Trouble Thinking

September 5, 2012

Science is Not Atheistic, Science is Not Theistic.

So I saw a couple bits of fluff about these signs getting taken down:

Yeah, 10 more of these and Christianity will fold.

Look, man. I get it. I get that you’re more than a bit frustrated. Being an atheist in a mostly-secular country is a weird mix of completely uninteresting and incredibly annoying. You don’t really need to change much, but the language and culture kind of presuppose you’re at the least “spiritual”, and that to be otherwise is a bit rude. There’s not really much in the way of direct antagonism because the average religious person is more Christmas/Easter than 3 Mass a week, but people consistently seem to rate atheists as being secretly evil moral black holes. Also, you can’t run for a higher office than dogcatcher in most states. But come the fuck on. This sort of shit isn’t changing minds. It’s not changing minds because it’s not designed to change minds any more than the “Left Behind” books. It’s tribalism. No one has ever successfully evangelized their position by mocking relentlessly the most deeply held beliefs of those they’re trying to convert, pausing only to high five other people who already agree with them.

But again, I get being angry. I mean I just watched this after seeing Dinesh D’Souza in the news for his stupid movie about the President:

This is a reasonably well-respected man discussing intelligent design and not being laughed at. Like, he’s legitimately discussing the possibility that Man did not evolve. I know, it’s not the position of most people who consider themselves religiously observant. I’m not going to tack his stupid bullshit onto every theistic person. But he does hit on something I think Atheists should be talking about instead of simply mocking people for being religious. A hell of a lot of his argument is about how religion answers questions well that science either doesn’t answer or answers poorly. Which is weird, because science isn’t actually atheism.

I know, it seems weird right?  They get said together so often. But science doesn’t relate to the presence or absence of a god or gods. It’s observational. If deities interact directly with the world in a manner that is able to be observed, scientific discussions will eventually note that it appears to be the case that the physical world is acted upon by sentience greater than our own. If deities don’t interact in an observable manner, science will be unable to comment on their presence or absence. The reason people tend to tie atheism in with science is that science does make many conceptions of gods seem less than likely. The standard idea of the ancient pantheon that we tend to have involves 10 foot tall physical incarnations of gods going around legitimately forging lightning or carrying the sky on their backs or tugging the sun across the sky. Scientific progress has made it clear that these events are unlikely. We should be able to see Atlas, he would have to be enormous. Because many people see science as having dis-proven ancient conceptions of deities, they decide that the ball is in science’s court to disprove modern deities! Atheists love to do this too. Ohhh man if only we can get everyone to understand Physics better we’ll totally get them to renounce religion.

But see, we never did disprove ancient religious beliefs. Ancient religious beliefs may have leaned much more heavily on animism and the direct intervention of individual gods, but they sure as hell weren’t honestly waiting for Zeus to come down and shake their hands. Their gods were as invisible and unknowable by direct observation as those worshiped by modern adherents. Religion has not been progressively winnowed by science, leaving only the most difficult to eliminate ones in the modern era. Science and religious belief have never truly interacted. Ancient cultures could understand metaphor too, man. “Of course Atlas doesn’t literally hold the heavens on his shoulders, he’s meant to demonstrate aspects of good behavior you dope” and so on. Attempting to disprove Heracles is more likely to make ancient peoples think you’re dumb than to rock the foundations of their faith. I think both theists and atheists have taken this process of scientific destruction of religious belief as a given and gotten some really shitty arguments out of it.

To put religion in direct conflict with science doesn’t do anyone a service except assholes. People like D’Souza will insist that if science cannot currently conceive of an answer to any given question such as “why are we altruistic” then it should be abandoned, leaving the current religious explanation to take its place for eternity because now he wins you’re not so smart now are you. That robs science of the only thing that makes it useful, which is the ability to continue observing new data and improving upon existing models. I have no idea why we’re altruistic. There are a couple of not very convincing theories floating around, but so far not a lot of concrete evidence. But I am pretty certain that at some point in the future someone more clever than myself will observe certain things and construct a model that provides a reasonably convincing explanation of altruistic behavior. Science is a process. We don’t know any answer to any question, really. We only know currently what is the best match to the data we’ve observed. Replacing this slow process with an eternally fixed explanation because you’re afraid of science turning on your religion is folly not only because that ain’t actually going to happen but because it robs you of potential benefits of a deeper practical understanding of whatever’s being studied.

