Dr. Tyson gets into a smackdown with rapper B.o.B, who thinks the earth is flat. Very amusing.
The president soared last night, a fact that was all the more clear as Republicans, trapped in their refusal to give him credit or respect for anything ever, sat on their hands. He outclassed his detractors by so far it was embarrassing, and showed he was the grownup in the room. Here are excerpts.
"Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together?"
"Some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber."
"Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did."
"Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon."
This was first published on May 12, 2013. Commander Hadfield wrote:
A revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station.
He now appends, "Rest in peace, Starman." He says more here.
This is a good time of year to remember how small and isolated our planet is, and how close we are to one another.
Key And Peele spoof America's favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Jindal writes letter to Obama telling him not to talk about climate during Katrina anniversary visit http://t.co/d8tQ0IzJjo— Climate Progress (@climateprogress) August 27, 2015
A friend writes on Facebook:
I would make sure I said "climate change" and pointed out how Republicans are doing absolute zilch to deal with it as many times as I could to spite the ignorant dumbshit.
My Blade column this week looks at the Iran nuclear agreement. Here is an excerpt:
Read the whole piece here.
High in the night sky over Washington, the bright stars Deneb and Vega mark a star field at the center of a probe unrelated to Benghazi or Hillary's emails or whether Iran will get the Bomb.
NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has discovered Kepler-452b, an earth-like planet 1400 light years away. At 6 billion years old, it is 1.5 billion years older than Earth. This raises the question whether any intelligent life there has avoided destroying itself. How might earthlings evolve over a similar time period?
It will be sad but unsurprising if it turns out that Kepler-452b has produced several intelligent life forms in succession, each destroying itself after developing genocidal weapons. Back here, of course, humanity's own ongoing quest of self-annihilation nearly succeeded in the last century. Our latest opportunity is the resolute effort by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and American cohorts to foment war with Iran. They are attacking a multilateral accord, reached on July 14 after a two-year effort, designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
The furthest object ever visited by humanity.
APOD Videos reports
A new video animation of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, provides dramatic flyover views of this heavily cratered, mysterious world. The images come from Dawn's first mapping orbit at Ceres, at an altitude of 8,400 mile (13,600 kilometers), as well as navigational images taken from 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) away. The images provided information for a three-dimensional terrain model. The vertical dimension has been exaggerated by a factor of two, and a star field has been added in the background.
A fascinating account of how UC Berkeley grad student David Broockman exposed the scientific fraud of UCLA grad student Michael LaCour, whose paper on the influence of canvassing on people's opinions on same-sex marriage was retracted last week by Science at the request of its co-author, Columbia professor Donald Green.
Among the appalling details: LaCour said his survey involved 10,000 people being paid $100 each, which comes to a million dollars--far more than a non-wealthy grad student could afford. And not only did the polling firm LaCour cited say it had not worked with him--the employee he cited at the firm did not even exist.
Of course the scandal is troubling, and raises concerns about the lack of resources given by universities for peer review. But this story is also encouraging because the fraud came to light thanks to the industriousness and persistence of Broockman, who became suspicious while trying to replicate LaCour's results. Those on the right inclined to crow over this scandal should pause first to consider their own sourcing. Much of the alleged dated cited by the anti-gay right can be traced to notorious junk scientist Paul Cameron's Family Research Institute. The far right's contempt for peer-reviewed science is in stark contrast with the integrity of Broockman and the quick mea culpa and retraction by Green once the evidence for the fraud was brought to his attention.
Time and again, anti-gay bigots treat science as weaker and less reliable than their religious dogma because scientific findings are subject to correction and refutation, in contrast to the dogmatists' certainty. I have never understood how this is persuasive to anyone. Perfect knowledge is not something that humans can possess. We are always questioning and pressing forward and jostling one another and testing our hypotheses. The human struggle of science is responsible for the modern world. If you'd prefer the Dark Ages, don't expect the rest of us to follow you there.
Broockman has been flooded with praise from his colleagues, and deservedly so. Data and research are valuable, but they must be honest and solid. He does his profession proud.
Fred Barbash at WaPo reports:
A highly publicized and influential scholarly study about people’s views on same sex marriage has been disavowed by one of its co-authors, citing “irregularities” in the data provided by his partner in the research. He is seeking a retraction of the study, published in the journal Science.
(Hat tip: Craig Howell)
The Hubble Space Telescope team writes:
This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble's 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Note that the visualization is intended to be a scientifically reasonable interpretation and that distances within the model are significantly compressed.
Associated Press explains: "Dramatic footage emerged online on Wednesday of beautiful lights in the sky filmed during a severe solar storm which hit Earth on Tuesday."
