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"Cosmic Blog?" What?

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 15, 2009 21:19 in General , IYA

So, I've decided to keep up the "International Year of Astronomy" spirit and append a modified version of the IYA Cosmic Diary logo. Now, I don't quite meet the specifications for this:

The Cosmic Diary is not about the science of astronomy, but about what it is like to be an astronomer. Professionals will blog in text and images about their life, families, friends, hobbies and interests, as well as their work, latest research findings and the challenges they face. The bloggers represent a vibrant cross-section of working astronomers from around the world. They will write in many different languages and come from five continents. They will be asked to explain one particular aspect of their work to the public in more popular language. These "explanations" will be highlighted on the web and used as the basis for a book and documentary to be released during IYA2009 as the legacy of this project. [Source]

Yeah, I'm not even remotely official in this capacity. But, I did want some semi-official logo to stick on astronomy posts, and, helpfully, the IYA provided a source Adobe Illustrator file. Thus, I've appended the "Cosmic Blog" logo (with what I feel are better colors to boot) to the end of my astronomy posts, and will put them on all astronomy posts put up through 2009. Already, this blog is doing better than I'd hoped for in terms of updates — nothing like the Quantum Singularity blog (with all of 17 posts), and I'm keeping things a bit more informative. Not shabby!

In an amusing aside, the real Cosmic Diary site implemented an RSS fetching algorithm that's apparently less robust than my own — it took longer to load and threw an error instead of a graceful faliure.

Finally, is there any display problems with the Twitter feed on the right? It doesn't display right in Opera 10 (on my machine, anyway), but looks like it works on IE 8, Chrome 2, and FF 3. Safari, of course, being the poor Windows port it is, just spun its little pinwheel that covers up the "stop loading" button. Whoops.

Evolution and Language

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 04, 2009 02:37 in General , evolution , biology

I still have my science posts planned, but I want to spend a moment to comment on biology terminology in the public sphere. I thus give you this declaration:

The use of "descended from" is a subtle, but constant linguistic method of undermining evolutoin and unecessarily seperating species.

What? That sounds high, mighty, obscure and arrogant. However, I think it's true. What of the supposedly innocuous statement: "Humans descended from apes". This has the implicit statement: "Humans are not apes". This enables people to say "We're not monkeys!" Or, "We have ape-like ancestors". This is like saying, "We have primate-like ancestors". Its just as ludricous. We do have primate-like ancestors, and ape-like ancestors, but those are outside of the appropriate splits. For something to be ape-like, it must be more basal than the last common ancestor between apes and its most closely related living organism. Using the terminology any other way is disingenuous and misleading. Thus, a predecessor to the first primate (depends on how you define things) might be primate-like; but using "ape-like" for a human ancestor is just as deceptive as saying an aye-aye is primate-like while inside of primates.

No, ape-like would have to be non-hominoid Catarrhinid, of which the living form most closely fitting that description would be a gibbon.

So, perhaps that was a bit abstract and focused on hominds. But, consider birds. Saying "birds descended from dinosaurs" is also deceptive. Birds are dinosaurs. We've found non-avian dinosaurs with feathers, long before flight showed up. Sheep and cow are both artiodactyls, saying they "decended from" artiodactyls clearly implies that they are no longer a member of that group. Similar things to this lead to the sloppy use of the word "amphibian".

Amphibian is used in three ways: meaning living amphibiously, in both water and land; meaning being a member of lissamphibia, and this blurry realm of amphibious tetrapods that had not yet broken into the great amniote/lissamphibian split. They are more accurately called "basal tetrapods", or "early amphibious tetrapods" -- but saying "amphibians" is poor word choice.

What this rant serves the purpose of doing is simply to say — watch your language. Watch your terminology. All of us, simply by watching our language, can have an impact and help spread awareness.

Thus end your 2am lecture! Tomorrow: Kepler and my involvment with it.

Goal and Astronomy

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 02, 2009 15:43 in General , astronomy , IYA

So, I will announce a goal for this month: I intend to post an average of 3 times per week on this blog. There. Maybe posting this will keep me to it.

Sadly, I missed the timetable to post something interesting about Comet Lulin, which is incredibly low magnitude by now, and would be a shade tricky to spot even with a telescope (at least a 12" would really be needed at this point). However, if you're out stargazing this month, things are fairly boring quiet. You will be able to see Venus set around 8:30 PM (getting earlier as the month progresses), and Saturn transit (move across the meridian) around midnight. These are pre-DST time, so after March 8th they will advance an hour (IE, transit at 1 AM).

On the docket: Mus musculus, and perhaps a bit about evolution.

IYA Entry

Finally fixed (really!)

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 19, 2009 23:35 in General

Apparently, the time offset was the problem. I want to find a fix for it, but for now ... all the posted blog times are off by three hours. Alas.

