February 17th, 2013
I continue to be busy, but don’t have any travel for a while (after being gone 3 of the last 5 weeks in China or St. Louis). I do have several deadlines on March 1, including two short stories and a deadline for a Hubble Space Telescope proposal. It’s doable, but I have to buckle down and focus despite a variety of distractions (Launch Pad plans, grad recruiting, Diablo 3…).
A lot of things happened this past week I wanted to discuss and compile links for.
First, we had meteor news. There was a large asteroid that made a close pass of Earth, as well as an impact of a smaller but still substantial object over Russia:
What we need is to treat asteroids as a real threat, not just an excuse for a Bruce Willis movie. NASA has plans to do that, but there should really be a lot more funding as it’s a real threat capable of destroying our civilization or taking out a city. We spend billions trying to keep terrorists from getting bombs into the US or onto planes, but we spend a tiny fraction of that amount of the bombs flying around space, some of which are aimed at us. Meanwhile people make fun of Bill Nye’s so-called scaremongering of what is a real threat, and apparently some Republican congressmen confuse “skepticism” with outright denial and question if meteors even exist. Sometimes when people think there’s a threat and call for money to address the problem, they’re actual worried about a real problem and not making up shit to make a buck. And there is money in the asteroids, in mining them, so maybe we can pitch that angle to the stupid, cynical dollar-minded folks who don’t understand science or real threats.
And in much ado about nothing, a lot of people were upset that Orson Scott Card was going to write a Superman story for DC comics. Card, because of his religious beliefs, is bigoted against gays and atheists, among others, and maintains that gay marriage is the greatest threat to the American way. While I loathe his personal politics, I don’t think he’s any more bigoted than others reflecting their time and culture (e.g. H. P. Lovecraft, slave-owning founding fathers, etc.) except he’s unfortunate enough to be around in 2013 in this situation rather than a few decades ago. I think his bigotry is horrible. He’s also a good writer who will likely write a good Superman story that will be unlikely to be an anti-gay screed (if it is, ignore the rest of my statement). Out of hundreds of issues important to me, almost everyone has a few particular views and prejudices I don’t like, I imagine, and I’m sure they feel the same way about me. It’s not necessary to get mad at DC, but why not get mad at the movie company making Ender’s Game, Harrison Ford for starring in it, or Tor for publishing Card’s novels? I already know many politicians and public figures who have views I detest, and I don’t vote for them or adopt their perspectives, and I also don’t boycott their work or hound them trying to get them fired from paying jobs. If we as a society did that, no body could do business with anyone, travel anywhere, or be friends with anyone. Yeah, Card is an intolerant dick and vocal about it. Don’t read his work if you don’t want to. Personally I’m unlikely to read Superman comics, but if I hear it’s great, I’m likely to take a look. Same way with the Ender’s Game movie, although if reviews are bad I’ll skip it. Additionally anything like a comic book or a movie, or even a novel, represents the collaboration of many people who have a financial concern. Going to punish them, too, and their families, and the causes they contribute to?
There’s been some movement on the bigfoot DNA front, but it’s an ugly unscientific movement. Ketchum has published a paper finally, but apparently bought a journal, renamed it, and used it as a vehicle for the paper which costs $30 to get. It’s not at all clear it was actually peer reviewed. Also apparently the data are not being made available in the way that is standard for such DNA studies. I’m not very optimistic about this working out well for science or our knowledge of bigfoot. It’s like trying to get the attention of the reading public by hiring a vanity press to publish your novel and then charging people a stupid high price for it. Do it right or don’t do it.
The science, or lack thereof (in the details), in the State of the Union. We for sure need to do some things about climate change and some other problems science informs us about, but technology may help as much or more than economic schemes and regulation. Just trying to remember that fossil fuels are not inherently bad and that we need energy. Many paths should be explored.
Ironically, religious leader in Chechnya wants to crack down on wizards. I’d like to crack down on all charlatans pushing the supernatural to make money and control people.
Come for the cosmic rays, stay for “Professor Funk” (his real name).
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