Some much needed love for Jake Delhomme

So I sit here, writing this as I watch Matt Ryan and Drew Brees duel in the Superdome in Louisiana. I have heard all about the great talents of both quarterbacks and how great they are. This I do not deny. They are clearly two of the better quarterbacks in the NFC, probably even in the NFL.

What I want to write about though is the quarterback of my favorite team, the Carolina Panthers. Yup. You read that right. I want to defend Jake Delhomme. Mr. Turnover. Joke Delhomme. Whatever other nickname you have for him. I’m talking about him.

First, the man has to be one of the most mentally tough quaterbacks to ever play the game. To go through as much scrutiny and criticism from fans as he has and to still have any kind of confidence is incredible. I doubt many quarterbacks could go through what Delhomme has. Even Kurt Warner said he felt for Delhomme and what he was going through…and then he went and threw 5 interceptions and a lost a fumble against the Panthers – the same turnover stats Delhomme had against the Cardinals in the playoffs.

There is much more to playing the quarterback position than just throwing the ball. It’s about managing the game, knowing the offense, the right play calls to make, the right audibles to call. It’s something many fans overlook and forget about. Panthers fans want us to have our own Peyton Manning, our own Drew Brees. But we do not need that. We just need someone who can hand the ball off, make the correct audible calls when needed and not turn the ball over.

Ok, you are probably saying ‘Wait a minute, Delhomme has 13 picks this year and you’re saying you need a QB who doesn’t turn the ball over? Are you drunk and high right now?’ I am neither. I have watched Delhomme this entire year. I’m seeing changes. I’m thinking we may have turned a corner with him. And what corner is this you ask? Don’t put Jake in bad positions. Don’t make him throw 30-40 times a game. Don’t put him in 3rd and long situations where everyone knows we will be passing it. For whatever reason, it has now hit offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson that we should run the ball more than we should pass it. For whatever reason, this past week, against the number 1 rush defense in the NFL, we were able to run whenever and wherever we wanted to when one week earlier, we couldn’t do anything against the worst rush D in the NFL.

So, to all the fans who want to see Delhomme benched, to them I say this: I am arguably the biggest Panther fan I know. The only person who compares with me is my friend Frey. I more or less live and die by Panthers wins and losses. Ask anyone who knows me. They’ll vouch for me. I want to see this team win and as a fan, I’m gonna support the quarterback that gives our team the best chance to win. And whether you want to believe it or not, Jake Delhomme is our quarterback. So Panther fans, can we please get behind our quarterback and start supporting him 100% again? Please?

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Elon looks forward to Barack Obama’s presidency, what he has to say about issues in his inaugural address

But not everyone agrees on what they want to hear the President-elect talk about in his speech.

By Russell Varner
December 11, 2008

After one of the most highly anticipated elections in American history, America now has the most anticipated inaugural speech in American history to look forward to as well, not just because of the magnitude of this past election, but also because of the great number of issues the President-elect will have to deal with while in office.

President George W. Bush’s failures have been well documented by the media. He will leave office with America in a much worse condition than it was when he took over, many agree. America is deep in debt to many countries, are involved in a war that no one wishes to be a part of and are suffering through one of the toughest times for the American economy since the Great Depression.

Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo courtesy of www.barack-obama.tv)

Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo courtesy of http://www.barack-obama.tv)

But what do people want President-elect Obama to cover during his inaugural address to the American public? It’s as varied as the problems that America is facing today.

“Healthcare, the job situation, the situation to help the elderly get help, there’s a lot of issues,” said Michele Tyndall, a tax collector and receptionist at the Elon Town Hall.

Some issues, though, came up more than others.

“The most important one though is to end the war [in Iraq] and to send the troops home,” said Tyndall. “We’ve been there too long already.”

“For me, I think Obama must address the world scene,” said David Copeland, a communications professor at Elon University. “The U.S. involvement in hostile activities has left the nation in a less-than-positive light in many countries. He needs to assert himself into a world leadership role immediately. I think most of the world is simply waiting for him to do so.”

