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Why Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ Calls Evolution ‘Undeniable’ and Creationism ‘Inane’



Picture of thousands of galaxies
Gazing at galaxy clusters like Abell 2218, it's hard to imagine how we fit into the cosmos. Evolution can help with that, says Bill Nye.
Photograph by NASA, ESA, and Johan Richard (Caltech, USA)


Darwin's theory explains so much of the world, from bumblebees to human origins, says the Science Guy.


Excerpt from
By Jane J. Lee

With a jaunty bow tie and boyish enthusiasm, Bill Nye the Science Guy has spent decades decoding scientific topics, from germs to volcanoes, for television audiences. Last February, the former engineer defended the theory of evolution in a televised debate with young-Earth creationist Ken Ham, a vocal member of a group that believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Nye's decision to engage Ham kicked up plenty of criticism from scientists and creationists alike.

The experience prompted the celebrity science educator to write a "primer" on the theory of evolution called Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. In his new book, Nye delights in how this fundamental discovery helps to unlock the mysteries of everything from bumblebees to human origins to our place in the universe.

Who do you hope will read this book?
Grown-ups who have an interest in the world around them, people coming of age who have an interest in science, people who still want to know how the world works.

This is the big concern of mine with respect to the organization Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham and all those guys: their relentless, built-in attempts to indoctrinate a generation of science students on a worldview that is obviously wrong.

I worry about these kids—they're part of my society. We can't raise a generation of students who don't understand the fundamental idea in all of life science, any more than you want to raise a generation of kids who don't understand chemistry or physics or arithmetic.

How and when did you first encounter creationism?
About 20 years ago. I was a member of the Northwest Skeptics, which is the Seattle-based skeptics organization. We met people who insisted that the Earth was 6,000 years old. The inanity took my breath away. When you understand anything about astronomy or have just a rudimentary understanding of radioactivity, the Earth is patently not 6,000 years old. It's silly.

It's been said that a good way of convincing people of something is to appeal to their emotions. What do you think?
That's my business! In the book, I purposely spend a lot of time in the first person. The reason is, we find stories compelling. Stories are how we remember things, how we organize things.

By telling a story in the first person, it's hard to dismiss. If I say, "I remember the time I met Ivan the gorilla," it's really difficult for the listener or reader to go, "No, you don't!"

When you say, "I feel," it's really hard for the reader to say, "No, you don't." Yes, I do. I did a lot of that in the book...

Picture of a sweat bee pollinating a deadly nightshade flower
A fascination with bees and flight drew a young Bill Nye into the world of science and evolution.
Photograph by Mark W Moffett, National Geographic



Picture of the Earth seen from the International Space Station
One of the most fundamental ideas in explaining life on Earth is the theory of evolution, says Nye.
Photograph by NASA Earth Observatory

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The Best Star Gazing Binoculars for 2015




Excerpt from space.com

Most people have two eyes. Humans evolved to use them together (not all animals do). People form a continuous, stereoscopic panorama movie of the world within in their minds. With your two eyes tilted upward on a clear night, there's nothing standing between you and the universe. The easiest way to enhance your enjoyment of the night sky is to paint your brain with two channels of stronger starlight with a pair of binoculars. Even if you live in — or near — a large, light-polluted city, you may be surprised at how much astronomical detail you'll see through the right binoculars!
Our editors have looked at the spectrum of current binocular offerings. Thanks to computer-aided design and manufacturing, there have never been more high-quality choices at reasonable prices. Sadly, there's also a bunch of junk out there masquerading as fine stargazing instrumentation. We've selected a few that we think will work for most skywatchers.
There was a lot to consider: magnification versus mass, field of view, prism type, optical quality ("sharpness"), light transmission, age of the user (to match "exit pupil" size, which changes as we grow older), shock resistance, waterproofing and more. 

The best binoculars for you

"Small" astronomy binoculars would probably be considered "medium" for bird watching, sports observation and other terrestrial purposes. This comes about as a consequence of optics (prism type and objective size, mostly). "Large" binoculars are difficult to use for terrestrial applications and have a narrow field of view. They begin to approach telescope quality in magnification, resolution and optical characteristics.

