Posted October 22nd, 2008 in Biology. Tags: Conversation, Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics, Pseudoscience, Religion.
This conversation began when I posted an inflammatory essay about creationism on Slashdot. I was pleasantly surprised with the sophistication of The Famous Brett Watson‘s arguments, and he later agreed to let me display this debate online (edited for clarity) to rescue it from being buried in the Slashdot archives. (more…)
Posted March 28th, 2009 in Astronomy. Tags: Conversation, Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics, Pseudoscience, Religion.
Marble and I have previously discussed creationism and evolution, but our conversation later centered on a non-standard cosmology known as plasma cosmology (popularized as the “Electric Universe”). (more…)
Posted July 19th, 2009 in Physics. Tags: Climate, Conversation, Diagrams, Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics, Pseudoscience.
One part of a recent survey caught my attention:
The strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation. Two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say either that the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere (43%) or that there is no solid evidence the Earth is getting warmer (24%). By contrast, most Democrats (64%) say the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity. … The divide is even larger when party and ideology are both taken into consideration. Just 21% of conservative Republicans say the Earth is warming due to human activity, compared with nearly three-quarters (74%) of liberal Democrats. [Pew Research Center] (Skip to videos, data, index.)
In other words, most of the general public appears to believe that the existence of abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. (formerly known as anthropogenic ‘Human-caused’ global warming) is a question of politics rather than science. (more…)
Posted October 27th, 2008 in Relativity 2. Tags: Diagrams, Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics.
One surprising consequence of Einstein’s special theory of relativity is that any signal traveling faster-than-light (FTL) can be used to send a message to the past. Special relativity divides the entire universe into three distinct regions as seen by any observer: (more…)
Posted April 7th, 2012 in Physics. Tags: Climate, Diagrams, Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Pedagogy, Physics, Quickie.
The overwhelming majority of scientists endorse this statement:
“Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” [IPCC Summary for Policymakers, 2007]
Here, “most” means at least 50% of the 0.55°C rise since 1950. Some mistakenly call this an “alarmist exaggeration” but it actually understates the human contribution because it’s easy to incorrectly conclude that the other 50% of the trend might be caused by natural forcing variations: (more…)
Posted October 23rd, 2008 in Quantum 2. Tags: Conversation, Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics.
In 2007 I noticed a confusing post on Slashdot quoting from an article claiming that the no cloning theorem prevented entangled particles from being used for faster-than-light (FTL) communication. I had never heard of any FTL implications of the no cloning theorem, so I responded to this post to see if a less-dumb scientist could explain this connection to me (incidentally, I’m still waiting- someone please educate me!).
While the resulting conversation didn’t shed any light on the purported FTL implications of the no cloning theorem, DrVomact asked a question that eventually led to an enjoyable discussion (edited for clarity) about quantum entanglement and parallel universes. (more…)
Posted May 24th, 2009 in Physics. Tags: Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics, Quickie.
According to the standard solar model, the Sun’s brightness steadily increases because helium ash slowly builds up in its core. The introduction of heavier elements like helium forces the Sun to fuse hydrogen faster in order to prevent gravitational collapse, so it shines brighter as it ages. The Sun was ~25% dimmer 4 billion years ago compared to now.
Liquid oceans had already formed 4 billion years ago, so Earth’s temperature must have been above the freezing point of water. A faint young Sun presents a paradox: how could a 25% dimmer Sun warm the Earth enough to develop liquid oceans? (more…)
Posted February 19th, 2015 in Astronomy. Tags: Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics, Quickie.
I’ve been wondering about the future evolution of our solar system.
The Moon is spiralling away from Earth due to tidal friction, which slows Earth’s rotation. I used to think tidal braking would stop when Earth’s daysidereal day, to be specific. matched the Moon’s orbital period, as with Pluto and Charon. (more…)
Posted April 16th, 2009 in Science. Tags: Intermediate-Science, No Equations, Physics, Quickie.
I’ve previously called evolution and the Big Bang “theories” to confront widespread confusion regarding the differences between theories and hypotheses. However, using the word “theory” in these instances might be a subtle mistake. It may even be partially responsible for the systemic communications barrier between scientists and the general public. (more…)