When I imagine Scooby-Doo, I can almost hear it. I hear the horn-filled chase theme, the pitter-patter of feet scrambling to get away, and, more than anything, I hear the semi-intelligible dialogue of a canine with a speech disorder. Forty-five years after the first airing of the beloved children’s TV show, I decided I had heard my last “ruh oh.”
If you’re interested in science and own a TV, you will probably be watching the reboot of Cosmos this Sunday. You also probably know that the show will be updated with new science since Carl Sagan’s original series, that it features astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and that its premiere will be “the biggest roll-out in television history,” if you believe major backer of the show, Seth MacFarlane. You may have read profiles, news pieces, interviews, or even seen a preview of the show. But nobody knows the answer to the most important question—will Cosmos work?
So, you’re telling me that a fictional scientist and a skateboarder didn’t create a Nobel Prize-worthy piece of levitation technology that would literally change the world? I guess it’s Back to the Drawing Board…
After a rather elaborate series of videos, denials, and eventual reveals, it turns out that Tony Hawk and Doc Brown will not be bringing you your very own hoverboard by the end of the year. As easy as this silly hoax was to uncover, you can never tell how much scientific damage is done by stunts like this (the fake video has 8.5 million views at the time of this writing). After all, thanks to Animal Planet, many people believe mermaids are frolicking topless on some distant shoreline. Thankfully, the hoverboard hoax is a teachable moment–we know how to hover boards (kinda).
We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self. A secretion of sensory experience and feeling. Programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when, in fact, nobody is anybody.
Rust Cohle has tumbled down a deep, dark philosophical hole and wants us to follow him. In HBO’s episodic crime drama True Detective, Cohle—played masterfully by Matthew McConaughey—accentuates his homicide investigations with disturbing existential rumination. Listening to Cohle lecture on the futile nature of human life or the cosmic indifference of the universe is emotionally arresting to say the least. His “corrosive” soul is the fulcrum for the supernatural element in True Detective, a nihilistic car wreck to stare at each week.
But Cohle is more than just dark when he speaks about human nature, he is right.
The hardest part of communicating science isn’t when it’s in front of your peers or viewers or readers—the people you expect to know what you are talking about and why. For me, it’s talking science with kids. There isn’t anything like the inquisitive stare of a pre-teen to elicit the feeling you are about to speak in front of your biggest audience ever.
The merchant wanted me to clear the decaying tomb outside the village. I was halfway to it when I saw something more interesting in the distance. It was a set of stairs carved into stone that instantly distracted me, like a million other little things in Skyrim, from my quest. I set out for the stairs and made my way up a few before a troll beset me. It got too close. With three words and a mighty shout, a blast of air blew the troll down the mountainside like a smelly ragdoll no child would buy. Above me, a dragon roared. I felt powerful. Could you do something like that for real?
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In 2007, a Japanese youth hacked a version of Nintendo’s Super Mario World specifically to frustrate the goombas out of his friend. Distilled and translated from a longer Japanese title, this “Kaizo Mario World,” as it came to be known, was one of the first ultra-hard Super Mario hacks to make it around the world. The file quickly spread across the Internet to annoy more than the original recipient. It was filled with invisible blocks intentionally placed to thwart jump attempts, low time limits, and instant-death enemies. Despite the challenges Kaizo Mario presented, players soldiered on, finding ingenious, pixel-perfect solutions to the levels. A successful playthrough of any one of them is a privilege to watch, the fruition of many hours spent restarting from the beginning of levels.