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Amazing article. Well put. I wonder how the effect of race goes the other way. White people voting for him because he's black. Because they just want to see that milestone reached in american culture.

I think it is unfortunate that you seem to be basing your opinion of Palin on her beliefs, and not her achievements. In less than two years, she's practically dismantled the Republican machine in her home state. While I find her scientific credentials to be lacking, her ability to take out vested interests in her own party is something that the Democratic candidates haven't shown.

I am basing my opinion on her stated policies, with which I disagree. She can believe whatever she wants.

Thank you for that post. It cut right to the base of both the scientific and broader issues at hand. I agree that, "all across America something is stirring," and think actions such as your speaking up are exactly what can help move our country forward.

Great, great post, Jennifer. I'd offer one caveat to your praise of John McCain's position on global warming: his advisors and his decision not to vote on his own proposal (or the Warner/Lieberman version of it) suggest that his commitment is about the same as that of candidate Bush back in 1999-2000: a promise not meant to be kept, or even believed by the dog-whistle right.

Also, if anyone cares -- I wrote an earlier, perhaps bare-knuckled, analysis of McCain on science that can be found here:

Short form: McCain's budget priorities doom any real hope for support for science in the most tangible ways should he become President.

Thanks Tom. I was, of course, basing the post on what the candidates actually say. I don't follow politics closely enough to keep track of all the individual voting records on issues, but certainly that is relevant information...

Thank you for writing this article. It voices many of my same thoughts and questions... but in the end just solidifies my belief that Obama is the right man for the job at this time. I have voted republician for as long as I can remember, but that is no more.


While this is an excellent post, and one that, considering that it comes from avowed independent, heartens me greatly, I have a nit to pick with you.

You write that you "couldn't care less" about the "tawdry family squabble" back in Alaska, but you should really look into the particulars of the investigation. Abuse of executive power, even if not yet confirmed, by an elected official (and potential VP !) should get more attention than it does in this day and age. Perhaps the awesome fecklessness of the last 8 years has inured the public to such things, but I expect better from a self-professed journalist, even if politics is not your primary beat.

Well, Boonie, I expect better from my commenters sometimes, too. :) If that's your only nit in 3000-plus-word post, I think I'm already doing much better than most...

"I am basing my opinion on her stated policies, with which I disagree."

Ah ha. I tend to ignore statements that candidates make and look ad their previous records. But I'm sort of jaded.

Obama fought to restore funding of Fermilab. He also emailed some scientists at
Triumf at UBC, Canada (meson facility) (my son works there) to offer support. I think that scientists have an advocate rather than a Luddite who says he gets his wife when the internet comes up.
BTW Sarah Palin slashed funding for housing to support teen pregnancy, wants Creationism taught in
schools, and is against choice in the cases of rape and incest. That and murdering Moose, shooting off AK-47s---she is a real Republican dream girl....

Less seriously than your analysis of McCain:

Or you could also have looked at the Physics Today web site, as we went through all the policy documents months ago, and posted a critique of their documents to the web. Its updated weekly and we're blogging the conventions daily.

Fantastic post, Jen. (And I especially appreciate the plug for Science Debate 2008. It would be great if they could pull it off, but I don't think McCain will go for it. Obama accepted already.

that's much what I thought about Sarah Palin. Bad for science Perhaps I'm more of a feminist hardliner then you, because I thought bad for women also. But so far it's good; her family struggles have opened up real discussion on those issues.

I didn't know that about Obama and opening up at the media. As a former, um, Clear Channel employee, freelance writer and death-before censorship free speech activist, that's an issue near and dear to my heart (and my wallet). Thanks for mentioning it.

Jennifer - I am a new fan of Cocktail Party Physics, and continue to be impressed. Thanks for writing such a lucid and far-reaching piece.

What a scintillating and riviting (spell? - apologies...not strong point) post! Thank you very much. I have not had a chance to get to get a clear perspective on the issues and so your article was eye opening especially with refernce to Obama's ideas about the media, science and technology. It was also kind of you to add the Denver speech. He is impressive indeed!
Great piece! I shall send as many people to it as i can.

