Technology

Today, I officially stopped being department chair, and started my sabbatical leave. I also acquired a new toy: My new camera, taken with the old camera. My old DSLR camera, a Canon Rebel XSi that I got mumble years ago, has been very good for over 20,000 pictures, but a few things about it were getting kind of flaky-- it's been bad at reading light levels for a while now, meaning I'm constantly having to monkey with the ISO setting manually, then forgetting to change it back when I move to a brighter location and taking a bunch of pictures where everything is all blown out. It also…
“It is marvelous indeed to watch on television the rings of Saturn close; and to speculate on what we may yet find at galaxy’s edge. But in the process, we have lost the human element; not to mention the high hope of those quaint days when flight would create ‘one world.’ Instead of one world, we have ‘star wars,’ and a future in which dumb dented human toys will drift mindlessly about the cosmos long after our small planet’s dead.” -Gore Vidal And yet, it isn't just the rings of Saturn that fascinate us, nor can we simply "watch them on television," as Gore Vidal sadly declared. Every twenty…
NASA has put out a call for novel ideas in space exploration, which I think is an excellent way to do science. More creativity! But this feels like they're just pandering to me (I know, they're not): building robotic squid to explore the oceans of Europa? What's not to love about that idea?
“‘Star Trek’ says that it has not all happened, it has not all been discovered, that tomorrow can be as challenging and adventurous as any time man has ever lived.” -Gene Roddenberry Today would have been the 95th birthday of Gene Roddenberry, the mind that brought us the Universe of Star Trek. In addition to a utopia where maladies like hunger, disease and poverty were eradicated, Star Trek promised a future where technology was widely available and sufficiently advanced to the benefit of all of humanity. Image credit: ©2015 KGO-TV, of the “Scanadu” medical tricorder. While many of these…
Alright, alright already! I get the message. Over the course of the day yesterday I was bombarded by e-mails with a link to a New York Times article that shows a rather shocking lack of understanding of the science—more specifically, the lack of science—behind alternative medicine. Whenever something like this happens and I get so many requests to address a specific article, I'm always torn between my natural contrariness, which tempted me not to touch this article with the proverbial ten foot cattle prod (although something about this needs a cattle prod applied to it) and my desire to give…
Trump went into the GOP debate last night with a roughly 20% poll standing. Everyone will tell you to ignore polls early in this race, they never predict the outcome of a primary or a general election. That, however, is a non sequitur. We do not look at early polls to predict the distant future. We look at them to help understand the present, and to get a handle on what might happen over the next few weeks. The meaning of the polls shifts quite a bit before the first primaries, then they meaning of the polls has to be re-evaluated after every primary. At some point the re-evaluations…
Listicles. I hate Listicles. I don't do them. Yet, as much as I hate them, I can't deny that in this brave new world of click bait, listicles bring the clicks, which is why so many blogs and websites post them. Indeed, there's a website, Thrillist, that is dedicated to pretty much nothing but listicles. Not surprisingly, quacks and cranks love listicles as well, because they can go viral, getting passed around through the fevered swamp of antivaccine and quack Facebook pages and Twitter feeds like measles through a Waldorf School. So it was that I came across yet another one of these annoying…
“Your problem is to bridge the gap which exists between where you are now and the goal you intend to reach.” -Earl Nightingale When you think about the obstacles facing us in the world today, it's easy to look to advances in technology as the panacea. If there are waterways that need crossing, you'll build what architects have been telling us to build for generations -- as Lucy Wainwright Roche would sing -- a Bridge. But not all bridges are built the same. Image credit: Flickr User Pratham Books. In the state of Meghalaya, India, one of the wettest, rainiest places on Earth, the rivers…
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” -Neil Armstrong This past week saw a whole lot of interesting things happen, including tonight's second full moon of the month: a rare blue moon. In my life, I saw the International Space Station for the first time, but here at Starts With A Bang, there was so much to learn about and share, including: When will the stars go dark? (for Ask Ethan), Advertising vs. art (for our Weekend…
Another week, another set of posts at Forbes to link here: -- Why Do Solids Have Energy Bands? A conceptual explanation of why putting together lots of atoms with electrons in well-defined energy levels leads to a solid with electrons filling broad energy bands. -- This Is The Key Distinction Between Magic And Advanced Technology: Following up a fun panel at Readercon, and how the "magical thinking" involved in my grad school lab is distinct from real magic. -- What Submarine Navigation Can Teach Us About Building Luxury Prison Tunnels: The editor at Forbes sent email asking if anybody could…
