served by the existence of a network of science bloggers! So, Vox, if you're reading this, please acknowledge that science blogging, even if not science itself, contributes to an important part of the scientific method, which is peer review. One might even call it meta-science, if I may be allowed a neologism of my own....



Experimental science isn't for the faint-of-heart or easily discouraged. Thompson supposedly broke every cathode ray tube placed in his not-so-deft fingers in route to discovering the electron, to the great exasperation of the technicians who facilitated his work.

Here's a contemporary breakdown of experimental challenges from the physicist Chad Orzel that has one really cool picture and one droll description of equipment persnicketiness. Enjoy!



Geography is a wonderful discipline.

One can study geography from a physical point of view, or from a cultural point of view, and the next two upcoming Valley Cafe Scientifique talks are going to look at time's geography in different senses!

The phrase adorning this post, by the way, is the memorable title of a book by CSU Fresno Professor Robert Levine, the same Dr. Robert Levine who will be giving the next talk, this coming Monday.

Levine's talk will be no doubt a distillation and (perhaps) some refinements of the views expressed in his award-winning book, which essentially involves many fascinating cross-cultural comparisons of the psychological experience of time.

Now I have to wonder.

If, by writing short, choppy sentences, will you read faster?

Or not? Will it be truly faster, or will it have the weird counter-intuitive effect of slowing things down----just as repeated stolen base attempts and the efforts to stop basepath larceny slow down the pace of baseball games. Does the sort of recreation chosen affect the way time passes in our minds?

Maybe Dr. Levine will have an answer to questions like that!

Anyway. . . (tick, tock). . .

The presentation will occur on Monday, March 3rd, at 6:30 PM. Valley Cafe Sci will again be hosted by the exotic new Fresno eatery
Lucy's Lair, which has again agreed to put together a special buffet for the event.

For more information about the locale, here's the address/phone number for Lucy's Lair.

10063 N Maple Ave

Fresno, CA 93730

(559) 433-9775



Well, I'm sure regular readers of this blog can guess where I stand on that question, but let no one think that because the issue is raised in this blog that I somehow claim to have the final word, much less a proof of same. The reason I mention it is because I have been asked to moderate (whatever that entails, details are murky) the second phase of a symposium Apr. 19-20 sponsored by Fresno's New Covenant Church, the first phase of which is a free debate at CSU Fresno with the above as the resolution for discussion.

(Disclaimer: I am probably unworthy of this opportunity. The main reason I've been asked is that I happen to have some friends who are non-believers and active participants in this event, and who trust me to give them a fair shake. I'm going to try my best to give everyone a fair shake, and I hope that those who attend will comment on what transpires here. All comments and criticisms will be accepted and appreciated in the spirit given.)

Anyway, for more information on this event, which features the well-known Dinesh D'Sousa and Michael Schermer, please read my friend Mark's blog.



Well, kinda sorta. I haven't posted in a few days, which is not like me, so to those readers popping in to check (I know you're out there), I'm sorry I haven't had much new to report. Here's the quick skinny on Hatfield's crazed existence with new items, etc.:

  • I've had four three-day weekends in the last six weeks due to the way the district wrote our schedule. It probably hasn't been in the best interests of my students, but I've had more free time than usual and as a consequence have been able to blog quite a bit. Well, those days are gone until Spring Break.

  • My son (sigh) got a better grade in a recent assessment in the course we're taking together, and I think he was just whistling in the dark when he did it. There may be hope for him yet.

  • My parents are visiting SoCal (my brother's neck of the wood) from Texas this week, so I'm planning to make a trek.

  • The house is on the market....again.

  • I'm on a new diet routine. Now I need some exercise. But when will I find time with tutoring on Tuesdays, class on Wednesday, choir on Thursday and ancillary groups competing for my time? When will softball get started again?

Any way, stay tuned....!