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Posts Tagged ‘infographic

“The ice caps are melting, Leonard. In the future, swimming won’t be optional”*…

 

 xkcd

* “Sheldon,” The Big Bang Theory

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As we turn up the air conditioner, we might spare a thought for Sir Karl Raimund Popper; he died on this date in 1994.  One of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century, Popper is best known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favor of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments. (Or more simply put, whereas classical inductive approaches considered hypotheses false until proven true, Popper reversed the logic: conclusions drawn from an empirical finding are true until proven false.)

Popper was also a powerful critic of historicism in political thought, and (in books like The Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism) an enemy of authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

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Written by LW

September 17, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The exploring of the Solar System… constitutes the beginning, much more than the end, of history”*…

 

Solar System Interactive,” from Jeroen Gommers, is a simple– and simply beautiful– tool for understanding the relative orbits of the planets (and lest we forsake Pluto, the dwarf planets) the circle the Sun…

In a simplified graphical presentation the planets are seen orbiting the sun at a relatively high speed. The user is encouraged to grab any one of these planets, drag it around the sun manually and experience the orbit periods of the other planets as they are driven along their orbit at relative speeds, uncovering the “interplanetary clockwork.”

Click here to give it a whirl.

* Carl Sagan

As we watch ’em go round, we might send synthetic birthday greetings to Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow; he was born on this date in 1905.  A chemist and physicist, Snow taught at his alma mater, Cambridge, before joining the British Civil Service, where he had a distinguished career as a technical adviser and administrator.  He is probably better remembered these days for his writing (e.g., a biography of Anthony Trollope; the sequence of novels known as Strangers and Brothers).  But he is surely best remembered for his 1959 Rede Lecture, “Two Cultures” (subsequently published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution).  Snow argued that the breakdown of communication between the “two cultures” of modern society – the sciences and the humanities – was a major hindrance to solving the world’s problems.

A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of: ‘Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?’

I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question – such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, ‘Can you read?’ – not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their Neolithic ancestors would have had…

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Written by LW

October 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky”*…

 

 click here for zoomable version

In between Earth and space lies an ocean of air. That “great aerial ocean,” as biologist Alfred Russel Wallace (the other natural selection guy) called it, is an extremely thin envelope of gas and suspended particles that encompass our planet. To get perspective on just how thin, there’s this very rough equivalency: The atmosphere is to the Earth as an onion’s wafer thin outer skin is to an onion. But while it may be just a sliver, it’s critical to life on Earth.

Without our atmosphere, there wouldn’t be rain for our plants and vegetables to grow—and feed us. There’d be no greenhouse effect keeping the planet temperate enough to sustain life. There’d be no talking or music-playing because sound wouldn’t exist as we know it—without a medium like air, sound waves can’t travel and thus don’t create vibrations that hit our eardrums allowing us to hear. And there wouldn’t be the oxygen we need to breathe. Bottom line, without it, life on Earth would be nada…

More on the extraordinary envelope that surrounds our planet at World Science Festival’s “Rethink Science.”

* Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

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As we take stock of what we take for granted, we might send sunny birthday greetings to Alexander Buchan; he was born on this date in 1829.  A Scottish meteorologist, oceanographer and botanist, he is credited with establishing the weather map as the basis of weather forecasting (after tracing the path of a storm from North America, across the Atlantic, into northern Europe in 1868).

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Written by LW

April 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Life in the Middle East is quite different from other places”*…

 

Confused about what’s happening in the Middle East? No need to worry—our research team at the Institute of Internet Diagrams has come up with the ultimate explainer in the shape of an interactive diagram that sums up the geopolitical alliances traversing this ancient region, which dates back to the Mesozoic Era…

While it is common to hear people describe the Middle East as a complex and obscure place, the diagram plainly illustrates that this is not the case. The relationships follow logical patterns reflecting geopolitical interests, partnerships, and conflicts. For example, the United States is evidently on friendly terms with Iran. In Iraq. But America is on the opposite side of the conflict in Yemen. In Syria, the U.S. and Iran are both against and with each other, depending on the outcome of the nuclear talks.

This partially reflects President Obama’s breakthrough system of decision-making, which goes beyond outdated binary oppositions. Forced to choose between confronting and appeasing Iran, Obama has chosen to do both, arguing that at least one of those policies is the right one. Despite critiques from conservatives who are still clinging to old-fashioned ideas, this way of thinking is quite popular in the Middle East, as reflected in the old proverb, “You can have your cake and eat it.”

