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"If Earth is really turning to the East, shouldn't flying to the West be faster?" - A question I recently read around these Internets.

Reminds me of that Saudi cleric who said that if a plane stops in one place in the air, China would come on its own and there was no need to waste fuel for flights.

Tidal locking is a biach, yo. How the hell does that devilry work!?

So... if we are traveling in a train and I suddenly jump off my seat, would the person sitting in front of me crash into me, hmmm?
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Many stars have companions, including our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a triplet system. Astronomers have long sought an explanation. Are binary and triplet star systems born that way? Did one star capture another? Do binary stars sometimes split up and become single stars? And did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes - though not an identical twin. And so did every other sunlike star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from UC Berkeley and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University...
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"If we continue increasing the population of the Earth as we have been over the past decade or so, 500 years from now there will only be enough room on Earth's surface for everyone to only stand up straight." -- NdGT

Oh, this again. Excuse me, but wasn't that what we used to hear about the year 2020 back in 1980!? That by the rates of population growth we had back then, there would come a point where people would only have enough space to stand on top of each other?

One would expect from a scientist who likes to present himself as an advocate of reason and critical thinking, to know a thing or two about the complexity of demographic systems, the huge palette of factors bringing a certain level of self-regulation to population (even with the added factor of modern technology developing at an almost exponential rate), etc. But no, he aimed for the scandalous, the sensationalist and the alarmist.

I'm not saying overpopulation isn't one of the major problems that humankind has to address on a long-term basis. We do need smart decisions and policies in that respect, and it's a complex process that's not going to be easy at all - for sure. But abandoning reason and speaking nonsense in your attempt to dumb science down to pander to the lowest denominator - now THAT is something that tends to chip large chunks off a scientist's credibility. It does a disservice to science. And I'm saying that as someone who truly loves and enjoys Neil's work.
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Originally posted by [ profile] debunkgpolitics at A Novel Way to Produce Human Organs
According to The Economist, printing and transplanting human organs into a person may become a reality One day, there may be devises for people to print organs from home. Also, like surrogacy, there is a lot of potential to help those in need, and there is a lot of potential for people to sell at least parts of themselves. Surrogacy and printing human organs raise similar ethical concerns about people being exploited or treated as a commodity. Plus, multiple questions must be answered before printing human organs is allowed for commercial purposes:

Who would be liable for defective organs?

Who owns the organs before and after an exchange?

Which entities can develop these organs?

What happens if the donor wants to keep his or her printed organ?

Will this new technology create enough organs for transplant? How can a patient efficiently find the desired skin color, size, and shape among the greater amount of organs in time?

Some countries banned all or some types of surrogacy With both topics raising the same altruistic intent of helping those in need and similar concerns, how governments respond to this new technology will be interesting.
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See, my quasi-scientific observations show that the two fallacious tactics that are by far the most frequently used by the pseudo-scientific types to "pseudo-debunk" science are:

- The Science Has Been Wrong Before argument
- The Appeal To Ignorance argument

There are some others, like Red Herring, Tu Quoque, Circular Logic, etc.

So here's a scientific inquiry for y'all. Why are pseudo-scientific crackpots so worked up about science, why does it bug them so much? Why are they so driven to debunk it?
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NASA's Cassini Ends Date With Saturn: Here Are Some Of The Best Images Snapped By This Spacecraft

The grand finale or end journey of Cassini spacecraft is progressing well. In the next few months, the spacecraft will plunge into Saturn's surface.

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While we are about alarmist apocalyptic predictions, let me mention Stephen Hawking. The older he gets, the more pessimistic he seems to be. Now he is saying that humankind should colonise another planet within the next 100 years if it wants to prevent its own extinction. In a new documentary that he is making for BBC, he will make his argument in favour of space colonisation for the sake of self-preservation, and explores the relevant possibilities to teraform another planet:

Read more... )
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A little worm could put the entire modern human civilisation in peril, they say. Because we live in a world dominated by synthetics and plastics. We use it everywhere: in furniture, in electronics, for making cars, for packaging. Plastic packages make global food trade possible. Plastic is even inside us: little synthetic particles fall off manufactured products and mix with the air we breathe, entering our lungs. Others get into our food from the above-mentioned plastic packages.

