As cute as this is, silicon and silicone are not the same thing.
However, showing a submarine for Hafnium scores a bonus point (reactor control rods)
As cute as this is, silicon and silicone are not the same thing.
However, showing a submarine for Hafnium scores a bonus point (reactor control rods)
Journosplaining 101 (a commentary on Ed Yong’s A Guide for Scientists on Giving Comments to Journalists)
Read this as part Q in the never-ending series of scientists v journalists. I’m a scientist, so I see where Chad’s coming from.
But a comment on Ed’s article first.
There’s a reason you should take some of the advice in Ed Yong’s post with a grain of salt (as I’ve come to realize over several years of hearing or reading advice from Ed): because it comes from Ed Yong. Now, let me explain — this isn’t a dig at Ed. Quite the opposite. He’s an excellent science journalist, and the tips he gives other science journalists about journalism is quite good. But this is a different subject, and given that there are a lot of journalists out there, you probably aren’t going to be asked for commentary from Ed Yong. (To use some physics-y math, if there are N journalists and N >>1, approximately no journalists are Ed Yong)
So when I see advice like
I have read the paper that I sent you and understand it
I am not just trying to fill my story with a random cutaway quote to make it look like I did my job and asked around.
[W]hat you say will almost certainly end up getting cut and distilled. BUT, I won’t do that in a way that misquotes or misrepresents you.
that only applies to Ed, or some other similarly-talented journalist. You could find yourself in a situation where you follow the advice but with a lesser talent, and be disappointed in the result.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave with a box of scraps!
Well, I’m sorry. I’m not Tony Stark.
Which means that Chad’s advice to close the information loop by giving a summary is good. It confirms that everyone is on the same page. You may say you understand the paper, but anyone who has taught knows students who swear they understand, and then bomb the test.
Ultimately, though, what rubs me the wrong way about this is a sense that the ways scientists talk to journalists are wasting the journalists’ time, which they would otherwise be using to do Important Journalism. Which bugs me because, ultimately, each party in one of these conversations is doing the other a favor by having the conversation at all. Yes, journalists are helping to boost the profile of scientists and science in general, but they’re also taking up time that the scientists could be using to do Important Science.
The thing of which I always remind myself in these situations is that Ed is presenting a perspective of a science journalist, and that’s a bias or perspective that needs to be accounted for when absorbing the information. I think that’s what is surfacing here.
Also there’s a bit about “This research is interesting but more work needs to be done” being the most banal quote one can give. That may be true, but we also suffer from way too many stories drawing conclusions from a single experiment that end up being contradicted by further investigation, or end up being anomalies. Again, a good chance that a top science journalist won’t make that error, but it’s worth pointing out that some study isn’t a final result, just to be on the safe side.
Starts With a Bang: The E-Cat is back, and people are still falling for it!
Ethan critiques a “cold fusion” effort. I have a few comments.
Look, let’s get a few things out into the open first. If there is a cold fusion device that actually works, that can harness the power of nuclear fusion to create energy, it would change the world.
I think this is too strong a statement. The requirement for cold fusion to change the world is more than it simply existing. If the device produces energy but we can’t harness it, it’s not particularly useful — if it can’t boil water to make steam and drive a turbine, thus producing electricity (or the equivalent via some other means), all we’ve made is a nifty hand-warmer. Thus, the bar for cold fusion is a little higher than simply seeing it occur. What we really want is warm fusion, at the very least.
However, this particular claim is about a device that gets hot enough to do so. But Ethan is correct in terms of the tests one needs to run in order to confirm this as legitimate.
[T]hey’re again claiming that this is nickel + hydrogen fusion, which should result in copper. Now, it’s important to know, the last time this was claimed, the nickel that was analyzed was found to contain the isotopic ratios of normal nickel mined on Earth, while the copper (10% of the product) was found to contain the isotopic ratios of copper found naturally on Earth, not the ratio you’d expect to find copper in if nuclear fusion had occurred! (Since only Nickel-62 and Nickel-64 can fuse with hydrogen into copper, it’d be impossible to get a 10% copper product in any case!)
This, to me, is a dealbreaker, though it took me a few minutes to decrypt the statement*. Nickel has several stable isotopes, so at first glance one might think you could get many isotopes of copper. However, absorbing a proton to become Copper is only energetically favorable for two of them, Ni-62 and Ni-64, which would form Cu-63 and Cu-65, respectively (the two stable isotopes of Cu). All the other candidates that might become Cu undergo electron-capture to become Ni again, which means you have to add several MeV of energy to run the reverse reaction — and cold fusion only has a fraction of an eV of thermal energy. Even if by some miracle these reactions occurred, the decays are quick. By the time you assayed the sample, there would be essentially none of those isotopes left.
