Society of NO BullShit Science's Journal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 17 most recent journal entries recorded in
Society of NO BullShit Science's LiveJournal:
[ << Previous 20 ]
[ << Previous 20 ]
|Thursday, August 31st, 2006|
It's amazing what can be found in "main stream" websites, or sponsored by the NSF. For example, here is a rather radical article on one researcher's hypothesis that the Earth literally flipped over during the past.
If you read through this, it takes on the air of someone who is an "anti-plate tectonic" scientist, who basically ignores such principles as isostasy
when discussing his "super volcanic constructs/regions". Nor is comparing these 'polar shifts' to that of Mars makes any real sense, either. For one thing, the Earth has a massive
tidal and inertial damper called the Moon, whose mass is many orders of magnitude greater than that of the entire terrestrial lithosphere - let alone some friggen "huge volcano".
So I'm calling BULLSHIT.
Questions? Comments? Current Mood: cynical
|Tuesday, June 13th, 2006|
Cool Science Stuff
Yesterday I had a rant about enduring climatic extremes,
in particular the prospects of an unusually hot/dry summer.
But instead imagine an ice covered world - along the lines of the planet Hoth
of Star Wars fame. This has happened in the Earth's past and it was far more severe than you could imagine. The recent "Ice Ages" are a pale imitation of these frozen times as there was still warm tropical regions (though compressed) on the planet.
Back in the distant past over 2.3 billion years ago, the entire planet was frozen in a phase appropriately known as Snowball Earth.
Most if not all the planet was encased in a shell of snow and ice up to a kilometer thick. Yet life survived - even flourished deep in the oceans for tens of millions of years until conditions changed and the Earth "thawed out".
It has been theorized that this first "Snowball Earth" (there have been others - the last between 750 to 580 myr BP) was in part the result of biogenic changes in the atmosphere - from a methane (a strong greenhouse gas) and CO2 rich one, to a version dominated by nitrogen and oxygen. Other possible causes include changes in the axial tilt (which causes our seasons) and positions of the continents due to plate tectonics. An excellent review of the Snowball Earth Hypothesis
can be found by making with the clicky.Mooning Around
What defines a "natural satellite"? Does it have to have an elliptical orbit or one that is even stable for that matter? In reality, there are a number of co-orbiting asteroids that "share" the same orbit with our planet. These objects have nearly the same orbit, though they might be slighty
slower or faster than the Earth. Sooner or later, they will encounter the much more massive Earth and then begin a weird orbital dance as the asteroid corkscrews around our planet.
One of the most recent co-orbitals, a 20 meter wide rock known as 2003 YN107 is about to depart our planet after 7 years of orbital dance.
An even better known co-orbital is 3753 Cruithne, that has a neat-looking "horseshoe" orbit about the Earth.
. Unlike the other asteroid, this one has a metastable orbit - which is a *good* thing since it is 'dino-killer sized" or about 5 kilometers across.
Co-orbitals not only stay near our planet for long periods of time, but could make a asteroid mining a distinct possibility in the not so distant future.Now imagine this..
An interesting use of this idea would be co-orbiting, habital planets
. Imagine two planets in nearly the same orbit, and every 50 to 100 years they would make a close pass and "switch places". Perhaps in periods of a 1000 years, they past would pass so close
(let's say 20,000 to 30,000 miles) that you would have massive earthquakes, tidal waves and wholesale destruction on a planetary scale. Planetary orbits could be shifted dramatically and it would take many hundreds if not a thousand years before the normal orbital cycling were to resume again.
Now place two colonies on these planets and 'stir'... Current Mood: contemplative
|Wednesday, May 24th, 2006|
I was discussing various nerdy interests with a friend, and I mentioned that I am absolutely fascinated by quantum physics. He proceeded to tell me that quantum physics is bullshit, and I don't remember what his argument was, or even whether it was a scientific or purely philosophical reason he believed it to be BS. I was wondering if anyone could tell me if there is any reason it could be dismissed as BS, if it is still in doubt, or if it is a concrete fact.
