What we're talking about General Relativity, Still Making Waves Saturday, February 13, 2016

General Relativity, Still Making Waves

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have detected gravitational waves.” -David Reitze More than 100 years after Einstein’s relativity came out, one of its last great predictions — the existence of gravitational radiation — has been directly experimentally confirmed! The LIGO collaboration has observed two ~30 solar mass black holes merging together, producing a slightly less massive final…

First, what is a gravitational wave? I find it interesting that some people are expressing difficulty in understanding what a gravitational wave is, as though everybody (who is not a physicist) has a perfectly good understanding of what any kind of wave is. We don’t need to go too deeply beneath the surface, as it…

LIGO explains

Dynamics of Cats February 12, 2016

February 11th was a good day. I spent the day at the “Dynamics and accretion at the Galactic Center” Conference at the Aspen Center for Physics, where about 75 physicists have spent the week talking about black holes and stuff. This morning we watched the LIGO press conference, frantically deciphered the papers, and had a…

In the biggest physics news since the observation of the Higgs boson, scientists working on a project called LIGO have witnessed ripples in spacetime caused by gravitational waves. Unlike electromagnetic radiation, which undulates through space, gravitational waves bend space itself, making solid objects (for example) oscillate in size. Ethan Siegel puts the discovery into perspective on Forbes, writing "we’ve just detected two merging black holes for the first time, tested their physics, found a tremendous agreement with Einstein, and seen evidence that this happens over a billion light years away across the Universe." Meanwhile Greg Laden quips that "the gravity of this situation" deserves a hint of healthy skepticism until scientists can repeat their result. And on Dynamics of Cats, Steinn Sigurðsson shares videos from the LIGO team to help us understand what it's all about.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

The Seattle aquarium isn’t playing the matchmaking game with their octopuses anymore, for a chilling reason: they’re afraid that a date might turn into a public cannibal orgy. I don’t recall that peril from my youth, back when I was actively dating. I’m lucky to have escaped Seattle alive!

Manufacturers who market their products as “BPA-free” aren’t just sending consumers a message about chemical composition. The underlying message is about safety — as in, this product is safe or least more safe than products that do contain BPA. However earlier this month, another study found that a common BPA alternative — BPS — may not be safer at all.

Larry Moran has heard the words of Michael Denton, and has come away with a creationist interpretation of structuralism. I have to explain to Larry that Denton, as you might expect of a creationist, is distorting the whole idea. Here’s the Denton/Intelligent Design creationism version of structuralist theory. As Denton says, the basic idea is…

Physical Science

USA Science & Engineering Festival Speaker, Dr. James West, an Acoustical Scientist from Johns Hopkins University turned his childhood curiosity into a career of invention! Looking back on his childhood days in Prince Edward County, Virginia, acoustical scientist James Edward West, says curiosity ruled his life. “If I had a screwdriver and a pair of…

“Look, there’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates.” -Fernando Pessoa One of the most iconic associations with Valentine’s Day is chocolate. And not just any chocolate, mind you, but good-quality chocolate, with a creamy, silky-smooth texture, a firm but shiny structure, and an even, rich consistency and taste throughout. Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a rich and…

I’m about to leave town for the weekend, but I did want to poke my head up just long enough to wish everyone a Happy Darwin Day! And just in time for this most wonderful of holidays, my paper on anti-evolutionary mathematics has now been published. In the journal Science and Education, to be precise.…

Environment

Manufacturers who market their products as “BPA-free” aren’t just sending consumers a message about chemical composition. The underlying message is about safety — as in, this product is safe or least more safe than products that do contain BPA. However earlier this month, another study found that a common BPA alternative — BPS — may not be safer at all.

Sean B. Carroll is coming out with a new book called The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters. This is the molecular biologist Sean Carroll, as distinct from the physicist (who wrote this). Homeostasis is one of the basic principles of biology. The term can be applied broadly…

I don’t normally write about faith (I’m an atheist, I’d be bad at it), but I do often write about climate change. But my friend and colleague Paul Douglas happens to be an Evangelical Christian, Republican, and Rock Star Meteorologist. You’ve seen his work if you’ve seen the movies Jurassic Park or Twister. If you…

Humanities

Some time back, I posted a photo of my usual spot at the Starbucks in Niskayuna. When I was in Newport News earlier this week, of course, I had to find a different space from which to rant about Twitter. Here’s that spot: As you can see, the principal difference between the two is that…

President Obama released his 2017 federal budget proposal yesterday, recommending funding boosts for a number of public health priorities. And even though his presidency is coming to an end and so this budget is probably dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress, it’s worth a peek inside.

