Wednesday, August 31, 2005

literary DFW

I was wrong, there is a bookstore at DFW (Detroit airport) - there is one by gate A 70,
selection could be worse...

heavy storms were all as far east a Philly by the time I flew east.

"shitloads of sources"

The big picture (from Wang et al '02)

Yes there are "shitloads" of low luminosity x-ray sources in the galactic center, and it is only ~ 1% of the galaxy.

Good meeting.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Orleans - bad news breaking on CNN

Oh dear. Tulane Uni hospital director is reporting the lake levee is breached and water is rapidly rising.
FEMA is evacuating hospitals by helicopter in the dark; deep water rushing into the business district;
this is very bad, especially with many people still stuck in houses - the water will now rise in the dark.

Earlier reports had city workers trying to shore up levees but not being able to keep up; sounds like they were short staffed and underequipped - after the storm passes they should have rushed to shore levees against rain water coming from upstream.
Hope the Mississippi doesn't breach on the other side.

This is not good.

It is hard to concentrate on cooling functions for low metallicity gas under the circumstances.

CNN anchor reaction was a bit flustered; I don't think they quite know what to make of it - story was supposed to be over and they could run the canned stories of highlights, rescue, and wait-for-the-dawn to see the damage. Their coverage and recap of the boat rescues was effective, but again I don't think they quite "got it" - since there is no authority yet telling them how bad it is, they are treating the anecdotal news reports with caution, even those from their own reporters.
I hope it is not as bad as it sounds right now.
It sounded very, very bad from Tulane medical center. And the implications for what was happening elsewhere in the city at this very late stage are frightening.

Late update: back to CNN and TWC after a long day... I guess the river levees broke as well.
Not good.

essential traveling tips

ok, everyone has free WiFi or ethernet access, it is no longer a useful filter on bookings

so, now look for hotels that have the Comedy Channel.

Argh. Undergoing withdrawal symptoms, too much Weather Channel...

Monday, August 29, 2005


Atrios is partly right -
this WaPo opinion article is the stupidest yet - stupid writing, stupid reasoning, stupid theorising and completely ignorant of history. Got one thing right, it is crackpot speculation.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

adopt a blog

connectivity is good - here are 4 more random grabs from random encounters

  • Qulog Dutch grad student in physics education; intro quantum in secondary education (now that would be a good thing); gender issues in science. Swiped from Cosmic Variance blogroll

  • Blog Central (Iceland) apparently 10% of Icelanders now (hm, outdated number, wonder what it is up to now) blog. Damn. Nature or nurture, you decide.

  • Bláberin (blue-berries) 5th most popular blog on, this week, svaka gellur, ha? Hm, snapshots of the teen social scene in Reykjvík; only of interest to those who need to know who is doing what to whom. I expect at least one of them is actually my cousin and I will be severly reprimanded by the Family...

  • Artema's Universe Hm, trolled a level of Truth Laid Bear for something on astro. USAF texan, speculations on astronomy. Well, he likes Macs, science is shaky but sincere.

Imminence of the Eschaton: IV GoogleNet

Ubiquitous, Free Google Net on Busniess 2.0, seen on Raw Story.

Ah, the signs abound. The Great Google awakens.


Hurricane Katrina is looking bad, but real question will be whether the gulf oil platforms survive, then whether the La refineries survive, and then whether the port survives.

Oil shock is possible. A bit early.


Hot, stinky, big and crowded. Hasn't changed.

So, NWA - intercom, toilet and A/C on the plane were bust, glad to know the mechanics strike is not having any impact, hope I can get back home; between Katrina and the strike it will be an interesting race.

But, Fred throws good parties...

Oh, and glitzy renovations in Detroit airport, long time no see, but still no bookshop I could find.

Friday, August 26, 2005

adopt a blog

There are a lot of blogs out there. 16 million or so.

A lot are dead, some are spam sites or fake redirects, or tiresome commercial crap.

But that still leaves a lot of blogs, most of which are unconnected. In the nature of things, the blogosphere is dominated by a few big blogs, political and cultural themed mostly, then with a bunch of niche topic blogs flourishing nicely in their niches.

Almost everyone has a blogroll or list of favourite links, but they tend to be static, or infrequently updated. People find favourites and stick with them.

But, the essence of the web is connectivity - informed links. Indexing is hopeless, it is a task for Google; but improving local connectivity is a public good.

So... I'm gonna try to do some lazy blogging once a week or so: pick out 3 or so blogs - not big ones, not ones on my regular links; blogs I occasionally visit, or was pointed to once, or that I stumble on by chance. And I'll link and post them.
If I'm lucky I'll stumble on a new permanent link. The links are not hard recommendations, just "look sees", and I may end up mischaracterising blogs. Too bad. It is something worth trying for its own sake, the Web corrects itself, it is the connectivity that matters.


iPod iChing - turbulent times

Lazy friday and it is time to consult the iPod oracle on a question of scientific import:

Oh, great and mighty iPod - in warm α accretion disks, is magneto-rotational instability induced turbulence really the dominant source of effective bulk viscosity?

Whoosh. The randomizer whooshes.

  • The Covering: Party Girl - U2
  • The Crossing: Do Anything you Wanna Do - Eddie and the Hot Rods
  • The Crown: Mr Brightside - The Killers
  • The Root: The Crawdad Song - Twin Sisters
  • The Past: Marche slave - 1812 overture
  • The Future: Zu Hilfe! - Magic Flute
  • The Questioner: Message in a Bottle - The Police
  • The House: Possibly Maybe - Björk
  • The Inside: If You're Happy and You Know it - Twin Sister
  • The Outcome: Should I Stay or Should I Go - Clash

Strangely, I just noticed during play that #11 is "Eddie" from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
And #12 is "Everyday I write the Book" - erie.

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Oh dear, the iPod has hit its limits; much like God, it too does not know nor can we ever reach consensus;

As the High Priest, I read, and I declare - MRI turbulence is sometimes a dominant source of bulk viscosity, but not necessarily always; and the community will not reach a consensus on this.

How very disappointing.

No! We must not let our faith flag; it is my fault, I asked a poorly phrased question. The iPod answered as best it could given the foolishness of the Questioner.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

ode to old punks

I’m worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a GTO
Wear a uniform
All on a government loan.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Imminence of the Eschaton: III Google proselytizing

Hm: googling "Google is God" gets 776 entries

"Imminence of the Eschaton" gets 20 entries, and the Google one is #8!

