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!