By carefully following the lines one by one, you can see that Egypt and Qatar are against each other, except in Yemen where they are now allies; Saudi Arabia is both supporting and bombing ISIS; and Libya is its own worst enemy. But it’s best if you draw your own conclusions; the diagram only takes about three minutes to understand fully. After which, you will be qualified to advise President Obama on Middle East policy.

More at: “The Confused Person’s Guide to Middle East Conflicts.”

Colonel Brighton: Look, sir, we can’t just do nothing.

General Allenby: Why not? It’s usually best.

Lawrence of Arabia

 

Zaha Hadid

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As we search for lines in the sand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1991 that General H Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr– Stormin’ Norman, the Commander of Operation Desert Storm– publicly apologized to President George H.W. Bush for having criticized the Commander in Chief’s decision to call a cease fire to end the (first) Gulf War.

General Schwarzkopf and President Bush in a HUMVEE during the President’s visit with troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day, 1990

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Written by LW

March 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”*…

 

As this interactive graphic from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reveals, the number of nuclear weapons in the world peaked in the late 80s.  But there are still roughly 10,000 nukes floating around the world, and in the hands of an increased number of countries…

Explore the Nuclear Notebook.

* J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoting the Bhagavad Gita as he recalled the Trinity Test (the first atomic bomb detonation)

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As we duck and cover, we might recall that today is the Ides of March.  An occasion in the Roman calendar for religious observances, it retains a certain notoriety as the date, in 44 BCE, of the assassination of Julius Caesar– becoming, thus, a turning point in Roman history… and the prompt for Shakespeare’s immortal warning (from a soothsayer to Caesar in Julius Caesar): “Beware the Ides of March.”

The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini

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Written by LW

March 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself”*…

 

The 93rd U.S. Congress, 1973-74, considered 26,157 bills; it made 738 (3%) of them law.  The 103rd Congress, 1993-94, enacted 458 (5%) of the 9,746 bills it considered.  The current Congress– the 113th, 2013-14– has so far introduced 7,980 bills, and passed only 100 (just over 1%) of them.

The Legislative Explorer, from researchers at the University of Washington’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy, allows readers to follow the lawmaking process– over 250,000 bills and resolutions introduced from 1973 to present– in action.

The left half represents the U.S. Senate, with senators sorted by party (blue=Democrat) and a proxy for ideology (top=liberal). The House is displayed on the right. Moving in from the borders, the standing committees of the Senate and House are represented, followed by the Senate and House floors. A bill approved by both chambers then moves upward to the President’s desk and into law, while an adopted resolutions (that does not require the president’s signature) moves downward.

Each dot represents a bill, so one can see them move through the process.  The drop-down menus at the top allow a shift of focus to a specific Congress, a person, a party, a topic, and several other categorizations; and there’s search to allow one to examine specific bills.  Counters across the bottom of the screen keep track of the action… or the lack thereof.

Give it a try.

[TotH to Flowing Data]

* Mark Twain

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As we yield, Mr. Speaker, to the gentleman from the District of Columbia, we might think expansionist thoughts in honor of Thomas Jefferson, whose emissaries Robert Livingston and James Monroe  signed the the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, called by some “the letter that bought a continent,” in Paris on this date in 1803… and in one stroke (well, three strokes– Livingston, Monroe, and French representative Barbé Marbois all signed) doubled the size of the United States.

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“He was a wise man who invented beer”*…

 

In the age of Amazon, when much of the world is but a click away from having any product they can imagine shipped to their doorstep in just two days, beer is stubbornly anachronistic, a globalization holdout that’s subject to the physical locations of breweries, along with the regional patterns of alcohol distributors.

It’s a picture painted well by the team from Floating Sheep, who compiled a million tweets, scanning for words like “beer” and “wine” to plot the alcoholic preferences across the U.S. What they uncovered is essentially the United States of Cheap Beer–a map of the generic, though perfectly tasty, lagers and pilsners that we loyally drink region by region…

Read more at “The Cheap Beers People Drink Across The U.S.

Special Spring bonus:  how adding beer to one’s barbeque slashes the risk of cancer

* Plato

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As we pour into a canted a glass, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that Man in the Dark was released.  In November, 1952, United Artists had released an independent production, Bwana Devil— the first full length color film released in English in 3-D.  A surprise hit, Bwana Devil spurred the major studios to scramble to field their own 3-D flicks.  Man in the Dark, from Columbia, was for to the screen. A film noir thriller starring Edmund O’Brien and Audrey Trotter, the film sank like a stone…  leaving House of Wax, from Warner Bros., released two days later, a default claim to be “the first feature produced by a major studio in 3-D.”  These three films kicked off the first period of enthusiasm for 3-D films; the second was a year-long period in the 70s.  We are, of course, currently in the third.

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Written by LW

April 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

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