Grizzly Man is Werner Herzog’s film about Timothy Treadwell, mostly using Treadwell’s own footage of his time living among grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Treadwell spent each of thirteen summers up to 2003 mainly in two areas of the park where a community1 of grizzly bears lived and foraged. During the last three years of this stint, Treadwell went to the field with video cameras and produced quite a bit of footage. In 2003 he and his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, were killed and mostly eaten by a bear.

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According to one of the leading experts on the human circulatory system, blood flowing through veins is blue.

I’m not going to mention any names. All I’ll say is this: A person I know visited a major research center last year and saw a demonstration of organ removal and some other experimental stuff. A person also visiting asked the famous high-level researcher doing this work if blood was ever blue. What he said was not recorded in detail, but it was very much like this statement I found on the Internet:

… human blood is red as soon as it is oxygenated. Blue blood flows through veins back to the heart and lungs…..
[source: Some Guy on Yahoo Answers]

My friend was disturbed by this, as s/he had been teaching high school students for years that blood is not blue. Her understanding of the situation was that people thought blood was blue because standard anatomical drawings and models depict arteries as red and veins as blue, and because if you look at your veins they are blue. Obviously veins are not clear, but if you don’t think that out you might assume that you were seeing blue blood.

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I remember reading Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth by Thomson when it first came out. There actually were not a lot of science for the masses books back then, or should I say, the rate of production was low compared to recent decades. It is an interesting story.

In the winter of 1938, a fishing boat by chance dragged from the Indian Ocean a fish thought extinct for 70 million years. It was a coelacanth, which thrived concurrently with dinosaurs and pterodactyls—an animal of major importance to those who study the history of vertebrate life.

Living Fossil describes the life and habitat of the coelacanth and what scientists have learned about it during fifty years of research. It is an exciting and very human story, filled with ambitious and brilliant people, that reveals much about the practice of modern science.

Some day over a beer I can tell you my coelocanth-Stephen Jay Gould story. Good beer story, not a good writing story.

Anyway, at that link, the book is $1.99 in Kindle format.

Not strictly science but skepticism, so I thought it might be of interest, is Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism by Barbara Weisberg.

A fascinating story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts in the second half of nineteenth century America viewed through the lives of Kate and Maggie Fox, the sisters whose purported communication with the dead gave rise to the Spiritualism movement – and whose recanting forty years later is still shrouded in mystery.

In March of 1848, Kate and Maggie Fox – sisters aged 11 and 14 – anxiously reported to a neighbor that they had been hearing strange, unidentified sounds in their house. From a sequence of knocks and rattles translated by the young girls as a “voice from beyond,” the Modern Spiritualism movement was born.

Talking to the Dead follows the fascinating story of the two girls who were catapulted into an odd limelight after communicating with spirits that March night. Within a few years, tens of thousands of Americans were flocking to seances. An international movement followed. Yet thirty years after those first knocks, the sisters shocked the country by denying they had ever contacted spirits. Shortly after, the sisters once again changed their story and reaffirmed their belief in the spirit world. Weisberg traces not only the lives of the Fox sisters and their family (including their mysterious Svengali–like sister Leah) but also the social, religious, economic and political climates that provided the breeding ground for the movement. While this is a thorough, compelling overview of a potent time in US history, it is also an incredible ghost story.

An entertaining read – a story of spirits and conjurors, skeptics and converts – Talking to the Dead is full of emotion and surprise. Yet it will also provoke questions that were being asked in the 19th century, and are still being asked today – how do we know what we know, and how secure are we in our knowledge?

I’m not sure if this is a good find or not, but have a look. You will be out $1.99 for the Kindle version.

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A press release from Greenpeace provides information on this issue which I know some of you have been following.

SAN FRANCISCO, October 16, 2017 — Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed all claims in the controversial case that major logging company Resolute Forest Products [2] filed against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, and Greenpeace International, Stand.earth and individual defendants, including claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act.

The court’s decision sends a clear message to corporations that attacks on core democratic values like freedom of speech and legitimate advocacy on issues of public interest will not be tolerated. District Judge Jon S. Tigar wrote in his order dismissing the case that Continue reading

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I feel it is time for a repost of an essay I wrote about five years ago during an earlier period of turmoil on the internet caused by women and men acknowledging that women are generally under constant sexual harassment and under constant threat of sexual assault.

There may be a few broken links here that I’ll just deaden, but otherwise, I’m not changing the essay at this time.

__________________________________

I want to mention three separate instances of men acting inappropriately towards a woman that occurred to people I know over the last couple of months.

[Trigger warning: Sexual harassment and rape]

In once case, a man drove up to a woman who was just getting out of her car, in a relatively secluded parking lot, to ask her what kind of mileage she got on that model and make. There was nothing exceptional about the car that would cause special interest in this issue. In the second instance, a man skated (on in-line skates) up next to a woman who was skating on a long trail a mile or two into the woods where no one was around, and insisted on “teaching her” how to “draft” which involved him skating to a few inches behind her and holding his hand on the small of her back while he explained how great that felt. In the third instance, a stranger cornered a women in an enclosed space, tried to rape her, and in so doing hit her several times in the head while pulling off her clothing.

