Who Needs Science?

The results of a recent study conducted by Pew Research Center in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, shows a disturbing opinion gap between scientists and the broader community. Undoubtedly there are many factors at play here including: a lack of understanding of the scientific method, political bias, anti-intellectualism and religious belief.

Disturbing statistics from recent Pew Research Center shows huge gaps between opinions of scientists and public on key topis
Science: Good god, ya’ll what is it good for…

From my own experiences of science classes at high school there should be a greater focus on developing understanding of the scientific method and building critical thinking skills. Sciences classes throughout my schooling was more about following recipes and memorising equations than developing real understanding. Some kids got it but most didn’t.

Most of the kids that didn’t get the science thing were smart enough not to take HSC science classes, but not me. I was drawn to chemistry and physics hoping that it would all click together. It never did. I was totally lost; had no idea where to begin acquiring the knowledge and skills I needed. Ultimately, I dropped out of these courses, assuming I didn’t have the science gene… or something.

While I remain a layman in all scientific fields, personal interests have led me to hone my capacity for critical thinking and develop a greater scientific literacy and respect for the method. If science were better taught in schools I may very well have ended up leading a very different life.

And then there are feels like these

Mostly pleasant day with showers of sad, a mild case of witch. Showers strengthen in late afternoon to full-blown despair.

It has been more than nine months since the split, and here I am, still wanting a dank cave to fade away in. Don’t get me wrong, internet ghosts, I’ve had some good times in these nine months, but here I am driving around in circles. Have I made any progress on being a better, stronger person, more capable of living life the way I want? Maybe… Maybe not.

I’ve spent some solid time working on my artistic skills, but more time slumped in bed watching old TV shows. If nothing else, at least I can say I’ve lived my life as a model of depression. Thankfully there isn’t anyone handing out awards for such achievements.

Oh, I just came back from a holiday. I spent it in the lands of my youth with my boys and family. That was nice. That was when it all started building up again. Perhaps this is an indication that the nightly indulgence of a red or three had more of an impact on the medication than I previously thought? Or maybe I’m on the wrong meds, they do nothing and I just lucked out, snagging one of those “one in a thousand year” type breakups.

Then again… Come on, boy! Suck it up! Join the army and harden the fuck up already. Life isn’t some bleeding-heart liberal picnic. Life’s a war. It’s command and conquer and you’re either someone else’s grunt or you are the fucking commander in chief.

Reality bites.

Rosetta’s 10 Year Journey To 67P/C-G

Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Still in a space exploration mood I thought I’d go check out what was currently going on out there. It was with a little surprise I found I’d missed Rosetta’s rendezvous with its target, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, on the 6th of this month. This makes Rosetta the first spacecraft to perform more than a flyby of a comet. It has been theorised that comets provided most of the water on Earth and may have even been the source of the precursors for life (or life itself). For this reason, comets are of huge scientific interest.

annotated map of asteroid 21-Lutetia
Credit: ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Not only will Rosetta map and analyse 67P/C-G during its year-long orbit, but in November there will be an attempt to dispatch a lander to the surface for a more detailed analysis. Given the complexity of the task this will be a huge feat of science and engineering.

To get to its destination Rosetta orbited the sun five times, made three flybys of Earth, and one of Mars to build up the required speed. To this point in it’s 10 years in space, the craft has traveled 6.4 billion KM, that’s almost four and a half times the distance of Jupiter to the Sun (space is kind’a big). Additionally Rosetta performed flybys of asteroids (21) Lutetia (a massive 100km rock) and (2867) Steins.

Rosetta orbits the sun five times building speed to reach target
Credit: ESA/NASA

Other links:
http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20140908-25996-2.html
http://sci.esa.int/rosetta/14615-comet-67p/

The Mars Underground

As so often happens, I was researching a topic for a post on another blog (on a completely unrelated topic) when I came across a thought-provoking documentary, The Mars Underground. The documentary explores the history of plans for manned missions to Mars (from a US NASA led perspective), and beyond to a practical future of exploration. We see how, time and again, politics, both on the national and internal NASA level derailed human expansion into space.

Doom and gloom of politics and bureaucracies

As someone who believes the richest future for humanity involves spreading across space, I found the first part of the documentary dredging up my most pessimistic ideas of what we, as a species set on endlessly, violently competing against itself. On top of the political dynamic are problems of cost, and technological feasibility. A proposal by Robert Zubrin and David Baker, known as Mars Direct, shows how a series of mission to Mars can be done with current technology and within NASA’s current budget. This is what the whole documentary drives towards. We can get to Mars now. We could be there already and possibly be moving along in developing a permanent base.

Green Mars

The documentary finishes with discussing terraforming Mars. The idea is not so far fetched as some sci-fi representations. Zurbin suggests that using factories to produce “super greenhouse gasses” the planet’s temperature could be raised by 10c within a few decades. At that point Co2 trapped in the soil would begin to release, becoming a self-sustaining process. With a thickening atmosphere, air pressure increases, and eventually people would be able to move about the surface without bulky pressure suits. That in itself would be amazing. I’d happily settle for wondering the Martian equatorial wastes with an oxygen mask. Better yet, water trapped in the soil will have been melting for some time, creating a paradise for vegetation (creating oxygen).

Assuming we don’t discover a feasible way to speed up the oxygenation of the atmosphere it would be tens of thousands of years before the atmosphere were breathable. In that time Mars would become virtually unrecognisable as the planet it is today. Who want’s to bet technologies that speed the process won’t be discovered? I certainly don’t, not that it is likely I’d be around to claim my winnings or payout any losses.

