Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day for the Apathetic

So you love the planet - yay! Let’s plant a tree! Oh wait, you live in the city and you’re lazy. Obviously planting trees and volunteering is ideal but how can you celebrate Earth day if you don’t do those things? Have no fear, I will tell you.

1. The little things

You know that reusable bag that the cashier at Whole Foods pressured you into buying? The one you foolishly thought you would use all the time, but then suspiciously disappeared? This a great day to pull that bag out. Bask in the wonder of not choosing between paper and plastic. Bathe in the admiring glances of onlookers. Pretty great - right?

Another great thing you can do is to replace all your lightbulbs. This one seems fairly obvious, and I’d actually be a little surprised if you haven’t switched to all fluorescent bulbs by now, but on the off chance you haven’t, today is a great day to do that.

2. Go Vegetarian for a Day

Victims of the meat-eating industry
Vegetarianism/Veganism is really great for the planet. It cuts back on the amount of water wasted, reduces unnecessary land waste, and diminishes carbon emissions. Going vegetarian for good is a pretty big commitment, but you can do a day - right?
3. Educate yourself

Today is a great day to educate yourself on responsible aquaculture, hydrochlouroflourcarbons affects on the ozone layer, or other nuances of environmentalism that have escaped you.

4. Give money

Here are some great charities to consider if you want to help the environment:

1. Earth Justice
2. EarthWorks
3. Green Peace
4. The Sierra Club 
5. Union of Concerned Scientists

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Isaac Newton = Sherlock Holmes?

I know I always write about Sherlock and his (often tenuous or maybe even nonexistent) similarities with other people, but for real this time: Isaac Newton is pretty Holmes-y.
Listen to this:

On Newton:

"Newton with his prism and silent face, the marble index of a mind for ever voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone" - Book III of The Prelude by William Wordsworth
...with his prism and silent face...

 On Newton's roommate at Cambridge, John:

"Little is known about [John] Wickins except that he was an invaluable asset to Newton. He not only did the chores but helped with experiments and wrote fair copies. And though Isaac lived at Trinity for twenty-eight years this was his only real friend." - page 35 of Introducing Newton and Classical Physics

On Fighting Crime:

"Newton relentlessly pursues the criminals, confronting them in person on their home ground in London's taverns and prisons. The underworld had never known such an organized assault."- page 144 of Introducing Newton and Classical Physics

On Enemies: 

"Chaloner was the Moriarty of coiners [yes, the book actually says this], he manufactured above 30,000 guineas. He sent several innocent men to the gallows for reward. He escaped the same fate himself five times, twice by strangling witness. But after a career crowned only with success, he made the mistake of taking on Isaac Newton." - page 145 of Introducing Newton and Classical Physics

" ... [Chaloner]  accused that worthy gentleman, Isaac Newton, Esq., Warden of his Majesty's Mint, with several other officers there of, as connivers." - page 201 of Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, Volume 2

In case the old English confuses you what that means is that he accused Newton of being a coiner.

How Newton Reacted:

"Newton refused outright and set inexorably to work collecting the web of evidence which would ensnare Chaloner. After two years, Newton's dossier was as thoroughly researched as any proposition in the the Principia. He ordered Chaloner's arrest. This time there was to be no escape." - page 145 of Introducing Newton and Classical Physics

Newton's Personalities and Habits:

"He rarely went to bed till two or three of the clock, sometimes not until five or six, sleeping about four or five hours." - page 106 of Introducing Newton and Classical Physics

"He tastes a great variety of heavy metals and other toxic substances in his experiments." - page 106 of Introducing Newton and Classical Physics

"It was the first of what would be many bitter disputes involving Newton over the next half-century. He could not stand criticism even when it was justified and when it wasn't..."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Particle Fever

Have you guys seen Particle Fever yet? If you haven't I strongly urge you to. The whole movie I was like:
I'm not going to lie, I even cried a little bit and then went home and reread the Nature of Space and Time and cried a little more, because y'know physics. Here is the trailer
Not only did I have a better grasp on the Higgs Boson and the LHC after watching this movie I think I had a greater appreciation for the universe as well. This is one of those movies where your friends try to talk to you afterwards and you're just like "Shut up, I'm thinking."

 I couldn't help but think if we could do everything in the same way that the LHC was done everything would be perfect. It's so beautiful to see all these people from all around the world just working together to get things done. Possibly my favorite thing about this movie, though, was just to watch these people think.

I'm smart - smart enough to begin to understand how these people think and yet not at all on their level. The opportunity to watch them piece together the universe was beautiful and somehow extremely emotional for me -- like they wrapped me into their world for just a little while.