On the other hand when people like Hitchens attempt to set up science against religion they do atheism a disservice. You’ve heard time and again that “science can’t tell us why we’re here” or whatever the heck. That is indeed accurate! But you know what can do a decent job? Atheism! Atheism is not a religious belief, but it is a philosophy. It does enter into the realm of questions about meaning and man’s place in the universe. It should be allowed to do so! Science will sit and wait and watch and if there is a second coming of whoever’s deity is correct scientists will measure the scope of the holy and atheists will be dis-proven. Science sure as hell won’t be, though. Making atheism the “religion of science” just de-fangs atheism by making every argument come back to the idea that you need to do the same thing to modern religious belief that was never actually done to ancient religious belief. It  also does a huge disservice to science. Science isn’t a weapon against other philosophies, it’s just something you like in addition to atheism. It’s about as relevant to the conversation as your love of baking or model trains. Atheism will evangelize itself effectively by being a good explanation for the sort of questions that science doesn’t address. It will not evangelize itself effectively by putting up signs saying “science proves that your current philosophy is dumb.”

Edit: There’s a good bit from the “opposite side” on Slacktivist, a dude who is evangelical but can’t stand the idea of “believing in theistic evolution” any more than I can stand the idea of “believing in atheistic evolution”.

The War Game: Brilliant, Disturbing 1965 Antiwar Film

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 1:03 pm

Hey! You look even mildly happy! Chase those good times away with this absolutely heartwrenching look at the raw facts of a nuclear exchange involving Great Britain. Even though it was produced by the BBC, it wasn’t shown on television until 1985 because it was deemed to horrifying for TV.

It’s absolutely terrifying from any angle, and it makes me incredibly happy that I didn’t grow up during the Cold War. Though it does make me a little tweaked that we still have exactly the same ability to destroy everything we hold dear today.

So yeah, go find someplace with kitten videos or something now.

May 30, 2012

Is Racial Profiling Tough But Sensible? No. You Idiot.

So this is the best. Some class act named Sam Harris has a radical idea to “reduce waste” during airport security. You will never guess what it oh wait no you totally guessed it’s “only hassle Muslims!”. So this is the dumbest fucking idea. There are a ton of reasons why it is dumb. Thanks to his decision to engage in a debate with Bruce Schneier there’s now a complete rundown of all the reasons why! Luckily, like most people who are conceited as all get out, he can’t figure out when he’s getting schooled so he put the whole debate up online for people to laugh at. Seriously it is embarrassing. He’s just sort of shifting topics every couple of minutes and doing ridiculous point-scoring complaining while this patient man is slowly peeling away the layers of his moronic plan to fuck with a security system he neither understands nor cares to learn about because any new information can only confuse the beautiful simplicity of his shitty goddamn idea.

Smart people can convince themselves of basically anything. It is a real problem, and it’s pretty obvious that Sam Harris has fallen into the trap of being just smart enough to come up with a convincing picture of something and just scared and lazy enough not to actually investigate it.Also, smart people always forget that just being smart doesn’t meant they have any intuitive understanding of statistics. Everyone is convinced that the way statistics work is: there is a correlation between A and B and then I am right, the end. As though that’s the limit of our ability to investigate. It annoys me that someone who claims to be a rational goddamn thinker representing atheism against the godful hordes is this stone dumb.

In case you’re too lazy to read here’s the basics of the exchange:

Bruce Schneier:

The topic of this exchange, and the topic I’ve tried to stick to, is whether it makes sense to implement a two-tiered security system at airports, where “Muslims, or anyone who could conceivably be Muslim” get a higher tier of security and everyone else gets a lower tier. I have concluded that it does not, for the following reasons. One, the only benefit is efficiency. Two, the result is lower security because 1) not all Muslims can be identified by appearance, 2) screeners will make mistakes in implementing whatever profiling system you have in mind, and 3) not all terrorists are Muslim. Three, there are substantial monetary costs in implementing this system, in setting the system up, in administering it across all airports, and in paying for TSA screeners who can implement it. And four, there is an inefficiency in operating the system that isn’t there if screeners treat everyone the same way. Conclusion: airport profiling based on this ethnic and religious characteristic does not make sense.

And while you’ve objected to bits and pieces of this, the only argument you have made for this profiling system is that it’s common sense.

Common sense is code for “I am mad and do not want to think about shit”.

