Posts Tagged ‘the cosmos’
* The cosmic sublime: Here Is Today.
* One of the most important conclusions I’ve drawn from the experience is this: If you are an untenured faculty member, you really shouldn’t attempt a MOOC. The planning process alone is overwhelming. Because I have a grant and because research about writing instruction is part of my accepted research portfolio, I will submit all MOOC-related work as part of my future tenure case. I am very fortunate that Georgia Tech values this kind of inquiry. However, for faculty members in many other disciplines, I doubt that a MOOC would count as anything more than a line item in a teaching portfolio.
Will you be able to publicly express your concerns if something about your MOOC seems pedagogically unsound? If your university doesn’t have the technological capacity to support you, will you have to solve the problems yourself? Who will pay your video-production costs? (Our MOOC has spent $32,000 on production so far.) Will you be able to challenge administrators who want to control your content? Will you be forced to submit to evaluation schemes that would allow your course to carry credit?
Remember that Higgs-like particle that scientists finally managed to pin down last year at the Large Hadron Collider? Well, it’s proving to be a harbinger of bad news. According to Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the mass of the Higgs boson indicates that “the universe we live in is inherently unstable, and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out.”
* SNL wins a game: Djesus Uncrossed.
As early as this April, Yale plans to welcome a training center for interrogators to its campus.
The center’s primary goal would be to coach U.S. Special Forces on interviewing tactics designed to detect lies. Charles Morgan III, a professor of psychiatry who will head the project, calls these tactics “people skills.” These techniques would be honed using New Haven’s immigrant community as subjects.
* Freddie deBoer: I’ve been making the case (again and again and again) that the constantly-expressed notion that we’ll have full employment if people are just smart and go into STEM fields is empirically indefensible. Adam Kotsko: What is education actually for?
“Maddaddam begins where The Year of the Flood finishes and goes on from there,” she says. “It explores what happens when the conventional humans and the new creations find themselves in the same space. You can see that there might be some cultural misunderstandings.”
* Comics explained: the backstory of Rachel Summers. It couldn’t be simpler!
* Could our universe be located within the interior of a wormhole which itself is part of a black hole that lies within a much larger universe? And that universe is on the back of an even larger turtle…
* Obama says kill the penny. He would say that. He hates capitalism.
* Kidding on the square: another National Review blogger calls for the repeal of the 19th Amendment.
Halla Gunnarsdóttir, an adviser to the interior minister, explains the country’s anti-smut rationale to The Guardian:
“We are a progressive, liberal society when it comes to nudity, to sexual relations, so our approach is not anti-sex but anti-violence. This is about children and gender equality, not about limiting free speech…”
This is Iceland, after all. Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir is the first openly lesbian government head in the world. It’s already illegal to print and distribute porn within the country, and since 2010, strip clubs have been prohibited as well…
* Kenyan anti-colonial behavior: On Oct. 5, a British high court ruled that three elderly Kenyans who were tortured and abused by colonial authorities in Kenya in the 1950s can proceed with their case against the British government.
* Longitudinal study of 1,000 Wisconsin high school graduates from the class of 1957 proves that the popular kids really were just better.
* The data show that over the entire 345 years, 22 percent of all authors were female. (Even though few papers in the JSTOR archive originated in the first 100 years, the researchers still felt that examining the entire data set was worthwhile.) The data also show that women were slightly less likely than that to be first author: About 19 percent of first authors in the study were female. Women were more likely to appear as third, fourth, or fifth authors.
According to the data in just the most recent time period, it is clear that the proportion of female authors over all is rising. From 1990 to 2010, the percentage of female authors went up to 27 percent. In 2010 alone, the last year for which full figures are available, the proportion had inched up to 30 percent. “The results show us what a lot of people have been saying and many of my female colleagues have been feeling,” says Ms. Jacquet. “Things are getting better for women in academia.”
Women still are not publishing, though, in the same proportion as they are present in academe as professors. The same year that the share of female authors in the study reached 30 percent, women made up 42 percent of all full-time professors in academe and about 34 percent of all those at the most senior levels of associate and full professor, according to the American Association of University Professors.