Most of our Editors' Choicesfor stargazing binoculars here are under $300. You can pay more than 10 times that for enormous binocular telescopes used by elite enthusiasts on special mounts! You'll also pay more for ruggedized ("mil spec," or military standard) binoculars, many of which suspend their prisms on shock mounts to keep the optics in precise alignment.

Also, our Editors' Choices use Porro prism optics. Compact binoculars usually employ "roof" prisms, which can be cast more cheaply, but whose quality can vary widely. [There's much more about Porro prisms in our Buyer's Guide.]
We think your needs are best served by reviewing in three categories.
  • Small, highly portable binoculars can be hand-held for viewing ease.
  • Medium binoculars offer higher powers of magnification, but still can be hand-held, if firmly braced.
  • Large binoculars have bigger "objective" lenses but must be mounted on a tripod or counterweighted arm for stability.
Here's a detailed look at our Editor's Choice selections for stargazing binoculars:

Best Small Binoculars 

Editor's Choice: Oberwerk Mariner 8x40 (Cost: $150)

Oberwerk in German means "above work." The brand does indeed perform high-level optical work, perfect for looking at objects above, as well as on the ground or water. Founder Kevin Busarow's Mariner series is not his top of the line, but it benefits greatly from engineering developed for his pricier models. The Oberwerk 8x40’s treat your eyes to an extremely wide field, at very high contrast, with razor-sharp focus; they are superb for observing the broad starscapes of the Milky Way. Just 5.5 inches (14 cm) from front to back and 6.5 inches wide (16.5 cm), the Mariners are compact and rugged enough to be your favorite "grab and go binoculars." But at 37 ounces, they may be more than a small person wants to carry for a long time.


Runner-Up: Celestron Cometron 7x50 (Cost: $30)

Yes, you read that price correctly! These Celestron lightweight, wide-field binoculars bring honest quality at a remarkably low price point. The compromise comes in the optics, particularly the prism's glass type (you might see a little more chromatic aberration around the edges of the moon, and the exit pupil isn't a nice, round circle). Optimized for "almost infinitely distant" celestial objects, these Cometrons won't focus closer than about 30 feet (9.1 meters).  But that's fine for most sports and other outdoor use. If you're gift-buying for multiple young astronomers – or you want an inexpensive second set for yourself – these binoculars could be your answer. Just maybe remind those young folks to be a little careful around water; Celestron claims only that the Cometrons are "water resistant," not waterproof. 


Honorable Mention: Swarovski Habicht 8x30 (Cost: $1,050)

From the legendary Austrian firm of Swarovski Optik, these "bins" are perfect. Really. Very sharp. Very lightweight. Very wide field. Very versatile. And very expensive! Our editors would have picked them if we could have afforded them. 

Honorable Mention: Nikon Aculon 7x50 (Cost: $110) 

Nikon's legendary optical quality and the large, 7mm exit pupil diameter make these appropriate as a gift for younger skywatchers. 

Best Medium Binoculars

Editor's Choice: Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 (Cost: $210)

A solid, chunky-feeling set of quality prisms and lenses makes these binoculars a pleasant, 38oz. handful. A medium wide 5.8 degrees filed of view and large 7mm exit pupil brings you gently into a sweet sky of bright, though perhaps not totally brilliant, stars. Fully dressed in a rubber wetsuit, these SkyMasters are waterproof. Feel free to take them boating or birding on a moist morning. Their optical tubes were blown out with dry nitrogen at the factory, then sealed. So you can expect them not to fog up, at least not from the inside. Celestron's strap-mounting points on the Skymaster 8x56 are recessed, so they don't bother your thumbs, but that location makes them hard to fasten. 


Runner-Up: Oberwerk Ultra 15x70 (Cost: $380)

The most rugged pair we evaluated, these 15x70s are optically outstanding. Seen through the Ultra's exquisitely multi-coated glass, you may find yourself falling in love with the sky all over again. Oberwerk's method of suspending their BAK4 glass Porro prisms offers greater shock-resistance than most competitors’ designs. While more costly than some comparable binoculars, they deliver superior value. Our only complaint is with their mass: At 5.5 lbs., these guys are heavy!  You can hand-hold them for a short while, if you’re lying down. But they are best placed on a tripod, or on a counterweighted arm, unless you like shaky squiggles where your point-source stars are supposed to be. Like most truly big binoculars, the eyepieces focus independently; there’s no center focus wheel. These "binos" are for true astronomers. 


