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In Defense Of Metaphors In Science Writing

We live in an elegant universe. The cosmos is like a string symphony. Genes are selfish. There is an endless battle between thermodynamics and gravity. Do you love these statements, or hate them? The reading world gets pretty divided over whether or not it’s okay to apply metaphors and similes to descriptive science writing. It even gets hot and bothered over the use of that most practical parent of metaphors…


The Physics Behind Traffic Jams

In between today’s various events, I dashed into the store for milk. As I was preparing to back out of my space, I saw a little old lady pushing her cart along, not realizing that my engine was running and I was about to back out. To make a long story short, I didn’t try to dash out in front of her, or honk to hurry her along, I just…


Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

Wisdom from science writer John Horgan. [I]t is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now more than ever. In your science, mathematics and engineering classes, you’re given facts, answers, knowledge, truth. Your professors say, “This is how things are.” They give you certainty. The humanities, at least the way I teach them, give you uncertainty, doubt and skepticism. The humanities are subversive. They undermine the…


Do Black Holes Create New Universes? Physicist Lee Smolin Interview

Can’t wait until we get this end-of-year state-mandated testing/evaluation over with, so my son can go back to reading stuff like this guy’s book. “Reality is structured to a series of moments so that anything that is real is real in a moment of time, and if something appears to persist in time, that’s because it’s continually renewing in time, in the moments of time, which are the reality of…


What Modern Humans Can Learn From The Neanderthals’ Extinction

“You don’t like to think about a holocaust, but it’s quite possible,” he said. He referred to the long-standing belief among many anthropologists that H. sapiens exterminated Neanderthals with superior weapons and intellect. For a long time, there seemed to be no other explanation for the rapid disappearance of Neanderthals after H. sapiens arrived in their territories. Today, however, there is a growing body of evidence from the field of…


Plans for the Little Known Confederate Helicopter

The possibilities of combining Civil War re-enactment and steampunk fantasy role-playing are mind-boggling. Just imagine Rhett Butler steam-flying Scarlet out of Atlanta. The American Civil War brought about great advances in the use of technology in warfare. Balloons, railroads, ironclad ships, and even a submarine were demonstrated throughout the conflict, and new ideas were constantly being thought up and tried on the battlefield. Some ideas were more exotic than others,…


Brain, Interrupted

In most situations, the person juggling e-mail, text messaging, Facebook and a meeting is [not multitasking, but] really doing something called “rapid toggling between tasks,” and is engaged in constant context switching. As economics students know, switching involves costs. But how much? When a consumer switches banks, or a company switches suppliers, it’s relatively easy to count the added expense of the hassle of change. When your brain is switching…