Is the earth’s core really about to stop spinning? absolutely not.
[ weird things ]
by Greg Fish
2d ago
If you read some science news over the past two week, you were probably informed that in a scenario straight out of an apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster, the Earth’s core just stopped spinning. Then, when they had your attention, you were told not to worry because changes in the rotation of the planet’s core are normal, probably happen a lot, and are no big deal since we’re still here and none of the oscillations we’ve seen in the geologic record coincided with a mass extinction we couldn’t explain with volcanic activity or asteroid impacts. Now, the last part is true. There’s absolutely noth ..read more
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The killer fungi are coming for us thanks to global warming
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by Greg Fish
6d ago
As we’re still living through a pandemic, no matter what politicians and pundits who want it to be over keep telling us, we’ve learned a bit about what scientists consider to be the biggest and most potent dangers to our health in the future. For the time being, we have microbes and flu under control. We’re working on a broad-spectrum vaccine against coronaviruses, so we don’t have another surprise like COVID. The only thing left are fungi, some of which are dangerous and incredibly hard to treat but can’t survive in our bodies. Or so we hoped. Unfortunately, as the planet warms thanks to our ..read more
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When artificial intelligence tries to go to court
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by Greg Fish
2w ago
One of the dirty secrets of many legal systems around the world, including countries we often think of as free, democratic, and fair, is that virtually all cases are settled by plea deals. Forget bold courtroom dramas where passionate lawyers whose lives are consumed by the weight of their cases shout “objection” at each other for an hour. Pretty much none of what you see on TV about the legal system is true because those shows exist to tell a story or, in the case of the weekly procedural, reassure the audience that the system is indeed fair and meticulous. But news junkies and devotees of t ..read more
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Contrary to popular belief, citizen science is alive and well
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by Greg Fish
2w ago
You’ve heard it a thousand times from snake oil salespeople, cranks, and quacks: “scientists are threatened when those outside of their establishment challenge their narratives.” Of course, if this was really the case, we’d still be taught that the universe is static and eternal, that disease is caused by tiny worms, and that flying machines violate the laws of physics. We even give gold medals and millions of dollars for making scientists change course in their research. And yes, an amateur with a good eye and good ideas can still make a difference today. Our first example takes us to Englan ..read more
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Why science says that suburbs are mind-numbing boredom generators
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by Greg Fish
3w ago
Perhaps one of the most frequent tropes in dystopian science fiction is the idea of absolute and ubiquitous uniformity. In his 1854 novel Hard Times, Charles Dickens used the uniformity of his fictional setting of Coketown — named after coal, not something else — and its residents to paint it as a bleak, awful place. In the deliberately inconsistent canon of Warhammer 40K, the game and fictional universe which literally coined the word grimdark, the uniformity of Imperial Guardsmen and factory workers of vast Hive Cities of the dark far future sets the same tone. We can go through countless o ..read more
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Why math says there’s no such thing as a true meritocracy
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by Greg Fish
1M ago
For the last century or so we’ve been told that talent and ability are appropriately rewarded by society, that we live in a meritocracy where aptitude and skill define how well we do in life. It’s what we learn in school and what politicians, pundits, and motivational speakers blare at every opportunity. But there have always been some glaring problems with this notion, odd facts that never quite added up when we looked at the world with a critical eye and are defended with a wide array of blanket statements that casually write off vast groups of people. Let’s consider the bell curve for just ..read more
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Did fusion really achieve net gain, and if so, what happens next?
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by Greg Fish
1M ago
It’s a common joke in the popular science world that fusion is always just 20 years away. Ever since we’ve been able to create thermonuclear weapons, which use fusion to create massive blasts capable of leveling cities, physicists have been obsessed with harnessing that energy to revolutionize the world. Unfortunately, containing the kind of explosions that power stars in human made devices has been far more difficult than they ever anticipated, but researchers kept drifting closer and closer to sustainable fusion reactors. This brings us to the National Ignition Facility in California, which ..read more
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Black hole suns: the theoretical monsters at the dawn of the universe
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by Greg Fish
1M ago
Soundgarden’s melancholic stream of consciousness Back Hole Sun was written after the band’s frontman Chris Cornell thought he heard the words from a new anchor, decided it had to be a title of a song, and worked backwards from there. But if you were to ask cosmologist studying the early universe, they might just tell you that black hole suns were quite possibly real stars as big as our solar system, powered by ravenous black holes at their hearts, and that they might be the key to understanding the formation of today’s galaxies. It’s long been accepted that the very first stars in the univer ..read more
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The ancient nonsense of graham hancock, now on netflix
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by Greg Fish
2M ago
When someone takes huge pains to tell you again and again that their argument is based on sound, mainstream, peer reviewed science before telling you exactly what it is they wanted to tell you, take the resulting argument with a hefty dollop of salt. It usually means that you’re about to hear conjecture that has no proof behind it, so its author is setting up several logical fallacies and using whatever they cherry-picked from actual science as a shield from criticism that will be richly deserved after we get to the punchline. Ancient Apocalypse, the new Netflix show built around the writings ..read more
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Zombie worlds are out there, and they’re terrifying places
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by Greg Fish
3M ago
You probably think you know what happens when a solar system is born. A spinning disk of gas and dust collapses on itself, gaining enough mass and pressure to fuse hydrogen into helium while the disk’s orbiting leftovers form the planets as tiny perturbations add up over millions of years. When the star dies, so do its planets after either burnt to a crisp by its death throes, plunged into icy darkness, or obliterated by a supernova. But what if I were to tell you that sometimes, there is planetary life after a star’s death? Imagine a world born not out of a star’s first scream, but from the ..read more
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