Physical Sciences

“We do not realize what we have on Earth until we leave it.” -Jim Lovell Well, the Scienceblogs comments are still on the fritz, requiring me to manually un-spam them one-at-a-time, but Starts With A Bang! is still going strong with some fabulous stories based on the best knowledge we have! This next week is poised to be a doozy of a fantastic one, as Treknology is out at last (Amazon is having a sale on it today, and my copies arrive on Wednesday), so next weekend I'll have special instructions for you on how to order autographed copies from me. Also, check out Starts With A Bang on Forbes…
ATTP started it by posting on Well below 2 °C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes by Yangyang Xua and Veerabhadran Ramanathan. But as you can tell from ATTP's post, the principal question - although he is far too polite to put it so bluntly - is "where's the novelty?"1 All their GHG and temperature scenarios, as they themselves stress, are consistent with IPCC; so there's nothing new there. Neither are the stochastic runs and attempts to assess the probabilities of exceeding various thresholds. Neither, alas, are the attaching of arbitrary labels to…
Apparently, Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions? was so popular that it gets a retread. Despite the original being published in 20133, we're now being told that Researchers have for the first time tied a group of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, and their products to specific increases in greenhouse gases, global warming and sea level rise. A study published Thursday in the journal Climatic Change concludes that since 1880, 90 of the largest carbon producers are responsible for up to 50 percent of global temperature rise,…
“There will be days when we lose faith. Days when our allies turn against us...but the day will never come that we forsake this planet and its people.” ―Optimus Prime There was too much to simply keep it to a single article a day this week here at Starts With A Bang! The dynamic duo of Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand published a delightful contribution on scale, and we're gearing up for a month where we'll highlight some of the telescopes of the 2020s (and maybe beyond) that will help shape the future of astronomy. In the meantime, those of you who caught totality from the eclipse have…
"Life is not a miracle. It is a natural phenomenon, and can be expected to appear whenever there is a planet whose conditions duplicate those of the Earth." ―Harold Urey It's been yet another fascinating week of scientific stories here at Starts With A Bang! But as of the last 48 hours, there's something I absolutely have to talk about: the "Unite The Right" hate rally in Virginia, accompanied by violence and murder. They say that in order for evil to triumph, all that you need is for good people to stand by and do nothing. When I was a kid -- small, young, weak, inexperienced -- I saw lots…
Pseudoscience is effective. If it weren't, people wouldn't generate so much of it to try to justify opinions not supported by the bulk of the evidence. It's effective because people trust science as a method of understanding the world, and ideological actors want that trust conferred to their opinions. They want their opinions to carry that authority, so they imitate science to try to steal some of that legitimacy for themselves. However, science is not flattered by this behavior, it is undermined and diminished. The Damore Manifesto (PDF with hyperlinks) or "Google anti-diversity memo…
“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.” ―Gene Roddenberry Well, it happened, everyone! I flew out to the official Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, and the people I met there and the events and panels I attended (and participated in) were largely fabulous! Best of all, I got to line up a number of future podcasts about science, Star Trek, and everything in between, so stay tuned in…
“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived.” -Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore, and Rick Berman After being away for last weekend, it's time to take a look back at the past two weeks on Starts With A Bang! There's been no shortage of stories, of news, or of scientific matters of interest, so let's see what we've got: Is it foolishness to dream of…
You know how you know when you've been effective deconstructing quackery or antivaccine pseudoscience? It's when quacks and pseudoscientists strike back. It's when they attack you. As much as Mike Adams' near daily tirades against me last year caused problems and poisoned my Google reputation (which was, obviously, the goal), I could reassure myself with the knowledge that his attacks meant that I had gotten to him. When Steve Novella was sued by a quack, as much as I didn't want to be sued by anyone, I knew that the fact that someone would sue him was testament to his effectiveness.…
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” -Abraham Lincoln As you've come to expect, it's been another fantastic week of science here on Starts With A Bang!? There's a chance I'll be in Las Vegas next month for the official Star Trek convention, and in addition to all we're doing, there's a chance that there will be a new YouTube video series coming out that features me and the fusion of sci-fi/fantasy with science. Sounds fun? You bet it does! Also, for those of you in and around Portland, OR, join me at 2 PM at the Oregon Historical Society today to catch my…
