Daily Archives: July 17, 2012

Pioneer Anomaly Re-Explained

ResearchBlogging.orgBefore getting into this, I just want to give you the best quote about physics from a physicist I’ve seen in a long time. In describing the phenomenon we are discussing here, JPL scientist Slava Turyshev says, “The effect is something like when you’re driving a car and the photons from your headlights are pushing you backward.”

I know, right? I hate when that happens! Continue reading Pioneer Anomaly Re-Explained

Marriage and the Naturalistic Fallacy

We’ve been talking about marriage (here, here, and here). We’ve established that marriage has a history, it has variability, and that it is hard to pin down a narrowly defined set of functions for it. However, I also suggested that when we strip away a lot of variants that have special explanations (even if those variants are MOST of the variants of marriage) there is a thing we can call marriage that has a limited and understandable set of functions, or at least, there is a thing we can understand in a very basic evolutionary and social way. And we’ll get to that. But first, I want to take a short detour to cover two important concepts that almost always get in the way of understanding human behavior from a biological perspective: The naturalistic fallacy (in this post), and the fallacy of the pristine primitive (in the next post). You’ve heard of the former and we’ve discussed it here before. I’ve made indirect references to the latter but have not addressed it intensively, and when I do as part of this discussion of marriage I only want to talk about part of that concept, so I’m shortening the name to reflect that narrow approach to the “Primitive Fallacy” or the “Fallacy of the Primitive.” It may be the most annoying of all of the anthropologically related fallacies, it is one of the most common, and it is spoken about the least, possibly because it is so annoying.

But first the Naturalistic Fallacy.

Continue reading Marriage and the Naturalistic Fallacy

How to Follow Curiosity

The NASA Curiosity Rover will land on August 5th. NASA has provided a way to follow along with the show, using a special web based plugin which is set up for Mac and Windows, but not Linux.

As NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity prepares to land on Mars, public audiences worldwide can take their own readiness steps to share in the adventure. Landing is scheduled for about 10:31 a.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6), at mission control inside NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Martian fans can help NASA test-drive a new 3-D interactive experience that will allow the public to follow along with Curiosity’s discoveries on Mars. Using Unity, a game development tool, NASA is pushing new limits by rendering high-resolution terrain maps of Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing site, collected from Mars orbiters. A 3-D “virtual rover” version of Curiosity will follow the path of the real rover as it makes discoveries.

By downloading Unity and trying out the experience early, the public can reduce potential download delays during landing and offer feedback on the pre-landing beta version of the experience. By crowd sourcing — leveraging the wisdom and experience of citizens everywhere — NASA can help ensure the best experience across individual users’ varying computer systems.

Click here to learn more and download it.

I installed it on a Mac. Don’t forget that on a Mac, if you are multitasking, the final icon you have to click on when installing something will be found behind your other windows and there will be no indication that it is there. (That probably happens on Windows, too.) Once installed you have this fancy candy 3D looking model of the rover and all sorts of bells and whistles and stuff. It looks fun. I just hope the landing goes well so this isn’t the only thing we have to play with after August 5th!!!!

The Darwinian Chick

Why can’t a baby bird just hatch out of the egg and fly away, or at least, be able to fly a little and not require weeks of constant feeding and attention? I suspect they CAN do this but just refuse to in order to steal parental investment, which is, after all, a very valuable resources. Baby turtles and crocodiles are born as miniature versions of adults. Some birds do this a little. Baby ducks and chickens s are the mensches of the bird world; they don’t spend all that time sitting there uselessly and constantly demanding attention. Sure, turtles and crocs are tiny and vulnerable and most of them get eaten by monitor lizards, seagulls, big fish, or other predators. But baby birds get eaten by predators too (often other birds), so I’m not impressed with the difference….

Read the rest of my post on 10,000 Birds

Hillary Clinton, please consider global warming with KXLP

The following letter to Secretary Clinton was released a short while ago. It will be delivered later on this week. Also later on in the week, there will be a place where you can add your comments. Also, there will be a related piece in Rolling Stone’s next issue (this week). I imagine there may even be a petition or two! Also, you will find more discussion and other relevant links HERE.

The 350.org web site will have more, and I’ll pass on anything I get.

Dear Secretary Clinton,

We are writing to ask that the State Department conduct, as part of its evaluation of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, a serious review of the effect of helping open Canada’s tar sands on the planet’s climate.

At the moment, your department is planning to consider the effects of the pipeline on “recreation,” “visual resources,” and “noise,” among other factors. Those are important—but omitting climate change from the considerations is neither wise nor credible. The vast volumes of carbon in the tar sands ensure that they will play an important role in whether or not climate change gets out of hand; understanding the role this largescale new pipeline will play in that process is clearly crucial.

We were pleased that President Obama saw fit to review this project more carefully; it would be a shame if that review did not manage to comprehensively cover the most important questions at issue.


John Abraham
Associate Professor, School of Engineering
University of St. Thomas

Ken Caldeira
Senior Scientist
Department of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institution

James Hansen
Research Scientist
The International Research Institute for Climate and Society
The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Michael MacCracken
Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs
Climate Institute

Michael E. Mann
Professor of Meteorology
Director, Earth System Science Center
The Pennsylvania State University

James McCarthy
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography
Harvard University

Michael Oppenheimer
Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Geosciences
Princeton University

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences
The University of Chicago

Richard Somerville
Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

George M. Woodwell
Founder, Director Emeritus, and Senior Scientist
Woods Hole Research Center

Another Major Minn. Company Comes Out Against Marriage Ban

This just reported:

The legal, business information and media company Thomson Reuters said Friday that an amendment to ban gay marriage in Minnesota would be bad for business.

Prominent companies including General Mills and St. Jude Medical spoke out earlier against the proposed amendment, which goes to the voters in November. Minnesota already has a law against gay marriage, but gay marriage opponents say the amendment is necessary to put the ban in the state constitution.

That’s good, but also note that the main group pushing for the amendment has recently raised a LOT of money. Expect this argument to heat up just as the summer starts to cool down.