The Bad Astronomer Claims our Universe is Really Bad

Past Gnomedex speaker and long-time friend Dr. Phil Plait has a very cool new project in the works with the Discovery Channel. His new show, Bad Universe is his latest attempt at galaxy-wide domination. He’s on a mission to debunk the junk and reveal the REAL science behind the mysteries of our planet, our solar system and the icky universe we all call home.

Phil Plait is an astronomer, author, blogger, and skeptic… which means you better have some good evidence for any claims you make to him! In fact, Phil is the President of the James Randi Educational Foundation, a non-profit based on the works of noted conjurer and skeptic James Randi – famous for debunking the spoon-bending efforts of Uri Geller. The critical thinking movement is growing by leaps and bounds, and the JREF has been at the center of a grassroots effort to bring more skepticism into everyday life, especially online.

Phil writes the Bad Astronomy Blog, now hosted by Discover Magazine, and he blogs for the JREF and for SkepticBlog.

His books debunk many misconceptions about astronomy, and to his chagrin he still deals with Moon Landing deniers, astrology, and UFO believers to this day.

What is Wolfram Alpha?

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While walking around the conference floor during SXSW recently, I happened across the Wolfram Alpha booth. Their long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. Wolfram Alpha’s goal is to deliver to you answers that are definitive. It has an amazing inventory of numbers and facts known in the world. It has an engine on top of that which allows it to make new calculated facts based on that already-known information.

Wolfram Alpha’s goal is to “build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.” They hope to bring expert-level knowledge to people everywhere, no matter what education level or field of study/work they may be in.

As of right now, Wolfram Alpha contains 10+ trillion pieces of data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for 1000+ domains. The possibilities for adding more information based upon new calculations of existing data are nearly limitless.

Thanks to AMD for their help in getting me to the SXSW conference.

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The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

There’s an old saying in the Bible or some book that I don’t even remember for sure. It says “And the Geeks shall inherit the Earth”. A friend of mine argued with me the other night, claiming that it’s supposed to be the meek shall inherit the Earth. I beg to differ. I know what it says, thank you very much. We all know it’s pure fact that Geeks are taking over the World, and that we will one day rule inherit the World. Why haven’t you given in and joined us yet? You know you’re going to have to!

Seriously, being a Geek is an amazing thing. Geeks are not just computer guru’s, you know. A Geek is anyone who is passionate about something, whether it’s computers, motorcycles, or even gardening. Using this definition, it’s easier to imagine Geeks one day making a huge difference in this World of ours. What am I saying? We already have. Look at some of the strides in medicine, technology and science in just the past few years. There are an astounding number of new inventions, cures and gadgets on a daily basis.

If you could change the World somehow, make an impact so to speak, what would it be? Just imagine for a few moments that you have the brains/money/power to change any one thing. What would you do?

While you’re contemplating, make sure you take the time to check out what others are up to in our community!

Death from the Skies: the End of the World?

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Death from the Skies is an aptly titled book. It’s written by my good friend Dr. Phil Plait, otherwise known as the Bad Astronomer. It was written to explain all of the ways the World might end… scientifically speaking.

Plait, an astronomer and author of the popular Web site, presents in loving detail the many, many ways the human race could die, from temperature extremes and poisonous atmosphere to asteroid impacts and supernovae explosions. Such a state of destruction existed some 65 million years ago, when a giant meteoroid struck Earth, sending up so much flaming debris that the whole planet caught fire and the dinosaurs were wiped out. Solar flare activity could bring on another Ice Age. Worse yet would be a gamma ray burster, a collapsed star whose radiation would be comparable to detonating a one-megaton nuclear bomb over every square mile of the planet. Plait discusses insatiable black holes, the death of the Sun and cannibal galaxies—including our own. Balancing his doomsday scenarios with enthusiastic and clear explanations of the science behind each, Plait offers a surprisingly educational and enjoyable astronomical horror show, including a table listing the extremely low odds of each event occurring. He gives readers a good scare, and then puts it in context.

I knew right away when Phil got the contract to write this book. He was extremely excited about this. We met back when I was hosting Call for Help, and we hit it off immediately. We have the same sense of humor, and he is just hilarious! If you think this is just some boring science book… you have another thing coming.

I just started reading the book, and I’m looking forward to getting through it all. I can’t imagine there could be any better book on this subject. From a purely scientific standpoint, Dr. Plait knows his stuff. Realistically, the World could end. And death could come from the skies. Make sure you check this book out, educate yourself, and have some laughs along the way.


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Can Physics be Fun?

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Math and I get along like oil and water. I realized it wouldn’t be in my future when I took Physics in high school. I remember playing with Crayon Physics years ago, and it was a lot of fun to play with. What I want to show you today is something that will run on your desktop, whether you run on Mac or Windows.

OE-Cake is demonstration software for 2D-based multi-physics simulation. Use your imagination to create your own unique world!

This software supports various physical materials with real life properties such as fluids, gases, rigid (hard) objects and elasticity (soft) objects as building blocks.

Users can combine these objects to create and play with more complex objects and mechanisms such as cars, gears and moving dolls. Users can also attach pictures and photos to objects and change their shape, break them apart, or melt them.

If you know of other cool applications that no one else may have heard of, pass them along to me. Don’t send me the fun ones that everyone is playing. I’m talking about fun, interactive things that the rest of us have yet to discover.


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