Heuristic Rotating Header Image


Pissing in the pool

I grew up reading the Hugo award winners anthologies, those collections of the best works of the year. It wasn’t until much later that I learned how the Hugos work, and even later that I made the miraculous discovery that I could participate in that process by nominating works I cared about, and voting from among the finalists.


Mapping race

Dustin Cable at the University of Virginia has created a fantastic map: every person enumerated in the 2010 US census, by place, and color-coded by identified race.

Slate uses the map to explore segregation in major US cities, but I of course used it to look at my own town (click for bigger).

race map of State College, PA

Central Pennsylvania is largely white, but on top of that is overlain the effects of a major research university. You can clearly see where the Asian grad students like to live, for example. More depressingly, you can also see State Correctional Institution at Rockview just northeast of town.

The map is fascinating, from the broadest overview of the entire continental US, to the highest zoom on our cities and towns: history, culture and landscape all tied together.


Today is a good day for cartoons.

This is sad, and true, and entirely representative of human history up until this point. Question is, how do we fix it?

This is also true, but not sad. Annoying, definitely.

Science redefined

From Mother Jones:

HB 291, the “Missouri Standard Science Act,” redefines a few things you thought you already knew about science. For example, a “hypothesis” is redefined as something that reflects a “minority of scientific opinion and is “philosophically unpopular.” A scientific theory is “an inferred explanation…whose components are data, logic and faith-based philosophy.” And “destiny” is not something that $5 fortune tellers believe in; Instead, it’s “the events and processes that define the future of the universe, galaxies, stars, our solar system, earth, plant life, animal life, and the human race.”

What the fuck?

The bill is mostly intended to promote teaching of creationism, and is sponsored by self-proclaimed “science enthusiast” Rick Brattin.

Call your climatologist

Continuing the discussion on legislating sea level rise:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Sink or Swim
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Nothing boosts the economy like becoming a national (international?) laughingstock. Right, North Carolina?


I earned a science PhD from a North Carolina university (Duke ecology, 1998). Which makes the current piece of anti-science idiocity coming out of that state particularly appalling. Briefly, NC is trying to legislate the scientific methods that can be used to estimate future sea level rise for planning purposes. Their chosen methods are wrong, and put sea level rise considerably below more nuanced estimates, thus maintaining property values while likely screwing whole segments of the population.

Willfully inaccurate planning means that coastal development, roads, bridges, and people are all at risk. Not to mention research at the state’s many fine colleges and universities: it would apparently be illegal to use any methods other than those specifically legislated to predict sea level rise.

The legislated method: linear extrapolation from sea level records since 1900. That method predicts an 8-inch rise, and NC wants to use 16 inches as their worst-case scenario. The best scientific estimates from the IPCC put likely sea level rise at about 39 inches, if not more.

I see a problem here.

I really wanted to write something witty and insightful about this, but I can’t manage anything but a great deal of ARRRRRGGGGHH. So why don’t you go read Scott Huler’s SciAm rant instead?

ETA: Or Eric’s.

And if that’s too much for you, I enjoyed these two comics today, and wanted to share.

Fifty years

This set of photos from fifty years ago is amazing. 1962 is both not that long ago and incredibly far away.

It’s a wonder that anyone is brave or conceited enough to even try to write science fiction.

Let me tell you

Let me tell you how much I’m enjoying the presidential campaign, and how well I think the GOP candidates represent the enlightened spirit of United States democracy. Please note: nothing below this point is safe for work, home, or the brains of any reasonable human being whatsoever.

Let me tell you how much I appreciate having my very competence, my ability to make decisions for myself, questioned. In 2012. By a panel composed entirely of men. By organizations ignoring the most knowledgeable experts. Or my ability and my right to do my job questioned by a leading presidential candidate. Bayer Aspirin? But it was a “joke,” so it’s okay.

Or rather, let me allow Jim to tell you. Since he’s male and all, and I’m just a woman. Or maybe just because he’s funnier and more profane than I am.

Really, it was just because he’s funnier.

Here’s a woman who sums it up pretty well.

Maybe I need a Nehemiah Scudder for President in 2012 bumper sticker.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in bed with the blankets over my head watching West Wing until November. Maybe longer.

Well then

That was helpful, not that I give myself any credit for it. Although it’s likely that some of the five hundred or so people who visited one of my sites yesterday didn’t know much about SOPA/PIPA, and maybe they clicked on the EFF link and learned something.

But you know industry’s concerns about the internet aren’t going to go away. This is something to keep a careful eye on, if you’d like to be able to use Wikipedia and YouTube and Flickr and Twitter and Facebook and Google, and this site, all of which are in jeopardy.

Don’t be alarmed

If this site, in its entirety, is down tomorrow.

SOPA and PIPA are utterly appalling pieces of potential US legislation, and would likely destroy the internet as a community.

Not that I expect my tiny participation in tomorrow’s blackout campaign to have any effect, but I want to add my support. The internet has been crucial to my life in many ways, and all of them could go away. All of the sites I maintain will be down, including the business pages, joining many much more influential sites. Like, oh, Wikipedia, and Reddit, and Boing Boing. (Note: this won’t affect the LJ feed; I have no control over their servers.)

Here’s one way to join in if you maintain a website of your own.

And on second thought, be very alarmed.

Edit: All rumors to the contrary, SOPA is not dead, just tabled until February.

Also, irony is not dead.