Archive for September, 2011

This is Satire. That’s How it Works.

The Onion’s tweets about Capitol gunfire prompt panic, mockery

Apparently the satire based on congress (or a subset thereof) holding the country hostage didn’t go over too well.

D.C.-based photographer Dave Stroup tweeted: “Not sure what’s worse, people not knowing the Onion is fake, or that it seemed believable that Members of Congress would take kids hostage.”

Denialism is Not a New Thing

Plane Truth

Excerpts from One Hundred Proofs That the Earth Is Not a Globe, a pamphlet distributed by William Carpenter in 1885

This was tweeted a little while back. I was curious, so I went out and found all 100. It’s continually amazing how logically weak the arguments are that people will still believe.

Cold Atoms Reveal Their Crystalline Nature

Cold Atoms Reveal Their Crystalline Nature

Cold atoms in an optical trap can behave like the electrons in a solid crystal. The traps, which are easily manipulated, provide researchers with a test bed for understanding real crystals. Now a team reports 23 September in Physical Review Letters that they have extracted from this kind of simulated crystal an essential property–the band structure–that in real crystals characterizes the conductivity and related parameters.

Running the Asylum

Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today’s Left

Both left and right have fringes, where silly claims are made. Thus, for instance, after Fukushima some lefties went hunting for dead babies on the U.S. West Coast from ionizing radiation supposedly traveling across the Pacific. Like I said, fringes.

But the fringes aren’t very relevant—unless the inmates are running the asylum. That’s what you have today on the right, where Republicans and Tea Partiers overwhelmingly reject mainstream knowledge in key areas and these views are also endorsed by elected representatives and even presidential candidates.

Bingo. The wackaloons on the left aren’t in a position to decide on legislation.


September Collapse of Red Sox Could Be Worst Ever

There are different ways to measure the magnitude of pennant race collapses. One approach, which I’ve used in the past, is to calculate a team’s playoff probability after every game of the season, and to see which team had the highest probability of making the playoffs but failed to do so.

By that standard, the Red Sox collapse — if it comes to fruition — might rank as high as the second or third worst of all time, rivaling that of the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers and the 2007 New York Mets. It wouldn’t be quite as bad, however, as that of the 1995 California Angels, who had in excess of a 99.9 percent chance of making the playoffs on Aug. 20, 1995, when they held a 9-and-a-half-game lead over the Texas Rangers in the A.L. West, and were 12 games ahead of the Yankees for the wild card, but missed the playoffs after finishing their year 12-26.

Not the worst-case, since they won on Tuesday, but still pretty epic. Especially delicious because I’m a Yankees fan.

Update: And they’re well aware of the proportions of the collapse

“It shouldn’t have been this way. We were 7-20 in September. We go 9-18, we’re where we want to be. Nine and 18 is winning one-third of your games. The worst teams in baseball win one-third of their games. There’s no excuse. We did this to ourselves.”

You Can Handle the Truth

Teaching children the real truth about science

”Science is totally misunderstood … It is the only philosophical construct that we have to determine the truth with any degree of reliability, and that requires evidence, which elevates it to a different plane – it elevates it to something that every child should have,” he said.

‘[Science] can’t be a belief system, because belief by definition is to accept something without evidence,” Professor Kroto said. He pointed to the push in some parts of the US to teach creationism alongside evolution in schools.
”There is no theory which is more proven than evolution and the evidence for evolution comes from every discipline within the sciences,” he said. And so he is on a mission to reinvigorate science education and teach the next generation to think with reason to uncover why things are the way they are.

The Main Event of the Evening: Reflection vs. Fluorescence

Cool Things You Can Do With a Blue Laser: Reflection vs. Fluorescence

[W]hat is going on here? This isn’t just reflection, this is something else. How do I know? If it were just reflection, the only color would be green (same as the incident light). This is an example of fluorescence. Basically, in fluorescence, the light doesn’t just oscillate the electrons. The light excites the electrons to a higher energy level.

The Gaspard Effect?

The pressure of living on a spinning planet

This almost seems like a force, doesn’t it, something pushing the air around? In many ways it does act like a force, though it depends on whether you’re looking at it from the ground, rotating with the Earth, or from space, watching the Earth spin beneath you. This whole thing was first figured out in detail by Gaspard Gustave de Coriolis in the 1800s, and we name it after him: the Coriolis effect (or, sometimes, the Coriolis force).

Mr. McGuire was Wrong About This One

It’s not about plastics

Far From Any Lab, Paper Bits Find Illness

While other scientists successfully shrank beakers, tubes and centrifuges into diagnostic laboratories that fit into aluminum boxes that cost $50,000, George Whitesides had smaller dreams.

The diagnostic tests designed in Dr. Whitesides’s Harvard University chemistry laboratory fit on a postage stamp and cost less than a penny.

His secret? Paper.

You See the World Through Your Cynical Eyes

Are we fooling ourselves with faster-than-light neutrinos?

Excellent follow-up to his first post, to which I already linked (under “other commentary”.

What really caught my eye was the “third option” for possible error, where he talks about the possibility of the pulse changing shape and skewing the measurement and we’re fooling ourselves. Because this is nothing new — it has happened in tunneling experiments and with photons in a medium with anomalous dispersion. Those experiments caused the same kind of headlines about relativity being under siege, but turned out to be a confusion between group velocity and phase velocity (which is not limited to c).

The one difference I see here is that the scientists appear to have measured both the leading and trailing edge which would seem to eliminate the errors you get by measuring the peak and having the peak move around relative to the pulse.

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