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12 February 2020

History of Science: Antiquity to 1700, by Lawrence Principe

My most recent commuting audio has been this course from The Great Courses: Johns Hopkins professor Lawrence Principe‘s History of Science: Antiquity to 1700. I checked it out from my local library: 36 lectures, each about 30 to 45 minutes long. I found it quite interesting, well-paced, and insightful. Principe is an organic chemist-turned-historian-of-science, and he recounts key developments in the way people thought about “natural philosophy” (it wasn’t dubbed …

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10 February 2020

The Pentagon’s Brain, by Annie Jacobsen

This book is a comprehensive account of everything unclassified that DARPA and its predecessor ARPA, has ever done. The subtitle is: “An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency.” It begins with testing nuclear bombs at Bikini Atoll in 1954, where theoretical calculations about the Castle Bravo bomb’s explosive yield get a sobering reality check: it was more than twice as powerful as had been anticipated! Oops. The …

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20 January 2020

Book report

A quartet of brief book reviews from some of Callan’s recent reading.

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15 April 2019

The Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson

In 2009, a thief broke into England’s Tring Museum and stole hundreds of curated bird skins. The thief was a talented American musician attending school in London. He broke apart specimens collected by Alfred Russel Wallace and Lionel Walter Rothschild and sold the feathers to men who tie salmon flies (originally for fishing, but now an art form in its own right). The story of this crime is well documented by an author who became obsessed with solving the case of the missing birds.

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27 March 2019

Timefulness, by Marcia Bjornerud

[Note: this book review was scheduled to run in the July 2019 issue of EARTH magazine, but with the announcement two weeks ago that EARTH was being shuttered, I was notified that nothing contributors or freelancers had written scheduled for after April 2019 would be published, and the rights were returned to me. While that’s disappointing, it frees me up to publish it here instead. Enjoy!] _____________________________________________ Geology is a …

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20 March 2019

The Dinosaur Artist, by Paige Williams

A book review of Paige Williams’ “The Dinosaur Artist,” a tale of international trade in dinosaur skeletons.

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5 February 2018

Inferior, by Angela Saini

The subtitle of this useful and righteous book is How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story. It’s a scientific examination of a slew of ideas about women, busting culturally-entrenched myths left and right with that most radical of substances: data. The book is intended, I would guess, as a comprehensive review of what science currently has to say about females, motivated to support of the …

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1 December 2017

People and Pyroclastics: Mount Agung at the Confluence of Science and Society

A guest post from an American expat living in east Bali, displaced with his family from their home due to Mount Agung’s recent eruption, and trying to help out as best he can.

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27 April 2017

Identifying logical fallacies and scientific misdirection in a CO2 video

A quick exercise in deconstructing the argument of a “elevated CO2 is good” video on YouTube by identifying its logical fallacies. Pull up a chair, grab a bowl of popcorn, and join us in the critique!

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24 April 2017

The bizarre world wherein we march for science

I marched on Saturday. In spite of the congested conditions in both the local atmosphere and my sinuses, I felt compelled to add my voice and presence to the March for Science, an event that was probably the first of its kind since the Enlightenment, aiming to push back against anti-science attitudes from the current occupant of the White House and his contemporaries on Capitol Hill. I tried to keep …

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