Honorable Mention: Vixen Ascot 10x50 (Cost:$165)

These quirky binoculars present you with an extremely wide field. But they are not crash-worthy – don't drop them in the dark – nor are they waterproof, and the focus knob is not conveniently located. So care is needed if you opt for these Vixen optics. 

Best Large Binoculars

Don't even think about hand-holding this 156-ounce beast! The SkyMaster 25x100 is really a pair of side-by-side 100mm short-tube refractor telescopes. Factor the cost of a sturdy tripod into your purchase decision, if you want to go this big.  The monster Celestron comes with a sturdy support spar for mounting. Its properly multi-coated optics will haul in surprising detail from the sky.  Just make sure your skies are dark; with this much magnification, light pollution can render your images dingy. As with many in the giant and super-giant class of binoculars, the oculars (non-removable eyepieces) focus separately, each rotating through an unusually long 450 degrees.  Getting to critical focus can be challenging, but the view is worth it. You can resolve a bit of detail on face of the new moon (lit by "Earthshine") and pick out cloud bands on Jupiter; tha's pretty astonishing for binoculars. 


Runner-Up: Orion Astronomy 20x80 (Cost: $150)

These big Orions distinguish themselves by price point; they're an excellent value. You could pay 10 times more for the comparably sized Steiners Military Observer 20x80 binoculars! Yes, the Orions are more delicate, a bit less bright and not quite as sharp. But they do offer amazingly high contrast; you'll catch significant detail in galaxies, comets and other "fuzzies." Unusually among such big rigs, the Astronomy 20x80 uses a center focus ring and one "diopter" (rather than independently focusing oculars); if you’re graduating from smaller binoculars, which commonly use that approach, this may be a comfort. These binoculars are almost lightweight enough to hold them by hand. But don't do that, at least not for long periods. And don't drop them. They will go out of alignment if handled roughly. 


Honorable Mention: Barska Cosmos 25x100 (Cost: $230)

They are not pretty, but you're in the dark, right? Built around a tripod-mountable truss tube, these Barskas equilibrate to temperature quickly and give you decent viewing at rational cost. They make for a cheaper version of our Editors' Choice Celestron SkyMasters. 

Honorable Mention: Steiner Observer 20x80 (Cost: $1,500)

Not at all a practical cost choice for a beginning stargazer, but you can dream, can't you? These Steiner binoculars are essentially military optics "plowshared" for peaceful celestial observing. 

Why we chose NOT to review certain types

Image stabilized?

Binoculars with active internal image stabilization are a growing breed. Most use battery-powered gyroscope/accelerometer-driven dynamic optical elements. We have left this type out of our evaluation because they are highly specialized and pricey ($1,250 and up). But if you are considering active stabilization, you can apply the same judgment methods detailed in our Buyer's Guide.

Comes with a camera?

A few binoculars are sold with built-in cameras. That seems like a good idea. But it isn't, at least not for skywatching. Other than Earth's moon, objects in the night sky are stingy with their photons. It takes a lengthy, rock-steady time exposure to collect enough light for a respectable image. By all means, consider these binocular-camera combos for snapping Facebook shots of little Jenny on the soccer field. But stay away from them for astronomy.

Mega monster-sized?

Take your new binoculars out under the night sky on clear nights, and you will fall in love with the universe. You will crave more ancient light from those distant suns. That may translate into a strong desire for bigger stereo-light buckets.

Caution: The next level up is a quantum jump of at least one financial order of magnitude. But if you have the disposable income and frequent access to dark skies, you may want to go REALLY big. Binocular telescopes in this class can feature interchangeable matching eyepieces, individually focusing oculars, more than 30x magnification and sturdy special-purpose tripods. Amateurs using these elite-level stereoscopes have discovered several prominent comets.

Enjoy your universe

If you are new to lens-assisted stargazing, you'll find excellent enhanced views among the binocular choices above. To get in deeper and to understand how we picked the ones we did, jump to our Buyer's Guide: How to Choose Binoculars for Sky Watching.

You have just taken the first step to lighting up your brain with star fire. May the photons be with you. Always. 

Skywatching Events 2015

Once you have your new binoculars, it's time to take them for a spin. This year intrepid stargazers will have plenty of good opportunities to use new gear.