Another issue that continually reared its ugly head was the struggling American economy.

“I also think that President Obama must address the crises that this nation faces,” said Copeland. “The economic situation has millions concerned, and I think they are looking to him to help fix the mess.”

“I think that the paramount issue is the economy,” said Earl Danieley, President Emeritus and a professor of chemistry at Elon University. “I hope that he can outline a comprehensive program of positive steps which will address this issue.”

Danieley also said that our relationship with other nations around the world is one of great interest to him and that “obviously, the Middle East has to be high on this agenda.” In addition, Danieley indicated an interest in the energy issues, saying “I do not think that conservation can solve the major problems. I hope for renewed interest in nuclear energy.”

There are others, though, that are interested in more personal matters that ‘big picture’ matters such as the debt and the war in Iraq.

“I would like to hear Barack Obama talk about how he is going to make higher education more accessible and affordable to everybody that wants an education,” said MarQuita Barker, an assistant director of Resident Life at Elon University.

“The biggest issue that we need in this country is freedom,” said Carl Saconn, a local Elon resident. “Now you may think I’m crazy, but we don’t have any freedom. Everything is regulated by the state. Land, zoning, property taxes, cars, even inspections of automobiles.”

“The people in this country got to start thinking, ‘Basically, we’ve lost our freedom. You cannot do nothing without the state.’ Property tax is basically taxation by terrorism because of the fear of losing their life.”

“The human existence requires food, shelter and clothing. When the government taxes any of those three essentials to the human existence, it’s putting you in a precarious position of slavery.”

“I’ll tell ya, the pen in mighty. But, the only problem with that is that we live in the age of stupidity.”

As Ben Parker told Peter Parker in the first Spider-Man movie, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Barack Obama will soon be among the most powerful people in the world and may be the most scrutinized President in American history. But, one thing he does have going for him is that the American public has his back.

“I will be disappointed if we get sweeping generalities,” said Danieley. “I hope for specifics designed to really solve problems. I really wish him well. We need leadership as we have rarely needed it.”

“I think [Obama] needs to offer the nation hope and challenge,” said Copeland. “He intimated some of this in his Grant Park speech on election night. Americans are in great need of a president that sees the big picture, that expects the country’s citizens to be actively involved in redirecting the nation. If Obama can capture, as I believe he can, the hope, promise and determination of John Kennedy’s inauguration speech and the same from speeches by Martin Luther King then he can go a long way toward giving this nation a sense that things can be fixed.”

For video and texts of President-elect Barack Obama’s radio address on the economy given on December 6, visit http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/the_key_parts_of_the_jobs_plan/.

Michele Tyndall talks about what she wants to hear President-elect Obama talk about in his inaugural speech

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Math Tools: Chapters 9-12

Chapter 9: Directional Measurements
By Russell Varner
December 4, 2008

I tried to think of some catchy and humorous intro sentence for this, but I couldn’t think of anything better than what Kathleen Woodruff Wickham said to begin Chapter 9: “Time, rate and distance problems are more than middle school headaches.”

It speaks the truth. Directional measurements are an important part of many newspaper stories. Thus, here are some tips to help you out next time you have to include it in an article:

•Don’t simply rely on numbers provided by the people involved in the story. Checking the numbers given to you usually only takes a few basic math problems.
•The basic formula for time, rate and distance is the same for all three, usually involving just a slight variation.
Distance = rate x time
Rate = distance / time
Time = distance / rate
•Mile vs. Knot: A mile equals 5,280 feet and a nautical mile equals 6,080 feet. A knot, on the other hand, is just a measure of speed and one knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour.
•Speed and velocity are not one in the same, though they are often used interchangeably. Speed only measures how fast something is moving, while velocity also includes direction as well as speed. The formula for average speed is as follows: Average speed = distance / time.
•The formula for acceleration is: Acceleration = (ending velocity – starting velocity) / time. You can alter this formula to find any of the other elements. For example, Ending velocity = (acceleration x time) + starting velocity.
•One way to measure acceleration is g-force. Acceleration produced by gravity is measured at 9.8 meters per second per second (9.8 m/s2).
•Say you want to know how fast something was moving but only know how far it fell? To find that, use the following equation: Ending speed = the square root of 2(acceleration x distance).
•Mass and weight are not the same thing. Remember that. Mass is a measure of amount while weight is a measure of the force of gravity pulling on an object.
•Momentum is the force necessary to stop an object from moving. The formula to find momentum is quite simple to remember, too. It is just as follows: Momentum = mass x velocity.
•A decibel (dB) is a unit of measure for the intensity of sound. But remember, sound intensity does not equal “loudness” (“loudness” being a subjective measure of how one’s ears perceive sound).