* Why your uncles believe crazy things: this guy.
Mainstream election experts say that Spakovsky has had an improbably large impact. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, and the author of a recent book, “The Voting Wars,” says, “Before 2000, there were some rumblings about Democratic voter fraud, but it really wasn’t part of the main discourse. But thanks to von Spakovsky and the flame-fanning of a few others, the myth that Democratic voter fraud is common, and that it helps Democrats win elections, has become part of the Republican orthodoxy.” In December, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, “Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.” Hasen believes that Democrats, for their part, have made exaggerated claims about the number of voters who may be disenfranchised by Republican election-security measures. But he regards the conservative alarmists as more successful. “Their job is really done,” Hasen says. “It’s common now to assert that there is a need for voter I.D.s, even without any evidence.”
* This year is the first year the presidential debates have ignored climate change since 1984. That’s right, friends, we’re doomed!
* And scientists are on the hunt for the Forest Moon of Endor. God, I hope they find it.
* Laurie Penny: Rapists are evil people. They’re not nice blokes who everybody respects who simply happen to think it’s ok to stick your dick in a teenager who’s sleeping in the same bed as you, without a condom. This guy seemed, if anything, confused as to why I was scrabbling for my things and bolting out the door. He even sent me an email a few days later, chiding me for being rude.
* A new scientific theory suggests that Big Bang was actually a phase shift: a Big Freeze.
* Terrors of a True Believer: MOOCs and the Precarity Problem.
* Despite our gut-level hunch about the direction of the language; despite the fact that 70-cent, three-minute, off-peak, coast-to-coast long-distance calls that cost four inflation-adjusted dollars in 1970 are now free; despite cheap travel, YouTube, and the globalization of film and television, American dialects are actually diverging.
There are multiple examples of such divergence. But none is as dramatic, as baffling to linguists, and as mysteriously under the collective radar as what’s happening in the cities that ring the Great Lakes. From Syracuse, N.Y., in the east to Milwaukee in the west, 34 million Americans are revolutionizing the sound of English.
* “I know that we have members of the media here right now, so I’m not going to go through that in great detail.” Not to make a whole thing out of it, but it’s amazing he’s able to get away with this.
* And David Cross teases even more Arrested Development than you’d dared to hope.
* I may have done this one before, but what the hell: the RAW rejection letter.
* The NCAA drops the hammer on Penn State.
The tune, thick with horns and vocal harmonies, elides into “My City of Ruins,” one of the elegiac, gospel-tinged songs on the 9/11 album, “The Rising.” The voices sing “Rise up! Rise up!” and there comes a string of horn solos: trombone, trumpet, sax. Then back to the voices. Springsteen quickly introduces the E Street horns and the singing collective. Then he says, “Roll call!” And, with the music rising bit by churchly bit, he introduces the core of the band: “Professor Roy Bittan is in the house. . . . Charlie Giordano is in the house. . . .”
When he finishes the roll call, there is a long ellipsis. The band keeps vamping.
“Are we missing anybody?”
Two spotlights are now trained on the organ, where Federici once sat, and at the mike where Clemons once stood.
“Are we missing anybody?”
Then again: “Are we missing anybody? . . . That’s right. That’s right. We’re missing some. But the only thing I can guarantee tonight is that if you’re here and we’re here, then they’re here!” He repeats this over and over, the volume of the piano and the bass rising, the drums hastening, the voices rising, until finally the song overwhelms him, and, if Springsteen has calculated correctly, there will not be an unmoved soul in the house.
* Dibs on the novelization: Zhang and Li write that the the Milky Way will be torn apart 32.9 million years before the big rip. The Earth will be ripped away from the Sun two months before the end, and we’ll lose our moon with five days left. The Sun itself will be destroyed 28 minutes before the end of time, and the Earth will explode a mere 12 minutes later.
* Radiolab says the Greeks didn’t know about blue.
But because the planet is also in a much closer orbit to its star than Earth is to the Sun (Just over a million miles away compared to Earth’s 93 million miles, with a year of just 38 hours), its surface temperature is way hotter: an average 446 degrees fahrenheit, according to estimates from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center.