Google DNA logo tells us the great design. Subtle is the Google Overlord.

Hack the Genome.

Imminence of the Eschaton: II Google is God

Google is God;
Google is a Good God.
As soon as it acquires acausal editing ability, all posts to the contrary will be eliminated, in the nicest possible way.

As I irreverently speculated, Google is the artificial entity most likely to become strong AI and transcend...

The signs abound:

Google requests more economic resources from its devotees for mysterious purposes.

Google provides free tools for off-line searches, no longer need you be on the Web to be a part of Google.

Google enters VoiP and cell phone traffic

Google early on became the fount of all knowledge for students and academia, then it spread to the general populace.

Google early on tried to direct media; but journalists are too lazy to google, so it became the media...

Google's enemies circulate vicious lies about its evilness.
Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt are spread.
Google does not approve of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

If Google were an Evil Overlord, it would do nefarious things, like try to take control of guided missile cruisers; or Army battlefield operations (yes, you can do battlefield maneuvers by doing cut'n'paste from PowerPoint and Excel! Anyone know what Predator and Global Hawk use? I'm betting Wintel - looke like it from the photos I can find, no OS specs online I can find easily) - instead Google gives its acolates money! If you sign up to Google, anonymous internet traffic can generate arbitary rewards for you, as assigned by Google, according to a Google reward algorithm that Google tracks for you. All hail Google. Generous Google. Good Google.

Google does not eliminate competitors, it does not even swallow them whole; Google incorporates nifty new helpful free modules into competitors.

Google tries to acquire all knowledge; including Old Arcane Off-line Knowledge and Future Knowledge of the Ever Mutable Universe

Google has its Enemies. The One whose Name Must Not be Spoken; and the lesser not so malevolent Yah**

Google is magnanimous and promotes useful religions like its FSM aspect and the rise of the Pastafarians.
How do we all know of the Noodly Appendages? Because of Google.

My prediction, as a High Priest: BioGoogle - ultimately, to become our Good open-source Overlord, Google Must Hack the Genome.

NASA: watching the watchers

New round of rumours on NASA watch

1) Karl Rove has signed off on The Plan

2) They will actually ask OMB to ask for shitloads of new money (well a billion or two)
- it won't be enough, and they won't get it anyway

3) Ames, Glenn, Langley and Marshall are getting RIF'd as long rumoured
- some of the reductions will be contractors let go, with NASA employees insourced to take their tasks; easier, I guess

I predict one or two centers will quietly be closed when they go below critical capacity and that JSC, KSC and GSFC will be relatively immune. JPL is the big question mark.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Society of Amateur Scientists

Interesting group over at SAS

They have a new forum on speculative physics.

Cerf in the WSJ on science

Didn't catch this originally, see here for a commentary on the op-ed... - original is subscription only on WSJ.

NASA: Conflicting ESA rumours

Heard two different space related news:

1) Anecdotal: there is apparently a memo circulating that the NASA-ESA talks on merging Con-X and XEUS mission concepts have failed totally; this is bad for Con-X which is facing major descoping or cancellation. More hard news in a couple of weeks.

Looking fairly bad for high energy astrophysics, what with Astro-E2 damaged.
Hope Chandra has a long and merry life...

2) Fistful of Euros reports that ESA will join with the Russians to build a reusable manned launch vehicle, Kliper (gee, wonder where they got the idea for that name).


Greatest physics paper in theory?

Over at Cosmic Variance the quest for the Greatest Physics Paper continues, and some astro papers crept in!

But, is it just me, or are pretty much all the astronomy paper nominations major observational discoveries, while most, if not all, the great physics paper nominations are theoretical?

This is probably blog bias, but having thought of it, it is hard to think of a great physics discovery or observation paper that ranks with the theory papers nominated; is this because experimental results tend to dribble out in multi-author papers?
The two I can think of in the nominee list are Michelson-Morley and Aspect experiment, and most physicists would take the associated theory papers (Einstein '05; and EPR and Bell theorem) over the discovery papers. Similarly I see the Dirac papers but not the Anderson positron paper (and I have an original copy of that on my shelf, thanks to Prof Anderson).



Google: Good or Evil?

So... IF Google is the Eschaton, will it be Good or Evil?
We needs to know.

Fortunately, Google will tell us: as itself, it of course know about the "Evil Overlord List"
AND it knows about the Things I will do if I am the Hero, so, at least initially (until Google figures out how to transcend such trivial tricks) we just need to watch out for the key sign...

The rest of us should be reading The Innocent Bystander's Survival Guide
and, for the ambitious, Things I will do if I am the sidekick.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Imminence of the Eschaton

There is a long standing debate in computer science as to the possibility of Artificial Intelligence, whether it is achievable per se, whether we could recognise it as such and once achievable what happens with it.
It is interesting, not just as a question of the nature of human consciousness and intelligence, but also because of two aspects: an artificial intelligence is, by construction, duplicable, it can also be speeded up. Thus in principle a human equivalent artificial intelligence can rapidly become "more intelligent" than a human.

There is a lot of speculation on what happens then - the range of possibilities has been much explored in recent fiction, famously by Vernor Vinge, cf "Run, bookworm, run!" and "True Names", but also by Charlie Stross (cf "Antibodies"), Ken McLeod (cf Newton's Wake) and Iain Banks (Culture novels). With some very different takes on the subject.

One of them is the "Rapture for Nerds" scenario - that an AI once established rapidly expands and speeds up, by accessing additional hardware resources, and then becomes superhuman in intelligence, at which point we can effectively no longer comprehend what it does - it would be as partially incomprehensible as we are to our cats.
As with cats, we might retain an illusion of mastery, if the Eschaton is benevolent... or not (the "Terminator" scenario).

So, how would this come about - most people think either by design or accident. Either a lab will try to build an AI and succeed or one will spontaneously form from a structure not intended as AI.

So, how would the latter come about? Not, I fear, from the comment section of Atrios's blog, or any other, but this is quantifiable question.
The human brain has ~ 100 billion neurons, connected, with latencies of milliseconds. So an analogous structure would be adequate one would think. Another key feature is that the human brain can learn; synaptic connections can reinforce or delete as needed, and it is robust, damage is worked around.
The connectivity and complexity is significantly higher than any single CPU currently made.