Problems
1.) You are assigned to cover a marathon for your local newspaper. The runners are supposed to run 25 miles around downtown and the surrounding areas. If the average runner ran at 4 mph, how long would it take him or her to finish the race?
-6.25 hours
2.) You have now been upgraded to covering NASCAR for the newspaper and they want you to cover the Daytona 500. Jimmie Johnson won the race in 4 hours and the drivers have to go 500 miles. What was his average speed?
-125 mph
3.) You have to now drive cross-country in order to cover the Grammy Awards because your editors just can’t figure out what to do with you. It takes you 12 hours to get to Los Angeles while you drive 70 mph and thankfully run into no traffic jams or cops. How far did you just drive?
-840 miles
4.) On just 4 hours of sleep and armed with two 12-packs of Red Bulls, you now have to drive back from Los Angeles. On the way back you witness a big wreck when a truck swerves off the road and into a tree. If the truck weighed 550 pounds and had a velocity of 60, what was the truck’s momentum when it ran into the tree?
-33,000

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Engel’s first year a success as she mentors men’s and women’s cross-country

By Russell Varner
December 3, 2008

New Elon track and field and cross country coach Christine Engel (Photo courtesy of elonphoenix.com)

New Elon track and field and cross-country coach Christine Engel (Photo courtesy of elonphoenix.com)

It was less than three months ago that Christine Engel was introduced as Elon’s new men’s and women’s cross-country head coach as well the assistant coach for the track and field teams. It didn’t take long for her to leave her mark.

In her first year, she got the men’s team to finish 19th in the NCAA Regionals, its highest finish ever in the event and led the women’s team to a 27th place finish in the Regionals and had two of her runners, sophomore Emily Fourier and freshman Melanie Reyer, named to the All-SoCon team.

“My first year here has been a great experience so far,” said Engel, who left Columbia University to coach the Phoenix. “The team has responded well and has really embraced the change.”

“It is usually tough for a first year coach to get everyone on board with a new way of doing things and thinking,” said Mark Elliston, the head coach of Elon’s track and field team. “However, I believe that Coach Engel has been able to get the cross-country teams behind the new direction she is taking the program. Team members comment to me that they like what’s happening and the new attitude in many areas of the program. So that’s always good.”

Engel has been involved with track and field since she was just a little girl and she hasn’t left the sport since.

“I started competing at age seven,” said Engel, a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection as a member of Clemson’s cross-country team. “This sport has given me so much and now I get to help young men and women as well.”

While at Clemson, she was a member of the Tigers’ school record-setting 4×800-meter relay, distance medley relay and 4×1500-meter relay teams and competed on Clemson’s ACC champion distance medley relay squad. Engel’s name fills the Tigers’ record books, ranking in the top-five in the 800-meter run and the mile and owning the Littlejohn Coliseum record for the 800 meters. Her standout career was recognized with her inclusion on the Clemson University Athletic Wall of Fame.

Even before her time at Clemson, Engel was making a name for herself at Mount Olive High School in New Jersey, where she earned All-American honors, was a six-time New Jersey Meet of Champions winner in the 1600 meters and was named New Jersey’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year in 1992.

