Minnesota is currently debating how to redraw our state district borders, as we do every 10 years, with new census data to guide us. Creating fair, impartial boundaries seems impossible, because it’s always tempting for the party in power to gerrymander everything to give themselves more power. I’ve long been critical of the shape of our 6th district, home of state shame Michele Bachmann. It conveniently bends around liberally-leaning downtown areas and grabs many of the richer, fiscally-conservative parts of the state and merges them with rural, socially-conservative parts of the state.
But how the hell do you draw fair, unbiased district boundaries? On the one hand, people don’t want their communities split down the middle. On the other, it’s really easy to lump certain communities together to create districts that are easy for one party or the other to control.
Usually when someone is arguing that psychics aren’t real, they talk about cold reading, self-delusion, and the willingness to believe. In other words, they explain how a psychic is doing what they’re doing.
I’m going to try a different take. I’m going to try to show that what psychics claim to be doing is impossible, by using evolution as our guide.
If you haven’t heard already, there’s currently a volcano acting up in Iceland. It’s called Eyafallajökull, which is almost entirely unpronounceable by American tongues.
Apparently, (according to that unending font of human knowledge, Wikipedia) Eyafallajökull has erupted 3 times in all of recorded history. And each time, its eruption has been a mere precursor to the eruption of another nearby volcano, the much more active Katla. Eyafallajökull has already caused a lot of disruption, especially in European air travel, and I can just imagine what kind of chaos Katla might cause.
Eyafallajökull has also provided us with an incredible show over the past few days. It’s not just ash and lava, as if that weren’t cool enough already. As you can see at the link below, it’s also causing an incredible lightning display. This is the raw power of nature, on display for all to see.
These images come from another site, which is currently down due to excess traffic. I don’t know if the person who runs this site is associated with the other site, or if they just took the images and reposted them. Once I find out for sure, I’ll update this link accordingly.
UPDATE (Mar. 3, 2010): If anyone’s still hanging on the edge of their seat for this one, it’s been more or less resolved. I told the person who was threatening me that I wasn’t going to back down, and they’ve so far left me alone. That was back in November, of course. They had no legal standing on this.
UPDATE (Nov. 16 2009): Currently, the caller from this interview is threatening me with legal action. I’ve modified the post with a few more “seems to be”s to cover my ass. I think I’m fully within my rights to say what I’ve said here, but since I was called by the caller’s lawyer, I’m not taking any chances.
I just got done listening to a recent segment on NPR’s Science Friday (hosted by Ira Flatow) where they discussed the anti-vaccination movement, and even after 20 minutes, I’m still quivering with rage and frustration.
Ever get a problem in your head that you obsess over for days, or even weeks (or longer)? This is the one I’ve been working on for a while.
At some point, I started to wonder about dice rolling. Specifically, I wondered about the difference between rolling a single 12-sided die and two 6-sided dice. How do the two compare? Obviously, with a 12-sided die (which I will refer to as d12, in grand D&D tradition) every number on the die has an equal chance of being rolled (8.33%), ignoring variations in dice shape, weight, texture, etc.
But what about when you use a pair of six-sided die (d6)? Like a d12 (or any properly made dice) each number has the same chance of being rolled (16.67%). But when using them in a game, you add them up. How does that affect your odds of getting certain numbers?
I just read a very interesting article about a girl who hasn’t aged in 16 years (which isn’t exactly an accurate statement, but fits well enough). The story briefly talks about how studying the girl’s bizarre condition could potentially teach us a lot about human aging, and perhaps even how to prevent it.
But I was a bit troubled when I read this:
In the long term, the idea that the aging process might somehow be manipulated raises serious questions about what human beings might do with that knowledge.
“Clearly, that’s the science fiction aspect of it,” said Walker, describing the social and ethical dilemmas that would arise. “We can’t have continued reproduction and people who don’t age.”
This confuses me, and makes me wonder why a doctor would say such a thing. Surely he has no problem with treating people medically to prolong their lives. Aging is a natural process, but so are cancer and seizures and disease. Thanks to medical science, the average human lifespan has doubled over the past 2000 years or so (I didn’t bother to look up that number, by the way). In a way, aging is just another problem with our bodies for scientists to fix.
When I started this blog, I thought I’d be writing primarily about cool science news items, and shedding light on the latest scams, and maybe even writing about politics and religion if I had time. Well, as you can see by the Categories box to the right, I had that completely backwards. The problem is that I really don’t have much to contribute to a scientific news item, besides “this is cool”.
However, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying pseudoscientific claptrap when I see it, and this certainly qualifies for that description:
If you watched that video, you’re probably either thinking “that’s obvious nonsense” or “wow, maybe I should start doing that”. Actually, you’re probably also thinking “that’s the worst reporting I’ve ever seen” and I agree with you there.
A classic joke among us skeptics goes something like this:
Q: “What do you call alternative medicine that actually works?” A: “Medicine.”
A lot of people are inclined to believe in alternative medicine, because they see it as a viable alternative to modern medicine. What many people don’t realize is that there’s really no such thing as “alternative medicine”. There’s medicine, and then there’s unproven and disproven treatments. This “Superbrain Yoga®” seems to be a mixture of both unproven and disproven treatments. Continue reading →
I was in Barnes & Noble just now, browsing through the science section. I came upon a book called “String Theory Demystified” by David McMahon. I’ve been meaning to find a good book that lays out String Theory and Quantum Physics in a way that even a Graphic Designer can understand, and this book looked perfect. Just 306 pages, well organized, seems well-written.
Here’s what I see on page 5:
That’s from the friggin’ Introduction. The rest of the book is filled with even more complex equations.
I’m sure the book is great, but it’s clear to me now that this is WAY over my head.