Four million dollars is not “free”


While I’ve been distracted and gallivanting about, some good news has come in. The Australian government had set aside $4 million to give to Bjørn Lomborg, to create an institute of climate quackery at the University of Western Australia. I’m sure UWA could use $4 million (is there a university that isn’t strapped?) but they decided they didn’t need it that much and turned it down. I think most institutions of higher learning would similarly reject money for that purpose, or for building an astrology center, or a creationist think-tank.

It’s a little something called intellectual integrity.

(Universities sometimes fail in this regard, though, which is how the University of Minnesota ends up with a Center for Spirituality and Healing. But that’s a different story.)

As you might guess, conservatives are furious. Their standard line is that this was a violation of FREE SPEECH!

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I really, truly hope it didn’t save the space program


Don’t get me wrong — the space program is important, I support it fully, but this claim that a single book may have saved it is a bit much. Especially since that book was The Martian.

“The Martian” doesn’t make a compelling political or budgetary case for sending humans to Mars. But it does make a human landing and perhaps even colonization of Mars seem plausible at the nuts-and-bolts, airlocks-and-solar-panels level. Sure, it would be wildly expensive, and there’s that whole EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing) issue, but remember, the story is set in the future, where people are smarter, and the duct tape still just as reliable.


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Scurrilous rumor about beards squelched!


I was offended! There was this wildly defamatory rumor spreading around the internets that claimed that beards were disgusting collections of contagious bacteria. This is sort of not true! It turns out that the source was a news report that swabbed a few faces and found fecal bacteria, and squawked about it without context. Reality is that you can find bacteria like that everywhere, even on smooth-faced people. This was not news.

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