Does Reality Matter? #reality #science #politics #dnc #rnc #reason

Hartwig HKD

Hartwig HKD

I usually stay away from politics on this blog, but America’s two major political parties have their conventions in July so it’s hard to resist. The Republicans are done and the Democrats are about to begin. Conventions are an opportunity to revel in the echo chamber, to be surrounded by those who agree with you.

And to ignore facts in favor of politics.

I was reminded of that by a piece in Live Science. This article fact-checks truthiness in the Republican platform but I don’t doubt you’ll find similar fabrications when the Democrats issue their platform. It seems that anyone zealously bound to a position is immune to information. Each extreme dismisses different facts, but they both do it.

Even a depressing reality is better than a fantasy however pleasant, because reality wins in the end. I try to read multiple opinions and fact-checks, and to be ready to change my mind. It takes conscious effort.

Once a human being embraces a position, proofs and facts are abandoned, and showing a person contradictory facts just makes them more angry and more determined to dig in deeper.

That’s because we are each grounded in moral foundations deeply important to our vision of who we are – more important than any fact.

Friendly relations, commonality, and trust make it easier for people to listen to each other. More important than presenting facts is establishing bonds with people before you try to convince them. Try it. You might both see the issue in a new light.

I read a book with insight to this aspect of human behavior and reviewed it here for a friend’s blog. I also posted a piece on how to talk with people who disagree with you: Don’t be a jerk.

Keep in mind what Carl Sagan said:

In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

This is why science inspires me and also why I’m optimistic about the future. Let your open heart lead to an open mind and we can build a better world.

We Mocks Ur Gravity #cute #cat #poem #poetry #cats #haiku

All kittens can fly
Gravity waits patiently
Till they’re old and fat




We Can Do Good #nature #environment #southpole #CFCs #Ozonehole

Ozone_Hole_is_a_Double_Record_BreakerThirty years ago, scientists realized that chemicals – chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs – were accumulating high in the atmosphere. CFCs are wonderfully inert around humans and were widely used as propellants in spray bottles and fluids in refrigerators. But in the upper atmosphere they reacted with nature’s ozone to destroy the chemical that reduces dangerous UV radiation arriving from space.

In 1974, Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland, two chemists at the University of California, Irvine, published an article in Nature detailing the threats to the ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases. At the time, CFCs were commonly used in spray bottles and as coolants in many refrigerators, and they were rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere.

Eleven years later, their predictions were confirmed – the ozone hole was allowing extra UV radiation to hit Earth’s surface and increase skin cancer rates.

The groundbreaking research—for which they were awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry—concluded that the atmosphere only had a “finite capacity for absorbing chlorine” atoms in the stratosphere.

We can do good!
I hope this heartens people who say we humans can’t repair the damage we do. Scientific models proved correct. We can discover a problem and work internationally on a solution! Ozone is one example.

As one researcher said, “It gives us hope that we shouldn’t be afraid to tackle large environmental problems.”

Thanks to for the quote above. Other outlets are covering the good news, too.

Mars-ward Ho #space #science #explore #Mars #tech @MarsOneProject #SpaceX

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

in the 1990s, Biosphere 2 studied a closed system similar to what Mars colonists may need to create

Orbiting the planet,
above Viking’s bones,
Odyssey’s a switchboard
that seeks new landing zones.
Global Mars Surveyor
measures gravity,
Magnetosphere, minerals,
and topography.
MAVEN and Mangalyaan
sniff at the Martian air,

Japan will gather samples
and bring them back from there.
Joining Opportunity
in studying the rocks,
Rover Curiosity
seeks life’s building blocks.

UAE will gather data
on the frigid dry climate.
China’s rover should be very good
at biotech.

Yup, that's me at Biosphere 2

Yup, that’s me at Biosphere 2

Sands of a planet solely occupied
by robots,
Soon will carry boot-prints from
eager astronauts.
Far beyond horizons
where ancestors have roamed,
Mars One and SpaceX
want to claim Mars as a home.

By Kate Rauner

The list of missions to Mars – failed and successful – is long, but the list of planned missions is growing longer. Thanks to for the update. You can visit Biosphere 2 in Arizona where environmental studies are ongoing.

Visit Mars yourself, in my science fiction series On Mars.

On Mars 3 covers over planet (298x300)


Light and Dark Play Role in Life #science #nature #tree #GreatBritian

European Ash flowers

European Ash flowers

Humans are diurnal creatures and we carry light into darkness. In my area of New Mexico, where astronomers can still find dark skies, the fight against badly-designed artificial lights is on-going. But, while artificial light can disturb human sleep cycles, it’s generally a good thing for us. That’s not true for all animals. And now a study shows it affects plants, too.

You may know that artificial lights change the behavior of bats and sea turtles, but trees in cities are leafing out earlier thanks to night-time light. Scientists in the UK collected citizen observations of nearly 42,000 individual trees of four species, and satellite data on light intensity. After controlling for temperature and urban heat-trapping, they found three of the tree species budded earlier when exposed to nighttime lights.

It’s not clear whether this change hurts or helps other creatures, but it’s a fascinating study.

Thanks to researcher Richard ffrench-Constant, an etymologist at the University of Exeter, and

Mars’ Lost Chance #Mars #science #space #solarsystem #poem #poetry #planet


Fractured remnants of Mars’ magnetic field mapped by NASA

A shallow sea that shimmered
Beneath a sky of blue,
As promising a planet
As any that Life knew.

A passing asteroid
Sheared off it’s northern pole,
Set Mars on a course
To barren, dry, and cold.

It ruined north-south symmetry,
The planet’s never healed.
Destroyed surface protection
By its magnetic field.

Solar winds bombarded,
Air slowly was devoured
By protons and electrons
At a million miles an hour.

Mars clutched at its air with gravity,
But that was not enough.
Its magnetosphere was shattered
And its molten core rebuffed.

A friendly little planet
That could have been a home
To our cosmic brethren
Has left us on our own.

By Kate Rauner

Thanks to’s emily lakdawalla

Witness Most Intimate #FourthofJuly #HappyFourthofJuly #American #history #science #archeology #USA

Dancing in a tavern of the 1800s

Dancing in a tavern of the 1800s

It saw the Colonies
Become United States,
Saw hostilities
Building as storm clouds,
Heard the Independence
Declaration read out loud

Captured Chinese porcelain,
Some German tankards, too,
Fragments of a window pane,
And bottles that held brew.

Heard revolution planned
By drunken
Wondered if the wine and beer
Gave the outcome
That they got.

Held punch bowls and glasses,
Smoking pipes and dishes,
And bottles, bottles, bottles
For every drinker’s wishes.

Served men and fallen ladies,
It was the privy pit
Of an illegal tavern,
A Revolution’s toilet.

By Kate Rauner and first posted – you guessed it – on July 4th. I’m posting early because we’re headed to our small-town parade which starts at 10 am. July is the start of the monsoon rains in New Mexico and the afternoon will either be too hot (rains not here yet) or too stormy (but people who live in a desert never complain about rain) for parades.

Thanks to and archaeologists digging on the future site of Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution.