Categories: "Science"

National Geographic's science standard falls into a black hole

What a joke. I've had to endure these stupid headlines and TV programs for the last couple of years now.

Yes you guessed it about the Large Hadron Collider. The BBC led the pack with a false premise that a black hole could form and destroy the Earth - despite the fact that one of the scientists on the very program said that would not happen - but we'll just ignore what the expert says and make up our own BS.

National Geographic's headline reads:

Worst Case: Collider Spawns Planet-Devouring Black Hole

And how is it going to do that? Oh wait, it can't.

Most physicists respond that the collider is safe and even necessary for the advancement of humankind.

Of course its safe. The worst thing that could possibly happen is the magnets could break, and then they'd have to be replaced.

But what if they're wrong?

What if anything is wrong? What if we're living on a giant beach ball being tossed into a fire? What if we're really all living in the Matrix?

What if they're wrong... Lame attempt at making a story.

What exactly would happen if the 17-mile (27-kilometer) circular tunnel under pastoral France and Switzerland opened up a black holeā€”or black holes?

Well we'll just ignore the fact that it won't, and assume it will.

Absolutely nothing.

The trouble with a tiny weeny little black hole is it will evaporate instantly due to Hawking Radiation, it won't be maintained because it is so small nothing can fall into it, it won't effect anything around it because its gravity would be no greater than that of a proton or two. A proton hanging around is more dangerous, heck that can kill you with more than just gravity - it can come after you with gravity, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force and the electromagnetic force. Oh noes! Run for the hills.

I expect this kind of scaremongering-anti-scientific crap from the mainstream press, I don't expect it from National Geographic. Get real, let somebody who actually knows something do your science pieces from now on.

Other pet peeves:

1) Calling the LHC the Big Bang experiment - it does NOT recreate the Big Bang. It's just a particle accelerator, the top thing on its list of things to do is to find the Higgs boson, the last particle we haven't found yet that is predicted by the Standard Model.

2) Calling the Higgs boson the "God" particle.

3) Calling the 6 billion dollars spent on the experiment (over the last 15 years) a waste of money, go talk to the US government who spend 500 billion dollars per year on their military.

Good luck to those at CERN and the scientists who have been working on this project for most of their lives, hopefully today's tests will go without a hitch and it'll be up and running and returning data later this year.

August 2008 solar eclipse photos

I took over 150 images on the 1st of August of the partial solar eclipse, time permitting I hope to put them all together to make an animation. In the meantime, here's a few images:

Although it's hard to see in these images, the originals have a fair amount of detail along the lunar rim. Enough that if I've got time to kill at some point in the future I'll try to work out which valleys and mountains they are - although I suspect it will be quite time consuming as I'd have to account for the libration.

Partial solar eclipse visible from the UK tomorrow

Just a heads up for those living in the UK or further east. There will be a eclipse of the Sun on the 1st of August, best viewed from parts of Russia and China where it will be total. Only partial from the UK - around 10%.

In the UK this will start at around 0931 local time (0831 UTC), the mid-point of the eclipse will be around 1015.

Safely blurb:

Obviously don't go looking at the Sun directly, you can cause damage to your eyes. Eclipse glasses are one option just make sure they carrying the CE logo and are undamaged - if you're not sure look at a bright light through them - if you can see anything at all throw them away.

Failing that there's pin-hole projection, where you can make a pin hole in a piece of card and project an image of the Sun onto a piece of card behind it.

You can also project an image using binoculars or a telescope like so:

You can bring the Sun into view by using the shadow cast behind the telescope or binoculars. Don't think about using a viewfinder or looking through the instrument itself - it would be bad.

Weather permitting, I'll have some images to share.

Off the Richter scale, and the Glasgow East defeat

Congratulations to John Mason on winning Glasgow East, but I hope he is planning on picking up some science books soon.

Mr Mason described his win as being "off the Richter scale", the only way I can interpret that as being so weak it is undetectable, or that there is no seismic activity at all, and as such it isn't on the scale.

I don't think he meant it in that way, and as such I'll remind him that the Richter scale, which is a base 10 logarithmic scale for measuring the amplitude of the largest seismic wave during an earthquake, has no upper limit, and so nothing can be off the scale.

