The Pi-on

I am in love with this comment and want to have its babies: pi appears as a constant in many formula of physics. General relativity says that it isn't constant. Is it the origin of the pi particle, aka pion? A curmudgeonly literalist might, when faced with a question such as this, harrumph a simple "No." A more loquacious sort might explain that general relativity does not say that π is not a contstant. Pi is not a parameter of physics like the fine-structure constant, which could conce

Tariffs, not trade?

In the the 19th century the Democratic party, rooted in large part among Southern planters who were dependent on exports of commodities and imports of finished goods, was the party of free trade. The northern Whigs, and later the Republicans, were the party of tariffs. They were the faction which drew support from the industry of the North which benefited from protection against European competitors. The Republican support for tariffs and Democratic opposition persisted into the early 20th centu

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Weekly Volcanic Activity Report

So, I'm about a week late to the party, but I wanted to make sure we all recognize the 10th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institute and USGS Global Volcanism Program's Weekly Volcanic Activity Report. I know, for me, it was one of the first things that got me interested in keeping track of the ever-changing landscape of volcanism on a weekly basis (of course, now I seem to have to keep track by the minute). Over 220 volcanoes have been mentioned in the reports since they started back in 2000 by

Aziz Ansari is not a Muslim, he is an atheist

A few days ago a friend was asking me about Aziz Ansari, the brown American comedian who grew up in South Carolina, and is of Tamil Muslim heritage. Since I don't watch Parks and Recreation, I knew about him mostly through the Sepia Mutiny weblog. Some of the comments there indicated that Ansari was a practicing Muslim. That did not surprise me, South Asians are very religious. In particular, group religious identity matters a great deal to people whose origins are in Indian and Islamic civiliza

The Tree of Science

How do you know whether a scientific idea is a good one or not?The only sure way is to study it in detail and know all the technical ins and outs. But good ideas and bad ideas behave differently over time, and this can provide clues as to which ones are solid; useful if you're a non-expert trying to evaluate a field, or a junior researcher looking for a career.Today's ideas are the basis for tomorrow's experiments. A good idea will lead to experiments which provide interesting results, generatin

Curry Goes to Congress

This announcement, that Judith Curry will be giving Congressional testimony next week, is sure to send the climate blogosphere into overdrive. At her site, Judith writes: I have been invited to present testimony for this hearing. I have been specifically asked by the minority (Republicans) to discuss how we can go about responding to the climate change issue in the face of uncertainty, dissent and disagreement. The hearing is set for November 17 and is called "Rational Discussion of Climate C

The future Indian Yao Ming

In a nation of ~1 billion, even one where a large minority are positively malnourished, you'd expect some really tall people. So not that surprising: NBA Awaits Satnam From India, So Big and Athletic at 14: In a country of 1.3 billion people, 7-foot, 250-pound Satnam Singh Bhamar has become a beacon for basketball hope. At age 14. ... That potential starts with his size, which is incredible itself. At age 14, he is expected to grow for another couple of years. For now, he wears a size-22 bask

WilWheaton… WilWheaton… WilWheaton… WilWheaton… WilWheaton… aaarrrggg!

[Update: It occurs to me after posting this entry that it might make more sense if you watch this first. My apologies for any confusion.] This is for your own good, folks. You have been warned.

NCBI ROFL: Mapping the goooooooaaaaaalllll! center of the brain.

Localisation of regions of intense pleasure response evoked by soccer goals. "Localisation of regions of intense pleasure responses will lead to a better understanding of the reward mechanisms in the brain. Here we present a novel fMRI video paradigm designed to evoke high levels of pleasure in a specific test group and to distinguish regions of pleasure from anticipation. It exploits the intense commitment of soccer supporters and thus captures the intense euphoric feeling experienced when a s

We Need Gattaca to Prevent Skynet and Global Warming

Independence Day has one of my most favorite hero duos of all time: Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. Brawn and brains, flyboy and nerd, working together to take out the baddies. It all comes down to one flash of insight on behalf of a drunk Goldblum after being chastised by his father. Cliché eureka! moments like Goldblum’s realization that he can give the mothership a “cold” are great until you realize one thing: if Goldblum hadn’t been as smart as he was, the movie would have ended much differe

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