Systematic Activity to Acquire Knowledge

Science, Language 2009-04-16 01:14

“A scientist, in the broadest sense, refers to any person that engages in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge.”

From the Wikipedia entry for “scientist”

Science, Safety

Science, Learning 2009-03-26 03:01

“Why are we failing at math and science? Because it isn’t fun any more. When you put safety on the highest altar, what do you give up? When fear of lawsuits — not to mention fear of technology — drives product design, marketing, and public policy, you eliminate science at its roots, in the natural experimentation of kids who want to know how the world works.”

From Why We’re Failing in Math and Science by Tim O’Reilly

Scientists are the pioneers who push the limits of human knowledge and the boundaries of the known universe. That’s a little dangerous sometimes.


Science 2009-02-10 03:33

A map of countries that don’t use the metric system:

People give me funny looks when I state distances in kilometers or the temperature in centigrade, but dammit, they’re better.


Science 2008-06-21 03:28

Pluto is now classified as neither a planet or an asteroid, but rather a class of object in between the two: a plutoid.
Read more »

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

Science 2008-02-14 03:07

Vampyroteuthis infernalis - translated, “the vampire squid from hell.” This thing is cool. It’s got devil-red skin, spikes, and a pulsating mantle that looks like a hexagonal bat’s wing. But the coup de grace is the bioluminescent bacteria in the tips of its spikes, which it can active to create a pattern of glowing dots which it swirls about to confuse predators.

Animal Self-Awareness

Science, Cognition 2007-07-09 01:42

“Mediterranean squid have a very high brain-mass-to-body-mass ratio (this correlates with various indicators of intelligence in mammals). They been observed to solve mechanical problems (how to extract the tasty food fish from the corked bottle) by examining their environment, thinking for a while, then acting quickly and correctly. Octopi and squid appear to communicate within groups using color flashes made with chromatophores in their skins; nobody know what they’re communicating, exactly, but the potential bandwidth of that channel is extremely high.”

From Animal Imagination by Eric Raymond

Faith, the Root of All Evil

Spirituality, Science 2006-06-16 03:43

In our modern world of tolerance, it is sometimes said that that science and faith can coexist. Richard Dawkins boldly challenges that notion in two 45 minute video segments titled The Root of All Evil. His approach is even-handed but pulls no punches, as he claims that blind faith is dangerous in any form (not just Islam). I love part 1’s closing line:

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

Science Has Better Magic

Science 2006-06-03 01:04

Despite living in the Age of Reason, human fascination with mysticism remains as strong as ever. Mysticism comes in many forms: organized religion, new age spirituality, faith healing, tarot cards, magnet healing, hypnosis, astrology, alien abduction, telekinesis, ESP. What they all have in common is a lack of tangible effects, compensated for by strong emotional effects on their believers.

Without fail, all forms of mysticism promise some sort of magic. Tarot cards tell your future. Faith healers send your cancer into remission. The Christian god answers your prayers like some kind of cosmic Santa Claus. In every single case, the benefits promised are always vague and untestable. None of these things ever produce any result except making their believers feel spooky.

Why can’t a faith healer heal a broken leg or staunch the bleeding on a deep cut? Why is it always a hard-to-diagnose disease like cancer which goes in and out of remission on its own anyway?
Read more »

The Man Who Knew Everything

Science 2005-11-08 02:47

“John Stuart Mill, the British economist, political thinker, and philosopher of science, died more than a hundred years ago. The year of his death (1873) is important because he is reputed to have been the last man to know everything there was to know in the world. Today the notion that one of us could be aware of all known facts is only laughable. After eons of slow accumulation, human knowledge has snowballed into an era of momentum-fed, multiplicative, monstrous expansion. We now live in a world where most of the information is less than fifteen years old. In certain fields of science alone (for example, physics), knowledge is said to double every eight years. And the scientific information explosion is not limited to such arcane arenas as molecular chemistry or quantum physics but extends to everyday areas of knowledge where we strive to keep ourselves current - health, child development, nutrition, and the like. What’s more, this rapid growth is likely to continue, since 90 percent of all scientists who have ever lived are working today.”

From the epilogue of Robert Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”