bolson: (Default)
I watched this talk by a woman doing SETI work. She was actually not a very good speaker, in my fabulous opinion. She gave a nod to "Contact" by using the "awful waste of space" line, but at other times seemed to just be stealing from it (badly). Then she mentioned a further parallel that was just a little too crazy. Microsoft founder Paul Allen is playing Hadden (the rich old benefactor from Contact) by funding a dedicated radio telescope array for SETI work. (This is actually old news, in the works since 2003, but new to me.)
bolson: (Default)
Watching recent Nova program on Intelligent Design and the Dover, PA trial of a couple years ago. I take away two impressions of the creationists.
1. Their anti-science willful ignorance and stupidity makes me mad and sad. The evidence is plainly obvious to me. Of course, they see it the same way and the Bible is their evidence. Fundamentalism of this kind continues to worry me. Christian Fundamentalism here worries me more than Islamic Fundamentalism far away. Still, I don’t want to be that on the other side. A ‘Science Fundamentalist’? That could get ugly too. Or, wait, no. Science is inherently skeptical and tolerant of other viewpoints when done properly. It’s the fundamentalism of one particular conclusion to the exclusion and denigration of all others that is a problem. Still, my evidence is better than theirs and I’m right. Nyah.
2. One of their big complaints, which they blame Darwin and Evolution for, is that the status of humanity has been reduced to something less than the sacred children of God that we are. I’m much more sympathetic to this complaint once I place the blame elsewhere and rewrite the theology to my own tastes. There is something wrong with the appraisal of the worth of a person in this society. Too often people are treated as worthless. Too many people estimate their own worth lower than they should and don’t speak up and claim what should be theirs. You could see both sides of this in the employer who treats people as commodity interchangeable replaceable expendable workers and the people who work there and put up with that treatment. I’m not sure exactly where to place the blame for this, but at least part of it belongs with those people who might be the very same anti-Darwin people whose theology starts with Original Sin and the belief that people are basically bad. The ‘conservative’ side of American politics holds a generally lower value for people, and the monied powers that go along with them certainly profit from commoditized people. The antidote that brings about empowerment and valuing humanity is still an open question too. They say Jesus, I say Buddha/Emmerson/etc.


Oct. 24th, 2007 03:23 pm
bolson: (Default)
The coolest thing I've seen in science lately tickles my data hungry side. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) promises:
In a relentless campaign of 15 second exposures, LSST will cover the available sky every three nights

Up to 30 TB of data in one night. Yum.

The one thing I didn't get, and maybe this is a gap in my knowledge of telescope optics, is the scale of the things it can detect. It has a 10 degree^2 field of view, a 1e9 pixel camera, so 1e-8 degree^2 per pixel, 1e-4 degrees on the side of a square pixel, tan(0.0001) = 1.745e-6. That last number is the ratio of the size of a distant object to the distance to it. A 1 meter object would be one pixel at 573000 meters. At 150e9 meters, about the earth-to-sun distance, an object has to be 261km across to be one pixel on this telescope. And yet, they claim that they'll find nearly all 1km objects in the solar system in the first year. Hmm.


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