Permalinks

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 19, 2009 14:41 in General , computers

Still playing around with permalinks. This time, I've turned to the lifetype forums and am seeing if that will work. I wonder if this will allow a click-through ....

January Update

Posted by tigerhawkvok on February 03, 2009 14:35 in General

Just a quick post for today. I've managed to go another month without updating -- what's happened? Unfortunately, not much, and much of it has been rather bad. This includes:

  • Lost a job
  • My big tutoring job was actually a scam attempt
  • NVidia went belly-up again, nuking my OS install
  • Various money issues

On the plus side of this rather dreary report, it looks like my finances may be slowly returning to the 'green'. Or black, as the case may be. Its slow going, though, and I'm still very behind on cards ... but there's reason to believe things are going to be looking up.

Additionally, my paper on biomechanics (LaTeX version) has been submitted to JVP (JVP submission), or the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Sara is going to be coming up for five days -- it'll be nice to hang out with her and see her again. I've rediscovered Starcraft, which I play with Kit and Rachael about five nights a week. I'll also be giving a talk to the Tri-Valley Astronomical Society on 2/20/09, and teaching some second graders on Darwin Day.

Things definitely have not been as good as they could be, but like I said -- things are looking up.

A quick aside ...

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 02, 2009 02:19 in General , religion

Does anyone else realize the incredible, mind-blowing stupid living in the statement:

Russel's teapot "is a flawed analogy since nobody actually believes such nonsense"? [source]

Yes, no one believes "in such nonsense". That's the point. Saying that, you're dismissing it for the reason its used. "Why are you using that ice to cool off your drinks? Ice is cold."

Really, people hurt my brain.

Happy New Year, and Welcome to IYA!

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 02, 2009 00:06 in General , astronomy , IYA

Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to the International Year of Astronomy! It has been 400 years since Galileo turned a telescope to the sky, and first looked into the heavens. In addition to what posting I do (I'll try to keep it up at a higher rate), I'll try to post more about astronomy-related topics. See the link in my sidebar about this. Let's whet some appetites:

APOD 20090102
IYA Entry

Polar Bear Queries

Posted by tigerhawkvok on December 26, 2008 23:26 in General , biology

So, I've been thinking a lot about polar bears.

It seems to me that the reduction in artic ice admits a few hypothesis:

  1. Less ice should result in worse hunting opportunities; as a corollary, this should result in longer periods between hunts / reduced success. This is born out by average polar bear mass decreasing in the past 50 years.
  2. Less ice at the poles should result in the bears moving to glaciated landmasses, where land is more reliable. This should predict increased measured population counted in North America, most notably AK
  3. Increased technology, including but not limited to radio tagging and sattelite imagery, should increase percentage of population counted during census
  4. As a result of items 1-3, there should be a dramatic increase in population count of polar bears

As a result, I'm not sure how reliable the idea that "polar bear population has increased" actually is. I would expect that. What I'm much more interested in is the actual population fluctuation. I think that taking a census on a similar species and comparing it to old data might be informative. For example, if a census of, say, Arctic Foxes were taken, and they were found to increase by a factor of eight over 1950s census, we might expect a similar jump in population among polar bears, which was not found, thus leading one to expect a practical decline despite observational increases.

While foxes are a bad example, I think it gets the idea across. The problem is finding a comparable model to compare polar bears to; something else that would have been forced southerly that is carnivorous. An alternate confirmation method would be to make population adjustments to match predator:prey biomass ratios for the observed alternate species (say, foxes:rabbits in this case), and scale it to polar bears.

I'm really interested in the result of this. My bet is on polar bear count falling rather seroiusly. As a K-selected top carnivor, nothing else makes sense.

Does anyone who reads this know how biology population census for species account for updated trackign methods?

Enter Windows 7

Posted by tigerhawkvok on November 06, 2008 01:53 in General , computers

A simple screenshot for now:

Taken on Liz this evening.

Elaboration on last post

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 16, 2008 15:03 in General , politics

Well, since my blog is being weird with comments, here's a comment John sent me:

I was gonna leave a comment, but your blog won't let me... ;(
Anywho, I was mildly surprised not by your opinion of Gov. Palin, but by your how strong it was. I haven't had the chance to read the links at your blog, but I have a general understanding of the Governor's view on science (your main source of opposition, I presume). Although she doesn't share all the views you and I do on climate change, creationism, and the like, I'm not convinced that somehow she could be worse than an Obama adminsitration - especially one backed up by a Pelosi House and a fillibuster-proof Harry Reid Senate.
Creationism makez ZERO sense. "Climate change" will potentially kill all of us (I'm a skeptic,remember) [Well, humans as animals would be fine. But the whole farming thing, and if something happened to a critical food web element .... wolves in Yellowstone decreased erosion, remember!]. Embryonic stem-cell research will cure all problems. I get all of those, and I get that Palin doesn't support any/all of those as much as you like. But compared to a nuclear Iran, a loss in Iraq, tax incerases, runaway spending, and a lack of development of nuclear power, how is voting for McCain/Palin worse than Obama/Biden - espeically since Palin's at the bottom of the ticket?
Or has Berkeley finally corrupted you? ;)

I think this merits a blog response ... one that will hopefully allow comments this time!
Basically, John brings up some good points. On paper, McCain is better for tax reasons & spending, and indisputably better for nuclear power. Every metric says that he has had a longer and wider breadth of foreign policy experience. However, there are reasons to be skeptical, and reasons to be cautious with the vote.

