Did you guys see Neil deGrasse Tyson is coming to Portland? This is fantastic news and easily justifies my decision to keep on living until at least September (and possibly beyond, depending on how September goes). Tickets go on sale this Thursday at 10 am, but do not buy them then, because that's when I'm getting mine. Once I have my tickets, you guys can do whatever you want, but it sells out before I get my tickets, there's going to be hell to pay.
Alternately, you could join Jared—the community outreach leader for the Creationist Baptist Church of Alabama—on a thrilling trip in his white church van, voyaging through the stars to discover the true origins of life, the universe, and everything.
That still may be true, but he's so god damn charming in Cosmos that I'm giving up trying to hate him. He wears funny hats, does silly things like poke a fire with a stick and dust himself off after CGI asteroid impacts, and he talks about science in a way that is approachable but still completely dorky. And he's got big, awkward hands. It's great!
At the end of episode 1 of the series, he shows his name in Carl Sagan's date book from their first meeting when Tyson was only 17, and that was an amazing moment of TV. The whole of Cosmos good. In fact, my only complaint is that The Ship of the Imagination doesn't seem to have any handrails, so The OSHA of the Imagination is going to be pissed. But that's it.
It is with much reticence that I admit this, but even if it was originally on a bet, I've fallen in love with Neil Degrasse Tyson. He is all that.
This is not fringe science: One of Hibbing's pioneering papers on the physiology of ideology was published in none other than the top-tier journal Science in 2008. It found that political partisans on the left and the right differ significantly in their bodily responses to threatening stimuli. For example, startle reflexes after hearing a loud noise were stronger in conservatives. And after being shown a variety of threatening images ("a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it," according to the study), conservatives also exhibited greater skin conductance—a moistening of the sweat glands that indicates arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which manages the body's fight-or-flight response.
It all adds up, according to Hibbing, to what he calls a "negativity bias" on the right. Conservatives, Hibbing's research suggests, go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening, and disgusting stimuli—and then they adopt tough, defensive and aversive ideologies to match that perceived reality.
Here's "the first documented drone flight through ice caves" (Alaska's, in particular), and while you'll probably need to turn the cloying music off, the visuals are fantastic. Between stuff like this, NASA's daily image, and a weekly dose of the new Cosmos, we're in a pretty good era for science-y eye candy. YOU GUYS ARE WATCHING THE NEW COSMOS, RIGHT?
It sounds like the search for the missing flight 370 may be shifting west, into the Indian Ocean.
So how hard is it to find a Boeing 777 in the Indian Ocean*? Since we humans are so bad at contemplating things at massive scale (the solar system, for example), Rob Cockerham has helpfully translated this problem down into more approachable scales.
Finding a 777 in the Indian Ocean is like finding:
A single grain of salt somewhere in the city of San Francisco.
Or a sesame seed in Yosemite.
Or a red blood cell at Burning Man.
* The search area isn't the entire Indian Ocean, of course, they'll start at the eastern side and work out, but still.. oceans are big! And also note that these comparisons are surface area. Once that thing sinks, oh boy.
A TV station in one of the following states "accidentally" and verrrry clumsily inserted a news promo into the first episode of Cosmos—right when host Neil deGrasse Tyson was talking about evolution. COINCIDENCE? Probably not. But let's see if you can guess which state it happened in. The answer is after jump (no peeping!)—and as they love to say in TV news, "the answer MAY surprise you!"
