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{ Category Archives } Science

40 hours

“A fracture occurred” is how the powerpoint read. Meaning that working alone on a Sunday afternoon, the contractor broke the glass, leading to another check for $500k to the contractor – cost-plus, don’t you know. Proof again, that will be totally ignored, that working more hours doesn’t save you money – it costs you money. […]

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Today’s slightly disconcerting announcement

at 1700: “Gamma ray testing is commencing in Building 233. All personnel should clear the area. Gamma ray testing is commencing in Building 233. All personnel should clear the area.”   Five-hours-too-late ObArcher: “Do you want giant ants? Because this is how you get giant ants.”   Five-hours-too-late career realization: There went my chance to […]

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Seventeen years

  Congratulations, LIGO! Gravitational waves have been directly detected for the first time. Hulse and Taylor won a deserved Nobel for indirect detection, a measurement 13 years in the making. LIGO was longer in the making than that. This is such an impressive measurement! The first experiment I've worked on with a non-null result. I […]

Credit where due

the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually […]

Piling on

Warning: spoiler. Matt Damon doesn’t die. My small contribution to the scientific errors of The Martian that took me out of the movie: duct tape just doesn’t work in those temps. Unless there’s some special NASA-grade low temperature duct tape that isn’t available in the 171 stockroom [1]. There is tape that’s good to -4 […]

Don’t be posting up about that

Christ, what an asshole.  

Cognitive dissonance

It's remarkable that it seems the same people who hold the view that, on Earth, self-driving cars will make the human driver obsolete are largely the same people who claim that, on Mars, self-driving science robots are so much worse than humans.

Val Fitch

R.I.P. Val Fitch

Give and take

Science giveth, and science taketh away. Kepler finds a ancient twin of the solar system, and gives us η = 0.1 [0], but (maybe) gamma-ray bursts sweep most galaxies clean of advanced life [1]. Also explaining the Fermi Paradox [2]. On the same /. page, no less. [0] Which coincidentally is what we used to […]

Counterintuitive statistics that will be ignored

Working fewer hours correlates with higher productivity. Who knew the Germans were such slackers compared with the Greeks? Working fewer hours correlates with a longer lifespan. Put that right next to the research that shows that cubicles and open plan offices decrease productivity, and that offices with doors increase same (in the round filing cabinet). […]

Flat is the new black

Astrophysics takes a $63M cut, but there's $133M for the literally insane idea of bringing an asteroid back to earth.

X of the year 2013

Climbing: El Chontacoatlan, Taxco del Alarcon, Guerrero, Mexico, Thanksgiving. I sent Mantis, the first pitch of Mala Fama, and Procopio, all third try. Great climbing, fun partners, one of the best trips ever. This is my favorite kind of climbing. Close second: Maple, May and September. Sent ZT and 49, several one-fall burns on Dry […]

Gravity: review

Aside from the minor orbital mechanics impossibilities and the Spielbergian dead kid tear-jerking, why did she keep taking off her helmet? If you were entering a spacecraft you had never been inside in the middle of a debris storm that had caused every one else to abandon ship, would you take your helmet off? I […]

Things we didn’t know

When I was in grad school: Then, not within a factor of two. Now H0 = 67.80 ± 0.77 Then ηearth > 10-9. Now ηearth = 0.22 ± 0.08 Suspicions about cold dark matter, vague notions about the cosmological constant being so out of sorts between the Stand Model and GR. Now, 96% of the […]

Decline

So I work for a rather well-known private university, which runs a rather well-known research center, funded largely by a government organization with a FLA, rather than the usual TLA. As part of the budget disaster known as “sequestration,” but which is really an ongoing decline over the last several years, this FLA organization decided […]