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30 May 2017

A Field Guide to Lies, by Daniel J. Levitin

In the library the other day, this book’s title caught my eye. I grabbed it and readily consumed it over the past week. It’s a guide to exercising our best critical thinking skills during a time when our attention is awash in claims both vital and derivative, important and erroneous. How do we tell truth from fiction? Politically, the timing could hardly be more propitious for the release of this …


8 March 2017

Q&A, episode 4

Who are “the 3%?” A reader question prompts a conversation with “Skeptical Science” guru and cognitive scientist John Cook.


24 September 2016

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

I probably should have read this book eight years ago when it was first published, but somehow I missed it then. I recently heard the author, Susan Jacoby, on the podcast Point of Inquiry, and was impressed at the cannon of works she had produced. The current U.S. election cycle has spurred me to think more than I usually do about what constitutes rational thought, and why it seems to …


31 January 2011

Fighting the Woo

Carl Sagan brings his fully armed Spaceship of the Imagination to bear on the Astrology Battleship, and Tim Minchin gives the most hilarious and eloquent rant on alt-medicine and pseudoscience I have ever heard.


9 November 2010

The ‘Mystery Missile’ was an Airplane Contrail

Folks, what we have here is a failure to think critically. Or at all. I know it’s much more fun to just point at the sky and grunt and screech like startled apes, but honestly, we should be better than that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the “mystery missile” was an airplane contrail.


24 October 2010

The Tubes of Mars

Last week was my birthday, and I unexpectedly got a gift in the mail from my cousin. We don’t normally exchange birthday gifts, but she came across a t-shirt called “Tubes of Mars” and just had to buy it for me. Apparently, this line of shirts is capitalizing on various wacky conspiracy theories and they decided to use one of my favorites, the “glass tubes on Mars” idea.


11 September 2010

Jaded by Mars Organics

So, you may have heard the news making the rounds last week that a new analysis of the Viking data suggests there may actually be organics and (dare I even say it?) life on mars! Yawn. Consider me underwhelmed. The gist of the story is this: A long-standing mystery in Mars science has been why the Viking instruments were unable to detect any organic molecules on Mars, not even at …


14 July 2010

Absence of Mind on the Daily Show

I normally like the Daily Show, but I had a problem with the July 8 interview with Marilynne Robinson about her new book, Absence of Mind . I had never heard of this book before, but it appears to be a discussion of the conflict between science and religion, with the message that scientific thinking does not fully take into account the complexities of the human mind. Okay, interesting topic. …


31 March 2010

More TED skepticism: Is science news the most important news?

Only days after a TED talk about Mars inspired this post correcting some of the misconceptions in the talk, another TED talk has me scratching my head. This one is by Kirk Citron, editor of “The Long News”, a project concerned with winnowing the few news stories from current events that will actually be seen as important 100 years or more from now. In his very brief talk he gives …


25 March 2010

TED Talk: Why we need to go back to Mars

I recently started subscribing to the TED talk RSS feed, and I really love coming home every day after work and listening to smart people talk about cool ideas. If you aren’t familiar with TED, you should be. Most of the talks are fantastic and very thought-provoking. So you can imagine I was excited when I saw that today’s talk was about Mars! The talk was given by Joel Levine, …


20 December 2009

AGU 2009: Day 3 – Astrobiology and Society

Wednesday was full of particularly interesting stuff: in between the Venus and moon talks there was also the Sagan lecture and an afternoon session about astrobiology and its implications in society. The Sagan lecture was given by Tori Hoehler, a scientist at NASA Ames. He discussed the fundamental thermodynamics behind life, and showed that even if alien life relies on completely different molecules, there are basic requirements, such as the …


6 May 2009

"Alien Skull" on Mars

Are you kidding?! Guys. That’s a rock. A chunk of vesicular basalt to be specific. As far as pareidolia goes, it’s not even very good! I had to stare for a while before I saw a face. The human brain loves to see familiar shapes in everything, so it’s pretty easy to find examples of rocks on Mars that look like anything you want. Here, take a look at this …


18 November 2008

Mike Brown on Planet Images

Mike Brown (planet hunter extraordinaire) has a really interesting and thoughtful post on his blog about his reaction to the announcement that planets around other stars had been imaged. He details the process that he goes through when reading a paper and then preparing to speak to the press about it. Here’s the excellent quote that he gave to a reporter asking about the discovery: I can’t say the pictures …


13 April 2008

Cracking the Nutcases

Over at the space review, Dwayne Day shoots down the ever-ridiculous Richard Hoagland; the guy who, among other things, believes that there are glass tunnels and cities and pyramids and faces on Mars. Go take a look, at Day’s article. It’s pretty amusing.


16 March 2008

Martian Real Estate

Well, LPSC is over and it is now Cornell’s spring break. Briony and Melissa are running around Joshua Tree National Park this week, so it looks like you’re stuck with me. I was just checking my email when Gmail presented me with a very interesting targeted advertisement: Own Land on the Red Planet ! Apparently there is a company out there convincing gullible people that they can buy plots of …