Posts filed under ‘Media’

On Super Fine Magazine: “On activism and outrage: The importance of recognizing the Man”

There’s a new piece up that I’ve written for Super Fine Magazine. It’s title is above, in the subject, but here’s the teaser paragraph:

Not long ago I had lunch with a friend, and the TSA came up as a topic. Now, if a topic has ever been hashed over by the internet hype machine echo chamber, it is the Transportation Security Administration. There is a reason for this, of course— most of the time, internet users are firmly ensconced in private or semi-private locations which are arranged for the users’ convenience and comfort. Much of modern American existence is so structured.  Thus, moving through a TSA checkpoint is a jarring experience: everything seems sacrificed for the sake of some arcane and arbitrary rule set that is suddenly imminent in the traveler’s experience. This is the root of all this hullabaloo, right? That Americans are so generally comfortable that endless complaints are issued at any discomfort more sustained than the ten minute wait at a busy Starbucks?

Link.

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February 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm Leave a comment

Moon Water, Evidence, and Theory

Water was discovered on the moon! At least it was in tiny, trapped particles in the moon rocks that the Apollo mission brought back decades ago. Technology has apparently advanced sufficiently so that geologists are now able to search for water particles in rock on the scale of five parts per million. Don’t get too excited, now, but up to 46 parts per million were found. That’s around 1500 times more than the legal amount of mercury allowed in sewage, so… it’s still not very much.

It’s enough, however, to require the need for adjustment in the theory of how the moon came to exist and orbit earth. Before this discovery, it was thought that the heat of the moon’s initial collision with earth vaporized every bit of water on the rock. Now that even a little water has been discovered, the heat of the two planets at the time of collision is called into question.

But why not pose an alternate hypothesis? It’s been put forward that whatever water discovered on the moon might be due to smaller impacts from comets or meteors. This seems unlikely, however, as the water particles were found trapped within rock formed by a volcanic explosion. If the water was brought up from deep within or under the moon’s crust, then the idea that it was brought by an impact seems more extraordinary than that of a slight revision of the lunar origin theory.

It’s an interesting story, but beyond that a good example of new evidence prompting theory revision. It’s a simple example that covers fairly well (especially with the mention of an alternate hypothesis) the basics of theory adjustment. New evidence surfaces, in this case because of technological improvement. This new evidence calls into question parts of a previously accepted theory. The response of the scientific (in this case, geologic) community is to consider how to adjust the theory, or whether they can fit the new evidence into the previous theory by proposing an alternate hypothesis. Props to National Geographic for framing this example of good science well—and know that I’ll be looking to check out the study in more detail in today’s edition of Nature.

P.S. This might be a stick in the eye for some lunar hoax people, too. Is the government just making up new information now, perpetuating the hoax 40 years down the road? Or perhaps they were just holding out on the technological development of the 1960s, where they were able to create authentic bits of trapped water in rock on the order of parts per million we were hitherto unable to detect? I wonder what they conspiracy nuts are saying…

July 10, 2008 at 12:10 pm 1 comment

Polar Bear Jawbones and Science Coverage

Here’s the story: Professor Olafur Ingolfsson, of the University of Iceland, has unearthed an ancient polar bear jawbone on the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway. The jawbone holds significance for the natural history of polar bears as it could help date when polar bear speciation first occurred. It also might help us predict how the polar bear population might react to global warming, as the new discovery could show that the polar bear species has already endured one warming and cooling cycle. The BBC has a great article on it including quotes from Ingolfsson, details on Svalbard, and most especially the significance of the study. It even includes this stripped down phylogeny:

Basic Bear Phylogeny

They even cited the source from which they modified it. Excellent science journalism, and the first article on the subject to appear in the mass media (at least according to Google News). The author of the article, Jonathan Amos, makes no bones about geologic time or the explanatory role of evolution. I wish there were more articles like it in the popular media.

Which gave me an idea: as long as I started with the first article on the topic (and a great article, at that), why not compare this one with others to follow? Just start a study in miniature of the differences between media outlets. I’ve got a Google Alert set to update me as more news is released, so I’ll be posting edits to this post regularly.

5:30 pm edit: 5 hours after the news broke, the only article out there remains the BBC’s. Perhaps it’s my search– I’ve had an alert on the phrase “Polar Bear Jawbone” in all news sources. But broadening to “Polar Bear” only brings a bunch of stories on the Polar Bear Plunge, a benefit for the Special Olympics. I’ll stick to looking for jawbones.

9:30 pm edit: 9 hours after the news broke, there’s still nothing else on it. We’ll see if something happens in the Americas tomorrow– perhaps the next editions of newspapers will carry an article.

December 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm Leave a comment


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Everything on this blog should be taken as a draft, the spilling over of mental activity flung far and wide. The author is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA who enjoys many things but devotes most of this space to matters academic.
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