Daily Archives: June 15, 2009

The Bad Astronomer Phil Plait on Skeptically Speaking

[On June 19th] we’ll be talking about Astronomy with popular author and super-blogger Phil Plait!

And, as usual, we have a lot of questions.

Like, why is Pluto now not a planet? What’s NASA up to lately? And what’s the deal with the Hubble Telescope? How do we know we really landed on the moon? Is it likely that the world will be destroyed by asteroids, comets, black holes, or supernovae?

Ooh! Like in the Star Trek movie! When Spock is mind-melding with Kirk? He talks about a supernova that “threatened the galaxy”! Can that happen?

Um… the supernova part, not the mind meld.

Ask away on the next Skeptically Speaking, every Friday at 6pm MDT, on CJSR 88.5 FM or live on cjsr.com.

And as always, if you have a question and can’t/don’t want to be live on the show, email us right now and we’ll ask it for you.

Details and podcasts and whatever here.

Scientia Pro Publica 6 Blog Carnival

is now available here, at Mauka to Makai. It is a great edition, plus the Mauka to Makai site itself is worth a look for a number of reasons. So go there.

Then, later, when you have a chance, go here and submit a post for the next Scientia Pro Publica, which will be hosted HERE at this blog. This one, here, the one you are reading right now. Use this handy dandy submission form.

email your submissions here

Thank you very much.

Windows always sucks. Linux in Exile on Printing

Imagine my surprise when I try to print a document, and nothing comes out of the printer. The printer isn’t claiming it’s processing the document – and in one instance, while waiting for my document, I saw the printer fire up and spit out someone else’s document. On these occasions, if I go back to my desk and flip back to the Office application that was trying to print, only then does the document print. In fact, I can see Word finally display the status message “Printing page 1 of …” at the bottom of the window.

Read the rest of the horror story here at Linux in Exile.

My own worst nightmare story with Windows: This was Windows 95, IIRC. The printer driver did two things: 1: It converted a document (or received a document so converted from some other Microsoft app) such that all byte values were being interpreted as control codes (a sort of frame shift, in DNA language). This happens now and then in Windows. This is when the printer spits out several pieces of paper and most of them have one symbol …. like a happy face or a club (as in the card suit) or five or six random sensless blobs … on each page.

The other thing the printer driver did was to become unattached to the system, but still live. So, it could not be reached, even on the command line. The printer driver survived reboots as well. It could not be killed.

And the document sent to it was a 200 page manuscript.

Solution: Reinstall Windows.

Reason why this is bad: I was printing out a document that needed to be produced some time within the next couple of hours.

Actual solution: Find a different computer, print the document out there, return to original computer, and install Linux on it.

New theory on Earth’s Magnetic Field: Theory interesting, reporting botched

ResearchBlogging.orgThis is one of those science stories that is on one hand fairly simple, and on the other hand fairly complex, where the interface between simplicity and complexity causes little balls of misunderstanding to come flying out of the mix like pieces of raw pizza dough if the guy making the pizza was the Tasmanian Devil from the cartoons.

What is true: A scientist named Ryskin proposes that decadal or century scale minor wiggling in the measured Earth’s magnetic field is influenced by changes in ocean currents. Plausible. Interesting. Could explain some things. Not earthshaking.

What is not true: The earth’s magnetic field is caused by ocean currents. The earth’s magnetic field’s long term variations, like reversals in field orientation, are caused by ocean current changes. The Earth’s magnetic field causes oceanic current changes or the currents are the sole cause of secular variation. The cause of the earth’s magnetic field is not, as previously thought, the molten dynamo thingie inside the earth.

Let me explain.

Continue reading New theory on Earth’s Magnetic Field: Theory interesting, reporting botched