Akin Breakin’ Science

Reprinted courtesy of Discover Magazine’s Bad Astronomy column

— by Phil Plait

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the mantle of the Earth this week, you probably heard what Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said about women’s bodies and rape. If you haven’t, my friend Matt Lowry at Skeptical Teacher has the lowdown.

But in a nutshell – apt phrasing, that — Akin claimed that:

First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare… If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

This is so appallingly ignorant — to be kind — that it makes my brain explode. Pregnancy from rape is not rare; tens of thousands occur every year. His claim about the female body is complete claptrap, nonsense. And his use of the word “legitimate” is just grossly insulting. As President Obama said the next day: “Rape is rape”.

So here we have a man who has not just no knowledge of what happens during rape and conception, but actually provably wrong knowledge. And he makes laws about these things.

It’s clear that Akin’s beliefs are driven by his religious fundamentalism. This would be a matter of concern to me for any lawmaker, but you have to understand: he sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee!

The irony in this should be evident.

Article continues at Bad Astronomy.

Video from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show follows the jump.

Look Out Here It Comes (in 4 billion years)

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice rarely covers Astronomy, but we just got big news from NASA. This is really big news. Actually this is news that stretches a 2.6 million light years to our galaxy’s nearest neighbor the Andromeda Galaxy. We have long known that although the universe in general is expanding and most galaxies have a red-shift indicating they are moving away from us, the Andromeda Galaxy is actually blue-shifted indicating that it is approaching us at 190 miles per second.

Until recently Astronomers had no way to measure the Andromeda Galaxy’s transverse (or sideways) motion, so they couldn’t tell if our galaxies were doomed to collide or if they were merely passing in the night. Now, thanks to seven years of painstaking observations by the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA astronomers have been able to determine that the Andromeda Galaxy is aimed straight at us and will collide in four billion years.

The art work on the right shows what this might look like from Earth. The first image shows the current night sky with our Milky Way visible as a milky band in a dark sky and the Andromeda Galaxy is a small smudge. In successive images you can see the Andromeda Galaxy approach, interact with our galaxy, passing through it and then falling back to form a single vast elliptical galaxy after a total of 7 billion years.

NASA’s animation follows the jump.