I end up going to Whole Foods for lunch maybe once every two or three weeks, because there's one pretty close to Mercury HQ and their avocado/cucumber rolls are very good and sometimes the salad bar's worth a shot and then there's a kind of apple juice I really like there and SHIT I JUST SPENT MORE ON LUNCH THAN I DID ON MY LAST STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT GAAAHHH
Then I'm ashamed, and then I don't go for another two weeks, and then the cycle repeats itself. Aside from Whole Food's predatory exploitation of privileged food hobbyists, though, there's another reason to be wary of the place: Increasingly, Whole Foods is basing its existence on catering to scientifically dubious trends (GOJI BERRIES WILL NOT SAVE YOU). For Whole Foods' Portland stores at least, that's a smart strategy, given that scientifically dubious trends are lovingly embraced by a distressing amount of otherwise reasonable Portlanders. Hey, otherwise reasonable Portlanders! Here's a thing that's worth reading! Michael Schulson's "Whole Foods: America’s Temple of Pseudoscience," from The Daily Beast:
Look, if homeopathic remedies make you feel better, take them. If the Paleo diet helps you eat fewer TV dinners, that’s great—even if the Paleo diet is probably premised more on The Flintstones than it is on any actual evidence about human evolutionary history. If non-organic crumbs bother you, avoid them. And there’s much to praise in Whole Foods’ commitment to sustainability and healthful foods.
Still: a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science (think What Doctors Don’t Tell You, or Whole Foods’ overblown GMO campaign, which could merit its own article). If scientific accuracy in the public sphere is your jam, is there really that much of a difference between Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, who seems to have made a career marketing pseudoscience about the origins of the world, and John Mackey, a founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, who seems to have made a career, in part, out of marketing pseudoscience about health? (Via.)
Whenever I think of Whole Foods, I also think of the slightly more tolerable New Seasons, which caters to the same sort of bourgie clientele. That said, I haven't been inside a New Seasons for a year or two—has anybody who's gone there recently noticed if they're doing the same thing as Whole Foods when it comes to this kind of stuff?
The short version: HUMANS HAVE NO NEED FOR HUMAN FACES ANYMORE.
When you see a colon and a parentheses, you know exactly what it means. The smiley face has become ubiquitous online, and psychologists have even looked into the ways it’s used in emails. Now, researchers say that not only do we know what the little :) means, but we actually perceive it the same way we perceive an actual human face. (Via.)
"Emoticons are a new form of language that we're producing," says researcher, Dr Owen Churches, from the school of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, "and to decode that language we've produced a new pattern of brain activity." (Via.)
Okay, so maybe me saying humans have no need for human faces anymore was kind of exaggerating (HOW ELSE WOULD WE EAT), but the fact our brains now have the same response to :) as we do when seeing an actual human being smile is kind of... I don't know? There isn't really an emoji for neat and creepy at the same time. :/
China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover is having some problems, and The Daily Show has employed the best possible person to imbue said rover with the melancholy befitting such an occasion. (You can totally skip to about the three-minute mark to avoid the majority of Jon Stewart's shtick.)
While the inclusion of executive producer Seth McFarlane (Family Guy, Ted, part of the reason why the world is a terrible place) makes me want to go screaming into the night, I will hope and pray that his involvement is minuscule and Fox's reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos is going to rock it. It's hosted by your favorite astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson... soooo... there's that! It debuts on March 9, and here's the first trailer.
Update: This video is being persnickity... so watch it here.
YOUR THOUGHTS, PLEASE.
No offense, but the concept of OMSI as a dining destination is going to take some getting used to. I don't actually recall having ever eaten at Theory, it's main culinary option, but it seems to offer cafeteria-style standards like pizza, mac 'n' cheese, sandwiches, etc. If it's any indication, I have partaken of the food at the smaller, snackier Galileo's, which was predictably mediocre and overpriced. (Also, Theory is managed by Bon Appétit, the same company that operated the cafeteria at the college I attended, and which I always considered to be better than most—with the curious exception of burritos... their burritos were impressively terrible.) And what do you really ask of science museum food, anyway? It's fine.
But OMSI is relentless in its pursuit of new ways to market themselves and draw people in, which is a pluck you gotta admire, and some of what they've come up with is pretty great (science pubs! the Empirical Theater! late-night adult booze parties!). Lately they're setting their sights on Portland's famous interests in fine dining and health—not an unintelligent idea.