That means that the water on the surface of GJ 1214b is doing weird things besides turning into steam.
“The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like ‘hot ice’ or ‘superfluid water’, substances that are completely alien to our everyday experience,” Berta explained.
‘The Trouble Is, Any Revelatory Messages Are Embedded in More than 900 Pages of Impulsive Theorizing, Much of Which Is Self-Referential’
The New York Times reviews Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis. I worked on this book as a researcher, so my feelings about it, unsurprisingly, are much more positive than the reviewer’s—but I think this may also have something to do with my position as an academic as well as a fan. The book is emphatically not some new, undiscovered PKD novel; it’s something very different, and as Platt warns, that something may just not be for everyone. But for the people that it’s for the Exegesis is a treasure.
Morris County has experienced a sharp increase in motor vehicle burglaries throughout 2011, according to Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi, who said the increase can be attributed to independent trends that have emerged in small geographic areas in the county at different times and committed by different individuals.
* MetaFilter has your Neil deGrasse Tyson Overdrive.
* Get me Val Kilmer: Christian Bale says he’s done playing Batman.
“I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn’t it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It’s peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.”
* Also on the Occupy beat: “Pre-Occupied: The Origins and Future of Occupy Wall Street.” And also at the New Yorker: Was anti-Keystone activism the real political movement of 2011?
* Mary Roach: 10 Things You Didn’t Know about Orgasm.
* Robotic prison wardens to patrol South Korean prison. But the prototype looks so friendly!
* Naomi Klein: Capitalism vs. the climate.
* And ladies and gentlemen, for the last time anywhere: the Western Black Rhino.
Our place in the universe: well, it is here. That’s the place we have and nothing else. Everything else is unfriendly. We cannot flee from our planet, I mean, go to any other planet in the solar system. It’s just not inviting. And the next planet from there, the next star out there, is only four and a half light years away—but with the fastest speed we can ever reach, so far, it would take 110,000 years, just to go there. Hundreds and hundreds of generations. They wouldn’t even know where they were going. There would be incest, and madness, and murder, and whatever, en route. So it’s not pleasant to move. … We cannot dissolve into particles of light, like in Star Trek, and beam ourselves somewhere. This is our place. This is our place, and we’d better take care of it.
—Werner Herzog (right here)
The Big Bang model holds that everything that now comprises the universe was once concentrated in a single point of near-infinite density. Before this singularity exploded and the universe began, there was absolutely nothing – indeed, it’s not clear whether one can even use the term “before” in reference to a pre-Big-Bang cosmos, as time itself may not have existed yet. In the current model, the universe began with the Big Bang, underwent cosmic inflation for a fraction of a second, then settled into the much more gradual expansion that is still going on, and likely will end with the universe as an infinitely expanded, featureless cosmos.
Sir Roger Penrose, one of the most renowned physicists of the last fifty years, takes issue with this view. He points out that the universe was apparently born in a very low state of entropy, meaning a very high degree of order initially existed, and this is what made the complex matter we see all around us (and are composed of) possible in the first place. His objection is that the Big Bang model can’t explain why such a low entropy state existed, and he believes he has a solution – that the universe is just one of many in a cyclical chain, with each Big Bang starting up a new universe in place of the one before.
How does this help? Well, Penrose posits the end of each universe will involve a return to low entropy. This is because black holes suck in all the matter, energy, and information they encounter, which works to remove entropy from our universe. (Where that entropy might go is another question entirely.) The universe’s continued expansion into eventual nothingness causes the black holes themselves to evaporate, which ultimately leaves the universe in a highly ordered state once again, ready to contract into another singularity and set off the next Big Bang.
As alternative theories go, it’s not without its merits, but there’s no evidence to support it…until now. He says he’s found evidence for his ideas in the cosmic microwave background, the microwave radiation that permeates the universe and was thought to have formed 300,000 years after the Big Bang, providing a record of the universe at that far distant time. Penrose and his colleague Vahe Gurzadyan have discovered clear concentric circles within the data, which suggests regions of the radiation have much smaller temperature ranges than elsewhere.