Friday, June 27, 2008

Bill Gates Leaves Role as Chief Software Architect

Today is the last day billg will be working full time at the company he founded, Microsoft. Next week he will begin full time work at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while still spending one day a week at Microsoft working on various projects of interest (read: touch computing).

Gates dropped out of Harvard in 1975 to develop a BASIC interpreter for the Altar 8800. Then, proving that college degrees are for suckers, he created the largest software corporation in the world, becoming one of the richest people in the world in the process. Regardless of your personal feelings towards Microsoft products, it is undeniable that the computing experience you have today, regardless of platform, was significantly shaped by William Henry Gates III.

Gates remains Chairman of Microsoft, and day to day operation is left in the hands of CEO Steve Ballmer. Gates current role as Chief Software Architect at Microsoft goes to Ray Ozzie.

PS: A little know fact I discovered on the Wikipedia entry for billg. Bill wrote the class selection algorithm for his high school, adding an extra feature, "so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students". GG Bill.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chrysler Fulfills My Wildest Fantasy, Ensures Future Draconian Anti-Internet-While-Driving Legislation

Not even wireless Internet will make your Chrysler cool.

In an attempt to make up for their recent history of dismal financial returns and propensity for manufacturing undesirable cars, Chrysler has announced that it will offer a wireless internet option for all of its 2009 models. To all you bastard legislators who think I am too uncoordinated to talk on my cell phone while driving, I say SUCK IT! Too bad none of your dumb laws say anything about streaming porn diligently updating this blog and doing other Tube-related activities while driving!!!

But seriously, who does Chrysler think they are kidding? I probably still wouldn't buy one even if drivers seat doubled as a toilet and the trunk was full of gold bullion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nasa image of the day

Snoflake cluster and the Crone Nebula. Praise Science

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy Solstice!

Unless you were inside all day constantly checking PS for new updates (which sadly never came), you probably already knew that Saturday was the Summer Solstice and longest day of the year. If you're interested in the astrophysical details and history, the Wikipedia entry for 'summer solstice' is here.

I celebrated the Solstice by floating the Owens River in an inner tube and drinking 100 beers. The Sun performed spectacularly on its big day and destroyed all approaching thunder clouds as they descended from the mountains, allowing me to fully bask in all of its glory. Did anyone else do anything fun/special to celebrate this most illuminated of all days?

If you are thinking "DOOD, THE SULTIS IS JUST A DUM PAGGEN WICKA ORGY SACRISHUL BS RELIJUS THING", I say fuck y'all. Many important and impressive neolithic/pre-columbian/etc. Scientific achievements revolved around the Solstice and its historical religous/ceremonial significance. Some major examples of this include Stonehenge and Mayan systems of astronomy and math. So if you are the kind of person who Praises Science, the Solstice is definitely a day worthy of sharing some of this praise.

Friday, June 20, 2008

X-Prize to the moon

While the Brits are dooming us all with the launch of skynet. Google is in the mix to give away 20 million dollars to the first team to reach the moon, travel 500 meters, and send pictures back to earth by 2012. This is the latest X-Prize which follows competitions for the first space vehicle (won by Richard Branson and Virgin Records), a super efficient vehicle, and an ability to map 100 genomes in less than 10 days for a future of personalized medicine. Innovation through competition. Capitolism ho!


A multi-million dollar breath of relief was released today when the Phoenix Mars Lander announced via "tweet" that the 'white patches' that it had previously uncovered had sublimated over a relatively brief period of time, confirming the existence of water ice on the Red Planet, Mars.
The above .gif, via Wired (via NASA, via the void of Space, via a little robot somewhere on Mars), has officially made us hard for Mars once again.

Editor's Note: As if our hard-on for Mars ever went away.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Immensity of Space

If you're like me and occasionally have difficulty grappling with the vast expanse of our universe, then the 10816 x 7679 image of the Coma Cluster won't help you at all. The picture contains hundreds of galaxies, each containing billions of stars, which just blows my mind.

Make sure your browser of choice doesn't try to rob you of the experience by shrinking the image, you should have to scroll across the screen multiple times to see it all. And the picture is 125Mb so it may take some time to load.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The British, With No Sense of Irony, Have Doomed Us All!