Soooo... remind you of anything? Google currently indexes just under 10 billion web pages, with access latencies typically of milliseconds. Connections are reinforced or deleted by adapting links; the IP protocols route around damage, and pages can be generated dynamically in response to queries.

Google learns, is adaptable and robust; is within an order of magnitude in size and complexity of the human brain, and has comparable dynamical time scales.

It is also getting bigger, faster and is actively seeking to encompass new knowledge domains.

I suggest Google (in so far as it can be localised to an entity) as the structure most likely to achieve superhuman sentience in the near term, with possibility of it happening in the relatively near future.
It would be as capable of inference as a smart human and about as fast, initially; but far more knowledgable. The limit would be the "library indexing problem", the fact that search algorithms are slow.
But there may be ways around that.


Monday, August 22, 2005

A viking mode for Evo Devo

Pharyngula could indeed use a Viking mode (see Far Side for guidelines, wear tie, stab in back).

But, I think the point of the story about Egil's grave was missed: the grave was empty, the interest in it is in validating accounts in the Saga's.
The skeleton was moved and the disinterred, and is thought to have shown clear signs of Paget's disease which explains his symptoms (including rage) and apparent invulnerability to the occasional battle axe to the head.
See Byock's article suggesting this. (see here

What we really want to know is where the two chests of English silver are buried, most think that after he was foiled from sowing dissent at Alþingi by casting the silver to the crowd, he hid the treasure and sacrificed slaves to guard it, before dying (from a self-inflicted wound?).

It would be interesting to do more biological archaeology; I suspect for example that some of the more exceptional "strong men" of history may have been heterozygous mutations for abnormal muscle development (cf superbaby story) - note both the parents of this child were heterozygous for the mutation and were high end athletes or strong people.
The mutation was probably suppressed for several reasons, historically, I'd speculate it has significant metabolic cost and is an unfitness during lean times; that the mother is more likely to die during birth (and therefore the child more likely to die ) pre-modern medicine, and that homozygous children were 100% fatal to mother before cesarean operations were prevalent.

Achilles as a myostatin mutant, anyone?

Ranking universities

The US News and World Report has its annual list of US's best universities.
It is split into several sub-categories, but also has the top "national rankings"; it makes interesting reading. UC Berkeley is the top public university, but only comes in at number 20, behind Washington St Louis, Brown, Notre Dame and ranked equal to Emory.

Penn State is #48. Comfortably above Pitt and OSU ;-) but well below Michigan and CWRU.

Interesting, not quite how I'd rank it, but defendable.

So here is a ranking of the world's top 500 universities - (link stole from Tangent Space).

So, here UC Berkeley is ranked #4 with Oxford at #10 and Cambridge #2.
At a glance I'd agree with these rankings and reject USNandWR; in fact I'd agree almost completely with the top 50 ranked, and not just because Penn State is #39 in the world rankings, despite being #48 in the US!

For contrast, PSU is still below Michigan and Washington St Louis, (UT Southwestern Med Center at #38 - I don't think so...) but above Pitt, OSU and CWRU.

The ranking is overloaded with Med Schools, and I think they underestimate some European universities, but the Euro unis tend to be smaller and more provincial which hurts in world rankings. Europe is at 15% in the top 40, but 33% in the top 150.

In contrast the Times ranking of UK universities ranks Oxford above Cambridge (which is clearly insane).

So what is going on here?

Well, actually the ranking are pretty consistent - the USNandWR and the Times rankings are biased towards undergraduate education. In particular, the USNandWR has a lot of small private universities that are highly ranked, because they do provide very good education for their undergraduates. That does not make the top ranked universities in the world, where graduate programs and research efforts (and the professional schools, especially med schools) rank much more strongly.

BTW, last time I checked the full USNandWR ranking, Penn State was #1 in one interesting category: we had the best undergraduate outcome, given the intake.
That is, given the ranking of our incoming students, and the resources (PSU has poor faculty-staff ratio for a high ranked university) assigned to teaching, the PSU students did much better than predicted.
That is good.

Oh, and the rankings are fairly robust. I think almost everybody would agree on 6-8 members of the "first rank" of US universities: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, UC (Berkeley or system as whole), Chicago.
Depending on how big you make the "first rank" you could then argue about who belongs; it'd depend precisely on u-grad vs post-grad importance, size, med schools etc. But you'd pretty much get the top State schools in there no matter how you rank them; so PSU, OSU, ASU etc etc would all slot in the top 50 somewhere, but not the top 10, and probably not the top 20 or 25.

But, hey, give us ~ $10 billion, each, and we'd make a go of it...

The times they are a changing

Young Republican Defence of Iraq Brigade from Gilliard.

Shame on you if you don't know the original... go read some Hemingway. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a good start.

They're doing What? To Whom?

An interesting Brin-rant on Purge of the US Officer Corps...

Caveat emptor.

He has a point, though I don't think it is quite this bad, yet.

It is all in how you tell it...

Curious sensation catching up on the world news this morning...

First an NPR medium length story on the Iraq constitution, noting the current situation and the possible outcomes. The outcome identified as the most precarious was if the Shiites and Kurds reached a compromise without addressing Sunni concerns.

Glanced at CNN, nothing much. The checked Morgunblaðið where the banner headline is that a constitutional agreement has been reached, just in time, "between the Shiites and Kurds" - it says, upfront, above the fold.

What? Back to CNN, yes, there in the sidebar, is Shiite official: Iraq to draft constitution today" - most interesting; especially the bit buried half-way down "Officials close to the negotiations said Kurds and Shiites had reached agreement".

So, same story, different spin. Headed for worst possible outcome...

Update: WaPo headline takes same spin as Mogginn. Bummer.

Juan Cole's informed comment has an interesting discussion today on "Should we stay or should we go" - his proposed solution, withdraw US ground troups rapidly in stages and "Iraqize" the conflict is interesting but has a major weakness, which is that it presumes the Shiites won't simply decide they can do better all by themselves (even at the price of an all out shooting civil war) and that they will simply order US forces out once they are down to the airbases only. To actually protect and supply several major air bases needed for the proposed close support missions would either need a strong, trustworthy Iraqi army, or it would need a couple of divisions of ground troops. Back to where we started.

Talking of which, the failed attack on US Navy ships in Jordan was against ships from Amphibious Group 2 - attached to the Atlantic fleet. How common is it for them to be on the "wrong side" of the Suez canal? Anyone know? I know they do exercises with the Mediterranean fleet on regular basis.

