Posts Tagged ‘physics’

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! 

Bad Science in Star Wars

FORA.tv has a short video of me per­form­ing at the recent Won­der­fest sci­ence fes­ti­val in Berke­ley.  I’m talk­ing about bad sci­ence in sci­ence fic­tion movies, and the exam­ple in the clip is a clas­sic moment from Star Wars…

Link to video on YouTube

Link to video on FORA.tv

Wonderfest

Sun­day, Novem­ber 7, 2010. Once again I am thrilled to be per­form­ing at Won­der­fest – the Bay Area’s long-running fes­ti­val of sci­ence.  This is their 12th annu­al event – and my third time par­tic­i­pat­ing.

As always, it’s a 2-day event – Sat­ur­day on the Stan­ford cam­pus and Sun­day on the Berke­ley cam­pus.

I am only attend­ing Sun­day, Novem­ber 7, at UC Berkeley’s Stan­ley Hall.  I will per­form and then mod­er­ate a dia­logue:

3pm:  Sci­ence Laughs with Sci­ence Come­di­an Bri­an Mal­ow

4pm:  Mod­er­a­tor for  “Do We Under­stand the Struc­ture of the Uni­verse?” – a dia­logue between Lloyd Knox, a physics pro­fes­sor from UC Davis, and Chung-Pei Ma, an astron­o­my prof from Berke­ley

And, in between my two slots, you can enjoy a live pod­cast of “This Week in Sci­ence” with my friends Dr.Kiki and Justin! 

Helium – So Long and Thanks for all the Balloons!

Some­how this didn’t make it into the blog ear­lier – our Time.com video about heli­um.  A flight in a zep­pelin, a vis­it with the Bal­loon Lady, and the end of an era?…

Relat­ed Post:
Sci­ence Come­di­an Riffs on Hydro­gen and Heli­um at Ignite

Year of Science – JetBlue and Cell Phones

In conjunction with the COPUS Project’s Year of Science – and the March theme of Physics and Technology – I offer up a bit of humor on bad website usability on the Jet Blue website and also a couple thoughts on cell phones – loud users and shrinking sizes.

Do you think we’ll live to see implantable cell phones?…  or the end of obnoxiously loud cell phone talkers?  When will they realize that technology is here to relieve the strain on their voices?

Astronomy in Science Fiction

When I attend­ed the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tex­as, in Austin, back in the last cen­tu­ry, I took a few astron­o­my class­es and the most inter­est­ing one was called “Astron­o­my in Sci­ence Fic­tion.”

Through the fog of mem­o­ry that sits like inter­stel­lar dust between me and Total Recall, I can only say with a lev­el of cer­tain­ty lim­it­ed by more than just Heisenberg’s equa­tions that we read at least one nov­el for the class – Tau Zero by Poul Ander­son – and numer­ous short sto­ries,Tau Zero by Poul Anderson includ­ing the clas­sic “Night­fall” by Isaac Asi­mov and a few Lar­ry Niven sto­ries.  I’m pret­ty sure “There is a Tide” was one of them, and per­haps “The Hole Man.”  I rec­om­mend them all.

We read the sto­ries and then we dis­cussed the astron­o­my and sci­ence con­cepts con­tained in them.  It was fun and edu­ca­tion­al, a great way to teach and learn sci­ence.

Mike Broth­er­ton had a sim­i­lar idea, which is not ter­ri­bly sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing he’s both an assis­tant pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of physics and astron­o­my at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wyoming, and a sci­ence fic­tion author him­self.  He’s writ­ten two hard-SF nov­els – Star Drag­on and Spi­der Star – and some short sto­ries, one of which is fea­tured in his new anthol­o­gy (one of the perks of being the edi­tor of a book is the increased odds of being includ­ed in it).

Dia­monds in the Sky is avail­able for free online and was fund­ed with a grant from the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion.  How cool is that?

Accord­ing to Mike’s web­site, its pur­pose is…

“to provide sto­ries with ample and accu­rate astron­o­my span­ning a range of top­ics cov­ered in intro­duc­to­ry cours­es.  Instruc­tors in high school and col­lege may the­se sto­ries use­ful, as some stu­dents may learn con­cepts more eas­i­ly through sto­ry than from lec­ture.  Fans of sci­ence fic­tion with good sci­ence should also enjoy the­se sto­ries.  Con­tri­bu­tions include both orig­i­nal sto­ries and reprints from some of the top sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers work­ing today.”

