This post begins on a personal note. My Mum passed away, suddenly, last week. Mum got me writing, encouraged me to write – and was an avid reader of what I wrote. Including this blog, where her favourites were my science posts. Mum taught me to wonder about everything – about the way our curiosity fuels our… More Of the sense of wonder that casts light into the darkness
This week the SETI institute announced they were going to check the newly discovered Earth-size world 1400 light years away, Kepler 452b, for radio transmissions. I don’t think they’ll find any. Here’s why. The problem is that near-Earth size, insolation and orbit – which is all we know just now – doesn’t necessarily mean Earth-like. The planet was… More Why the new ‘Earth 2.0’ is more likely to be Venus 1.1
I was asked the other week, on Facebook, why Jupiter doesn’t just fly off into space. You know, it’s so enormous, surely the Sun can’t hold it. Actually, it can. Jupiter is around 300 times the mass of Earth, sure – but it’s only 0.09 percent the mass of the Sun. Not only can the Sun… More The Sun’s big. Really big. And really grippy.
The other day I threw a crumpled bag into a bin and almost missed. It hung on the edge for a while. Quite suddenly it began collapsing into the bin, flexing as it did so. In a strict sense this was all understandable; I’d crushed the bag, meaning the energy of my fingers was stored… More Do humans see patterns where there aren’t any? Let’s talk…
Yesterday’s Pluto flyby’s been one of the most amazing unmanned space moments of the last half century – up there with the Voyager probes and with the Mars rovers. It’s also only the beginning. Over the next sixteen months the probe will transmit the data it picked up during that super-fast cruise through the Pluto system.… More Why the Pluto flyby means we need to re-think our view of the solar system
The other day I found a tweet by Stephen Fry linking to a Texan college video in which students working to become lawyers, psychologists, and so on, didn’t know who’d won the US Civil War. Or who their Vice President was. Fry wondered if it was evidence of Spengler’s The Decline and Fall of the West. I’m not… More Heralding the decline and fall of the west, apparently
The American Psychiatric Association recently called for study into a condition they call ‘Internet Gaming Disorder’. My gripe? However much it’s been intellectualised, ‘psychiatry’ is not a science because its diagnoses depend on personal opinion, not on testable (technically, ‘falsifiable’) empirical criteria. Where somebody is obviously in trouble, that’s not a problem. But for normal people who end up… More Is the APA’s ‘internet gaming disorder’ really a fair label for ordinary gamers?