Starlinks — Part One for this Week

September 27th, 2011

A museum here at the University of Wyoming has a show about 1950s Science Fiction movies, with posters, props, etc.  The items on view are from the Forrest Ackerman Collection at the American Heritage Center.  I’m going to go when I get the chance.

A friend of mine here is trying to get a petition to the Obama White House concerning funding for fusion.  Please help him out if you’re so inclined.  I didn’t know about this method of direct petitioning that is set up at whitehouse.gov, and it’s interesting to see in action.

A mention of Diamonds in the Sky being used in the classroom.

Doubts about faster than light neutrinos.  I share them.  This is how science works.  Some evidence has been presented that would rewrite physics, so everyone is skeptical and wants more evidence before believing the result.  I basically agree with Rees:

Astrophysicist and cosmologist Martin Rees of the University of Cambridge
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I think it will be perceived in retrospect as an embarrassment that this claim received so much publicity—the inevitable consequence of posting a preprint on the Web. Neutrinos were observed from SN 1987A more or less coincidentally with the explosion—not four years earlier, as would have been the case if the velocity difference had been the same as is now claimed (though, of course, the energies of the supernova neutrinos are much lower).

Is it time to end copyright for scientific journals?  Not as described in the link, probably, but the system as exists has shortcomings.  Brand me as communist, but I’d like to see government funded but independently operated journals that are free to the public and free to publish in (we pay about $120 a page to publish our research in leading US astronomy journals).

A really interesting result for science fiction writers and other fans of alien planets.  Statistical analyses of Kepler data suggest that about 1/3 of sunlike stars (FGK types) have planets in their habitable zones.  This is nailing down another term in the Drake equation and indicates that Earth-like planets are probably very common.  If the universe isn’t bursting with life, it isn’t the astronomical terms stopping it.

Related to that story, ten real locations that resemble locations in Star Wars movies.

And, possible life in Martian trenches?  That would tackle another term in the Drake equation.

False equivalency about anti-science in both parties challenged, successfully, in my opinion.  Next time you talk to someone about the science-denying dumbasses like Perry and Bachmann leading the GOP race for a presidential nomination, and they say, “B-b-b-b-but the Democrats…” don’t be distracted.  Don’t let them control the conversation.  There is no reasonable equivalency here.  Evolution denial is nearly a litmus test for GOP leadership now, and they need to be slammed for it.

Santorum is funny.

I love shopping at amazon.com.  Here’s an article suggesting amazon is the modern equivalent of a sweatshop. I’m sympathetic, but we have laws to protect workers in the US, and if they’re not stringent enough, let’s change them rather than blame amazon for not treating employees a lot better than the law requires.  I’m not against that, but they are being vilified here.  I’m not against the article shining a spotlight on amazon to get them to change their policies, but government regulation is appropriate if conditions are that bad.  Or, heh, get Jeff Bezos to do “Undercover Boss.”  I doubt it’s a lack of empathy as implied in the link, just ignorance at the highest levels of working conditions in every corner of the vast river that is amazon.

Because, let’s face it, working conditions have improved dramatically over history.  As have most things relating to the human condition (environmental issues are a little more in flux, unfortunately).  Stephen Pinker has a new book out and here’s an overview, which illustrates how violence, rape, racism, slavery, wars, murder, etc., have been consistently decreasing.  Some people get defensive about this because they seem to think saying that a problem is getting better means that there will be less recognition of the problem.  Well, yeah, I guess so.  But a problem is still a problem and pretending that things are getting worse is a way to turn off people who can read graphs.  Stick with the truth, is my advice: we’ve made vast improvements in many areas as a species, and still have a ways to go in those and other areas.

A call from the Sloan Foundation to artists: help challenge and broaden the public’s view and understanding of science.  Looks like there’s grant money to write plays!  Cool!

Top ten Star Trek technologies.  Sometimes you can do it without a seed grant.

Futureshock is real and here.

Skepticism about sea serpents.

 

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