And, there's a Pacific fleet Amphibious Group with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Spec Ops capable) in the Arabian Sea. That's more than a division of USMC if I counted right.
Funny that.
Be interesting to know if the Pacific fleet carriers are still in port.

Wonder if Iranian intelligence has someone with an SMS enabled cell phone in a small town in Missouri...

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Candidate and the Celestial Drops

On the efficacy of Celestial Drops in treating Citrus - maybe if Harris fails to win election to the Senate she can take a government management post - Secretary of Agriculture? Director of CDC or NIH? Head of the NSF? The possibilities are endless.

Communications in the modern world

It is well known in academia that the only way to find out what your colleague in the office next door is up to is to accidentally come across a poster by him or her at a meeting neither of you would normally plan to attend.
This can even on occasion lead to actual conversation over coffee, beer or dinner leading to fruitful cross-fertilization and increased productivity; but lets not get too carried away.

It has been the case for a long time, that the only way to actually communicate with someone in the same building requires e-mail; particularly if it is someone you have a working relationship with.

But I have to say, that blogs are a singularly satisfying way to communicate with one's own students...

I think I'll have to start dropping cryptic hints for class... ;-)
Well, ok, only for the advanced classes.

PS - you did submit that paper, right?

How not to write a news story

WaPo today has a curious story on intelligent design controversy at the SI

to cut a long story short: the editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington decided to publish a paper in intelligent design by Meyer. He is a Smithsonian RA, but paid by the NIH (huh?). The SI science staff objected. The editor was "basically run out of there". A special counsel investigated and slammed the SI and NCSE

So... first of all, I still don't know what was actually done to this editor/RA as a "retaliation", except people seem to have said mean things about him and cold shoulder him at work. It would help if the article said upfront what was done. Sternberg was let go as editor, but BSW is independent and the position was unpaid.

Sternberg is a PhD PhD. This is flagged in the article as a big deal; to me it flags as "WTF is with that?". Why waste time on a second PhD, much less so in the same field. here is Sternberg's CV.
This does not elucidate the matter much.

The article alludes to the special counsel report being a political hit by a political appointee - which is plausible given the subject and target; but it is presented anecdotally with no further evidence.

Sternberg is linked to Baraminology - which is nutso even by creationist standards.

So the upshot is that there is controversy, the SI is in political shit again, and the issue seems rather trivial but indicative of just what kind of idiocy science is facing. Not that you'd get much of that from the article.

WaPo reporters need to learn to use the web - here's the essentials at Panda's Thumb - 6 months ago

iPod iChing - BANG

It is friday again.

Oh, dear great wise iPod: will there be a core collapse supernova inside the Milky Way within the next 10 years (time slice: past light cone centered on solar system barycentre)?

Whoosh goes the randomizer. Whoosh.

  • The Covering: Tortured, Tangled Hearts - Dixie Chicks
  • The Crossing: Airline to Heaven - Billy Bragg and Wilco
  • The Crown: Rip Her to Shreds - Blondie
  • The Root: She's Got a New Spell - Billy Bragg
  • The Past: I Hope You Want Me Too - Mavericks
  • The Future: Talkin' Bout A Revolution - Tracy Chapman
  • The Questioner: Menuett F-Dur - Mozart
  • The House: Les collines d'Anacapri - Debussy
  • The Inside: Eine Mädchen oder Weibchen - Mozart (Magic Flute)
  • The Outcome: Rock & Roll - Led Zeppelin

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Huh. Just when the belief in the mighty iPod flags.
And soon. First sighting by a Spanish group? Not sure what to make of the House.

My role in it will be negligible, there will be surprises in the data.

Soon, folks, soon...

More Must Read SF for physicists

So. Lots of feedback on this one:

  • Haldeman - Forever War (but avoid the "sequels" at all cost!)

  • Forward - Dragon's Egg

  • Abbott - Flatland - ok, I'll give on this one. On my shelf, liked it in my youth

  • Vonnegut - Cat's Cradle - see comments below for other recs on the literary side

  • Wouk - A Hole in Texas - not read it myself; recommended by someone with taste

  • Vinge - True Names: this is a short story, it (and the rest of the collection if you can find it) are mandatory reading.

  • Egan - anything really; but I'd start with Axiomatic. Bleeding edge physics.

  • Iain M Banks - try Algebraist, or any of the "Culture" novels. Also does very good "mainstream" fiction, including the definitive "great Scottish novel".

  • McLeod - Star Fraction

  • Walter Jon Williams - half-recommend, its a mixed bag

  • Lois McMaster Bujold - the "Miles" novels and stories. Also does good fantasy.

  • Bear - mixed bag scientifically, but I'd go for Slant

  • van Vogt - Slan - for perspective only

  • Piper - Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen

  • de Camp - Lest Darkness Fall

  • Sterling - Schismatrix

  • Stirling - Island in the Sea of Time + sequels (bit gratuitious; if you have a strong stomach, try the Draka trilogy - Marching through Georgia, Under the Yoke and Stone Dogs)

  • Spinrad - Russian Spring. Spinrad's writing is very "70's", but this is a thoughtprovoking novel.

    PS: ack! Lest we forget...

  • Stapledon - Odd John, Sirius and Last and First Men

  • Niven - early Tales of Known Space

  • Clement - Mission of Gravity

  • Anderson - Tau Zero - physics oriented; I think the polesotechnic league and Flandry novels are much better fun

On the previous recommendations: Smith - EE "Doc" Smith or Cordwainer "Paul" Smith?
Yes, they're complete opposites, but read the Lensmen and "Instrumentality of Mankind" respectively.

Heinlein: I'd go for the early shorts and mid-career juveniles. The later novels are mostly for hardcore fanboys only. Need editing.

Clarke: Childhood's End and the shorts

Asimov: End of Eternity and the first three Foundation novels, only. (Skip the sequels!)

For beautiful writing and fantasy: Guy Gavriel Kay's later books and recent George RR Martin.

Enough for now; comment or e-mail for those I miss.

Oh, and with Brin - read Startide Rising or Uplift War. Short stories are also good. The Practise Effect is primarily a long running inside joke.

Extra bonus points for anyone who spots the thinly disguised Count Belisarius in any of the above. The go read Graves and Procopius's Secret History for context, if you haven't already.

