Archive for the ‘Science & Technology’ Category

Proxima Centauri, here we come!

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

If this is accurate, our entire of understanding of time and space has been broken:

A pair of German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light – an achievement that would undermine our entire understanding of space and time.

According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, it would require an infinite amount of energy to propel an object at more than 186,000 miles per second.

However, Dr Gunter Nimtz and Dr Alfons Stahlhofen, of the University of Koblenz, say they may have breached a key tenet of that theory.

The pair say they have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons – energetic packets of light – travelled “instantaneously” between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart.

Being able to travel faster than the speed of light would lead to a wide variety of bizarre consequences.

For instance, an astronaut moving faster than it would theoretically arrive at a destination before leaving.

The scientists were investigating a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling, which allows sub-atomic particles to break apparently unbreakable laws.

Dr Nimtz told New Scientist magazine: “For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of.”

How I Want to Spend My Summer Vaction

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

If I had $100 million I would use it for this:

Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, is in negotiations with the customers who will fly the first private expedition to circumnavigate the Moon.

“I hope to have those contracts signed by the end of the year,” said Eric Anderson, Space Adventures’ president and CEO.

I really hope space tourism happens in my lifetime, and I hope it becomes a little more economically feasible. The adventurous geek in me would love nothing better than to go into outer space.

Via Glenn Reynolds

Mr. Wizard, 1917-2007

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Don Herbert, better known as television’s Mr. Wizard, has passed away:

Don Herbert was television’s indelible Mr. Wizard, who “unlocked the wonders of science for youngsters of the 1950s and ’60s” before taking his show to Nickelodeon in the 1980’s to engage a whole new generation, as The Times’s obituary says. He was the prototype for a whole species of pop-science teachers, from Bill Nye the Science Guy and Beakman to Steven Spangler, the man credited by Wikipedia as having once held the world record for the tallest Diet Coke geyser.

I was not yet born when “Watch Mr. Wizard” aired in the 1950s and 1960s, but I was a huge fan of “Mr. Wizard’s World,” which aired on Nickelodeon during the 1980s and 1990s, and was one of the primary reasons I became interested in science. I remember attempting many of the experiments I saw on his show.

One of the great things about Don Herbert was his ability to effectively communicate complex scientific laws to kids without taking down to them. Indeed, many scientists today were influenced by “Mr. Wizard.” I don’t think there could be any greater honor for him than this:

During the 1960s and ’70s, about half the applicants to Rockefeller University in New York, where students work toward doctorates in science and medicine, cited Mr. Wizard when asked how they first became interested in science.

A great man has passed. RIP.

Secrecy is Dead

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Roger L. Simon, discussing Fred Thompson, ponders the new secretless world that we now find ourselves in:

We just live in an era of no secrets. The idea of a private life is over. And running for President – or doing anything public for that matter – makes it worse.

But what’s fascinating in all this is that, for all our information, you rarely learn the real truth about anyone. When you finally or accidentally meet someone about whom you’ve been reading this endless stream of rumors, facts and what-not, you end up encountering something totally different. Again: a human being (with all his/her attendant pluses and minuses – many of them surprisingly lovable.)

It’s a strange Google word we live in.

Indeed. I suspect any candidate viewed as a front runner, be they Tompson, Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Hillary, Edwards, or Obama, will have some skeletons falls from their closets. And these candidates only have the last 15 years or so of their lives available through Google. In 20 years, candidates will have nearly their entire lives available at the click of some operative or journalist’s fingertips. When it comes to mudslinging, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

FaceBook Politics

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Peter Suderman has a fascinating look at politics on the social networking site Facebook.

E-Voting in Estonia

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Is this what the future hold for America?:

The tiny Baltic nation of Estonia, whose parliament once declared internet access a basic human right, has become the first country to allow voters in a general election to cast their ballots online.

Maybe it’s just my Amero/Euro-centrism showing, but I never would have guessed that online voting would begin in Estonia.