Even if you're not a physics nerd, you should watch this movie. It was just - there's no words -- just watch it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Intro to Orphan Black

Okay, I initially began watching this show just so I could make fun of the pseudoscience, but I ended up actually loving it. For the most part, it doesn’t get too involved into the actual technical science, which makes it easier to ignore the slip-ups and the plot is just super fun. I don’t want to give anything away but here is a rundown of the main characters and reasons you should watch season II of Orphan Black when it premiers on BBC America on April 19th. (Also watch season I; it’s on Amazon Prime and some other networks)
Cosima Niehaus

Sarah Manning
The main character. A British “punk rock ho” who is just trying to earn some extra bucks for her and her daughter, Kiera.
Alison Hendrix
Paranoid soccer mom who will do anything to protect herself and her family. Anything.
Cosima Niehaus
Totally my favorite clone - ahem - I mean character. Cosima is an awesome evo-devo (a term I’ve never heard before, but you know rolling with it) geek with an awesome sense of style. I want to steal her hair and her clothes and y’know basically her whole personality.
Rachel Duncan
Who even knows about Rachel except that that haircut is maybe the only one I’ve seen so far that has really not worked for Tatiana Maslany.
Beth Childs
She kills herself in the first episode, so it’s a bit hard to get a feel for her, but from what I can tell she was a very anxious person who was just unable to make sense of her surroundings.
Yeah, I know I’m supposed to hate Helena and I kind of do, but I also don’t. Crazy religious fanatic with an odd personality and strange quirks.
Katya Obinger “The German”
German. Killed. Not much else known about her.
Felix Dawkins
I lied, Felix is my favorite character - no, Cosima - no Felix - never mind. Felix is Sarah’s  self-proclaimed “gay friend” and foster brother. Also he’s awesome.

I debated whether or not to include other characters, but ultimately decided against it. I don’t want to ruin the story for you guys. Yeah so watch season II on April 19th BBC America.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sorry... *Guilty Head Dip*

Hey, so I know it's been almost a month since I've written. Things have gotten pretty crazy with finals and everything. It's a bit hard to explain, but I am back and while I've been gone I've been thinking about a bunch of stuff I wanted to tell you guys about. For now, I just want to share some things I've seen around the web and wanted to share. Unfortunately, looking through the desktop folder I've named "Simply Nerdy Awesome Stuff" I realize that a lot of them are just gifs of cats doing silly things. Here are the non-feline related things:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Science Is vs. What People Think Science Is

What People Think of... “Theories”

“Evolution is just a theory!”
... “Well yes, but so is Gravity...”

Many people think that theories are a similar to a hunch or an idea. This, in my opinion, has been exacerbated by the misnomenclature of Sigmund Freud’s “theories” (aka the backless daydreams of a cocaine addict).

What Theories Really are:

Scientific theories are not the same as colloquial theories. LiveScience defines a theory as: a hypothesis or group of hypotheses that have been supported with repeated testing. If enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, it moves to the next step—known as a theory—in the scientific method and becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a phenomenon.

What People Think of.... Genetic Engineering 

People tend to think of genetic engineering as a bad thing.
They strive to only eat GMO-free foods and avoid the field of science that they view as nothing but glow in the dark cats.
While it’s true, I suppose, that there have to be limits in “Genetic Engineering” or as it’s generally known in the scientific community, Synthetic Biology, there are so many good uses that people don’t even think about.


What Genetic Engineering/Synthetic Biology Really Is:
The future of synthetic biology looks less like this:

And more like this
a diagram showing how vectors can be used to mass produce insulin

Synthetic biology is a relatively new field, and in my opinion the future. Gene therapy, or practices like RNA interference could lead to cures for AIDS or genetic conditions. It could make previously mechanical appliances available on a larger and cheaper scale and lead to new sources or renewable energy. Synthetic biology is such an exciting field right now. If people just knew more about the humanitarian opportunities that synthetic biology could provide.... they’re just boundless and amazing.

What People Think Of...  Chemicals

When people think of chemicals, they think of brightly colored, highly toxic liquids in laboratories. A lot of people I’ve spoken to say that they don’t like “chemicals they can’t pronounce in their food” or in their shampoo, washing detergent, cleaning products, etc.

What “Chemicals” Really Are:

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: If a product says: “chemical-free!” then the manufacturer is lying to you. There is not a single object in the universe that is “chemical-free”, because anything that contains mass is by definition a chemical.
Most of you are probably familiar the Dihydrogen-monoxide hoax in which the risks of “Dihydrogen-monoxide” (water) are satirically discussed to encourage people to reconsider their chemophobia.
In fact, the real, IUPAC approved, chemical name for water is Oxidane, but that’s beside the point. The point is that there is no need to fear chemicals. Chemicals and science in general are part of life and in my opinion -- probably the best part.