The Atlantic Has a Science Section

June 24th, 2016

The Atlantic is one of my favourite magazines and web sites. They’ve just added a Science section. It’s definitely worth checking out. I’ve added it to my Feedly feeds.

And yet, many mysteries remain. What does it mean that human beings emerged only a geological moment ago, lone survivors among a larger family of hominins? Charles Darwin may have explained the origin of species, but what about the origin of life? Or the nature of quantum reality, which appears to be indeterminate, in some deep sense? What does that mean? And how has this tiny, teeming world given rise to consciousness, a phenomenon that seems to belong to its own metaphysical category? Will we ever be able to reverse engineer consciousness? Or in this, as with so many other questions, are we now reaching the limits of science? How are we making sense of all these questions, each one of us, in our distinctive human cultures?

The Atlantic’s science section will follow those questions closely, but it will also take you inside the world of science. And not just the romantic stuff—the expeditions to the deep jungles, deep seas, and deep space—although we’ll take you there, too. We’ll show you how science works, at the personal, everyday level. We’ll tell you when science is broken or stagnant. We’ll tell you whom it excludes. Scientists are often depicted as a nerdish, almost priestly class—but scientists are complex, flawed, fully realized human beings like the rest of us. We’ll tell you their stories.

Some BBQ apps

June 23rd, 2016

It’s grilling seaon and I’ve already had my BBQ going many times so far this year. I’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t really need an app to help me, but there are some out there, as this review of five apps shows.  The review covers both IOS and Android. As it turns out, the two apps I would likely use are both IOS oly (Grill Time and Barbecues and Grilling), but I’m including them here for my Apple-using friends.

Both the recipe apps, Epicurious and Big Oven have many BBQ recipies to try.

How Syfy is embracing diversity

June 21st, 2016

Syfy used to be known for some seriously crappy TV shows, but i the last few years they’ve really turned things around. The Expanse was brilliant and Childhood’s End quite good. Even formula shows like Dark Matter and Killjoys have been watchable. io9 has a long article in which they look at how Syfy is embracing diversity in their imagined futures.

Over the last couple of seasons of television, critics and audiences have begun to pay a considerable amount of attention to the role of women and racial diversity on their favorite shows. Despite being set in the future, science fiction television has often been stubbornly stuck in the past. With its latest lineup, however, the Syfy channel has demonstrated that a proactive approach can create lasting change.

While visiting the sets of Dark Matter and Killjoys, I spent some time chatting with a fellow journalist, where we began to talk about how the channel’s new slate of shows had demonstrated some considerable changes in the science fiction world: across The Expanse, Dark Matter, Killjoys and 12 Monkeys, women and people of color were cast in lead or in prominent roles, with particular attention being paid to underprivileged groups in many instances. Recently, spoke with the showrunners of each production about their approach to envisioning their respective futures.

How Canada Became a Greenhouse Superpower

June 20th, 2016

A couple of months ago I drove down to St. Catherines, a town where I lived for a few months after I graduated from university but hadn’t visited in decades. On the way there, I was startled by the number of huge greenhouses that have sprung up along the QEW between Hamilton and St. Catharines. As it turns out, Canada is a superpower when it comes to greenhouses, to the point where we export tomatoes and vegetables to the United States. I never would have guessed.

Paul Mastronardi takes me inside one of his company’s greenhouses. It’s comfortably warm. The entire floor is smooth concrete. Endless rows of green tomato vines are hanging on lines from the ceiling; the vines reach 10 or 15 feet into the air.

“All the ripe fruit are basically at my waistline,” Mastronardi says. “There’s no bending, no ergonomic issue with harvesting the crop.”

Each giant plant emerges from a small box that sits on top of a larger bag. The tomato plant’s roots are in the bag, intertwined with crushed rock. A thin plastic tube also goes into that bag. That’s how the plant gets water and nutrients.

Mastronardi says it’s possible to harvest 10 or 20 times more tomatoes from an acre of

The Seven Stages of Gun Violence

June 14th, 2016

Herewith, an impassioned screed from author Jim Wright about the current state of gun violence in America. Wright is ex-military – he knows what an assault weapon is and can do.

Bang, bang, bang. Welcome to America.

How many mass shootings since I first wrote this? A dozen? Two dozen? A hundred? How many? You’ve lost track haven’t you? Me too.

This slaughter, it’s the set up for a truly American joke, isn’t it? So, a racist, a terrorist, and a suicidal drifter walk into a public place and start murdering people, what do they all have in common?

The fabled gun battles of the American Old West have nothing on the modern slaughter. Gun fuelled mass murder isn’t the exception any longer, it’s as common and as American as, well, apple pie and happens on average about once twice three times a month now.

What’s that, you say? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a stupid haircut and a personal arsenal killed some people? Tsk tsk terrible isn’t it? Did they catch him this time, did he kill himself, or did the police shoot him down like the dog he was? People say he was a nice guy, quiet, kept to himself, kind of odd but, man, didn’t see this coming, no Sir.  Here’s a picture of him smiling like a crazy guy, look at those eyes, they’re crazy eyes, anybody could tell he was going to snap. He probably tortured small animals and has his grandmother’s head in the freezer. It’s the parents’ fault you know, for not raising him right.  It’s the atheists’ fault for taking Jesus out of the schools. It’s the doctors, why don’t they get crazy people off the street? It’s the goddamned police, they’re never around when you need them. It’s the government. He’s probably a veteran, you know, those guys are all on the edge.  Guns don’t kill people, you know, no Sir, they don’t. In fact, a good guy with a gun is the only … Oops, gotta go, Duck Dynasty is on.

And now? Well, now we Americans will go through the same old oh so utterly predictable danc

Blood on Their Hands

June 13th, 2016

54 US senators have the blood of 50 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on their hands.

Senate Republicans rejected a bill that aims to stop suspected terrorists from legally buying guns, on Thursday.  The vote came a day after at least 14 people were killed during the San Bernardino massacre in California by two suspects, including a woman said to have pledged allegiance to ISIS.Forty-five senators voted for the bill and 54 voted against it. One Democrat, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, crossed party lines.

The measure would have denied people on the terrorist watch list the ability to buy guns.

The shooter (I won’t dignify him by using his name), was on the FBI watch list.

If I was a US citizen, I would be starting a recall petition for each and every one of the senators who voted against that law.