One of the sto­ries, “Plan­et Killer,” is co-written by my friend, Kev­in Gra­zier, who is a plan­e­tary sci­en­tist at JPL and the edi­tor of The Sci­ence of Michael Crich­ton, The Sci­ence of Dune, and the upcom­ing The Sci­ence of Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca (he’s also sci­ence advi­sor to Bat­tlestar).

I men­tioned Dia­monds in the Sky in the new arti­cle about me at The Man­i­to­ban Q&A: Bri­an Mal­ow, sci­ence come­di­an.

Ear­ly in the inter­view, stu­dent jour­nal­ist Trevor Beko­lay asked about the role of sto­ry­telling in teach­ing sci­ence and we talked a bit about sci­ence fiction’s influ­ence.  It was cer­tain­ly a big influ­ence in my life – and con­tin­ues to be.  I cred­it Isaac Asi­mov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Lar­ry Niven, in par­tic­u­lar, with cap­ti­vat­ing me ear­ly on with their cre­ative use of real sci­ence con­cepts in their sci­ence fic­tion.

It’s a great way to get acquaint­ed with sci­ence – in the con­text of an engag­ing sto­ry.

Check out Dia­monds in the Sky for free online.

Links:
Dia­monds in the Sky

Q&A: Bri­an Mal­ow, sci­ence come­di­an

Relat­ed post: 
Sci­ence Come­di­an in The Man­i­to­ban

Mike Brotherton and the Science Comedian

Mike Broth­er­ton has a real­ly nice blog post about me.  Mike is a sci­ence fic­tion writer who also hap­pens to be an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wyoming in the depart­ment of Physics and Astron­o­my.  Quasars are his spe­cial­ty!  And there’s a lot of great con­tent in his blog.  Check it out.

I’m ecsta­t­ic that, of the two jokes he sin­gled out for men­tion, one is an anal­o­gy that rarely gets the laugh I wish for it.  It’s about the abil­i­ty of a virus to take down a human.  We must out­weigh them by a fac­tor of a bil­lion or more.  It’s the ulti­mate David and Goliath…  “It’s like Luke Sky­walk­er tak­ing out the Death Star in a lit­tle X-Wing Fight­er.”

Well, it is, isn’t it?

He also says this about the embed­ded video:

Next time I teach an intro­duc­to­ry sci­ence class, I’m going to show some of the­se. I might be able to deliv­er a cou­ple of the sim­pler jokes and fit them into lec­tures. I’m a good lec­tur­er, but not great, and wak­ing peo­ple up with a smart joke that has some real sci­ence in it isn’t pan­der­ing, it’s edu­cat­ing.

Too often I think thatI just get depressed about the nev­er end­ing bat­tle with igno­rance and sci­ence illit­er­a­cy, with the folks who reject our best knowl­edge because it con­tra­dicts their polit­i­cal or reli­gious beliefs.  Get­ting peo­ple to laugh and want in on the joke is prob­a­bly a bet­ter method of doing some­thing oth­er than preach­ing to the choir and bring­ing in some peo­ple who want to chuck­le, too.

Thanks, Mike!

I haven’t read his two nov­els yet – Star Drag­on and Spi­der Star – but they’ve been praised by David Brin and Paul Di Fil­ip­po.  They are hard SF and have been com­pared to the books of Lar­ry Niven and Robert L. For­ward.  Sounds good to me! 

Year of Science – January – Why is the sky blue?

If you don’t already know, let me be the first to tell you: 2009 is the Year of Sci­ence!

