Past Extinctions and Global Impacts

Theodore Porter on Victorian Scientists

Another extracurricular presentation, this time on Victorian scientists and institutions. The speaker was Theodore Porter from UCLA. He was part of the Science and Technology Studies colloquium here at Michigan. If there is any field of history that I gravitate toward it is science and technology studies. The connection to information science is sometimes tenuous but the philosophical questions about the weight of individuals and institutions are prominent. Porter basically summarized some of his recent work on Karl Pearson and the scientific institutions in Britain during the 19th century.

Cosmos and Carl Sagan's Legacy

Over the weekend I decided to rewatch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, in addition to the fascinating, but depressing, movies about war that I’ve been harping about recently. Sagan is one of my personal heroes and television show Cosmos was one of the formative viewing experiences of my youth. I remember hearing people imitate his voice on ‘billions and billions’ or seeing him on Johnny Carson with my grandmother. So last night I sat down on my couch and watched the first episode of Cosmos, “The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean.

Thin Crescent Moons and Amateur Astronomers

Sky and Telescope has an interesting article on observing thin crescent moons, shortly after they become visible. “Seeking Thin Crescent Moons” has a set of maps showing where some of this years early crescent moons can be observed in the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately I already missed my opportunity in Peru a few days ago. There’s also a story about a newborn nebula that has been recently reobserved by an amateur astronomer in Phoenix.

Watching the Temperature Rise

Mark Lynas is working on a new book about global warming, after touring the world for three years to find stories. A preview article in the Guardian mentions rising oceans in Tuvalu, retreating glaciers in Peru, warming summers in Alaska and a host of other real examples of changing climate. So I knew there would be change, and that the glaciers in my father’s pictures would almost certainly be smaller.

Biotechnology, Access and Choice

Salon had a number of interesting articles from recent weeks on the intersections between technology, biology, and education. Alan H. Goldstein starts with Invasion of the high-tech body snatchers. A description of the coming changes in bioengineering. If we can soon replace much of the human body with artificial parts, we will, and then who knows what we will become. He says that bioethics has been too focused on cloning and ignoring the potential threat and promise of what he calls bioengineering.