Saturday, December 19, 2009

Known Cosmos

See things as Heimdall, as the Argus!

Friday, December 18, 2009

PLoS adds research blogging to metrics

Everyone's Favorite open access Journal - Public Library of Science (PLoS) has now added a new feature. This feature allows readers to view blog coverage of articles as meta information attached to the article itself. What does this mean? - Blogs are indeed taking over the world. comes to PLoS Article-level Metrics from PLoS on Vimeo.

Owls Descending

A parliament has descended on Tom Paine's Ghost.  With three nominations to Post with the Most from the Owls bringing with them beauty and question.

Two are part of the series "A Natural History of My _______" and the other is the series itself!

See them here here and here.

In her post "A NATURAL HISTORY OF MY INSTRUMENT"  Alicia Jo Rabins gracefully melds text images and original musical recordings of her compositions for sting ensembles.  Her work shines brightly and I am grateful to have been exposed to such energy.

Thanks be to Josh Tyree for the lovely nominations.

To nominate your favorite blog posts see here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jim Bridges drops some natural philosophy

From the Daily Advance

Belief in the Force takes faith 
by Jim Bridges

Think about the stem of a rose. Now, imagine that stem as a green fuse. Then assume that there is a force which drives the rose through the green fuse and causes the rose to explode. That same force drives me from my green youth to hoary-headed age.

The same force “drives the water throughout the rocks” (rocks in the mountains, those underground, and those in the beds of streams) and drives the blood through my arteries, veins, and capillaries — all of my blood through all of those pipes.

That same Force eventually destroys the trees and turns my blood to wax. It makes all things and destroys all things. It causes dirt to spurt up into the air and assume the size, shape and color which causes us to say, “rose,” “azalea,” “dogwood.” Each year, the Force causes the right leaves and fruits and berries and theories to appear in the proper places.

The Force causes humans to think they think their own thoughts and forget that it is the Force which causes humans to bear ideas as surely as it is the Force which causes bushes to conceive berries. The Force rains and snows, it grows the orchid and the rose, it sculpts the universe and your toes. It even creates those people who say that they don’t believe in the Force.

A bumper sticker says, “God made me an atheist. Who are you to question his judgment?” I say it is easier to believe in God than to believe out of God. The more you believe, the more in God you are, andthe most abundantly you can have life and love your neighbor as yourself and “live and move and have your being.”

Thomas Paine said that the only sensible meaning humans can attach to “God” is “the First Cause,” the cause of all effects which have followed through all the eons. It is 10 times easier to believe in the Force, the First Cause, than it is to explain all the berries and people and ideas in any other way.

Elizabeth City
The Editor
The Daily Advance
P.O. Box 588
Elizabeth City, N.C., 27907-0588

Post with the Most Begins

The competition has begun. With the crashing fists of Cassius Clay and the melodic mind of Muhammad Ali the first entry has come in.  From Abbas Raza - chief editor at 3 Quarks Daily.

His Post is a tribute to a great man.   Talk about power and revolution - Muhammad Ali lived both.

"Muhammad Ali is one of my biggest heroes. This post was done as part of a series of posts to honor Black History Month at 3 Quarks Daily."
~Abbas Raza 

See here to submit your entry.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Wonderful Life Indeed

As the nights grow to the longest of the year in the northern hemisphere I come back to this film year after year and take away some new "positive magic." The right to speak freely also entails an obligation to listen freely. Progress is not achieved through ideological "wars" where one idea is diametrically opposed to another, where foes are demonized and enemy lines are not to be crossed. It comes through the raising of a common consciousness, a common sense.

A book of the same name has also affected me and perhaps made me more receptive to the message in this Jimmy Stewart classic. In the fall of 2007 a "young earth" physicist named Dr. D. Russell Humphreys spoke at Colorado State University. He spent two hours in front of a podium explaining that the observed rate at which helium atoms leaked from zirconium crystal collected from a salt mine in New Mexico indicated the earth was only about 10,000 years old. When I asked the man how humans could observe stars that were more than 10,000 light years away and sometimes even millions of light-years away his response was not scientific at all. He explained that during Genesis and the "great flood" God sped up the space-time continuum to bring the light beams to our eyeballs... After the seminar I left the auditorium in shock and disbelief that this man was paid to speak at a university, then I realized why it was worth it. In the lobby I was surrounded by the student group who invited him and engaged in a two hours long discussion about the age of earth and evolution. I described to them the progression of life as evidenced in the soft bodied fossils in the Burgess shale in British Columbia. I told them how this showcase of evolution and evolutionary timescales was eloquently described by Stephen Jay Gould in his award winning book "Wonderful Life." They had never heard of the Burgess shale and I think I piqued their interest and maybe a few students followed up on investigating this evidence on their own. Even though I was initially shocked that the university would allow such a seminar to be commissioned on campus I eventually realized the beauty of it all. The ensuing conversation between 20+ creationists and myself would never have taken place had this seminar not happened. Free speech is like white light, shining in all directions. Ideas like "life is a wonderful thing" have the power to reign in the poles of the culture wars, forcing us to acknowledge one another and move forward together.

