Physical Sciences

For your reading and collection development pleasure... It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, kind of seeing what's on my mind a little in the science-y and tech-y book world and kind of a way to help me remember what I want to pick up. It's also been a while since I've actually reviewed a book, but I do think I'll be getting to some of the backlog fairly soon in some mass group posts. In any case, some books I'd like to read, ones that I've not acquired yet but probably will soon. The Politics of Fear: Médecins sans Frontières and the West African Ebola Epidemic. Edited by…
"Science and religion are both the same thing. They're there; they're life. If it's not science, it's not a fact." -Chuck Berry We always take pride in what we put out into the world here at Starts With A Bang, and I like to think that all of you take that same pride in everything you do. Before we get into anything else, I have some sad news to share with you: one of our long-time commenters, known here as MandoZink, has died of cancer. (He also commented elsewhere as BeyondApsis, if you knew or encountered him elsewhere.) His real name was Ron. He was so curious about everything; he loved…
Way back in the early days of my blogging career, I remember coming across a "challenge" by a man named Jock Doubleday. I didn't know it at the time, but Doubleday had achieved some notoriety before his "vaccine challenge" as the director or Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc. and the author of such amazing works as The Burning Time (Stories of the Modern-day Persecution of Midwives) and Lolita Shrugged (THE MYTH OF AGE-SPECIFIC MATURITY). His "challenge" was in the same vein as his previous work, only more so and full-on antivaccine. The reason I'm bringing up Doubleday again after all these…
Earlier this month, news broke of a study that found potentially health-harming chemicals in a variety of fast food packaging. Upon hearing such news, the natural inclination is to worry that you’re ingesting those chemicals along with your burger and fries. Study researcher Graham Peaslee says that’s certainly a risk. But perhaps the greater risk, he says, happens after that hamburger wrapper ends up in landfill and the chemicals seep into our environment and water. The chemicals in question are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), which are used to make consumer products nonstick,…
I like to refer to homeopathy as The One Quackery To Rule Them All, so much so that I almost always call it that within the first two paragraphs of any post I write about some tasty bit of homeopathy pseudoscience. It's also a wonderful tool for teaching critical thinking because it's easy to explain and people grasp intuitively why homeopathy is pseudoscience when it's explained properly to them. Basically, it's because of homeopathy's two laws. The first is the Law Similars, which states that, relieve a symptom, you must use something that causes the symptom. It's nonsense. There's no…
“We have finally established the contours that define the supercluster of galaxies we can call home … This is not unlike finding out for the first time that your hometown is actually part of much larger country that borders other nations.” -Brent Tully It's been another remarkable week here at Starts With A Bang! Full of science, stories and a slew of information you won't find anywhere else, we've hit on a number of fantastic ones for your perusal. The news you haven't heard? My upcoming book, on the real-life science behind the technologies envisioned by Star Trek, now has a listing on the…
Timmy has been for a while my prime - and possibly only - example of a sane libertarian, climate-wise. In that he has frequently advanced economic arguments on the basis of accepting the IPCC WGI science. And, it has to be said, in the face of opposition from his commentariat, who are stupid, almost to a man. However, it has never been clear that he actually does believe it, and on various occasions he has been fairly Lomborgish: accept, nominally, but then downplay. Now, with This is the point at which we rise up and hang them all it finally becomes clear that he does believe the Daily Fail…
They're here, they're there, they're everywhere! Sorry. I couldn't resist. I also couldn't resist revisiting the topic of nanoparticles one last time. You remember nanoparticles? They're the contaminant that poisons everything, at least if you believe two Italians, Antonietta Gatti and Stefano Montanari, who published a paper that purported to show that vaccines were hopelessly contaminated with heavy metal nanoparticles. (Hey, that would make a great name for a band.) Unfortunately for them, the study was a hopeless botch that lacked anything resembling proper controls, experimental design,…
Inevitably, with the announcement of The March for Science on Earth Day, April 22nd of this year, come the inevitable naysayers decrying the politicization of science. Astroturf groups such as ACSH (diversity excludes white dudes and scientists from industry!), have of course decried the effort as a liberal conspiracy, but I was sad to see even the New York Times found a scientist to rain on our parade. A march by scientists, while well intentioned, will serve only to trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about, turn scientists into another group caught up in the culture…
“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” -Saint Augustine Well, another week has gone by -- the second of the year -- here at Starts With A Bang! Hopefully, none of you noticed a drop in the quality or frequency of the science I've been bringing you, because I've had the flu, but I've been working hard to make sure you get all the science you've come to expect. And it's been a tremendous week, with…