His tax policies and Obama's are comparable for the tax bracket we are in (at least the one I am in), and both of their (proposed) policies have numerous increases in government and spending measures in a period of recession. While I strongly doubt either will balance or surplus the budget, admittedly the money must come from somewhere. This would be a moot point if I thought there was a snowball's chance in hell of McCain's proposed spending freeze went through, but I doubt it will actually happen. So what we actually have are two different large spending policies from two different candidates, and one has a realistic way to pay for it and one doesn't. Trust me, I've been burned by taxes, but I think for the overall economy it might be burned by it. Sadly, the fiscally conservative Republican simply does not exist in politics anymore. So that is why I ignore his tax and spending credentials. Also got to admit, it irritated me he didn't research the "projector" he was talking about.Planetaria star projectors are exceedingly expensive pieces of equipment.

I think that both candidates' wish to be completely independant of foreign oil within ten years is a very smart foreign policy decision, which may retard the growth of nuclear powers in the region (I do think Obama's essentially only non-nuclear renewables is shortsighted, and both endorsements of clean coal is somewhat foolish. And I wish one of them would bring up breeder reactors ...). In a way, I wish both had a stronger stance on ME nuclear developments -- something like a kick in the pants. Perhaps complete trade embargo until they remove all their centrifuges through the UN or something, and encourage our allies to do the same. I am, however, concerned about the overextension of our military from McCain (leading to a loss in Iraq) and an over-reliance on diplomacy to the exclusion of stronger effects like economic sanctions and possible military action from Obama. I think in the long run, however, a few years of over-reliance on diplomacy may garner enough international favor that more strict economic sanctions can be placed from larger arrays of nations as a nuclear development deterrent. So this is a bit of long-term strict-policy thinking on my part that doesn't put me strongly in favor of either candidate.

Obama's biggest turn-off for me is his criminally shortsighted weak endorsement of nuclear power. I would love to see 45 new reactors commissioned. Its a fools hope to think that congress with push it through without presidential backing. However, Obama has an overall better science policy. Furthermore, McCain last night implied that he suscribed to the debunked link between vaccines and autism. But, Palin one (lack of a) heartbeat from the Oval Office, and given a spot of incumbency in the 2012/2016 election is unacceptable.

Remember, as the LA Times published, Palin believes humans and dinosaurs coexisted. That level of incompetence should be relegated to a waitress or sales, not to any level of government.

Palin told him that “dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time,” Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said “she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks,” recalled Munger. [See: Paluxy trackway]

Election 2008 - Vote AGAINST Sarah Palin

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 12, 2008 01:18 in General , politics

Newsweek has a superb article on Sarah Palin, which I think everyone should read. She is grossly incompetant, and as I have alluded to in other places, my vote this November will not be for or against any other candidate; my vote will only be against Sarah Palin.

I strongly encourage everyone who reads this blog to take a look at Sciencedebate 2008 and Nature's science interview (John McCain declined; his previous stances are listed, however).

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

Argh, its not letting the comments page be viewed on this one, either ... what the hell

Fixed!

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 09, 2008 02:23 in General

Quick post for testing new permalinks. I've also fixed the weird blog redirection issue, so the URL should properly be blog.revealedsingularity.net now.

Breaking of the Nets

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 09, 2008 01:57 in General

OK, I'm playing around with the permalinks .... some stuff may be broken for a while ...

Edit: Seems to be fixed, except for this post ... follow up posts seem to work, so I have no idea what's going on with this oddball.

Evolution is NOT chance

Posted by tigerhawkvok on October 08, 2008 11:02 in General , evolution

I think that all those chance-trumpteting, crowing creationsists (aka "fundamentals" and "anti-scienctals") that can't get it through their head that evolution is not chance need to read just two sentences from On the Origin of Species:

I have hitherto sometimes spoken as if the variations — so common and multiform in organic beings under domestication, and in a lesser degree in those in a state of nature — had been due to chance. This, of course, is a wholly incorrect expression [...]*

 

Evolution is not due to chance, folks. It has discrete forces acting on it. The variations arise in certain individuals through chance, but it is not chance that shapes evolution. There is a difference.

*Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species (A Facsimile of the First Edition). President and Fellows of Harvard College. 1964. ISBN 0-674-63752-6.  pp131.

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