Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Science

Nature Beats SciFi

That’s a real undersea volcano near Tonga, halfway between Australia and Tahiti, aka the Pacific “ring of fire”.


The “ring of fire” is an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching from Chile in South America through Alaska and down through Vanuatu to Tonga. That is quite an arc.

Stephen Hawking’s Universe

Discovery is taking the “Planet Earth” model to a cosmic, with Stephen Hawking as co-collaborator and narrator:

“Stephen Hawking’s Universe” is a multimillion-dollar three-part special that will use the physicist’s theories and CGI to explore the mysteries of our galaxy and beyond.

“You got the greatest living mind on the universe, and we’re taking his knowledge and presenting it to people with fabulous computer graphics,” Discovery president and GM John Ford said. “We start at beginning of time, then go into whether time travel is possible, whether we are alone and some of the great questions, done with spectacular special effects.”

[From Discovery exploring ‘Universe’]

Read the rest of this entry »

Best “Inventions” of 2008

In listing the best inventions of 2008, Time magazine uses the word “inventions” quite loosely. I believe they use it to mean: any thing that involves science or technology that may have been created, manufactured, marketed or launched in or around 2008.

I mean when you think about the great inventions of 2008, do you think of a web site that allows you to watch video? (#4

Or maybe it conjures images of a Chevrolet car that was unveiled in 2007 and won’t be launched until 2011? (#7 Chevy Volt)

Or maybe the process of removing vowels from internet spam to render them absurd- a process that was started in 2002 by Teresa Nielsen Hayden, whom Time fails to mention. (#42 Disemvoweling)

Or maybe a facebook-like web site, that’s different! It is only for employees of US intelligence service employees, and that makes it an invention! (#32 Facebook for spies)

Or maybe it’s the fact that a major party candidate sold merchandise. What an amazing invention- if only Al Gore did that. Oh wait- he did. (#23 The Branded Candidate)

The people who created the Large Hadron Collider must be weeping at their luck, since they placed one rank behind, which is clearly a superior invention. What will we “invent” next? I’m guessing it will be t-shirts for spies and a facebook for presidential candidates- brilliant!

Phoenix Mars Lander is Dead

Phoenix Mars Lander

Phoenix Mars Lander

After blogging, tweeting and generally keeping us amused, the Phoenix Mars Lander is dead. Read its final words:

So long Earth. I’ll be here to greet the next explorers to arrive, be they robot or human.

Read through its first-person guest-blog at Engadget and tweets at Twitter.

Change Watch: ACLU’s Wish List

Like I said earlier, everybody’s got a wish list for the new President. Not everyone provides a timetable the way the ACLU has.

They divide up their “Actions for Restoring America” in to things to do on the first day, the first 100 days and the first year. The first day includes things like stopping torture, closing Guantanamo, and ending extraordinary renditions. The next 99 days are more interesting from a geek policy standpoint.constvoter_button2.gif

  • Warrantless Spying: Yeah, no kidding. ACLU wants an executive order recognizing the president’s obligation to comply with FISA and prohibiting the NSA from warrantless spying. Hurray!
  • Freedom of Information Act: Under something called the “Ashcroft Doctrine”, the current administration chose not to release info for all FOIA requests if there was a “sound legal basis”. Translation: if we say so. The ACLU wants that to go away.
  • Real ID: They want Homeland Security to suspend the regulations for the Real ID Act– again, hurray if it happens.
  • Scientific Freedom: To remove political control of scientific and academic inquiry.
  • Media Consolidation: To urge the FCC to address the growing problem of media consolidation. I’m not sure what the FCC can do (other than reverse its rule loosening cross-media ownership), but it’s a noble goal.
  • Network Neutrality: To mold the FCC to enforce these principles. This was part of Obama’s technology policy paper, but it remains to be seen how much he involves government in enforcing it.
  • Online Censorship of Soldiers: “Those who would fight and die to defend our freedoms abroad should not be denied those same rights themselves.” Well said.
  • Fleeting Expletives: At times over the past 5 years it has seemed that the only purpose of the FCC has been to make sure that anyone who says a naughty word on television gets fined in to oblivion.
  • World Intellectual Property Organization: The negotiations that the US has had with WIPO have been restrictive of free speech and fair use of data. Must change.

All valid points. What remains to be seen is how much of a priority these concerns remain in such harsh economic times. In some cases, making the right kind of appointments to FCC and other positions should take care of concerns.

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch.

Thoreau as Climate Researcher

The New York Times has a great peace on research at Boston University and Harvard that is using the writings of Thoreau on the plant life at Walden Pond for climate research.

Obama Gets a Thank You from NASA

Obama Gets a Thank You from NASA – []

It’s not every day that the head of a federal agency in a Republican administration during an election year writes a glowing thank-you note to the Democratic candidate for president. But Michael D. Griffin, the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, wrote a letter to Senator Barack Obama on Oct. 2 stating that that he was “deeply grateful to you, personally” for his work in getting Congress to approve a critically important measure for the space program.

On the “Sky Trust”

Maybe I just don’t understand the “Sky Trust”: proposed by Peter Barnes, but it sounds like a recipe for disaster. Here is the gist of the idea:

Under the Sky Trust plan, all companies that bring burnable carbon into the economy would be required to buy permits for the carbon content of their fuels. Each year the number of permits would be reduced.

Revenue generated from the sale of permits would be placed in a trust, managed by independent trustees. Earnings from the trust would be returned to U.S. residents as dividends and used for public investments that accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

I’m not sure giving Americans financial gain for pollution is the solution; I understand that taxing pollution is already being floated as an idea, but giving the average citizen a bigger check when pollution levels rise can’t possibly make him appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

Of course, the idea of Sky Trust is a bit more nuanced, especially with the caps on total permits given to polluters which are reduced every year. The issue, however, is that if people get used to getting a $500 check every New Year’s day and all of a sudden that starts drying up, won’t the people be demanding a little more pollution?

I may be underestimating the general populace and I may be misunderstanding Sky Trust- let me know, I’d love to see it work.

The Indian Climate Change Tipping Point (update)

For the second year in a row, “the ice stalagmite of immense importance to Hindus- the Shivalinga of Amarnath- has melted”: completely at the beginning of the pilgrimage season.
Shivalinga at Amarnath taken by Mr. Gangadhar Tambe

Scientists say the melting is due to increased temperatures due to climate change and to the heat generated by increasing numbers of pilgrims flocking to the site, located at an altitude of 3,800 metres.

Last year, elements in the _Shri Amarnath Shrine Board_ had “replaced it with a crude fake”: but “did not get away with”: it. “Sepia Mutiny”: has great before and after photographs from last year. Read the rest of this entry »

Eating Seasonal

I’ve been reading a lot lately about food- eating seasonal, local, healthy and so forth. These goals are inter-linked. I checked if the place where we get our vegetables bought from local farms, turns out “they do when they can”: (in the summer). A little more Googling lead me to “Sustainable Table”: which is a phenomenal site about all the goals I listed above. Here’s a list of “what’s in season in which month”: in for many states in the United States.