After graduating from Clemson in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management, Engel would then travel across the country and become an assistant men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field coach at the University of San Francisco, where, during her 3 years at the school, she helped both the men’s and women’s programs turn in the most successful seasons in program history and achieved two runner-up finishes at the West Coast Conference Championships.

Christine Engel works hard preparing her team for the NCAA Regionals.

Christine Engel works hard preparing her team for the NCAA Regionals.

While coaching the Dons, nine runners earned first team all-conference accolades and the team reached its highest conference and NCAA Regional finishes in USF history. Two of her athletes were even named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District team.

After the three years at the University of San Francisco, she was then hired at Columbia University in New York as an assistant cross-country and track and field coach. She was only there for one year, but during those twelve months, she would help guide three student-athletes to All-Ivy League honors in cross-country and two to All-Northeast Region accolades. She also coached Carmen Ballard to All-American honors and a 23rd-place NCAA finish in cross-country. Her runners obtained five qualifying marks for the 2008 NCAA East Regional Championships as well.

Though if you ask Engel was she is most proud of during her time involve with cross-country and track and field, none of her individual accomplishments are ever mentioned.

“I’m real proud of Emily [Fourier] getting 1st team all-conference in m first year as a coach, the All-American I coached at Columbia and helping people qualify for the Olympic Trials. That was a great honor.

“What is most important to me as a coach is watching the student athletes develop, both as athletes and people.”

It is very easy to see why she was hired for the job at Elon and her accomplishments were something that caught the eye of people here.

“I wanted someone with good experience and someone that would continue to build the program and get it to the next level,” said Elliston. “I was excited to have someone that had solid college experience in both recruiting and coaching and she seemed like a very nice person.”

“Coach Engel brings a great deal of experience both as a coach and as an athlete from a larger school,” said Matt Roden, the assistant women’s track and field coach. “With so many new faces on the squad this year, there really is a new feel to the team. The attitudes of the girls have really been positive in relation to Coach Engel and it’s going to be very enjoyable to watch how the team progresses over the year.

“She can really relate well to her student athletes in a positive and constructive manner. Her athletes really seem to enjoy her style of coaching and it already has paid off tremendously to those athletes that have been here in years past.”

The transition from Columbia to Elon has been a successful and surprisingly easy one for Engel, who said the campus and facilities helped make the move easier for her.

“When I first visited Elon, I loved the campus,” she said. “It was just so picturesque and it had such great facilities. It is a great place to work and it is also very appealing for students.”

And so how does this job compare to her previous ones?

“It is very different. I’m now both an assistant and head coach and the atmosphere here is very different as well. But, I do very much like the college town atmosphere that Elon has. It was hard to get that feeling at Columbia.”

For Coach Engel, things couldn’t be better for her. “I got the best job in the world: I get to do what I love for a living.” And Elon looks forward to many more years of her doing what she loves for the Phoenix.

Coach Engel gives her best piece of advice

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It’s hard out here for an atheist

Atheists face discrimination wherever they look in the South, and yet no one seems to notice.
By Russell Varner
December 1, 2008

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It is a phrase everyone knows and has said a thousand times from the Pledge of Allegiance. It says that we are all one nation. That everyone is equal and that God watches over all of us. But there are those who disagree with that statement, who don’t believe in a God.

Often we don’t recognize or think about atheists. They are the forgotten minority of America and surprisingly, they can also be one of the most hated at the same time.

“Atheists are the least trusted minority in America,” said one Elon atheist student, who asked to be referred to as William. “Multiple polls, studies and happenings support the fact that most people (almost 70 percent) would not trust an atheist in a relationship or position of power. Many church signs have anti-atheist bigotry on them and the religious are trying to take over schools and the public sphere.”

In fact, a study was conducted recently by the University of Minnesota where they listed various minority groups and asked people who they would vote for if someone from that minority group ran for President. Less than 20 percent of the participants said they would vote for an atheist presidential candidate, making them the most despised and distrusted minority in America.

Penny Edgell, who led the study, was very surprised by her findings, saying that “We thought that in the wake of September 11, people would target Muslims. Frankly, we expected atheists to be a throwaway group.” In fact, the numbers she found were so extreme that she concluded the numbers are “a glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years.”