“We are a singularity that makes music out of noise because we must hurry. We make a harvest of loneliness and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.” -Jack Gilbert This past week at Starts With A Bang saw five new stories about the Universe, from our own home planet to topics about the birth of the Universe (and how we know it broke down that way), as well as our limits. Check out what we've covered: Is there a limit to temperature? (for Ask Ethan), A new twist on the art of balloon animals (for our Weekend Diversion), The edge of a bubble wall in space (for Mostly Mute Monday),…
Over the years, I've written a lot about the intersection between the law and science in medicine. Sometimes, I support a particular bill, such as SB 277. Sometimes I oppose a bill, such as right-to-try or laws licensing naturopaths. The case I will discuss here is unusual in that it is a case of the law getting ahead of what the science says in a manner that will likely do little, if any, good for patients, cause a lot of confusion until the science is worked out better, and end up costing patients money for little or no benefit. I am referring to laws mandating the reporting of high-breast-…
[As part of the Pacific Institute’s ongoing efforts to evaluate the impacts of the California drought and offer strategies, technologies, and policies to reduce those impacts, we are presenting a series of short assessments on “Understanding the Numbers.” This piece is the part of that series.] California is a wonderful place to grow food. The climate is highly favorable; soils are some of the best in the world, it is located well to serve global distribution markets with major ports and other transportation infrastructure; and normally, some regions are relatively well-watered. Normally. In…
WHOOOOOOOO!!!! April 7, 2010: Using HSV-1 to cure metastatic melanoma May 26, 2015: Talimogene Laherparepvec Improves Durable Response Rate in Patients With Advanced Melanoma WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! They just published the results of Phase III clinical trials of a herpes simplex-1 genetically modified to kill cancers, specifically, advanced melanoma. The GMO virus has a name now: T-VEC. And instead of looking at 50 patients who all got the virus, this study was a group of 436 patients , randomly assigned 2:1 to a treatment (T-VEC) group, or GM-CSF only group (the immunostimulatory molecule…
“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.” -Charlotte Brontë Our exploration of the Universe, near and far, continues here on Starts With A Bang, as we've looked at the entire Universe, our local corner of it, dark matter and even the most human of issues. Make sure you catch up on anything you missed, including: The shape of the Universe (for Ask Ethan), The friends star (for our LEGO-rich Weekend…
Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming by Michael Mann and Lee Kump is everyperson’s guide to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The IPCC issues a periodic set of reports on the state of global climate change, and has been doing so for almost two decades. It is a massive undertaking and few have the time or training to read though and absorb it, yet it is very important that every citizen understands the reports’ implications. Why? Because human caused climate change has emerged as the number one existential issue of the day, and individuals,…
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust As another fine week comes to a close at Starts With A Bang, let's take a look back at all the topics we've taken on: Where did light first come from? (for Ask Ethan), Zooming into a fractal (for our Weekend Diversion), Space turns green on 4/20 (for Mostly Mute Monday), The illusion of reality (a great contribution from Brian Koberlein), Everybody wants to rule the quantum world (a special extra from Paul Halpern), Earth day in the Universe, What is the strong force? (for Throwback Thursday),…
I didn't think I would be writing about this, but, then again, I seem to say that fairly frequently. Be that as it may, on Friday I wrote about a letter sent to Lee Goldman, MD, the Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University complaining about Dr. Mehmet Oz's promotion of pseudoscience on his television show, which reaches millions. When I wrote my post, my first reaction was somewhat supportive, but with reservations. However, as I read your comments and thought about it some more, I started having second thoughts. Then, over the weekend, I had a rather…
Finally, the Canadian government's Tri-Agency funding councils (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) have released the consolidated final version of it's open access policy. The draft version came out some time ago. The consultation process garnered quite a few responses, which the Tri-Agencies were kind enough to summarize for us. And finally it is here. I have to admit I was getting a bit concerned. The final version was rumoured to have been kicking around the various departments waiting for final sign-off for months. With the rumours of the Conservatives possibly dropping the writ and calling a spring…
Andrew Weaver is a Canadian climate scientist with numerous publications. The National Post is a Canadian newspaper generally recognized as having a conservative and Libertarian leaning. Between 2009 and 2010, the Post published four articles that seemed defamatory of Dr. Weaver’s reputation as a scientist. Weaver sued the post over this, and yesterday, the B.C. Supreme Court agreed that the articles were in fact defamatory. The defendants in the case were Terence Corcoran, Financial Post editor, Peter Foster, National Post columnist, Kevin Libin, a contributor to the Financial Post, National…