Sunday, February 25, 2007

Concepts in Science explained (A Series)

Awesome piece of work by various ScienceBloggers. John Wilkins hosts. Apparently, it'll be updated regularly. You might like to begin at Theory.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wonderwoman II

Wangari Maathai was recently interviewed on Start the Week. She's got a new autobiography out. It looks promising.


Lene Hau stops light:
Lene Hau has already shaken scientists' beliefs about the nature of things. Albert Einstein and just about every other physicist insisted that light travels 186,000 miles a second in free space, and that it can't be speeded-up or slowed down. But in 1998, Hau, for the first time in history, slowed light to 38 miles an hour, about the speed of rush-hour traffic.

Two years later, she brought light to a complete halt in a cloud of ultracold atoms. Next, she restarted the stalled light without changing any of its characteristics, and sent it on its way. These highly successful experiments brought her a tenured professorship at Harvard University and a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation award to spend as she pleased.

Now Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and of Applied Physics, Hau has done it again. She and her team made a light pulse disappear from one cold cloud then retrieved it from another cloud nearby. In the process, light was converted into matter then back into light. For the first time in history, this gives science a way to control light with matter and vice versa.

From the Harvard University Gazzette (via Unfogged)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band (Reloaded)

Back in the day, when things were just as bad as they are now in Zimbabwe, The Hallelujah Chicken Run Band (led by Thomas Mapfumo) put out a dazzling series of songs; songs that both changed the face of popular music in Zim, and gained fame outside Zim.

Matt Yanchyshyn, of benn loxo du taccu, has a song (time limited mp3) off the 2006 reissue. Head over there and listen to aural proof of Zimbabwean resilience.

Meng Ziwen

From his obituary in the Times:
The death of Meng Ziwen, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Nanning, deprives China of its oldest prelate and a man whose long life encapsulated the challenges — and personal costs — of practising the faith in a country where the Communist Government still sets limits to religious conduct, despite China’s much-vaunted economic reforms.

Requiescat in pace.


Kenya v Scotland

Played at Gymkhana Club Ground, Nairobi, on 7 February 2007 (50-over match)

Result Kenya won by 8 wickets (with 73 balls remaining)

More here, and here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

An unusual refutation of Skepticism

SEARLE: Right...If you go back to the 17th century, and Descartes, skepticism -- the question of how it is possible to have knowledge -- was a live issue for philosophy. That put epistemology -- the theory of knowledge -- at the heart of philosophy. How can we know? Shouldn't we seek a foundation for knowledge that overcomes skeptical doubts about it? As recently as a hundred years ago, the central question was still about knowledge. But now, the center of philosophical debate is philosophy of mind.

IDEAS: Why the change?

SEARLE: We know too much. The sheer volume of knowledge has become overwhelming. We take basic findings from physics and chemistry about the universe for granted. Knowing much more about the real world than our ancestors did, we can't take skepticism seriously in the old way. It also means that philosophy has to proceed on the basis of all that we know...

John Searle in the Boston Globe.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The World is Closer than You Think

Bruce Osborn has, over the years, taken an amazing series of photos of Japanese parents and their children. More here, and here.