(Shark) Bait and Switch

Hello, friends!  For those in tune with the nerd zeitgeist, we just came off a week where it was hard to get friends to do things other than watch TV.  Take this example: my best friend Michael and I were trying to schedule a Robin Williams retrospective, and we invited our friend Heather.  Heather’s response? “It is shark week if ya’ll think I’m leaving the house then your brains need to be checked”.Read More »

Burned by XKCD


The past two weeks have been turbulent for mainstream science journalism. On July 28th, NASA released the results of a study testing a new form of rocket motor that purports to use “quantum vacuum plasmas” to produce thrust without propellant, an apparent violation of the law of conservation of momentum.  According to the mainstream media, the tests were a resounding success.  “NASA: New “impossible” engine works, could change space travel forever” crowed Gizmodo.  “Nasa validates ‘impossible’ space drive” screamed Wired.  “‘Impossible’ Space Engine May Actually Work, NASA Test Suggests” proclaimed Space.com. For those of us–like me–who spend lots of time surfing the interwebs and love physics, the past two weeks have been an exciting time of thrills and new possibilities.  I myself jumped on the bandwagon on Twitter, tweeting “RIP Conservation of Momentum 1670-2014”.  In conversations with my friends, I referred to these results to a 21st century Young’s Experiment that could lead to huge new discoveries unlike anything previously predicted.  Maybe this was evidence of the multiverse and momentum is conserved across parallel universes (an imaginative idea to say the least).  I walked around feeling like a revolution was coming in physics, high off of the thrill of new ideas.

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My America

Hello everyone! I’m blogging this week from Bestor Plaza on the campus of the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua, NY. In front of me is a lovely neoclassical concrete fountain, with four friezes labeled “Religion”, “Art”, “Knowledge”, and “Music”. A little further up the plaza is the Smith Library, a charming Georgian Revival building constructed in 1931. If you were to walk a few hundred feet off the plaza, you would reach the shores of Lake Chautauqua, where the Hotel Athenaeum stands where it has for 133 years and the red brick Miller Bell Tower tolls every 15 minutes as it has since 1911. If you were to walk in the other direction, you would find the huge Chautauqua Amphitheater, where Franklin Delano Roosevelt made his famous “I Hate War” speech in 1936. Today, the podium will be occupied by Colin Campbell, the CEO of Colonial Williamsburg. But that won’t be for another hour. For now, the plaza is quiet save for the murmur of water from the fountain and the newspaper boys, in full 1920’s costume—paperboy caps, suspenders, plaid shorts, bow ties, the whole nine yards— all shouting “Chautauqua Daily! Get your daily! Only 75¢!” The scene has a sense of stasis through the ages, a throwback to an earlier time at the turn of the last century when summers were spent on the shores of a lake in upstate New York and all cares were forgotten from the time of June to September. Read More »

The Experience of Science

Hey everyone!  Last Friday, I wrote about the practice of science—what actually happens in labs around the country and what you do as a scientist.  While that post achieved it’s intended goal—to portray the practice of science—it failed to capture something that I think is just as important: what it feels like to be a scientist.  Contrary to popular belief, scientists are real people too, with emotions to boot.  In fact, being a scientist is one of the most emotional jobs out there.  So in today’s post, I’m going to write about the side of science that scientists don’t really talk about, even though I think they should.Read More »

Feedback Friday: The Practice of Science

Hey everyone!  This past week my friend Jackson (if you haven’t checked out his blog Think Only Today, you really are missing out) sent me an excellent TED Talk by Naomi Oreskes about why we should believe science.  In response to Ms. Oreskes’ wonderful argument, I decided to go deeper in depth on a topic I feel she shortchanges: what is the actual practice of science like.Read More »

The Fall of Dr. Oz

On June 17th, 2014, something glorious happened.  Something so wonderful, so astoundingly unlikely, so rare, that when I heard the news I was tempted to stand up and sing a hallelujah chorus.  What was so wondrous and inspiring?  A congressional committee held a meeting on an important scientific issue and actual was effective at conveying the science!!!!!!  I know!!! This never happens!  What was the occasion for this amazing event?  Why it was a session of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on weight loss scams.  And what has me so excited was they called in Dr. Mehmet Oz, probably the greatest purveyor of unscientific weight loss treatments of our day, and chewed him out!

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Vaccinate, Damn It!

Hey everyone.  I know it’s Feedback Friday and all, but something happened this week that I just cannot wait to blog about.  And not in a good way.  This is a public service post.  Also, just a side note, this is an issue that I get very passionate about, and some language in here is not appropriate for small children.Read More »

The Turing Test: Why I Think Eugene Goostman Didn’t Pass

On June 7th, 2014, the 60th anniversary of the death of computer scientist Alan Turing, the University of Reading announced that a chatbot named Eugene Goostman had passed the Turing Test, the litmus test for artificial intelligence.  As stories of our impending robot overlords’ approach tend to do, the story went viral.  It was picked up by news outlets from Slate to the Washington Post—even tech outlets like The Verge and PC World jumped on the Eugene Goostman bandwagon.  To have the media tell it, we had just entered a Blade Runner-esque world where the line between human and robotic intelligence will become blurred.  Does your wife dream of electric sheep yet?Read More »

Feedback Friday: Dear Mr. Creationist

This weeks Feedback Friday comes courtesy of my friend Liam, who’s comment on a creationist video made it pop up on my news feed. The video, which you can see here, says it will destroy my belief in evolution in three minutes. However, I was found fatal flaws in the arguments presented, and in the interest of education and science literacy, I will respond to them here.

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Summer Reading List 2014!

Hey everyone!  Summer is here, and with the vast expanse of free time that brings (or at least the slight increase in free time), I feel there is no better time to pass along some prime book recommendations along with my friend—and fellow unconventional teen—Jackson.  You can find my list here, and Jackson’s over at his blog Think Only Today.  Because not every book is perfect for every person, I’ve divided them up into some broad sections.

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