Horse Blinkers for Everyone


Back in May 2014, WC wrote on this blog: An American football field is 6,400 square yards. That’s 8,294,400 square inches. But a Creationist who subscribes to Bishop Ussher‘s calculation of the age of the earth would focus exclusively on about 11 square inches in one corner of the football field – about 3.3 inches on a side…

The first discovery of a pulsar, a rotating, radio wave-emitting neutron star, 1967

Nobel Science and Sexism: Four Instances


As recently as the end of World War II, science and scientists were a gentleman’s club, and women need not apply. WC mentions this because terrific astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell received a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics this week. Just 51 years after her discovery of pulsars; just 40 years after her colleague, Anthony…

Wild fire smoke, East Rim, Steens Mountain, Oregon

Why We’re Stupid: Another Reason


Researchers in China have meticulously documented a reason for diminished cognition – stupidity – in old men: bad air. Seriously. Air pollution, including the PM 2.5 fine particulates, has been shown to impair cognition, especially in the elderly. We find that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests. We…

Thermokarst Pond. UAF photo courtesy of Katey Walter Anthony Found in the Arctic and cold mountain regions,

More Bad News on Climate Change


While much of climate science is pretty firmly established, whatever Donald Trump may think, climatologists are still puzzling out some of the details. And some of those details are turning out to be very important. Feedback is one such critical detail. Feedback occurs when outputs of a system are routed back as inputs as part of…

Juniper Slash Pile, Steens Mountain Loop Road, Oregon

Juniper Madness


The smoke of burning juniper wood was said to aid clairvoyance, and was burned for purification and to stimulate contact with the Otherworld at the autumn Samhain fire festival at the beginning of the Celtic year. Maybe dubious contact with the “Otherworld” is the source of the “evidence” behind the campaign to remove Western Junipers…

Justus Susterman's Portrait of Galileo Galilei, 1636

Galileo, Pisa and Those Two Famous Balls


Galileo Galilei famously faced the Inquisition for steadfastly asserting the Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the Sun around the Earth. But before that, he is credited with the equally famous experiment at Pisa, where he dropped two heavy metal balls, of different sizes, from Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Aristotle had written the heavier metal…