Flat-earthers

Posted by Shannon

BBC News:

Ms Garwood says it is an “historic fallacy” that everyone from ancient times to the Dark Ages believed the earth to be flat, and were only disabused of this “mad idea” once Christopher Columbus successfully sailed to America without “falling off the edge of the world”.

In fact, people have known since at least the 4th century BC that the earth is round, and the pseudo-scientific conviction that we actually live on a disc didn’t emerge until Victorian times.

Theories about the earth being flat really came to the fore in 19th Century England. With the rise and rise of scientific rationalism, which seemed to undermine Biblical authority, some Christian thinkers decided to launch an attack on established science.

Samuel Birley Rowbotham (1816-1884) assumed the pseudonym of “Parallax” and founded a new school of “Zetetic astronomy”. He toured England arguing that the Earth was a stationary disc and the Sun was only 400 miles away.

In the 1870s, Christian polemicist John Hampden wrote numerous works about the Earth being flat, and described Isaac Newton as “in liquor or insane”.

Well, he was kinda right about Newton. The guy was crazy as a loon (but amazing). Read on.

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We often think of scientific ideas, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, as fixed notions that are accepted as finished. In fact, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species evolved over the course of several editions he wrote, edited, and updated during his lifetime. The first English edition was approximately 150,000 words and the sixth is a much larger 190,000 words. In the changes are refinements and shifts in ideas — whether increasing the weight of a statement, adding details, or even a change in the idea itself.

On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces is a visualization of the edits Darwin made to the book over the course of six editions. This was created with Processing, something I’ve been meaning to try out. via Pharyngula

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The Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (LIS) directed by Prof. Dario Floreano focuses on the development of robotic systems and artificial intelligence methods inspired by biological principles of self-organization. Currently, we address three interconnected research areas: flying robots, artificial evolution and social systems.

Link! Be sure to check out their projects page (which I would link to directly, but they’re using frames…. Tsk! Tsk!). Via this post on Current.

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Just Landed

Posted by Shannon

This got me thinking about the data that is hidden in various social network information streams - Facebook & Twitter updates in particular. People share a lot of information in their tweets - some of it shared intentionally, and some of it which could be uncovered with some rudimentary searching. I wondered if it would be possible to extract travel information from people’s public Twitter streams by searching for the term ‘Just landed in…’.

Link. Via http://waxy.org/links/

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City Come A-Walkin’

Posted by Shannon

Geoffrey West, courtesy of Cosmic Variance:

[T]o what extent are cities or corporations an extension of biology? Are they “just” very large organisms? Analogous scaling laws reflecting underlying social network structure point to general principles of organization common to all cities, but, counter to biological systems, the pace of social life systematically increases with size. This has dramatic implications for growth, development and particularly for sustainability: innovation and wealth creation that fuel social systems, if left unchecked, potentially sow the seeds for their inevitable collapse.

Read on.

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Spiegel Online:

According to the recipe, the meat was to be cut into small pieces or slices, sprinkled with “myrrh and at least a little bit of aloe” and then soaked in spirits of wine for a few days.

Johann Schröder, a German pharmacologist, wrote these words in the 17th century. But the meat to which he was referring was not cured ham or beef tenderloin. The instructions specifically called for the “cadaver of a reddish man … of around 24 years old,” who had been “dead of a violent death but not an illness” and then laid out “exposed to the moon rays for one day and one night” with, he noted, “a clear sky.”

Read on.

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I have a healthy appreciation for bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally very anti-bullshit, especially when it comes to things like justifications for war, regressive anti-science and scaring people to (literal) death. You know: things that matter.

But I must confess, I do take a certain amount of pleasure in watching bullshit separate fools from their money. If it’s audacious enough, it can be like watching a well-crafted crime caper.

Which leads us to H2Om.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Atomic John

Posted by Shannon

The New Yorker:

In the decades since the Second World War, dozens of historians have attempted to divine the precise mechanics of the Hiroshima bomb, nicknamed Little Boy, and of the bomb that fell three days later on Nagasaki, known as Fat Man. The most prominent is Richard Rhodes, who won a Pulitzer Prize, in 1988, for his dazzling and meticulous book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” But the most accurate account of the bomb’s inner workings—an unnervingly detailed reconstruction, based on old photographs and documents—has been written by a sixty-one-year-old truck driver from Waukesha, Wisconsin, named John Coster-Mullen, who was once a commercial photographer, and has never received a college degree.

Read on.

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tik-tik-tik-tik-Tiktaalik

Posted by Shannon

By way of explanation. Via the always fascinating VRTPALEO mailing list.

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Neat Wikipedia Entry #8

Posted by Shannon

Sweating sickness:

Sweating sickness, also known as the “English sweate” (Latin: sudor anglicus), was a mysterious and highly virulent disease which struck England and later Europe in a series of epidemics, the first beginning in 1485 and the last in 1551, afterwards apparently vanishing. The onset of symptoms was dramatic and sudden, with death often occurring within hours. Its cause remains unknown.

Read on.

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