Thank you. Current Mood: curious
|Wednesday, April 12th, 2006|
When modelling is not simulation
The most recent edition of
New Scientist (or maybe it was Scientific American, at this precise moment in time I'm not certain) Discover¹ magazine carried a story which mentioned a researcher who was "simulating the tobacco mosaic virus in unprecedented detail to find out how it reproduces".
Um, no he wasn't. Pardon me, but I'm going to be a little bit pedantic here.: There's a difference betweem simulation and modelling, and they're not interchangeable. Specifically, you cannot find out how something works by simulating it, because to accurately simulate it, you have to know how it works. What he's doing is modelling the virus, and tuning his model until it matches as closely as possible the behavior of the real tobacco mosaic virus, then trying to draw inferences from the model about how the real virus does what it does. This can be a valid technique, if you then take the mechanisms that you believe from your model to exist and check to see whether they do in fact exist, and work the way your model seems to indicate, in the real world.
But you can't use a simulation to figure out a mechanism, because you can't simulate an unknown mechanism. You can only simulate what you already know.
OK, before anyone says it, "What about space-combat simulation games that simulate technologies we don't have yet? How can that be a known mechanism?" Answer: That's not simulating an unknown. That's simulating something where the game designers sat down and said, "OK, we're going to have this technology in the game, and it's going to work like this." It's still a "known" mechanism ... it's just a made-up known mechanism, defined for the purposes of the simulation to work in a certain way.
 My memory came through eventually.
(Crossposted to unixronin)
|Monday, March 13th, 2006|
The Quest for the Holy Grail
..may have failed
Back in April (2005), A couple of research scientists from Cornell university announced the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker
in the river swamps of eastern Arkansas. Presumed extinct for at least 50 years, this was seen as the recovery of Orthinology's "Holy Grail". Unfortunately, this announcement may have been premature.
The only hard evidence has been a blurry 4.5 second video clip, and even after thousands of hours of further searching - no other observations have been made. Many scientists have cast doubt on the sighting, and an ornithologist specializing on the ivory-bill has suggested that what was recorded was a rare 'piebald form' of the pileated woodpecker (a large, common species).
I am saddened by the prospect of the 'non--recovery'. True, I have an interest from a personal level as I am a modest "bird watcher" with a fairly insignificant "life list" of ~ 200 species. But such a discovery had a much deeper meaning- as it seemed to signified the recovery of the delicate ecosystem that was the home to this majestic bird.
Alas, this may have been a false hope..To Ruin a Good Thing
A couple weeks ago, I had ranted on the budget cuts that NASA was preparing to make. I was mostly concerned about the upcoming Dawn Mission
, which had 98% of the hardware completed, and needed another 40 million dollars
to finish building the spacecraft and fly the mission (note - this is out of a 16.8 billion dollar budget)
True, there is a projected shortfall of 3 to 5 billion dollars until 2010. But most of this is for the 17 planned missions of the space shuttle, so in their infinite fucking wisdom - 3 billion dollars will be shifted from science/planetary mission. You heard RIGHT. The bean-counters of NASA have decided to keep the aging and/or obsolete delivery systems (Space shuttle) and the ISS afloat at the expense at what they do best - exploration science.This is totally insane.
The US House Science Committee Chair (Sherwood Boehlert) isn't amused by NASA's decision: "I am extremely uneasy about this budget. ... This budget is bad for space science, worse for earth science (and) perhaps worse still for aeronautics. It basically cuts or de-emphasizes every forward looking, truly futuristic program of the agency to fund operational and development programs to enable us to do what we are already doing or have done before."
Farther down in the article there is mention of a bill introduced (and support by 60 senators) to increase NASA's science budget 10% a year from now until 2013. But the Executive Director of the Planetary Society isn't that hopeful - and it remains to be seen what actually does get restored.