Editor's Note: This is not spoof news from the Onion. It is somehow, unfortunately real.

England (aka the country where no one has seen any of the Terminator movies) has successfully completed a new, highly advanced communication network with the recent launch of its final satellite. This network, which will play a large role in British global military communication and will allow commands to be issued to robotic military vehicles from basically anywhere, has been named, I shit you not, Skynet. O, what hath Science wrought??? *insert obligatory John Connor reference here*

The Badassery of Dr. Robert Ballard Continues!

I'm Dr. Robert Ballard, and I say Chuck Norris is a Pussy. Yes, you can tell him I said so.

After taking a break from winning the Cold War and finding various lost undersea wrecks in his spare time, Dr. Robert Ballard has decided to continue making the oceans of the world his bitch! In the latest chapter of the Encyclopedia Badassica (aka Ballard's biography), he has been enlisted to locate the sunken sarcophagus of the mighty Egyptian Pharaoh Menkaure. The sarcophagus was lost over 170 years ago, when the ship bearing it from Egypt to England sunk off the coast of Spain. There is more adventure and daring in these past couple of sentences than in the entire new Indiana Jones movie. Hello, Hollywood? Why haven't you made a movie about the life and times of Dr. Robert Ballard yet?

Ancient Romans Were Into Lead-Based Makeup, Little Boys, and Apparently D&D

MAXIMA PLAGA! That's latin for 'Critical Hit'.

The famous Christie's auction house recently sold a two thousand year old glass twenty sided dice (as in the kind you should use right now to make a saving roll against bad Dungeons and Dragons jokes) to a collector for nearly $18,000. The dice dates back to Roman times, but it is unclear what sort of game it was used for. One thing is certain though: the Romans should have spent less time doing pen and paper role-playing in their parents' basement and more time defending against invading armies and staving off the decay of their once-great civilization.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yes, things have been unfortunately slow on Praise Science over the past week. We aren't sorry though. If the lack of new posts has been just too much for you to bear, here is a quote from Dr. Carl Sagan to help you get by any time your faith in Science is wavering:

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Most sacred question is defiled by morons on Yahoo! Answers

Yahoo is known for its many useless features, such as Yahoo! Answers, OMG! and its search engine. (Why oh why is Ballmer trying to buy it?)

Anyways, Yahoo! Answers lets people ask random questions to other people, inviting moronic debates that should be banned for the Internet.

However, a person going be the avatar name of "Jmaximus" recently posed this question:

"Do you praise Science? Science brought us YA, what has religion ever done for you?"
Ooooooooo. Jmaximus, who seems to have a gay gladiator for an avatar, goes for the provocative set up, and naturally, the discussion quickly devolves.

First up is "Nightshade cat A.A.," a self-described pagan:

All hail the scientific method!
Religion has given me comfort and allowed me to open my mind to the possibility that there are no true limits to what I can do, only those I impose upon myself.
Science limits me, as does religion, but an understanding of both, takes away those limits.
Oh yes, since I edited this I took out the part that stated I was pagan.
Limits indeed. Her self imposed limits include failing at everything she has tried.
From her profile: "Schooling, I was going to be a nurse, that fell through. I am now studying anthropology and archeaology. I have also studied in psychology, though I have no degree in anything yet...I also have dyslexia which made it hard to learn spelling& typing. I have discalclia which made it hard for math.
Moving on. "mocha_Ma_mocha" weighs in next:
Science is the explanation of God's work. It comes together. Without God,science will not exists. Religion brought me more than YA for sure.. By the way,I'm a muslim.
We're so glad her religion has brought her more than trolling on Yahoo! Answers. Although she is racking up quite the number of questions and answers. So far she has posed 14 questions and given more than 500 answers -- seemingly all about Islam.

Her best answer comes for this question: "Are Muslim men required to shave their pubic hair as Muslim women are?"
She says: "Yes. Pubic hair that are not shaved for more than 40 days become a place where the satan will hang themselves on. That will make them lazy to pray and ibadah."
Those Allah followers, so sarcastic.

"Spanky C" follows next with "Religion created war. But created freedom." WTF???!?!?

