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Jan 15, 2005

The probably best place to have a look at the new images of Saturn’s moon Titan is the official project website of the European Space Agency.
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Nov 26, 2004

This is hardly new for those who follow the news regularly but it’s well worth the read anyway (despite of the use of the Kindergartenesque ‘evil’ in there): “All humans are capable of committing torture and other ‘acts of great evil’. That is the unhappy conclusion drawn from an analysis of psychological studies. Over 25,000 psychological studies involving eight million participants support this finding, say Susan Fiske and colleagues at Princeton University in New York, US.”
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Oct 20, 2004

“A 2003 study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis suggested a very real safety problem exists when drivers are paired with cell phones. “The study found an estimated 2,600 deaths a year could be linked to cell phone use. Cell phone use also is connected to approximately 330,000 moderate to critical injuries annually and 1.5 million instances of property damage a year, the study found. “But the Harvard researchers wanted to quantify the potential cost, measured in lost productivity, of banning cell phone use in cars. They concluded that taking cell phones away from drivers would cost $43 billion a year in lost economic activity — about the same economic value of the lost lives and injuries. ” Note how chatting on the phone in your car is filed under “productivity”: “Honey, I’m in a traffic jam, so I’ll be late for dinner.” Yeah right. And then comes the disclaimer that throws scientific integrity right out of the window: “The Harvard study, like an earlier 2000 study, was funded by AT&T Wireless.”
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Jun 15, 2004

“There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them. Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.” (story - this isn’t necessarily a new article but it’s quite timeless)
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Mar 23, 2004

In the latest edition of The New York Review of Books, physicist, winner of the Nobel Prize, and author Steven Weinberg discusses NASA’s latest changes in plans after Bush jr decided to send people to Mars.
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Feb 3, 2004

The BBC discusses how scientific images from Mars are obtained.
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Jan 17, 2004

Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? Except that the photo above, taken by Viking 2 in the late 1970s, is Mars. So is Mars red (HST image) or cream-coloured (some Mars orbiter)? Viking 2 shows it less red, Viking 1 more red, and that silly robot they got there now makes it pretty red. Thing is those cameras are all digital and anybody who has a digital camera knows about colour-balance issues. And those scientific cameras usually record images in black and white, with colour being added afterwards. PS (18 Jan 2004): This entry needs a little clarification. It’s about the calibration of the digital cameras used by the various scientific instruments mentioned above. It’s not about conspiracy theories that claim that NASA is systematically hiding information about life on Mars. To make it very clear, I think those “theories” are utter nonsense. My interest in the calibration problem originates from an article in New Yorker magazine that wrote “The digital images radioed home by the Viking lander in 1976 were notoriously ‘over-pinked’; if you actually stood on Mars, you would see a landscape whose color resembled not cotton candy, but butterscotch.” (The New Yorker, January 5, 2004, p.27)
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Jan 16, 2004

Alright, with all those boring Mars images in the news here’s some *cool* astronomy: Conventional wisdom has it that you can’t see Black Holes and stars move so slowly that you have to wait a long long time to see them change their positions. While all that is true for most stars it’s not true for those that are in the center of our galaxy. We now believe there’s a Black Hole lurking there with a mass of a couple million solar masses - that’s not as spectacular as what we find in other galaxies, btw. And there are also lots of stars that orbit around that Black Hole like the planets orbit around our sun. If you wait around ten years and take images you can make a nice movie (actually, the movie was just the icing on the cake; they actually got the mass of the Black Hole out of this). The movie is around 6MB but it’s well worth the wait. Note how fast those stars move! It’s really the very center so that’s why there are so few stars. And note how nicely symmetric their orbits are! Also note how you can’t see the Black Hole - that’s where they have that red cross - because, after all, it would hardly be a Black Hole if you could see it.
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Jan 15, 2004

Seems like for the current administration space science basically has two main reasons: “Bush’s new space policy had a partly political genesis, with presidential advisers saying that it emerged from a White House search for a bold goal that would help unify the nation before Bush’s reelection race and portray him as visionary. […] Officials said the lunar and Mars program will have a military component, noting that the Pentagon will be consulted and may help with launches.” (full story) So astronomical research is basically only good if it helps to detract from a miserable presidency and to get the military into space? Not that this is any news. Scientists have for decades said that manned space stations orbiting Earth are a waste of money as the research you get out of them is pretty much negligible. But here we are, building a space station…. Disclaimer: I’m an astrophysicist.
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Jan 12, 2004

Maybe it’s just me but, you know, when I think of a “startling glimpse of an alien world” something that looks like one of those rocky deserts on Earth is not really what would come to my mind. What that boring panorama did remind me of, though, was Philip K. Dick’s excellent book Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
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May 29, 2003

I’m a sucker for scientific animated movies. Having made a few myself - years back when I was a graduate student and when making those animations was a huge amount of work given the clumsy technologies available - I particularly enjoyed watching the medical animations on this page. Ignore the somewhat not-too-thriling thumbnails and just click to watch them. They’re spectacular! (thru iconomy)
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