The study also found that nearly 40 percent of Americans believe atheists do not at all agree with their vision of America and that 47.6 percent of Americans would disapprove if their child married an atheist, both a considerable amount higher than Muslims, the next closest minority on both lists at 26.3 percent and 33.5 percent respectively. (To find more information on the study, visit http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheitsHated.htm)

Some respondents to the study associated atheism with illegal behavior, such as drug use and prostitution and ‘immoral people who threaten respectable community from the lower end of the social hierarchy.’ Others saw atheists as ‘rampant materialists and cultural elitists’ who ‘threaten common values from above — the ostentatiously wealthy who make a lifestyle out of consumption or the cultural elites who think they know better than everyone else.’

Need any more examples of how atheists are treated in America? Here’s a perfect one for you: In 1987, then President George H. W. Bush said in an interview “… I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” He failed to restate or change his position on this issue in any of the interviews that followed.

“We just elected our first black president,” said Elon sophomore and atheist Andy Harris. “But I still think we’re at least a good 40-50 years from being able to elect our first atheist president.”

Nowhere are atheist more reviled than in the South, including here in North Carolina, in what some call the “Bible Belt.”

It is no secret that people in the South are deeply religious, some valuing their relationship with God more than anything else. Down here, the word ‘atheist’ carries the same stigmatism that ‘homosexual’ used to carry. In fact, if you ask some, they would say that now it is tougher to come out as an atheist than it is to come out as a homosexual.

“I will say, in the South people seem to operate with the assumption that individuals and families are connected to particular religious communities in a way that is different from the West, which is where I’m from,” said Lynn Huber, an assistant professor of religious studies at Elon. “Here people assume that you attend the church of your family and if you don’t, people find that unusual or surprising.”

“This, in my opinion, is less about belief in God and more about the fact that Southern culture values familial relationships and loyalties. So, when you don’t find this mold, where families attend church and continue in the church tradition of one’s family of origin, you are somewhat of an ‘other,’ regardless of whether you are atheist or someone who has left one religious tradition and moved to another.”

“I think atheists, as well as agnostics or folks of other religious convictions other than Christianity for that matter, are disliked because so many ‘Christians’ in the South equate patriotism with belief in God,” said Tripp York, a professor of religious studies at Elon. “There is much confusion in the minds of many North American Christians as to the God they claim to worship and the tribal god established by the civil religion inherent within this nation-state. To deny belief in this god is synonymous, for many, as a form of anti-patriotism.

“Plus, because most believers in the South think that belief in God is just common sense, to reject belief is, for many, absurd, making that person difficult to trust. The problem with belief in our culture is that it takes far more conviction to be an atheist than to be a believer. Believing in the existence of God is simply the air we breathe, therefore it requires far more attentiveness to reject such belief than to go along with it.”

“This does not mean that belief in God is wrong, only that it is not terribly difficult to maintain. Therefore, it requires much more conviction to go against this grain. Plus, there is nothing at stake in belief in this culture. In the first 300 years of Christianity, people were killed for their specific beliefs in their particular God, yet in the U.S. one cannot be elected unless they believe in God.”

“Not only are atheists the least trusted minority in America, but gays have been trying to be liberated for almost 30 years,” said William. “They have had a long time to acclimate the populace towards homosexuals and the majority of the populace is now willing to treat them as people. The fact that we are talking about true gay marriage in the mainstream rather than how AIDS and vigilantes will kill all of the gays on the news shows this. That’s why I do indeed think that it is harder to come out Atheist rather than gay in the South.”

“Ten or twenty years ago, if you came out gay, your students would see you differently and you’d be afraid the administration would see you differently and there’d be a different acceptance of you on campus, and I’m seeing a real parallel with this,” said an Elon professor who asked to remain anonymous for this article. “Since the topic of my sabbatical research (atheists in the South) became public, people have come to me out of the woodwork saying ‘I’m glad you’re working on that because I’ve always felt uncomfortable here.’”

