Colin Dickey writing for Aeon on why it’s dangerous for modern civilization to be so dependent on technology:
On 1 September 1859, the British astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a burst of solar winds and magnetic energy that had escaped the corona of the Sun. The Carrington Event, as it came to be known, was not only the first recorded CME, it was also one of the largest ever on record, and it unleashed a foreboding and wondrous display of light and magnetic effects. Auroras were seen as far south in the northern hemisphere as San Salvador and Honolulu. As the Baltimore Sun reported at the time: ‘From twilight until 10 o’clock last night the whole heavens were lighted by the aurora borealis, more brilliant and beautiful than had been witnessed for years before.’
At the time, the event caused some minor magnetic disruption to telegraph wires, but for the most part there was little damage caused by such a spectacular event, its main legacy being the fantastic displays of light across the sky in early September. But should a solar flare happen on the scale of the Carrington Event now (and there’s a 12 per cent chance of one hitting the Earth before 2022), the effects might have a radically different impact on our advanced civilisation. If a CME with the same intensity were to hit the Earth head-on, it could cause catastrophic damage.
A National Research Council report in 2008 estimated that another Carrington Event could lead to a disruption of US infrastructure that could take between four and 10 years – and trillions of dollars – to recover from. Particularly vulnerable are the massive transformers on which our entire power system relies. Massive fluxes in magnetic energy can easily overload a transformer’s magnetic core, leading to overheating and melting of their copper cores. In the worst-case scenario, a repeat of the Carrington Event would cripple our infrastructure so severely it could lead to an apocalyptic breakdown of society, a threat utterly unknown to our ‘less civilised’ ancestors.
From the excellent Compound Interest, a website all about Chemistry, is this post regarding the common components of vaccines.
The recent measles outbreak in the US has once again provoked discussion over vaccinations, and why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children despite the benefits of doing so. Whilst not the only factor, part of the blame lies with misinformation about the chemical composition of vaccines and the effects these compounds can have. This graphic summarises some of the key components in vaccines, as well as clarifying their purpose and safety in the concentrations present.
A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science:
The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. Personally, I think it’s therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.
Robert Moore on the respect anti-vaxxers deserve
A post about your feelings…
So, I’ve been seeing a lot of ‘I’m sorry for hurting your feelings posts’ with regards to vaccines, and I thought I’d make it clear that I’m absolutely, in no way, at all, sorry for hurting any of your feelings if you’re anti vaccination and not telling me.
You deserve to have your feelings hurt.
Your opinion, which you are absolutely entitled to, hurts children. It kills children. So I’m entitled to also have an opinion about you and your poor decision making. I’m entitled to mock you openly when I watch a video of an infant with whooping cough. Because without your beliefs on vaccines today there would be no whooping cough.
This is a fantastic movie. Imagine a documentary about particle physics that might bring you to tears. So beautiful. The movie documents the CERN particle collider and the search for the Higgs Boson. It illustrates the basic physics that are being studied even as it explores the humanity of some of the scientists that are involved. The art and illustration used to explain the science is very well done. All of it very accessible to anyone regardless of science background. Purchase from iTunes or stream it from the website.
Want to really have your mind blown? Really and truly? Read this and take a long close look at these images. And remember , this is just one galaxy of hundreds of billions in the observable Universe. Andromeda: Hubble mosaic 100 Megapixel portrait of the spiral galaxy.
Skeptics on the Creek at Make-it-Do Farm! Good food, drink and conversation. Missing in these photos are the kids who were upstairs all night playing D&D.
I was just speaking to Kaleesha this morning about my vacation from Facebook and then this pops up. On the one hand, science! On the other hand how does it feel to be unwittingly manipulated in such an experiment. Even more, consider the ramifications. Facebook was, previous to this, interested in the potential for manipulating its users and took the time to investigate. Now it has confirmation of what it can do. The first time (?) was for science what about the next time. What do you think?
Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.