in which NASA finds water on Mars

NASA has discovered water on Mars! There’s actual signs that liquid water is currently flowing on the planet, in tiny channels, before it evaporates. If this past week’s news has given you a case of deja vu, there’s good reason for it. Over the past few years, NASA has made a string of announcements that…

is there Life on Mars?

…in David Bowie’s discography? Definitely yes. …as viewed on images from the Curiosity rover? No. The internet is increasingly abuzz with supposed UFOs, iguanas, and people sitting on the surface of Mars. There’s a lot of them now.

concerning Ice Ages

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (the 1980 version) pulls off a neat trick in its first hour. In between a grand tour of the universe and the story of the Great Library of Alexandria, Sagan walks us through the experiment by which Erathosthenes calculated the diameter of the Earth. In about six minutes, Sagan has demonstrated to…

in which I am befuddled

Scientists have a long and amusing relationship with articles that describe them as baffled, bemused, astonished, shocked, etc etc… Scientists Surprised by Milky Way Dust Discs that Survive UV Radiation. Hubble Finds Unidentified Object in Space, Scientists Puzzled. NASA, Scientists Surprised To Learn Saturn’s 6th Largest Moon Enceladus May Have Warm Ocean. Scientists surprised to…

on How to Spot Responsible Science News

There’s a lot of reporting going on about scientific studies. A lot of it is good, some of it is a little too superficial, but some of it is just plain bad, and meant to mislead people. I stumbled across this one recently: IFLscience.org. First off, whomever’s responsible for this seems to be one of…

on Retractions

Sometimes the results of scientific research projects are just wrong. There was an accident, the data was flawed or insufficient, the methods were flawed, or conclusions improperly drawn. That happens, and subsequent studies will generally recognize that something went wrong, and correct it. It’s not malicious, it’s accidental, and that’s just the way that science…

on Credit where Credit is Due

Today is International Women’s Day, and with it, there are many great stories about female scientists. It’s thanks to that flurry of activity that I’ve been reminded of one of the more singular events in astronomical history – the discovery of pulsars, and whether or not Jocelyn Bell (now Bell Burnell) deserved to share the…

on Interstellar and Internal Consistency (spoilers!)

A fair warning: There are spoilers within.  Read at your own discretion. Christopher Nolan’s interstellar is out this week, and us regular astronomers are finally getting to see what critics have been gushing about and calling “the most scientifically accurate movie ever” (ok, not those words, but if you’re reading this at some point in…

in which I talk writing

The fundamental unit of scientific respectability is the scientific paper. It has been ‘scientific papers’ for at least 300 years, and it seems like that’s what it will be for the forseeable future. Why? Well, partially tradition. We all trust the scientific paper to be the end-product unit of a scientific project.  It describes the…

on Video game science

I’m beginning to worry that the general public confuses science with the way it’s portrayed in Civilization-style video games. I was personally first introduced to the genre by the games “Age of Empires” and “Space Empires IV”, two games where the purpose was to build up an empire by using resources on a map to…

in which I use science in my daily life

The wifely one and I are roughly the same height.  Aside from making our cycling tours more flexible, it also brings up some questions: If people change height during the course of the day, are there any points in time where she is taller than I am?  After some rounds of “I don’t think so”…

on Treating your Researchers as People

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/08/abds_all_but_dissertation_ph_d_candidates_who_can_t_quite_finish.html To summarize the article, 45-55% of people who embark on PhDs don’t actually complete their degree.  Some don’t begin the actual dissertation work, others begin a dissertation that takes years before they give up.  This, I have no real problem with.  The point of the PhD is that it’s supposed to be substantive, state…