Technology

“And there is the headlight, shining far down the track, glinting off the steel rails that, like all parallel lines, will meet in infinity, which is after all where this train is going.” -Bruce Catton At the end of each week here at Starts With A Bang, it's important to take a look back at all we've gone through, and give some time and energy to all your thoughts on it. This week, there have been a lot of them, as we've covered the following: The multiverse and you (for Ask Ethan), Revenge, it's what's for lunch (for our Weekend Diversion), The galactic plane (for Mostly Mute Monday), Dark…
What happened to the Blizzard of 2015? Well, it happened. Despite breathless complaining about how the forecasters got it all wrong, they didn't. As the storm was predicted, there should have been close to about two feet of snow in the New York City metropolitan area, but as it turns out, there was between 8 and 12 inches. That means that New York City experienced a typical winter month's worth of snow in one day. Also, most snow that falls on The City falls a few inches at a time and melts more or less instantly, as few cities can match New York in its heat island effect. So, 8-12 inches…
Now that we're solidly into 2015, it's a good time to check in on what the legislative priorities are going to be among various advocates of quackery and "health freedom" (but I repeat myself). There's a new Republican Congress, and a lot of chairmanships are going to be reshuffled, with various legislators finding themselves in control of important Congressional committees. Fortunately for us, one of the major promoters of "health freedom" (or, as I like to call it, the freedom of quacks from pesky government laws and regulations), has laid out exactly what its priorities are for 2015.…
“Do you know where to find marble conference tables? I'm looking to have a conference... not until I get the table though” -@kanyewest on Twitter If you noticed we had a busier week than normal here at Starts With A Bang, you weren't alone. But there's a good reason: the first week in January marks/highlights the annual American Astronomical Society big meeting, and yours truly was not only in attendance, but I did my best to bring you the scoop on the biggest stories at the start of 2015! In addition to our regularly scheduled programming, we had a host of special articles. Altogether, we've…
The holidays must truly be over. I say this because, starting around Sunday, the drumbeat of blogging topics that I haven't covered but that apparently you, my readers, want me to cover has accelerated. However, before I can move on to what might or might not be greener blogging pastures, material-wise, I feel obligated to finish what I started yesterday, namely the deconstruction of an advertising supplement promoting the "integration" of "traditional medicine" (in particular, traditional Chinese medicine, a.k.a. TCM) for which Science and the American Association for the Advancement of…
As Dean Kamen, inventor of such amazing technologies as the the Segway human transporter and one of the world's most advanced robotic arm prostheses, often says: "Our nation is enamored with sports and entertainment, but how can we groom kids to become as passionate about innovation?" At the Festival's fascinating all-day X-STEM Symposium, presented by MedImmune next spring, you'll not only meet Dean but also a compendium of other renowned STEM visionaries to explore the passion and excitement of innovation! Prepare to be amazed and inspired as X-STEM Extreme, set for Tuesday, April 28, 2015…
Returning to our mostly-chronological ordering after yesterday's brief excursion, we come to one of the great problems of the 1700's, namely determining the longitude at sea. Latitude is easy to find, based on the height of the Sun at noon-- we told that story last week-- but longitude is much trickier. Thanks to the rotation of the Earth, the best way to measure longitude is by measuring time-- if you know what time it is where you are, and what time it is at some reference point (now established as Greenwich, UK), the difference between those times tells you the difference in longitude.…
Matt Ridley is a British journalist whom some in the science community are now quietly referring to as an “anti-science writer.” He has taken up the cause of denying the widely held and deep scientific consensus on climate change. He has a recent blog post he seems to have been compelled to write in response to a new study on the use of tree rings as a proxyindicator for past temperatures. I’ll be writing about that research in a day or two. Ridley’s post is embarrassing, and especially annoying to me because for several years I used his book on evolutionary biology as a recommended (or…
The fungal tea tastes vile, and not for the first time he considers dumping it on the last of the morning's fire. It does seem to be helping the pain in his gut, though, as the medicine man said it would, so he gulps the last of it with a grimace. Around him the younger members of the raiding party are packing up the camp, making ready to head higher up the mountain. He checks the head of his axe, out of habit, making sure the copper blade is still sharp and securely fixed. Not that he had much doubt-- he had shaped it himself, and it would take more than chopping wood for last night's fire…
The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Dr. Jennifer Elisseef Each year in medicine the low availability of donor tissue and organs for transplantation grows even more acute, but scientists -- working in an emerging, high-tech frontier called tissue engineering -- are helping to address the crisis by…
