Category Archives: science

Alternative Math, and Satire Failing

And the ridiculous thing is, the comment section on YouTube is full of clueless regressives and transphobes thinking the blatant stand-ins for the Bush and Trump administrations (the actual phrase “alternative facts” originates with Kellyanne Conway), creationists, and Fox News are supposed to represent “liberals”.

Funny Scientific Names, Part 3

Parts 1 and 2 here, and yes it has been three years.

Crikey steveirwini – a snail

Buffalopterus (means “Buffalo wing”) – a eurypterid, AKA “sea scorpion”

Godiva – a nudibranch

Han solo – a trilobite (officially named after the Han Chinese and for being the last surviving species of its family, but that’s not fooling anyone)

Eoperipatus totoro – a velvet worm

Klobiodon rochei – a pterosaur, named after Nick Roche, a Transformers comic book artist who redesigned the Dinobots to be more scientifically accurate

Fubaricthys – a fossil fish

Scrotum humanum – the name initially given to the first (non-avian) dinosaur to be properly named; fortunately, it was obscure then, and became famous under the name Megalosaurus before anyone realized they were the same (can you imagine there being a sculpture of Scrotum in Victorian London?!)

Gelae baen, Gelae belae, Gelae donut, Gelae fish, and Gelae rol – fungus beetles

Dermophis donaldtrumpi – a blind amphibian that buries its head in the sand

How the world got better in 2018

Despite the efforts of many in power recently, longer-term positive trends have continued.

Nicholas C. Rossis

2018 is almost officially over, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s one for the history books. For too many, things went horribly wrong. Or so the general consensus seems to be.

And yet, there are plenty of silver linings as well. All you need to do is shift your focus and things suddenly become much brighter.

So, with let’s have a look at everything that went right for a change, courtesy of Quartz.

1. The share of global energy reached new records

Yes, carbon emissions are set to rise this year over last. We need a steep decline in greenhouse-gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change, so the fact that we’ve yet to even flatline is more than troubling. On the other hand, there has been some good news. According to the International Energy Agency, the world got nearly 25% of its electricity from renewables in 2017

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Slime Mold Scholar is Surprisingly Intelligent

On February 7, Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, was sent a letter written on the behalf of slimy creatures that have, since May, enjoyed a collective faculty appointment at Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts. The slime mold’s recommendation for Sessions was that “cannabis and its chemical derivatives should be legalized by the United States government.”

Sessions was not the only Cabinet official to receive a letter from the mold (which is technically more like an amoeba, but we’ll get to that). The slime mold also encouraged Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to adopt an open-border policy, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to ban offshore drilling, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to take a second look at food deserts.

The mold is Hampshire College’s first “nonhuman resident scholar,” complete with its own office and faculty webpage. (This very much fits in with the culture of Hampshire College, an institution that is so liberal arts it doesn’t have “majors” and that recently hosted an event exploring “the effects of mass incarceration through dance.”)

With the aid of human research assistants, the slime mold is using the problem-solving skills it acquired over a billion years of evolution to tackle policy problems. The project sits at the intersection of science, philosophy, and art. And it encourages us to consider natural forms of intelligence that exist outside the human mind.

For having no brain or neurons, slime molds — a.k.a. Physarum polycephalum are incredibly intelligent, capable of solving complex problems with extreme efficiency. An additional plus: They’re naturally nonpartisan.

“Slime molds are not Republicans and they are not Democrats; they’re neutral; they’re other,” says Jonathon Keats, the experimental philosopher who convinced Hampshire to promote the mold to the ranks of its faculty and who penned the letters interpreting their work. “By way of observing what they do, [it] could be a way of getting out of our assumptions, out of our gridlock,” he says.

It would be a valuable perspective to have in the White House, given that the position of White House science adviser has remained vacant for the entirety of the administration. In fact, there are a lot of open positions in the Trump administration. This slime mold is free.

Read more: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/3/6/17072380/slime-mold-intelligence-hampshire-college

Now I’ve got another reason to avoid using “slimy” as an insult. The other one, of course, is Gootrude here.

Why do things have to keep getting worse?

I already knew climate change was on track to be the worst calamity in human history, but now I think it may be the worst since the Great Dying.

I don’t have very much to add, except that part of the problem is this:

And it’s not even close to the only reason so many people feel like this: