Godspeed, John Glenn: 50 Years of Americans in Orbit

On Feb­ru­ary 20, 1962, perched atop an Atlas rock­et, John Glenn was blast­ed into space at 17,500 miles per hour.  He splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about five hours lat­er, hav­ing orbit­ed the Earth three times, the first Amer­i­can to do so.

Our most recent video for Time.com is a trib­ute to John Glenn, NASA, and 50 years of Amer­i­cans in orbit. I wrote it, Tara Fre­det­te was cam­era­man, and Jim Fields edit­ed.

God­speed, John Glenn…

Link:
http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,1461672138001_2107230,00.html 

My 25 Mundane Neutrino Explanations

Today I had the most fun I’ve ever had on Twit­ter, thanks to the OPERA exper­i­ment work­ing out of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Col­lid­er.

The blo­gos­phere is ablaze with news that they seem to have detect­ed neu­tri­nos trav­el­ing faster than light.  If true, it would be the biggest sci­ence news of the cen­tu­ry, over­turn­ing one of the most fun­da­men­tal con­cepts in physics.  There is obvi­ous­ly much skep­ti­cism amongst sci­en­tists.  For a typ­i­cal­ly insight­ful expla­na­tion, check out Bad Astronomer Phil Plait‘s post:  Faster-than-light trav­el dis­cov­ered? Slow down, folks

The Twit­ter fun began when a dis­cus­sion between two physicist/mathematician-types, Blake Stacey (@blakestacey) and S.C. Kavas­sal­is (@sc_k) led Blake to tweet:

@sc_k May­be we need to coun­ter­bal­ance the HEP blo­go­he­dron with a Twit­ter meme? e.g., #mun­daneneu­tri­no­ex­pla­na­tions

Then he spun out a few fun­ny exam­ples of more mun­dane expla­na­tions for the unusu­al neu­tri­no mea­sure­ment:

  • #CERN physi­cists did arith­metic on old Pen­tium com­put­ers
  • #CERN physi­cists let under­grads near the exper­i­ment
  • Cal­cu­la­tions done by vis­it­ing Amer­i­cans who still don’t get the met­ric sys­tem.

…  all with the #mun­daneneu­tri­no­ex­pla­na­tions hash­tag append­ed.

I think I was the first one to fol­low his lead with:

  • For­got to car­ry the one
  • Con­fused neu­tri­no with one sent lat­er
  • Study pub­lished by Wake­field et al

Then @drskyskull and @physicsdavid and oth­ers joined in (even asto­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Bad Astronomer) and, before you know it, the Twit­ter­verse was alive with fun­ny expla­na­tions, some of which may be as like­ly as super­lu­mi­nal neu­tri­nos.  I end­ed up spit­ting out about 25 of them, which I present here, as they were tweet­ed, in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order (so start from the bot­tom). Enjoy!

 

#mundaneneutrinoexplanations

 

My Love Affair with Space

On the eve of the final mis­sion of NASA’s – and the nation’s – 30-year-long space shut­tle pro­gram, I present to you a video love let­ter – my newest piece for Time Magazine’s web­site, where­in Tara and I jour­ney to Flori­da to wit­ness our first launch.  STS-133, in Feb­ru­ary, was the last mis­sion of space shut­tle Dis­cov­ery…

Click for big­ger ver­sion at Time.com

Link:
My Love Affair with Space on Time.com

Lunar Eclipse Defined by Wikipedia

In cel­e­bra­tion of today’s lunar eclipse, Google‘s logo fea­tures an ani­mat­ed moon.  When you click through, as usu­al, you get a page of relat­ed search results.

A lit­tle while ago, one of the top results includ­ed a sur­pris­ing def­i­n­i­tion of “lunar eclipse” from Wikipedia:

Accord­ing to Wikipedia:

Lunar eclipse: A lunar eclipse is when the moon turns black and explodes, releas­ing a poi­so­nous gas, killing all of human­i­ty.  Of course this can occur only when the Sun, …

The page had already been cor­rect­ed by the time I saw it.  But the false def­i­n­i­tion was appar­ent­ly cached and show­ing up in Google’s search results, until a lit­tle while ago.

I love Wikipedia. But it’s still fun­ny.

Check out the page devot­ed to Google Doo­dles.

Wherein Science Comedian Interviews Science Writer Carl Zimmer

I am guest host­ing Dr. Kiki’s Sci­ence Hour today while Dr. Kiki is on mater­ni­ty leave.  My guest this week is sci­ence writer Carl Zim­mer, whom I met at the ScienceOnline2011 con­fer­ence in Jan­u­ary.  Hm.  In fact, that’s where I met last week’s guest, Greg Gbur, as well.  Good thing I went to that.

