CONvergence 2014 panel audio: It’s (Not) Written In The Stars

This was a fun panel about the cognitive dissonance and shared delusion necessary to believe in astrology despite all of science’s advances. It was a bit raucaus at times, but we had good audience participation and Brianne had some hilarious points throughout, relieving me of my usual role as snarker. With a real-life astronomer and two science teachers — one tenured, one a teacher-in-training — this panel covered all the perspectives. Well, except for the perspectives of true-believer. No wait, Nicole admitted to having been one herself at one point! So it covered all the perspectives! Yeah!

We’ll explore the myths and beliefs of astrology and why some people still find it convincing in the modern age of science.

Panelists: Jason Thibeault, Brianne Bilyeu, Dan Berliner, Matt Lowry, Nicole Gugliucci

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(or download the It’s (Not) Written In The Stars mp3 – 24.7 megs)

The specific gravity of cold-press coffee

Okay, a bit of a misleading title, but I like it nonetheless.

I just had a minor bit of unpleasant SIWOTI, only in meatspace instead of On The Internet. I don’t think I handled it entirely appropriately but that’s mostly because as a nerd, these things do matter to me. But interacting with other people also matters to me.

Caribou Coffee is a local answer to Starbucks that falls about halfway between Tim Horton’s and Starbucks on the scale of fancy-fancy frou-frou (which is a scalar value, obviously). They have a trivia question on a chalkboard next to their menu every day, and getting it right will knock ten cents off your order. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a fun little thing. Today’s question was: “What is Mars’ gravitational pull (relative to Earth’s)?”
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The Truth Hurts

I’ve been feeling somewhat inured to the constant grind on the soul of people coming forward with tales of their having been sexually assaulted of late. Then along comes Pamela Gay, one of the kindest, smartest, funniest people I’ve had the pleasure to work with, however briefly, and her story has such a ring of familiarity and timeliness that people are speculating that she’s the one DJ Grothe and Barbara Drescher were talking about.

And to make matters worse, Dr. Gay is the one feeling guilty here, despite having personally done nothing wrong. She’s the one facing repercussions within the community for having spoken up last year about harassment. She’s the one being targeted for further harassment and abuse, and she’s the one whose career is on the line. Because she’s the one who has breasts. Because she’s the one who spoke up.

I am just fucking GUTTED now.

With ever increasing difficulty I’ve been dealing with issues of gender related to my career. Right now, I am struggling with hearing that an event I categorized as “A drunk ass tried to grab my boobs,” is now being discussed by witnesses as, “He tried to sexually assault her in a bar while intoxicated.” I had created a euphemism for myself, and having that euphemism striped away is making me realize that I have been hiding from myself the true degree to which I have been harmed.

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Mock The Movie: Total Recall transcript

Last night we took on the universally-beloved sci-fi flick Total Recall. I say “universally beloved” because people either remember the lady with three boobs, or they mistook the movie for Robocop with Arnold Schwarzenegger, or they had their memories rewritten to have enjoyed it. Nobody liked it legitimately, I assure you.

Transcripts will be available here. Um, shortly. As soon as I can get them uploaded.

Get your ass to below-the-fold.
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Asteroid 2011 AG5 missed the keyhole

Welp, there goes another apocalyptic prophecy — this one grounded in reality, mind, but it means we can scrub the 2040 doomsday off our calendar.

Earlier in 2012 only a few observations of AG5 could be made before it got too close to the Sun to see. Those allowed the crude estimate of where it would be in 2040, and that big fuzzy volume of space included the Earth.

However, new observations taken with the monster Gemini telescope in Hawaii allowed a far better orbit to be calculated. The path of the asteroid in 2040 was found, and now clearly does not include the Earth. It will be a clean miss, by about 900,000 kilometers (550,000 miles). This is more than twice the distance to the Moon, if that helps.

With this new calculation, we have little to worry about in 2040. Though, it seems, humanity does love a doomsday. I don’t expect this will truly dissuade people who want another hit of that doomsday high.

Hat tip to Phil Plait in his new digs at Slate.

Animation student’s thesis: Pale Blue Dot

Adam Winnik produced this lovely animation for Carl Sagan’s poetic musings on our place in the cosmos, as his school thesis. From his video’s description:

I’ve been enrolled in illustration at Sheridan College for the the last 4 years and this is my final thesis project. I have always thought of Carl Sagan’s writings as “scientific poetry” since they lack the cold touch that science is often cursed for having. I think Sagan’s words resonate more than ever, and will continue with each generation until the human species “wakes up”. The first time I heard this excerpt from his book “Pale Blue Dot” it literally changed my life, and I hope it does for you too. Enjoy.

Pale Blue Dot – Animation from Ehdubya on Vimeo.

I was especially amused by the “derp”‘s all over the holy man’s holy book.

@Felix3333 pointed out something I missed though — if this was the only example of human culture you saw, you’d think the human endeavour is mostly only man’s domain. This picture shows why you might get that impression.

Sun vomits forth giant prominence

Think about the scale of this particular flare, which was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory yesterday. I know it’s hard to imagine, with it zoomed in like this, but this is absolutely immense. Eyeballing it against a “size of stars” image I have up on the wall, I’d say both ends of this flare are at least as wide as Wolf 359, a distant red dwarf star. And it’s probably dozens of times wider than Earth.

It’s a good damn thing this flare isn’t aimed anywhere toward us. Sure, our magnetosphere could probably shield us, but not without repercussions.

As Troythulu and I were discussing on Twitter when he linked this, it’s absolutely no wonder to me that people would worship the sun, a tangible, massive, and powerful entity, without which life couldn’t exist here. Compared to other religions, I totally get sun worship.

Curiosity, from the eyes of one of its creators

I cannot imagine having had a single project for seven years that culminates in a seven minute Schrodinger’s Cat where your work either failed or succeeded. I cannot imagine the magnitude of relief or heartache or joy or sorrow that might have come from either result. This gives me the same sort of minute glimpse of the triumph felt by its three thousand engineers and physicists and mathematicians responsible for this project, as when I watched the live feed for the control room during the landing.

If you are unmoved by this video, you might want to check your pulse.