Posts Tagged ‘media’

I am so very mortified. I just received the e-mail invitation from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the ASCE’s 139th Annual Civil Engineering Conference. And who do they proudly boast is the guest speaker for the Closing General Session Breakfast? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Yes, it’s Mister Ben “Expelled” Stein himself. Mr. Ben “science leads you to killing people” Stein. Mr. “Intelligent Design” himself, who kept a straight-face while comparing President Obama with Adolf Hitler, Juan Peron, and Evita Peron. But then, Mr. Stein likes to compare all sorts of things to Nazi depredations, he’s like Godwin’s Law walking out there outside the Internet.

Prepare yourself for a hilarious morning as he delivers advice with his unique sense of humor, while telling you what you need to know.

You know what, guys? You’re definitely along the hilarious track there as you make us a laughingstock by inviting someone who stands decidedly against science, fact-based thinking to speak at an engineering conference. This goes against everything an engineer is trained for and against our obligations toward society.

Thanks for nothing, bozos.


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NASA, AS17-148-2272, taken from Apollo 17 mission on December 7, 1972, at 5:39 a.m. ESTWe live on a beautiful, fragile yet amazingly resilient world, which we celebrate on April 22.  It’s the third planet from our star, the sun, formed over four and half billion  years ago from accreting stellar matter, along with the rest of our system.  Life developed rapidly on the new planet, taking merely half a billion year or so, maybe a little more, but took another two billion before jumping to a multicellular arrangement.  All the time, it has branched and multiplied, trying all sorts of crazy strategies to get the edge in survival.  The whole system is an intricately interconnected web stretched around a lovely blue marble.

To the right is the most famous photo ever taken of our world, NASA’s image no. AS17-148-2272, taken from the Apollo 17 mission on December 7, 1972, at 5:39 a.m. EST.  We’re more used to see it reversed, with the South Pole at the bottom.   It was the the first clear image of an illuminated face of Earth we ever received — this was a new trajectory never used before by an Apollo mission — and is sometimes described as the most reproduced image of all times.  (That’s an unverifiable claim, but it’s true that this is a widely known, iconic image.  I posted the South-Pole-up version rather than the more familiar reversed version to remind myself that up and down, north and south, are entirely relative to our frame of reference.

I think I’m going to go listen to Vangelis’ Albedo 0.39 now.

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The various stages of collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in the Antarctica has been in the news over the past couple of weeks.  Now you can watch an animation of the process in Google Earth, as assembled by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

After downloading the file and opening it with Google Earth, I recommend first clicking the little clock icon to the left of the slider bar in the image, moving the animation speed slider so it is about 1/3 of the way from the left, and selecting “At end of time range, animation should stop.”  Then click “OK” and press the play button (arrow) at the right of the slider.  Repeat as needed.

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Trinidad Beach in light fog -- Copyright 2009 Edmund Metheny

Trinidad Beach in light fog -- Copyright 2009 Edmund Metheny

A couple of weeks ago, the Crescent City Daily Triplicate introduced us to an exciting mapping project: the North Coast California Geotourism project, covering the Del Norte to Marin areas, including Lake County.

Working with the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, the North Coast Tourism Council and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are compiling a Geotourism Map Guide. The NGCSD has already contributed large databases of fascinating information to Google Earth.

The Del Norte County Visitors Bureau is exploring this opportunity to make the North Coast shine in the public’s eye, along several other ideas to attract more tourism.

So what exactly does “geotourism” mean? According to the North Coast Geotourism project site:

Geotourism is defined as tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.

The project team is hoping to develop an online geotourism guide and database, and perhaps a paper (poster map) version as well. I expect the database will also be available in online mapping applications like Google Maps and Google Earth.

Through an online nomination form, anyone can submit a site: natural, cultural, and historic attractions, etc. You can also download and print the PDF form and fax it to (831) 647-4244, or mail it back to BLM California Coastal National Monument, 229 Foam Street, Monterey, CA 93940.

What kind of sites get listed? Here is a list of categories to draw from:

  • Natural area (river, waterfall, botanical, geologic feature)
  • Beach, tidepool, public pier or other coastal access
  • Cultural, traditional experience, museum or site
  • Native American Heritage Sites
  • Festivals, celebration, ceremony, or event
  • Historic site (fort, cemetery, church, shipwreck, etc.)
  • Arts, artisan, or handicrafts
  • Outdoor recreation (hiking, biking, kayaking, etc.)
  • Music, dance, theater, storytelling, etc.
  • Accommodation (B&B, lodge)
  • Culinary, cuisine (restaurant, café, wine bar, brew pub)
  • Visual attraction (scenic overlook, photo point, etc.)
  • Farm, agriculture, ranch, winery, etc.
  • Redwoods theme (hikes, groves, restoration, etc.)
  • Wildlife habitat and/or wildlife viewing
  • Locally or family-owned business
  • Scenic byway or drive
  • Eco-friendly (fish-friendly farming, carbon neutral, etc.)
  • Salmon theme (fish viewing area, hatchery, restoration efforts, river float trips, exhibits, etc. )

So why not take a few hours to sit with family or friends some weekend this month, list your favourite sites, and fill the form together to brag about the local “best kept secrets”? The form is very simple and there is even an example of filled form available on the Website to help guide answers.

