Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
Number of posts: 7,023
Number of posts: 7,023
- 2016 (19)
- 2015 (19)
- 2014 (19)
- 2013 (20)
- 2012 (24)
- Older Archives
Bad Astronomer Phil Plait lowers the boom on Mike Pence, Herr Drumpf's choice for Vice President, who is playing to the evangelical right as well as the big oil and coal lobby:
I’ve written a word or two about Donald Trump, as you might imagine, but not much on his vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (except to say, unshockingly, that he is a climate change denier).
You know anyone picked by Trump to be his running mate almost certainly will have a problem with established science, of course, but it turns out Pence is also a young Earth creationist. And one with a lot of conviction about it, too. In 2002, while a congressman from Indiana, he gave a short speech on the floor of Congress denying evolution, and used quite a few misleading, if not outright false, claims.
Phil offers this video of Pence making a fool of himself on the floor of Congress, then goes on to debunk his dumber statements:
Phil sums up:
I feel that at the very least, a vice presidential candidate should uphold the Constitution, especially the First Amendment.
Not that Trump appears to have any desire to want to, either. That makes them quite the pair. I hope that come November, they can be unemployed together.
Posted by LongTomH | Fri Aug 19, 2016, 01:10 PM (9 replies)
Guardian UK: Our attitude toward wealth played a crucial role in Brexit. We need a rethink. There are some interesting parallels in Prof. Hawking's article and the issues that Bernie Sanders raised during the US campaign.
Does money matter? Does wealth make us rich any more? These might seem like odd questions for a physicist to try to answer, but Britain’s referendum decision is a reminder that everything is connected and that if we wish to understand the fundamental nature of the universe, we’d be very foolish to ignore the role that wealth does and doesn’t play in our society.
Here's the 'meat' of the article:
So I would be the last person to decry the significance of money. However, although wealth has played an important practical role in my life, I have of course had a different relationship with it to most people. Paying for my care as a severely disabled man, and my work, is crucial; the acquisition of possessions is not. I don’t know what I would do with a racehorse, or indeed a Ferrari, even if I could afford one. So I have come to see money as a facilitator, as a means to an end – whether it is for ideas, or health, or security – but never as an end in itself.
Interestingly this attitude, for a long time seen as the predictable eccentricity of a Cambridge academic, is now more widely shared. People are starting to question the value of pure wealth. Is knowledge or experience more important than money? Can possessions stand in the way of fulfilment? Can we truly own anything, or are we just transient custodians?
These questions are leading to a shift in behaviour which, in turn, is inspiring some groundbreaking new enterprises and ideas. These are termed “cathedral projects”, the modern equivalent of the grand church buildings, constructed as part of humanity’s attempt to bridge heaven and Earth. These ideas are started by one generation with the hope a future generation will take up these challenges.
I hope and believe that people will embrace more of this cathedral thinking for the future, as they have done in the past, because we are in perilous times. Our planet and the human race face multiple challenges. These challenges are global and serious – climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans. Such pressing issues will require us to collaborate, all of us, with a shared vision and cooperative endeavour to ensure that humanity can survive. We will need to adapt, rethink, refocus and change some of our fundamental assumptions about what we mean by wealth, by possessions, by mine and yours. Just like children, we will have to learn to share.
If we fail then the forces that contributed to Brexit, the envy and isolationism not just in the UK but around the world that spring from not sharing, of cultures driven by a narrow definition of wealth and a failure to divide it more fairly, both within nations and across national borders, will strengthen. If that were to happen, I would not be optimistic about the long-term outlook for our species.
In many ways, this is a continuation of Hawking's concern about the dangers than human stupidity and greed pose to our survival.
Posted by LongTomH | Fri Jul 29, 2016, 01:22 PM (2 replies)
There are a lot of backstories to the development of America's only spaceplane (to date); one of the most interesting is: Why did Jimmy Carter, who was no great fan of man in space save the space shuttle program? The excellent Ars Technica blog has an article on this: A Cold War mystery: Why did Jimmy Carter save the space shuttle?.
We’d been chatting for the better part of two hours when Chris Kraft’s eyes suddenly brightened. “Hey,” he said, “Here’s a story I’ll bet you never heard.” Kraft, the man who had written flight rules for NASA at the dawn of US spaceflight and supervised the Apollo program, had invited me to his home south of Houston for one of our periodic talks about space policy and space history. As we sat in recliners upstairs, in a den overlooking the Bay Oaks Country Club, Kraft told me about a time the space shuttle almost got canceled.
It was the late 1970s, when Kraft directed the Johnson Space Center, the home of the space shuttle program. At the time, the winged vehicle had progressed deep into a development phase that started in 1971. Because the program had not received enough money to cover development costs, some aspects of the vehicle (such as its thermal protective tiles) were delayed into future budget cycles. In another budget trick, NASA committed $158 million in fiscal year 1979 funds for work done during the previous fiscal year.
