Archive for the 'Science' Category

Your best recommendations for science books.

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Climate change and culture wars.

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

I’ve had the quote below sitting around for a while now — you’ll note that the Salon item it’s from is dated May 2008 — because I didn’t quite know what to do with it.

So, what I’m going to do is (a) share it with you, (b) ask you to think generally about how it relates to your political views and the ways that you form them, and (c) await any comments you’d care to make.

Here’s the quote:

“Peak oil and climate change are fronts in the culture wars . . . Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. Sensible people could agree that well-regulated markets incorporating the appropriate prices for environmental pollution and energy consumption will provide powerful incentives to allow humanity to avoid devastating energy shocks and the complete despoliation of the planet. We don’t have to consign ourselves to totalitarian dichotomies in which vegan organic gardeners stand on one side, threatening to employ the power of the state to deny everyone else their right to eat bloody porterhouse steaks; while across the trenches stand ranks of right-to-keep-and-bear-arms, give-me-my-SUV-and-suburban-gated-community-or-give-me-death Ayn-Rand disciples, draped in the furs of newly extinct mammal species, for whom a lifetime in hell would be infinitely preferable to a government-mandated solar power water heater.”


American politics these days is typically framed in terms far more oppositional than we need if we ever want to come to constructive solutions to our problems.

Are you falling victim to these false dichotomies? Are you engaged in a culture war that you didn’t realize you were signing on for? Do you wear the political suit of clothes that someone else picked out for you, such that if you support Policy A you must support Policy B and oppose Policies C and D?

If so, I ask you to review your beliefs. Test them. Don’t be anyone’s chump, which in my experience is far more likely when you’re moving in lockstep with anything.

Better than many a science lesson.

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Universcale, presented by Nikon.

It’s an essentially an update of Powers of Ten. Worth checking out and showing to any inquisitive children who happen to be hanging around.

Kevin Kelly, the Encyclopedia of Life, and the All Species Inventory.

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

This long (!) item by Kevin Kelly shows the power of thinking Big, especially in terms of BHAGs (big, hairy audacious goals) that have the promise of transforming important areas of human endeavor and understanding.

A Web Page For Every Species

Here’s a story about something big. Big as the planet. Not well known, but important. I go into great detail because I was present for part of its rise. It’s also the story of how big things get done. With set-backs, failures, many people, unexpected turns. This is not the whole story; it is just beginning. There may be lessons for others hoping to launch a big hairy audacious idea.

Kelly goes on to tell the story of the Encyclopedia of Life (cameo appearance: E. O. Wilson) and the dreamed-for All Species Inventory.

This is a great read if you’re interested in biology, biodiversity, transformative technology, or just the power of Big Ideas.

Check it out.

Two neat free-range learning tools: WorldWide Telescope and Visible Body.

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Attention, all ye who prize free-range learning, for yourselves and your children:

Visible Body Brings Human Anatomy to the Browser

. . . The purpose of the [WorldWide Telescope] software is to provide access to the world’s collected astronomical data and put it in the hands of regular people. Similarly, the Visible Body, which launches tomorrow, aims to do the same for human physiology.

Created by Argosy Publications, an animation and illustration firm that specializes in medical and scientific animations, the Visible Body is a neat interactive web animation tool that lets users explore the human anatomy and all its various systems. Created by the company’s specially trained biomedical visualization engineers over the past few years, the Visible Body is an accurate portrayal of the human body that we’re told is already being used in classrooms.

Here are links to these two tools:

Now, go ye and do some free-range science larnin’!

And that’s without studying!

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

JustSayHi - Science Quiz

Teach yourself physics!

Friday, January 4th, 2008

Or your kids! Check out Kevin Kelly’s rave review of Motion Mountain.

Worth some pondering.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

The answers of numerous big thinkers to the question “What have you changed your mind about?”

Commonplace: Jacob.

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Nothing is more dangerous than the certainty that one is right. Nothing is potentially so destructive as the obsession with a truth one considers absolute. All crimes in history have been the result of fanaticism of one type or another. All massacres have been carried out in the name of virtue, of true religion, of legitimate nationalism, of proper policy, of right ideology: in short, in the name of the fight against somebody else’s truth, of the fight against Satan. The coldness and objectivity so often held against scientists are perhaps more suitable than fervor and subjectivity when it comes to dealing with some human matters. For scientific ideas do not generate passion. It is rather passion that exploits science to support its cause. Science does not lead to racism and hatred. It is rather hatred that calls upon science to justify its racism. One can hold against scientists the ardor with which they sometimes champion their ideas. But no genocide has yet been committed for the triumph of a scientific theory.

Francois Jacob, The Logic of Life

Quirks of the human brain.

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Haven’t even read any of this yet, but I’m putting it in my “daily” Firefox bookmarks folder so it will open alongside Gmail etc. — that way I can read one or two of these each day.

Why We do Dumb or Irrational Things: 10 Brilliant Social Psychology Studies

This stuff fascinates me, and it’s come to fascinate me more as I’ve learned more about (1) the history of U.S. (and other countries’) foreign policy, and (2) the mechanisms of big business.  Just because an institutional edifice is big-‘n’-scary doesn’t mean the institution operates rationally.