It’s the 150th anniver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of On the Orig­in of Species and the 200th anniver­sary of the birth of Charles Dar­win. Abra­ham Lin­coln was also born on the exact same day (and year) as Dar­win, and Lin­coln would found the Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Galactomatic-1000 (TM) Basement Universe

…Base­ment Uni­vers­es aren’t just for base­ments any more! The Galactomatic-1000 comes with an attrac­tive imi­ta­tion wood-grain negative-matter case that makes it per­fect­ly at home in your den or fam­i­ly room. The case reduces its total mass to zero, so you won’t have to wor­ry about implod­ing your house into a black hole, or dis­col­or­ing the walls with unat­trac­tive grav­i­ta­tion­al red­shifts (**)…

(**) Although the Galactomatic-1000 has no mass, it still has vol­ume, so a ship­ping and han­dling charge will apply.

– Carl Feyn­man,
Extropy #13

Once upon a time there was a lit­tle tran­shu­man­ist mag­a­zine called Extropy.  I prob­a­bly still have an issue or two around here some­where. Most of the con­tent was seri­ous but I remem­ber this one fake adver­tise­ment for The Galactomatic-1000 (TM) Base­ment Uni­verse.  It was hys­ter­i­cal.  Sci­ence com­e­dy at its best!

Writ­ten by Carl Feyn­man, com­put­er engi­neer and son of Richard Feyn­man, the piece appeared in Extropy #13 (6:2), Third quar­ter 1994, page 39.

The mag­a­zine and the Extropy Insti­tute itself are now defunct.  But god bless the inter­net for its archival uses.

Wit­ness the glo­ry of…  The Galactomatic-1000 (TM) Base­ment Uni­verse!

Science Foo Camp 2008: Chapter 1 – The Wiki & What I Missed

[I’ve made one pre­vi­ous Sci­Foo post, in antic­i­pa­tion (and trep­i­da­tion) of the approach­ing week­end.]

Where to begin? How to cap­ture the essence of such an over­whelm­ing expe­ri­ence? Nature! O’Reilly! The Google­plex! 200 cer­ti­fied sci­ence genius­es! No less than four (4) Nobel Lau­re­ates! And oth­er incom­plete sen­tences!

By design, Sci­ence Foo Camp has no real agen­da until we get there and cre­ate it, and even then, it’s com­plete­ly flex­i­ble. But, about three months in advance, a wiki was estab­lished for every­one to post to with descrip­tions of our­selves and ideas for ses­sions we’d like to see or lead. This was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn a lit­tle bit about our fel­low campers and to be that much more pre­pared by the time we got there, since time would be so pre­cious.

[Note to Lee Smolin: I’m not sure about the rest of the Uni­verse but, at Sci­Foo, the flow of time is very real and very fast.]

If you ever get the chance to attend Sci­Foo, take advan­tage of the wiki. Start ear­ly. Most of the campers post­ed brief bios with their areas of research and inter­ests and links to home­pages, blogs, com­pa­nies, and orga­ni­za­tions.  For the ones that didn’t, there’s Google.  If they’re at Sci­Foo, you won’t have any trou­ble find­ing ’em. Most of them have Wikipedia entries.

My only wish for “improv­ing” the amaz­ing crea­ture that is Sci­Foo would be to length­en it just a bit. I want more!  Per­haps extend the Fri­day and Sun­day to full days. Give us just a lit­tle extra time to take it all in. There are so many fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple, so many intrigu­ing ses­sions.  There’s no way to meet every­one or attend every ses­sion you’d like. With as many as four­teen (14!) simul­ta­ne­ous ses­sions in each hour time slot, no mat­ter how much you expe­ri­ence, there’s still a sense that you missed out on a lot of cool stuff.

Of course, even if it were a week long, I’m sure I’d feel the same.

Betsy Devine\'s morning session

For the first ses­sion of the week­end, I missed Carl Diet­rich’s “Ener­gy for Long Dis­tance Trans­porta­tion” because I want­ed to catch Bet­sy Devine’s “5-minute Talks by Smart Peo­ple About Web 2.0 Tools for Sci­ence” (fea­tur­ing Tim O’Reilly, Esther Dyson & Anne Woj­ci­cki, Chris Ander­son, Barend Mons, and Vic­to­ria Stod­den).

And I missed Carl again, for the last ses­sion of the week­end, when he talked about his fly­ing car, because I want­ed to see Broth­er Guy Con­sol­mag­no explain why the Pope has an astronomer (and a mete­orite col­lec­tion!).

