Science & Society

This video provides a quick and inspiring tour of the progression of visual effects in movies over the last 100 years, or so.  Personally, I'm still a fan of the model based special effects of the original Star Wars movies because, due to being real objects, they had a texture and imperfection that made them seem more real (and I grew up with them, of course).
It is illegal to make references to the Nazi party in Germany.  At Smith-Cotton High School (Sedalia, MO), it is not acceptable to make references (even wildly inaccurate ones) to evolution.
If you've read this site for any length of time, you know we are fans of open access.    The notion that research funded by taxpayers should be in the hands of billion-dollar media companies who charge scientists to publish and then hold the copyrights is ridiculous.

President Bush signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764) and it immediately came under attack by media lobbyists and the politicians they support.   
Finally an article that blasts the preposterous mythology suggesting that human longevity is a relatively recent phenomenon and primarily due to advances in medical technology.
In reviewing some of the comments made to the article it is clear that there is still a great deal of confusion surrounding the difference between "expectancy" and "lifespan".  The basic point in the article is that human life span is fundamentally unchanged over 2,000 years and quite possibly for a much longer period before that.
Scientific Blogging's University Writing Competition kicks off next Tuesday, September 1st.  There's been a lot of buzz and excitement about our first-ever writing competition that will give one lucky grad student a $2,500 cash prize, and a paid 3-month writing internship at Scientific Blogging.
This summer I discovered a new (to me) literary genre: post-war British Sci-Fi. The decades after WWII were (not surprisingly) rather rough on the Brits, and the zeitgeist found an interesting outlet in science fiction. What makes these books so awesome?

Primarily it's the tone of stoic despair, a la Orwell. These books are less about the implications of technology, and more about capturing the mood of the times. There's one science/technology schtick to get things rolling, and from there on out it's all about how dysfunctional society can get. Imagine a sci-fi Flannery O'Connor or Cormac McCarthy with a dose of classic British reserve.

I've read two books so far and I'm looking for recommendations for more, so don't hold back in the comments.
Weird Dream

Weird Dream

Aug 26 2009 | 0 comment(s)

from Bad Gods
Click through for the punchline.  From Bad Gods.
Obesity has increased dramatically in the last two decades, yet so have awareness campaigns saying appearance does not matter.    The cultural miasma is hardest on its youngest members and even kids aged 10 and 11 are concerned about their image, according to new research.  

A study of 4254 Canadian schoolchildren has shown a direct association between Body Mass Index (BMI) and satisfaction with their body shape. The research in BMC Public Health, says girls are happiest when thinnest but boys have it even worse - they are unhappy when they are too skinny or too fat.
If you listened to the media, a bailout of GM was good for investors.  A few months later, the stock was wiped out.   But if you paid attention to Ford Motor Company while the media ignored them, who said a bailout was a terrific idea for its competitors and then refused government money, you may have made 300% on that stock in the last 5 months.

The media being bad arbiters of quality economic advice is nothing new - they have never claimed to be otherwise because they report what they are told.  Yet the tone of advocacy the media often takes today, especially in its more popular personality-driven news shows, might lead you to believe they know what they are talking about.
I assume so, given that you're on Scientific Blogging. But if you have any lingering doubts, take the Pew Research Center's Science Knowledge quiz. It's a quick 12-question quiz about basic scientific ideas, kicking off with the great colorful "mad scientist" art below.

"Americans are knowledgeable about basic scientific facts that affect their health and their daily lives. But the public is less able to answer questions about more complex science topics," the report notes.