Entries tagged with “Science”.

humorous pictures It is cool to find an inside joke about uncertainty, and everyone gets it! Check out this from icanhascheezburger.com!

DodoWe have an endangered species list identifying organisms that are about to wink out of existence like the dodo and the passenger pigeon. Some of these should are listed because they are emotionally important to humans – like the bald eagle and the koala bear. Some folks bemoan the protection of the snail darter and the northern spotted owl when it interferes with an economic activity.

These lists are of limited value because they include only the organisms we know exist. The organisms we know of represent only a tiny fraction of those in the world, and hence only a tiny few of those in danger of extinction, so putting a few on a list from those few we know might make us feel better, but it is really myopic.

There is a good case for preserving biodiversity in all ecologies, as each organism fills an important place in the system. Arguments are made that minor players in an area (such as low populations of a specific creature) are not important because they don’t seriously effect the balance of the ecology. On a day to day basis, these organisms seem insignificant – the proportion of the photosynthesis, grazing, predation, parasitism, etc. in the ecology is just not significant enough to make a difference.

Recent research in the Census of Marine Microbes, part of the project Census of Marine Life, done by Mitchell Sogin at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, shows that in each sample of the microscopic life from a submarine ecology station there are always a few dominant microbe species in each sample but thousands more species that are present, but rare. Each ecological sampling point or station has an entirely new suite of rare microbes. (more…)

Do you remember the best teacher you ever had? Dick Feynman is better! Six easy pieces are six of his twenty two lectures from Caltech’s freshman lecture series.
If you don’t care for math, but really would like to UNDERSTAND classical and basic quantum physics this is the book that will do it. Feynman develops each subject, with aplomb.

The first chapter or “piece” transistions from the description of molecules, to their Brownian motion, then relating that to heat energy in gases, to pressure in a cylinder, to diffusion, to state changes (solid, liquid, gas) in such a smooth and logical progression that you preface each new insight with: “Of course”

Many people think that physics is hard, and that it takes a lot of work and math to understand the principles by which the universe works. Accessing this knowledge the normal way is tough. Feynman gives you the easiest way to see the way creation works.

Quantum theory – the world of atoms and subatomic particles is never seen by us in normal life. Unfortunately the subatomic world does not work like the Newtonian physics of bouncing balls, friction and smooth curves.

Nels Bohr’s original picture of atoms with electrons spinning in planetary orbits is not how it is. The Bohr model looks at the atom as though it follows Copernican rules of planetary motion – but the electron energies are quantized or discrete, so they cannot be shown as nice clear orbits, but more like a cloud where the Bohr orbits trace the average paths. Few, not even Carl Sagan could easily explain the experimental model that has probability clouds, where you can know either the location or the velocity of a particle, but not both, or the fact that an electron must be thought of as a particle, and a wave. (This reminds me of Chevy Chase and Jane Curtain with “Shimmer – its a Dessert Topping and a Floor Wax!”)

Quantum theory is just not very intuitive. Feynman, in his sixth piece makes the only clear, understandable, and accurate explanation of the quantum behavior of particles (or waves) that I have ever seen. He lets you get from – “You may say that, but I won’t believe it” to: “Oh, so that’s how it works”. Everyone who wants to get the most out of Vorpal.us and cannot say that they feel they understand physics, especially quantum physics should read this book. (nb: Required Reading)