“Sometimes the silences, the gaps, tell us more than anything else.” -Peter Ackroyd Did you know that there's even more going on than before here at Starts With A Bang!? Yes, we have our articles at Forbes; yes, we have our Podcasts on Soundcloud; yes, we have our first book out and our second available for preorder. But we also have had a recent appearance on Portland's NBC affiliate to talk about the eclipse, I've also been doing podcasts to promote Treknology and will be recording another interview this afternoon, and I've been researching and speaking with scientists and engineers…
“Many people today agree that we need to reduce violence in our society. If we are truly serious about this, we must deal with the roots of violence, particularly those that exist within each of us. We need to embrace 'inner disarmament,' reducing our own emotions of suspicion, hatred and hostility toward our brothers and sisters.” -Dalai Lama XIV From subatomic scales to very human ones to the largest conceivable ones in the cosmos, we do our best to cover the entire Universe here at Starts With A Bang! There's always so much to discuss that we're never going to lack for potential topics,…
"This would be like an F8 tornado sweeping across the surface. These are winds on Mars that will never be seen again unless [there is] another impact." -Peter Schultz When you examine craters on the surfaces of worlds across the solar system, you find that there are rays emanating outward, containing a mix of ejecta from the impactor and the surface itself. But there’s a limit to how far those rays go, and that’s normally dependent on the size of the crater. In a few instances on Mars, however, those rays go much, much farther than physics would indicate. A detailed, infrared view of a…
"First Rate People hire first rate people. Second rate people hire third rate people." -Hermann Weyl So, here we are, encountering one another on the internet. There’s a really good chance that this is because you have some interest in space, science, astronomy, astrophysics, or some related area. Although I am an astrophysicist with a Ph,D. in theoretical physics, my focus over the past decade or so has been on education and public outreach: science communication. As we're exploring more and more of the Universe, education and outreach becomes more vital than ever if our society wants to be…
It looks as though the check has finally cleared. You might be wondering what I'm referring to. A little more than a week ago, I took note of how a truly awful survey masquerading as a "study" had risen from the dead once again as two publications in a notorious bottom-feeding predatory "open access" journal after having been retracted after publication in a somewhat less notorious but similarly bottom-feeding predatory "open access" journal. Whether or not these studies were actually retracted the second time around is somewhat unclear. What is known is that they were on the Open Access Text…
Inside Higher Ed ran a piece yesterday from a Ph.D. student pleading for more useful data about job searching: What we need are professional studies, not just anecdotal advice columns, about how hiring committees separate the frogs from the tadpoles. What was the average publication count of tenure-track hires by discipline? How did two Ph.D. graduates with the same references (a controlled variable) fare on the job market, and why? What percentage of tenure-track hires began with national conference interviews? These are testable unknowns, not divine mysteries. From the age-old Jobtracks…
“Time travel used to be thought of as just science fiction, but Einstein's general theory of relativity allows for the possibility that we could warp space-time so much that you could go off in a rocket and return before you set out.” -Stephen Hawking As always, there's been a new fantastic week of articles here at Starts With A Bang, punctuated by our new podcast this month, on the physics of time travel! Have a listen (or download it and take it with you) and thank our Patreon supporters for making it possible! Now, what was this past week all about? Come enjoy some fabulous stories if…
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” -Walter Elliot It's been two great weeks here at Starts With A Bang, where we've seen an incredible slew of new articles, new contributions, and literally hundreds of comments where nobody needed to get banned! To all of those who made it out to see me last weekend at NorWesCon, thank you for your incredible support, and to those who didn't, I hope things have gone well for you, and that you've enjoyed all our articles! To take a look back, here's what we've seen over the past two weeks: Why is there a limit to…
"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." -Woodrow Wilson It's been another fantastic week here at Starts With A Bang, and I've got to laud all of you for doing your best to make it a good one! Let's get right into what this past week held: Is there any such thing as pure energy? (for Ask Ethan), More than stars: the Milky Way's dust mapped in 3D for the first time ever (for…
Yesterday, I wrote about an antivaccine "march on Washington." As is often the case with antivaccine rhetoric, if you listened to the people organizing the conference and planning to speak there, you'd think that they were fighting an apocalyptic battle for the very future of the human race. Certainly, Kent Heckenlively seems to think so. I'm not going to write about this march again, at least not today. It's too soon. I don't know how ridiculous, how pathetic it was, mainly because, as I write this, it hasn't happened yet. What I can write about is something I came across while researching…