The internets move faster than I do. Interesting stuff that has accumulated in the past couple of weeks while I have been balancing work with jet-setting.
- Backreaction is the go-to blog these days for cool expository posts about physics. Bee, newly hitched, has great articles about extra dimensions and neutrinos.
- Not to be outdone, jao at physics musings has some musings about physics diagrams. Feynman’s, of course, but also these funny pictures invented by Penrose to represent tensor algebra (pictured right). (Not sure what to call them, as “Penrose diagrams” is already taken.) They are a cute way of keeping track of the index gymnastics of ordinary tensors. I’m not sure if they actually represent an advance over the indices (of which I’m quite fond), but if nothing else they provide an interesting insight into the mind of someone smarter than most of us.
- An interesting multi-blog disscussion was prompted by a provocative post at Feministing about a study claiming that conditions in the womb can affect men’s sexual orientation. Jessica wondered out loud whether or not we should even be studying these issues; she has legitimate concerns that whatever results are obtained could be used to excuse yet more repression. As a scientist, the answer is obvious: of course we should be studying these issues. We should study everything! But we should not pretend that our investigations have no consequences, and constantly be on guard against those who would put scientific discoveries to bad uses. Chris at Mixing Memory has a typically insightful post, as does Dr. Free-Ride (who also links to all the rest of the discussion). Janet also segues elegantly into a related issue, “how should scientists talk to non-scientists?” In a later post she defends a counterintuitive part of her answer: non-scientists have a duty themselves to improve the professional/amateur discourse.
- Speaking of which, Angela at Tech Space steps onto her soapbox to harangue a bit about the state of science journalism. She points to a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review by friend-of-CV KC Cole. I’ll let you read, but the short answer is that we can blame the editors.
- To end on a down note, George W. Bush has decided to put any doubts that he is the most anti-science President in our nation’s history completely to rest. Aided by a fawning Republican congress, he has managed to skate through six years of administration without vetoing a single piece of legislation — until now. Bush is expected to veto a bill just passed by Congress that would loosen restrictions on the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research. (As DarkSyde reminds us, the cells in question come from blastocysts that are already slated for destruction. They are going to be destroyed; the choice is between using them to fight disease — or not.) There are enough anti-Enlightenment Republicans in the Senate to prevent an override of the veto, so this particular avenue of scientific inquiry will continue to be stifled. In the United States, at least.
And one little update, to cleanse the palate and restore the jaunty mood.
- It’s Yeats Day at Le Blog BÃ©rubÃ©.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Now that’s some serious poeting.