The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘space’

50th Anniversary of Doctor Who: The Physics of the TARDIS

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 23, 2013

In honor of the epic 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, I am going to re-post a recent post I made this past summer: SkepchickCON-CONvergence 2013 Day Two – Physics of the TARDIS…

On my second day at  SkepchickCON-CONvergence 2013, I participated in two panels.  The second panel was titled “The Physics of the TARDIS” and since the con had a “British Invasion” theme to it, Doctor Who was a big hit this year.  And that meant that this panel was very well attended, so well attended in fact that it ended up being standing (and sitting) room only!  In this panel we got into all manner of questions regarding the physics, realistic and speculative, regarding time travel, the TARDIS being bigger-on-the-inside, and more.

My co-panelists for this discussion were Steve Manfred, Renate Fiora, and Katherine Krantz.  Check out the audio of the panel below, and enjoy!  :)

[**Note: the audio is embedded in a PowerPoint file - just click the link to download the file]

SkepchickCON-CONvergence 2013 Day Two – Physics of the TARDIS

conv

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SkepchickCON-CONvergence 2013 Day Two – Physics of the TARDIS

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 17, 2013

On my second day at  SkepchickCON-CONvergence 2013, I participated in two panels.  The second panel was titled “The Physics of the TARDIS” and since the con had a “British Invasion” theme to it, Doctor Who was a big hit this year.  And that meant that this panel was very well attended, so well attended in fact that it ended up being standing (and sitting) room only!  In this panel we got into all manner of questions regarding the physics, realistic and speculative, regarding time travel, the TARDIS being bigger-on-the-inside, and more.

My co-panelists for this discussion were Steve Manfred, Renate Fiora, and Katherine Krantz.  Check out the audio of the panel below, and enjoy!  :)

SkepchickCON-CONvergence 2013 Day Two – Physics of the TARDIS

conv

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Skeptics Under the Stars 2013” Event in July!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 16, 2013

If you happen to be in the upper Midwest in late July, I invite you to attend an event hosted by the Women Thinking, Inc: it’s called Skeptics Under the Stars (or SUTS)! Here’s more information…

SUTS 2013

Do you love astronomy, skepticism and the outdoors? You can enjoy all of that at once at the Third Annual Skeptics Under the Stars, a star party camping trip hosted by Women Thinking, Inc!

This year’s trip will include special guest Nicole Gugliucci, otherwise known as the Noisy Astronomer.

Like in past years, we’ll be staying on a private lake in Delavan, Wisconsin at the beautiful McIntyre Resort and visiting the Yerkes Observatory at Lake Geneva. Unlike past years, it will be the middle of summer so …there will be no need for winter coats. You can expect lots of astronomy, food, booze and great company.

To find out more and to get your ticket visit http://womenthinking.org/suts.html

If you have any questions, just send a facebook message to Jamie Bernstein or email her at jamie@womenthinking.org

Posted in skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Denver UFO: Yup, It’s Unidentified… So What Does That Mean?

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 18, 2012

Over the last few days there has been a media sensation built up around a UFO in the Denver, Colorado area.  Here’s a closeup of the object in question:

Image source

The story has garned a great deal of attention, as evidenced by this video clip from a local news station…

Indeed, the news team does a so-so job of investigating this UFO, though there is a lot of sensationalizing in the report (surprise, surprise!), but there is one point I would like to emphasize in greater detail which this report totally glossed over.  That is the fact that this thing, whatever it is, is unidentified… as in Unidentified Flying Object.  Repeat after me three times: unidentified flying object… Unidentified flying object… UNIDENTIFIED flying object!!!

I want to be very clear on this point because, as I expected, the Internet is already abuzz with talk of alien spacecraft, government cover ups, and conspiracies galore.  And those leaping to this dubious conclusion (that the thing is “obviously not of this world”) are committing what is known as an argument from ignorance – that is, in one breath they will admit that we don’t have enough information to conclude what it is, but then in the next breath they will say, quite emphatically, that it HAS to be an alien spacecraft.

