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Really??

The Denver Post profiles a group of (apparently earnest) Flat Earthers. They say they are persecuted for their beliefs.  Note to group: “ridicule” is not “persecution” [though to be fair, no member of the group is quoted using the word “persecution”].  It doesn’t sound like thugs are showing up to break up their meetings, for instance. In an age when a group of students can launch a balloon with a cell phone high enough to record the curvature of the earth, and thousands of years after the Greeks got a decent estimate of the size of the globe, it is embarrassing (on multiple levels) to hear somebody trained in software engineering say “I can’t prove the globe anymore.”

If a few folks can believe this stuff, is it any wonder that more complex ideas face stiff opposition?

Dog’s Life, Boulder Edition

From a Sill TerHar Ford Motors television ad running in the Denver area:

“I saw a Ford Escape in the park the other day, and there was a dog owner putting her dog in the back.  She was a really big Great Dane. She jumped in and with her head over the back seat, she was wagging her tail the whole time. I thought, that’s someone who really researched what they needed in a car.” -Jack TerHar

Not only do Boulder area dog owners insist on their dogs going everywhere, they let their dogs research and purchase cars. We have the best dogs….

Interstate driving

Trivia from a long drive. Just saying….

California drivers prefer to pass on the right instead of the left.  Wonder what they do if they visit Britain?

Most places the leftmost lane is fastest.  In California, it is the number 2 lane. In Utah, it seems they all want to go the same speed.

California drivers know what the number two lane is.

Colorado drivers have their own version of the “3 second rule” (you know, the one usually applied to food hitting the floor).  A red light isn’t really red if you get to the intersection in the first three seconds after it turns red.

Colorado drivers are slow to go on a green light. This has nothing to do with legal cannabis.

Some California drivers will use any and all lanes to go 1% faster than the rest of traffic.

Massachusetts drivers will use any and all lanes AND the shoulder AND, if necessary, lanes usually reserved for opposing traffic.

Texas drivers are some of the fastest around on flat, straight roads–and some of the slowest on mountain roads.

Kansas drivers confuse merge signs with stop signs when entering freeways.

Wyoming drivers outside their state keep ending up on the shoulders because they expect to be blown back on course by the wind.

California drivers can be in traffic thicker than a Walmart parking lot on Black Friday traveling at 65 mph without batting an eyelash.

Las Vegas drivers have never seen three miles of freeway without road construction detours, barriers or lane closures.

Utah drivers pretend their freeways are roller coasters: slow on the uphill, fast on the downhill.

America First, Who is Second?

If you haven’t found them by now, the growing collection of humorous videos promoting other countries as second (since America is first) can be accessed through http://everysecondcounts.eu/index.html. If you are curious, the Dutch started this. Although some are in-country jokes (the first golden lady mentioned in the Luxembourg video won’t register far outside that country), most are not (and you can learn key facts, like that you can make the shape of Namibia with your hand) and some are surprising (yes, Iran has an entry which is blissfully missing the Trump impersonators from the other videos).

Why can’t science be more like sports?

Perhaps the single most distressing turn in politics reflects an equally disturbing change in the public at large: the disregard for facts. Inflation is booming! The climate is cooling! Crime is soaring! Jobs are vanishing! Accompanying this is a numerical illiteracy: the temperature this winter where I live was colder than normal, so global warming must be hoax. The risk of dying in a terrorist attack is greater than the odds of dying in a car crash. (in fact, you are more likely to die overseas in a car crash than by terrorist attack, and even more likely to die in a bathtub accident). Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s old saying that “you are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts” now seems quite quaint.

And yet amidst all this mental fog we find a pastime, one utterly irrelevant to the world our children or grandchildren might live in, where these issues are singularly absent: sports. GG has never heard somebody claim that the Cubs really lost the World Series, that Babe Ruth didn’t hit 714 home runs.  What is more, die-hard fans are well-versed in the statistics of their games. None are more addicted than baseball fans, where OPS and WAR now clutter conversations still sprinkled with traditional statistics like batting average and earned run average. Just where are these people when we discuss climate change, environmental risks, government finance and the like? Why are we so obsessed and dedicated to something that matters so little and so cavalier about things that do?

You have to wonder if there was an much of a cult following of science as sports if things like p-hacking, shingling and plagiarism would long survive.  Would there still be a public debate about whether or not there was global warming, or would the debate focus on the amplification factor of methane loss from pipelines vs. gains from a shift away from coal? You could even imagine enthusiasts deriding the simplicity and misleading applications of the h-index in favor of some more complicated scoring for research impact.

What if there were fantasy leagues?   Read More…

Truth in Advertising, Geophysics Edition

This from a course syllabus of a geophysics class at MIT:

Formally, this course has 4 contact hours a week. If enrollment allows it, the extra one-hour session will be devoted to a discussion of a recent journal article on a topic covered in the lectures; if the class size is too large this will not be feasible and the extra time will be used for a combination of resuscitation and literature discussion.

The only question is, is it the students or the instructor needing resuscitation in large classes?

Geography lesson,George Will edition

George Will recently penned a tribute to that icon of baseball broadcasting, Vin Scully (GG grew up listening to Dodgers games that Scully did). Will imagines the last day Scully broadcasts from LA:

In late September, Scully will drive up Vin Scully Avenue to Dodger Stadium, settle himself in front of a mic in the Vin Scully Press Box, and speak five familiar words: “It’s time for Dodgers baseball.” Later, as the sun descends toward the San Gabriel Mountains…

…panic ensues as Earth has tipped over on its axis! People run screaming from the stands! Chaos! Pandemonium! Who knew that a broadcaster retiring would cause such chaos!

Um, yeah, we just learned that (1) George Will has never seen a Dodgers game when the sun was shining or (2) he is oblivious to the relationship of shadows to the position of the sun (virtually any afternoon game will result in some discussion of the shadows as they affect the ability of the batter to pick up the pitch coming to the plate). Maybe this is because he only listens to Dodgers’ broadcasts?

Dear George, the San Gabriel Mountains are to the north and northeast of Dodger Stadium.  You know, that direction where the sun might rise on the summer solstice? Maybe you meant to write “as the sun sets on the San Gabriel Mountains”? Or perhaps you were thinking of the Santa Monica Mountains, which are to the west? But no, we know you are nothing if not precise in your language, so it seems more likely it is your geography rather than your syntax that is in error.

So, once again, the fine east coast media demonstrates that, liberal or conservative, they really have a problem with geography west of the Hudson