Carl is an amaz­ing writer.  I’m cur­rent­ly read­ing his book Micro­cosm: E. coli and the New Sci­ence of Life.  It’s about life and evo­lu­tion, as seen through the lens of the most well-researched microor­gan­ism.

His lat­est book is Plan­et of Virus­es which will be out in hard­cov­er from Uni­ver­si­ty of Chicago Press on May 1.

Carl also has a book about sci­ence tat­toos com­ing out lat­er this year.  Here is a recent post about Sci­ence Ink: Tat­toos of the Sci­ence Obsessed.

His grow­ing col­lec­tion of sci­ence tat­toos resides at his Sci­ence Tat­too Empo­ri­um.

Vis­it his blog The Loom on Dis­cov­er Magazine’s web­site.

He’s also writ­ten on evo­lu­tion (Evo­lu­tion: Tri­umph of an Idea and the text­book The Tan­gled Bank: An Intro­duc­tion to Evo­lu­tion).  And I just received the brand new edi­tion of his ten-year-old book about par­a­sites:  Par­a­site Rex.

I also have his first book (which he says is his favorite):  At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fin­gers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea

Here is a recent (Sept. 2010) arti­cle on con­scious­ness at the NYTimes.com.

A list of great sci­ence books for high school stu­dents.

Carl’s Slate arti­cle about the con­tro­ver­sy sur­round­ing the NASA study of arsenic-based life – “This Paper Should Not Have Been Pub­lished”

Fol­low me and Carl on Twit­ter:  @sciencecomedian and @carlzimmer.

My “Virus Walks Into A Bar” series of jokes on YouTube.

Dr. Richard Lenski’s Exper­i­men­tal Evo­lu­tion Lab at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty has an evo­lu­tion odome­ter on the front page, track­ing how many gen­er­a­tions of E.coli the lab has bred – over 50,000 gen­er­a­tions, so far!

Oh – and lis­ten for me on NPR’s Sci­ence Fri­day tomor­row.  The show streams live (and airs on your local pub­lic radio sta­tion, too, prob­a­bly) from 11am-1pm Pacific/2-4pm East­ern.  Lis­ten here.

Guest hosting Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour with Greg Gbur

For the next few weeks I will be guest host of Dr. Kiki’s Sci­ence Hour on Leo Laporte’s TWiT net­work. Dr. Kiki is out on mater­ni­ty leave, hav­ing just given birth to a beau­ti­ful baby boy 20 days ago! Pre­vi­ous guest hosts have includ­ed Phil Plait, David Har­ris, and Jeri Ellsworth.

The show streams live every Thurs­day on TWiT at 4pm Pacific/7pm East­ern. For oth­er time zones, do the math! You can also watch or down­load it lat­er.

For first-time vis­i­tors: in addi­tion to my science-flavored stand up com­e­dy, I also make sci­ence videos for Time Magazine’s web­site. That link will send you to my vids on Time.com, or you can click the VIDEO tab above and see them on this site. Quite a vari­ety of top­ics in sci­ence and sci­ence fic­tion. I am also a con­trib­u­tor to Neil de Grasse Tyson‘s radio show StarTalk Radio.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter: @sciencecomedian
Sub­scribe to my YouTube videos: youtube.com/sciencecomedian

“Let There Be Light!” – my first show will be about light and weird sci­ence facts. My guest is Greg Gbur, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of Physics and Opti­cal Sci­ence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Char­lot­te, spe­cial­iz­ing in research on the­o­ret­i­cal clas­si­cal optics. Since August of 2007 he has blogged as “Dr. SkySkull” at Skulls in the Stars, where he cov­ers optics, the his­to­ry of physics, his­tor­i­cal weird fic­tion, and the inter­con­nec­tion of the­se sub­jects. Greg also co-founded the his­to­ry of sci­ence blog car­ni­val The Giant’s Shoul­ders. He has over 60 peer-reviewed pub­li­ca­tions and is the author of the upcom­ing text­book, “Math­e­mat­i­cal Meth­ods for Opti­cal Physics and Engi­neer­ing”.