Like homosexuals who “come out of the closet”, atheists who come out and admit their belief to their parents are usually greeted with very angry responses.

“When I was a child, my parents never really made us go to church,” said William. “So until I was 7 or 8, I had almost no religious schooling at all, barely knowing more than that Christmas was a time for getting presents and Easter had peeps candy. My parents realized this around the time my family moved back to Greensboro, NC, and made my siblings and I go to a local Presbyterian church. I always hated having to go to church, usually because it was during Sunday cartoons on TV, it was early and it was boring. I never stayed awake throughout the ceremony and found the typical youth group activities (singing religious rock tunes, playing tag, etc.) to be childish at best.”

“Eventually, around my 13th or 14th birthday, I found out about Atheism on the Internet, and decided that was what I was. A month or two before Christmas that year, I finally told my parents about it in the middle of church and they accepted it after a week of off and on discussion. I for a time looked at other religions: Wicca, asatru, Buddhism, etc. but nothing found my interest. I haven’t looked back at my decision since I was over that phase, about 15.”

“My Irish Catholic mother screamed at me for a while, went into denial (assuming I was just going through a phase) a few hours later, and when I re-convinced her I was serious, she started screaming again,” said Harris. “She let it go for a while, I think teetering between more denial and a rationalized mentality, where I was godless but not evil.”

“For whatever reason, many Christians have come to associate morals with God, so by their logic those without God are without morals. My mom is one of them, and after it finally settled in that her precious son was an atheist, she asked me if I was still a good person, happy, and ‘still cared about people.’ When I assured her that the only thing that had changed was my level of faith and not my code of morality, she let a relieved sigh and then said, and I quote, ‘Good, because I was worried that you worshipped Satin.’ I laugh hysterically about it at times, and then am mortified by it at other times, because a solid percentage of Americans have the same beliefs about atheists that she does.”

One of the harder parts about being an atheist is finding and forming close relationships with other people. Some people will refuse to be your friend or talk to you all because you don’t believe in God.

“I would say the hardest part about being an atheist is forming a close or romantic relationship,” said William. “In the South, very many people are highly religious and expect others to be religious. When I saw that I don’t want to go to church, religious play, etc. some will get offended. “

“As such, I have, for the most part, completely screened out anyone that I know or find out to be highly religious. I am probably being unfair to many who would be completely comfortable with me and a great match, but the chance seems too great to me to be rejected/hated because of my beliefs to take the risk.”

It’s not just the South either that people get stereotyped because of this belief. Even in the more liberal North, which is considered to be more accepting of others, they don’t always treat atheists well.

“I don’t get [stereotyped] that bad because Elon’s a bubble and my community in Delaware is only moderately Christian, and a lot of my peers range from indifferent to agnostic to atheists. But every now and then I’ll encounter somebody who grimaces when I tell them I’m an atheist.”

“It’s lame because it’s often someone who I could have otherwise become friends with. It can be annoying when someone writes you off as just a lost and troubled soul rather than someone who came to a logical conclusion. Most of the time I find the stereotypes people hold amusing because they’re so off base.”

Atheists can often be the target of jokes from other people as well.

Comedian Dane Cook has a joke where he talks about an argument he got into with an atheist because he said “God bless you” when the man sneezed. Cook then later goes on to mention how the atheist believes when he dies, he will become one with the Earth and come back as a beautiful willow tree. To end his sketch, Cook expresses his wish that the man be cut down by a lumberjack, sent to a paper mill and then have the Bible printed on him.

While the joke is made in jest and good humor, it still shows how they are viewed across the country. The discrimination some atheists face can even come from those closest to them.

“Only my family and closest friends know that I am an Atheist, so most of the discrimination is only from hearing others talk about atheists,” said William. “My family, though, does indeed make fun of me some times. They will often do something and say, ‘oh never mind, I forgot you don’t believe that’ or ‘oh yeah… you are an atheist’ in just barely not mocking tone of voice. My father is completely comfortable with my beliefs, so anything he says like this I believe to be truly accidental, but I am completely sure that my mother knows exactly what she is doing.”

