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!