1. "Everything Old is New Again" Remember the torrential rains in California this past winter? The following article appeared in Scientific American back in 2013:
THE INTENSE RAINSTORMS SWEEPING IN FROM the Pacific Ocean began to pound central California on Christmas Eve in 1861 and continued virtually unabated for 43 days. The deluges quickly transformed rivers running down from the Sierra Nevada mountains along the state’s eastern border into raging torrents that swept away entire communities and mining settlements. The rivers and rains poured into the state’s vast Central Valley, turning it into an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Thousands of people died, and one quarter of the state’s estimated 800,000 cattle drowned. Downtown Sacramento was submerged under 10 feet of brown water filled with debris from countless mudslides on the region’s steep slopes. California’s legislature, unable to function, moved to San Francisco until Sacramento dried out—six months later. By then, the state was bankrupt.It gives the usual nod to "but this time the rains will be worse because global warming blah-blah-blah," but it's hard to overlook the pre-emptive catatastrophes that look so much like those of today.
However, when the "rivers in the sky" were reported during the California deluge this winter, none of this background was reported. This was not likely because they wished to conceal the context, but because the needed more air-time for commercials. These days, you may notice they sometimes don't have enough time to complete a sentence.
2. La Grande Scazzottata Copernica is up. If you read Italian, enjoy it.
4. One Reason Might Be Because It Isn't There
Dark matter is a fascinating, frustrating scientific mystery. Astronomers claim that much of it forms halos surrounding galaxies, yet “no one has ever seen this material or been able to study it”. Hence, anticipation accompanied delivery of the “Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - 02” to the International Space Station in May 2011. Although a goal was to discover this elusive stuff, nothing conclusive has been found. Dark matter supposedly explains gravitational effects, which suggests the merit of analyzing colliding galaxies because gravitational dragging should distort those halos. However, such behavior was not detected; what happened was consistent without the supposed presence of dark matter. A recently-concluded, highly-sensitive and anticipated “Large Underground Xenon” experiment failed to detect a single trace of dark matter. With these and other consistently negative findings, why should we believe this material exists?Dark matter is a deduction from a mathematical model, not an actual obervation. Rather like deducing the presence of as grizzly bear from the footprints of a rabbit supposedly frightened by it.
5. The Earth's Magnetic Field is a Floppy Kind of Thing
6. It's Not Cold Fusion... But It's Something
Says Scientific American
7. Robert Boyle's To-Do List
Back in the 1600s, Robert Boyle put together a list of the biggest problems facing science. The most remarkable things about the list is how few of the problems are actually scientific. Most are technological and practical inventions. They sound like a list of sci-fi stories from the Golden Age
8. Taking the Quality Out of Equality
I hope you brought enough for everyone.
Remember when if you couldn't share withe everyone, you couldn't share with anyone? That's right, the equality police are at it again, making sure misery and inconvenience are equally shared. U. Cal. Berkeley had made a library of 20,000 video lectures available for free to the public. Alas, two employees of Gallaudet University filed a complaint with DOJ alleging that Berkeley's online content was inaccessible to the hearing-disabled community. After looking into the matter, DOJ determined that Berkeley had indeed violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Berkeley had two choices: spend a fortune adding closed captioning to the videos, or remove them from public view. Cost-conscious administrators chose the latter optionBut then, Gallaudet also tells us curing deaf people is cultural genocide. No foolin'
9. The Map is Not the Territory
Chastek points out that maps can be very useful things, but are not the same thing as the territory itself. I mean, mathematical, measurable properties are very useful things, but they are not the physical objects themselves. But we are so used to equating things with their measurements -- time with what clocks measure; extent with what rods measure -- that we forget there was ever a distinction and we suppose Zeno's Paradoxes were resolved by the infinitesimal calculus. Meanwhile, we have moved on to equating intelligence with what IQ tests measure. See Item 4, above.
Elsewhere, Chastek writes:
[Aristotle] wouldn’t have seen figuring out our distance from the sun as a scientific triumph nor as playing a role in a scientific account of the world. Ditto for a precise mathematical account of the arc of a projectile. The point was to identify a causal chain of some genus, terminating in the universal cause of that genus.10. Eve Keneinan on the Closing of the Islamic Mind
Kinetic energy seems to count as some sort of universal cause of change of place, but kinetic energy is not defined in a way that allows us to answer the question [of causality]. since no one can say if it is just a mathematical convenience, a cause of motion, an effect of being in motion, or a dozen other things.
The whole cause-effect thingie got answered differently in Islan, at least in the Ashari aqida. By good fortune, David Hume, who reached the same conclusions did not scuttle science in the Western world.
11. ISIS fails audit
The ISIS financial model is in serious trouble, Allah be praised.
12. Bigotry on Campus
Feser writes that a bigot is someone who "evaluates the evidence in light of his beliefs rather than evaluating his beliefs in light of the evidence." It is not the content of his beliefs that make him a bigot, but the manner in which he holds them: whether by calm, reasoned argument and open to counter-argument or by screaming emotional fits and resort to violence. Charles Murray writes on the state of bigotry on at least one college campus
13. Old New England
in the Black Sea? Saxon nobles who fled from the Norman conquest apparently set up shop as a Byzantine dependency in the Crimea before the Slavs got established there. Go figure. Does that mean that Old Blighty has a claim on the territory?
14. Alternative Facts
There was much hoo-hoo over the use of this term not too long ago, mostly as a laughing point; but is it not unfamiliar to scientists, lawyers, engineers, and the like. Any viewer of TV medical or detective/courtroom dramas knows that there are often conflicting sets of facts around the same events. Sometimes these are supplementary facts that put previous facts into context or which shed new light on them. Sometimes previous facts are not as facty as they seemed, or they did not mean what they seemed to mean. (The iridium-enriched stratum at the K/T boundary may have been produced by an asteroid strike; but it may have been produced by the long-term eruption of the Deccan Traps. IOW, what does the iridium mean?)
Some discussion of the concept is here:
15. The Dead of Chicago
Donald Trump came in for some mockery after the election for suggesting that he had won even the (irrelevant) popular vote had it not been for "millions of illegals voting." Unlike assertions that "the
16. “What do we want?” “Goo-goos!” “When do want them?” “Now!”
Some observations from a 14th century type north of the border in Her Majesty's Dominion regarding the hysteria of disappointment and again here regarding media accuracy.
17. Political Correctness
An essay on the origin and rise of political correctness on the Old Left and the New.