"It's a tad easier to be proud when you come in first than it is when you finish further back. But there's no reason to hide when you don't do as well as you'd hoped. You can't run away from your problems." -My Little Pony It's been two weeks since our last edition of Comments of the Week here on our Starts With A Bang forum, and -- to my great pleasure -- that hasn't meant a thing for the flow of great comments here! There's plenty to catch up on if you missed anything, as the last two weeks have seen some amazing posts, including: Why is the Universe's energy disappearing? (for Ask Ethan),…
The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Dr. Alberto Gutierrez Welcome to the age of Personalized Medicine -- an emerging era of medical science which involves the development of drugs and other treatments that are tailored specifically to an individual patient, or a group, with certain genetic…
Nearly 800 volunteers and exhibitors brought the Lockheed Martin 2014 USA Science & Engineering Festival pavilion to life last April 25-27, including more than 40 hands-on demonstrations from across the corporation in the areas of nanotechnology, data analytics, robotics, energy, advanced aeronautics, and scientific discovery. A photo album is available online here, where you will see participants, young and old, flying cockpit simulators, trying on Antarctica cold weather gear, building and flying gliders, learning about 3D printing, and enjoying the many others activities in our…
As input to the ongoing discussions about how to meet and overcome the spreading risks of Ebola, here are some summary thoughts about the water-related components of U.S. efforts. Specifics about the operations and effectiveness of water treatment or supply technologies, or the medical and health implications of their use must be verified by the designers/makers of the technology along with medical experts from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), West African health and water officials, and related institutions. 1.     Water Supply Needs and Usage Any…
Scale, proportion, and quantity belong to one of the cross cutting concepts in the next generation science standards (NGSS).  According to Volume 2 of the NGSS, "in engineering, no structure could be conceived much less constructed without the engineer's precise sense of scale."  The authors go on to note that scale and proportion are best understood using the scientific practice of working with models. When scientists and engineers work with these concepts at a molecular scale, new kinds of technologies can be created to advance our understanding of the natural world. One example is DNA…
What is the role of the ocean's abyss in global warming?1 I’ve already posted on a study published in Nature Climate change that shows that the amount of extra global warming related heat in the Southern Oceans is greater than previously thought. There is another paper in the same journal by Llovel et al, “Deep-ocean contribution to sea level and energy budget not detectable over the past decade.” This paper verifies previous research that the oceans absorb a lot of the excess heat, but looks specifically at the ocean below 2,000 meters, which the paper referrs to in places as "deep" but that…
Regular readers know that I’ve been a big Star Trek geek (more or less) ever since I first discovered reruns of the original Star Trek episodes in the 1970s, having been too young (but not by much!) to have caught the show during its original 1966-1969 run. True, my interest waxed and waned through the years—for instance, I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation, while Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: Voyager pretty much left me cold—but even now I still find myself liking the rebooted movie series. In the original series, my favorite characters tended to alternate between Spock, the Vulcan…
As I so love to remind my readers, I’ve been at this blogging thing a long time now. In early December, it will have been a full decade since that strange, cold, dreary winter afternoon (well, technically late fall) when, inspired by an article in TIME Magazine about blogging, sat down in front of my computer, went to Blogspot.com and created the first iteration of Respectful Insolence. At first my output was intermittent, but within a couple of months I was posting virtually every day, a habit that’s continued to this very day. About a year after my very first post, I was invited to join…
The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools.  Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Dr. Dan Werthimer The great debate continues: Are we the only intelligent life in the universe? We know that popular science fiction often portrays our Milky Way Galaxy as teeming with advanced civilizations engaged in interstellar communication, commerce, and…
There are times when supporting science-based health policy and opposing health policies that sound compassionate but are not are easily portrayed as though I’m opposing mom, apple pie, and the American flag. One such type of misguided policy that I’ve opposed is a category of bills that have been finding their way into state legislatures lately known as “right to try” bills. Jann Bellamy over at SBM and I have both written about them before. With the passage of the first such bill into law in Colorado in May, followed by Missouri and Louisiana, and its heading to the voters of Arizona as…