Saturday Starlinks

September 17th, 2011

OK, the big news in astronomy is the planet arount a pair of close binary stars.  Here are some takes on this from some pretty knowledgable people, like Phil Plait, Seth Shostak, and Dennis Overbye at the NY Times.  Everyone is comparing it to Star Wars’s famous planet Tatooine, which had two suns in the sky like this world would.  That’s about the end of the similarities, but it is very cool to have found a circumbinary planet.  Science fiction can continue on its way with cool planets in cool star systems, and science will back it up.  Apropos of this link, the press conference included someone from Industrial Light and Magic, the company that Lucas founded to do the special effects for his movies.

Star Wars isn’t everyone’s favorite.  William Shatner hates it apparently, primarily because of the emphasis on those special effects, but would tap Leia.  Duh.  And a lot of fanboys and even Star Wars actors have their beefs with Lucas (via NMA.tv).  And top of the top ten geek axioms is “Han Shot First.”  Double duh.

Another big story in science this week was the discovery of dinosaur feathers trapped in amber.  And everyone immediately compared the finding to Jurrasic Park.  The moral of the story is that we are living in a science fiction world already, and I for one love it.

Now, living in one of these movie universes might be kind of horrifying.

Another potentially big result is a claim for room temperature superconductivity.

What did the big black hole say to the little black hole?  “Pleased to eat you.”  Ha ha!  Physics humor.  Well, apparently Stephen Hawking is the funniest physicist on Earth.

Humor is one way to communicate science.  Videos are another, and here are some great ones!

More good news from science: a drink a day linked to healthy aging.  Boo anti-science!  Hooray beer!

Now, while we’re getting all these great science stories, let’s keep in mind that they’re the result of hard, slow work, not the magic you see on tv where Bones or House solves something in 43 minutes every week. There was a really nice article at tor.com about the moral argument for hard science fiction.

It’s really important for people to know that science isn’t just guessing, that it’s hard work and leads to good answers.  Like how old is the Earth?  Scientists have a pretty good idea, but I doubt Rick Perry does.  We can debate the value of college, but I guess I would debate the value of a degree at Texas A&M (Perry’s college) with a very low GPA (a C average like Perry’s is sort of embarrassing).

A bit of futurism: bugs are on the menu.  They’d be easier to raise in space anyway…

I’ve written in the past here about how much I enjoyed the tv show Spartacus.  I have to pass on the sad news that the lead actor Andy Whitfield didn’t beat his cancer.  They’d already recast the role, and his replacement is going to have giant sandals to fill.

A reader pointed me at this article suggesting that people really didn’t mind spoilers.  I find this rather surprising.  I avoid spoilers like crazy, and hate movie previews or reviews that give away too much.  There was a whole mind-meld related to this recently — which books would you like to re-read for the first time?  Personally I think science fiction is a genre based on novelty, and sf readers read for novelty.  We want new things, surprises, and don’t want the story spoiled.  What do you think?

There are claims of a tribe of bigfoot near Banff in Canada, with video evidence.  And some award-winning photographic evidence of a fake monster, too.  Scary.

Evil scumbag robs mentally disabled fan of his superman stuff.  I finally see a story from the city of my birth, and it’s this.  Makes me want to say “gd.”  What is “gd?”  I don’t know, but when Superman says it he makes Christians so upset they boycott him.  Does this make any sense?  Not really, so let’s get into the relgious links.

Religion is still getting kids killed, because we offer it too much respect.  This is nuts.  Religion should not get exceptions to laws.  Your kid gets sick, don’t pray, take him to doctors or face the consequences of being the evil that is irrationalism.  Or how about when we respect religion so much we put it in charge of everything?  Well, that’s a hanging, three of them, for daring to be yourself and pursue your happiness.  So, how about we get rid of it?  And enlist some ad agencies to help?  Good idea.  Well, not everyone agrees, but they don’t seem to have a stake in the reality game and I have to say that some philosophers really risk undermining their whole enterprise by revealing their disrespect for intellectual points of view.  Christian and don’t like what I say?  Here’s some advice for talking to me, because you probably have some misconceptions about atheists.

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