Time Lapse Photography of the Aurora Borealis

Two recent time lapse videos of the Northern Lights have crossed my path recently. They combine two of my perennial fascinations - time and the sky - so I couldn’t help but be impressed. Both of the videos are produced by Norwegian photographers who have been benefiting from the recent increase in solar activity. Watching the aurora in person is one of the only reason I’d consider moving to such a norther clime.

Understanding the Fear of Nuclear Power - Part 2

Rob Stein at the Washington Post adds some more reasons to the nuclear pile. There are many reasons why humans fear radiation so intensely. One reason is because radiation is silent, invisible and odorless. Another is because radiation is associated with cancer, which itself is one of the most feared words. Another reason is that in accidents, as opposed to medical treatments, exposure to radiation is involuntary. Other reasons are the searing images of victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, a generation raised fearing Cold War-mushroom-cloud annihilation and the way radiation is portrayed by popular culture.

Understanding the Fear of Nuclear Power - Part 1

So why are we so collectively scared of nuclear power? Bradford Plumer interviewed some cultural historians in an attempt to answer that question. Our fears of nuclear power have a long history and predate World War Two and Hiroshima. Movies about the dangers of radiation were being made as early as the 1930s. In 1928 a lawsuit brought by the “radium girls” against the United States Radium factory in New Jersey was settled.

The Nuclear Panic Button!

The recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan captured my attention for most of the past week since the March 11 earthquake. Based on the headlines over the last few days it appears that the focus of media attention has shifted to war in Libya. Neither event leads to optimism. The frustrating thing about the nuclear disaster in Japan has been the not unexpected backlash against nuclear power. Having grown up in the 1980s I remember the many nightmares about nuclear war that seemed to plague that decade.

From Cognition in Practice by Jean Lave

Cognition in Practice, by Jean Lave, 1998 “So far I have described a series of dichotomously polarized issues that have sustained limitations on debate between paradigms and disciplines over a considerable period of time. I have yet to describe the sources of the coherence with which the issues reinforce on another. They take their shape, the great divides formed, in terms of a positivist epistemology which specifies a series of assumptions on which they are based: rationality exists as the ideal canon of thought; experimentation can be thought of as the embodiment of this ideal in scientific practice; science is the value-free collection of factual knowledge about the world; factual knowledge about the world is the basis for the formation of scientific theory, not the other way around; science is the opposite of history, the one nomothetic the other ideographic; cognitive processes are general and fundamental, psychology, correspondingly, a nomothetic discipline; society and culture shape the particularities of cognition and give it content, thus sociocultural context is specific, its study ideographic; general laws of human behavior, therefore, must be dissected away from the historical and social obfuscations which give them particularity.

Brain Dissection - Live - On the Internet!

While reviewing my philosophy weblog news feeds I came across a link to the live webstream of a brain dissection on the internet. H.M., a famous neuroscience patient, died a year ago. He was famous in brain studies because a surgery to cure seizures resulted in his being unable to form new memories. “He loved to converse, for example, but within 15 minutes he would tell you the same story three times, with same words and intonation, without remembering that he’d just told it,” said Suzanne Corkin, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studied and followed Mr.

My Top 7 Scholars

My top 7 scholars: Donald Davidson. Reading “On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme” is still one of the high points of my philosophic career. I was a pretty naive cognitive relativist in college when I read this essay and it convinced me then and still convinces me now that humans share much more intellectual and cognitive background than not. Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions altered my perception of science and forced me to question my belief in a naive, progressivist narrative of scientific development.

How Long is a Day? How Heavy is a Kilogram? - In Praise of Metrology

Every once in a while I notice a story about metrology, or the science of measurement, that reminds me how many of our concepts about the world are carefully constructed and contingent. A few months ago I asked just how long ago the civil war was after hearing a story about a book stolen during the civil war and just recently returned. On the scale of a human life or generation the civil war is very recent history and yet America seems to have completely buried it in the past.

The Enemy Within Argument

There is a certain style of argument that has been bothering me lately and I think I may finally have a name for it. It started at the beginning of this month over at Scienceblogs when the issue of framing science reared up again and created a blog tempest. Matthew Nisbet complained that critics of the anti-evolution movie Expelled were damaging their own cause by drawing too much attention to the movie.

Causation, Social Construction, and Relativism

I can feel myself being pulled to the dark side of philosophy through this semester’s classes and readings. I’m starting to think about causality. (mock horror) In my STS class we just finished reading “The Strong Programme in the Sociology of Knowledge” by David Bloor. Bloor lists four conditions for an explanatory theory of science. It must explain the cause of beliefs, be impartial to the truth or falsity of beliefs, be symmetrical and use the same explanatory framework for true and false beliefs, and be reflexive or capable of being applied to sociology as well as science or any other human knowledge seeking/creating endeavor.