Last 24 Hours

Last year, I did several posts on what I consider to be a profoundly misguided and potentially harmful type of law known as “right-to-try.” Beginning about a year and a half ago, promoted by the libertarian think tank known as the Goldwater Institute, right-to-try laws began popping up in state legislatures. I wrote about how…

“The world exploded into billions of atoms, and when it rearranged itself, it may have looked the same, but really, it was a Whole New World.” –Claire LaZebnik At the center of almost every galaxy is a supermassive black hole (SMBH); at the center of almost every cluster is a supermassive galaxy with some of…

“I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found.” –John Forbes Nash, Jr. Yet logic and reason — when applied correctly — can get us incredibly far. Have a listen…

Sunday Chess Problem

I’m a little pressed for time today, so for this week’s chess problem I’ve selected one of those old-fashioned efforts whose only point is a shocking key move. The following position was composed by Sam Loyd in 1868 and calls for mate in two: Of course, white’s force is so overwhelming that were this a…

John Nash Has Died

In less happy news, there is this: John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius whose struggle with schizophrenia was chronicled in the 2001 movie “A Beautiful Mind,” has died along with his wife in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. He was 86. Nash and Alicia Nash, 82, of Princeton Township, were killed…

As the Hugo nomination debacle unfolded, one of the few bright spots was the replacement of Marko Kloos’s novel with The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, who is apparently a Big Name in SF in China. This got a good deal of buzz when it was released in the US, and I’ve sorta-kinda been meaning…

Good News From Ireland

A large majority of voters have approved gay marriage: Ireland’s citizens have voted in a landslide to legalize gay marriage, electoral officials announced Saturday–a stunningly lopsided result that illustrates what Catholic leaders and rights activists alike called a “social revolution.” Friday’s referendum saw 62.1 percent of Irish voters say “yes” to changing the nation’s constitution…

So gushes Mother Jones, adding the enticing word “exclusive” to the story. But – weirdly enough, for a confection of spying and science reporting, both of which are normally so reliable – this appears to be a bit garbled. Firstly, the “climate research programme” looks to be more like the CIA had allowed civilian scientists…

OSHA gives DuPont a 50% discount on penalty for death of 4 workers

OSHA gave DuPont a 50 percent discount on a repeat violation that contributed to the death in November 2014 of four workers at the company’s LaPorte, TX plant. Instead of a $70,000 penalty, the company got off cheap with an even cheaper $35,000 one.

Fatal work injury that killed Tito Hernandez was preventable, OSHA cites Scott Materials

The fatal work-related injuries that killed Milton “Tito” Rafael Barreto Hernandez, 22, could have been prevented had his employer followed worker safety regulations.

“An asteroid or a supervolcano could certainly destroy us, but we also face risks the dinosaurs never saw: An engineered virus, nuclear war, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us.” -Elon Musk We’ve covered a ton this week on Starts With A Bang, ranging from the earliest times…

“[I]f there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.” –C.S. Lewis The Universe had two periods where light was abundant, separated by the cosmic dark ages. The first came at the moment of the hot Big Bang, as…

Friday Cephalopod: Legal precedent

By carrying that coconut, octopuses of this sort made a change in their legal status necessary. The extent of octopus intelligence is debated, at least among vertebrates, but there is evidence of pretty complex behavior, including possible tool use. See, e.g., J.K. Finn, T. Tregenza, and M.D. Norman, “Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus,”…

I was proctoring an exam yesterday in two different sections of the same class, so I had a lot of quite time. Which means I wrote not one but two new posts for Forbes… The first continues a loose series of posts about the exotic physics behind everyday objects (something I’m toying with as a…

Antivaccine activism endangers children. Of that there is no longer any doubt. As vaccination rates fall, the risk of outbreaks of dangerous vaccine-preventable infectious diseases among children rise. In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year, several states introduced measures to restrict nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements. The record in passing…