First time ever? RT @BoraZ: Rare, but it happens sometimes - decent science on HuffPo: http://bit.ly/7L1NXz How to Fall AsleepWed, 13/01/2010 - 11:53pm | by Dr. Gunn
RT @shwu: Anyone know a good UI designer? Let me know - @23andMe is hiring: http://bit.ly/5CJbJY (@communicating)Wed, 13/01/2010 - 11:47pm | by Dr. Gunn
mrgunn: Even Amazon can't keep its EULA story straight Boing Boing http://ff.im/ehuDJ
See original: PICTURE: See-Through Goldfish Bred; Cuts Out Dissection
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -Aldous Huxley
People who don't like their beliefs being laughed at shouldn't have such funny beliefs. -Anonymous
Over at The World's Fair, the question of belief in science arose with the provocative question, "Do you believe in the Big Bang?" I thought about it for a few seconds. What popped into my head?
The thought that, 13.7 billion years ago, all of the matter and energy within our observable Universe was concentrated into a space no bigger than the size of a single proton. That the incredibly high densities and temperatures in this region caused an expansion at nearly light-speed. As the Universe expanded and cooled, protons and neutrons formed,
nuclear fusion happened for the first time, producing nearly all of the deuterium, helium, lithium and beryllium in the Universe,
and eventually neutral atoms formed, leaving behind the relic radiation from the big bang, which is still cooling today, and which has been discovered as the Cosmic Microwave Background.
"Yes," I thought to myself, "I do, in fact, believe in the Big Bang." It is superior to all of the proposed alternatives, it is consistent with all of our observations, and it makes predictions that have allowed us to discover new things about the Universe. What more could one need to be convinced of its validity, and hence, to believe in it?
What's more, I reasoned, is that if an observation came up that was in conflict with the Big Bang, I would either need to explain the observation or revise my belief in the Big Bang. And if another, superior scientific theory came along, I might be compelled to believe in that in lieu of the Big Bang.
But after showing his class Lauren Gunderson's play, Background, about Ralph Alpher (a student of Gamow's) and the prediction and discovery of the cosmic microwave background, Vince asked his students to define "nucleosynthesis." Let's listen to Vince's account:
The answer is that Big Bang nucleosynthesis is the formation of several different elements (including deuterium, helium, beryllium, and lithium) from protons and neutrons during the first 2-5 minutes after the Big Bang. What was interesting was that one student gave exactly that answer, then added "if you believe in the Big Bang."
Now, Vince (and many of his commenters) have a problem with this. Specifically, with the "belief" aspect. The discussion spirals down into a "science vs. religion" debate after that.
Why? Why can one not believe in the Big Bang as opposed to the major rival theory of the day, the Steady State Model? (In which, incidentally, "nucleosynthesis" has a very different definition.) Why cannot one "believe" in global warming, as a preponderance of the evidence supports it, or "believe" in evolution or general relativity or any other scientific theory, as opposed to any other alternatives? Why cannot one make the best decision one can with the information available and stand behind it with conviction, whether it's to believe or disbelieve string theory, supersymmetry, quantum gravity, or any other theory? What's the worst that happens; that new evidence comes in and proves you wrong, forcing you to either change your beliefs or continue being knowingly wrong?
If I look up believe, I find:
to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so.
In science, we never have absolute proof. We are always subject to observations and experiments, and to new data forcing us to revise our theories, opinions, and yes, our beliefs. Why do we not reclaim this word, and use it to mean exactly what it means? Or, to be blunt, what, exactly, is the problem with having an informed belief in a scientific theory?
Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Starts With a Bang
Yesterday, I encountered an interesting, chance juxtaposition of ideas from two people I’ve long admired, University of Michigan economist Scott Page and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. Since their comments seemed at such odds (at first blush anyway), I felt compelled to attempt a reconciliation. Here’s the quandary. I’ve been reading Jeff Howe’s book Crowdsourcing, [...]
See original: The Madness of Crowds or the Brilliance of the Billion?
Liked "It's kind of awesome to see a big company make such a confrontational statement. It seems like a big risk --..." http://ff.im/edUIKWed, 13/01/2010 - 11:00pm | by Dr. Gunn
mrgunn: Liked "It's kind of awesome to see a big company make such a confrontational statement. It seems like a big risk --..." http://ff.im/edUIK
Fly Me to the Moon: The Incredible Migratory Journey of the Arctic Tern [Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)]Wed, 13/01/2010 - 10:55pm | by daniel
tags: evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, migration, microtechnology, geolocator, natural history, biological hotspots, longest migration, seabirds, Arctic Tern, Sterna paradisaea, bpr3.org/?p=52,peer-reviewed research, peer-reviewed paper
Arctic Tern, Sterna paradisaea, Iceland.
Image: Arthur Morris, Birds as Art, 2007 [larger view].
Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens (handheld) with the EOS-1D Mark III. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/1000 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. Manual Flash with Better Beamer at 1:1.
For decades, it was widely suspected that a small seabird, the Arctic Tern, Sterna paradisaea, migrates an estimated 40,000 km each year -- the longest migratory journey of any animal.
"This is a mind-boggling achievement for a bird of just over 100 grams," says the study's first author Carsten Egevang, a seabird researcher with the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.
Read the rest of this post... |
Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Starts With a Bang
mrgunn: Liked "Wave Assisted Authoring" http://ff.im/ef3mT
Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian | The Onion - America's Finest News Source http://ff.im/ehow9Wed, 13/01/2010 - 10:50pm | by Dr. Gunn
mrgunn: Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian | The Onion - America's Finest News Source http://ff.im/ehow9
Liked "So many libraries have fantastic digital collections online. Are they findable if you don't know to look at..." http://ff.im/ed4LZWed, 13/01/2010 - 10:49pm | by Dr. Gunn
mrgunn: Liked "So many libraries have fantastic digital collections online. Are they findable if you don't know to look at..." http://ff.im/ed4LZ
[0803.1360] On the need for a global academic internet platform - http://arxiv.org/abs/0803.1360
www.ted.com As of 2005, only 15 percent of the world was mapped. This slows the delivery of aid after a disaster -- and hides the economic potential of unused lands and unknown roads. In this short talk, Google's Lalitesh Katragadda demos Map Maker, a group map-making tool that people around the globe are using to map their world.
Science & Technology
Liked "Announcing the posts that will be published in The Open Laboratory 2009!" http://ff.im/ehg4LWed, 13/01/2010 - 10:45pm | by Dr. Gunn
mrgunn: Liked "Announcing the posts that will be published in The Open Laboratory 2009!" http://ff.im/ehg4L
mrgunn: Liked "Los Alamos' Acoustic Flow Cytometry Going to Market" http://ff.im/ehfX3