"Life would be tragic if it weren't funny." -Stephen Hawking Well, the first week of the year is behind us here at Starts With A Bang! For most people, that means struggling to return from a long holiday break, but in the world of astronomy that means we've just come back from an incredible week of science at the annual American Astronomical Society meeting! We've had an abnormally large number of stories as a result, and you'll be treated to a stream of in-depth, cutting edge stories smattered throughout the rest of the month! Here's what we've covered so far: Why doesn't Earth's atmosphere…
A fascinating press release I want to pass along.  At first I thought it was maybe good news in that rising sea levels would slow glacier drainage into the oceans but the affect is the opposite: For the first time, researchers have closely observed how the ocean's tides can speed up or slow down the speed of glacial movement in Antarctica. The new data will help modelers better predict how glaciers will respond to rising sea levels. Caltech's Brent Minchew (PhD '16) and Mark Simons, along with their collaborators and in cooperation with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), exploited four COSMO-…
Well, it's 2017. In a mere 17 days, unreality will become reality, as the most unlikely and terrifying President in my lifetime is sworn in. Consequently, as I was thinking about what I'd like to write about for my first post of the new year, only one thing came to mind. Only one thing that I routinely apply my Insolence, both Respectful and Not-So-Respectful, to achieves the level of unreality that our politics entered in November and will amplify in a little more than two weeks. Yes, it's time for a reiki post. OK, I admit it. A reader sent me a hilarious article about the mechanism of…
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." -Winston Churchill Happy new year here at Starts With A Bang! No matter how 2016 was for you, there's a new year dawning today, and whether you've got sun, clouds, rain or snow where you are (it's snow here), the Universe beyond our world is still a tremendous place to explore. The latest Starts With A Bang podcast, on whether our Universe itself could be the inside of a black hole, turned into such a sensation (with more listens than any other podcast we've done) that I've…
Via Twitter via ClimateDepot (hold your nose) we come to RealClear Investigations which quotes Lindzen as saying, inter alia, They should probably cut the funding by 80 to 90 percent until the field cleans up... Climate science has been set back two generations, and they have destroyed its intellectual foundations.” This is classic crusty old boy down the club stuff: it was all better when he were a lad, and so on. Just to remind you, I declared Lindzen emeritus in 2011, but he only became a shark-jumper in 2013. Although now I look he was pretty wacky even back in 2005 (older readers may…
“The universe is asymmetric and I am persuaded that life, as it is known to us, is a direct result of the asymmetry of the universe or of its indirect consequences. The universe is asymmetric.” -Louis Pasteur Time keeps barreling forward for all of us, but I'm so pleased that Starts With A Bang! still keeps on taking on some of the biggest and smallest questions about physics, astronomy and the Universe as it related to humanity. There were a number of grandiose, challenging topics we took on this week, including: What if gravity isn't really fundamental? (for Ask Ethan), Top five features to…
I'm teaching introductory mechanics for the umpteenth time, using the Matter and Interactions curriculum, as we have for a while. This is going to be my last time teaching out of M&I, though, because last year the department decided to switch to a different book. Starting this winter term, we'll be using Halliday, Resnick and Walker. My physics blogging over at Forbes tends toward the contemplative anyway, for a variety of reasons, but knowing that this is the last time through M&I has had me thinking even more along those lines. Thus, recent posts on really simple physics and what it…
“Weightlessness was unbelievable. It's physical euphoria: Nothing about you has any weight. You don't realize that you are weighed down all the time by yourself, and your organs, and your head. Your arms weigh down your shoulders. In space simulation, you get to fly like Superman! You're hanging in the air! It's the coolest thing.” -Mary Roach As October comes to an end, the nights grow longer (at least in the northern hemisphere) and Halloween approaches. There are wonders all around us, and the need to separate good science from bad. There's plenty in the rear-view mirror, like this month’s…
The jazz of physics, the physics of jazz, the chemistry of jazz, the jazz of chemistry, the jazz of computer science, the computer science of jazz, the math of jazz, the jazz of math, the jazz of biology, the biology of jazz, the jazz of engineering, the engineering of jazz. And why not the jazz of history and the history of jazz? The sociology of jazz and the jazz of sociology? The jazz of political science, the political science of jazz. The jazz of philosophy, the philosophy of jazz, the literature of jazz, the jazz of literature. And why not the jazz of religion, the religion of jazz,…
As hard as it is for me to believe, I’ve been writing about homeopathy for more than a decade now. Regular readers, of course, know that homeopathy is quackery, utter pseudoscience based on prescientific vitalism based on two “laws”: the Law of Similars and the Law of Infinitesimals. The former states that, to relieve a symptom, you use a substance that causes that symptom in healthy people. There is, of course, no science or logic to support this as a general principle other than sympathetic magic. The latter Law states that to make a remedy stronger, you must dilute it. That in itself is…