This is a very bad sign - and with the other trends (battle over evolution, stem cell research, abortion issues -etc) - things don't doesn't look good for science/ progressive thought in America in general. I can see Future Historians eventually referring to this era as the "Great Leap Backward". Current Mood: depressed
|Friday, March 10th, 2006|
Cube it, man
Today I found this link on the dubious history of the "Cube Farm".
In a way, I guess I'm luckier than most. I've always had an office or at least a large room to work in. When I was teaching high school science, this came in the form of an equipment room where had another desk/work-area in addition to my normal classroom environment. Even as an adjunct professor at WGU, I had my own office - albeit it was pretty small. As a 'lab jockey', I've always had my own prep room/office area - though it has varied considerably in size. Today, my new workroom at GTRI measures 31 x 25' - with one corner as the 'designated office space' - so no tiny assed, packed cube farm for this otherwise underpaid servant of the STATE. Fused Fusion Follies?
The prospect of Nuclear Fusion has often been hailed as the 'great savior' of the World's energy needs. Well, there are numerous major hurtles to be overcome - leading to a rather dim forecast on its viability. Some of the projections are so grim that a leading scientist has argued that "nuclear fusion will never be a practical source of electrical power" - even in a span of 50 years.
Very strong words, and IMHO - very shortsighted and even stupid.
It's analogous to a stone-age era tribesman trying to communicate over long distances. His solution - "build bigger drums" - all without the realization that communication is taking place all around him via radio waves. Similarly, could the builders of the ENIAC
, one of the first large scale, programmable digital computers envision entire capability of their building-sized "device" could now be put on a chip the size of a small grain of sand?
In terms of technological advances - 50 years is a *very long* time in into the future. And to add into this "mix" - here's an article posted yesterday on the hottest recorded temperature ever artificially produced.
Using the "Z Machine" - a massive x-ray generator, researchers were about to produce temperatures of over 2 billion degrees Kelvin.
This is 100X hotter than the center of the Sun, and at least 4x hotter than generated by any fusion-based experiment.
The 'kicker' is - they *don't* know how it's being done. The "Z machine" experiment released *more* energy that it produced, and the answers given are generally vague. It could be a radically new energy source, possibly akin to the Asimov science fiction work - The Gods Themselves.
Call it energy released from extra-dimensional rift, weird quantum energy, vacuum energy, exotic fusion - etc, but something
weird is happening. It may well be the key to the nuclear fusion bottleneck - or a gateway to something totally new.
Science is like that..Today's Questions:Nice and simple - do you work in a cube farm, office or at home?Do you think that nuclear fusion has a future? What technology breakthroughs would you like to see in say - the next 50 years? Current Mood: curious
|Thursday, March 9th, 2006|
|Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006|
I call ... BULLSHIT
I was very disappointed to see in New Scientist, of all places, a full-page ad for a book by Anatoly T. Fomenko (an ad across which is "stamped", in large red letters, "SOLD 3.8 MILLION COPIES IN RUSSIA") titled "History: Fiction or Science?" The gist of the ad is that Fomenko, self-proclaimed "leading mathematician of our time", "proves" that history as we know it is lies from end to end, and "demonstrates", "armed with computers, logic, astronomy and statistics", that the history of humankind is "both dramatically different and dramatically shorter than generally presumed".
(I'm awfully curious to know how you can prove historical dates using statistics. But we'll let that go for the moment, because it gets much better.)
Among Fomenko's assertions:
- All methods of dating of ancient sources and artifacts are erroneous. (Interesting claim. One wonders how he derived correct dates, since he can't have used any method, since all methods are erroneous. Wait, I have it -- he made the "correct" dates up! What genius!)
- Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt were crafted during the Renaissance. (And then, presumably, placed in their "correct" places in the historical record using a time machine built by Leonardo da Vinci....?)
- Jesus Christ may have been born in 1053 and crucified in 1086 AD in Rome. (Uh-oh. Then what were all those early Christians worshipping? I'm sure the compilers of the Domesday book in 1066 would have been greatly surprised to find that none of the Christian churches whose parishioners they were so busy taking census of actually existed, because the savior they were dedicated to hadn't actually been born yet.)
