Archive for January, 2012

One After 909

1 / 998,001

I[f] you divide 1 by 998,001 you get all three-digit numbers from 000 to 999 in order.

Except for 998.

Those Who Forget History…

… will be duped by the Wall Street Journal. Two years ago George Will tried to make a dubious claim about there being no evidence of recent global warming, and I objected and showed why the interpretation was wrong.

Now we get a re-hash of that claim, along with some other tired canards, from an op-ed in the WSJ. There’s no shortage of people calling them out on it.

The latest I’ve read is at Bad Astronomy, where Phil has included a graph of temperatures over the last ~40 years. It’s a noisy graph. So noisy that (as with the George Will article) if you took any 10- or 15-year period, you could conceivably draw a straight line through it and consider it a possibility. But when you look at a longer data set, the rise is unmistakeable. Incontrovertible, one might say.

However, I must repeat my prior analysis: a slope larger than the best fit is equally plausible as a straight line through any short data set. Which is why saying that there is no statistically-significant evidence of warming — zero increase isn’t statistically excluded — is a very different statement from saying that there has been no warming. That latter statement implies that you can statistically exclude an increase, which is a ludicrous claim.

Phil goes on to mention another turd of an article that came out recently. In it they make some dubious claims, including a no-recent-warming assertion similar to the WSJ, and conclude that the climate models must be wrong. Anyway, the Bad Astronomy post has lots of links if you are interested in the followup to all this.

Sorry, Dear

Once again, I belatedly realize that my blogoversary has come and gone. Friday marked four years of blogging. Yay me.

SevenUpping, Episode II

The keynote presentation at the UnConference, ScienceOnline2012 was given by Mireya Mayor, an Anthropologist/Primatologist who has worked for National Geographic, entitled The Vain Girl’s Survival Guide to Science and The Media, and told (part of) her tale of her path to becoming a scientist and science communicator, and some of the obstacles on it. You can watch a video of an earlier, similar presentation and audio of the talk — the story of someone who chose to dive into the deep end of science in the field, and quickly learned to swim. Pretty awesome. I had the thought that if she had chosen to be an archaeologist, she would be a real-life, modern-day Indiana Jones. (Maybe with less shooting)

There were some strong messages I took away from the talk. Mireya spoke of expectations and also of a risk she took in showing emotion in a documentary (in a situation involving gorilla poachers, and gorilla parts on a barbecue pit), which is more of a risk because she’s a woman. It’s a risk because of the stereotype of a scientist: a man in a lab coat, probably with a test tube and bunsen burner, and coldly analytical. (The only emotion you can show is geeky enthusiasm) So that particular scene strikes at all three facets of the stereotype — not a man, not in a lab, and showing a forbidden emotion.

That led into a related question: what does a scientist look like? I think it’s great when scientists show they are not at all like the stereotype, though I’ve seen that this does not always happen — read The Sexing Up Of Science (I’m Coming Out! And So Can You!) for another perspective, and Things I Found Ponderable: #scio12 Report the First for some reactions to Mireya’s talk (including a response from her). The issue evokes some strong feelings, some surprising, some all too predictable. But the goal is getting people interested in science, so the approach seems to be working, as evidenced by feedback she gets, like I didn’t know I could become a scientist.

There’s some good science communication advice in the talk as well. Keep it simple, talk to a general audience as if you were talking to someone in a bar. Remember you may be dealing with people who don’t see the connection of the science to them — if they don’t see how it affects them, they don’t know why they should care about it.

It Has its Ups and Downs

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Don't Try This With Cats

Outdoor Storage Lockers Keep Dogs Safe While You Shop

The Hundehiet (meaning Dog Den in Norwegian) was recently spotted by Henrick Eriksson outside a grocery store in Oslo, Norway. For just 10 Danish kroner (around $1.72 USD), you can keep your dog safe and dry in a storage unit while you go in and shop.

A similarly-themed feline enterprise run by Erwin Schrödinger had some customer service problems when only half of the inhabitants survived.

SevenUpping, Episode I

I’m still in recovery mode from my recent trip to ScienceOnline2012. It didn’t help at all that I had a nasty cold the week prior to it, except that having that cold during the conference would have been much worse, because I couldn’t have gone. The residual congestion and wrecked voice weren’t the biggest problem — it was not being at full strength and stamina, which made being “up” for the conference and after-conference activities that much harder.

And being “up” is a requirement. This is the Un-Conference, so unlike traditional gatherings where speaker after speaker drones on for 12 (or 15 or whatever minutes), delving deeper into material you may or may not understand very well, this gathering is very interactive. Even though I was tired, I was rarely in danger of falling asleep.

I find the ScienceOnline series to be an elevating experience. It had better be, because for me this is a vacation and all expenses are out-of-pocket, so I truly appreciate how far the organizers (Bora Zivkovic, Anton Zuiker and Karyn Traphagen, and many other volunteers — thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou) stretch my conference dollar to provide such an event. You have several hundred people whose passion is science communication (either by job or by hobby), many of whom are either well-reknowned science journalists or practicing scientists. Anyone you walk up to is going to be good at talking about some aspect of science at a level you (especially being scientifically literate) are going to be able to understand. As I did last year, I met a lot of people by simply sitting down at breakfast or lunch with some people I didn’t know, do the introductions and ask them what they did (also on the bus for one-on-one conversations). The other strategy was hanging out with DrSkyskull, because he knows everyone.

The un-conference style meant that most sessions were basically a large conversation on the topic at hand, albeit with only one person talking at a time. The session moderators contribute and keep the conversation moving and although they might have an outline of how the hour is supposed to go, they have to react to whatever comes up; some sessions are structured more than others.

Another aspect of this was that the break are — the café — was always open during the conference hours. There were scheduled breaks between sessions, which gave you an opportunity to follow up on a discussion if you wanted to, but the availability of beverages and food was not limited — there was no “you will mingle NOW and only now” structure imposed on us.

I’ll continue with the conference sessions I attended soon; I’ve already posted about the art and the eternal struggle between scientists and journalists, and won’t talk more about the session on history of science.

P…o…p Goes the Weasel

Slow motion stuff exploding in the microwave

Don’t try this at home.

Why Wouldn't You Do This?

What Happens When You Put a Book on an AirBag?

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You might ask: why would you do this? The answer of course is: why wouldn’t you do this?

Let's Play Blackmail!

Radical Theory Explains the Origin, Evolution, and Nature of Life, Challenges Conventional Wisdom
(update: link no worky now. Here is the Google cached page)

In addition to resolving long-standing paradoxes and puzzles in chemistry and biology, Dr. Andrulis’ theory unifies quantum and celestial mechanics. His unorthodox solution to this quintessential problem in physics differs from mainstream approaches, like string theory, as it is simple, non-mathematical, and experimentally and experientially verifiable. As such, the new portrait of quantum gravity is radical.

All I can think is someone has compromising pictures of the PAO or Dean, etc. That’s the only way this gets released on university letterhead.

I found the article online, in case you don’t want to download the pdf.

Thus, as modeled by the ohiogyre, quantized macrophoton influx induces macroelectrogyre oscillation between excited and ground states, explaining both the periodicity of planetary orbit and why a planet does not gravitationally collapse into a star. Finally, as with atomic orbitals, in planetary orbits, the attractorepulsive effects diminish the further away from the macrophoton singularity. The macroelectrogyre predicts that increased size and slower orbit of distal planets relative to proximalones (as in the Solar System) corresponds to the composition, length, and stability of macroelectronexuses.

That’s some tasty word salad.

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