This faux-tough thing is everywhere in modern political and social discourse and it is of course complete fuckwit nonsense. People like to posture about how they’re being “tough but fair” or “tough, unfortunately” or “doing what’s necessary” when referring to cutting programs for the poor, eliminating civil liberties, torturing people, profiling, or bullying. And it always hides the same lazy, frightened, stupid shit. You want to torture because you don’t like thinking about what torture actually entails and you just want to win already so let’s cheat. You want to profile because you don’t like thinking about the actual consequences to security but this line is long and this is dumb and you’re very smart so. Any time someone tells you they’re just being tough, you are about to hear some childish shit.

Related: yo, is this racist?

 

March 15, 2012

What the fuck is Deja Vu?

Filed under: Science, Troubled Thinking — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 12:27 am

Okay so I study memory. You may have seen my work slightly fictionalized in “Memento” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. It’s glamorous and I get to mess people the heck up with magic brain machines. Here’s the thing though: one of the only unusual aspects of memory that I’ve ever directly experienced is “Deja Vu”. And as a brain person who studies memory I feel like it’s my job to know what the fuck that was and why it happens. People come up to me on the street and they beg me to please explain so their nightmare can end. Only, I haven’t found any decent explanations! Wait what is that? You don’t know what deja vu is? Oh well jeez let’s start at the top gosh I’m sorry.

Deja Vu is the intense, awesome experience of knowing exactly how a situation will play out because you’ve been there before. No, I don’t mean when a situation seems “familiar”, and I especially don’t mean when you point out something is happening over and over again. Fuck, that’s the opposite of deja vu. The few times I’ve been lucky enough to experience intense deja vu it felt as though I’d been transported into my own body in the past. I didn’t feel familiar with the situation I was in, I felt as though I could finish every sentence spoken. And the sense of time is amazing, you get a very distinct sensation of not living the same thing twice, but of being in a place you were before, some vague moment a week or a month or a year ago that has dragged you back into itself. In fact, the fullness of sensation experienced has caused quite a few researchers to recommend the term “deja vecu”, because “vu” means “see” but you do more than see. This is evidence that researchers enjoy being pedants when they’ve run out of useful things to do. The point is: I really cannot recommend intense bouts of deja vu enough, they’re lovely.

The second thing you need to know about deja vu is that fucking everyone writing an academic paper on policy or economic research thinks the phrase “deja vu all over again!” is hilarious because they are children.

The first thing any article about deja vu will tell you is that don’t worry it’s totally normal. Thanks guys! It’s good to know you’re not officially calling me crazy, but I don’t think anyone in history has experienced deja vu and immediately checked themselves into a mental hospital or anything. It’s pretty well known, guys. In fact, the earliest mentions of deja vu seem to be from St Augustine, talking about “Falsae memoriae” conveniently choosing to write in the type of Latin that is basically silly English for ease of comprehension. But the actual term deja vu wasn’t coined until almost 1900, by a man named FL Arnaud. Apparently he didn’t like the fact that it was being referred to as “false memory” because maybe that wasn’t what was occurring.

So, you know what it is you know it isn’t a sign of madness and you know to stop saying “deja vu” when something happens twice. Now, what causes it?

Hahaha well we’ll get back to you on that dude. Turns out the reason a registered Ultra Brain Scientist didn’t have a clue what caused it is because yeah basically we don’t have a good theoretical or practical idea of what causes it. In fact, a couple papers dedicated any words to “parapyschological theories” like telepathy and astral projection. The weirdest part is how half-assed a lot of these are. I mean obviously Freud tossed out one about how you want to fuck something and your current situation is causing you to recall a repressed fantasy… which makes total sense! That’s why deja vu only ever occurs in situations that anyone would fantasize about and not in completely unremarkable ones. God it’s like he didn’t even finish listening to the description. There are a couple psychodynamic theories like that: it’s a defense mechanism, it’s dream residue, it’s wish fulfillment, etc. None of them make any actual testable predictions or in any way explain the reasoning or mechanism beyond saying it kind of sort of makes sense sometimes if you think of it like that. Good job Psychodynamics!

There are a few decent-ish proposed explanations from other areas of psychology that take themselves slightly more seriously. It could be that deja vu is some form of disturbance of time perception, causing things that were just seen to be mislabeled as having happened some time ago. Of course I’m pretty sure that theory is just as useful as the one proposed since the beginning of the fucking phenomenon. Time perception having some thing to do with deja vu? Oh wow, awesome job. The one that’s gotten the most support in my opinion is the idea that deja vu occurs when for some reason the mind simultaneously “records” into memory and “reads” out of it. I put those words in quotes because I’d give great odds that there’s not anything remotely like “record” and “playback” in the brain and this is just a slightly more useful shitty analogy. There are also a couple papers suggesting that deja vu is associated loosely with better memory function. Which again sort of makes sense but is also disappointing as an explanation. I guess it rules out some possible explanations like a faulty memory that accidentally wrote to bad sectors or something like that. The thing is, there are more than a few of these explanations but they all amount to “some processes that are supposed to be in sync are out of sync for a bit”. Replace “some processes” with whatever it is the authors are flogging all over the place. No one seems to actually be engaging with the phenomenon so much as explaining it on the way to other research.