And such thinking contains a direct contradiction: the argument basically says that because we don’t know, then we know.  With reasoning as loose as this, one can “justify” the existence of leprechauns, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, or Invisible Pink Unicorns!  What the heck is wrong with saying “We don’t know” and just leaving it at that?

Incidentally, while the possibility of a plane or helicopter has been ruled out, it is likely that the object in question is a bug of some kind.  There is a very good article on this point over at the Illuminutti blog…

… OK – everybody now… it’s bugs.  This bug-UFO is especially bad because on some of the shots the insect actually hovers and moves around like an obvious insect. The videographer did not notice them because they were small fast-flying insects. Or perhaps they did notice the insects, but did not connect them to the unfocused black dots buzzing about on the video. It is also possible they know exactly what they are, but is just pranking  the local news station (hence the anonymity).

One or two shots in there are probably birds. You can see an apparent wing flap. Birds and bugs are common sources of UFO artifacts in the video age. They are small objects close to the camera that will appear as out-of-focus dots and streaks that can be mistaken (by the willful or truly incurious) for objects that are large and farther away. The fact that no one saw them live and there was no radar tracking should be a clue, but for the believer can just add to the mystery.

The lameness of this video being presented in breathless terms as a compelling UFO might have something to do with the declining interest in UFOs. Anyone with a genuine interest – enough to join a UFO group and try to find real evidence that UFOs are visiting ETs, would probably get tired of all the bugs and lanterns after a while. …

Posted in aliens & UFOs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Farewell Neil Armstrong, and Thanks for That “One Small Step”

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong died today.  The first human being to ever set foot on another world – the Moon – died today.  It is with more than a hint of nostalgia that I write this, because as I reflect back upon my 40 years of life I have to marvel at the fact that humans walked on another world before I was even born!

Let’s hope we can get back “out there” even more, for the sake of Neil’s memory and the future :)

In closing, I can think of no better way to close than by referencing this amazing obituary for Neil Armstrong from The Economist Magazine:

Obituary

    Neil Armstrong 

Aug 25th 2012, 20:38 by T.C.

ASTRONAUTS do not like to be called heroes. Their standard riposte to such accusations is to point out that it requires the efforts of hundreds of thousands of backroom engineers, mathematicians and technicians to make space flight possible. They are right, too: at the height of its pomp, in 1966, NASA was spending about 4.4% of the American government’s entire budget, employing something like 400,000 workers among the agency and its contractors.

But it never works. For Neil Armstrong, who commanded Apollo 11, the mission that landed men on the moon on July 20th 1969, the struggle against heroism seemed particularly futile. The achievement of his crew, relayed live on television, held the entire planet spellbound. On their return to Earth, the astronauts were mobbed. Presidents, prime ministers and kings jostled to be seen with them. Schools, buildings and roads were named after them. Medals were showered upon them. A whirlwind post-flight tour took them to 25 countries in 35 days.

As the first man to walk on another world, Armstrong received the lion’s share of the adulation. All the while, he quietly insisted that the popular image of the hard-charging astronaut braving mortal danger the way other men might brave a trip to the dentist was exaggerated. “For heaven’s sake, I loathe danger,” he told one interviewer before his fateful flight. Done properly, he opined, spaceflight ought to be no more dangerous than mixing a milkshake. …

Read the rest of the obituary here

Posted in space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Mars Science Laboratory Landing: Science – It Works!!!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 6, 2012

I, like many of my fellow humans on planet Earth, am simply bursting with joy, excitement, pride, anticipation, and (pardon the pun) curiosity after the successful landing of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the Red Planet.  This was a big deal, for a number of reasons outlined at this link, but for me this remarkable acheivement can be summed up in one quick phrase:

Science – It Works!!! :)

Image source and caption: In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from a second batch of images sent from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. The video screen was inside the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California August 5, 2012.The rover landed on the Martian surface shortly after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday (1:30 a.m. EDT Monday/0530 GMT) to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, NASA said. REUTERS/Courtesy NASA TV/Handout

Image source and caption: Aeolis Mons (unofficially Mount Sharp), as seen from Curiosity.