- The Apocalypse was written on the Isle of Patmos after October 1, 1486 AD. (Wait .... historical revisionism in the Bible comes as a shock to him? No wonder the poor man's confused.)
- The Old Testament was compiled after the New Testament as a rendition of mediaeval events. (Odd how it doesn't actually match any mediaeval history accounts, isn't it? Oh, wait -- of course, I understand: All those mediaeval accounts were actually written in 1920... presumably by Fomenko's father, following in his unborn son's footsteps.)
In summary, I suspect the only true words in the entire ad are the ones stating it sold 3.8 million copies in Russia. There's got to be at least 3.8 million ignorant suckers in a country that big. Gospodin Fomenko, I strongly suspect, is one or more of a complete charlatan and fraud, utterly deluded, or straight-out barking mad. Mr. von Daniken, paging Mr. von Daniken, your dinner guest is here.
|Friday, January 13th, 2006|
Honor thy Idiocy
If Ignorance is Bliss
..then stupidity is a badge of honor - at least through much of the South. About a half hour earlier I was listening to a 'quiz' on one of the local rock stations and it was a Idiots R Us. The topic was phobias
, and at least 90% of the contestants totally tanked on guessing the type of phobia (other than the most obvious and/or massive prompting by the radio hosts). Knowledge of a little Latin
- or even some foreign language background wasn't evident in the "answers" given by these twits. I knew at least 90% of the answers - and yet I've never taken a formal class on Latin (but reading Roman coins and knowledge of a couple languages did help).
What in hell do they teach in school these days anyway? Back in the late 80's, I tried to teach my science students not only the basics, but the 'deadly' secrets of problem solving. I also worked on their grammar and writing skills - as apparently they didn't learn squat from all the English classes they took over the years. Most of the time it was like trying to teach a stone to float
, but at least my gifted & talented/honors students did appreciate my efforts.
As one student put it.."We learned more about problem solving and physics in your 9th grade general science class (three years ago) than in honors physics this year."
Years later while teaching astronomy and physics at the University of West Georgia, I absolutely appaulded
at the rudimentary writing and math skills of most of my students. Most of the research papers submitted were poorly constructed and loaded with numerous grammatical and spelling errors (hint: there is a magical tool called SPELL CHECK!). Plagiarism? Gods, it was rampant and I spent a fair amount of time back checking papers for unquoted sources just to nail their cheating asses. Yes silly twits, I do know my subject matter VERY WELL and it's highly unlikely
you will sneak anything by 'teh doctor'.
But the 'best' was poor math "background" of my physics students. Some didn't even have algebra or geometry - and yet they were taking a course that *required* trigonometry (some calculus - all the better) as a prerequisite. All this made me wonder if their advisors even bothered to check over the course selection registration.
Apathy (at many levels) goes hand-in-hand with the rise of the Moronic Majority these days..Today's Questions:What do you do for self enrichment? What kind of interests/hobbies do you have that keep the mind sharp? What do you think of the level of education today vs. when you were in school? What are the strengths and flaws of our educational system (including the university level)? Current Mood: aggravated
|Sunday, January 1st, 2006|
TAI vs UTC, leap seconds vs leap hours, thoughts?
This may be OT: it's actual science, but the bullshit is on the scientists' part in this instance, rather than the pseudoscientists'.
So yesterday the UTC new year was rung in a second late for the first time in seven years. And possibly the last time, since the PTB are mulling eradication of the leap second system, apparently in favor of a leap hour
system, which seems like a terrible idea - sure, they'll be extremely rare, but they'll be a lot more disruptive when they do occur.
I don't understand why we don't just use TAI; screw the discrepancies with UT1. Who care if it's not true solar noon over Greenwich at 1200Z? It's not anyway what with nutation and obliquity. The difference won't add up to a half hour for 1000 years, and Atlanta is already further off than that since it longitudinally belongs in Central rather than Eastern time. Sure, astronomers do calculations over much longer timespans, but they use TD instead of UT precisely to avoid such issues.
