Nice short video overview of the aaaaScienceOnline2012 unconference I attended last january, just days before my life went into a turbulent period from which I am still recovering. I had several blog posts in mind to record my own experience at the meeting, and summarize the discussion in the un-session I was able to lead there. It is nice to see this video which reminds me of the warmth of that unconference, and jogs memories that should help me write those blog posts... just as soon as I'm done catching up with all the other more urgent scheisse that has piled up at work in my absence! In the meantime, enjoy this video, which even has my own hairy face on camera for a second, laughing at something Brian Malow, the Science Comedian said during lunch on the final day. Its only been a couple of months, but feels so long ago that I have to say: ah, the memories!
Friday, March 30, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
In his very second outing, the newest Doctor Who (a white guy… ever wonder why the last remaining Time Lord in the universe keeps choosing to be reincarnated as a parade of white guys?) and his newest (and whitest; again, where's the kick-ass black beauty Martha Jones who accompanied him for a season?) companion land on a strange sort of ship which is really home to all of Britain transported into outer space somehow.
Monday, March 26, 2012
A spectacular view of the freshly rain-and-snow-washed Sierra Nevada range had me in its thrall during my morning commute this morning! Just the kind of view that all-too-rarely these days reminds one of the value of living in Fresno, so near to these fantastic mountains. Yet also so far sometimes as we get too caught up in the daily mundane. A view like that, and a video like this one, remind me again that I don't go up in these mountains as often as I would like to... as I really should! At least I get to see them from my windows more often than most people, though. Besides, perhaps it is better that more of us enjoy getting up close to them via such HD footage than actually crushing those trails (like the one here going up Half Dome which the National Park Service is seriously worried about) underfoot. I also particularly love the nocturnal shots in this film, showcasing a Yosemite that is likely even less accessible to most people, including those who tromp through there on short visits. Therein lies the trade-off in capturing such spectacular footage of such special places, I guess: it is great that some of us have access so they can bring all this beauty to the rest of us!
Sunday, March 25, 2012
A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.
The film was commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, London 26-29 March, a major international conference focusing on solutions.
The film is part of the world's first educational webportal on the Anthropocene, commissioned by the Planet Under Pressure conference, and developed and sponsored by anthropocene.info
Now that sure looks like a fun movie, doesn't it? Pirates! Aardman's brilliant digital claymation wackiness! and Pirates! What's not to like?
Well, a rather big chunk of the premise of the story, apparently - if you're American. For the film is based on a novel titled "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists". Not just any old scientists either - but the story actually revolves around Charles Darwin, whose Beagle is sunk by the titular pirates who then actually team up with him for some scientific mayhem. Sounds like fun, right? But you wouldn't know any of that from the above trailer for the film intended for the American market. Not only is there no mention of Darwin (although some of us may recognize him from one tiny glimpse in the above trailer; hint: he didn't have that famous beard while on that voyage of his youth), the trailer makes it sound like some comic knock-off of that awful Disney Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. With a Band of Misfits!
Why, Sony, why? Is this what your marketing department and its focus groups told you? That mentioning scientists or Darwin would be the marketing death knell for this movie in America? That no one would go to see a movie with scientists in the title? Is this what we have come to in this nation that was once the proud global leader of science? That one must remove not only any mention ofphilosophers, but even scientists from children's literature and cinema? I guess the marketers know something we don't quite appreciate fully - just how low science has sunk in the estimation of the American public! And that is rather sad and quite alarming...
At least the British aren't as squeamish about science or Darwin, going by this, rather more fun, musical trailer being shown in the UK - although this trailer too doesn't exactly play up the science bits:
Let's hope the actual movie itself hasn't been purged of references to science or Darwin when it hits the screens here in the US. Or I will have to look for ways to pirate that original UK edition myself!
Bonus: David Tennant, who voices Darwin in the film, was on BBC's Five Live with Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode this week to talk about the film. He said something about having to fight to keep the original title at least in the UK. You can listen to the interview online for the next few days, or download the podast.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
"This is a very serious issue, in fact..."
"... that's why you're on this show!"
That was perhaps the most ironic exchange between Brian Fagan (who said the first part) and Jon Stewart (who came back with the swift self-deprecating retort) tonight on The Daily Show where Fagan came on to talk about his new book "The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations". The Daily Show's promo blurb for today's show had a link to Fagan's blog, where he wrote this interesting post about the forecasts of prolonged droughts in some parts of the world being the silent elephants in the climate change discussion. And it was when he was discussing that very point when the above ironic exchange occurred during the interview (look for it @ 3:35 min in the video below the fold) - a double dose of irony if you will!
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
Meanwhile, I was touched by another post discussing the Indian monsoon in a historical context, with the opening making me ache for my favorite season of the year back home:
"The peacocks danced at eventide", wrote the sixth-century Indian writer Subdandhu of the onset of the monsoon. The monsoon is much more than a matter of meteorology in India and Pakistan. The very fabric of human existence unfolds around two seasons--the wet and the dry. The wet season brings warm, moist conditions and heavy rain, carried by the monsoon winds blowing inland from the ocean. The other half of the year, the arid season, enjoys cool, dry air from the north. The coming of the monsoon is a highlight of the year to those who suffered through the buildup after the pleasant winter months--weeks of torrid heat. Colonel Edward Tennant of the British East India Company wrote in 1886: "The sly, instead of its brilliant blue, assumes the sullen tint of lead. . . . The days become overcast and hot, banks of clouds rise over the ocean to the west. . . . At last the sudden lightning flash among the hills, and shoot through the clouds that overhang the sea, and with a crash of thunder the monsoon bursts over the hungry land." My father was a civil servant in the British Raj in the Punjab during the 1920s. Even in his extreme old age, he could vividly recall the most epochal day of the year, when India became cold and grey, like distant England.Trust me, it is actually quite unlike England, being grey, yes, but definitely not cold - but rather invitingly cool after a blazing hot summer! Oh how I miss the march of those grey clouds across the Bombay coastline...
Fagan goes on to describe the discovery of correlations between the Indian monsoon and El Nìno events in the Pacific...
Generations of meteorologists have tried to forecast monsoons, notable among them Sir Gilbert Walker, a brilliant statistician with a passion for flutes and atmospheric pressure, who is remembered for his discovery of the Southern Oscillation, the driving force behind El Nino and its opposite cousin, La Nina. There is now fairly general Agreement that monsoon failures sometimes, but not invariably, coincide with El Nino conditions in the Pacific, as was the case with the terrible famine and monsoon failure of 1875-6, which killed tens of thousands and ravaged at least a third of Bengal.... before adding some strong words about the historical context of the famine and the culpability of the British empire:
While much of India starved, the British Raj was busy exporting grain to the world market. Meanwhile, the Viceroy, the eccentric and erratic Lord Lytton, who happened to be Queen Victoria's favorite poet, was preoccupied with a gigantic durbar in Delhi, which included a week-long feast for 68,000 maharajahs and officials. An English journalist estimated that at least 100,000 rural farmers perished during the festivities, which were designed to be gaudy enough to impress the orientals". Lytton's shameful famine policy was one of laissez faire. The historian Mike Davis, whose book Late Victorian Holocausts should be required reading for every historian of the nineteenth century, estimates that at least 20-30 million tropical farmers perished during that century as a result of drought, famine, and famine-related diseases.And as Fagan rounds off with an alarm bell about how future wars will be fought over water even as we waste our current resources on unnecessary wars while avoiding facing the real problems looming ahead, I'm reminded of the Indian journalist P. Sainath's powerful book Everybody Loves a Good Drought: Stories from India's Poorest Districts.