Flat Earth

About the Flat-Earth Movement

Yes, there are people out there who think the Earth is flat. And they’re having conventions:

Besides the absolutely dumb idea of a flat Earth and the dismissal of pretty much everything produced by the space program of a dozen countries, there’s something really interesting going on here. The flat Earther community is a really interesting case study when it comes to challenging the idea that “the Internet will make us smarter”.

It also shows a worrying connection between populism and disbelief in science. I’m all for emotions, but to demolish science in such a way brings thoughts of dystopia to my mind.

David Goodall

On Assisted Dying

You’re 102 years old. You still want and can work. You have no disease, your mind is sharp and brings joy to those around. However, the industrialized healthcare system and society has other plans. You’re costly to keep under permanent supervision, as if you even want to be constantly watched. So, whether you like it or not, you must accept round-the-clock care or move to a nursing home. This happened to David Goodall. Thanks to Swiss laws, however, he could die on his own accord.

Euthanasia is a heavily debated topic. Many people have sought the right to end their life. Check what Terry Pratchett (suffering from Alzheimer’s) had to say about it. Pro-life associations rushed to condemn BBC for broadcasting Pratchett’s statement, accusing BBC of imbalanced reporting.

John Holt

How Children Learn

About one of the most revolutionary books in pedagogy and parenting alike:

“Schools try to teach children skills and knowledge that may benefit them at some unknown time in the future. But children are interested in the now, not the future. They want to do real things now. By doing what they want to do they also prepare themselves wonderfully for the future, but that is a side effect.  This, I think, is the main insight of the book; most of the other ideas are more or less corollaries.”

Gerrymandering

The Gerrymandering Factor

Ever heard of gerrymandering? It’s quite the disgusting political practice. Basically, a political party influences the way precincts are gathered into districts so that it gains an advantage during elections. Even though the term was coined in the USA, this practice is widespread. It shows just how much democracy can be destroyed from within.

Fortunately, there is some hope in combating the practice. Here’s how a panel of federal judges over in the USA created a useful precedent that will hopefully be the first step towards fixing this affliction of democracy.

Neutrino Detector

Ricocheting Down the Neutrino Alley

Neutrinos are among the strangest elementary particles. Or at least we call them elementary particles until, some time in the future, we’ll discover that they are also composed of various other smaller components. But until then, scientists are sparing no efforts in trying to understand them (an understanding that could and will probably be invested in new technologies, for example detectors for large bursts of energy release).

Super Earth Kepler

Aliens on Super Earths Require a Lot More Smarts to Get in Orbit

Now that we got a new planet hunter in orbit (TESS), we’re bound to find many more Earth-like planets. And, judging by discoveries so far, it’s quite likely that a lot of these planets will be super Earths, that is, terrestrial planets with a mass higher than Earth’s.

One of the most interesting and often-overlooked problem with super Earths concerns their gravity. These planets are big, meaning that their gravity would make it very difficult not only for potential human settlers to land or take off again, but also for any intelligent species that might develop there and attempt space travel.

Worries

Worrymoms

During the past few years I’ve noticed just how much of my wife’s mind is permanently connected to our son, perpetually preoccupied about how to ensure he gets the best of everything. I think at least a third of her brainpower is dedicated to ensuring his well-being and addressing all possible (and impossible) threats.

It’s not that I don’t try to do the same, but most partners have it so much easier than mothers, not only because of family roles (let’s admit it, they exist even in the most egalitarian of societies) but also because of the “chemical advantage” of not having given birth. The male (or not-mother) body is instinctually less preoccupied with taking care of offspring.

But the mother’s incessant worrying might end up impacting brain health. Even worse, through body-language, it transmits some of this worry to the child and other family members. I’ve come across two interesting articles that highlight these aspects. Here’s some useful knowledge to integrate.