Friday coffee break

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Sarah: Going on a century after the Scopes trial, the Tennessee state senate has passed a bill that would permit teaching Creationism as science in public schools.

The sponsors say that it’s meant to improve science education and do all sorts of wonderful things. I think they’d say that it cleans your floors too, if you asked them. The effect of the bill, regardless of what they might want to say that it does, would be to make it harder for parents and teachers and administrators to make sure that science was being taught accurately in science classes. It would open the door to creationism, it would open the door to climate change denial, and to other sorts of pseudosciences being introduced into Tennessee classrooms.

And from Jeremy: A series of thought experiments illuminate the reasons why in statistics, numbers may not add up the way you think they should.

Now, on to statisticians, who take another view entirely. To them it matters what else could have been said and the interpretations that can pop up when math is released into the real world. “For example,” says Devlin, “we’re taught that multiplication is commutative, that 3 × 4 is the same as 4 × 3; but in the real world three bags of four apples isn’t the same as four bags of three apples.”