As part of this they're re-launching the "Food Luminary" dinners they started toying with last year as monthly events, the first one kicking off this Wednesday (the 22nd). They feature food science demos over wine and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a cooking demo by the guest chef of the month, and a four-course meal created by said chef "in collaboration with Bon Appétit Executive Chef Ryan Morgan," with a focus on healthy and sustainable eating practices. They've scored a pretty impressive lineup, too: Wednesday's dinner is with Lincoln's Jenn Louis and Ben Jacobsen of Jacobsen Salt Co. fame, February's event (on the 11th) is with Urban Farmer's Matt Christianson, and March (14th) is with St. Jack's Aaron Barnett.
The $80 ticket price ain't cheap, but it covers everything, including drinks and gratuity, and tickets are still available for the first one. And if you hate surprises, here's the menu, too:
Bruschetta with whipped schmaltz, prosciutto and smoked salt
Yeasted potato fritters with cocoa nibs and coffee salt, cocoa dust and chili aioli
Nantucket sea scallops with capers, lemon and bottarga, lemon salt
Green cabbage with fermented winter squash, pancetta, walnuts and blue cheese vinaigrette
Braised lamb neck with tomato and orange, ghost chili salt
Carrots with saffron and parsley
Fried brussels sprouts banga cauda
Braised beans with lardo
Salted popcorn panna cotta, vanilla salt
Salted fennel caramels, vanilla salt
Need a new hobby? Get a load of Portland's latest movement: The first annual Cabinet of Wonder Festival is inspired by the pre-museum renaissance days when wealthy folks would assemble their own collections of specimens in the fields of "science, nature and archaeology and ethnography," like taxidermy, minerals, mounted insects, foreign art pieces, etc. These were called "wunderkammer" or "wonder cabinets," and now Curious Gallery PDX is using the idea as a jumping off point for a two-day festival scheduled Feb 1 & 2 at the Doubletree Hotel (1000 NE Multnomah).
The agenda definitely has more than a whiff of steam punk to it (no judgement whether you take that as a warning or enticement), but there are a lot of workshops that sound interesting, like a "costumed figure drawing" class, a workshop on terrariums (also called "Wardian cases," apparently), a lecture on the history of wunderkammer, "modern elixir making," steel sculpture, wildcrafting, a panel on the legality and ethics of using animal parts in art and collecting, and a lecture on why we should care about endangered species of insects (a portion of the event's profits are set to go to the Xerces Society, a nonprofit invertebrate conservation group).
Check out the whole rundown here.
Now more than ever, science needs defending, so thank God for Bill Nye, who'll take time out of his busy Science Guy schedule to publicly debate Ken Ham, founder of Kentucky's Creation museum, on the subject of evolution vs. creationism.
Most of you will recall Mr. Nye as the bow-tied host of the popular children’s TV program Bill Nye the Science Guy. On his TV program, watched by millions of children over the years both on TV and as videos in science classrooms, Nye promoted evolutionary ideas. In recent times he has often been seen on TV interview shows and YouTube videos, where he has defended evolution. Nye was the “2010 Humanist of the Year” as awarded by the American Humanist Association. Because our ministry theme for 2013 and for 2014 is “Standing Our Ground, Rescuing Our Kids,” our staff thought that a debate on creation vs. evolution with a man who has influenced so many children to believe in evolution would be a good idea. Now, those of you who know me realize that I don’t relish public debates, so please pray for me.
I'll keep you posted on how to see/hear the debate. In the meantime, another impressive sentence from Ken Ham (bolds mine):
[T]his debate will help highlight the fact that so many young people are dismissing the Bible because of evolution, and even many young people who had grown up in the church decided to leave the church because they saw evolution as showing the Bible could not be trusted.
Okay. (Meanwhile, wingnut Bryan Fischer thinks no one who believes in evolution should be allowed to hold public office.)
For years science has been keeping a horrifying secret from us... okay, so maybe they haven't kept it a secret from you, but I didn't know anything about it until now! Anyway, that secret is DEEP SEA SQUIDS. They live deep underwater—the video below was shot at 7,500 feet—but I see no reason for them not to swim up to the top and wrap their insanely long tentacles around me now that they know I'm up here!!! From Deep Sea News (which I will never work for because GAHHHHHH!!):
They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.
