Archive for May, 2013

Ban John Horgan

Posted in GIGO, Science! with tags on May, 2013 by melendwyr

Several people I know have previously expressed the opinion, which I share, that science journalism in this country has really gone downhill over the past decade-and-a-half or so.  I once maintained a subscription to both Discover and Scientific American, and possessed a modest archive of their back editions, so I have a reasonable understanding of what they were like.  By and large, they were informative and intelligent, taking developments in various fields and expressing them in articles that a layperson could readily understand.  If you then wanted to know more, you could go and find a copy of Nature or a similar journal that contained more formal and within-the-discipline articles.

But slowly, they became vapid and foolish, the equivalent of supermarket tabloids; fewer articles and larger photos, less comprehensive information and more flash.

How far have they actually fallen?

The long trend of decline is something best seen by taking a look at the magazines, but you can get an idea of what their standards are like by examining this blog post by John Horgan, author of The End of Science.  (I’ve read it, didn’t think much of it.)

The standard disclaimer, that the opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent those of the organization publishing them, isn’t going to cut it.  Not when the opinions involve the suppression of scientific research on politically controversial issues.


So who’s this Ron Ace guy anyway?

Posted in Doom, GIGO, Politics and Society with tags , , on May, 2013 by melendwyr

I’ve suddenly been bombarded with emails about inventor Ron Ace and his announcement that he’s come up with some revolutionary way to utilize solar power.  Despite not having a prototype, or anything other than calculations, newspaper articles are being published and republished all over the place – and it seems like lots of them are being forwarded to me.

See here.  It’s pretty typical of the stuff I’m getting.

Does no one remember cold fusion?  And that involved actual experimental error – as in an actual experiment, being performed.  There’s no such thing here,  no prototype, no testing.  Just a filing of a patent claim.

I’ve been told that the Patent Office regularly gets applications to patent systems of lights to indicate which way vehicles intend to turn.  And then, of course, there are all the perpetual motion machines, which they don’t even bother to look at any more.

I fail to see how this is different.  Why would anyone write a report about this, much less copy it and republish it over and over?  Are the people running our newspapers and news organizations less capable of figuring out what’s actually newsworthy than the people who forward ridiculous email rumors?

We’re being ‘informed’ by morons.

Have you seen the Yellow Sign?

Posted in Things You Should Read with tags , , , , on May, 2013 by melendwyr

A fellow reader of a literature-related email list posted a link to a short story, written in 1899 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, titled “The Yellow Wallpaper”.  Remarkably, not only has its text been put online as part of a literature course at the College of Staten Island, but a link is given to an explanation by the author of why she wrote it.  And that is very important; if you read through, I think you’ll see why.

I was so struck by the story that I thought I would link it here:  The Yellow Wallpaper.

Thank you, Dr. Catherine Lavender!  We’ll probably never communicate, much less meet, but you’re having an unexpected impact on me all the same.

In addition to being a fascinating psychological exploration, the story touches subtly on feminist concerns.  Not through blatant lecturing, but from presenting a story that we internalize as an experience.  I’ve always considered that to be the best and most effective approach, especially on a subject that’s all too often associated with vitrolic moralizing, so it’s certainly notable for its understatement.

As a side note, I’d like to point out that this is an eerily appropriate text for the Cthulhu Mythos, although it’s before Lovecraft’s time and I doubt very much that Gilman ever encountered him or his works.  But although it’s lacking the ornate verbiage and purple prose of a traditional Lovecraftian tale, or even the stylistic tendencies of a ghost story, it’s thematically appropriate.  And quite disturbing if approached in the right way.  Some even accused Gilman of trying to drive people mad with it – wildly exaggerated criticism, but not entirely without a point.

Take a look.