Archive for December 5th, 2008


CIA Realizes It’s Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years

According to the report, sections of the documents— “almost invariably the most crucial passages”—are marred by an indelible black ink that renders the lines impossible to read, due to a top-secret highlighting policy that began at the agency’s inception in 1947.

CIA Director Porter Goss has ordered further internal investigation.

“Why did it go on for this long, and this far?” said Goss in a press conference called shortly after the report’s release. “I’m as frustrated as anyone. You can’t read a single thing that’s been highlighted. Had I been there to advise [former CIA director] Allen Dulles, I would have suggested the traditional yellow color—or pink.”

Goss added: “There was probably some really, really important information in these documents.”

The Hubble Advent-ure

Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar 2008

As we head into the traditional western Holiday Season, I’d like to present this Hubble Space Telescope imagery Advent Calendar. Every day, for the next 25 days, a new photo will be revealed here from the amazing Hubble Space Telescope. As I take this chance to share these images of our amazing Universe with you, I wish for a Happy Holiday to all those who will celebrate, and for Peace on Earth to everyone. – Alan (25 photos total – eventually)

Things NOT Found on the Internet

Some Lists

[H]ere instead is a list of phrases that (at the time of this posting) turn up no hits on Google:

“ate a violin”
“driver-side bidet”
“unlike normal furries,”
“Sarah, plain and tall and a cyborg”
“people are too civil on the internet”

And some more in the comments

“differential equations saved my life” – 0 results

“chess for Wookies” – 0 results

“erotic vector calculus” – 0 hits

“Luke, I am your third grade teacher” – 0

“Search your kitchen counter, you know it to be true” > 0 results

“Buttered graphite” – 0

via Science After Sunclipse

Buy You a Drink?

Science Is Interested in You

Are you worried about global warming? Should you be worried about global warming? Understanding the dangers posed by climate change and evaluating policies toward it require some understanding of science. How do we know the Earth is warming? What will happen when the temperature increases? What can be done to mitigate or avoid the problems? These are essentially scientific questions.

What about bird flu? MRSA? AIDS? Pandemic disease is something that can only be understood and combatted through science. Are we all going to get wiped out by some disease? What steps should we take to avoid being wiped out by disease? These are essentially scientific questions.

If you have no interest in science and being informed, then you can only blame yourself when you get conned by someone peddling antiscience, or swept up by FUD.

No Pain, No Gain

Real Advice Hurts

We can’t get good at something solely by reading about it. And we’ll never make giant leaps in any endeavor by treating it like a snack food that we munch on whenever we’re getting bored. You get good at something by doing it repeatedly. And by listening to specific criticism from people who are already good at what you do. And by a dedication to getting better, even when it’s inconvenient and may not involve a handy bulleted list.

This is precisely why teachers assign homework problems for their students to work out. You get better at physics by applying it to unknown situations and figuring out the answer. Not by having someone work multiple problems for you.

My own method when someone explains some concept to me is to try and come up with a nontrivial example and give the result, trying to explain myself, and see if I have figured out the application of the concept.

I compare/contrast this with behavior of people who say they are trying to learn (level of sincerity unknown) and who just want to be spoon-fed the answer, without knowing the path to the answer. And who often complain that it should be easier.

[A] subscription to a magazine about taekwondo will only be as useful as your decision to drag your fat ass into a dojo and start actually kicking people. Over and over. Otherwise, you’re just buying shiny paper every month.

Cleanup on Aisle Six

Shopping Cart Science

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Here we have a beautifully illustrated example of Newton’s First Law of motion involving shopping carts. Did some force push those carts out the back end of the trailer? Not at all.

Quiz Time

Movie Poster Quiz

Guess the movie from just one letter taken from the movie’s poster (not necessarily the first letter, or most artistically distinct letter that appears). I got five.