Drain the oceans of their water, or by all that's holy, these bastards will strangle you in your sleeeeeeeeep!!!
If you are not too squeamish about taxidermy, I do hope you've paid a visit to Paxton Gate, the natural sciences store up on N Mississippi, because it's fascinating. In addition to some stuffed specimens that go far beyond hunting lodge/PNW dining decor variety, they have a huge selection of mounted insects, an excellent books section, unusual jewelry (and jewelry supplies if you are pissed they don't have rattlesnake teeth at your favorite bead store or whatever), and a lovely gardening section, too. Last time my niece and nephew were in town I think we spent an hour in there.
Anyhow, they're having an event next Saturday (Nov 9) that sounds like an excellent date: Having an insect expert giving guided tours (safaris, if you will) of their bug selection along with beer and wine (and "something non-alcoholic")—it's all free, and sounds totally fascinating and fun. More about the guide, Don Ehlen:
Ehlen has been interested in and studying insects since the age of five. He spent his childhood in Minnesota collecting specimens and reading every book about bugs that he could find. He took up serious collecting as a young adult while attending the University of Minnesota in 1981. After relocating to New Mexico in 1982 his collection grew dramatically. After studying entomology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque he traveled around the Southwest searching for new and interesting specimens. He relocated to Washington State in 1989 and soon after began voluntarily showing his collection to school children. Don started Insect Safari in 1994 as a response to the encouragement of teachers that such a program was much needed in order to support insect study in elementary curriculums.
Stop in from 2-5 to get bugged out, with or without a date.
It's a fun, engaging collection of video and audio work, all aimed at a general audience and vetted by the Science Studio's judges, ranging from Neil DeGrase Tyon's tribute to Neil Armstrong to an animated tour of the Large Hadron Collider to this:
This time it’s about killer buildings—constructed with unreinforced masonry—and attempts by Steve Novick and emergency planners to address the problem by requiring these structures get seismic retrofits.
It’s all part of a larger effort by the city to prepare Portlanders for the magnitude 9.0 or greater earthquake scientists warn is coming. (And it comes, coincidentally, in time for a worldwide earthquake drill today called “The Great Shake Out.” Click here for more details if you're interested.) Yesterday, that effort was on display at City Hall, at an earthquake preparedness fair organized by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM). I went to answer a simple question: When the Big One hits, where will I shit?
Okay, “fair” is, perhaps, a misnomer; attendance was weak and the atmosphere, given the subject matter, was less than festive. It was just a sprinkling of people standing around tables covered in pamphlets spreading the good word about emergency preparedness. I'd come to talk to folks from the volunteer group Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human, or PHLUSH, hoping they'd have the answer. They did. And it maybe involves the green roll carts where you put your compost and yard debris.
PHLUSH—as the name and acronym imply—wants to educate people about that razor-thin line that separates us from the animals. Namely, the small critters that will flourish when the plumbing stops working and people can't flush their toilets and can’t easily wash their hands. They're worried about what will happen when shit—and the bacteria that live in it—gets fucking everywhere.
“Our biggest concern,” Mathew Lippincott of PHLUSH told me, “is how do we contain the rapid spread of disease.”
Google's promotional video for its new quantum computer is a little twee, but the possibilities they're talking about here are mind-boggling.
Surely, the entreaties went, we can all agree on our shared passion for dental health, for the health of our children (always the children), that both sides had the best interests of their city at heart.
"There are good people who believe perfectly the opposite of what we did," volunteer KC Hanson said to some fanfare at the Clean Water Portland party. "As a community, as Portland, we need to come together. I know you guys will."
Today, Portland City Club has announced it's taking the first step toward turning those salving sentiments into some kind of direct action.
Backers of the well-funded fluoridation push will work with the opposition movement's biggest local funder, Daniel Deutsch (a notable qualifier, given the out-of-state money that fueled the campaign) on a task force devoted to finding other solutions to our kids' lackluster dental health.