The article goes into the various funding problems faced by the space shuttle program by the late 70s, during the Carter administration; the upshot is that Carter finally supported the program.
Armed with these bleak options, Frosch returned to Washington. Some time later he would meet with Carter, not expecting a positive response, as the president had never been a great friend to the space program. But Carter, according to Kraft, had just returned from Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in Vienna, and he had spoken with the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, about how the United States was going to be able to fly the shuttle over Moscow continuously to ensure they were compliant with the agreements.
So when Frosch went to the White House to meet with the president and said NASA didn’t have the money to finish the space shuttle, the administrator got a response he did not expect: “How much do you need?”
In doing so, Jimmy Carter saved the space shuttle, Kraft believes. Without supplementals for fiscal year 1979 and 1980, the shuttle would never have flown, at least not as the iconic vehicle that would eventually fly 135 missions and 355 individual fliers into space. It took some flights as high as 400 miles above the planet before retiring five years ago this week. “That was the first supplemental NASA had ever asked for,” Kraft said. “And we got that money from Jimmy Carter.”
These few paragraphs vastly oversimplify the story; but, it does seem that without the need for the shuttle's use in verifying the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, it might very well have been canceled.
Then there was Carter’s vice president, Walter Mondale, who in 1972 had called the space shuttle a “senseless extravaganza.” A senator from Minnesota at the time, Mondale had vigorously opposed early funding measures to begin development of the shuttle. His views exemplified those who believed the United States had more pressing needs for its money than chasing the stars.
If Walter Mondale had won the presidency in 1984, the shuttle program would likely have been canceled after the Challenger disaster and NASA's budget gutted.
There's much more to the story, I recommend the article: http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/07/a-cold-war-mystery-why-did-jimmy-carter-save-the-space-shuttle/
Posted by LongTomH | Sun Jul 17, 2016, 01:29 PM (1 replies)
There are a lot of reasons for the rise of Donald Trump: a dysfunctional, "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" media,and a generally pissed off electorate that feels it has been ignored and betrayed by the establishments of both parties. Astronomer Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy fame, feels that GOP opposition to science and critical thinking played a major role: The GOP's Denial of Science Primed Them For the Illogic of Donald Trump:
We are awash in that miasma, where people can say almost anything, no matter how ridiculous, and not be confronted, not be challenged. Many of these purveyors of poppycock wind up surrounding themselves with throngs of people willing and eager to suspend their disbelief and support the foolishness. Cults certainly can form in such an atmosphere … and when the person spouting the nonsense is a politician, that’s when things get very sticky indeed.
And now here we are, with Donald Trump the nearly inevitable champion of the Republican Party.
This is no coincidence. An interesting if infuriating article in New Republic very clearly lays out how the GOP has spent decades paving the road for Trump by attacking the science that goes against their prejudicial ideology. I strongly urge you to read it, but one section jumped out at me in particular:
There’s another factor at work here: The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.
At the end of the article, Phil gives a list of his posts on critical thinking.
Posted by LongTomH | Mon Jul 4, 2016, 06:30 PM (4 replies)
From Huffington Post: Stunning Photos From Around the World Show the Power of the Summer Solstice:
If you peered up into the sky at any point on Monday, you likely would have seen a big, beautiful full moon shining down at you. The June full moon, nicknamed the “Strawberry Moon” by indigenous American tribes, fell on the summer solstice this year — the first time the two coincided since the 1967 Summer of Love.
Summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and it’s one of celebration and reverence for many around the world, including some Pagans, Druids, Incans, and spiritual seekers. Celebrations typically honor the power of the sun, but this year, the full moon also showed off its glory by lighting the sky long into the night.
A full moon behind Glastonbury Tor near Somerset, UK
The full moon rises behind above the ancient marble Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, southeast of Athens.
Aymara indigenous hold up their hands to receive the first rays of sunlight in a New Year’s ritual in the ruins of the ancient city Tiwanaku, Bolivia, early Tuesday, June 21, 2016.
Photos of revelers at Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in southern England, Britain June 21, 2016.
Israelis gather to watch the sunrise on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, at Rujum el-Hiri located in the central part of the Golan Heights on June 21, 2016.
Posted by LongTomH | Tue Jun 21, 2016, 08:04 PM (3 replies)
...and a Muslim, who died for this country!
This picture of Elsheba Khan mourning at her son's grave has, deservedly, gone viral:
Posted by LongTomH | Tue Jun 21, 2016, 07:38 PM (3 replies)
Posted by LongTomH | Sat May 14, 2016, 01:49 PM (38 replies)
The Centauri Dreams website has run several recent posts on the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence that suggest new directions for the search. The most recent: Perspectives on Cosmic Archeology discusses the implications of the final factor in the Drake Equation: The lifetime of a technological civilization.
