Science & Society

Did you get visit here after quickly vanquishing my puzzles in this morning's New York Times Science section? If so, you're likely ready for a new challenge.

Below are the puzzles the Times cut — because they're too darn tricky or perhaps because the first gently pokes fun at the sacred cow that is Mariano Rivera. But they're certainly not too tricky for you, gentle reader.

No, no, if  you've made it this far, they're right up your alley. 
The three problems of humanity were outlined in a talk by Nick Bostrom (of Oxford University, UK) at TED in April 2009.  While I'm sure there are some that will consider these points to be quite reasonable in setting goals, I'm continuously amazed at the lack of rigor or introspection these claims aim at.  

In a nutshell, the talk identified three (3) problems that were perceived as needing to be addressed to "fix" humanity. In this article, I will discuss the first one.

Problem #1:  Death is a BIG problem.
Not sure how all this works yet, but anyway, I found this nice presentation of world life expectancy and wealth over the last 200 years. The data is interesting in itself, but the presentation is particularly interesting/entertaining.

Anyone who woke up yesterday morning hoping that December 2nd 2010 might be a historic day in the search for extraterrestrial life is likely to be sorely disappointed. All week the hype has been building since the NASA PR machine announced that they were about to release an astrobiology finding that would "impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." Speculation got a little bit crazy to say the least!

Recently, we featured an article on how new federal money -- funneled through the NOAA -- is being directed to citizen science efforts (read more).

Why scientists should blog is not a new topic to Science 2.0.   In a way, I think we pioneered science blogging(1) because, prior to us, the only science bloggers with any real audience mostly wrote about politics and religion and last year I chaired a panel on science outreach with two columnists here and Mike Eisen, co-founder of PLoS, and Eugenie Scott, founder of the National Center for Science Education and blogging was a key topic on how scientists should increase engagement.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we tend to start our annual pondering about how we might give more to our friends and family, and maybe even to the world. Citizen scientists--whether they consciously realize it or not--are behaving in a uniquely giving mood with every bird they count, PC time they donate, comet they spot, or galaxy structure they visually identify (among so many more important activities!). The efforts of citizen scientists are a pure form of generosity through the free distribution of knowledge.

OK, I've had just about enough of the stupid statistics being put out by the FDA regarding full body scanners at airports. I'm not sure why everyone is behaving as if such a scan is a singular event in a year.  One hears about how such a small dose compares against the annual safe dosage and yet does it occur to no one that many people fly more than once per year?
I think there is something deeply wrong with our view of science. The word itself, Science (with a capital "S"), sits alongside other monoliths such as Religion, Art, Music, Literature, Politics and so forth that require constant defining just to ensure we're talking about the same thing. The problem with science is that we are taught a myth... and then complain when the myth is incommensurate with reality.