There are a few neurological examinations of deja vu that are a little bit better about explaining it but still nothing groundbreaking. Basically it’s been noted that it can occur frequently in people experiencing some form of pathological mental disorder. There are frequent reports of deja vu experiences in epileptics, and because epileptics are one of the few groups of people whose brains we can jam electrodes into in the name of science, there are a few reported findings of induced “dreamy” states that are similar to deja vu during some stimulations of the temporal cortex. Of course, it’s entirely possible that these deja vu-like states experienced in pathological patients bear only a surface resemblance to actual deja vu, in the way that visual hallucinations aren’t caused by the same phenomena as actual vision.  Then there are more of those asynchronicity explanations, only with “neurological pathway” replacing “process”. At least these have some better surface validity though, I can see where it’s possible that two pathways for sensory information might split into a sort of double vision. Of course, that explanation doesn’t match the subjective experience at all, because people experience all sensory perception during deja vu as occurring simultaneously as normal. The “two pathway” explanation loses a lot if it becomes the “12 really intricately timed pathways” explanation. They’re all so frigging general though! “Slowed transmission” “something going wrong during a seizure”, etc. So again, yes maybe the function of the brain might affect an experience we have somehow good job guys.

Explicitly memory based theories of deja vu are many and varied but they share a lot of essential elements, basically whatever general theory of memory someone has is applied inexpertly to the phenomenon. So you know if memories are stored, then a prior memory is “slightly activated” and gives a feeling of undue familiarity. If there are two memory processes, one is out of sync. Etc etc, none of these are particularly noteworthy because they just repeat the general theory and make slight attempt to explain the phenomenon. The last category of possible explanations involves attention, basically that you pay slight attention to a scene and then rapt attention to a scene and the slight attention you paid earlier gets somewhat but not entirely overshadowed. This then makes you think you’ve seen it before. You’ll notice this doesn’t really make any goddamn sense because that’s not remotely close to the subjective experience.

Really the issue here is that experiments are what informs science, and there just haven’t been a lot of experiments dealing with deja vu. Because here’s the dirty secret of science: we are all lazy. Hard experiments fall by the wayside because why bother? There are dozens of other phenomena that are easy to reproduce in a lab and study. I know I can’t think of a way to produce deja vu in a lab environment, and I can’t think of an experiment that would get to the heart of the phenomenon. That’s not to say we’ll never understand it, but it is to say we’ll probably get to it last, or accidentally.

So there you have it. Science tells us:

Deja Vu exists

Don’t worry it’s normal

Happens more often in young people

It might be two things of some sort working out of sync, or it might be nerve problems of some sort, or it might be memories activating badly somehow, or it might be you paying weird attention.

And it’s really fucking hard to investigate so stop bugging us about it it’s just some weird thing jeez.

June 8, 2011

Shortcut Science: Being Controversial Rather Than Replicable

So about a week and a half ago, someone named Satoshi Kanazawa published an article that was called “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men” in his blog on Psychology Today called “The Scientific Fundamentalist”. From a brief look at the blog, it’s mostly focused on various attention-grabbing BS claims like “Beautiful People Really Are More Intelligent” and basically anything that is easy to defend because it’s a “hard truth” that just happens to track perfectly with common sense and the fears and cultural baggage of the average person. I haven’t checked but “A Bigger Penis Makes You A Better Person” is probably in there. In fact, the tagline to the blog is “A Look at Hard Truths About Human Nature”.

Any time anyone tells you they’re going to give you a Hard Truth and Not Be PC they are trying as hard as they can to explain that with no bias they’ve discovered everything is exactly the way their gut intuition has always told them it was and woah woah woah don’t go there this is just what Science or Common Sense or Common Science says not them. The fact that their Not Being PC or Being Tough happens to conform precisely to the prejudiced notions they hold is a happy accident.

I’ve heard this so many times in so many different contexts and it’s always infuriating. “IQ testing is completely right, even if they don’t want me to talk about it because it will make people sad to find out that certain people [who happen to happen to be from a group that I don’t belong to] are inherently dumber!”