The deadline for nominations was first set for March 30, but has been extended to May 31, 2009. For questions, call Marcia deChadenedes, Project Coordinator at 831-372-6225.

Links of interest:

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I read an article yesterday on John Waylon, a.k.a. Plasma Boy, a tinkerer who fitted 1972 Datsun body with not one but two electric engines — forklift engines — powered by battery packs. His team takes the car racing on public tracks and with its instant acceleration, the car does wonders on the quarter-mile drag races.

The Oregon Public Broadcasting video below shows the car — named White Zombie — leaving Corvettes, BMWs, and other muscle cars on the starting block.

Links of interest:

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The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.
— Carl Sagan, Cosmos

A few days ago, the free online video service Hulu made Carl Sagan’s 1980 science series Cosmos available among their releases (also available through Google Video).

This is the most recent release, containing Sagan’s 1990 updates as well as recent intro comments from his wife, writer Ann Druyan.

In 1980, the landmark series Cosmos premiered on public television. Since then, it is estimated that more than a billion people around the planet have seen it. Cosmos chronicles the evolution of the planet and efforts to find our place in the universe. Each of the 13 episodes focuses on a specific aspect of the nature of life, consciousness, the universe and time. Topics include the origin of life on Earth (and perhaps elsewhere), the nature of consciousness, and the birth and death of stars. When it first aired, the series catapulted creator and host Carl Sagan to the status of pop culture icon and opened countless minds to the power of science and the possibility of life on other worlds.

Carl Sagan was an astronomer and a writer who did enormous work to popularize science. He died of pneumonia contracted during his fight against myelodysplasia (a form of anemia) in 1996 and I was very sad when we lost him.

This weekend my husband and I watched a few episodes of Cosmos, dreading how old news it might seem after three decades, but the series has aged reasonably gracefully. I wish certain sections were presented in a different order, but I believe it continues to be an excellent introduction to the intricate interconnectedness of humanity’s scientific quest, and the beauty of the universe.

I was 15 when the series was first aired. Sagan’s memorable “Billions and Billions” — with an emphasis on the Bs he reportedly added so there would be no confusion with “millions” — and his beatific gazing at starscapes, the Vangelis soundtrack, and the voyages of the “spaceship of imagination” were among the high points of an otherwise dreary year in high school. The handful of astronomy nerds I hung out with — Nathalie, Christian, Alain, Marc — talked animatedly about the episodes the next day, straining our then-limited knowledge of English. The next Christmas, mom gave me a copy of the book based on the series (there is a bit of irony in this) and later on I used the contents in many a class paper.

Hulu is co-owned by NBC Universal, News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners, and operated independently. Cosmos was first broadcast on PBS.

Links of interest:

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Twitter annoys me

I’ve talked about online presence and social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and their applications, used in a professional context. Another networking tool that is growing exponentially these days is Twitter. This application is what is called a micro-blogging service, where users can post messages of up to 140 characters. Posts can be sent through a variety of online applications and through mobile phones.

Here are useful overviews of some of the basic features and why it can be beneficial in professional networking and even job search from Jason Alba (his Twitter page) and Louise Fletcher (her Twitter page).

It has value — for example, a well-connected user posting a link on Twitter can bump traffic tremendously over a very short period. I had a first-hand example of this phenomenon a few weeks ago when my post on backing up Web info was mentioned on Twitter and suddenly saw hits peak rapidly within a few hours.

But the entire Twitter conversation boils down primarily to this link exchange, to terse questions and terser replies in cryptic short-hand, to vacuous “right on!” and “me too!” chattering, and to chronicles of minutia by users who love to inform the world that they are currently shopping for groceries, watching television, or hanging out at the bus stop.

I hate that Twitter participates in the Sound Bite Culture and reinforces it. It has been around in its current form for less than two years, and I’m already tired of seeing pages of quips under 140 characters masquerading as discussions. I would rather read short but well-supported blog posts and articles.

Even when I want sound bites, I prefer to check LinkedIn or Facebook, where the sound bites — the users’ status line — are only a small appetizer or even garnish for more somewhat substantive discussion.

Links of interest:

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