“I myself am not really discriminated against, but again that goes back to the whole ‘bubble’ thing,” said Harris. “Sometimes my roommate Joey and my friend Tyler will give me crap since I have a few hardcore atheist books by the likes Richard Dawkins on my bookshelf that they like to joke about, but it’s all in good fun and that’s about all. To answer the root of your question, no, I really don’t feel persecuted.”

Even the most simple of events that are normally taken for granted are things that most atheists would not be very happy with. Take, for example, the events preceding a football game here at Elon.

“The last football game we had was opened with a long prayer,” said the anonymous Elon professor. “And then we keep standing for the national anthem. And the inference is we speak for you. Well, I’m sorry. I may be Muslim, for example, or I may not be a believer at all, and this is a really bizarre diversion that assumes ‘of course I’d be interested.’”

“They are a lot of folks out there who are just wired differently…I think some people are wired such that they tap into a need for and connection to something larger than themselves. And then I think they are some of us who are just naturally wired differently, like there are some people who are just naturally wired to be gay or left-handed…It’s not a matter of ‘Oh I think I’ll do this.’”

“It’s just you pick up a ball and throw left-handed. I think there are some of us who are just wired to not have that kind of belief. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying in the population that naturally there’s gonna be more believers than non-believers.”

“I know for a fact there is a huge number of students on campus, a lot of them atheists. That’s just how they came here. And they don’t feel comfortable talking about it in a social situation.”

“If somebody’s wearing a crucifix, you know that’s great. If you wore you’re atheism like that, it’d be like why are you like that? Why are you putting that in my face?”

Many atheists though have gained great popularity through books and online publications. Sam Harris, William Lobdell, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are just a few of the bigger names of atheist authors that have gained national popularity (For more information on them, visit their websites). The anonymous professor at Elon is also doing research on atheists living in the “Bible Belt.” If you would like more information on the project, please email rvarner@elon.edu to get more information.

Richard Dawkins talks on CNN about Atheism plus a roundtable on the subject

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Math Tools Chapters 5-8

Chapter 5: Polls and Surveys
By Russell Varner
November 24, 2008
Polls and surveys are very important to newspapers and their stories. Sometimes, those polls and surveys will be all an article is talking about or the main part of it. It’s very easy to see why they are so important for any journalist to understand.

But, Kathleen Woodruff Wickham mentions, polls and surveys “offer only a glimpse of public opinion, and often are skewed one way or another. It is the reporter’s job to help readers understand the validity of polls and surveys they are reading about.”

So here are some tips to help you understand the polls and surveys you as a future journalist will one day be writing about.

•Polls are an estimate of public opinion on a single topic or question usually used in political circles. Surveys are also based on representative samples, but they usually include multiple questions and are used in many different social science settings.
•Cluster sampling involves just one area or region (usually defined by a ZIP code or county).
•Multistage sampling involves picking a specific geographic area, then a random sub-group, individual blocks within that sub-group and then a smaller block within that.
•Systematic random sampling is where one picks a specific number (for example, 10) and then going through a phone book, city directory or other reference book and then polling every 10th person.
•Quota sampling tries to select a sample based on known demographic characteristics. The example Wickham uses is in a poll of women who work outside the home and have school-age kids, one could create a sample that would include an equal number of women who work in offices and factories.
•Probability sampling involves “putting all of the potential subjects in a hat and drawing out a designated percentage.”
•Margin of error shows the degree of accuracy of the research based on standard norms. It’s expressed as a percentage and is based on the size of the randomly selected sample. Statisticians have also found that as the confidence level increases, so does the margin of error. It should also be included in all stories related to the polling along with an accurate interpretation of what the percentage means.
•Confidence levels are the percentage, or level, of confidence researches have in the results of their research. The formal definition is “the probability of obtaining a given result by chance”. It is usually determined in advance and falls at 90, 95 or 98 percent. Also, say there is a confidence level of 95 percent in the research. That means there is a 5 percent probability that the result occurred just by chance.
•Adjusted figures are figures that are statistically manipulated to make up for missing data, while unadjusted figures are the opposite. Adjusted figures are commonly used in the U.S. Census, which also releases unadjusted figures.
•A z score, or “standard score,” shows just how much a certain figure differs from the mean. The unit measure used is the standard deviation and z scores can be either positive or negative. The formula to find a z score is as follows:
oz score = (Raw score – mean) / standard deviation

