RIP Jack Horkheimer whom I watched for… as long as I can imagine, my whole life it seems. You’ve most likely come across him to at some point if you ever watched PBS.
Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’
The section, which was part of the unedited chapter on public attitudes toward science and technology, notes that 45% of Americans in 2008 answered true to the statement, “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.” The figure is similar to previous years and much lower than in Japan (78%), Europe (70%), China (69%), and South Korea (64%). The same gap exists for the response to a second statement, “The universe began with a big explosion,” with which only 33% of Americans agreed.
The current furor isn’t over that the numbers are pitifully low – rather that this section was omitted from the final report. Why was it removed?
The board member who took the lead in removing the text was John Bruer, a philosopher who heads the St. Louis, Missouri-based James S. McDonnell Foundation. He told Science that his reservations about the two survey questions dated back to 2007, when he was the lead reviewer for the same chapter in the 2008 Indicators. He calls the survey questions “very blunt instruments not designed to capture public understanding” of the two topics.
I think Jon Miller has a quote appropriate response:
“I think that is a nonsensical response” that reflects “the religious right’s point of view,” says Jon Miller, a science literacy researcher at Michigan State University in East Lansing who authored the survey 3 decades ago and conducted it for NSF until 2001. “Evolution and the big bang are not a matter of opinion. If a person says that the earth really is at the center of the universe, even if scientists think it is not, how in the world would you call that person scientifically literate? Part of being literate is to both understand and accept scientific constructs.”
Miller, the scientific literacy researcher, believes that removing the entire section was a clumsy attempt to hide a national embarrassment. “Nobody likes our infant death rate,” he says by way of comparison, “but it doesn’t go away if you quit talking about it.”
I think this is very reflective of the current push by evangelical Christians in this country to conflate science and religion - which is demeaning and undermining to both. The results are a populace that understand neither which is clearly reflected in this poll.
Countries and cultures that succeed and progress are forward-looking, scientifically literate (for that time period) and able to critically think and examine issues.
When we, as a country, score this low on questions that form the foundations for almost every single scientific field in existence in which direction do you think we are headed?
The American Museum of Natural History has put together a phenomenal video of the known Universe. Visually awesome.
XKCD never fails to amaze me. In addition to being one of the funnier web comics I find on the internet (and having spawned numerous internet memes itself), I have yet to find one that is smarter. The author has an almost Sagan-like ability to take complex science and make it understandable to the layman. In other words, awesome. So here we have a fundamental part of astronomy and the key to how we not only get objects off the planet, but to other planets and beyond.
Make sure you click on the image to get the super-large version so you can read the text and really understand how gravity wells work.
The best one I can think of that puts it all into perspective:
Here’s to hoping you have a peaceful and relaxing weekend.
Phil Plait over at the Bad Astronomy website has completed choosing his top 10 astronomy pictures for 2009. What’s nice is there’s a beefy explanation under each photo so you get to understand what’s going on and why it’s relevant.
Check it out!
The fine folks over at The Planetary Society have released a planetary advent calendar for the holidays.
Everyday check in for an awesome picture and description of what it is. A great way to learn about the solar system!
Even Google is getting in on the excitement. The LCROSS mission that lobbed a heavy missile into a crater in order to create a plume of ejecta that could be analyzed confirmed their theory that massive amounts of water could be contained in deep craters on the moon.
Why is this fantastic news? We need water to survive. It’s expensive to send water into space on shuttle launches (or any other space-bound object that takes propellant for that matter). With water available for use at our destination that means lots of other resources that can be packed up and launched with each mission.
This is a small but valuable step in making a viable, permanent moon presence, as well as a launching point for the rest of the solar system. For those that dream of making it off this rock, it’s a huge leap in the right direction.
The top three telescopes pull in some amazing stuff this week.
Stay here for the eye candy – head on over to the Bad Astronomy blog for the authoritative word on what it all is.
Sagan was an astronomer. Moreover a passionate astronomer and scientist that could take the most complicated ideas, theories, and abstractions and boil them down into concepts that anyone could understand. His enthusiasm was infectious. It’s hard not to watch any video with Carl in it and not like the guy nor resist gaining a whole new appreciation for the universe and how it works.
He worked with NASA, taught classes, and worked on what was possiblely the most beloved science show of all time, Cosmos. This show that kicked off in 1980 only ran for 13 episodes. It was the inspiration for countless kids to become scientists or astronomers. It educated millions on how the universe worked in a language they could grasp and understand.
Youtube is littered with videos form Carl. Interviews, excerpts from Cosmos, lectures, and even some crazy remixes.
One of Sagan’s more memorable pieces is his Pale Blue Dot speech. It started with convincing NASA that they should rotate the Voyager 1 probe to take a shot of Earth. It took a bit of cajoling as no one quite grasped what Carl was getting at. Earth was so far away it would merely be a blue dot in the picture. That was Sagan’s point. We never have had a picture like that before.
It was featured in a book that Sagan wrote as a follow-up to Cosmos, aptly named Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.
An excerpt from the book was given as a commencement speech Sagan gave shortly before his death in 1996. It’s an amazingly eloquent and poignant speech and well worth your time reading. It’ll certainly put a few things into perspective, especially if you are having a bad day. Take 5 minutes listen to Sagan read this passage.
Carl Sagan wrote a few books in his time. One of the most influential being The Demon Haunted World, Science as a Candle in the Dark. If you’ve never read it before, you really owe it to yourself to pick this book up.
In a world full of pseudoscience, scam artists, and general crap, Sagan aptly illustrates the need to take a stand against it all. He outlines the damage believing in bullshit can do to both individuals and society at large. Sagan describes the tools you can equip yourself to spot fallacious logic – the spotty shield almost every piece of superstition and pseudoscience hides behind.
The Demon Haunted World is also a tale of how it all happens, how people and societies get duped into believing the craziest notions. It’s an exploration of thought process and humanity itself.
The world mourned his loss. One of the most eloquent and passionate scientists of our lifetimes. I know I’m sad that I never had the chance to seem him speak in person.
And this is why the Carl Sagan Day is so neat. To celebrate the man’s life and his accomplishments, the next wave of enthusiastic scientists, skeptics and great critical thinkers are gathering together on November 7th. If you can get to the Broward College campus, I heartily recommend you go. It’s going to be an awesome time.