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 November 29th, 2008 in Philosophy. Tags: Introductory-Phil., No Equations, Pseudoscience, Quickie, Religion.
When I was a college freshman, a fiery preacher named Tom Short would stand in a courtyard, evangelizing and arguing with any pedestrian who challenged him. More often than I’d care to admit, I found myself in that courtyard listening to him. It was like watching a car accident– horrible but so fascinating that I couldn’t look away. He spent a lot of time talking about Hell. He casually dismissed accusations that his homophobic rhetoric was indirectly responsible for a recent tragedy– the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard— by suggesting that Matthew was actually killed by other homosexuals. Other frequent topics included the pack of atheistic lies called “evolution,” and the argument that the Earth was only a few thousand years old.
Then one day, I heard him say: “Brontosaurus never existed.” Someone immediately responded: “That’s ridiculous! Of course (more…)
Posted October 21st, 2008 in Physics. Tags: Introductory-Science, No Equations, Pedagogy, Physics, Pseudoscience.
After years of serving as a physics teaching assistant at several public American universities, I’ve come to an alarming conclusion: students in today’s general physics courses (i.e. courses that don’t require calculus, intended for non-physicists) aren’t being taught physics. They might be learning how to mechanically calculate answers, but they’re learning very little about the actual scientific process of inquiring about the nature of reality. They aren’t learning how these physical laws were deduced in the first place– which is far more important than the intricate details of those laws. I think this educational deficiency contributes to widespread misconceptions such as the belief that the Earth’s seasons are caused by variations in the distance from the Sun, and the curious notion that toilets flush in opposite directions on different sides of the equator. (more…)
Posted December 4th, 2008 in Astronomy. Tags: Graphics, Introductory-Science, No Equations, Physics, Pseudoscience, Quickie.
This is what you get if you take a photo of the Moon every night for a month, then make a movie out of those pictures. The Moon’s phases aren’t surprising, but the Moon also appears to grow and shrink as it orbits the Earth. This happens because the Moon’s orbit is slightly elliptical; its distance to the Earth varies by about 10%.
Also, the Moon appears to “wobble” from left to right. That’s because the Earth’s gravity pulls harder on the Moon the closer it is to the Earth, so the Moon travels faster in its orbit when it’s closer to the Earth. The Moon’s rotation rate matches its average orbital speed (which is why we only see one face of the Moon), but its orbital speed varies during the orbit while its rotation rate remains fixed, so the Moon appears to wobble from left to right.
2009-08-10 Update: I’ve noticed that many people arrive at this article by googling moon wobbles. All the other sites on the first page claim that “moon wobbles” are responsible for explosions, mass-murder, earthquakes, terrorism, etc. Sadly, I need to emphasize that the wobbling I’m describing can’t possibly result in these kinds of ludicrous effects.