Our National Blind Spot

Want to save the planet?  How about starting by saving the birds.  Here’s a Pareto graph that gives a strong hint of where to start:

BirdMortality

That’s right, get the cat population under control.  Eradicate feral cat colonies, and euthanize cat collections (oh, and institutionalize obsessive cat ladies).  The whole country needs to grow up and get that “cute little kitty” lie out of their heads, and replace it with something more realistic, like “bird murderer.”

Tip from Bird Note, by way of Sarah Hoyt at the Instapundit.

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Science is getting exciting!

Five very interesting articles recently popped up on the web, suggesting that current science is much more interesting than the average Joe might think:

    • At FiveThirtyEight*, Christie Aschwanden’s Science Isn’t Broken gives a great exposition on scientific fraud, p-hacking, and why science is much more difficult than most folks realize.
    • Robert Matthews, writing in UAE’s The National, says Lone researchers with radical ideas may hold the keys to science’s unanswered questions.  One of those “loners” is “Eleonora Troja, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who studies X-rays, had hoped for years to detect the light from a neutron-star merger, but many people thought she was dreaming.”  
    • FiveThirtyEight’s Rebecca Boyle,  in Two Stars Slammed Into Each Other And Solved Half Of Astronomy’s Problems. What Comes Next?, describes that dream coming true and a revolution in astronomy that occurred in just 3 weeks this past August.
    • In The Serial-Killer Detector, the New Yorker’s Alec Wilkinson tells the story of Thomas Hargrove’s one-man Big Data project to categorize and analyze murders in the United States (751,785 since 1976) with the goal of tracking down serial killers.  From the description, is appears Hargrove has done yeoman’s work combining Small N and Big Data techniques with great success. “Hargrove thinks … that there are probably around two thousand serial killers at large in the U.S.”  Yikes!
    • Want to get in on the action?  At ScienceAlert.com, Mike McRae tells how Now You Can Build Your Very Own Muon Detector For Less Than $100, and possibly contribute to a Big Data project supporting stellar astronomy.

*ESPN’s website that analyzes sport statistics, election polling, and (apparently) anything else that catches their analysts’ eyes.

 

Deus ex Machina, on steroids

…is the tagline I’d use to describe Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds’ The Medusa Chronicles, the startling sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “A Meeting with Medusa.”

TheMedusaChronicles

Baxter and Reynolds are up to their usual tricks of piling wonder atop wonder in their usual over-the-top scenarios, while cleverly maintaining Clarke’s style and tone, AND sneaking in episodes strongly reminiscent of 2001, A Space Odyssey.  An added bonus is the introduction of a “new physics” based on the Mach Principle, which is still puzzling serious researchers today.

…local physical laws must be shaped by the large-scale structures of the universe.  And it is meaningless to talk of the behaviour of an object in isolation, without relation to the rest of the universe.  This was 90’s insight.  From that beginning, 90, and a group of others, developed a new kind of physics–from first principles, based only on observation and philosophy.  (The Medusa Chronicles, p. 99)

Art Meets Science

On a day that I’m overbooked, running around campus doing minor, but essential chores, and feeling a bit grumpy about the whole academic enterprise, I stumble upon a jewel like this:

Not in a gallery or the administration building, but in a hallway between classrooms.  Where thousands of students, and the odd faculty member, can marvel at what talents sometimes pop up where we least expect them.

The Invention of Nature

I’m neck deep in Andrea Wulf‘s biography of Alexander von Humboldt, and it’s absolutely riveting.  Von Humboldt was some kind of scientific maniac, who caught the interest of everyone from Goethe to Thomas Jefferson to Simon Bolivar.  Von Humboldt was arguably the first naturalist to think ecologically, as well as one of the earliest abolitionists.  He didn’t get to go everywhere, and he didn’t get to meet everyone, but damn close.

humboldtatchimborazo

ion1 ion2

Are you a turtle?* Is this a fluke?

Just when you think science can’t get any more weird,  we get something like this

A new species of blood fluke was found infecting the lungs of turtles in Malaysia. This parasitic flatworm has been dubbed Baracktrema obamai, in honor of the President of the United States (who is the fifth cousin twice removed of one of the discovering scientists).

Plate 1_Final_JRR_Baracktrema_24 Feb 2016

A parasitic flatworm? I thought this was a spoof until I followed the link to the Jounal of Parasitology.  For reals.

Tip from the Drudge Report.

* Classical reference: Welcome to the Turtle Society.  The only duty of membership is to give the correct response to the question “Are you a Turtle?”  The correct response is “You bet your sweet ass I am.”

Update:  got a like from Julius at Logical Quotes, a great place to get exposed painlessly to some of the great classical philosophers.

Update: Apparently turtles have more going for themselves than we knew.  Check out this guy.  I actually met this turtle in the San Diego Kids’ Zoo when I was a lad, before he was repatriated.

An Unasked Question, Answered

I’d never really thought about it before, but it’s true: my backyard swimming pool* doesn’t have a strong chlorine smell, and the water doesn’t sting my eyes.  Turns out that’s because folks at my house don’t pee in the pool.

Tip from Sara Hoyt writing at the Instapundit.  Lots of links there about too many people peeing in our our pools.

*LOTS of The Wrong Kind of White (and Black and Brown) People (like me) in South Texas have swimming pools.  And we hire independent contractors–even those without college degrees!–to keep them neat, clean, and non-smelly.