In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

fromquarkstoquasars:

What is a Billion?
We live in a time of billions; billions of a galaxies, stars, people, light-years…but how do we put something like this into perspective?
Can we really understand what a “billion” means, or its significance?
Find Out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/what-is-a-billion/
You can see a larger info-graphic here; http://ow.ly/sRLu8

fromquarkstoquasars:

What is a Billion?

We live in a time of billions; billions of a galaxies, stars, people, light-years…but how do we put something like this into perspective?

Can we really understand what a “billion” means, or its significance?

Find Out: http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/what-is-a-billion/

You can see a larger info-graphic here; http://ow.ly/sRLu8

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

Douglas Adams :: How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet

douglas adams writing about technology in 1999.

(via bananaleaves)

Perfect.

(via chakathemighty)

(Source: ultralaser)

There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.

Leonardo da Vinci  (via loieloie)

This is a very peculiar thing about the philosophy, or the ideas, behind the laws.


The mass of an object never seems to change: a spinning top has the same weight as a still one. So a “law” was invented: mass is constant, independent of speed. That “law” is now found to be incorrect. Mass is found to increase with velocity, but appreciable increases require velocities near that of light. A true law is: if an object moves with a speed of less than one hundred miles a second the mass is constant to within one part in a million. In some such approximate form this is a correct law. So in practice one might think that the new law makes no significant difference. Well, yes and no. For ordinary speeds we can certainly forget it and use the simple constant-mass law as a good approximation. But for high speeds we are wrong, and the higher the speed, the more wrong we are.

Finally, and most interesting, philosophically we are completely wrong with the approximate law. Our entire picture of the world has to be altered even though the mass changes only by a little bit. This is a very peculiar thing about the philosophy, or the ideas, behind the laws. Even a very small effect sometimes requires profound changes in our ideas.

Now, what should we teach first? Should we teach the correct but unfamiliar law with its strange and difficult conceptual ideas, for example the theory of relativity, four-dimensional space-time, and so on? Or should we first teach the simple “constant-mass” law, which is only approximate, but does not involve such difficult ideas? The first is more exciting, more wonderful, and more fun, but the second is easier to get at first, and is a first step to a real understanding of the first idea. This point arises again and again in teaching physics. At different times we shall have to resolve it in different ways, but at each stage it is worth learning what is now known, how accurate it is, how it fits into everything else, and how it may be changed when we learn more.

-Richard Feynman

Climb the mountain, not to plant your flag but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.

David McCullough Jr. (via jkeith757)

Neil deGrasse Tyson : Your ego and the cosmic perspective.


“You thought more highly of yourself than, in fact, the circumstances deserved.”

THIS IS WATER

" In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn’t become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we’ve ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.

This video was built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested. However, we encourage everyone to seek out the full speech (because, in this case, the book is definitely better than the movie).”

-The Glossary

wespeakfortheearth:

This video was created by @Jason_Silva and shot and edited with my friends at Bravo Media, and is non-commercial and for educational and inspirational purposes only. This video was inspired by three big ideas:

1) The ideas of psychologist Nicholas Humphrey who has written of “THE BIOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE OF BEING AWESTRUCK”. Basically, our ability to awe was biologically selected for by evolution because it imbues our lives with sense of cosmic significance that has resulted in a species that works harder not just to survive but to flourish and thrive…

“Humphrey refers to consciousness as a magic show that you stage for yourself inside your head, which lights up the world and makes you feel special and transcendent… this magical theater provides a reason to live, a love of occupying the present moment, and a desire to sustain it into the future, that over time has proved stronger than anything else, and accounts for humanity’s swift and triumphant success—

Humphrey says “being enchanted by the magic of experience, rather than being just an aid to survival, provides an essential incentive to survive.”

“We relish just being here. We feel “the yen to confirm and renew, in small ways or large, our own occupancy of the present moment, to go deeper, to extend it, to revel in being there, and when we have the skill, to celebrate it in words..”

Our desire to understand brings exquisite pleasure… and feeds our exploratory voyage, our scientific inquiry, our technological development, and even our poetic self-regard..


Mandatory viewing.

(Source: youtube.com)

Politics and Eye Movement: Liberals Focus Their Attention On 'Gaze Cues' Much Differently Than Conservatives Do

stfuhypocrisy:

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2010) — It goes without saying that conservatives and liberals don’t see the world in the same way. Now, research from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests that is exactly, and quite literally, the case.

In a new study, UNL researchers measured both liberals’ and conservatives’ reaction to “gaze cues” — a person’s tendency to shift attention in a direction consistent with another person’s eye movements, even if it’s irrelevant to their current task — and found big differences between the two groups.

Liberals responded strongly to the prompts, consistently moving their attention in the direction suggested to them by a face on a computer screen. Conservatives, on the other hand, did not.

Why? Researchers suggested that conservatives’ value on personal autonomy might make them less likely to be influenced by others, and therefore less responsive to the visual prompts.

“We thought that political temperament may moderate the magnitude of gaze-cuing effects, but we did not expect conservatives to be completely immune to these cues,” said Michael Dodd, a UNL assistant professor of psychology and the lead author of the study.

Liberals may have followed the “gaze cues,” meanwhile, because they tend to be more responsive to others, the study suggests.

“This study basically provides one more piece of evidence that liberals and conservatives perceive the world, and process information taken in from that world, in different ways,” said Kevin Smith, UNL professor of political science and one of the study’s authors.

“Understanding exactly why people have such different political perspectives and where those differences come from may help us better understand the roots of a lot of political conflict.”

The study involved 72 people who sat in front of a white computer screen and were told to fixate on a small black cross in its center. The cross then disappeared and was replaced by a drawing of a face, but with eyes missing their pupils. Then, pupils appeared in the eyes, looking either left or right. Finally, a small, round target would appear either on the left or right side of the face drawing.

Dodd said the participants were told that the gaze cues in the study did not predict where the target would appear, so there was no reason for participants to attend to them. “But the nature of social interaction tends to make it very difficult to ignore the cues, even when they’re meaningless,” he said.

As soon as they saw the target, participants would tap the space bar on their keyboard, giving researchers information on their susceptibility to the “gaze cues.” Each sequence, which lasted a few hundred milliseconds, was repeated hundreds of times.

Afterward, participants were surveyed on their beliefs on a range of political issues to establish their political ideology.

In addition to shedding light on the differences between the two political camps, researchers said the results add to growing indications that suggest biology plays a role determining one’s political direction. Previous UNL research has delved into the physiology of political orientation, showing that those highly responsive to threatening images are likely to support defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War.

Traditionally, political scientists have accounted for political differences purely in terms of environmental forces, but this study shows the potential role of cognitive biases — wherever they may come from — as a relevant area of future research.

“Getting things done in politics typically depends on competing viewpoints finding common ground,” Smith said. “Our research is suggesting that’s a lot tougher than it sounds, because the same piece of ground can look very different depending on which ideological hill you view it from.”