Category Archives: Science

Help Get Pruitt Out

Polluted EPA

Pruitt is head of the  Environmental Protection Administration. He is not a scientist and has fired most of the scientists that were in the department. He denies that climate change is a problem, and has said in the past that he wants to abolish the EPA.

Pruitt needs to be OUT before he does even more damage.

My Two Favorite Books

Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-born American cognitive scientist, psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. This guy is a genuine big-brained hominid, one of the smartest people you’ll ever know, and he writes to convince his readers that our world is getting steadily better, century after century. And he proves it with facts!

Changes can be either good or bad. However, contrary to popular opinion, cultural changes around the world tend, on average, to be good, in the sense that they bring greater happiness, freedom, health, and prosperity to more ad more people.

His two latest books are possibly the two most important books I have ever read.:

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
  • Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Pinker shows that all down through history, for the past several thousand years, the world has been slowly  getting safer from violence of all kinds including muggings, rape, murder, and war, freer from disease, poverty, and superstition, more prosperous, better fed, and happier. These are real cultural changes that usually happen so slowly that most of us are not even aware of them. But our lives are much better now than they were back in the “good old days” when you might have had to get your appendix cut out by candlelight at 3 AM. With no anesthetic.

I recommend you read both books.

Science in America

Neil deGrasse Tyson says this 4-minute video may contain the most important words he has ever spoken. I think he is probably right about that. This message may be the most important thing we need to hear today. Science is here to stay, and we all need to be scientifically literate. It’s truly urgent!

Listen to his argument. You need to be an informed citizen and voter, and that’s the truth.

Tuesday’s Solar Eclipse

Partial solar eclipses on the sidewalk
Partial solar eclipses of the sun

Her: “Will it be possible to get pictures with a smart phone?” Him: “I don’t see that happening.” That was part of a conversation I watched on TV a day or two before Tuesday’s eclipse. The picture above is from my iPhone.

I’m an old man in a nursing home, but that’s no excuse. I failed to prepare, and I wasn’t ready for this eclipse. I had no glasses and no appropriate photographic equipment.

A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of South America, Africa, and Europe. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)
A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, August 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon. A total solar eclipse swept across a narrow portion of the contiguous United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. A partial solar eclipse was visible across the entire North American continent along with parts of South America, Africa, and Europe. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

But I knew that even if you can’t look at the sun, you can still look at the ground and see thousands of little pictures of the sun with a bite taken out of each one where the light shines between the leaves of the trees.

They never look focused very well, because the holes between the leaves are all different shapes instead of real pin-holes (as they should be to project sharp pictures). Besides that, I think I was holding the camera too high, which made it even worse.

We weren’t going to see the total eclipse here in North Texas, anyway; but even a partial solar eclipse is worth preparing for; and I hadn’t even bought eclipse glasses! Nevertheless, I knew I could get pictures. And here are a couple of them. One at the top and one at the bottom of this page.

You’ll notice in the right-hand edge of the picture above, I got a little bit of my power chair in  the frame. The pictures were made on the sidewalk just outside my room at the nursing home. That’s about as far as it’s practical for me to go by myself.

Now I have a new goal: to live seven more years. I really want to see the total eclipse that’s coming through North Texas on April 8, 2024. And if I survive that long, I definitely plan to be prepared this time.

Above is an example of what I hope to see in 2024. And of course the guy was right, I won’t be able to take a picture of the sun like this with my iPhone. If I even tried, I’d probably burn out the camera. But, better than that, I should be able to see it with my own eyes.

April 08, 2024 solar eclipse path
April 08, 2024 solar eclipse path

This is totality! It’s the scene described by science journalist David Barron in the last post: “It was truly a life-changing experience! Just mind bogglingly beautiful and awe inspiring!” Well, it’s not exactly the same scene. He was talking about what he saw in 1998, and this is a picture of the 2017 eclipse two days ago, taken by NASA. But you get the picture (so to speak).

Any given point on earth experiences a total solar eclipse about once every 400 years on average, and it only lasts from a few seconds to four or five minutes maximum. But I plan to be here for it, If possible, in 2024. If I make it, I’ll try to get some better pictures.

Stick around with me and let’s be prepared to watch the full total eclipse In the sky, instead of just pictures on the sidewalk like that below. And above.

Partial solar eclipses on the sidewalk
Partial solar eclipses on the sidewalk

The NASA animation shows the path of the 2024 eclipse. The large shadow is the partial eclipse area, like the one we had here Tuesday. But notice the tiny dot In the center of it? That’s totality! The total solar eclipse area, just 70 miles wide, racing through Texas and several other states at probably around 600 mph or so. That’s where I intend to be in 2024, stalking the eclipse somewhere as near the center of its path as practical, for just a couple of glorious minutes of totality.

Onward to 2024!