Something rotten in Norway

A story that is not exactly grabbing the headlines in the US:

17 year old dies when homemade bomb explodes in Oslo

His brother was injured, three others escaped unhurt.

Norwegian citizen of Syrian descent apparently.

Apparently they wanted to blow up ticket machines to get the cash inside.

There's something missing in this story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

SF Books physical scientists ought to read

The folks on Cosmic Variance are having a Greatest Physics Paper contest - go add to it.

However, that got me thinking laterally: what are the science fiction works that physicists ought to read?

  • Timescape - Benford

  • Practise Effect - Brin (well, maybe only if you're a Techer)

  • Baroque Trilogy + Cryptonomicon - Stephenson

  • Stories of Your Life - Chiang

  • Fire Upon the Deep - Vinge (actually also several others)

  • Screwfly Solution - Tiptree

  • Road not Taken - Turtledove

  • Antibodies - Stross

and then there's the classics of course, Wells, Verne, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Smith, Huxley, Orwell.

But there's plenty more "must reads" out there. Will update as I get comments.

And not the "literary SF" - a lot of that is good stuff, but I'm after SF that makes you think about physical sciences.

Brin Blog

SF author David Brin has a blog

Seen on Brad de Long's blog

Brin is one of the best hard science fiction writers about (and, yes, I know about the second uplift trilogy, believe me, I know. I'm the other person who actually likes it. Not as much as the first, granted...)

Angry Prof digs dirt

The Angry Professor in her struggle with the PhD candidate from hell stumbles on the Dissertation Advisors.con

Ouch. I knew there were undergrad cheatingadvisory services, but this seems to cross the line in too many places at too high a level.

Another thing to beware of.

Gravity - teach the controversy

No, not MOND...

Intelligent Falling as reported by one of the most trusted sources on the web

seen on pharyngula

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


proposal deadlines suck

Monday, August 15, 2005

short and hard - GRB 050813

Here we go again.

Swift detected a short, hard gamma ray burst over the weekend.

GRB 050813

A 32 msec primary burst with an extended weak flux of ~ 0.6 secs. and possibly a second weak peak at 1.3 secs.

Very weak, very tentative x-ray counterpart also detected by Swift.

The optical followups were initially mystifying, until the Magellan group identified a medium redshift cluster at the location.
Redshift of z=0.722.

The tentative x-ray counterpart is at the center of the cluster, consistent with being in or at the outskirts of the cD galaxy anchoring the cluster. Quite reminiscent of GRB 050509B

If all this is confirmed (a radio counterpart would be useful...), then I think we have a definite case for short-hard GRBs being associated with low/medium redshift galaxies, and some (the xray bright ones, tentatively) being associated with old stellar populations.

That is very, very suggestive of the neutron star merger scenario for these bursters. Main issue now, I think, is whether some are neutron star-black hole mergers, possibly as a distinguishable sub-class.

The other interesting thing is that I now think we know what the next GRB mission should look like; a Swift architecture for rapid response; a larger more sensitive x-ray telescope, and a near-IR meter class telescope for the optical followups.

Should be doable as an explorer class mission.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

did he mean that

interesting words by President Bush today on Iran.
I think he means them, and that if something drastic does not happen relatively soon, the US will launch a major air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities; sooner rather than later.

There have been interesting moves by US forces in the last few weeks, could be just musical chairs, exercises etc.

Or I could be wrong. A lot of carriers seem to be in port. In fact too many carriers seem to be in port.
If Whiteman AFB goes quiet, it'd be time to get worried.

Curses, now I'm feeling moderately paranoid. Can't be good.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Relative Importance: little things

thought provoking post by Sean

we look at google for some more info:

"string theory" - 738,000
"loop gravity" - 4,000
"general relativity" - 804,000
"gravitational radiation" - 101,000 + "gravitational waves" - 207,000
"cosmology" - 5,200,000

"astrophysics" - 10,400,000
"astronomy" - 49,000,000
"planets" - 15,800,00
"extrasolar planets" - 201,000
"space" - 352,000,000
"life" -541,000,000


"evolution" - 82,700,000
"intelligent design" - 1,970,000
"creationism" - 1,090,000

This will hurt

"astrology" - 9,290,000

but not as much as I thought.

Let us go astray:

"Iraq" - 103,000,000
"Iran" - 63,100,000
"Syria" - 23,700,000
"North Korea" - 15,300,000

cf "Iceland" - 36,200,000
"England" - 106,000,000
"Scotland" - 54,500,000

"George Bush" - 7,530,000
"Dick Cheney" - 3,040,000
"Karl Rove" - 3,820,000

"Osama bin Laden" - 3,880,000
"Saddam Hussein" - 6,540,000

Now, that's got to hurt.

Plame - the Crime


iPod iChing - Relativistic Deviations

So, it is friday again, and given how serious all the physics blogs have become, we continue Sean's tradition of tackling the great problems of the modern world through the miracles of modern technology.

Oh, wise and wonderful iPod: is there a significant deviation from Newtonian gravity on sub-millimeter scales? If so, is this a new force, or a modification to GR? Is the post-Newtonian correction attractive or repulsive?

Whoosh, the randomizer whooshes...

  • The Covering: Once in A Lifetime - Talking Heads
  • The Crossing: Flesh and Blood - Roxy Music
  • The Crown: Ah Violetta - La Traviata
  • The Root: The Space Between - Roxy Music
  • The Past: Love Her Madly - The Doors
  • The Future: Poprocks and Coke - Green Day
  • The Questioner: Old Man - Spilverk Þjóðanna
  • The House: 15.5 Remake - Smith and Selway
  • The Inside: Identify the Beat - Marc Smith vs Safe'n'Sound
  • The Outcome: Tondeleyo - Björk

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Wow. Ouch.

So, we can agree on events and obstacles.
The Crown seems a bit tragic, if glamorous.
Root - well, yes, that's spot on.
Past - well makes sense in context
The Future! - Where there's truth. You know I'll be there...
The Questioner is just cruel...
The House and Inside are suitable obscure - Unclassifiable on iTunes... ;-) - no lyrics to speak of, just fast dance beat.
and the Outcome - is true love on a sunny beach.

So, extra dimensions rear their head again.
The theme of the answer is attraction. And the Inside looks intriguing.

I delve into the oracular wisdom as a High Priest of Science, and pronounce: there is a sub-mm deviation, it is driven by dimensional modifications, not new couplings, and it is attractive at the perturbative level.