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As is the case with any good falsehoods, one can never really be sure what the falsehood may actually be. In this case, there are two falsehoods: 1) When we see a statistical correlation between two measurements or observations, we can not assume that there is a causal link from one to the other. This is the way the statement “Correlation does not imply causality” or some similar version of that aphorism generally means, and this is an admonishment we often hear; and 2) When we see a statistical correlation between two measurements or observations, there probably is a causal link in there somewhere, even when we hear the admonishment “Correlation does not imply causality” from someone, usually on the Internet. To put a finer point on this: What do you think people mean when they say “Correlation does not equal causality?” or, perhaps more importantly, what do you think that statement invokes in other people’s minds?
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On Kindle for $1.99

The Theory of Relativity: and Other Essays is a collection of seven key essays by Einstein about his work. It is available at this reduced price for a time, but I’m not sure how long. Of course, whether it is a long time or a short time is relative.

Here’s a fun thing to do wit this collection. Take a paragraph or two and post it as a Facebook post, as though you said it, and wait a few hours. Then, after all the amateur theoreticians explain how wrong you are, edit the post to make it clear that it is a quote from Einstein, from a particular source. Bwahahaha.

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A range of choices, a range of interests.

The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason, and the Laws of Nature

In The Science of Liberty, award-winning author Timothy Ferris—called “the best popular science writer in the English language today” by the Christian Science Monitor and “the best science writer of his generation” by the Washington Post—makes a passionate case for science as the inspiration behind the rise of liberalism and democracy. In the grand tradition of such luminaries of the field as Bill Bryson, Richard Dawkins, and Oliver Sacks—as well as his own The Whole Shebang and Coming of Age in the Milky Way—Ferris has written a brilliant chronicle of how science sparked the spread of liberal democracy and transformed today’s world.

Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever

This is the incredible account of a flood of near-Biblical proportions in early twentieth-century America—its destruction, its heroes, its victims, and how it shaped natural-disaster policies in the United States for the next hundred years.

The storm began March 23, 1913, with a series of tornadoes that killed 150 people and injured 400. Then the freezing rains started and the flooding began. It continued for days. Some people drowned in their attics, others on the roads when they tried to flee. It was the nation’s most widespread flood ever—more than 700 people died, hundreds of thousands of houses and buildings were destroyed, and millions were left homeless. The destruction extended far beyond the Ohio Valley to Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Vermont—fourteen states in all, and every major and minor river east of the Mississippi.

In the aftermath, flaws in America’s natural disaster response system were exposed, much as they would be nearly a century later in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. People demanded change. Laws were passed, and dams were built. Teams of experts vowed to develop flood control techniques for the region and stop flooding for good. So far, those efforts have succeeded—it is estimated that in the Miami Valley alone, nearly two thousand floods have been prevented, and the same methods have been used as a model for flood control nationwide and around the world.

This suspenseful historical tale of a dramatic yet little-remembered disaster “weaves tragic and heroic stories of people in the various affected states into an almost hour-by-hour account of the deadly storm” (Booklist).

The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants

Anyone who has spent serious time outdoors knows that in survival situations, wild plants are often the only sustenance available. The proper identification of these plants can mean the difference between survival and death. This book describes habitat and distribution, physical characteristics, and edible parts of wild plants—the key elements of identification. Hugely important to the book are its color photos. There are over one hundred of them, further simplifying the identification of poisonous and edible plants. No serious outdoors person should ever hit the trail without this book and the knowledge contained within it.

Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society

In Seeing Further, New York Times bestseller Bill Bryson takes readers on a guided tour through the great discoveries, feuds, and personalities of modern science. Already a major bestseller in the UK, Seeing Further tells the fascinating story of science and the Royal Society with Bill Bryson’s trademark wit and intelligence, and contributions from a host of well known scientists and science fiction writers, including Richard Dawkins, Neal Stephenson, James Gleick, and Margret Atwood. It is a delightful literary treat from the acclaimed author who previous explored the current state of scientific knowledge in his phenomenally popular book, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

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As you know (if you are reading this) Ubuntu Linux was until recently saddled with, er, came with, the Unity desktop, a system of menus and such. All along it has been possible to get a Gnome version of Ubuntu, but now, Unity has been tossed out (told you so!) and Gnome is the default desktop for this distribution now. But, for people who prefer Gnome before it too jumped the shark, there is Mate (pronounced Mah teh, like the plant), which I’m pretty sure is an increasingly preferred desktop.

Anyway, if you are messing around with any of these three “flavors” of Ubuntu, you might find yourself in a situation where you’ve not just messed around but you’ve also messed up. And, maybe you want to return the distribution to its default state.

Doing so will undo whatever customization you’ve done to panels, launchers, or docs, including indicators. It will rediscover and reset the default monitor resoution settings. It will put the fonts back to what they were by default and, for some of us most dramatically, it will reset the keyboard shortcuts. Themes will be returned to default as well, including all the details of your windows and such.

Some applications will have their settings restored to default as well.

Go see this post at OMG Ubuntu for an example of before and after for someone who had tweaked the heck out of their box and reset.

This reset only affects setting stored in dconf. You can “dconf dump” to get the current settings from that place before and maybe that will suffice as a backup. Good luck with that. This should not affect other desktops you’ve got installed, or affect drviers and other deep system level stuff. Probably.

Anyway, here’s the command:

dconf reset -f /

Good luck and may the force be with you.

You can find out what dconf is and does here.

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