Here’s something that’s a little bit more fun.

July 25, 2008

Via The Intersection, Yahoo has a list of the top 10 scientifically inaccurate movies.  Of course, something like this is great fodder for those late night conversations when everything makes sense, but it’s fun to page through their choices and snicker at the really bad science in there.

For some reason, this also reminded me of a series of videos by Dr. Jim Kakalios (who wrote the book The Physics of Superheroes) in which he talks about some of the science in comics.  Here’s the video where he discusses the death of Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man;  Kakalios is a great presenter, and it’s a fun topic, so give it a watch.

Here’s some of the other ones as well:


Crackergate coverup…?

July 25, 2008

I’m not sure what’s going on with this one:  I picked up a post of Neurophilosophy today through my RSS feeds, entitled “Would PZ desecreate this?”, and clicked through.  I don’t think that the post was very well thought through, and the early comments were already pointing out a pretty basic flaw in the premise, but when I tried to add my opinion I got errors stating that the entry didn’t exist.  Sure enough, I looked at the side bar and the main page of the blog, and the post was nowhere to be seen (and neither are the comments).  Curiously, though, at the time of writing the direct link to the post is still active, though I still can’t comment there (I’ve got screenshots of the content, but I’ll leave them for now unless the direct link stops working).

I’m not sure whether Mo decided that the post was a bad idea, or if there’s simply a technical glitch, but I’m always suspicious of blog content that just up and disappears with absolutely no explanation.  I hope this wasn’t an attempt to rewrite history, because that is never a good idea; if you regret something you wrote, acknowledge your mistake and move on, but don’t try to revise the past.

The bomb has been dropped.

July 24, 2008

If you’ve been following the saga that is Crackergate, here’s the climax.  Pop some popcorn, head on over to Pharyngula, and hit “refresh” on the comment thread to watch the fireworks.

(image: darkly_seen)

I’m back: link dump.

July 24, 2008

Well, I’ve returned from the hinterlands of Québec, having spent a few fun days visiting my wife’s family and seeing the sights, and I’m back into the grind.  A few things piled up while I was gone – both in terms of work and interesting news – so in terms of blogland I’m going to clear the deck with a bunch of links from the tabs that are currently cluttering up my Firefox.  Here we go:

  • Québec police are going after speeders and imparied drivers:  Listen, I don’t like to generalize about a group of people, but I’m going to allow an exception to the rule here, because Québec drivers are ignorant of the principles of defensive driving.  Signalling to change lanes is not an option, people.  Weaving in and out of lanes is dangerous.  And no, going 160 km/h on a 100 km/h highway is not a recipe for safety.  Oh, and the next person who cuts me off is getting … well, nothing, because I can’t think of an act of retribution that wouldn’t jeopardize me, but I’m beginning to understand the phenomenon of road rage.
  • Jim Prentice says that Canadian Carriers are in for it now, oh boy:  Canada recently did a spectrum auction similar to the one that the FCC did in the United States, and our Minister of Industry says that this will mean more competition for cell phone carriers here (see my recent rants about all three of the major carriers here).  I sure hope that he’s right.
  • Clay Burrell at the Beyond School blog has a thought provoking post on Why History isn’t Learned, and How Story Helps Change That. I played with the test that he proposes and scored pretty well (though I would indeed quibble with some of the inclusions! 🙂 ).  It’s great fun, and a good read, so go take a look.
  • PZ at Pharyngula is being very mysterious about possible sacrilege to the cracker…
  • Here’s a good read by Olivia Judson on some examples of natural selection in the New York Times (though why it’s in the Opinion section as opposed to Science baffles me).
  • Oh God, Britney Spears has stuck her nose in to the anti-vax shenanigans.  On the other hand, considering the cloud of fail that follows her around, maybe this is actually a good thing.
  • At The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer continues a long series of posts insisting that there’s no such thing as “talent”.  The comments to that post contain a good counter-argument.
  • A good post on epigenetics from Pharyngula.
  • The first edition of The Giant’s Shoulders blog carnival came and went, leaving many, many good posts in its wake.  I’ve got a post in it, and the carnival’s very existence is guilting me into doing more science writing.

Hmm, I think I’ll end that on a high note, since my browser is looking a lot less cluttered now and I think that I might be able to get some actual work done.  Enjoy!

Out to the boonies!

July 18, 2008

Well, I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to go to the hinterlands of Québec to see some family, so posting is going to be light around here for a bit since I don’t know if I’ll have reliable net access out there.  I’ll try to leave some stuff to go up while I’m gone, but I also have tickets to see Craig Ferguson at Just For Laughs tonight, so no promises. 🙂


July 18, 2008

The Free Software Foundation posted a long-winded and frankly self-serving screed about the iPhone yesterday, which had me wondering who peed in their cornflakes.  I mean, I like free software, and I use it, and I hope to contribute more to it going forward, but come on:  it’s not the only way to make software.  The FSF were completely out to lunch on this one, but it was John Gruber’s comment at Daring Fireball that nearly led me to fall off my chair laughing:

They’re accusing Apple of concocting the whole thing as some sort of profit-making scheme.

I had written a lengthy post rebutting the FSF’s position on this, but really, I just can’t top that.  (Though I will say:  Ogg Vorbis and Theora?  Really? Most geeks have no idea what those formats are.)

Canada’s crime rate drops for 3rd straight year: StatsCan

July 18, 2008

Here’s good news for Canada:  Canada’s crime rate drops for 3rd straight year: StatsCan.

Canada’s national crime rate declined for the third straight year in 2007, according to Statistics Canada, which attributed the drop largely to a decrease in counterfeiting and property offences such as break-ins and vehicle thefts.

StatsCan data released Thursday shows a seven per cent drop in the national crime rate, which the agency said also stems from fewer serious violent offences like homicides, attempted murders, sexual assaults and robberies.

The overall crime rate has been on a general rate of decline since peaking in 1991, according to StatsCan data. In 2007, police reported 594 homicides, down slightly from 606 in 2006, following a long-term downward trend that began in the mid-1970s.

Criminologists are well aware of the difference between the perception of crime rates and the actual crime rates.  When sensational news stories like the Robert Pickton trial show up, people remember the sensational events and estimate crime rates out of proportion to their actual occurance (psychologists also have a lot to say about this effect).  So it’s important that stories like this get their fair day in the sun to bring some balance to the problem:  terrible crimes do occur, but it is the truth that they are occuring less often than they used to.  This occurs all over the place:  despite the tenacious perception of New York as a terribly dangerous place to be, it is actually one of the safest cities in the United States.

Actually, this ties in with another misperception that surprised me when I learned the truth:  globally, war has undergone a shocking decline in the last decade or so.  The link is to the Human Security Report 2005, and I suggest you click around and take a look to convince yourself because there’s too much for me to summarize here.  It really opened my eyes to the difference between how I thought the world was and how it really is.  Good reading is also to be had from the related Human Security Brief, which details the drop in global terrorism around the world.

All in all, the world is not a paradise, but the common perception of doom and gloom may not be nearly as justified as you might think.

Update: Via the Montreal city weblog, I hear that people in Montréal are making my point for me.