On March 20, for example, the sun will go through a total solar eclipse. You can check out the celestial sight using the right sun-blocking filters for binoculars, but NEVER look at the sun directly, even during a solar eclipse. It's important to find the proper filters in order to observe the rare cosmic show. 

Observers can also take a look at the craggy face of the moon during a lunar eclipse on April 4. Stargazers using binoculars should be able to pick out some details not usually seen by the naked eye when looking at Earth's natural satellite.

Skywatchers should also peek out from behind the binoculars for a chance to see a series of annual meteor showers throughout the year.

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Mountain-sized asteroid to fly by Earth Monday


web1_S042334990-300.jpg


Excerpt from reviewjournal.com
By AMANDA BARNETT
CNN


A big asteroid will fly by Earth on Monday, but NASA says don’t worry — we’ll be safe.

The asteroid is called 2004 BL86. It’ll come about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth, or about three times as far away as the moon at 11:19 a.m. ET, according to NASA.

You’re wondering, doesn’t this happen all the time? Yes and no. There are lots of asteroids that pose a threat to Earth — about 550 as of January 22. None are predicted to hit anytime soon.
But asteroid 2004 BL86 (yes, we also wish it had a catchier name) is big — about a third of a mile (a half-kilometer) in size. It will be the closest known asteroid this large to pass near Earth until 2027, that’s when an asteroid called 1999 AN10 flies by us.

“While it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more,” Don Yeomans, the recently retired manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a NASA press release.

This asteroid is also interesting because you might be able to see it with strong binoculars or backyard telescopes. That’s a rare opportunity for most of us.

If you don’t have binoculars or a scope, you can watch from the comfort of your computer on The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0.
The asteroid was discovered on January 30, 2004, by a telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey in White Sands, New Mexico.

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NASA Finds Mysterious Bright Spot on Dwarf Planet Ceres: What Is It?

A mysterious white spot can be seen in the newest images from NASA's Dawn space telescope, which is rapidly approaching the dwarf planet. Excerpt from space.com A strange, flickering white blotch found on the dwarf planet Ceres by a NASA spacecra...

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Tool making arose earlier among human ancestors


Coming to grips with tool-making evolution
A modern human hand grasps a fossil metacarpus from a hominin ancestor who may have been able to craft tools. A new study suggests the adaptations enabling a precise and forceful grip developed 500,000 years earlier than previously theorized. (Tracy L. Kivell, Matthew M. Skinner)
Excerpt from latimes.com
By Geoffrey Mohan 


Our ape-like ancestors may have stopped dragging their knuckles and started making tools a half million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study.
The study, published online Thursday in the journal Science, suggests that the art of tool making may not be exclusive to the genus Homo, which led to modern Homo sapiens. At least one species in the dead-end genus Australopithecus appears to have enough of the hand characteristics that would have made tool crafting possible, the study found.

That would mean that the credit for tool use would now be shared between Homo habilis -- most often thought to be the progenitor of tool-making hominins -- and Australopithecus africanus, a species that wandered around southern Africa about 2-3 million years ago.
Since then, modern Homo sapiens has used a lot of his tool-making ability to type out arguments over which ancestor first flaked a stone into a sharp-edged tool. So it’s unlikely that one study will settle the matter...

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Rosetta spacecraft raises new questions about comet’s origin

Excerpt from news.asiaone.com CAPE CANAVERAL, US - Scientists using Europe's comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft have discovered that the complicated ancient body is coated with surprisingly simple organic molecules and surrounded by a changing clou...

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Microsoft to help NASA scientists virtually explore Mars with HoloLens





Excerpt from tech.firstpost.com


The US space agency has teamed up with Microsoft to develop a new software that will enable scientists to work on Mars virtually using a wearable technology called Microsoft HoloLens.

Developed by Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, the software called OnSight will give researchers a means to plan and, along with the Mars Curiosity rover, conduct science operations on the Red Planet, the US space agency said in a statement.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Mars Science Laboratory mission at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, DC.

OnSight will use real rover data and extend the Curiosity mission’s existing planning tools by creating a 3D simulation of the Martian environment where scientists around the world can meet. Program scientists will be able to examine the rover’s worksite from a first-person perspective, plan new activities and preview the results of their work firsthand.