I did bring my good camera with me to Newport News, and took it on the tour of Jefferson Lab yesterday, but despite the existence of DSLR pics, you’re getting a cell-phone snap for the photo of the day: That’s the audience about 10-15 minutes before my talk last night, so it was a good…

Education

USA Science & Engineering Festival Speaker, Dr. James West, an Acoustical Scientist from Johns Hopkins University turned his childhood curiosity into a career of invention! Looking back on his childhood days in Prince Edward County, Virginia, acoustical scientist James Edward West, says curiosity ruled his life. “If I had a screwdriver and a pair of…

Internet Links and Social Links at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Here are some links of interest related to Trish Suchy and my NSF Antarctic Artists and Writers Project: Trish Suchy’s blog about our Artist’s and Writer’s project. David Ainley’s website about his research on Adelie penguins: Penguin Science The weather in McMurdo is here. Zach Sudman’s…

Our most recent helo trip out from McMurdo on our NSF Artists & Writers Project took us to Cape Evans, the site of Robert Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, where they based their 1910-1913 trip to the South Pole. We went with Anthony Powell (the filmmaker from Scott Base who made the movie “Antarctica: A Year…

Politics

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are viable candidates to win the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. There are polls and pundits to which we may refer to make a guess as to who will win. Or, we could ignore all that, and let the process play out and see…

Just a quick note that will be of interest to my local readers. Senator Leo Foley passed away at the age of 87, just a few days ago. Senator John Hoffman, who now hold Senator Foley’s old seat, wrote this: Last Friday, Feb. 5 former Coon Rapids Senator Leo T. Foley passed away peacefully surrounded…

I’m looking at an exit poll by NBC and I have thoughts. Gender Gap Much has been made of the fact that Sanders got 55% of female votes, more than 44% for Clinton. That is indeed significant. But little has been said about the fact that among males, 66% voted for Sanders and 32% for…

Medicine

Manufacturers who market their products as “BPA-free” aren’t just sending consumers a message about chemical composition. The underlying message is about safety — as in, this product is safe or least more safe than products that do contain BPA. However earlier this month, another study found that a common BPA alternative — BPS — may not be safer at all.

Ever since the beginning of this blog, there’s one topic I’ve explored many, many times, mainly because of its direct relationship to my profession as a cancer surgeon. That topic is, of course, the question of why people fall for alternative medicine cancer “cures.” It started with one of my very earliest posts and continued…

Last week, I wrote about how conspiracy theories have been flowing fast and furious about the Zika virus and microcephaly. Even if you didn’t see that post (perhaps instead having seen this one), you’ve probably seen the news reports describing how last fall the observation of a large number of cases of microcephaly, characterized by…

Brain & Behavior

Manufacturers who market their products as “BPA-free” aren’t just sending consumers a message about chemical composition. The underlying message is about safety — as in, this product is safe or least more safe than products that do contain BPA. However earlier this month, another study found that a common BPA alternative — BPS — may not be safer at all.

In the 21st century, immortality beckons from several directions: cybernetics, artificial intelligence, telomere extension and cell therapy, maybe even an afterlife. But most of humanity’s hope to transcend death revolves around the brain, as the manifestation of our memories and personality. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers considers the merits of new efforts to master the brain,…

Internet Links and Social Links at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Here are some links of interest related to Trish Suchy and my NSF Antarctic Artists and Writers Project: Trish Suchy’s blog about our Artist’s and Writer’s project. David Ainley’s website about his research on Adelie penguins: Penguin Science The weather in McMurdo is here. Zach Sudman’s…

Technology

USA Science & Engineering Festival Speaker, Dr. James West, an Acoustical Scientist from Johns Hopkins University turned his childhood curiosity into a career of invention! Looking back on his childhood days in Prince Edward County, Virginia, acoustical scientist James Edward West, says curiosity ruled his life. “If I had a screwdriver and a pair of…

As I go through my daily routine, I find myself sort of out of phase with a lot of the Internet. My peak online hours are from about six to ten in the morning, Eastern US time. That’s when I get up, have breakfast, and then go to Starbucks to write for a few hours.…

Suddenly my computer tells me that copy.com is shutting down as a cloud storage service. That sucks, since I had a few terabytes of free storage with them. I will now have to seek an alternative. What are your experiences with cloud storage, free or otherwise?

Information Science

As I go through my daily routine, I find myself sort of out of phase with a lot of the Internet. My peak online hours are from about six to ten in the morning, Eastern US time. That’s when I get up, have breakfast, and then go to Starbucks to write for a few hours.…

Oh, The Onion. You are so wonderful and your take on the world of patents is so spot on that it hurts. What are patents for, anyways? Here’s a bit of an excerpt from their 11 Step Program. Drop by the site to see the rest. Brilliant. Step 1: First, come up with something really…

David Macaulay is famous for his “how things work” books. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is a new book that is really fun. So fun that it took me a long time to get it back from Amanda and Huxley so I could review it. The concept is simple. A story, a simple story, is…

Jobs

In yesterday’s post about the lack of money in academia, I mentioned in passing that lack of funding is part of the reason for the slow pace of progress on improving faculty diversity. That is, we could make more rapid progress if we suddenly found shitloads of money and could go on a massive hiring…

Over in Twitter-land, somebody linked to this piece promoting open-access publishing, excerpting this bit: One suggestion: Ban the CV from the grant review process. Rank the projects based on the ideas and ability to carry out the research rather than whether someone has published in Nature, Cell or Science. This could in turn remove the…

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the US. This one occurred on Tuesday, February 26 in Seattle, WA.