Finally, "forEVRA♥UNITED EST 1878♥" comes in to chastise everyone for being pagan, muslim heathens by teaching us about HIM!!!

What has God NOT done and given you?

Everything belongs to Him and is given by Him.

How did we get the knowledge? It is all by Him.

And that's Yahoo! Answers for you. Certainly wasted my time looking at it. But thanks to it, we now know people think Muslim men shave their pubic hair, dumb people answers questions (making everyone else dumber in the process), and HIM! giveth us everything. The rapture is next week. The end.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Science Breaks My Heart... Again

Pluto has already been through enough :(

Science and I generally get along pretty well, but a year or so, it really let me down when it stripped Pluto of its status as a planet (to dwarf planet). We didn't talk for a while, but I've gotten over it since then. And now, the cold and emotionless Science has shoved hot coals into the still fresh wound by placing on Pluto yet another slanderous euphemism: Plutoid.

Please, Science, don't try to call me. I'll call you.

New BMW Concept Makes Me Feel Funny

BMW's 'GINA' concept car has cloth skin. There's not really any joke to make here, except the one that is being played on all of us suckers who will probably never live to see such an awesome vehicle actually put into production :(

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

While epistemology is probably a word more commonly found in philosophical circles, it is an important concept for anyone who loves/does/hates science. Epistemology, or the study of how we translate observable experience into knowledge, is the bedrock concept that allows all forms of explanatory narratives to function. I recently spent some time in the library reading Albert Einstein’s autobiographical notes (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in… actually just anyone. It was like weight lifting for my brain, which is consequently tired and doing a poor job of writing this post. And I’m hung-over and hungry. Back to the blog.) I recently spent some time reading Albert Einstein’s autobiographical notes and was interested to discover how integral his studies and beliefs about epistemology were in helping him form his theory of relativity. I figure if we here at Praise Science are truly serious about science (which I think we are) a little research and thought into various theories of epistemology would do us wonders in our efforts to love/do/hate Science. Who knows, maybe we will create a new special theory of beerativity!

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Monday, June 9, 2008

'When We Left Earth' Series Debuts

The When We Left Earth series began this week to rave reviews. The series features new High-Definition content from the NASA archives and covers the entire 50 year history of NASA. The next episode is Saturday on the Discovery Channel. I don't have the Discovery Channel, so if anyone wants to buy me the Blue-Ray disk set of the series, and a Blue-Ray player, I would be much obliged.

Folding Proteins: Someone's Idea of Having Fun?

Join us, and soon no protein will be left unfolded!

For those of you who don't know, protein folding is to some people what drinking beer and playing video games is to me. Who are these strange, most likely mole-like people and where do they live? Who knows. But we do know that by their powers combined, they have created the largest distributed computing network in the world through the Folding@home project.

In an attempt to use the human brain's natural 3d puzzle solving skills to improving folding algorithms, researchers from the University of Washington (boo ya!) have released a "game" called Foldit. Now you too can use all of your extra spare time to participate in Science's favorite hobby. You know you don't have anything better to do.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Humans can see into the future?

Humans don't need hot oracles to see into the future

According to scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, human brains generate images of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future to make up for the lag between light traveling and when our optical nerves tell the brain what's going on.

The researchers also said this new theory might explain optical illusions, which may happen when our brain's generated image doesn't match reality.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kibo Module and the ISS

Astronauts of the Discovery Space Shuttle are currently installing the new Kibo Space Lab onto the International Space Station. The lab is about the size of a bus and the largest lab so far installed on the ISS. If you're interested, this slideshow tracks the construction of the ISS over the last decade.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Singularity Cometh...

The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), better known as probably the nerdiest club the most fucking awesome club you can belong to in the whole world has a special report on the Technological Singularity on the website for its magzine, IEEE Spectrum. For those of you who don't already know, the Singularity is a hypothetical point where technology advances to such a degree that it begins to advance exponentially further as a function of itself (or something like that). People who discuss such things on an academic level are either super stoked for it or are mortally terrified. I think I am somewhere in between.

Anyways, the report features numerous articles from experts on all aspects of the concept. Your Praise Science homework for the week: read them and educate yourself for the coming (or not) paradigm shift because your life is sure to only get better (or worse).