“We believe OnSight will enhance the ways in which we explore Mars and share that journey of exploration with the world,” added Jeff Norris, JPL’s OnSight project manager.

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Google Chairman Eric Schmidt: "The Internet Will Disappear"


 


Excerpt from hollywoodreporter.com

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt on Thursday predicted the end of the Internet as we know it.

At the end of a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where his comments were webcast, he was asked for his prediction on the future of the web. “I will answer very simply that the Internet will disappear,” Schmidt said.

“There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it,” he explained. “It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”

Concluded Schmidt: “A highly personalized, highly interactive and very, very interesting world emerges.”

The panel, entitled The Future of the Digital Economy, also featured Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and others.
Earlier in the debate, Schmidt discussed the issue of market dominance. The European Union has been looking at Google’s search market dominance in a long-running antitrust case, and the European parliament late last year even called for a breakup.
“You now see so many strong tech platforms coming, and you are seeing a reordering and a future reordering of dominance or leaders or whatever term you want to use because of the rise of the apps on the smartphone,” Schmidt said Thursday. “All bets are off at this point as to what the smartphone app infrastructure is going to look like” as a “whole new set” of players emerges to power smartphones, which are nothing but super-computers, the Google chairman argued. “I view that as a completely open market at this point.”

Asked about his recent trip to North Korea, Schmidt said the country has many Internet connections through data phones, but there is no roaming and web usage is “heavily supervised.” Schmidt said “it’s very much surveillance of use,” which he said was not good for the country and others.

Sandberg and Schmidt lauded the Internet as an important way to give more people in the world a voice. Currently, only 40 percent of people have Internet access, the Facebook COO said, adding that any growth in reach helps extend people’s voice and increase economic opportunity. “I’m a huge optimist,” she said about her outlook for the industry. “Imagine what we can do” once the world gets to 50 percent, 60 percent and more in terms of Internet penetration.
She cited women as being among the beneficiaries, saying the Internet narrows divides.

Schmidt similarly said that broadband can address governance issues, information needs, personal issues, women empowerment needs and education issues. “The Internet is the greatest empowerment of citizens … in many years,” he said. “Suddenly citizens have a voice, they can be heard.”
During another technology panel at the World Economic Forum on Thursday, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries and others answered questions on the need to regulate privacy standards on the Internet and for tech companies following the Snowden case, the Sony hack and the like.


Mayer said that the personalized Internet “is a better Internet,” emphasizing: “We don’t sell your personal data … We don’t transfer your personal data to third parties.” She said users own their data and need to have control, adding that people give up data to the government for tax assessment, social services and other purposes.
Fries said Liberty Global subscribers view billions of hours of content and generate billions of clicks, but added that “today we do nothing.” He explained: “We generate zero revenue from all of that information.” But he acknowledged that big data was big business for a lot of people.

Both executives said transparency was important to make sure users know privacy standards and the like.

Gunther Oettinger, a conservative German politician serving as the European Union’s commissioner for digital economy and society, said on the panel that “we need a convincing global understanding, we need a UN agency for data protection and security.” Asked what form that “understanding” should have, he said he was looking for “clear, pragmatic, market-based regulation.” Explained Oettinger: “It’s a public-private partnership.”

Fries said such a solution was likely not to happen in the near term, given the size of the EU. “I think it is going to take several years,” he said, adding that some countries’ parliaments would likely take a stab at it.

But he warned that a joint solution would make more sense. “We don’t want Germany to have its own Internet,” Fries said. “Some countries may build their own Internets” and “balkanize” the web, he warned.

Mayer said on the issue of regulation: “I like Tim’s idea better of the beneficent marketplace.” She spoke of fellow panelist and computer specialist Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

Asked how Yahoo stores and handles client records, she said the online giant “changed the way we store and communicate data” after Snowden and also changed encryptions between data centers. And the company protects users through encryption methods, she added. Mayer said that trust and confidence of Yahoo users has rebounded since.

Mayer was also asked what happens if a government asks for a user’s data, a question that has new significance after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, which have led some to call for increased surveillance powers of the Internet for governments. Mayer said Yahoo always assesses if such a request is reasonable. “We have a very good track record for standing up to what’s not reasonable,” she said.

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