Merry Christmas,
from TPG

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

TPG gets shout out from Collegian

TPG had a date with the mainstream media yesterday.  The Rocky Mountain Collegian ran a story on what is going here among the pages of Tom Paine's Ghost.  Thanks Collegian staff for continuing to put out one of the best student run newspapers in the country!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Science and art realigning?   For a long time I have thought of the disconnect between the majority of Americans and the scientific community.  There is a general and apparent sense of fear about science and technology misapplied.  I am not arguing that this paranoia is completely unwarranted but that it causes some to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when it comes to applying  technologies to this thing we call human life.  In this article Peter Forbes writing for the Times Online describes a current trend in science writing - artistic individuals compelled to write about scientific themes.  This may be the  end of what I call the "Burning Windmill".

To me the image of a burning windmill represents the moment the masses pass judgmental on emerging scientific technologies.  The image came to me while watching the original Boris Karloff black and white version of Frankenstein.   In the end the monster is chased by the mob to a tower, which is in fact a windmill.  Here the people decide the most appropriate course of action is to kill him, burn him in the windmill.  The movie ends before we see proof of his charred body and in this indefinite passing of time I see an uncertainty.  A persistent uneasy feeling held by civilization since the publication of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein in 1818. Will the firemen show up and put out the flames or will  the angry mob successfully extinguish the experiment.  How can the citizenry keep the application of science in check?  How can we prevent the misapplication of technology without behaving like the mob at the windmill or the mob that carved the flesh from Hypatia with abalone shells?

Further in the article Forbes talks about the healing process between the infamous "two cultures" of science and humanities.  The first step for any individual taking on a healing or reckoning path  is acknowledging fear. The fear that "although science may be powerfully predictive, it threatens to undermine the beliefs and intuitions we uphold to make life tolerable; We fear we may learn something we would rather not know”.

While ruminating  on these concepts my mind kept floating back to the desert, peering into the world of Edward Abbey where he has an epiphany - how he feels about science and technology.  His words are an excellent foothold to begin reconciliation between the two cultures.  In Desert Solitaire Abbey is philosophizing with a visitor to Arches in the chapter Episodes and Visions  and realizes he is...

"not opposed to mankind but only to man-centeredness, anthropocentricity, the opinion that the world exists solely for the sake of man; not to science, which means simply knowledge, but to science misapplied, to the worship of technique and technology, and to that perversion of science properly called scientism; and not to civilization but to culture."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cnidarian Life - stranger than fiction

Thanks to Deep Sea News for the heads up. Psychedelic art by Mother Nature.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Quark - Political Iteration

When it rains it pours. 'Tis the season for blog competitions. An old favorite - 3 Quarks Daily - is holding the third of four annual competitions called "Quarks." The winners for each category (science, philosophy, politics, and art) have and will continue to be announced on each equinox and solstice. The current theme is Politics and although the entry from TPG is tenuously political it remains a fun exercise in blogosphereological exploration. To peruse the 47 entries click here. If you already know what you would like to vote for click here.

There is some excellent writing among some very timely entries. As much as I disdain I did particularly enjoy Glen Greenwald's dissection of Obama's Afghanistan escalation speech from a few nights ago. In this commentary he got me with the phrase "national narcissism" when describing our collective willingness to buy into war if we think we are morally justified. How does citing human rights violations or oppression of women make make it justifiable to wage war in certain countries? The truth is there are brutal human rights violations all over the planet and yet we are supposed to focus our military might at only those that happen to be sitting atop the world largest oil supplies or other "interests?" It makes no sense.

This all made me think - why isn't Greg Mortenson crusading in Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Egypt? I am not questioning Mortenson's great and worthy intentions but I am wondering why we are so easily swayed to focus our empathy on countries that have been deemed to have U.S. "national interests" at stake? If you want to have a clear definition of what the code words "national interest" mean look no further than this letter drafted and signed in 1998 by the motley crew at the Project for the New American Century and sent  to President Clinton.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Open Lab is now closed

The Open Laboratory 2009 submission deadline has passed. For a complete listing of all entries including  six from Tom Paine's Ghost head on over to Bora Zivkovic's brainchild A Blog Around the Clock.  There you will find a full Smörgåsbord of science blogging. Creativity from around the globe on display. One year ago this competition catalyzed my passion for writing and I hope by passing it along it might further fan the flame of open science discussion for the world to sample. Happy surfing!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Art and Science

Michael Garfield paints a window into the ongoing research in our lab at Colorado State University. Garfield paints live on stage while a performance is underway. He recorded the time lapse video below at Cervantes in Denver. Brilliant! Find Micheal's other work on display here.