It is this last part of the documentary that gives me that thrill that comes with daring to imagine the possibilities that technology, vision, and will can unlock. The possibility that our species will not wither away on Earth till the sun boils the seas, or more likely, we succumb to any combination of catastrophic natural and/or self-created disasters. The possibility that we will become a fully-fledged spacefaring species gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies. Then it’s onto the generation ships and on out into the galaxy, but that’s a topic for another day.

I believe the following video is the 2006 version. The 2011 Director’s Cut contains some significant updates. Unfortunately I haven’t found a streaming or DVD available in Australia, but I did find The Mars Underground: Updated Edition – Director’s Cut on Amazon US.

Mad Max: Fury Road

For me there are only three possible futures for the human race, Star Trek, Neuromancer, Mad Max. I hope for Star Trek, bet on Neuromancer, and fallback on Mad Max. Like most others with a post-apocalyptic fetish, I’ve been a fan of the Mad Max movies a long time. Many-a-time I have wondered if maybe, just maybe they would bring back the Max, and it was with delight I, just moments ago, opened a link in a message from a friend, to find the trailer for the upcoming 4th movie in the franchise.

Maybe if I stayed current (and left the cyber cave), I would have seen it coming, but for years now I’ve known that I’m one of the guys that discovers EVERYTHING after the fact. Decades after the fact is often the case. In any case, the film looks bloody, brutal, dusty, and awesome, so fingers crossed we end up with something that lives up to the original movies (is it possible for a sequel to exceed the original these days?). Mad Max: Fury Road opens in theaters 15th May, 2015. That is all.

Electromagnetic Music: The Creepy Ambience of Space

Hey there troopers. I have to say it, denigrate Facebook as much as you like, but there is no denying there are plenty of golden nuggets lying about if you happen to be subscribed to the right pages. After spending the last couple of hours listening to and researching the music of our solar system, I decided to put a little post together with my findings.

The recordings featured in the videos here are as spooky and evocative of the vastness of space and the alienness of unexplored worlds as any ambient space horror sound track out there. While there is indeed no sound in space, at least in the sense we experience here in our nice cosy atmosphere, there is a good deal of electromagnetic vibrations. These vibrations are caused by the interactions of planetary (and moon) magnetospheres, ionospheres, and solar winds.

The Voyager probe, the source of data for a much of “space music” around, recorded electromagnetic vibrations in the 10 Hz – 56 kHz range using a plasma wave antenna. Apparently these tracks were all produced from data within the ranges of human hearing (20 Hz – 20 kHz), so presumably the EM vibrations have gone through a 1 to 1 conversion. The results are unnerving, mesmerising and beautiful. My favourite, so far, is the Voyager recordings from Neptune.

More Music From Space

Other sources of space music utilise data from spectrographs, allowing for the music of distant stars, nebula and galaxies to be heard. The following clip, Nebula by Paul Francis, was made with such data but unlike the recordings from the plasma wave antenna of Voyager, the converted data is far beyond the range of human hearing. After converting the recordings to sound waves, Francis reduced the frequency 1.75 trillion times (for our puny human ears to conveniently register).

Paul Francis is an astrophysicist at Australian Nation University. More sound clips and information can be found at his dated but interesting “Sounds of The Universe” website. This track, as the others are released under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license.

So, if you happen to be working on something spooky and/or sci-fi or just want some interesting ambient sound to free the mind from distraction this might just be what you’re looking for.

Welcome to the CyberageFunk Grand Opening

Hey there random visitor! Welcome to this here blog. My name is Jim. I reside in Canberra Australia, but don’t hold that against me. Life has calmed down a little since I purchased this domain and wrote the introductory blog post (which I never got around to posting). Cyber Age Funk is still just as applicable to my life now as it was then, but I expect this blog will be less self-deprecating angst and more about things I think are cool and worth talking about.

So, what was the angst all about? Well… it had something to do with a breakup of apocalyptic magnitude and attempted suicide. No kidding! But it’s all fine now. No more suicide anyway [/troll bait]. Now with that little piece of history receding into the past it’s way past time I got back to work. My work is not incredibly lucrative and the income it provides has become almost non-existent since the end-of-the-world. But what do I do for peanuts? I write. I blogs (therefore I am). I also make 3D models on the side. My primary blog, which is all about 3D arts, has been in deep freeze for the last several months. It was this blog that was meant to fill the void until I felt up to getting back into that world but huge amounts of cheap wine and slobbing about got in the way.

But here we are! I survived the nuclear winter and all is returning to some sort of normality above ground. I’m still deciding just how I’m going to play this new blog business, but I’m thinking it’ll have a little of everything. I’ve been reading a lot, gaming and toking away on my e-cig, as I ponder on transcending a life of nihilism punctuated with severe bouts of fear and loathing. But let’s not get too philosophical. Not yet anyway. I hardly know you, so let’s take this slow [too creepy?].

Now, just throwing some ideas of what you might read here: fiction, film, writing, games, e-cigs (because they are a rad alternative to dying of tobacco related diseases), interesting science and technology tid-bits, and other assorted geekery. In the interest of staying in the beans and earning from my wordsmithing ways some articles will contain the dreaded affiliate link to stuff I dig. I’m not a marketing trash-bag, so don’t worry, no diet pills and penis enlargement copy/paste posts here.

Until next time stay sane(ish),

Jimmy CyberRage signing off