Sun and Silhouette

Several months ago, I came across a web site featuring the remarkable astronomical photography of Thierry Legault; I did not have this weblog then, but a post at Bad Astronomy reminded me of this photograph. While there are several amazing pictures there, the following one is truly a jewel, a photograph that prompts you to look at the familiar in a different way. Take a look at our sun:

Copyright Thierry Legault.
Copyright Thierry Legault/Eurelios. Used with the author’s permission.

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Wind Power

A wind farm in Germany. Source: Bodoklecksel, Wikipedia

Wind power, as a form of so-called green energy, has been slowly gaining popularity. It has several disadvantages—as with other methods of energy production, the manufacture and maintenance of equipment may have indirect effects on pollution. There are also concerns about impacts on wildlife, especially birds, though this seems to be diminshed with newer designs. And wind power is intermittent and relatively low-density; it is uncertain how much of the world’s energy demand could be met through wind power alone.

And yet, wind power has some significant advantages. It is quite appealing because once wind turbines have been constructed, no fuel is required, and maintenance is generally low. Unlike hydroelectric power, the environmental impact is small, though wind farms do require a relatively large amount of land. As Wikipedia summarizes, “Wind energy is ample, renewable, widely distributed, clean, and mitigates the greenhouse effect if used to replace fossil-fuel-derived electricity.”

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Holiday Mammoth

Olduvai George just posted a nice little holiday card at his blog, commemorating the celebrations many cultures have near the winter solstice (in the Northern hemisphere—it’s the summer solstice in the Southern hemisphere).

What Are You Going to Do About Global Warming?

Temperature record for the past 150 ears
Source: Wikipedia

What are you going to do to help stem the ever increasing release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? To help diminish the effect humanity has been having on Earth’s climate? To ensure that future humans can enjoy the same planet we do?

First of all, if you haven’t yet seen An Inconvenient Truth, I strongly recommend that you do so now. I recently watched it, and was quite impressed—impressed enough that I promptly purchased my own copy and invited several friends over to watch it. There is plenty of information on the Internet if you want to know more about the film; below is part of the e-mail I sent to my friends when inviting them to see it.

2006 Weblog Awards

Today is the last day to vote in the 2006 Weblog Awards. There are 45 categories; Flash is required to vote. Several very good candidates are up for Best Science Blog; I’ve mentioned at least three on this weblog already, and I encourage you to take a look at all of them. But the one I read most often, and the one I’ve voted for, is Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy, and he’s got quite a rivalry going with P. Z. Myers’ Pharyngula. Mr. Plait has asked webloggers to help him out by encouraging people to vote for him, so consider yourself so encouraged. Also, you may wish to peruse the other finalists for an introduction to some of the other excellent weblogs out there. The voting closes today at midnight Eastern time (0500 UTC 16 Dec, I believe).

Happy (Belated) 40th Anniversay, Star Trek

Star Trek’s fortieth anniversary was a few months ago, in September. Why am I bringing this up now? Because one, Star Trek is always relevant, and two, I didn’t have this blog then.

One of the many reasons I like Star Trek is its devotion to and portrayal of science. It shows a future where people’s knowledge and education earn them respect, a future where an emphasis on science has helped our society to prosper.

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Zero Divided by Zero

I was quite disappointed to read a BBC news story about the a new “theory” that supposedly solves the difficulty of dividing zero by zero (thanks to the blog “Web Pruned by Dawdling Monkeys” for pointing it out). The article discusses a Dr. James Anderson from the United Kingdom who has declared that this value should be called “nullity” and that with this definition, he has solved a “1,200-year-old problem.” While I was annoyed enough to write about it myself, I would actually recommend you read more about this incident at “Good Math, Bad Math,” which is much better written than what I could do.

First, some background. In mathematics zero divided by zero is considered indeterminate (and is undefined, as well). In approximate lay terms, this is because if we try to evaluate it in different ways, we get different results. In general, division by zero is not defined in mathematics. One way to look at this is to think of division as the inverse of multiplication. When we ask what twelve divided by three is, another way to word it would be to ask what number, when multiplied by three, gives twelve.

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Test post—please disregard

Please disregard this test post.

If you feel let down at the lack of a new entry here, please read about the plight of the six health care workers in Libya. They are accused of deliberately infecting children with HIV and are facing the death penalty despite a wealth of evidence pointing to their innocence. Nature has an article on the most recent evidence.