Problems

Category archives for Problems

Very Big and Very Small

Whilst they (as Homer’s Iliad in a nut) A world of wonders in one closet shut — Inscription on the Tradescant family tombstone, London There are two things which have deeply terrified me in recent science news. The first, as you may have heard, is that a bumper crop of some 32 “new” planets was…

Beam Me Up

Recently, Rhizome.org invited me to contribute a long-form article to their Rhizome Writer’s Initiative, a new program designed to give emerging and established writers the opportunity to pontificate on the world of new media arts. I was glad to do it, especially when I realized that the exhibition I was to review is called “Beam…

One of Buckminster Fuller‘s most interesting conceits was his dislike of specialization, which he likened to a kind of intellectual prison, restraining “bright” people from truly understanding the complex, and general, systems of which they were a part. After all, he argued, what causes extinction in the animal kingdom? Overspecialization. Of course, it’s logical, and…

No Skepticism Policy

Universe has a firm “No Skepticism” policy. Don’t get me wrong, I dig empirical knowledge. And I like the ancient, Pyrrhonian school of Skepticism founded by Pyrrho of Elis (365-275 B.C.); Pyrrhonian skeptics believed that nothing could be known, not even “this” (i.e the very statement that nothing could be known) and strived for a…

Pixel Integrity

Let’s try a thought experiment. This one comes via Buckminster Fuller: imagine you have a length of nylon rope, which you splice into a length of cotton rope, then into another length of hemp rope. If you tie an overhand knot in the rope, and push it down, through all three kinds of ropes, the…

Ask Universe: LHC

It always tickles me when people email me to ask my opinion of pressing science issues, and I’ve decided to start posting selected exchanges for the benefit of all my readers. Remember, if you have any questions, concerns, or just want to jaw at me about all things science, feel free to write. On Sep…

Arecibo Oh NO!

Dear readership, As far as I know, I have never used this website as a political platform. I have weakly festered under the steely gaze of a particularly anti-science American administration without uttering much of a peep, but this, however, I cannot let stand. The Arecibo telescope is the world’s largest radio telescope and currently…

The Psychic Sasquatch

Occasionally, I day-trip from the borders of legitimate science and into the boundless holiday that is the esoteric. I don’t know exactly why I take such pleasure in pseudo-science; perhaps it is to keep my work safe from those who might portend I am out of my league with the real stuff. The lush, seemingly…

Time-Based Tropes

When our futures become the past, what will they prove to have been like? As mind-bending as this question is, it lies at the heart of every successful science fiction story. Good writers in this underappreciated genre can be so forward-thinking that instead of asking, “What will the future be like?” they are already devising…

The Omega Point loves us

This is going to get deep. I heard recently on BBC World Service that the Malaysian space program, itself a weird offshot of a 900 million dollar defense deal Malaysia recently struck with the Russians, is beginning to take shape. The 854 applicants to the program have been narrowed down to four, two of which…