Shoot for the Moon

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Charles Krauthammer says we should return to the moon:

The Luddites have long opposed manned exploration as a waste of resources when, as the mantra goes, we have so many problems here on earth.

I find this objection incomprehensible. When will we stop having problems here on earth? In a fallen world of endless troubles, that does not stop us from allocating resources to endeavors we find beautiful, exciting and elevating — opera, alpine skiing, feature films — yet solve no social problems.

Moreover, the moon base is not pointless. The shuttles were on an endless trip to the nowhere of low Earth orbit. The moon is a destination. The idea this time is not to go plant a flag, take a golf shot and leave, but to stay and form a real self-sustaining, extraterrestrial human colony.

Trips to the moon are expensive, but so were the voyages of Columbus, Magellan, and Leif Erikson. Exploration and a desire to push back the frontiers is encoded in our DNA. Will human society ever be like Star Trek? I don’t know, but I do know that it won’t if we don’t try.

Retrying Scopes

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Apparently, State Sen. Raymond Finney (R-Maryville) thinks the 1925 humiliation wasn’t enough. Oh no, he wants to retry the monkey:

A Tennessee State Senate member has filed a resolution asking the Tennessee Department of Education to address a few basic questions about life, the universe and all that:

* “Is the universe and all that is within it, including human beings, created through purposeful, intelligent design by a Supreme Being, that is a Creator?”
* “Since the universe, including human beings, is created by a supreme being (a creator), why is creationism not taught in Tennessee public schools?
* “Since it cannot be determined whether the universe, including human beings, is created by a supreme being (a creator), why is creationism not taught as an alternative concept, explanation, or theory, along with the theory of evolution in Tennessee public schools?”

I doubt that this bill will go anywhere; it’s most likely a cynical attempt by Finney to score some points with the Religious Right. I have no problem with acknowledgment of a Supreme Creator. I am a Christian. I believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth, and that Jesus came to redeem the world. And, for the record, I have no problem with this theology being studied in classrooms, so long as it’s voluntary.

But I am against the academic fraud that is running rampant in the schools. Conservatives can generally be counted on to expose and fight it, except when it comes to science. For some reason, many Conservative Christians feel the need to have their beliefs taught in science classes, either as outright Creationism or the more covert Intelligent Design. The problem is that neither of these beliefs are science. Teaching them as such represents academic fraud, and quite frankly seems to me to be a sign of weak faith, as if kids will become atheists if they even hear of Charles Darwin.

Science is not the be all, end all. It is simply part of a larger puzzle. I would argue that it is important to learn and understand, but it can only tell us so much. It is silent, for example, on the existence of God. That is the realm of theology. Theology is also important, and is necessary, in my opinion, for a full life. Contemplating things bigger than one’s self and wrestling with life’s big questions is very important for anyone who wants to live a full life.

But just as we would not substitute science for faith, we should not substitute faith for science. We should respect and cherish both, and encourage the honest examination and study of each. Sen. Finney, a doctor, should know this.

Via Bob Krumm.

UPDATE: This post is taking part in the Beltway Traffic Jam.

Evolution of Ignorance

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

I’ve heard it argued before that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a liberal or Satanic conspiracy. I’d never heard it suggested that it’s a Jewish conspiracy:

A Jewish organization is demanding an apology from a Georgia legislator for a memo that says the teaching of evolution should be banned because it is a myth propagated by an ancient Jewish sect.

State Rep. Ben Bridges denies writing the memo, which attributes the Big Bang theory to Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.

Bridges has long opposed the teaching of evolution in Georgia classrooms and has introduced legislation requiring only that “scientific fact” be taught.

Opposing the teaching of evolution is rather stupid to begin with. Blaming it on liberal or Satanic conspiracies is ignorant. Attributing it to Jewish conspiracies is vile.

From Ink to Pixels II

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

I previously noted the world’s oldest newspaper was shifting to Internet-only. Now it looks like the New York Times might be following its lead.