Here’s the latest image from NASA’s Dawn Mission, now in orbit around the protoplanet Ceres in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with a clear shot of those mysterious bright spots first sighted months ago. The composition of the material causing these bright areas is still unknown as of this writing.
Here’s a fascinating look at how our brains are programmed to expect certain behaviors from the tools we use, and how difficult it can be to re-program those neural algorithms. Destin was given a bicycle that was designed with a fiendish twist — the steering was reversed so that turning the handlebars left made the bike go right, and vice versa. And he discovered it was amazingly hard to overcome his normal bike-riding behavior, but not impossible. But it took a lot of work.
By trying to ride this bike, he learned something very interesting about the cognitive biases we all have.
Professor David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health recently took a series of surveys of scientists in the fields of criminology, economics, public policy, political science and public health on the effects of firearms on society, and made some very interesting discoveries: There’s Scientific Consensus on Guns — and the NRA Won’t Like It.
I decided to determine objectively, through polling, whether there was scientific consensus on firearms. What I found won’t please the National Rifle Assn.
Last May we began sending out short, monthly surveys. The first question on each survey asks how much the respondent agrees with a particular claim related to firearms, and the second and third questions ask the respondent to rate the quality of the scientific literature, as well as their own level of familiarity with the scientific literature on that particular topic.
So, for example, one survey asked whether having a gun in the home increased the risk of suicide. An overwhelming share of the 150 people who responded, 84%, said yes.
This result was not at all surprising because the scientific evidence is overwhelming. It includes a dozen individual-level studies that investigate why some people commit suicide and others do not, and an almost equal number of area-wide studies that try to explain differences in suicide rates across cities, states and regions. These area-wide studies find that differences in rates of suicide across the country are less explained by differences in mental health or suicide ideation than they are by differences in levels of household gun ownership.
I also found widespread confidence that a gun in the home increases the risk that a woman living in the home will be a victim of homicide (72% agree, 11% disagree) and that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be (64%) rather than a safer place (5%). There is consensus that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime (73% vs. 8%) and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates (62% vs. 9%). Finally, there is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide (71% vs. 12%).
Stanford Computer Scientists Develop “Troll-Spotting Algorithm,” Explodes When Analyzing Breitbart.com
A group of Stanford computer scientists have developed an algorithm that supposedly can detect trolls by analyzing as few as five comments.
Today, Justin Cheng at Stanford University in California and a few pals say they have created just such a tool by analyzing the behavior of trolls on several well-known websites and creating an algorithm that can accurately spot them after as few as 10 posts. They say their technique should be of high practical importance to the people who maintain online communities.
On each of these sites, they have a list of users who have been banned for antisocial behavior, over 10,000 of them in total. They also have all of the messages posted by these users throughout their period of online activity. “Such individuals are clear instances of antisocial users, and constitute ‘ground truth’ in our analyses,” say Cheng and co.
OK, I just have to ask: how in the world can any algorithm pick out “trolls” at Breitbart “News?” Almost every commenter at that insane website is an antisocial lunatic. They don’t discourage antisocial nutcases — inciting them into a frenzy is their business model. If Breitbart “News” was one of their test beds I have to question the accuracy of this algorithm.
The disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” was based on long term scientific concerns about global warming’s impact on the North Atlantic Current, also called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, - what most people think of as “The Gulf Stream” - although that is a simplification.
The movie was obviously over the top in terms of the projected impacts, but after a decade in which science has downplayed the possibility of such an event, a new paper shows that the circulation is indeed slowing down.
This could signal potential impacts on weather, the food chain, and circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout the ocean.
I’ve been interviewing key authors of the paper, Lead author Stefan Rahmstorf, as well as paleoclimate expert Mike Mann, and Glaciologist Jason Box.
This is a paper that could have substantial impact, and might very well be distorted or sensationalized, - so bookmark this post as a damper for overhyped speculation, as well as a warning about real impacts.
I’ve been getting swarmed by creationists and right wing science-deniers today on Twitter, so here’s some amazing science to take away that nasty reactionary taste.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) celebrates its 5th anniversary since it launched on February 11, 2010. This time-lapse video captures one frame every 8 hours starting when data became available in June 2010 and finishing February 8, 2015.
The different colors represent the various wavelengths (sometimes blended, sometimes alone) in which SDO observes the sun.
For more about SDO, please visit:
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Download HD Video:
I was going to start this post by wishing everyone a Happy Darwin Day (it’s Charles Darwin’s birthday), but unfortunately it’s not a very happy occasion — because this country still has far too many religious fanatics who refuse to accept the fact of evolution through natural selection: On Darwin Day, 5 Facts About the Evolution Debate.
Of all the major religious groups in the U.S., white evangelical Protestants are the most likely to reject evolution. A solid majority (64%) of white evangelicals in a 2013 poll said that humans and other living things have always existed in their present form, while only 27% said that humans evolved. These views are largely mirrored by the positions of large evangelical churches, such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which explicitly reject evolutionary theory as being in conflict with what they see as biblical truth.
Some people will try to tell you this is just a private belief and doesn’t matter; but these people are not only indoctrinating their children with this Dark Ages anti-science rejectionism, they’re continually trying to force their views on everyone else’s children by sneaking creationism into public schools. And since this strategy has been consistently foiled by the courts, they’re now using a new technique to get at the children of America: taxpayer-funded religious schools that teach young Earth creationism and reject evolution entirely.
In an age when science and technology are vitally important skills, another entire generation of kids is having their critical thinking abilities deliberately sabotaged by fanatics.
I’m thinking back to all the climate trolls who used to throw this guy in my face when arguing with them…
Richard Muller founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project after declaring himself skeptical about climate change. He was funded in part by the Koch Brothers.
He found out what other scientists have known for decades. The Earth is warming, and we’re doing it.
You’ll leave this video with a sense of how unimaginably vast the universe is. This isn’t CGI, and it isn’t animation, it’s the largest photograph of the universe ever taken by the Hubble Space Telescope — and it’s just a small portion of the Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest galactic neighbor.
Watch and be amazed. (1440p and 2160p versions are included.)
First & Last photo by Cory Poole: facebook.com
Super-high resolution image of Andromeda from Hubble (NASA/ESA): spacetelescope.org
Music is ‘Koda - The Last Stand’: soundcloud.com
Space is crazy.
What a great idea — a late night talk/variety show dedicated to science, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I’ll be eagerly looking forward to this one.
“Cosmos allowed us to share the awesome power of the universe with a global audience in ways that we never thought possible,” said Tyson. “To be able to continue to spread wonder and excitement through Star Talk, which is a true passion project for me, is beyond exciting. And National Geographic Channel is the perfect home as we continue to explore the universe.”
“This is kind of low-risk, I think, for National Geographic,” Tyson told the crowd at the Television Critics Association press tour. “Star Talk exists as a thriving podcast right now.”
Star Talk will indeed follow a similar format to Tyson’s podcast, which marries science and popular culture and feature interviews with celebrities, comedians and scientists. He’s still sorting through all of the elements that he’ll add to the television iteration, but he does intend to give Bill Nye a platform for a minute-long rant in each show, much as Andy Rooney had for many years on CBS’ 60 Minutes.