What do y'all think?
|Saturday, November 12th, 2005|
|Thursday, November 10th, 2005|
Swing your partner..
In today's New Scientist
, I'm intrigued by this on a gravitational tractor
. What is being proposed that instead of deflecting an errant asteroid/comet via nuclear weapons (as in the movie "Deep Impact"), a massive satellite (> 20 metric tons) would "lurk 50 meters" from its target for about a year to 'change its velocity enough to knock it off course". This idea has been applauded in the community as the "most innovative' and 'simple' means of deflection.
No grappling hooks and just sit and 'lurk'?
Being 'teh doctor', I sat down and did a few simple calculations:
Whereas: The average asteroid has a density of 2.0g/cm^3 = 2 x 10^6 g/m^3, or 2 metric tons (2000kg).
Assuming a spherical body (more likely it will be a rough cylinder) of 200 meters in diameter:
Volume of a sphere = 4/3 x Pi x radius^3, r = 100m
= 4.2 x 10^6 meters cubed, or ~ 8.4 x 10^6 metric tons.
A 20 ton 'gravitational tractor' probe will be outmassed by 420,000 times. The probe should not go into orbit as both objects would revolve around a common balance point called the barycenter
- sort of like an elephant and a small mouse on a teeter-totter. *g* Or, in other words - this deflection would be negligible.
Nope - it would have to stay close
to the target and slowly change its orbit by very small changes in the thrust direction. It would need to be applied continuously - which would require an ion propulsion system. This would be quite tricky to pull off to say the least.
But being a man of action - I'd recommend a modified solution. Being this damned close - slowly touch down a small device on the surface and NUKE the bastard. (or liberal use of velcro and duct tape..)
Certainly more bang for the buck.
*grins* Current Mood: contemplative
|Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005|
I haven't done a good science related rant in awhile, so just by coincidence there are a couple articles that deserve 'teh doctor's special attentions.Well, is it?
Once again, the 'basic data' on our solar system needs to be revised. Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have announced the discovery of two small satellites (S/2005 P1 and P2) that orbit the 9th planet
. Located around 27,000 miles from the diminutive planet
, these are less than a hundred miles in diameter and ~ 5000 x fainter than Pluto itself.
This brings the total number of satellites to three (three is the number, the number shall be three..)
, more than any other Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). It also has more than any inner planet - which brings up this amusing question: WTF constitutes a planet? Let's see, though Pluto is smaller than our Moon, it has an atmosphere
, an evolved/ active surface
, and most importantly - three friggen moons.
OK - International Astronomical Union (IAU), what the FUCK else does it STILL need to prove its planetary status? And what about the 'ten planet' discovered a few months ago that is considerably larger than Pluto and also has a satellite?
Now what I'd like to see - someone discover a really LARGE KBO, let's say one that's Mars or even Earth sized that's out 5 to +10x farther than Pluto itself. Is the IAU still going to call it a "KBO" - or will these arrogant astro-bastards finally relent? This will be amusing to see..EEKS - "Dire Straits"
Here's a fine example of taking a model to its illogical extremes. Scientists at Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory have developed a detailed model IF ALL the oil/coal -etc, reserves were burned by the year 2300.
Their model predicts a global temperature rise of 8 degrees C, and up to 20 degrees C in the polar areas causing widespread melting of the polar caps.
OK, before all the 'greens' start going apeshit Chicken Little-style - let's look at this more closely. This 'brilliant model' implies that *everything* will stay the course, that the new technologies won't develop, and overlooks problems like overpopulation, war and pestilence are neglected. Bah - this is arm waving crap at its finest. Its one thing to make a 25 or even 50 year projection - but making such a long range prediction is sheer bullshit.
This is on the order of asking the stone-age tribesman in central New Guinea - "How would you communicate longer distances in the future?" ..And he answers .."By building bigger drums!" - all the while his body and surroundings are being permeated by all manner of electromagnetic radiation (such as radio).