I real­ly should’ve been at “Trans­form­ing Edu­ca­tion – Mak­ing Sci­ence Fun and Rel­e­vant for Kids and Stu­dents,” but I want­ed to hear Aubrey de Grey, Chris Patil, and Atti­la Csor­das talk about Aging and Life Exten­sion.

After a fas­ci­nat­ing chat Sat­ur­day morn­ing with Eric Wasser­mann on the 15-minute shut­tle ride from the hotel to the Google­plex (about the expe­ri­ence of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty and the illu­sion of con­scious­ness), I would’ve loved to have sat in on his ses­sion a few hours lat­er about the ethics and impli­ca­tions of brain enhance­ment. But I also want­ed to con­tribute to “Seduc­ing the Pub­lic with Sci­ence” (ini­ti­at­ed – on the wiki – by John Gilbey and Jen­ny Rohn – and includ­ing Tim O’Reilly,Seducing the Public - Tim O'Reilly, Marc Hodosh, Kevin Grazier, et al Ann Druyan, Marc Hodosh, Ben Goldacre, Euge­nie Scott and oth­ers). And, at the exact same time, I was miss­ing NASA Ames Direc­tor Pete Wor­den’s ses­sion on Set­tling Mars, and “LHC: The Uni­verse and All That” with Bri­an Cox, Max Tegmark, Mar­t­in Rees, and Betsy’s hus­band, Nobel Lau­re­ate Frank Wilczek!

Impos­si­ble choic­es that have to be made!

I missed Paul Stamets’ ses­sion on How Fungi Can Save the World, as well as Paul Davies’ ses­sion on Mul­ti­ple Ori­gins of Life and a “Shad­ow Bios­phere” on Earth, and ses­sions on the World­Wide Tele­scope and brain read­ing neu­ral pros­thet­ics, the future of quan­tum com­put­ing, 23andMe, build­ing bet­ter cli­mate mod­els, and sev­er­al more – all in the Sat­ur­day 4pm time slot – because I want­ed to sit in on a ses­sion with Lee Smolin, Max Tegmark, and Gar­rett Lisi called “Incu­bat­ing Adven­tur­ous Sci­ence and the FQXi.”

It wasn’t until Sun­day morn­ing, when I got into a great con­ver­sa­tion with the won­der­ful Dan Janzen about cater­pil­lars and moths, that I real­ized I shouldn’t have missed his pre­sen­ta­tion the day before on DNA bar­cod­ing the world’s species – all 10,000,000 of them.

But what could I do?  I was up to my ears in dark mat­ter – pick­ing the brain of Patri­cia Bur­chat, head of the Physics depart­ment at Stan­ford, who helped me final­ly under­stand how we could know – from our nar­row van­tage point – that the expan­sion rate of the Uni­verse has increased.

I could go on. And on. Expand­ing like the Uni­verse. And that’s what the week­end was real­ly about.

Look­ing over the list of campers, I fig­ure I had sub­stan­tial, inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tions with at least 50 dif­fer­ent peo­ple, on prob­a­bly 50 dif­fer­ent top­ics – plus, I attend­ed about a dozen ses­sions, ask­ing ques­tions or con­tribut­ing com­ments dur­ing quite a few.

And I enter­tained per­haps the smartest crowd I’ve ever played with 45 min­utes of sci­ence humor at my own sur­pris­ing­ly well-attended ses­sion, Sat­ur­day night after din­ner (while, just down the hall, Mar­t­in Rees and Nick Bostrom led a somber dis­cus­sion called “Exis­ten­tial Risks & Glob­al Cat­a­stroph­ic Risks.”)

There was some­thing for every­one.

In the end, there were some peo­ple – like Jim Hardy and Chris Patil and Bri­an Cox and his wife Gia Mili­novich and John Gilbey and Nick Bostrom and David Bauer and Lars Jeppe­sen and Simon Quel­len Field – with whom I had mul­ti­ple chances to chat. And, yet, there are scores of peo­ple I nev­er met. I had no idea (until I was back home in San Fran­cis­co) that there were four Nobel Lau­re­ates among us; I met only one. On the final day there were some faces that didn’t even look famil­iar to me… had they real­ly been here all week­end?

[more to come]