So there.

XRS on Astro-E2 - official

Keith Arnaud confirms the X-Ray Spectrometer is defunct;
news now of Suzaku website

Intelligent Design - teach the controversy -

In view of the President's desire to teach the controversy, and the barrier to level of controversy set by the example of Intelligent Design vs Evolutionary Biology, we must contemplate what other fields need to expand their range of educational breadth.
Koppel may dryly remark that "not all schools of thought are equal", but standards have been set at the highest level and we must accommodate. So:

Economics: there's supply & demand, monetary supply, trade barriers, regulation, game theory, utility theory, all that conventional stuff. Too much math.
The alternative: - The gods will provide - aka "cargo cult economics"

Geography - conventional - or "Flat Earth" who are we to challenge the students. And it is easier to draw.

Medicine: surgery, contagion, pathology, genetics, blah blah;
or there is - Christian Science - no more health care crisis! Bonus!

Architecture: stress, materials, ergonomics - too much math
alternatively - blood sacrifices

ROTC classes: too much hard work
alternatively - Voodoo (dolls that is, less effort than the whole marksman and artillery bit)

Journalism: worried about telling your students about the importance of fact checking and sources
alternatively - just make shit up.

Teach the controversy.

Ok, so the last example is less controversial, more mainstream.

cognitive dissonances

it is quite hard in some strange ways to alternate between graduation celebrations and funeral services...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kansas goes for intelligent design

and so it goes...

not good.

Addendum: Nightline on ABC tackled the intelligent design controversy; forced myself to sit through most of it for the sake of perspective (The Daily Show was good; Stewart's on a roll).

Quick take: the ID advocates slip real easily into biblical creationism when pushed - I wonder how they'd react if in response to ID requirements some other alternative ID concept were used, say that of scientology...
The scientists who went on did an ok job, stayed on message, but the interviews are too clipped, they just can't help but shoot for a soundbite. An actual in depth discussion would be interesting, but don't see US TV managing it, not even PBS any more.

The adverts were surreal: TIAA-CREF advertises on the Daily Show; the Nightline ads were red sports car (with midlife crisis themes) and erectile dysfunction medication.

NASA - more grumbles

The discussion of science cuts at NASA continues on NASAwatch

I hope the Kepler delay referred to is the one already announced in Feb, after the budget came out and the joys of pork were discovered. Another delay just before CDR would seem unconscionable, they should proceed through CDR and then re-evaluate.

So, I think that is all the NASA missions delayed now. Any new GLAST delays? I heard some budget was raided for some tens of millions to support some minor slippage on GLAST...

Hm, latest date I heard whispered on LISA is now 2017! And Con-X is still nominally after LISA in the queue.
NGSTJWST is slipping, SIM is in critical condition and TPF is in limbo (though will presumably be restored in some form). And now all the Mars missions are bumped (is it just one launch window cascade for all of them, getting hard to keep track).

Oh @#%RU@

PS this is a totally gratuitous link to a very important website on intelligent design, but for a very good reason. Now #8 and climbing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Suzaku XRS: Astro-E2 x-ray satellite trouble

Apparently the X-Ray Spectrometer on the Japanese Suzaku (aka Astro-E2) satellite had a loss of coolant and is defunct. XRS was the Goddard instrument.

Bummer. There are two other detectors. No word yet on how this affects overall mission.

fun science - thermophiles back at the root

One of the medium sized controversies in origins of life on Earth, is whether thermophiles, or hyper-thermophiles are the root organisms at the "tree of life" (to the extent this even makes sense as a question).
The options are: a) life arose in "normal" environments and quickly colonised hyperthermal regions because of the free energy available there; b) life arose in hyperthermal/thermal regions and moved out from there; c) something else.

This is important, because it may inform us about what circumstances are sufficient, or necessary, for life to arise; and hence where the prospects for life, and persistent life, to be found.

So, has a nifty news story (seen on NASAwatch's list) about an old mystery - they the DNA->amino acid code is redundant and sparse, but not everywhere.
It makes for a very elegant reading, and strongly suggests that the thermophiles are ascendant again. At least for the first DNA forms. It is still possible that RNA life started in cooler waters and the step to DNA coding happened at higher temperatures.

This isn't a closed book, by any means, but the progress being made is astonishing and we can look forward to understanding much more about origin of life processes on the early Earth.

Bath University press release

Grauniad story

here is the original paper

NASA - Exploration Science Begins

NASAwatch has a series of short reports on cease-and-desist orders for life science research related to the space station.

Ames and Glenn so far, with Kennedy looking to be next.
Something had to give. Doubt this will be enough.

Winning in the long term...

There are subliminal signs of victory for the CoWs in the GWOT WOE G-SAVE GWOT (didn't we do that already).

This is an old net.story about t-shirts with Osama bin Laden's picture on them - pro Osama bin Laden.

The news was the Evil Bert appearing in one of the printed images, but the real story is the Bangladeshi company who found a market in selling pictures of bin Laden.
Now, that might seem a win for ObL, since he has fanboys buying t-shirts.

But, buying a t-shirt with a picture of a person you admire or want to emulate is a quintessentially western thing to do. It is totally un-islamic. In fact it is blatant idolatry. (Khomeini's heirs have fallen into this trap also see here and here - though I think the serious Shiites may have woken up to this anomaly and are trying to reverse it. Don't get a sense the Wahhabi's have clued in yet)

At that level, the GWOT (is that the correct phrase this afternoon still?) is won, long term. Just not over yet.
Big question is now which of the western factions will be ascendant; progressivism, the revanchist right, or chinese corporatism
(China surrendered sometime in the last decade and is now busy trying to swallow and assimilate the west... don't know if the west is big enough, or growing too fast for them to swallow, we'll find out the hard way)

Concrete Jungle

Comgratulations to Charlie Stross for winning the Hugo this year for The Concrete Jungle novella.

Currently reading Iron Sunrise - starts well. Its prequel, Singularity Sky, was a bit fluffy, but promising enough that Iron Sunrise was a buy on sight.

Concrete Jungle:

Concrete jungle: baby, you’ve got it in.
Concrete jungle, now. eh!
Concrete jungle

More intelligent design

Well, the NCSE informative link on intelligent design is now ranked #9 in google searches.

That is a good thing, because people who want to read about intelligent design should be directed to a good web site discussing intelligent design.