My column this week looks at clashes over gender politics that are testing the civil rights community. Here is an excerpt:
For years, some radical feminists have vociferously opposed transgender people. An example is Janice Raymond, a lesbian ex-nun who wrote in her 1979 book, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, that trans women, whom she regarded as male predators, were the "avant garde of the patriarchy invading women's spaces." As a liberal feminist and a supporter of trans equality, I very much disagree with Dr. Raymond. Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, explains, "[G]ender identity (the sex of one's brain) drives trans persons to transition, regardless of genital anatomy."
For the LGBT advocates with whom I work in Washington, D.C., that ship has sailed. We do not sit around discussing gender theory. We take it as a given that trans people are citizens entitled to equal protection. We work in coalition to ensure that the "T" is included in legislation, data gathering, and public services (and D.C. is among the top states in the Human Rights Campaign's State Equality Index). Science is on our side: the American Psychiatric Association declassified transgender identity as a disorder in 2012, as it did homosexuality in 1973.
For some, this is not enough. There is a movement to "no-platform" trans-excluding radical feminists (TERFs), that is to bar them from campuses and deny them a platform for their views. This is part of a broader and distinctly illiberal trend whereby universities are seen not as centers for the robust exchange of ideas, but as frightening places full of triggers and micro aggressions....
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports excellent news:
A New Jersey Superior Court judge has ruled misrepresenting homosexuality as a disorder in marketing conversion therapy services violates the state’s consumer protection laws – a devastating ruling for the conversion therapy industry, which claims to “convert” people from gay to straight, the Southern Poverty Law Center announced today.
GLAA's 2015 policy brief discusses DC's bill prohibiting conversion therapy for minors, which is currently undergoing congressional review. We are part of a nationwide movement to protect youth from this fraudulent and harmful practice.
Right Wing Watch reports on the latest recklessness from Glenn Beck.
Justin Fox of Bloomberg explains that Refusing to vaccinate isn't just a personal choice.
Olivia Nuzzi at The Daily Beast reports on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's history of being "pro choice" on whether parents should vaccinate their children. This means he is fine with people endangering the health of other people's children by embracing junk science. Because everyone is entitled to their own truth. Or something. Could there be a virus that only kills stupid people? That's just an idle thought.
Above, Shepard Smith of Fox News calls anti-vaxxers science deniers and tells them to get their kids vaccinated and stop endangering public health. Below, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) shocks everyone by saying something crazy.
A beautiful ad from MTN, a mobile telecommunications firm based in South Africa.
Konnichiwa, incidentally, is Japanese for "Good afternoon."
@daveachuk writes about this video exploring the Hubble Space Telescope's super-high-res image of the Andromeda Galaxy:
First & Last photo by Cory Poole: https://www.facebook.com/CoryPoolePho...
Super-high resolution image of Andromeda from Hubble (NASA/ESA): http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/...
Music is 'Koda - The Last Stand': https://soundcloud.com/kodachrome/kod...
My column looking at the year ahead appears in this week's Blade, revised a bit. Here's an excerpt:
2015 promises continued fights against right-wing aggressions that include vagina policing and other gender-based discrimination; attacks on church-state separation; xenophobia; quackery disguised as science; biased profiling and excessive force by police; and criminalization of healthcare issues.
None of these will be resolved by the likely nationwide victory for marriage equality in the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, in the words of Ella Baker, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." Here are some thoughts for the work ahead.
Curb the language cops. We will win the marriage fight even if some use the misleading phrase "gay marriage." If people who are not belligerent use the wrong pronouns or otherwise display their ignorance, be like my amazingly patient transgender friends and politely clue them in. Creating change requires the politics of addition; we must always seek new ways to connect with people.
Here is one of the spectacular new images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Pillars of Creation are part of the Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens, and are an area of star formation.
(Hat tip: Aram Vartian)
From the International Space Station.
White House photographer Pete Souza writes on Instagram:
Still editing 2014 Year in Photos. I may include this one even though it's a posed photo. This is from the annual White House Science Fair. The kids from Girl Scout Troop 2612 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, convinced the President to wear a tiara with them for their group photo. The girls had exhibited a Lego flood proof bridge project.
Conservatives, of course, won't be able to resist jumping on this image to prove that the President is acting like a king. I suppose it will also be seized upon by conspiracy theorists like former comedian Dick Gregory who say (and I am not making this up) that the President is secretly homosexual. Mister Cool doesn't worry about that stuff. He just brushes it off and goes about his business.
National Geographic explains:
Using footage from NASA's Johnson Space Center, filmmaker Fede Castro creates a captivating time-lapse video of Earth from space. In a little over four minutes, "Nuestra Tierra—Our Earth" takes us around the world, sighting major cities and even catching the breathtaking aurora borealis.
At the darkest time of year, it is good to see how magnificent our planet is despite all our efforts to wreck it. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all on the good Earth.
In a new study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers used the ancestry data compiled by the commercial genetic testing company 23and Me to measure the percentage of African ancestry of people who self-identified as white. It turns out that self-identified white people who live in the South have the highest concentrations of African DNA.
I'm shocked, shocked to find there's been miscegenation going on up in here.