Tag Archives: John Abraham

Interview with John Abraham

John Abraham is a scientist at St Thomas University in the Twin Cities. John is famous for doing battle with a famous science denialist (that’s what the meme above refers to), for his blog at the Guardian, for his research in several areas such as ocean heat, and for keeping track of month by month increases in global surface heat caused by anthropogenic global warming.

Sunday, I had the honor of interviewing John Abraham about current developments in climate change. It was Sunday morning so you were probably either sleeping or in church, but don’t worry, there’s a podcast!

You can listen to the podcast here:

 

Or here.

Here’s a partial list of other Atheist Talk interviews I’ve done, in case you were looking to spend several hours listening to me asking interesting people questions.

Emily Cassidy
Sheril Kirshenbaum
Anastasia Bodnar
Shawn Lawrence Otto on “Sins of Our Fathers”
Michael Mann
Paul Douglas
Me talking about the 5th IPCC report (Interviewed by Stephanie Zvan)
Me talking about science denialism (Interviewed by Stephanie Zvan)
John Hawks
Shawn Lawrence Otto on Science Policy
Shawn Lawrence Otto on his book “Fool Me Twice.”
Don Prothero
Me, John Abraham and Kevin Zelnio talking about climate change
Me and Desiree Schell talking about skepticism
Martin Rundkvist and Yusie Chou
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Me and PZ Myers talking about controversy
Me, Maggie Koerth-Baker, Steve Borsch, Will Steeger and Lynn Fellman
Ed Brayton
Lynn Fellman and me talking about fossil hominins
Me talking about missionaries (Interviewed by Mike Haubrich)
Me and Genie Scott talking about creationism (interviewed by Mike Haubrich)
Me talking about the evolution of the human diet
Me talking about academic freedom

A new novel, Star Wars: Dark Disciple

A Guest Review by John Abraham

Wow! I just put down the best science fiction book I’ve read in a long time, and certainly the best Star Wars book I’ve ever read. Just like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones have made fantasy stories hip, the rebooted Star Wars franchise is making science fiction cool again for audiences of all ages.

The new book, which goes on sale today (July 7th), is called Star Wars: Dark Disciple (written by Christie Golden). It is part of a new series of stories that are part of the Star Wars canon and it involves nearly all of the characters we’ve come to cherish. It is a story about friends and enemies, good and evil, and relationships that evolve as we turn the pages. This book transforms how we view the Star Wars characters.

But let’s take a step back. For those of you not fully integrated into the Star Wars universe, all you need to know is that there are the six movies and two animated television series (Clone Wars and Rebels). And of course, there are new movies in the works now, with Episode 7 to be released December 2016.

Dark Disciple takes place between movie episodes 2 and 3, just before the conversion of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader. It is set during the infamous Clone Wars which was a multi-year battle between Jedi-led Republic and the Sith-led Separatists. The Clone Wars is devastating the galaxy, resulting in uncountable deaths of innocents. The Jedi leaders are desperate to try anything to bring the war to an end; this desperation led them to initiate a very un-Jedi-like assassination attempt. Perhaps removing the Sith leader (Count Dooku) would spare future bloodshed?

And it is here that this story gets into high gear. A very fast-passed story, it leaves the reader holding and then gasping for breath as events unfold rapidly. We witness many of the Jedi we’ve come to know over the years, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Plo Koon, and others deliberating whether and how to accomplish this assassination. Their decision requires the selection of a Jedi who is skilled enough to penetrate the evil circle around Dooku; someone with a history of subterfuge and clandestine skill; someone named Quinlan Vos.

For serious Star Wars fans, Quinlan Vos is a favorite. He is a Kiffar male (very much human like with a unique facial tattoo and dark skin) with a special skill. He can “read” objects by touching them, seeing, hearing and feeling the history of the object, witnessing scenes that have long since faded into history.

But the Jedi leaders are not convinced that Quinlan can complete this task himself so they launch a plan to obtain the help of a former student of Dooku, Asajj Ventress. Asajj was trained in the Dark Side by Dooku but then later was betrayed by her master. Because of the betrayal, she holds a bitter resentment and has twice before attempted to kill Dooku herself. Asajj Ventress is a major character in the Clone Wars animated series and she too is a fan favorite. Cunning and conflicted, physically powerful yet lithe, she presents contradictions that we see in the real world. She has carried out horrific acts in her past and is supremely ruthless to accomplish her tasks. However, she also has a strange code of ethics and a sense of fairness which is informed by her troubled past as a child. Asajj was born on a planet called Dathomir which is inhabited by only the female gender of her species. The Dathomir females are known for their warrior-like nature, ability to use magic, and their connection to nature and the force. Her entire clan was wiped out by Count Dooku; a fact which has formed and shaped Asajj’s hatred toward her former master. Finding herself alone in the galaxy, Asajj has become completely self-reliant and shuns alliances and relationships which have only led to pain and suffering.

So we see Quinlan has great hurdles to overcome if he wants to complete his task. The plot setup puts Quinlan and Asajj in the center of an “ends justify the means” pathway of the Jedi – a pathway that threatens the very nature of the force users. It is also a pathway the puts the two main characters in situations that try their inner person. A crucible from which the real Quinlan and Asajj emerge.

Christie_GoldenFor an audience that reads star wars novels, this book is unique for a number of reasons. First, many stories are told in three-book trilogies. This single book is necessarily packed with action. There are very few slow moments, but at the same time, the author does a fantastic job of developing the story and the characters in an engaging way. She also balances telegraphing with surprise. Throughout the book, I found myself saying, “oh no, she is not going to do this… this can’t happen…. It did!” Other times, quick twists and turns occurred in the story that kept me guessing.

