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Your Brain on a Magic Trick –

Alex Stone reports psychological researchers’ findings about pervasive cognitive bias and concludes that much that we take for reality is illusion.

Your Brain on a Magic Trick –

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Geoengineering would turn blue skies whiter – environment – 01 June 2012 – New Scientist

Ben Kravitz of the Carnegie Institute for Science in Stanford, CA asserts that releasing sulphate aerosols high in the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures will change the color of the sky from blue to white.

Geoengineering would turn blue skies whiter – environment – 01 June 2012 – New Scientist.

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Spinning Gold into Straw: Tar Sands Have A Low Energy Return On Investment | Andrew Frank

Andrew Frank uses a graphic representation from American Scientist to illustrate current and historical EROEI for different energy resources, and to show why burning natural gas with EROEI of 20:1 to process tar sands bitumen with EROEI of at best 5:1 is deliberate impoverishment.

Spinning Gold into Straw: Tar Sands Have A Low Energy Return On Investment | Andrew Frank.

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Energy, Entropy, Economics, and Ecology

In this collection of excerpts from books about biophysical economics we see evidence for how many thoughtful people have for decades, even centuries recognized the matterenergy underpinnings of economic activity, and called for a reconciliation of economics with natural science.

Energy, Entropy, Economics, and Ecology.

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What Isn’t for Sale? – Magazine – The Atlantic

This is the second test post.

What Isn’t for Sale? – Magazine – The Atlantic.

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Perils of Growing Reliance on Markets

Philosopher Michael J. Sandel catalogues the growing breadth of market transactions and warns that faith in market transactions as means to public good is misplaced. He asserts that as we rely increasingly on commercial exchange we exacerbate the effects of differences in wealth and income, and that by reducing actions and interactions to commodities we degrade some of the most precious aspects of human existence. I read Sandel’s words as a call to abandon the pseudo-valuescience of commercial exchange for something more thoughtful and beneficial.

What Isn’t for Sale? – Magazine – The Atlantic

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Two Exceptional Scientists Advocate Integrative Inquiry

Come Together, Right Now: The Desperate Need for Integration in Biomedicine – David Ewing Duncan – Health – The Atlantic

At TEDMED two scientists, Jacob Scott, a 34 year-old physician and PhD candidate at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida, and E.O.Wilson,
an 82 year-old evolutionary biologist renowned for his pioneering work with ants and his best-selling books exhorting us to apply the lessons of evolution to better understand human behavior, and to pursue consonance of knowledge across disciplines, cautioned against accelerating trends towards specialization and advocated cross-disciplinary inquiry and integration.

“The best way to broaden yourself is to be curious and interested in different subjects as you go along,” said Wilson in an interview, “and to realize that the best strategy for a successful career in science is to bring two subjects together that haven’t been effectively brought together before.”

I submit that the application of scientific methods and principles to questions of value–valuescience–is such a synthesis.

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Scale of the Universe: Subatomic to Deep Space

I like this interactive from the folks at NASA because they’ve allowed the viewer to move from one level of scale to another, exploring the universe across 60+ orders of magnitude. I think we practice valuescience better when we remember the immense power we’ve acquired by practicing science to understand and predict, and when we’re more cognizant of our place in the cosmic order.

APOD: 2012 March 12 – The Scale of the Universe Interactive

What does the universe look like on small scales? On large scales? Humanity is discovering that the universe is a very different place on every proportion that has been explored. For example, so far as we know, every tiny proton is exactly the same, but every huge galaxy is different. On more familiar scales, a small glass table top to a human is a vast plane of strange smoothness to a dust mite — possibly speckled with cell boulders. Not all scale lengths are well explored — what happens to the smallest mist droplets you sneeze, for example, is a topic of active research — and possibly useful to know to help stop the spread of disease. The above interactive flash animation, a modern version of the classic video Powers of Ten, is a new window to many of the known scales of our universe. By moving the scroll bar across the bottom, you can explore a diversity of sizes, while clicking on different items will bring up descriptive information.

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People With Lots of Money Lead War on Science

In the modern era, information is the weapon of choice. Today people interested in perpetuating aspects of the status quo that they deem instrumental to their power and prestige are using ever more sophisticated techniques and ever greater expenditures to undermine elements of a modern scientific world view that they consider threatening. Professional scientists have recognized the damage being done, but lack a clear response. I perceive valuescience to be just that.

Attacks paid for by big business are ‘driving science into a dark era’ | Science | The Observer

Attacks paid for by big business are ‘driving science into a dark era’

Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), confessed at the AAAS annual meeting that she was “scared to death” by the anti-science movement that was spreading, uncontrolled, across the US and the rest of the western world.

“I am profoundly depressed at just how difficult it has become merely to get a realistic conversation started on issues such as climate change or genetically modified organisms.”

Professor Naomi Oreskes of UCSD noted that “…every Republican candidate for this year’s presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution.”

Oreskes is co-author, with Erik Conway, of Merchants of Doubt, an investigation into the links between corporate business interests and campaigns in the US aimed at blocking the introduction of environmental and medical measures such as bans on smoking and the use of DDT, laws to limit acid rain, legislation to end the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere and attempts to curb carbon dioxide emissions.

In each case, legislation was delayed by years, sometimes decades, thanks to the activities of a variety of foundations – such as the Heartland Institute – which are backed by energy companies such as Exxon and billionaires like Charles Koch.

“Our present crisis over the rise of anti-science has been coming for a long time and we should have seen it coming,” adds Oreskes.

A UCS report, Heads They Win, Tails We Lose: How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public’s Expense, which was published at the Vancouver meeting on Friday. It chronicles the methods used by corporate businesses to attack their targets: harassing individual scientists, ghost-writing scientific articles to raise doubts about government research, and undermining the use of science to form government policy.

“People may believe that political interference in science went extinct when George W. Bush left office, but the reality is that the pressure to politicise science is still with us,” added Grifo.

Most scientists acknowledge that President Barack Obama is sympathetic to science. “The trouble is that he still hasn’t been able to do anything to help. He is continually blocked by Congress, and that only adds to our worries and sense of desperation,” said Fedoroff. “If the current president is for us, but still cannot do anything to help us, then what will happen if a Republican gets into the White House this year?”

In general, the worst excesses of the anti-science lobbies are confined to the US. However, there are signs that their influence is spreading, and that raises worrying issues, said Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, in London.

“In coming years, we will have to ask ourselves if public policies should be based on the advice of experts who have carried out robust and rigorous analysis of the evidence, or if they should be guided by lobbyists who appear driven by narrow ideological dogma.

Oreskes noted, “In the past, [people] thought the problem was just a matter of education. All its practitioners had to do was make an effort to reach out and talk to teachers, the public and business leaders. Then these people would see the issues and understand the need for action.

“But now they are beginning to realise what they are really up against: massive organised attempts to undermine scientific data by people for whom that data represents a threat to their status quo. Given the power of these people, scientists will have their work cut out dealing with them.”

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Review of “Limits to Growth” (Meadows et al.)

Anatoly Karlin revisits a 1972 book commissioned by movers and shakers calling themselves the Club of Rome, in which MIT systems scientists modeled the world using a handful of parameters like population, pollution, resources, and economic growth, and generated scenarios for the next century. The authors were savaged by proponents of business as usual, because all simulations of that yielded mid-21st century collapse. As the 40th anniversary of publication arrives, we’re right on track. I consider Karlin’s review an excellent summary of the book and to a range of related material.

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