So Mr Mason, even a win, with enough energy to destroy the entire Earth isn't off the scale.

We need MPs with some basic understanding of science, especially in these times where science is more important than ever.

As for those calling for Gordon Brown's departure. Obviously, I never voted for the bloke, nor would I of if the Parliamentary Party ever gave us the choice, but let's face it replacing Gordon Brown with Miliband (not that he would touch the job with a barge pole at the moment), or Harman, or whoever wouldn't change anything.

What David Cameron calls for; replacing Labour MPs with Tories will change things - for the worse. Fox Hunting? Back. Minimum wage? Frozen. Public services? Sold off faster than ever. Tax cuts? Sure for the rich. Unfortunately, although the Tories wouldn't want to admit it, that isn't the change the public is craving for.

There's one theme I'm coming across more and more often, the public want a party that represents them. They're sick to death of political parties sucking up to the rich and throwing everyone else the leftovers from the table. The first step along that path is retaking our party from the Blairites and bourgeois-entryists.

Look out astronomers - black hole is a racist term

Just a quick post before I head off to Newport, over in Texas it seems the term black hole is now a racist remark, well to some people at least.

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield (white) seems to of got himself in trouble for saying that the county's collections office behaves like an area of space with an escape velocity greater than 300,000 kilometres per second.

"It sounds like Central Collections has become a black hole"

Anybody with more than six brain cells knows what he means. Documents, records etc end up in Central Collections, and they disappear.

However some people with fewer than six brain cells don't know the astronomical phenomenon, nor how the term black hole is used in everyday conversation.

Commissioner John Wiley Price (black) shouted out in the meeting "excuse me" and said the language was "unacceptable", saying that the collection's office was a "white hole".

Obviously, not knowing what a black hole is means this guy doesn't have much chance of knowing what a white hole is. Using the term white hole wouldn't describe the situation at all Mr Price. Instead of losing documents, the office would be creating documents and spewing them everywhere in a big mess.

But hell. Why bother making any sense, or describing something when pretty much anything anybody says could be interpreted by the PC-brigade as being offensive, racist or whatever? You won't win anybody to your side by irritating them with such petty nonsense, if there's a need for a change in language it will happen slowly over time.

Not content to keep his ignorance to himself, Judge Thomas Jones (black) also waded into this demanding that Mayfield apologise for the "racially insensitive analogy".

Mayfield has refused to apologise. Good, there's far too much stupidity on the march these days, what with religious fundamentalism, and "alternative" (read: unproven) medicine to retreat on things like this.

"I prefer black furniture" isn't racist, "there's a black hole in Cygnus" isn't racist, "that star over there is a red giant", or "that one over there is a brown dwarf", isn't racist. "We should paint fire hydrants white" isn't racist, "that office is a black or white hole" isn't racist.

To borrow something from Gandhi: "A general belief seems to prevail in the colony that the Indians are little better, if at all, than the savages or natives of Africa. Even the children are taught to believe in that manner, with the result that the Indian is being dragged down to the position of a raw Kaffir." (Kaffir meaning people of southern Africa). That is a racist remark.

Can we keep things in perspective please.

Red team really does win

Well it looks like the blues finally have an excuse to why they lose all the time, no it isn't just because they suck.

Red team pwns Blue team

In a study recently published in Cyberpsychology & Behavior it was found that out of 1,347 games of Unreal Tournament 2004 (not pictured above), the red team won 55% of the time. Mihai Moldovan a neuroscientist at the University of Copenhagen, hypothesises that the colour red is a psychological distracter, at least for men.

I must say I am somewhat disappointed, here was me thinking the last 10-15 years of my gaming life I was undefeatable, now I know it was all because I chose red - my favourite colour back in the old days.

Although saying that, it would seem to me that the opposite should be true in strategy games (which I probably play the most), as you would be looking at your own bases/cities/units etc more often than your opponents. I'd be interested to see any follow up research looking at a strategy game.

I think it's time to bind "I played red before we knew they won more you noobs" to a key, and find out a way to paint my armour red in World of WarCraft - well that's not likely, but at least my guild tabard is mostly red.

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