Not “I have spent a lot of time devising a clever and replicable experimental proof of this interesting aspect of human nature.” Just stating it’s controversial, as though people being unreasonably opposed to a potential experimental proof that you’re too lazy to actually provide is somehow an airtight case.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no there is not actually any reasonable way to interpret the data Mr. Kanazawa gathered as indicating that black women are rated as less attractive “due to testosterone” as he winds up concluding. Not that he gives any actual reasons as to why testosterone would create a less attractive person. He basically seems to just imply that black women are mannish and black men are hyper-male, and woah isn’t it weird how that just happens to reinforce long standing prejudices I dunno maybe you just can’t handle the truth!

From a Scientific American article that’s way more thorough than me, damn:

Kaufman and other bloggers also address Kanazawa’s painful contortion of factor analysis, which I agree is laughable. He looks at three measurements of the same test taken at three different time points and creates a one-factor model, with the one factor being “objective attractiveness.” This is, of course, founded on the principle that an attractiveness rating handed out by interviewers in a study on adolescent health and well-being is actually measuring something that we can agree is “objective attractiveness.”

He then says that by merging these three measurements for each interviewee into one factor, he can use factor analysis to get at that “objective attractiveness” while minimizing any error. This is just plain false. Factor analysis cannot get rid of measurement error. If it could, we’d all be using it all the time, and we’d get rid of all measurement error, and scientific studies wouldn’t need to be replicated.

Basically, the jackass claimed that through a reasonably simple statistical trick, factor analysis, he’d managed to completely eliminate any error, and therefore get “objective” attractiveness. That’s not what factor analysis is for. Factor analysis is a method of testing for the likelihood of a lot of different observed variables being explained by a single unobserved one. So like, if you notice that during the summer you sweat more, wear fewer clothes, and use more energy all of those things could be explained by different variables, or they could all be related to things being generally hotter. Usually factor analysis is used to take a bunch of random variables you’ve gathered and just poke around to see if there’s a simpler explanation for the changes in each of them.

Notice at no point does factor analysis magically transform things into objective measurements of subjective human experiences. So his basic method of working toward a conclusion is just straight up stupid from the get-go.

Then there’s the conclusion itself. It turns out that actually, black women may have lower than normal levels of testosterone on average, from the same article:

Kanazawa surmises that Black women’s lower attractiveness might be due to low estrogen and high testosterone. Yet, high estrogen levels and low testosterone is a leading cause of fibroids, which significantly impact Black women, especially Black women who are overweight. Also, Black women have been found to have higher levels of estrogen in a study on breast cancer.

Oh, and it turns out that during the 4th out of four measurement phases, in which the participants were adults, black women were not rated as less attractive. He threw that out though, because well I mean it’s an outlier! Or something.

I mean, I could go on (read the rest of that Scientific American article for even more shit about this) but the underlying factor is what’s important here. This article got a lot of press for being both exceptionally stupid and exceptionally controversial, but this whole method of not-investigation needs to be let go. If your work is controversial, it’ll be controversial. If you make replicable experiments and provide useful avenues of exploration eventually people will come around and learn something interesting no matter how insane they thought it was at first. The truth will out.

If you chase the controversy that comes with truth instead of actual understanding, you wind up like this jackass.

June 2, 2011

Green Lantern Tie-In ARG Actually Helps Science

Filed under: Comics, Movies, Science — Tags: , , , , , , — Durandal @ 11:40 am

So this is pretty neat. There’s a Green Lantern Alternate Reality Game, which means “shitty game that people think is interesting because people pretend it isn’t a game”,

Normally these amount to people finding snippits of a story that’s some sort of prologue or side-story to whatever thing is being advertised via some sort of puzzle-solving.


For the Green Lantern movie, they’ve been taking out ads from “amateur astronomers” who have noticed something strange and want access to a telescope to figure out what it is. Then, they got access, and now you can go to this nifty little site and help Dr. Amanda Waller find green rings in space. Wiiiink. But the cool part is that apparently this is just a reskin of Galaxy Zoo, a program that’s already produced very useful data simply by asking normal people to help classify the ridiculous number of objects we’ve seen by giving an idea of their shape and any identifying marks. It turns out that a green ring in space is a sign of a recently exploding star. Other sites talking about the ARG have said it was a sign of one being born, but I can’t find anything stating that from a decent source. I think they’re just confusing the fact that star death leads reasonably directly to star birth. Anyway, by taking part in this ARG people have been actually assisting scientists studying the galaxy sift through their data.