And if that isn’t cool enough, check out this Youtube video of the descent of the MSL towards the surface of Mars taken from the lander itself!

**Note: I want to give a shout out to my FB friend Rob for inspiring the title of this blog entry :)

Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Hug Me! I’m Vaccinated” Clinic a Success at TAM2012

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 21, 2012

One of the most rewarding things I did at TAM2012, which was full of rewarding things, was to help run and staff the Hug Me! vaccination clinic.  Hug Me! is a campaign by the Women Thinking, Inc to educate women and parents (and pretty much anyone else) on the importance of vaccinating their children and themselves.  While at TAM2012, we gave 161 free TDaP – that’s Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis (whooping cough) – booster shots to attendees of the conference.  If you are interested in learning more and possibly supporting our work, by donating or buying a Hug Me! shirt, click here :)

**Update: if you want to buy a Hug Me! shirt (as pictured below) send an email to marsmattus [at] yahoo [dot] com

The volunteers from the Women Thinking, Inc posing with James “The Amazing One” Randi (note our mascot, the sloth)

Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“We Are Star Dust” – Symphony of Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 12, 2012

Astrophysicist and science/skeptical activist Neil deGrasse Tyson is working on a re-release of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and this nicely autotuned Youtube video clip from melodysheep clearly shows why he is the right person for the job :)

Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Incredible Time-Lapse Footage from the International Space Station

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 8, 2012

I came across this Youtube video recently of time-lapse footage from the International Space Station’s low-light camera, and it was so awesome I just had to share it.  This video is breath-taking in its artistry, beauty, and it also speaks to the power and utility of science to illustrate our world to us in a manner inaccessible otherwise.

Enjoy the show! :)

Posted in space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More High Resolution Images of the Apollo Moon Landing Sites

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 7, 2011

We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we’ll be here again, folks.  NASA has just released a set of even higher resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the Apollo 17 landing site (see my previous blog entry on earlier images here), which shows – yet again – more evidence that human beings really did go to the Moon!  Here are the images…

Clearly visible are equipment left on the Moon’s surface (such as the base of the lander which is casting a clear shadow) and numerous tracks left by the astronauts’ footprints in the lunar regolith.  And here is a magnified version of the above image, centering on the base of the lunar lander itself:

Image credit: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

[**Aside: Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has an excellent analysis and specific breakdown of these newest images here.]

Sadly, this probably won’t stop conspiracy-minded Moon hoax theorists from spinning their usual nonsense denying the fact that we sent humans to the Moon (see this excellent analysis by Bad Astronomy of the Moon hoaxer claims).  That’s because, no matter what evidence is provided (even including high-resolution images of the landing sites and human footprints on the Moon), these conspiracy theorists will attempt to rationalize it away, such as by invoking the all-powerful Conspiracy (i.e., all the images are faked, except – of course – the very images the hoaxers use to claim the Moon landings didn’t happen).  Case in point, just today I received the following comment on an earlier blog post on this matter:

Haha – your photo’s prove the fake – look closely at the image of the Apollo 14 landing site and you can see the the LM has no height profile compararive to it’s shadow – thankyou for the proof – hahahaha. Also the eagle landing module has a shadow the shape of a christmas tree. Why would that be?

Of course, one can see clearly in the higher resolution photos above of the Apollo 17 landing site that there is an obvious height profile compared to the shadow of the lander base.  As for the Eagle lander having a “shadow the shape of a christmas tree”, one should note that what was left behind on the Moon was the base of the lander, not the entire lander structure with the descent module attached (because, duh, that part brought the astronauts back).  It’s details like this the conspiracy theorists overlook in their zealous attempts to simultaneously deny reality and spin some kind of fantasy world where they are clued in to what’s really going on.

I’m content to allow these whackjobs to continue spinning their tall tales that fly in the face of mountains of evidence, including their utterly abyssmal understanding of physics (see the Bad Astronomy link for more on that).  Meanwhile, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the fact that we still have the right stuff :)

Posted in conspiracy theories, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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