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Swimming In The (astro) Pacific

As a newly minted, 1 year old professor, this is the deep end of the astronomy edu cation pool...

The Phantom Of The Laboratory

We are fortune here at Science20 to have come across an early work by Gaston Leroux.  This...

Engineering Roleplaying

Hey, you got simulation in my roleplay! Hey, you got roleplay in my simulation! Wait, it's two...

Stars That Ring Like Bells

Time to ring in a new year with pressure waves.  We can see, but not, hear true sonic waves...

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Alex "Sandy" AntunesRSS Feed of this column.

Read more about the strange modern world of a day laborer in astronomy, plus extra space science-y goodness.... Read More »

In the movies, aliens and evil empires want to kill us.  Despite their advanced technology, they end up landing ground troops to do so.  Worse, the forces of evil-- alien or human-- tend to be lousy shots.  How unrealistic is this?

1) Aliens who come to earth want to kill us.

This isn't unreasonable. "Hawking's Conclusion" is that aliens are hostile, "looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach".
Bright people run into two curses in life that others mistake as blessings.  The first is that many tasks come easy to them.  The second is that they can do okay for a long time without experiencing failure or set-backs.  Both of these lead to a life of underachievement.

In "Patterns of Underachievement in Gifted Students", Carolyn Coil ( notes 3 patterns where smart kids dive into underachieving:

  1) Does well in early grades, then underachieves more as they get older
  2) Sporadic up-and-down pattern
  3) No effort to go beyond the minimum
In science, you need a theory, an approach, and a way to measure the results.  In politics, you only need an opinion and a microphone.  Therefore, it is interesting that a major Green advocate -- promoting sensible environmental solutions -- took the stand to criticize past Green efforts.

George Monbiot (winner of a UN Global award, among others) recently scribed Let's Face it, none of our environmental fixes break the planet-wrecking problem.  There was immediate outcry and, as usual, the pundits somehow claiming this is proof that Green=Bad are missing the point on this.
"A podcaster, an editor, a policy wonk and a NASA engineer walk into a bar..."  At the DCSWA workshop, regional media talents attempted to answer the unanswerable: what is the future of science writing and science journalism?

Deborah Ager (of Bolt and also ClickWisdom), noted, without irony, that "in 2011, everyone is a newspaper (or thinks they are)".
Dear earnest wingnut,

Thank you for sending me a copy of your 20-page monograph containing your brilliant new paradigm which The Physics Establishment are seeking to squelch,  Having been squashed at times by the T.P.E., I can heartily sympathize.

I am writing back to you because you don't seem as crazy or scary as most.  Also, your paper had good spelling and grammer.  Your elementary English teacher told the truth-- spelling matters.  So I read the thing.  And by 'read' I mean I fully read the first page and the conclusion, but sort of skimmed the middle.  It'll have to do.
Case study: Patient Ashley has Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by albinism, vision impairment, and bleeding disorders such as chronic hemorrhages. H-PS is particularly damaging to the lungs.

Location: "Children's Gala" auction for the Children's Inn at National Institute for Health (NIH)

Situation: Subject is singing.

Analysis: Measuring the baseline and improvement in the subject's singing is a valid diagnostic tool for tracking improvement of lung capacity.