– Fol­low Greg on Twit­ter: @drskyskull
– Skulls in the Stars blog
– Go direct­ly to the Weird Sci­ence Facts cat­e­go­ry on Greg’s blog
– Greg’s recent invis­i­bil­i­ty arti­cle on Sci­en­tific Amer­i­can
– Read his very in-depth post The Saga of the Sci­en­tific Swindler! (1884-1891)

When the show is avail­able, I will post the video here and per­haps some addi­tion­al notes and links. Please fol­low me on Twit­ter, sub­scribe to my YouTube chan­nel, and get on my Email list.

Next week my guest will be sci­ence writer extra­or­di­naire Carl Zim­mer!

Thanks for stop­ping by! 

Philip K. Dick at the Movies

My newest video for Time.com is about Philip K. Dick and all the movie adap­ta­tions of his books and sto­ries, the lat­est of which is The Adjust­ment Bureau, based on the sto­ry “Adjust­ment Team” writ­ten in 1953.  It’s fas­ci­nat­ing that Dick’s 50-year-old sto­ries are just now being brought to the big screen – and still seem mod­ern.  Tes­ta­ment to the strange­ness of his brain.

I do mis­tak­en­ly say that Blade Run­ner is one of ten PKD “books” that have been adapt­ed, when I meant to say, “sto­ries.”  Only a few nov­els have, so far, pro­vid­ed source mate­ri­al for films – Do Androids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep?, A Scan­ner Dark­ly, Con­fes­sions of a Crap ArtistRadio Free Albe­muth.  Most of the movies are based on short sto­ries (which do appear in books).

I pro­duced, wrote and edit­ed the video along with pro­duc­er Craig Duff, who shot and pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al edit­ing:

Link:
The Movies, Philip K. Dick and You

Happy Birthday, Chuck and Abe!

Once again it’s time to cel­e­brate the births of Charles Dar­win and Abra­ham Lin­coln, who were both born Feb­ru­ary 12, 1809, mak­ing them 202 years old today.

Here’s the video I made for Time.com, in cel­e­bra­tion of their 200th birth­days.  Just like the new Sin­gu­lar­i­ty video – I wrote, Craig Duff pro­duced, and Jim Fields edit­ed.

Link:
Lin­coln and Dar­win: Birth­days and Evo­lu­tion

Robots Attack! My new Singularity video on Time.com

I have a new video up on Time.com about the Sin­gu­lar­i­ty.  If you don’t know what it is…  find out here.  I wrote it.  Craig Duff shot and pro­duced it.  Jim Fields edit­ed.

The video com­ple­ments Lev Grossman’s new Time Mag­a­zine fea­ture sto­ry on Ray Kurzweil.

Link:
When Robots Attack! Should We Fear a Sin­gu­lar­i­ty?

Upcoming San Francisco Shows

Sci­ence Come­di­an Street Team: Acti­vate!  Please for­ward via email, Twit­ter, Face­book, MySpace, telegraph, sem­a­phore, smoke sig­nals, and telepa­thy.

I have two(2) big San Fran­cis­co shows com­ing up – plus, a bonus appear­ance at Ignite SF.  One show is this week, part of SF Sketch­fest – the oth­ers are just around the cor­ner:  Feb­ru­ary 8 and 9.  Details and links… to more details and links:

This Wednes­day, Jan­u­ary 26, see two one-man shows for the price of one.  At the Eureka The­atre, come­di­an and car­toon­ist Michael Capoz­zo­la will present his food-themed mul­ti­me­dia show “Regur­gi­tat­ed,” and I’ll be doing my lat­est sci­ence com­e­dy: “Spon­ta­neous Emis­sions.”  Join­ing us will be the amaz­ing Mike Mee­han for a spe­cial cameo.

Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 9, join me at the San Fran­cis­co Punch Line Com­e­dy Club for an evening of sci­ence humor – again, “Spon­ta­neous Emis­sions.”  My good friend Ngaio Bealum will join me as a guest per­former.  Call the club and make reser­va­tions in advance!  This show will sell out.

And for some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent…  the 2nd Annu­al Glob­al Ignite Week is com­ing.  I’ll be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the San Fran­cis­co event at Pub­lic Works on Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 8.  Ignite is an evening of 5-minute talks with 20 slides each, that auto-advance every 15 sec­onds.  Pre­sen­ta­tions are by artists, tech­nol­o­gists, and oth­er thinkers – designed to be of inter­est to geeks.  16 speak­ers!  A huge vari­ety of top­ics.  My pre­sen­ta­tion will be called “How Wine Saved the World.”  True sto­ry.  Be there!

And, seri­ous­ly – even if you’re not in the SF Bay Area, please for­ward this link to some­one who is!  Thanks!