Chuck-- Well, yes, candidates have been known to lie about their stated positions. What a shocker. :) Nonetheless, those official positions do tell us something about them: how they want to be perceived. That's why I only linked to external sources like Science Debate 2008, and just focused on what the campaign sites themselves said. This is what they say to put themselves in the best possible light -- and the McCain campaign fails miserably on the S&T/education front. There are many other non-S&T-related reasons why my choice this election is Obama but for this blog, I kept it to S&T. :)

BTW, let me officially apologize publicly to Paul G and the folks at Physics Today for not providing a link to their election coverage. It's excellent and very in-depth. I'll update the post shortly to include the link in the text.

I am actually starting to feel bad for Sarah Palin. But not for McCain and his campaign. It was unfair of them to thrust her forward with so little preparation and almost no vetting. I don't feel bad enough not to be TERRIFIED they could win, however....

The nearest thing to a white Obama is the UK's Tony Blair - another self-serving poster boy lawyer/orator. Obama is no more a nigga (the racial epithet that dare not spell its name) than Blair is a socialist - what you have is an image exquisitely crafted to exploit the zeitgeist. Look at the mess the UK is in - in 1997 'New Labour' came to power on a tsunami of goodwill and with the benefit of a much healthier world economy than we have now. This capital was dissipated in an orgy of self-congratulatory public and personal expenditure and ill-advised foreign policy. Your man Obama could easily do the same: be careful what you wish for. The SU's party should have chosen Hilary.

I love it when Brits think they know more about our politics than we do. :)

New reader of this blog, and glad to find this discussion taking place. Jennifer, I'm curious: after last night's speech, do you still feel bad for Palin? My $0.02: it was nasty, it was smug, and it was one long ad-hominem attack with little of real substance. The gloves are clearly off, and as far as I'm concerned she deserves whatever drubbing she gets.

Thoughtful, clear, outstanding post. Thanks --

Yeah, you're right, I no longer feel as sorry for Palin -- even though she was just reading a prepared speech technically written for a different VP nominee to give -- but I still think the Obama campaign should stay classy and keep driving home the "patriotism has no party" and "if you don't have any issues, you make it about personality and you shamelessly smear your opponent" message. Because it's true. And there are plenty of us who are really drawn to Obama precisely because he's chosen to play things differently. It IS possible to be tough AND fair when campaigning against one's opponent.

It wasn't just Palin. The entire night was nasty, arrogant, and smug. These people have NO shame and no sense of irony. Mitt Romney waxing poetic about Northeast elisitm? REALLY??? They had their "script," and I guess it doesn't much matter who said what, so long as everyone stayed on message. Which they did. And they shamelessly exploited her pregnant daughter. Poor kid.

It reinforces everything Independents like me loathe about presidential politics. Maybe one day the GOP will come out of the Dark Ages, and I'll be able to vote for their candidate again. [I have voted for moderate Republicans at the city and state level, BTW. It all depends on the candidates, and who I think is the best person for the job at that particular time.]

Haphazardly discovered your blog a few months back and truly enjoy learning something new (or getting switched on a nifty link) each time I visit. The subjects you write about are often a good deal over my noggin, but I think female science geeks are awesome.

S&T was something that must have washed over me back in high school (I'm 41 now) or I just didn't get to delve in as much as I could / should. Geez - I don't even own an I-pod, use much of my cell phone's capabilities and don't have a home computer or laptop.

Your original posting and this comment thread has been right in line with my thoughts. It's personally satisfying that not everyone in America is asleep at the wheel about honesty, changes needed, new blood in place, moving forward, fixing what's gone wrong here in the US, ect. Sigh, it goes on and on and I've never considered myself "political". This year, I'm very interested (even if my gal is out of the running).

The pundits and commentators this morning (at least the 10 min of NBC coverage I caught) were critiquing Mrs Palin's speech as bold, aggresive and all around swell. I thought she came off as shrill, mean, haughty and out of her league (state gov 'experience' or not). And the fact that she finds a way to insert personal religious ideals in there (during the course of the week's stories and citations), bugs me to no end. I believe there should always be separation.

My fingers are tightly crossed that Obama prevails in November (but he really should have picked Hillary for Veep though [wink]). His speech last week was so very strong and I admire that he has kept it classy so far. I'm staying tuned.

Jennifer--the Palin delivery was superb, but it shows she can act and read a teleprompter. Undoubtedly, she is impressive, but her core beliefs are repellent to me. This short commentary from the Huffington Post summarises well my objections:
One commentator said that the Republican ticket was Mr. Burns and Marg Simpson (the beehive/Librarian schtick).

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.