What was particularly nice to a Star Wars fan is that this book fills in important gaps for some of our favorite characters. Because this book is considered canon, the plot line may interfere with other story lines from other books or comics. Initially I was concerned about this; would my other favorite stories and characters be written out of history with Dark Disciple? It turns out not really; Dark Disciple may introduce only small changes to our favorite characters and their past.

For people who aren’t as devoted to Star Wars as I am, this book is a great way to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with characters in advance of the new movies. Since this book is largely self-contained, readers won’t have to worry about learning the backstory of its main characters. Finally, because the story is contained in a single book, readers can get through its entirety quickly (I read it in one sitting); you don’t have to commit to a more typical three-book trilogy.

So, for those of you who want to try something new, revisit past stories, or prepare for the next generation of a great science fiction story line, this is where you want to begin.

Dr. John Abraham
University of St. Thomas

Thinking Rationally about Climate Change: FTBConscience Conference Session

Climate Scientist John Abraham and I just finished a session of FtBConscience on Climate Change and during that session we promised to provide some useful links. We also used some graphics during the session. Below are the links and the graphics!

First, here is the video of the session:

Climate Change Science Twitter List

I created a twitter list of people (or organizations) that tweet about current climate change science. If you check this list at any given moment you’ll know the latest climate science news. If you have a suggestion as to who should be added to this list, send me a tweet!

The list is: Climate Change Science

Climate Consensus The 97%

John Abraham and Dana Nucitelli’s blog at the Guardian, mentioned during the session, is HERE. John mentioned his post “Global warming and economists-SuperFreakonomics is SuperFreakingWrong.

A gazillion posts on Climate Change

I’ve written a few hundred posts on Climate Change over they years on this blog, which are HERE.

I have a question about climate change …

If you have a question about climate change, one of the best places to find out a good answer is the web site Skeptical Science. John mentioned this during our session. Pretty much any question you’ll ever hear from anyone about climate change is addressed here, often at multiple levels.

Arctic Sea Ice melt interactive graphics

The really cool interactive graphic we used during the session, showing arctic sea ice melt (surface area) over several years, is HERE. I also talked about this graphic in a blog post HERE.

Other climate change links of interest (please add your favorite non-denialist sites in the comments section below if you like!)

There are a lot of sites, here is just a sampling.

Climate Change Graphics

I have a category for climate change graphics here and Skeptical Science has a page of graphics here. These are both science based graphs and memes (which are also science based as well, of course, but in the form of something you can put on your Facebook Page!) The graphics we used during the session are here:

Nuccitelli_OHC_Data

bau_future_warming

We also showed the jet stream and orital geometry driven delta–18 cycles but those were randomly drawn from the internet and not vetted so I’m not going to include them. To get a jet stream graphic, just google “jet stream” but also, check out this post on the nature of the jet stream and weather: Why are we having such bad weather? which also has a video with Jennifer Francis, mentioned during our session.

Revision


I want to revise/modify something I said during the session. I referred to the fact that we have yearly data over the last several hundred thousands of years. Most of the data that we use that goes back over long periods of time averages many decades or centuries, or is look at at 1,000 year intervals. Even if we had annual data for every year, we’d probably average it out over centuries of time anyway. What I was referring to, however, is the fact that for many time blocks over this period we have segments of data that can be looked at on a year by year basis, or often, on a quasi seasonal basis with a nearly year-long signal and a smaller winter or spring signal (depending on the data source). This includes lake varves and tree rings as well as other data sources.

I have other questions about global warming!?!!?

If you have other questions, just put them in the comments below.

Climate Change Denialism

There are two very important posts out there that I’d like to make you aware of related to climate change denialism. Here’s the teasers, please click through and read them. If you like them, tweet them!

First, from The Scientist, an opinion piece by Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines:

Life as a Target: Attacks on my work aimed at undermining climate change science have turned me into a public figure. I have come to embrace that role.

As a climate scientist, I have seen my integrity perniciously attacked. Politicians have demanded I be fired from my job because of my work demonstrating the reality and threat of human-caused climate change. I’ve been subjected to congressional investigations by congressman in the pay of the fossil fuel industry and was the target of what The Washington Post referred to as a “witch hunt” by Virginia’s reactionary Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. I have even received a number of anonymous death threats. My plight is dramatic, but unfortunately, it is not unique; climate scientists are regularly the subject of such attacks. This cynicism is part of a destructive public-relations campaign being waged by fossil fuel companies, front groups, and individuals aligned with them in an effort to discredit the science linking the burning of fossil fuels with potentially dangerous climate change…..

CLICK HERE to read the entire post.

The next item is related to a recent screw up by a commenter at Christian Science Monitor who accidentally took science denier Anthony Watt’s interview at Oilprice.com seriously (we discussed this here). This is a new interview at Oilprice.com with my friend and colleague Professor John Abraham:

Real Pragmatism for Real Climate Change: Interview with Dr. John Abraham

At a time when extreme weather incidents are causing billions in damages, businesses, governments and the public need the right information to make the right decisions. The bad news is that nature of superstorms like Hurricane Sandy has a human fingerprint. The good news is that if man is harming the climate, man can also do something about it….

CLICK HERE to read the entire interview. Anthony Watts has responded on his blog but if I put a link to it he will discover that I’ve written about him and instruct his winged monkeys to fill my comment section with hate.