Life after the Singularity is going to be just like this.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The New Picture of our Galaxy

A new infrared survey of our galaxy, the Milky Way, has redefined its layout. Instead of the four main arms (Perseus Arm, Cygnus Arm, Scutum-Crux Arm (Get your mind out of the gutter), and the Carina and Sagittarius Arm), scientists now propose that there are actually only two main arms, with multiple smaller arms or 'spurs'. Our Sun and its solar system lie in the Orion Spur.

Currently in a Galaxy that's not very far away

Ask Praise Science: Episode 2, Attack of the Kelvins

For our second edition of Ask Praise Science, reader Stu submits the following question:

How do astromomers / scientists / temperature-reading obsessed maniacs determine surface temperatures of stars? For instance, a blue-white star is known to be hotter than 30,000 degrees F on the surface. I know this has something to do with light waves and their color, but how can scientists be so accurate? And, on a similar tip, how about surafce temperature of planets we have not fully explored (i.e. Saturn's surface (well, its clouds) is quite cold, about -220 degrees F)?

Very good question. It definitely is pretty easy to take accept the information we receive about the universe as a whole from astrophysicists as given because, well, they are astrophysicists after all. It's not like they are making this shit up. As it is within all Scientific disciplines, standards and best practices have been developed in order to normalize research and findings. This is especially true for the physics of stars, formally known as stellar astrophysics, because all of our findings are based on the observation of light that in many cases is millions or billions of years old (except in the case of our own Sun and other local stars).

So how do Scientists "know" the temperature of distant stars (and other celestial bodies)? They use something known as the Stefan-Boltzman Law, which determines the effective temperature of a 'black body'... errr... those links are getting dangerously mathy and physicsy. Basically what this means is creating an estimate for the overall (or maybe 'average') temperature for a celestial object, since temperature can vary widely across the surface of said object. This is done by measuring the luminosity, or brightness, of the object and its surface area, and then calculating the temperature of an imaginary 'black body' with the same attributes according to the law mentioned above.

So the stellar "temperatures" that we read in all the interesting astrophysics articles that everyone surely read everyday are more like working estimates based on the purely observable data we can get by looking at stars through telescopes (size, brightness, etc.). This temperature in turn becomes another characteristic that we can use to classify stars and is in fact one of the variables used on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, or the Cliffs Notes of astrophysics.

As for planets like Jupiter, I'm pretty sure we know the atmospheric temperature because we've been there. Or at least our unmanned space missions have. As for other distant planets, I assume they use the same method as above.

That was long. Hopefully it allows you all, especially Stu, to praise Science in a more efficient fashion.

Brian Greene praises science

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed piece in the NYTimes of Brian Greene truly praising science, I think I can speak for all of PS when I say that he is an inspiration to all of us and my new, personal hero:

"Science is the greatest of all adventure stories, one that’s been unfolding for thousands of years as we have sought to understand ourselves and our surroundings. Science needs to be taught to the young and communicated to the mature in a manner that captures this drama. We must embark on a cultural shift that places science in its rightful place alongside music, art and literature as an indispensable part of what makes life worth living."


Full article here:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Praise Science!

Ah yes, “Praise Science!” This laudatory two-term is perhaps one of my new favorites in the ever-evolving vocabulary of our social sphere. However, my fascination with this phrase is not due to the pleasurable irony which connotes from the proximity of religious activities and the “anti-god,’ but because there is actually no irony in it whatsoever.

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Space is Busy Lately

Lots of exciting things have been happening in our corner of Space these days. It's always good to hear 'positive' news regarding our space program. First of all, the Phoenix Lander has overcome minor difficulties with its robotic arm and has detected (possible) signs of ice just beneath Mars' surface!

Phoenix' robotic arm leaves its 'footprint' on Mars

Also, the shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station to deliver a huge new Japanese made lab module. And a new pump for the toilet, which has been malfunctioning for a while now.

Oh My Science!

Aristotle! Bring Me Science!

Here at PS we have been suffering from an extreme lack of science. This seems to be because the heretics at google blogger are unbelievers and have been slapping our science with some unusual 502 server errors. Never fret however, Science Will Prevail!