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I participated in SCIENCE!

2010/07/18 Comments off

Extracurricular science, anyway. See, I’d run across a story about an educational/research related water resources game a few months ago, got all excited about getting to play what sounded like a watershed management game online, and then nothing. Turns out the game isn’t actually online in the sense that anyone can play but online meaning some researcher could run it from a computer lab. Not the same, people. Fast forward to last week when a flyer went up in the lobby of my building asking for participants to play a water resources game. I am not afraid to say that I made an enormous, and erroneous, assumption. Namely that the local game was related to the first game. I’m not sure who else I made an ass of other than myself (and that I did privately, thank you), but I spent some time this afternoon participating in some SCIENCE! regardless. Wearing socks that didn’t match.

So the today’s game had nothing to do with the educational game played somewhere near the Chesapeake. And didn’t really seem to be a game at all. It seemed much more like an in-class demonstration of game theory with a survey tacked on the end. I’m pretty sure that the researchers are trying to suss out something about people’s attitudes towards farmers (as sources of nonpoint source pollution) given an individual’s stance on the environment. Maybe. I honestly can’t imagine what they’re going to get from this that wasn’t already out there. But maybe there was some ulterior motive like how long did we take to answer the questions or something.

Oh well. I think from now on I’ll stick to counting fireflies or marking craters on the moon for my extracurricular science activities. Unless someday someone puts a watershed management game online. That would be a little bit of awesome.

!Nessie

2009/08/26 Comments off

This is not Nessie:

Image of Loch Ness

Image of Loch Ness (Latitude 57°12'52.13"N, Longitude 4°34'14.16"W)

This is a boat. Obviously moving at a pretty good tick since there’s also a wake. The images in Google Earth do not have the resolution to identify large sea creature, especially mythical sea creatures. If it were Nessie, then Nessie would be ultra-ginormous and really, really hungry since Loch Ness is not the most fertile water body in the world. So we would know about Nessie since it would have rampaged through the quaint Scottish villages along the coast.

Story at The Daily Mail

Categories: GIS, Science Tags: ,

A zoo I can get behind

2009/08/10 Comments off

I’m really digging the Galaxy Zoo web application. This site, and its partner site Galaxy Zoo Supernovae, harnesses the power of hordes of astronomy geeks to classify galaxies or supernovae. It has that sort of Mechanical Turk vibe to it with the reward of science.  So very cool in theory.

And in practice, also cool. Given that we’re not all professional astronomers (or trained astronomers), the site divides up the classification process into a series of steps where the choices are a set of buttons with graphics. As you complete each step, the image button is added to the list below the current choices. So you can see the decisions that you’ve made and return to a previous step easily. The interface is simple and intuitive.

galaxyzoo2_1

Classification Steps

Even better, there’s a separate page that provides practice sets for each of the steps:

Practice sets

Practice sets

So you can see examples of each of the options as you work. It also keeps track of the galaxies you’ve classified and save your favorites. All in all, an excellent time suck. Although the supernovae classifier is really quite hard.

Categories: Design, Science Tags: ,

The world has yet to end, part 2

2009/08/01 Comments off

A second site dedicated to informing the world of its current state, destroyed or not, re the Large Hadron Collider.

http://hasthelhcdestroyedtheearth.com/

The answer is: NO. Clearly. But the page source is a much better read than the last LHC site (http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com/). First, and most inexplicably, we have:

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and then:

the crab always wins; it makes the baby syntacticians cry.

Right up there with the earlier exchange over at io9 involving a particular sub-genre of scifi books that invoked Clarke’s Law (advanced technology == magic) and ended with “got your nose.” Um, what?

Biofilm

2009/07/29 Comments off

Um, does the thought of the surface of the ocean as some previously unknown biofilm freak anyone else out? I mean, if it’s on the ocean, why wouldn’t it be on every lake? I jumped in those lakes and the ocean. Granted, there are biofilms everywhere, but still. At least it doesn’t sound nearly as gross as the algae blooms and fertilizer slicks that pollute the reservoirs around here. Ugh.

Just goes to show how much is left to learn.

Categories: environment, Science Tags: ,

Science illiteracy to the Nth degree

2009/07/26 Comments off

From a trailer for the new season of It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia:

Dennis: How is burning trash green?

Charlie: I could stick it in a land fill where it could stay for million years or I could burn it up and let it disappear into the sky where it turns into stars.

Mac: That doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know enough about stars to dispute it.

At least Mac’s willing to admit what he doesn’t know.

Although it does sort of bring up a point about access to science in a tangential way. Even if we all agree that science coverage in the local papers is not great, at least it mentions science. So starting from that, if we take my current place of residence as an example, the population is 250,000 and the subscription rate is around 90,000 for the local paper. So less than 50% of the folks don’t even get the paper (and no you really can’t assume that they are reading it online; I do and you would never know that they ever report any science anything from the website). We could assume as well that some of these people are not watching science-themed TV either and that even if they get the paper, they are not reading the science-y bits. So where are they getting information about current science? Or even basic science? How do you connect with those people? Should you be trying to force science at people whose day to day concern is food and housing? And you can’t ignore that segment of the population (do I need to say environmental justice); to do that would lead to the core of so many futuristic dystopias involving the haves vs. the have-nots, just provide the what. At the end of the day, it gets back to improving the standard of living first (sustainably we’d hope) and then moving on to other things.

It’s not that I demand that everyone knows how a star is made or anything. Maybe we just need to replace some of what people consider common sense with some actual sense.

Why raindrops are different sizes

2009/07/21 Comments off

This is the sort of thing that keeps me up nights. Seriously.

Anyway, hooray for science, the riddle is solved:

Basically, the drop flattens out and then starts to deform like a bubble. That pops into different sized droplets. At least for larger drops. We are still at a loss for drizzle and finer rain. But, hey, all of the universe’s riddles can’t be solved with a high speed camera. If you want to see it in action, the story has a video of the process that’s pretty sweet.

Categories: Science Tags: ,