Humankind produces about 300 trillion tons of plastic every year. Nearly 10% of this amount is desposited into the world ocean. There is a huge pile of garbage swirling in the middle of every major ocean, much of it consisting of plastic. The ocean waves constantly decomposing it into ever smaller bits. This way the plastic gets into the fish, into the global water cycle, and then through rain into the food, and into our blood system. Even into our cells.

It is estimated that microplastic makes up about 1% of the plastic waste, i.e. between 93 thousand and 236 thousand tons annually, World Economic Forum data shows. Still, we keep using synthetics in most industries, and these deposits are constantly growing. The reason is that plastic is biologically indestructible. There isn't an animal or microorganism in nature capable of eating this sort of synthetic material. Metals can be oxidised and rust, but plastic is eternal. Or at least that is what we thought.

But now this is about to change )
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Here's the first ever race of molecule-cars!

The NanoCar Race is an event organised by the CNRS, the French National Center for Scientific Research.

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Earlier this year, scientists combined human stem cells into cow and pig embryos. The purposes of this endeavor were to grown organs for humans and to find cures. However, these projects pose ethical, health, and safety concerns. Creating chimeras goes against Christian and Jewish laws, particularly about respecting life. Buddhists, to whom cows are sacred, would not want an organ from a bovine. Vegans and vegetarians would not want to internalize anything from an animal. Furthermore, animal DNA could be transferred to the next generation of humans, creating a new race. Additional concerns are: side effects of animal cells in humans; proper treatment of animals; transfers of diseases, antibiotics, or growth hormones to human recipients; and, breeding a monster.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to investigate this new research field. The results of this investigation may determine whether federal funds will pay for growing human organs in animals. Moreover, an investigation carries the risk of using rationalization to make a controversial practice acceptable. Pres. Trump promised Christians and Jews could exercise their religious beliefs without fear of retribution. Therefore, he must ban this type of research plus the commercial use of hybrid organs in the United States to honor his promises. Also, the United States, as a world leader, must set a precedent banning scientific endeavors that compromise religious beliefs, ethics, and safety.
Another post about other ways of growing human organs is planned.
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Scientists, Stop Thinking Explaining Science Will Fix Things

Short version: Spend less time explaining how something works and more time explaining why people should care. (Or perhaps speak more simply so Trump Supporters can understand). ;-)

By the way, this comes timely, as NdGT had a short 4-minute video the other day, which he claims contains the "most important words he has ever said", and is about science in America:


As for the issue at hand )
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There was some hype about the NASA conference the other day, where astronomers announced they had found at least 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting the same star 40 ly away. This discovery outside of our solar system is rare because the planets have the winning combination of being similar in size to Earth and being all temperate, meaning they could have water on their surfaces and potentially support life.

Read more... )
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While we're still on the War on Reason topic...

Kyrie Irving believes the Earth is flat

"This is not even a conspiracy theory," Irving said during the podcast. "The Earth is flat. What I've been taught is that the earth is round. But if you really think about it from a landscape of the way we travel, the way we move and the fact that, can you really think of us rotating around the sun and all planets aligned, rotating in specific dates, being perpendicular with what's going on with these planets?"

"I just found that out," Irving said while laughing. "I think people should do their own research, man. Then hopefully they will either back my belief or they will throw it in the water."

Astonishing. And he spent at least an hour or two inside a Duke University lecture hall. Actually, grade school should have taken care of this. Maybe the problem is the flat world map on the wall, instead of a round globe spinning on the teacher's desk? Do teachers still keep a globe on the desk?

