A Momentous Act of Scientific Preservation

English: Ann Druyan (born June 13, 1949) is an...

My space-fanatic, liberal feedback loop has reached the point of singularity. The asymptotic line broke the paradox and touched zero. Behold:

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson introduced [Seth] MacFarlane to Druyan when Tyson and [Ann] Druyan were developing a remake of the enormously popular 1980 PBS series “Cosmos” that made Sagan famous. In the process of backing the new “Cosmos,” MacFarlane provided an undisclosed sum of money to the Library of Congress to buy the archive from Druyan. The library will officially announce the acquisition Wednesday.

MacFarlane is also reportedly working a producer-type role with Druyan and Tyson on the remake and update of the Cosmos series.

Holy. Fucking. Shit


From the Annals of Crying All of the Sudden at the Gym

If you read this regularly you may know – I really apologize, you should find something better to read if you know this – that I occasionally will post a podcast or a clip of audio of something that hit me in the emotional core out of nowhere while I’m working, running, lifting weights, stretching – that kind of thing.

Today, I had to take a little extra pause leaning over the bicep curl seat to have a private cry from this gem.

It was in the opening sequence of this Radio Lab episode interviewing Annie Druyan who thought it’d be a good idea to talk in an absurdly youthful and bubbly girl voice about falling in love with Carl Sagan where I might overhear it and forgivably start crying all of the sudden.

“For keeps.” What am I, made of stone?

*Here’s the link of the extended clip of the Space Capsules segment mentioned in the show, where Neil Gaiman, Alice Waters, Margaret Cho and others offer what they would preserve for other civilizations.

Science Literacy as Presidential Criterion

Of course. No one disagrees with the claim that a president of the United States must have a fundamental understanding of science (at least no one without a leaking head wound or blinding religious prejudices). Also, I get that Mr. Otto is writing a book and wants to tease it with lots of leading questions. But let’s just answer the simplest one so that at least it seems like this article gets exactly what about science someone needs to understand to succeed in today’s complicated world.

So what happens to Jefferson’s insight today, in a world dominated by complex science? Science influences every aspect of life, yet very few people have a good understanding of most science.  Is the ever-increasing burden of education that science places on the people making it hard for democracy to continue to function as a viable form of government?  And if it is, what’s the alternative?

The point I want to pick out is that it seems that Otto drags the reader to the conclusion that to understand science at all, you have to be a scientist. That’s simply not the case. In fact, its almost insultingly not the case. People like E.O. Wilson, Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson have all argued that the fundamentals are what count: understanding the scientific method, the meaning of theory and hypothesis, the concept of reserving judgment where evidence doesn’t exist, the humility of the cosmic perspective, the similiarities inherent in Earth’s biosphere (e.g. that humans and trees share a common ancestor).

From talking to my non-scientifically inclined relatives, the crux of the problem seems to be the arrogance inherent in antropocentrism and solipsism. For example, the idea that one’s favoring a particularly sports team affects that team losing in the playoffs – as my uncle claimed last night before the Capitals lost and “proved him right”.

How can we expect any better from our leaders while we participate in the most arrogant thoughts and beliefs about our world – that a cosmic grand-daddy bestows judgment and retribution, that kissing the roof of the car when you run a red light will protect you from cops, the belief in Karma, knocking on wood, horoscopes. The list goes on and these things are just some of the more outrageous examples. However, these symptoms share a common disease – the very American disease that one’s own decisions affect and alter the mechanics of the universe.

If we want a better public understanding of science, let’s skip shoving chemistry and calculus down the public’s collective throat and go straight for a healthy dose of humility about just how small and irrelevant we are.


Science Sunday

The Sagan Series (Part 1)

(Update: Appears to be embeddable by different methods, I’m leaving both links to be safe)
My apologies that WordPress or the powers that be has/have decided to disallow embedding of YouTube videos. Nevertheless, I encourage you to go to the link above. There’s a series of 9 videos. I hope you watch them all.

If you’re interested in centralizing your sentiments about these videos, there’s a Facebook group here.

I have to admit, I watched these all while on the elliptical yesterday. Maybe it was the endorphins from an elevated heart rate. Maybe it was the music. Or perhaps Carl Sagan’s soothing voice and elegant presentation affected me as it often does. Probably, it was all of these things. But, like so often happens when confronted with this familiar collusion of sentiments, I had to fight back sobbing as I brimmed over with simultaneous joy, sadness and wonder.

Happy viewings.

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