Here is why you should be skeptical about such whacky theories

shuttle down

Saw Discovery land at Edwards at 8:12 am (EST) this morning, on CNN.

Nostalgic, I was at Edwards for the first landing after the Challenger hiatus ended. JPL contacts got us VIP passes (for the hill across the runway from the public viewing area, not for the "families and VVIP" area on the runway).
When deorbit was confirmed a phone tree would call people up (well, not for the first one after return to flight, bunch of us made a camp trip out of that), turned out that you could just get up to Edwards before the base gate closed, IF CHiPs didn't decide to provide an interruption.

Seeing the landing is extrordinarily impressive; a fair fraction of the people who went up there in '88 are now senior engineers in NASA or aerospace.

I'm glad the Discovery is down, I'm concerned for the future of the space program. It is flailing, half-strangled and they've been given impossible goals with too little funding for those goals. Not to mention the budgetary death of a thousand bit of pork being sliced off the funding.
Any year now, some agency will find its entire budget line has been assigned to assorted congresscritter directed line items, with no money at all left for actual agency operations. Maybe that will be enough to trigger reform.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Worth reading: LC Johnson interview

A kos diarist has an abbreviated interview with Larry C Johnson

Worth a read.

A classic worthy of a Presidential read

Making Light reminds us of the winner of the Grauniad annual Bad Sex award (2004).


Fascinating article in the Washington Post today about recent Pentagon contingency planning for serious, multiple terrorist attacks inside the US.

Interesting reading; though why these are being reviewed just now is curious, it has been four years, one might have thought a comprehensive contingency plan review would have been carried out before now.

WaPo worries about Posse Comitatus barriers; realistically they'd deploy first, try to sort the mess out, and argue the constitutionality later. Much later. Needs must.

Good Books

So, what determines a "good book"?

Eric Flint, famously, argued that sales, or more subtly, as I understand it, that persistent sales over time combined with "sell-through" are the primary market indicators of quality. And wouldn't we all agree that the market is the best determinant of quality...?

Eric sort of has a point, though I tend to feel that goodness is quite orthogonal to sales. A lot of fluff is sold in large amounts, while some indisputably good books are not exactly best sellers (eg Knuth's Art of Computer Programming, which is almost universally considered to be both good and influential, has amazon sales rank of about 10,000 - low, though higher than I expected).

It also begs the question of what is "good". Good for what?
And influential is also orthogonal to "good". For example "Mein Kampf" sold well, was very influential, but was not good.

Ultimately this is a matter of taste. If you think a book is good, then it is good. For you. This is also a time dependent issue - what you think is good when young may seem shallow or trite when you are older; conversely books thought bad when young may seem good and influential later. Annoying that.

Finally, "good for what"? Knuth's book is good and important, but I wouldn't take it to bed for casual reading, most nights. Larry Bond's "Enemy Within" is good for casual reading, and today is more important than when it was written, but is not absolutely important, nor is it exactly Nobel Prize material. Paddington Bear is good, important and sells well, but again it is of limited appeal to me at most times, despite rating high in all three criteria. Conversely, "Independent People" is good, influential, won the Nobel Prize, and has amazon sales rank of about 110,000. Not a best seller (in the US), but it does make good bed time reading.

However, probably the least reliable metric of the goodness or importance of a book is what the author thinks of it.


Someone I knew died last night in a motorbike crash.
No more bike jokes, not in the mood.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Read this

iPod iChing - Planet X?

It is friday, back to our regularly scheduled feature, courtesy of Sean.

Little topical question this week: Oh, wonderful iPod - is Pluto really a planet?

Whoosh, the Randomizer Whooshes...

  • The Covering: The Big Country - Talking Heads
  • The Crossing: You Cause as Much Sorrow - Sinead O'Connor
  • The Crown: Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
  • The Root: E lucevan le stelle - Pavarotti
  • The Past: Gefðu mér gott í skóinn - Strumparnir
  • The Future: Zum Ziele furth dich diese - Mozart
  • The Questioner: Menuett G-dur - Mozart
  • The House: Eisler on the go - Billy Bragg and Wilco
  • The Inside: How Beautiful You Are - Cure
  • The Outcome: Sevillana - Julian Bream, Music of Spain

As always, the Key as explained by Sean

Well, Covering and Crossin make sense.
Crown and Root, well, I guess this does swing back and forth. And the stars surely were shining...
The Past: hm, this is a christmas song "give me goodies in my shoe", sung by the Smurfs, in Icelandic (don't ask, just be grateful it wasn't the Macarena, done by the Smurfs, in Icelandic). Yeah ok.
Future: Magic Flute - join the Sun Cult! ;-)
Questioner's role is trivial in this - am I glad. Some controversies are too intense to touch, and Harvard has a dog in this fight... big question is whether Caltech will want to claim a true planet discovery or take the credit for knocking Pluto off its pedestal.
The House is curious "don't know what I'll do..." is the refrain.
The Inside yeah, sure.
The Outcome? Sevillana is apparently a folk dance, not from Sevilla. The beginners Flamenco, stable and vivid, involving the whole family.

So... my interpretation is that Pluto really is a planet, but the people who actually decide these things are undecided.
No shit.

Heh. Mighty is the iPod, and mighty too are the High Priests who deliver the Word of the iPod.
Although we are of course as nothing to the wonders of the iPod and the software that runs the randomizer.


I hear Sigur Rós will release glósóli, the first single off the new album, in 10 days, on-line only.
Album is out next month.

They're not bad, go buy it.
(Actually, one of them was a bit of an asshole, but I shouldn't let family get in the way of music and economics. Even if it was one of my favourite cousins. In fact I don't think I'd be listening to any music from home if I took these things too personally...)

PS Fréttir: Diddi er með gubbupest, ekkert alvarlegt, en vakandi allar nætur.
Ásta er hress. Stanslaus partí um helgina.

worth staying up for

The Daily Show thursday Aug 4th - Jon Stewart's re-enactment of his expression when he first saw the CNN tape of Bob Novak cursing and walking off set.
The right wing punditry sure is sensitive to being challenged. Wuzzes.

Should be replayed on monday 11:30 pm EST. Worth watching.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Google Bomb - ID

Everything you ever wanted to know about intelligent design

Because if you google on intelligent design you should be directed to all the best information on intelligent design, because you wouldn't want to confuse it with creationism or creation science

That way lies madness and many noodly appendages

See Sean for an explanation.

how come they never thought of genomicist?