Read more... )
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Hitting straight on the monthly topic. Indeed, it's a horse I've been flogging for, like, forever. I'd argue that the current anti-scientific trend among modern societies largely comes from the fact that science is not about knowing "The Truth"(TM), it's about looking for a better understanding of reality. Which implies a great deal of uncertainty, and the acknowledgement that we don't possess the monopoly on "Truth", but rather we're on an eternal journey towards it. At least that's what the scientific method is about. And there's the problem: people want to have a sense of certainty, security, a feeling that they're stepping on firm ground. Which is where superstition comes from, and irrationality, and religion, etc.

And I'm not talking about usual fringe battle-fronts like creationism or flat-Earthers, I'm actually talking of much more down-to-Earth topics like climate change for example. The fact that we might be fast approaching an era where the staple defenses such as evidence and not being suddenly censored are probably going to be under increased threat, is not helping much in that respect, either. Something tells me it'll be ever harder to argue with people who don't even know the full extent of what they don't know - and on top of that, do not want to know.

A recent (and quite intriguing) paper called "When science becomes too easy: Science popularization inclines laypeople to underrate their dependence on experts" argues that it's the rise of science communication that might be the cause of rising distrust in experts, which is quite a unusual thought, but it may have a point when you think of it. Again, the disadvantage of science communication is that it's full of words like probably, maybe, possible, roughly, estimated, hypothesized - which hardly sounds convincing enough to the layperson, who, like I said, would rather deal in absolutes. Be it due to intellectual laziness or some other reason.

So how do we deal with this problem? Before a rather lengthy rant - here's an informative laugh with John Oliver on the subject:

Read more... )
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Scientists just made a breakthrough by creating the first human-pig embryo that could revolutionize healthcare

...The ultimate goal of this type of work is to grow human organs inside of other animals as a means to ending the organ shortage that is costing thousands of Americans — who need a transplant — their lives each year.

Well, not just Americans but we get the point. Now cue the "OMG Frankenstein chimera!" lamentations of the Medieval segment of the public. I'm sure if there's a Christian Doomsday Clock somewhere, it has moved a few minutes closer to the Apocalypse now.

But seriously... )
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Turns out, in the Russian city of Novosibirsk there's a monument dedicated to all the millions of mice who've perished in DNA tests throughout the history of science. Something like a Mice Holocaust Memorial.

It's a lovely statue, commemorating a good cause, but at a great cost (for the mice). Some would argue the mice who live in captivity are actually provided with much better conditions than those living in the wild - others would argue that this is animal cruelty. Ultimately, it is certain that science has benefited a lot from these little creatures, and potentially, humankind as well.
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A large number of scientists have signed a petition in the French daily Le Monde. They argue that industry proponents are trying to sow the same doubts about endocrine disruptors as they did regarding the causes behind climate change. And it may well be working.

Here's the petition:

I think this comes very timely, what with the leading anti-intellectuals and anti-science folks taking positions of significance in the most powerful administration in the world. They'll be largely defining America's policies on education, science, and yes, health-care as well, for the next few years. This is inevitably going to set the tone for other countries as well, which spells trouble, if not disaster.

Read more... )
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...The best possible option may surprise you. And no it's not the most obvious one, namely jumping at the moment of impact. You can't possibly guess the exact moment of impact, and you'd still end up falling heavily on your feet (or some other part of your body that you can't anticipate).

Standing up straight turns out to be a bad option too. Best way:

Lie flat on your back on the floor. Why? You'd spread the impact across the surface of your body. Unless parts of the floor decide to splinter and impale you, of course.

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Gender ideas being turned upside down (at least as per the dominant human cultural perceptions) - here is a series of cartoons imagining how human relations would look like if we had to emulate some other species.

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Talk Politics.
A place to discuss politics without egomaniacal mods


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It's said that "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." Sadly most people think being outraged is the point, and the paying attention part is optional.

July 2017

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