In a naturally occurring sample of Ni, only about 3.6% is Ni-62, and just under 1% is Ni-64, which why Ethan can correctly say that a sample of nickel could never become 10% copper — there isn’t enough raw material for that to take place! If fusion were actually happening, you would expect the sample to be depleted of only these two isotopes of Ni, and you would expect the Cu isotopes to be present in just short of a 4:1 ratio, rather than the ~7:3 split that we see in a naturally occurring sample.
Given the blatant impossibility of this result, I don’t really care if or how the energy readings were fudged, or if it was an error on their part. It doesn’t work as advertised.
*It turns out I could have gone to his previous post on the topic for the answer, but it was a nice exercise to figure it out. All the details are there. Same result.
I ran across this story about Canadian counterfeiters, and I was interested because of the quote below,
“Because the polymer series’ notes are so secure … there’s almost an overconfidence among retailers and the public in terms of when you sort of see the strip, the polymer looking materials, everybody says ‘oh, this one’s going to be good because you know it’s impossible to counterfeit,’” he said.
“So people don’t actually check it.”
which is an interesting comment on the mindset of people. If you’ve read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman you might see there’s some similar commentary on people thinking things were safe just because (there’s a safe, or a fence) but when it came down to the details, people were pretty stupid about actually leveraging the features that would have made the systems secure. (Though Feynman explains it from a different perspective than that).
With this presumably false sense of security, there are actually some counterfeit bills in the system
Pound said since the polymer series was announced in 2011, police have confirmed 56 polymer counterfeit notes across Canada, out of about 500-million polymer notes in circulation.
But then it occurred to me that the article didn’t actually mention any context for these numbers, and context is important. Is the system failing — is ten bills out of a million a big number? With a little searching I ran across an even more interesting article on how Canada got to the point where they decided to use polymer (don’t call it plastic!) currency.
By  Canada’s counterfeit rate had ballooned to 470 PPM. That year alone, 552,692 forged banknotes were passed, a record number. Canada’s PPM level was as much as 100 times the ratio of some G20 countries.
Which means that the
10 PPM 0.1 PPM for the polymer bills is a huge improvement and even lower than Canada’s rate in 1990, which was just 4 PPM. The article says that 50 PPM is considered the threshold for having a counterfeiting problem. So while the complacency might be a problem, the new system is working pretty well.
edit: Fixed the last paragraph. A little mathlexia.
Waiting hours for a cellphone to charge may become a thing of the past, thanks to an 18-year-old high-school student’s invention. She won a $50,000 prize Friday at an international science fair for creating an energy storage device that can be fully juiced in 20 to 30 seconds.
Maddening omission of what the capacity of the system actually is, because this is great, if it actually works as advertised. There is the implication above, that it’s the same capacity as a phone battery, but that’s contradicted in other stories. Which means we don’t know if this will scale up or end up on the list of failed promises, like those room-temperature superconductors on mag-lev trains we were promised were imminent, back in the 90′s.
This report implies that it’s not ready for that just yet.
Her experiment used the supercapacitor to power an LED, but both Khare and Intel believe the same tech can be used to similar effect on a smartphone.
Powering an LED is a far cry from powering a phone. The article doesn’t say how long the LED ran. Several hours? Or just a few minutes?
The INTEL press release is even more confusing.
She developed a tiny device that fits inside cell phone batteries, allowing them to fully charge within 20-30 seconds.
It’s being used to fully charge a battery? That doesn’t make sense. A cell phone battery’s capacity is around 1500 mAh at around 3.7 V. Charging it in 30 seconds would require ~670 Watts, though it’s 180 Amps at 3.7V (but under 6 amps at the wall outlet). The obstacle isn’t the availability of the raw power to the battery, it’s efficiently delivering the charge to the battery without melting anything, including the battery, so without modifying the battery you still run into the problem of the battery not “liking” to be charged quickly — they tend to get hot. It makes more sense that this would be used as a substitute for (or an auxiliary to) the battery, and the supercapacitor is what can be charged quickly.
If it can be scaled up.
Solving 3 Rubik’s Cubes…while juggling them.
The room in the video actually rotates as a unit, and all of the furniture is nailed to the walls and ceiling. Also, the camera remains attached to the rotating room, making it appear as though the dancers are defying gravity.
Famed Broadway dancer Fred Astaire popularized this method in a dancing routine from the 1951 movie “Royal Wedding.”