From City Club's statement:
“What excited us most about the campaign was the enthusiasm on all sides of the issue for a solution to Portland’s dental health problems,” said Nichole Maher, President Northwest Health Foundation. “After the election it was clear there were many areas in which the anti-side was actually an ally. It just made sense to reach out and combine forces.”
The task force will study the most workable solutions for improving dental health outcomes for children in Multnomah County. It will examine proven community-based strategies that have improved dental health in other cities. Following the findings of the report, the task force will develop a set of recommendations.
"I truly appreciate the willingness to come together, and find a common purpose, in spite of our being on opposite sides of the debate,” said Deutsch. “In the end, we are working toward the same goal, a healthier Portland. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be part of this collaboration."
Fluoridation foes made much of data, released late in the campaign, that showed modest improvement in Multnomah County cavity rates in the past few years—improvements that came without fluoridation. But all the same, cavity rates here are worse than the national average and also worse among lower-income children and people of color.
City Club has information on its task force here, and is accepting applications from interested potential members until next Wednesday, October 16.
In a post at Popular Science titled "Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments," Suzanne LaBarre writes:
Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at PopularScience.com, we're shutting them off...That is not to suggest that we are the only website in the world that attracts vexing commenters. Far from it. Nor is it to suggest that all, or even close to all, of our commenters are shrill, boorish specimens of the lower internet phyla. We have many delightful, thought-provoking commenters.
But even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story, recent research suggests.
There are no comments on the story.
In other news, YouTube is trying to make their comments less of a cesspool. Gizmodo explains how.
What do I look like, a scientist? Don't ask me. But these guys seem pretty excited. "It's almost too amazing to believe," one says.
(Don't miss the final and maybe most important sentence: "Despite these fantastical claims, the Journal of Cosmology has had its reputation called into question more than once by other members of the scientific community.")
In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, Dr. Delroy L. Paulhus explains the results of experiments designed to identify people predisposed to revel in others’ suffering—like those who cheer at sports games when people get injured. People he calls "everyday sadists." The experiments involve crushing bugs and white noise:
In the study’s first experiment, to learn if everyday sadism correlated with the questionnaire, researchers recruited 71 psychology students, ostensibly to understand “personality and tolerance for challenging jobs.”
The students chose among tasks that stood for jobs: killing bugs (exterminator); helping the exterminator (exterminator’s assistant); cleaning toilets (sanitation worker); or enduring pain from ice water (a worker in cold environments). Among the participants, nearly 53 percent chose to be bug assassins or assistants, 34 percent chose toilet-cleaning and 13 percent pain tolerance. Gender was evenly distributed among those choosing various tasks.
Students who chose to be bug-killers were presented with three cups, each holding a live pill bug. To anthropomorphize the bugs, each was given a name: Muffin, Ike, or Tootsie. Bug-killers had to drop a bug into a modified coffee grinder, force the top down, and grind the bug up.
... During the execution of the assignment, some bug-killers quit after one or two. But some asked for more bugs.
In other news, every five-year-old I know is an everyday sadist.
So of all the so-called "celebrities" on this season's Dancing with the Stars, we know there's really only one: Bill Nye the Science Guy. Here he is in last night's season premiere, dancing the cha-cha-cha to Oingo Boingo's "Weird Science" (of course). He's charming in practice (1:00 mark), clumsy on the dance floor (2:44), and brave as the judges absolutely eviscerate him (4:30).
Check it out, and let's all move on with our lives.
First the cows are all like, "MOOOOO!! MOOOO!! MOOOO!!" (Translated: "I'm am so fucking OUT of here!!") And then they're all like "MOOOOO!! Moooo?? MOOOOO???" (Translated: "AHHH! AHHH! Wait... what is that rocket doing. Is that rocket doing what I think it's doing? HOLY SHIT! THAT'S AN AWESOME ROCKET!!")
Find out more about the experimental reusable Grasshopper rocket from private spaceflight company SpaceX here.
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