By ‘technological,’ Drake was referring to those civilizations that were capable of producing detectable signals; i.e., releasing electromagnetic radiation into space. And when we have but one civilization to work with as example, we’re hard pressed to know what this factor is. This is where Adam Frank (University of Rochester) and Woodruff Sullivan (University of Washington, Seattle) come into the picture. In a new paper in Astrobiology, the researchers argue that there are other ways of addressing the ‘lifetime’ question.
What Came Before Us
The idea is to calculate how unlikely our advanced civilization would be if none has ever arisen before us. In other words, Frank and Sullivan want to put a lower limit on the probability that technological species have, at any time in the past, evolved elsewhere than on Earth. Here’s how their paper describes this quest:
Standard astrobiological discussions of intelligent life focus on how many technological species currently exist with which we might communicate (Vakoch and Dowd, 2015). But rather than asking whether we are now alone, we ask whether we are the only technological species that has ever arisen. Such an approach allows us to set limits on what might be called the ‘‘cosmic archaeological question’’: How often in the history of the Universe has evolution ever led to a technological species, whether short- or long-lived? As we shall show, providing constraints on an answer to this question has profound philosophical and practical implications.
The paper is short and interesting; I commend it to you. The result it produces is that human civilization can be considered unique in the cosmos only if the odds of a civilization developing are less than one part in 10 to the 22nd power. Frank and Sullivan call this the ‘pessimism’ line. If the probability of a technological civilization developing is greater than this standard, then we can assume civilizations have formed before us at some time in the universe’s history.
And yes, this is a tiny number — one in ten billion trillion. Frank says in this University of Rochester news release that he believes it implies technology-producing species have evolved before us. Even if the chances of civilization arising were one in a trillion, there would be about ten billion civilizations in the observable universe since the first one arose. As for our own galaxy, another civilization is likely to have appeared at some point in its history if the odds against it evolving on any one habitable planet are better than one in 60 billion.
I always appreciate work that frames an issue in a new perspective, which is what Frank and Sullivan’s paper does. We can’t know whether there are other civilizations currently active in our galaxy, but it appears that the odds favor their having arisen at some time in the past. In fact, these numbers show us that we are almost certainly not the first technological civilization to have emerged. Is the galaxy filled with the ruins of civilizations that were unable to survive, or is it a place where some cultures have mastered the art of keeping themselves alive?
As a commentary on that last paragraph, I'd like to offer Randall Munroe's famed statement:
That sentiment has been shared by Prof. Steven Hawking, as well as the late Dr. Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke.
Posted by LongTomH | Tue May 3, 2016, 06:20 PM (3 replies)
Join NASA for a #24Seven Celebration of Earth Day:
On April 22, NASA will post about 200 images across nearly 100 different social media channels that capture the breadth of the agency’s 24-hour-a-day work to study Earth. The images were captured during the week of March 27, but have been assembled chronologically to tell a story of a “day in the life” of NASA’s Earth science work. The time-stamped posts -- hashtagged #24Seven -- will begin publishing at 12:01 a.m. EDT and will continue throughout the day.
Share your posts on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #24Seven, or on our Facebook Event page.We know we aren’t the only people working to safeguard and understand our home planet. As you celebrate Earth Day, we’re asking you to share on social media what you’re doing to mark the day and celebrate our fragile home in space.
Share your posts on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #24Seven, or on our Facebook Event page.
How can I take part?
Millions of people will take time out of their day this April 22 to do their part to make Earth a better place. Others will mark the day by spending it outside, celebrating the beauty, ruggedness and life-giving elements that make Earth our home in the solar system.
Take a picture or a short video of whatever Earth-focused activity you are doing on Earth Day and post it on social media with the hashtag #24Seven. Pictures and videos can be posted to Twitter, Instagram and to the official NASA Facebook Event page.
Begin posting at 6 a.m. EDT on April 21 – which marks the beginning of Earth Day on the international date line at Samoa and Christmas Island, Kiribati – and continue posting until 8 a.m. EDT on April 23, which marks the end of Earth Day on the other side of the international date line at Baker Island.
Some of the first images from NASA's 24/Seven Earth Day Celebration:
Posted by LongTomH | Fri Apr 22, 2016, 02:19 PM (1 replies)
There was a day of strikes, protests and marches in Kansas City Thursday. The movement was originally started for fast-food workers in 2013; since then, janitors, child-care workers, hospital workers and even adjunct professors have joined the movement.
There are protests going on in 300 US cities and 40 countries. The demands are the same:
Posted by LongTomH | Fri Apr 15, 2016, 02:36 PM (1 replies)