Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey
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Episode 1 "Standing Up in the Milky Way" 10 R. Isaac I live outside the US and don't have a TV, so I could not watch this, though I have seen other things by Tyson occasionally.  Nevertheless, on the matter of "smallness", that alone is something that we have understood throughout the ages.  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, What is mankind that you are mindful of them,    human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels     and crowned them with glory and honour You made them rulers over the works of your hands;    you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,    the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:3-9) So it is a matter of perspective.  Those of us who believe in God, look to the heavens and we see God's hand.  We see how small we are, and we can also wonder why God considers us worth anything.  We have the intelligence to figure things out and appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the universe.  That does put us "close to the angels".  We have even more power over the earth than in the time of King David. God has granted us authority over all, though unfortunately, we haven't understood that that also means responsibility. Some, of course, see this understanding and authority over the earth as reasons to deny God, but I think this is where knowledge, understanding and power can also become an idol.  Man is not worthy of worship, and even the best of our understanding is but filthy rags. Though knowledge and power can bring delusions of greatness to the inebriated mind, so it also can inspire humility and a deeper love and gratefulness for the Creator. Let us hope that this walk will make us more humble each day, more appreciative of the gifts we have been granted (undeserved), and more conscious of the duty we have to respect these blessings.  We relish the power, but we forget quickly that those who are "teachers" will be held to greater account in the kingdom of heaven.  So on smallness, It finally comes down to a matter of perspective and faith.
by W. Dawson
Monday, June 22, 2015
Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey 16 R. Isaac Neil DeGrasse Tyson is listed as a member of the the Skeptics Society, which is mainly opposed to pseudoscience. It would not seem to be as militantly atheistic as Richard Dawkin's Foundation for Reason and Science. The founder of the Skeptics Society, Michael Shermer, graduated from Pepperdine University.
by P. Carr
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Episode 13 "Unafraid of the Dark" 7 R. Isaac Quote:Originally posted by P. Carr:I usually mute the advertisements, but I did notice a man encouraging his viewers to join "world without religion."Yes, Paul, that was Ron Reagan (yes, Ronald's son) pitching the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Very much in keeping with the subtle, sometimes not so subtle, undertone of the series. Wish we'd had the funds and foresight to try an ASA ad during the series. Wonder if they would have taken it.
by R. Isaac
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Episode 12 "The World Set Free" 25 R. Isaac Mervin, I have been an advocate of responsible fracking. I probably would consider myself an advocate of some kind of carbon tax (and thus for higher prices) simply because CO2 is an externality like any other kind of garbage or pollution--remediating the pollution needs to be part of the price of the resource. The magnitude of our current global civilization's need and desire for energy is vast. And, none of us want our energy to go away. In fact, we encourage development of less-developed nations (meaning more energy demand) so they can benefit from modernity the way developed countries have. Substituting renewables for the present infrastructure just can't happen overnight. Sure, there's plenty of wind and sunshine, but windmills, solar panels, and infrastructure to use them take time, money, and resources. Even with a significant growth rate in the implementation of these technologies it will be a decade or two before supply from those resources meets demand. This is why natural gas with double the energy density (and thus half the CO2 emission) is an important transitional fuel. (If you utilize combined cycle technologies you can get even more energy and less CO2.) This is why we need to develop safer and lower cost nuclear (see for some environmentalists turned pro-nuclear). And, of course, we need increased efficiencies and conservation.So, I do think that there are some carbon-fuel solutions that help reduce GHG: biofuels, gas instead of coal, gas and coal with carbon capture and sequestration, waste to fuels technologies. Advocating any of these is not hypocritical at all--just striving toward the goal realistically.What would be nice is if there could a lucrative (or lucrative enough) market for CO2. CO2 to chemical feedstocks or CO2 to fuel processes could be potentially profitable (especially with a carbon tax). See this talk from last year's ASA meeting: That chemistry takes energy, but if it's carbon-free energy then it's a form of remediation or at least a carbon neutral approach.
by T. Gray
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Episode 11 "The Immortals" 12 R. Isaac @TerryMy impression from the show was that galactic rotation causes some mixing (true) leading to shorter transit times between solar systems than would otherwise occur. The actual time calculation depends critically on what speed the object is traveling and I have no way to estimate this. I would need to know the mass and point of origin of the objects (as well as probably a semesters worth of orbital dynamics). Back of the envelope, it would take Voyager ~4Myr to get to Alpha Centauri. As I am skeptical of interplanetary panspermia, I must admit I'm not paying close attention, but I have never heard (serious) talk of interstellar panspermia.As to the Late Heavy Bombardment, take a look at:Llyd's paper proposing reseeding: ICARUS. Mar2003, Vol. 162 Issue 1, p38. 9p. Oleg and Steve's paper against sterilization: Nature. 5/21/2009, Vol. 459 Issue 7245, p419-422.
by L. Mix
Friday, May 23, 2014
Episode 10 "The Electric Boy" 8 R. Isaac "Concession" may be the right word for the acknowledgement of his faith. It came across as if they had been reading our threads. *wink* I would have liked to have seen a connection of his faith to his scientific views, which is done in many articles available on the web. His circular approach to forces broke the straight-line mold cast by Newton and advanced science more than any other in this field (pun unintended). I vaguely recall a claim that his very strict Presbyterian denomination (Sandemanians) had circular views on things, but this may not be correct because I can not find anything on it in my brief Google search.  [Apparently, he was a lay preacher, too.   Some of his sermons would be interesting, no doubt.]Considering the pedestal they put him on, I am a little surprised they did not mention that the unit of capacitance is the Farad in his honor.It was a very enjoyable episode.