Apparently the Spitzer telescope, the one whose data you’re poking through when you play this thing, is notable for being uniquely able to see through galactic dust clouds:

The new Spitzer picture provides a detailed snapshot of this universal phenomenon. By imaging Henize 206 in the infrared, Spitzer was able to see through blankets of dust that dominate visible light views. The resulting false-color image shows embedded young stars as bright white spots, and surrounding gas and dust in blue, green and red. Also revealed is a ring of gas, colored green, which is the wake of the ancient supernova’s explosion.

“Before Spitzer, we were only seeing tantalizing hints of the newborn stars peeking through shrouds of dust,” said Gorjian.

So this is the first ARG I can think of that actually did something beneficial. More sci-fi related films should do this sort of thing. I think it’s neat! It is a cool idea even if Amanda Waller is totally not a scientist. She’s just a badass.

Yelling at Batman so hard he's starting to reconsider this whole thing

May 3, 2011

April 20, 2011

Storm: Kind of Douchey, But For Real People Stop Believing Annoying BS

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 2:40 pm

So I like this little poem/animation. And not just because the guy doing the reading has a dreamy voice.

It’s a 10-minute bitch by Tim Minchin about all those silly little nothings of non-science that we all tacitly support by not correcting that one friend/aunt/uncle/parent/co-worker who just insists upon the absolute transformation they went through after purchasing a $30 magnetic Hyper Healing Band to keep the blood flowing to their right hand, which has always bothered them.

It’s always bothered me that with the sheer vast amazing incomprehensible universe we’ve got the opportunity to take a peek at, people prefer close the curtains and write ‘I don’t know, magic?’ on them. And I don’t mean that you’re not allowed to have wrong hypotheses about things. I have a shitload of wrong hypotheses, even pet wrong hypotheses that are embarrassingly revealed to be about as solid as those doodles in my notebook I made when I was reading too many terrible 90’s comics. Yes, I still hold some affection for Raven Talon: Monster Slayer to the Stars, but there’s a point at which you have to be willing to look at your own work and admit that you didn’t really put in the hours to make it something solid.

I don’t think you’re dumb for believing that maybe aliens built the pyramids. I do think you’re dumb for believing that without bothering to pay any heed to the alternate explanations, and for doubling down  when challenged instead of adjusting to fit the available evidence.

Ideas that cannot stand up to mere conversation, much less debate, are probably not actually worth having. They’re just an excuse to get huffy. Plus, not being a gigantic wuss-pants about your ideas allows you to actually have a stable of of them instead of 2-3 horrible ones that you hold on to forever. It’s like writing or drawing, being able to fail over and over allows you to get better at formulating something with some real meat on it. Better to be continually embarrassed than stagnant.

December 17, 2010

The Strike of the Mantis Shrimp!

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , — Durandal @ 9:15 am

That’s right, folks. Trouble Thinking is bringing you what you, for whatever reason, appear to really want. Mantis Shrimp related facts!

This time though, I’m going to be lazy and just grab the beautifully rendered CreatureCast video that explains the exact mechanics of the Mantis Shrimp’s hunting abilities in lovely you-are-in-4th-grade-o-vision.

December 8, 2010

SPACE! SpaceX Capsule Launched

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — Durandal @ 1:34 pm

SpaceX, the private space firm founded by the dude who founded PayPal, not the dude obsessed with naming things vaguely sexual things just to see if he can, has just successfully launched their Dragon module. It’s only supposed to hang there doing nothing for a bit according to the flight plan:

Adorable!

“Launch and separate from Falcon 9, orbit Earth, transmit telemetry, receive commands, demonstrate orbital maneuvering and thermal control, re-enter atmosphere, and recover Dragon spacecraft”

But they hope that will lead to bigger and better things in the coming year, including a successful docking with the ISS. Basically, SpaceX and other independent space companies hope that undercutting NASA will be good business. And what with NASA basically saying they’re not going to bother trying anything for another 5-10 years to see if space lowers it’s guard, it’s looking like that’s a good bet.

Even if none of these companies become Weyland-Yutani or anything, it’s still heartening to see that there’s some decent progress in finding cost-effective solutions for space travel. I don’t expect to have a personal X-Wing any time soon, but I cannot imagine that being able to explore the other 99.999…9% of the universe will eventually come in handy. The nice part about small companies is that the day-to-day keeps them on actually viable tracks toward bigger and better projects that build on previous experience, instead of promising to get to Mars in a machine built last decade for a budget of $Shoe.

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