This is a piece from the Guardian published last week, and I was intrigued: I perk up a bit whenever I see a mention of high priests or priestesses, or any intimation of science as a religion. Such a straw man is often a beacon that crackpottery is nearby.
Science today, and the way we share it with the rest of the world, is based on layers upon layers of deference. We spend our lives crawling up to senior scientists, and those who pay them, sitting and waiting to be told what to think. We shouldn’t be so complacent.
I agree with the conclusion, though not for the same reason the author does. Yes, by all means do not be complacent when it comes to scientific result — go out and get some science education, if you don’t have it. Because that’s the only weapon you have against having to trust someone else to interpret some scientific finding. I would absolutely love it if people could think for themselves about this. The problem that we have today is that people don’t go down that path. They simply choose to trust someone else (often someone with a political agenda) to do the interpretation. Science is not challenged, and the problem of people not thinking for themselves hasn’t gone away.
The problem is that science literacy isn’t going to completely solve the issue. You aren’t going to become an expert on a subject. What literacy allows is a chance to filter the bogus claims and spot the con artists in the discussion. It will help you identify whom to trust.
The author then goes on to tie this in with the deficit model, and I think that’s a reach. The deficit model isn’t correct. It’s been found that in issues like climate change and evolution, the problem in convincing more people is not that the proper information isn’t being conveyed. But that’s only part of the audience — the ones who have already substituted some ideology that drives their acceptance of facts. The deficit model isn’t completely wrong, because if it was, nobody would ever learn anything. Schools would be useless, and we know they are not. People do learn science in schools. It’s just not in play once people have some kind of emotional attachment to an answer.
But deference is certainly not the issue for peopler who are claiming that global warming is a hoax or that evolution is obviously wrong. Some of the arguments put forth to buttress those claims boil down to a premise that scientists are idiots, which is pretty far from being deferential.
I also worry that the author is selling us short on having people “challenge” rather than “unquestionably listen”. I don’t think anyone is proposing the latter or denying the former. However, a challenge has to have some validity to it. It can’t simply be a roadblock from a crowd who, despite not knowing much about the science, somehow know that it’s wrong.
Then we get to this:
When I was looking into the Big Bang Fair last term, I learned that volunteers were briefed not to get pulled into debating “politics” of arms dealing or the fossil fuel industry, lest it distracted from the science. I’ve since heard similar briefings have been issued for science events running over the summer. It’s also a line I heard all too often when I worked at Imperial College.
It’s bullshit. Simple bullshit. Politics doesn’t distract from the science. An over-emphasis on decontextualised science is used to distract from the politics.
There’s some bullshit there, that’s for sure. Science has an impact on politics, to be sure, and science will always involve people, which has ramifications, but the way nature behaves — which is what science investigates — is not political. If it’s true, it’s going to be true whether you are a conservative or a liberal. There is no Republican version of the laws of thermodynamics*, or a variant of relativity that only works for Democrats.
One might question the naiveté of a statement such as that, when we’ve just heard from politicians in both the US and Canadian governments about how they want to interject themselves further into the process. That, on top of the usual background noise of politicians grousing about teaching evolution, or that global warming is a hoax, and threats and attacks on scientists doing that kind of research. Politics doesn’t distract from the science? Really?
Hong Kong’s favorite new resident, a giant inflatable duck, took a turn for the worse on Wednesday, looking less like an oversized lovable plaything and more like an unappetizing fried egg on the water.
The 16.5-meter (54 feet) inflatable sculpture mysteriously lost its mojo overnight, deflated and bobbed lifelessly in Victoria Harbour.
[T]he sparse list of great homegrown American physicists makes two things clear. Firstly, that America is truly a land of immigrants; it’s only by including foreign-born physicists like Fermi, Bethe, Einstein, Chandrasekhar, Wigner, Yang and Ulam can the list of American physicists even start to compete with the European list. Secondly and even more importantly, the selection demonstrates that even in 2013, physics in America is a very young science compared to European physics.
Ciudad Blanca, or “The White City,” has been a legend since the days of the conquistadors, who believed the Mosquitia rain forests hid a metropolis full of gold and searched for it in the 1500s. Throughout the 1900s, archaeologists documented mounds and other signs of ancient civilization in the Mosquitias region, but the shining golden city of legend has yet to make an appearance.
“We use lidar to pinpoint where human structures are by looking for linear shapes and rectangles,” Colorado State University research Stephen Leisz, who uses lidar in Mexico, said in a statement. “Nature doesn’t work in straight lines.”
How Bing and his influence in the recording industry helped to enable modern technology.
Bonus commentary on how the new “crooning” was a bad influence on the young. Nothing ever changes.