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Mar. 2nd, 2007


I'm a Science Scout!

I ganked this from the Skepchick site:

Order of the Science Scouts

Fuck the Boy Scouts. These merit badges show some REAL achievements.

Here are the ones I qualify for:

Talking Science: Ad infinitum. Ad nauseam. Don't care. Not gonna stop.

I blog about science: If computer science counts (and it does because I say it does), I totally qualify.

Arts and Crafts: I'm artsy. And crafty.

I'm pretty confident around an open flame: Fire good. Bunsen burner fun. Hydrogen go kaboom. Yay science!

Destroyer of quackery: Just send me one of those astrology emails. See what happens.

Rockstar who sings about science: Okay, so this one is a stretch. But I do play guitar, and I'll sing "Particle Man" at the karaoke bar sometime, k?

I can be a prick when it comes to science:Do I really have to elaborate?

Has frozen stuff just to see what happens (Level 1): I almost took level 2, because I've played with a lot of dry ice. I've never actually used it to freeze anything though.

Experienced with electrical shock (Level 3): Yep. I've zapped myself wit house current a couple times. It's why my hair won't lay flat anymore.

Totally digs highly exothermic reactions: Somewhere, I have a recipe for making my own flash powder.

I'm into telescopes (Level 1): My dad and my Aunt Judy and I used to do a lot of stargazing through a telescope in Kansas.

I've set fire to stuff (Level 2): I did so many unadvisable things with Estes model rocket engines when I was younger that it's a minor miracle I still have all ten fingers.

Huh... Looking at this list, I guess it's no wonder I'm a fan of Mythbusters, is it?

Jan. 5th, 2007


On the nature of science, and the science of nature

Okay. In the spirit of harmony, I keep trying to leave the topic of religion alone. But what am I supposed to do? Religion won't leave ME alone.

Witness this latest bit of insanity, from this morning's Swift: The Grand Canyon's Age

Yep. That's right. The National Fucking Parks Service won't give an "official" age estimate for the Grand Canyon for fear of upsetting young-Earth creationists.

This. Has. Got. To. STOP. I'm going to leave the Constitutional issues aside for right now (although this is another blatant violation of the Establishment Clause), and focus on the science, because science is universal. It doesn't care about hurt feelings or "playing nice." Science is a methodology, a way of uncovering facts, not a collection of facts. It does, however, work in a very specific way, and only when things are tested in this way can they be called "scientific."

The "intelligent design theory" is not a theory. It is a HYPOTHESIS. I know, that's a four-syllable word, and as such, it may be beyond the grasp of King Monkeyboy and his minions, but there really is a difference between a theory and a hypothesis, and you can't use either term without understanding them both.

A hypothesis is step two of the scientific process, after observation. It is a possible explanation for how something works, usually one of many. ID is a perfectly valid hypothesis. But so is every other religious creation myth we have ever invented. So is geology and erosion.

Once you have several hypotheses, you have to examine them a little more thoroughly. And the first and most important test of any hypothesis is, "Can it be backed up by observation?"

This is where ID fails. Its only source of data is one book, of spurious origin and unclear content, and the entirety of ID is based around trying to make observable facts fit into the hypothesis, and not the other way around.

Observable facts about the Grand Canyon: depth, erosion patterns, age of fossils found at different rock strata based on carbon dating. Once these data are measured, checked, and applied to the hypotheses, ID is clearly false. No hard feelings; your "alternate theory" simply does not work. It fails to explain the observable data. So the answer to the question, "Could the Grand Canyon have been formed by Noah's flood?" is, simply, "No."

Now, the erosion hypothesis not only fits all of the observable data, it can also make predictions about the future state of the Canyon. It is an ongoing process caused by wind, water, and staggering amounts of time. Everything fits; everything makes sense. And anyone who chooses can take the same data and arrive at the same conclusion. Nothing has to be explained away or "taken on faith."

And once a hypothesis has been tested satisfactorily in this way, then it earns the title "theory." It is not a term used lightly in the halls of science. Calling something "just a theory" is insulting; a proper theory is the result of years, decades, lifetimes, of careful observation, and to trivialize it by placing it alongside a fairy tale that can be dismissed by a cursory glance at the facts at hand is just plain offensive.

And for the National Parks Service to condone such behavior is appalling. Their whole business is science, in the form of ecology, geology, forestry, and biology. To lend any credence to such claptrap as ID is to destroy everything they stand for. What's next, rain dances? Ritual sacrifices?

"Believe" any stupid fairy-tale you feel like. But to call it "science" is simply unacceptable. It just shows a complete lack of knowledge of the definition of the word.

Dec. 4th, 2006


My new dream car

I have a new dream car: the Tesla Roadster.

Think about it: a sports car with Corvette-beating performance. 100% electric, practically maintenance-free, great styling, a Lotus chassis, and lots of cool gadgets and features. Sure it's expensive ($100,000), but what better way to antagonize Mercedes S-class drivers than by silently blowing their doors off?

Now, even if I could afford one, there's no way I'd buy one for a couple years anyway. I want to make sure the car's reliable and the company is going to stick around. (Remember Bricklin? Didn't think so.) But if they prove themselves, and this is the real deal, this is huge news.

So about that price: If your gamble pays off, Tesla, then in a couple years I offer you this challenge: Make one the rest of us can afford. I suggest something about the size, shape, and practicality level of a second-generation Honda CRX. You can scale back the performance a little if you want; I don't need to go 0-60 in four seconds. I live in Los Angeles; I want comfy seats, a smooth ride, a good stereo, strong HVAC, and room for grocery bags. A two-seater is fine. We're not having kids. Sell it for under $20,000 and I'll gladly give up my Focus.

And in the meantime, if I somehow acquire the means, I'll take one in blue, please.
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