Problems
1.) What is the difference between a poll and a survey?
Polls are on a single topic and are usually used in political circles while surveys usually include multiple questions and are used in many different social science settings.

2.) What type of sampling do you think is used for the U.S. Census? What would be the best sampling method to use for the Census and why?

3.) A group of students took an informal survey following the Vice-Presidential debate I October. Out of 230 people, the students found that 37% said Senator Biden won, 23% said Governor Palin won, 12% said it was a tie and 28% had no response. If the students used a 95 percent confidence level, what was the margin of error?
6.3

4.) You are given a raw score of 64, a mean of 59, and a standard deviation of 2. What is the z score?
2.5

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Is Twitter the next big thing?

Twitter is the simple to use microblog that could very well become the next YouTube. So what exactly is it?
By Russell Varner
November 21, 2008

“You’re no one in you’re not on Twitter, and if you’ve aren’t there already, you’ve missed it. If you haven’t been bookmarked, retwitted and blogged, you might as well not have existed.”

These are the words of Ben Walker from his famous ‘Twitter Song’ (The movie is also included below) and, though a little extreme, these words do speak some truth. Twitter seems to be the next big thing, what YouTube was a few years ago. And like when YouTube first came out, a lot of people are curious: what exactly is Twitter?

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitter is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet. “It’s called ‘microblogging’ because some people use it just to inform their friends about what they are doing minute-by-minute, for instance writing things like, ‘I just voted for Obama, and now I’m headed over to Starbucks to get my free cup of Election Day coffee.’”

“Twitter users opt in to following the ‘tweets’ of the individuals or organizations from whom they want information – you follow the messages from the people you want to follow. This differs from texting on cell phones because it allows you to follow the information shared by interesting people you don’t even know and they are sometimes sharing extremely useful data.”

The easiest way to describe it is to compare to it to Facebook status. Twitter is a continuous status update that cannot exceed more than 140 characters (that includes spaces and punctuation marks).

So if that’s all Twitter is, why would it become so popular you may ask? Well, here’s a list of eight ways Twitter will change your life, written by Dan Tynan of PCWorld.com.

With more and more people getting their news from Twitter and more and more employers looking at Twitter for potential employees, it’s easy to see why Twitter could become so popular in the near future.

“My research for the Pew Internet Project indicates that mobile devices such as smartphones are going to become most people’s primary communications devices globally by 2020,” said Anderson. “Compressed information fits and it offers quick-hitting details we can apply to our lives. Most of the early adopters using Twitter to communicate today are writing on the road, from conferences, sales calls and other mobile situations in which they want to share tightly written information chunks. It first caught on at the South By Southwest media conference in Austin, Texas, just a couple of years ago. It has since been used by political campaigns, businesses and media organizations to quickly brief people on developing situations.”

So now comes the big question: How do you use it? Fortunately, it is very simple to use and update, even for those who may consider themselves to be ‘technologically impaired.’

First, go to twitter.com. Then, create an account and your first microblog and voila. You are officially a part of Twitter. Easy to use and simplistic.

Before you know it, they will be teaching Twitter along with Photoshop and Final Cut Pro to Kindergarteners in between their math and science courses.

It is hard to tell at this exact moment if this truly is where the future is going, if we will all be checking Twitter before we check CNN or BBC for all our latest news. But regardless, it is good to be prepared for all possibilities.

After all, how many people thought YouTube would just be a fad?

Ben Walker’s Twitter Song

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