Some of this stuff really isn't worthy of print, or this case - a weblink. Current Mood: cynical
|Tuesday, October 18th, 2005|
The God of War and seeing 'red'
The 'Firestorm of Mars'
I was wondering how long it would take before this happens - but it appears that now a few amateur astronomers have been 'pillaging' or plagiarizing
the hard work of others. Today I spotted this post by post by Damian Peach, perhaps the world's best planetary imager.
He details how one of his images was basically colorized and re-processed, and then "claimed" to be done by another. But before going farther on this thread - here's one a superb example of Damian's work:The Planet Mars - 16 October, 2005
The detail in this image is absolutely fantastic - almost Hubble telescope quality, but taken with a 14-inch telescope and a high tech planetary 'web' camera (Luminera
). I suppose sooner or later 'someone' would want to emulate this - but rather than take +10 years of hard knocks training, instead resort to an easier and much less respectable means.Image Analysis
OK - Now lets take the time and look at both Damian's and Mr. Forde's images. Damian has posted a a comparison of these images
taken on 9/22 and that of the image posted by Mr. Forde on October 3rd. Close inspection though the tint is different - the position of the details are exactly
This in of itself, is very hard to do on two different dates. Also, though Mr. Forde's image has slightly more detail - the processing is very similar - which is *rare* for the best imagers. Everyone has their own technique - and after a time its easy to spot another's image just by how it 'looks'.
But the kicker is that the phase angle
- or the percent illumination is also the same.
No way in hell, Batman - NOT for two different dates! For Sept. 22 the phase is 91.0%, while for October 3rd - its 93.8% (Btw - Damian posted the wrong date - I had checked Forde's website). This Guy has balls..
On the Marsobserver's list (Yahoo groups) - a full scale 'witch hunt' is now underway. Not only are this guy's Mars images suspect - but also it appears
that images of Jupiter and Saturn may have been 'altered'/'lifted', too! One of the most telling posts is this one
, where a noted imager details how this is 'highly unlikely' that a Canon Digital rebel could produce such an image.
I'll give this dude this much - he has some ability in image processing as he was able to boost the details in the mars and other images. But he also has a lot of balls to not only have a website - but to post this on other imaging lists as his own.
Absolutely friggen amazing and disgusting.. Current Mood: aggravated
|Tuesday, October 11th, 2005|
|Monday, October 10th, 2005|
The 'Curse' of the Were-Explorer
Note: This isn't a typical 'science entry' - but rather an article (with links) exploding the myth that Columbus "discovered America" - and especially debunking that he "proved the world was round" crap.
Like some of my readers, I have today off. In Canada, its Thanksgiving
, a very kewl holiday in my book. But in America, its a tribute to that greedy, stubborn asshat named Christopher
Columbus whose main claim to fame was his lack of math ability and researching the ancients. Let's face it - its a "tribute" to a man who was had poor navigational skills who *somehow* got the attentions of Queen Isabella.
Don't believe me? Well - go read this informative wiki article
- or indulge in thy doctor's brilliant snark in this post I made last year.
Truthfully, I much rather have Leifr Eiriksson
day, or Native American Land Bridge Crossing Day.
That would make sense IMHO.
However, I live in a state were they still worship long dead, questionable causes like Robert E. Lee (his day used to be Martin Luther King's Day - now the day after turkey-day) and Confederate Memorial Day.
But a day off is a day off - so WTF? It's still better than going to work. Current Mood: clod-dumbassed
|Friday, September 30th, 2005|
Holy crap, that's a big telescope
Current Mood: impressed
The first development grant ($14.2 million) has just been awarded for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The LSST will have an 8.4m primary mirror and two other large mirrors, combined with corrective lenses to remove distortion, in "a novel optical design", and its camera will have a 3-gigapixel image sensor made up of 200 individual sensors seamlessly fitted together. It will have a four-degree field of view (eight times the diameter of the full Moon), generate 20 terabytes of data per night, and image the entire sky every three nights. The primary purpose of the instrument will be to look for gravitational lensing in order to infer how matter has clumped together over time.