winterbadger: (coffee cup)
Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare by Stephen Budiansky (16) This was a fascinating 'read' (another recorded book from the library I enjoyed). It's a bit schizophrenic, as it starts out as if it were intended to be a dual biography of Patrick Blackett (a brilliant British scientist who was instrumental in the development of operational research during World War II, especially in its application to anti-submarine warfare) and Karl Donitz (a German naval officer who rose to command the German submarine forces and eventually the entire Navy during World War II). But, despite that biographical beginning and it's suggestive title, the book is less about Blackett and Donitz and more about the way in which the British (and later) American military recognized and took advantage of the benefits that civilian scientists could bring to military problems. In many cases it took long, hard lobbying or mandates from the services' political masters for Navy and Air Force officers to accept that non-professionals could contribute anything of value to their procedures. (Interestingly, there is almost no mention of the Army; I don't think that is because that service was unaffected; it may be the result of the author's personal interests/bias.)

As always, when I encounter discussions of the theory and implementation of operations research, I'm fascinated by the ideas it tackles, the things it looks at, and the ways it's used to solve military problems. But when I go off to look for ways to learn more about it or find out more about it, I meet such a blank wall of higher mathematics that I give up. At least nowadays, it seems that OR and the related (and to me intriguing) world of modeling and simulation are just not very welcoming to people without advanced maths and engineering training.

The Chrysanthemum Chain by James Melville (17) In this, the second Superintendent Otani novel (apparently I shifted it one place out of order), our self-effacing Japanese police official is confronted with some very tricky situations arising from the murder of a foreign resident. A substantial portion of the novel actually takes place from the point of view of a British consular officer dealing with the murder, as he gets embroiled in the seamy side of Japanese society, where politics and organized crime mingle. The novel also includes one of Inspector Otani's rare victories (small though it is) in his perpetual war with Ambassador Tsunematsu, the Foreign Office official reponsible for dealing with foreign nationals resident in Japan, especially those of interest to the shadowy security services (which, in practice, tends to be most of them, just by virtue of their being foreigners). There's also the first mention in the series of the burakumin, the outcaste people of Japan.

In progress:
The Other New York: The American Revolution Beyond New York City Ed. by Joseph S. Tiedemann and Eugene R. Fingerhut
Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory by MG Julian Thompson
Crisis on the Danube: Napoleon’s Austrian Campaign of 1809 by James R. Arnold
McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales edited by Michael Chabon
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston
Empire of the Mind: A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy
Boer Commando by Denneys Reitz
winterbadger: (colbert eh?)
"...sex kicks the attachment hormone into overdrive"

This is, I gather, something that a Daily Beast columnist discovered in conversation with a biological anthropologist.

Hmmm. I think I first found that out, by process of experimentation, in 1983. Didn't even take actual sex either, just some heavy petting. It is not often, I suppose, that a young college man finds that he has suddenly been overcome by a great desire for closeness and commitment, while his partner has not. And the effect lessens as one grows older and more cynical, I think. But this is still one of those scientific discoveries that used to make my mother, bless her, say, "Really? How much money did they spend to find out that swallowing nickels is not good for you? I could have saved them a lot of that."
winterbadger: (equal rights)
Study finds that children of lesbians have fewer behavioral problems

But of course, the study must be flawed, a supporter of "biblical values"* said, because its finding that children don't necessarily need parents of both genders "just defies common sense and reality."

In other words, don't confuse me with science--I already know what the truth is, and it won't stand up to testing...
winterbadger: (pals)
from The Independent

London Underground is in talks with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) about the possibility of using the 23km tunnel of the Circle Line to house a new type of particle accelerator similar to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.

Particle physicists believe the existing tunnel can be adapted to take a small-scale "atom smasher" alongside the passenger line at a fraction of the cost of building a new tunnel elsewhere in Europe. They are understood to have approached London Underground with a view to announcing a feasibility study later this year.

Specialist engineers commissioned by Cern have already produced a preliminary report, seen by The Independent, which proposes installing supercooled magnets and collision detectors at strategic positions on the Circle Line. The main collision experiment will be sited at the newly refurbished Westminster Station, directly below Portcullis House, the offices of more than 200 MPs.
winterbadger: (great seal of the united states)
Obama and McCain on science issues

Interesting comparison. I'll just observe that their answers here track (IMO) with their usual practices in answering questions and their established positions on other issues.

priceless

Jun. 19th, 2008 05:57 pm
winterbadger: (bugger!)
I'm sure there's some way I can use the word "cascade" to describe this process of finding one thing from another, but for now, just enjoy the wonderful awfulness (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] reabhecc) of:

Teach The Controversy t-shirts

a tour of America's own Creationism museum, with colourful commentary

both thanks to [livejournal.com profile] endcreationism
winterbadger: (ganesh)
I've heard about this fellow from time to time, but I've not read any of his work. I don't, without more convincing argument than I've heard, buy the proposition that religion and science are fundamental enemies--in fact, I'm inclined to believe it is a dangerous fallacy.

But this comment of his that followed the terrorist attacks of 2001is one that certainly strikes a chord.

"Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!"

I came across that in the Wikipedia profile of him, which lists his published work; I think I need to read some of it.
winterbadger: (bugger!)
The three Republican presidential candidates who indicated last month that they do not believe in evolution may have been taking a safe stance on the issue when it comes to appealing to GOP voters.

A Gallup poll released Monday said that while the country is about evenly split over whether the theory of evolution is true, Republicans disbelieve it by more than 2-to-1.

Republicans saying they don't believe in evolution outnumbered those who do by 68 percent to 30 percent in the survey. Democrats believe in evolution by 57 percent to 40 percent, as do independents by a 61 percent to 37 percent margin.

from a CBS News article

What I find dispiriting is not that nearly 70% of Republicans believe in the Tooth Fairy, but that nearly half of *Democrats* do as well, and over a third of independents.

What next? Are Americans still big supporters of the Flat Earth Theory? Are we convincned that the Sun and the planets revolve around the Earth, perhaps in a series of concentric crystal spheres? Are we going back to trial by fire and water sometime soon?

Don't tell me this isn't the effect of religious fanaticism. Ignorance and lack of education can produce a lack of knowledge, but only mysticism and dogma actively struggle agaisnt science.

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