by G. Cooper
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Episode 9 "The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth" 7 R. Isaac Granted ... I don't know of more recent examples though maybe those exist on smaller and less dramatic issues.So your point about the small percentages of any accidental success not generally justifying "such departure" is well taken.
by M. Bitikofer
Monday, May 12, 2014
Episode 2 "Some of the Things That Molecules Do" 32 R. Isaac Don't know if anyone will look back to these posts now, but there is a special segment in PNAS today on domestication in general. link is for the overview article, but there are a number of articles following on aspects of domestication.
by P. Garrison
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Episode 8 "Sisters of the Sun" 3 R. Isaac It indeed was a nice touch to see women in science honored. The show's historical accuracy was better than I expected. Even the glass plates of spectra were very close to what Anne Jump Canon worked with in classifying well over 200,000 spectra. She was incredible. The stellar classification story goes deeper, of course, as others had tried to develop one. Father Secchi (Rome) was the earliest pioneer at this with 5 types of star classes, classifying about 10,000 spectra.It was the technological improvement of dry photography that allowed for the advancement of stellar work, especially spectra analysis. Father Secchi eagerly acquired the latest and greatest instrument, which he mounted on his telescope and began his work. Of course, back then it was all black and white imaging. This is where some of the beans fell through the grill and we still have some errors in stellar colors today. The show is very colorful for effect, but many of the colors used for stars aren't correct. For instance, red stars are called red because they have the coolest surface temperatures, but they usually appear far more reddish orange or orange, than red. This is because stars have spectral energy distributions that closely match blackbodies, so that there is a well known distribution of all the colors of the visible spectrum for all stars. The coolest strars are certainly strong in the red end, but they still radiate much orange, yellow, green, and even some blue. This causes us to see more of an orange color for even the reddest star. [Carbon stars may be an exception to this., and variations in human eyes can make orange for me look more red for another.] The blue stars have this same circumstance but even more so. A saturated blue color star would require a surface temperature of about 15 million K, which happens to be our Sun's core temperature, so it would appear blue (if proper attenuation is used to view it somehow).For this same reason, the claim that their triple star system including a "blue" star and a "red" star might produce a blue sky and a red sky are unlikely. A red star emits a fair amount of the rest of the colors and the inverse 4th scattering effect would make the sky some color other than red.Accurately determining "true" color for celestial objects is not critical to astronomy, admittedly. As usual, I am more concerned with the lack of an explicit explanation of what science is. In this episode, all that I heard in this area was that "the only thing that counts is the evidence and the logic." Ug.I was also surprised that they did not make much of an effort to demonstrate graphically the awesome differences in star sizes. This is a popular area of interest and one that graphics can do a great job.
by G. Cooper
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Episode 7 "The Clean Room" 8 R. Isaac Smashingly cool effects! I loved seeing the layers come apart. You can't convince me that science folks (or at least the special effects folks anyway!) don't have "God complex" aspirations. I could just imagine Tyson warning a couple of dazed and amazed hikers "don't stick your fingers in there; I'm about to put those back together again."Randy, I think this lead episode is designed to show how science can sometimes thwart greedy interests and promote the welfare of the community or even the globe. And I take it as a healthy sign that the villains of this episode were not icons of religion but were big corporate interests instead. (Tobacco certainly got poked at; did you notice all the evil villains smoking up a storm?) Like Garrison I didn't detect any undue nastiness towards Ussher --I think they could have dwelt on that more if they really wanted to rub it in. But to actually focus more on a real enemy of science instead of trying to make up religious enemies was, I thought, a good shift of direction. Not that big corporations haven't funded good science too, but their influence is powerful for better or for worse.
by M. Bitikofer
Sunday, April 27, 2014
Episode 6 "Deeper, Deeper, Deeper, Still" 13 R. Isaac Here is a 1992 paper cutting the MFP by ~ 1/10th the common figure of 1 cm.  Their result is 170,000 years, but it too does not address your point about delay times during absorption, which I assume would greatly increase the time.
by G. Cooper
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Episode 5 "Hiding in the Light" 10 R. Isaac Your "highly selective skepticism" or just "skepticism" would be fine compared to the more ambiguous "Question all authority" appeal. My personal choice would probably be the application of "scientific scrutiny" since it is more focused on the objective case rather than the subjective feel with the word "authority". I recently read a book about the dark nebulae in space. Surprisingly, it took the astronomical community about 80 years to finally recognize that the dark blotches in the heavens were not simply regions that are void of stars, as suggested by William Herschel -- an authority figure especially after his discovery of the first planet in recorded history (Uranus). Yet it was an authority figure (Eddington) that helped make the correction. Scientific scrutiny, had they been more interested in the topic to begin with, would have sufficed.
by G. Cooper
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Episode 4 "A Sky Full of Ghosts" 11 R. Isaac Sorry -- I forgot to put that first paragraph into quotes. That was a bit of your query that prompted my response, Mr. Furman.
by M. Bitikofer
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Episode 3 "When Knowledge Conquered Fear" 13 R. Isaac Tyson's thrust in this episode is centered on the way in which 17th century physics helped explain celestial phenomena like comets that ancient civilizations thought were omens of distressing times. But he might have noted that it hasn't alleviated all 21st century beliefs in such omens. Today I came across the discussion going on about the book Four Blood Moons published recently by John Hagee. In essence, the occurrence of four blood moons (i.e., a lunar eclipse, when sunlight passing through the earth's atmosphere leads to a reddish reflection on the moon) within 18 months (next one is April 2014 through September 2015) is claimed to portend great historical events. Anyone want to bet whether or not there will be a calamity during that time?
by R. Isaac
Saturday, March 29, 2014