1 comments Saturday, September 29, 2007

According to the scientists, the electromagnetic science-maker will make atoms move and spin around very quickly, though spectators at the hearing said afterward they could not account for how one could get some atoms to move around faster than other ones if everything is made of atoms anyway. In addition, the scientists said that the device would be several miles in circumference, which puzzled onlookers who had long assumed that atoms were tiny. Despite these apparent inconsistencies, the scientists, in Rep. Gordon's words, appeared "very smart-sounding" and confident that their big spinner would solve some kind of problem they described.

- via The Onion

The above article is a stunningly good satire on the difficulties of scientific journalism and thus the way the public views scientific funding and research.

0 comments Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Comprehensive, collaborative, ever-growing, and personalized, the Encyclopedia of Life is an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world. Our goal is to create a constantly evolving encyclopedia that lives on the Internet, with contributions from scientists and amateurs alike. To transform the science of biology, and inspire a new generation of scientists, by aggregating all known data about every living species. And ultimately, to increase our collective understanding of life on Earth, and safeguard the richest possible spectrum of biodiversity.

I get goosebumps every time I watch the promo video for the Encyclopedia of Life. It was launched back in May and I haven't heard anything about it since then. If E. O. Wilson pulls this off it could be the best thing to hit the internet. Ever.

2 comments Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cordyceps is a type of fungi that parasitizes insects and some arthropods. BBC's Planet Earth had a clip on a type of ant that, when parasitized, is 'brainwashed' (the ants perception of pheromones is screwed) into climbing up a tall structure. The fruiting body consumes the ant's brain and grows out of its head. The result is a mystical ant-unicorn chimera.

Is this a case of extreme co-evolution or just a sort of unintended effect (much like many plants have chemicals that evolved for self-defense but work in such a way that we just have to use them recreationally)? I'll do some sleuthing in the near future.

fungi growth on insect! [youtube]

Find more info here.

0 comments Sunday, September 16, 2007

Richard Dawkins, the head-cheese of atheism, has recently broaden his attacks to superstition vs reason instead of religion vs science. In his two part series titled Enemies of Reason Dawkins argues that religion and pseudo-scientific health care are a result of poor reasoning and that both tax human society.

I highly recommend the series. I've embedded them on this blog for your convenience. It is now easier to watch the two episodes than turning on your tv. So, ummm, don't turn on your tv.

Slaves to Superstition

The Irrational Health Service

1 comments Saturday, September 8, 2007

For the past few days I have been interested in the history of life on Earth. One question that is sure to arise when dealing with such things is if we restart the system (from the big bang) will intelligent life arise again. More specifically, will humans always be the victors on the top of the evolutionary tree. Will we truly be the king of the mountain?

I think that the above question begs another. Is there true randomness in nature or are there definite causes and effects? For different outcomes to occur in a system that is initiated with the same values for each variable there needs to be randomness. If the evolution of intelligent life is inevitable then it would have to be the end of a long string of causes and effects occurring in a world that lacks randomness.

Nature is all about regularly occurring phenomenon. The laws of physics must work in such a way that a certain set of causes will produce an effect. Science, at its foundation, requires the 'necessity' of a certain effect from a certain cause (science of course does not dictate how the world works but only finds the best way of explaining it. So far it has worked really well). There are plenty of terms like "random" in scientific models, such as the "stochasticity" or how the "electron cloud" but these are random in the sense that they are uncertain. There are so many variables affecting the model that we just say it is random. But of course it is not truely random.

So we do not see any randomness in nature. What does this mean about free will? Unless we conjure up some sort of spiritual tinkerer to bless our minds with something outside of the physical world then we must accept that our thoughts and actions are predestined. We are part of the same laws that govern everything else in the world and if those laws lack randomness then we must as well.

It seems that the actions you choose to take when you're 80 years old are predictable from the moment you are conceived. Well, actually, they are predictable from the moment the universe began.

Update:Hmmmm.... Determinism