Thursday, February 11, 2010

Telling your stories better

Last Thursday, in a golden era where there wasn't 40 inches of snow on the ground, Dr. Chad Orzel (who writes Uncertain Principles) gave a talk on talking about science to the general public, on the whys and hows and especially, again, the whys. "The more people understand, the more people will support" was his main theme, which is probably true. There is also the undeniable fact that the more people understand, the more informed decisions they will be able to make (supporting may end up to be one of those decisions). As to the how, there is no controversy and only what you might call pedagogical problems in talking or writing about some areas of science---"settled" areas and/or "uncontroversial" areas, let's say---but some areas have other problems.

For instance, evolutionary biology has to fight over the same ground again and again and again and again because every single person that comes up with the "question" "If we descended from chimpanzees, why are chimpanzees still around? Har har har," thinks that they were the first person to come up with this question. [1]

As for climate change science... Theirs is the hardest patch to hoe. And they are aware of it, which makes for our first link today.

Next is something cool, both literally and figuratively: Time lapse photography of "Snowmageddon" 2010, the snowfall of February 5 and 6 in the Washington DC area. What happens to the trees in the beginning is seriously creepy. Later, it looks like the camera is panning down---it is not.

Finally, something funny: Neil Gaiman facts.

[1] Hint: They aren't. Hint 2: The question's premise is entirely wrong.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Hello, world.

To start with, this weblog will probably contain some links with brief commentary, and imports of some popular-science or technology-themed essays I have written elsewhere. In time, it will evolve, as such things tend to. Let's see where we go.

Today: I am snowed in under, probably, 10+ inches of snow that came after 20+ inches of snow that was leftover from three days ago. The picture on this post is what the parking lot in front of my apartment looked like during the initial snowfall. Right now it's worse, because there is a Postal Service truck and someone's minivan stuck in it, too, the latter blocking the exit completely.

So this first link for today is appropriate: Why is Washington DC and environs so bad at handling snow, a political viewpoint. In all fairness, the answer has to be "DC and environs get this kind of snow every seven to ten years, so there's a point of diminishing returns here," but he makes other points about the current state of fiscal politics in the United States.

Our next link is also a political one: A corporation runs for the Senate, from Maryland no less. This is, in fact, their commentary on the recent Supreme Court decision that removes the limits on campaign contributions from companies, in effect granting companies greater rights of "personhood." I have seen this link in friends' blogs with the commentary "Satire is dead in America," which... oh well.

And here is something cool, to round off the day: The Movies of the 2000s. I probably recognize fewer than I should...