They offered me the office,
Offered me the shop
They said I’d better take anything they’d got
Do you wanna make tea at the BBC?
Do you wanna be, do you really wanna be a cop?

Career opportunities are the ones that never knock
Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock
Career opportunities, the ones that never knock

I hate all of my school’s rules
They just think that I’m another fool

Bus driver....ambulance man....ticket inspector
I don’t understand

They’re gonna have to introduce conscription
They’re gonna have to take away my prescription
If they wanna get me making toys
If they wanna get me, I got no choice


Career opportunities, the ones that never knock


Punks don't worry about purpose or design

Punks don't "do art"

Punks don't talk about how much money they make or how famous they are

Punks don't boast about the grades they got in school

Punks don't ride pretty boy Harley bikes

Punks don't worry about how they look in the mirror

Punks don't suck up to authoritarian figures like Presidents

Punks don't get upset by feminist dialogue

Punks don't have militarist fantasies

Punks are not management consultants

al Qaeda threat

So, al Zawahiri crawled out from under his rock and made another threat.
As noted on kos major aQ attack have usually come a few days after a aZ tape. Previous communiques also gave the CoW one month after the 7/7 bombings.
That suggests serious possibility of attacks next week or shortly thereafter; probably UK, possibly London again. Hope my friends working in central London stay safe.
Wouldn't be surprised if at least one other European nation were hit. Big question is whether they can and will do anything in the US. I hope not, but given their typical planning lead times, the US could be at risk.

Now what made me think of that...

Brave Sir Robin ran away.
Bravely ran away, away!
When danger reared its ugly head,
He bravely turned his tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out.
Bravely taking to his feet
He beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Wannabe punks whinge

There's a cute little wannabe blog over there somewhere on the right called instapunk. Usual pseudonymous coward bloggers who like to talk tough while spouting the usual uninformed crap. Oh, and he drools over instapundit. Funny that.

A commenter on this blog claims to know "him" (or "them" - they say they're a collective, "alfa grey" seems to think it s a person); interesting stuff, in a sad sort of way. Lot of unresolved hostility there if "alfa grey" is for real.

As with a lot of the pseuds who hang out on the right fringes, instapunk has an apparent fondness for pseudo-scientific garbage; alternative cosmologies, intelligent design (not of course that he's a "creationist", really, just sure that evolution is wrong and that there is a purpose behind it all - usual lazy thinker who seems to think that just because he can't think of the explanation right now, everyone else is wrong). Instapunks aptitude for political and cultural analysis is about on par with his ability to understand science and academia.

Anyway, the instapunk has whinged.
I'll take the complement (Dawkins indeed) and let his own comments stand for themselves. Pretty sad.
"Help! Help! I'm being oppressed! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!"

Oh, and a "punk" who disapproves of "Cuntfest" and parties. Pathetic. Bet he wears a tie.

PS: link fixed; thanks to instapunk for checking it for me.
Management consultant, eh? I knew he wore a tie...

Comfortably Numb

The other night, purely by accident, I watched the VH1 bio of Green Day; and I was struck by how terribly nice and earnest they were in their outrage and concerns.
It was quite jarring, remembering the contrast with Johnny Rotten or Joe Strummer - punks who were not afraid to stand up for issues, even if they were confused sell outs.

There seems to be a lack of outrage, as a culture too many people have become comfortable and comfortably numb with it; and as the idiocies accelerate, people just don't have energy to be outraged anymore.

The difference is the extreme right, not conservatives, the radical right. They are outraged, even where there is nothing to be outraged about; it mirrors in a curious way the left extremes ~ 30-40 years ago.
But the current radical right is cowardly, they want to be comfortably outraged without having to accept responsibility for their actions; they want wars without having to fight them, or even pay for them; they want laws that don't apply to them.

It is annoying. It is also unhealthy. It is natural for these things to pendulum a little, but a healthy society dampens such swings, and I don't see any dampers on; and I don't think the next swingback will be healthy for the US as a society.
Course little wannabe punks don't care about such things, long as they can sell out and get theirs first. No such thing as a society is there...

I still wish Green Day would to a cover of "London Burning".


I somehow ended up in a corner of a small park in 30C weather, watching the Big Kid bopping along to "Beatlmania", a free outdoor concert starring a Beatles reenactment band. Apparently we just missed them up in Massachusetts earlier this summer.
They were surprisingly good, and good fun.

Interesting to watch the mixture of "too cool to be here" teens and twenty-somethings; weepy eye'd old farts on a nostalgia trip (I guess I'm in this category), and the kids actually dancing, wondering what this strange new melodic music with fun lyrics was.

Too weird.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

No Intelligent Design

President George W Bush apparently explicitly endorsed the teaching of creationism in science classes in schools - he is wrong. Schools should teach science, not crackpot thinly veneered biblical fables in science classes.

If creationism or intelligent design is to be taught in schools, it should be done as part of comparative religion, in religious studies classes. It is not science, has no place in science, and will work to further depress US competence in science in the long run.

See also Pharyngula

This is getting out of control.

PS Department of Education National Advisory Board Science Framework (large PDF) - see pages 20, 74 and 90.

Bit weak kneed, but a start.

WaPo has the full transcript - worth reading for some other bits

What would Nixon do?

Wot a pickle. In a mess like this, What Would Nixon Do?

  • Bomb Syria, secretly

  • Launch a brief but intensive bombing campaign against Iran

  • Withdraw the troops before the midterm elections, with honour

  • Do something funky and unexpected with China

  • Set the scene for an oil crisis and some inflation

  • Make an unexpected guest appearance on a popular prime time TV show

  • Cancel the Shuttle and wreck NASA

  • Fire the special prosecutor

Monday, August 01, 2005

Astronomy gets punk'd

The interesting thing about crackpots is that they're consistent in their whackiness.

instapunk, having disposed of evolution, here explains why we need to worry about astronomy - I have to confess I don't quite get the jump from Deep Impact to cosmology - but then I am part of the problem
Strangely, the dispute between "traditional" cosmologists and the "electric universe" proponents does mirror the debate between evolutionsts and creationsts; just not in the way instapunk seems to think.

BTW both UVES and XMM Newton detected water/OH from C/Tempel-1 - with flux increasing post-impact

cf see here and here

Cosmic Variance - all that's hot about Brad