Category Archives: Reblogs

Readers’ wildlife photos

Why Evolution Is True

Send in your photos, but make sure they’re good ones. Thanks!

Today was have some lovely landscapes from reader Bill Zorn. His captions are indented.

Sand Dunes, Colorado:

The Narrows, Utah:

Altamaha River, Georgia:

Monument Valley, Utah:

Jekyll Island, Georgia:

Jekyll Island, Georgia:

Linville Gorge, North Carolina:

Irwin Creek, Colorado:

Reeds, Georgia:

North Fork of the Virgin River, Utah:

These images were made using a Linhof Master Technika 2000 camera, Fuji Velvia film. I sent the film to a lab, and printed these on Ilfochrome. These are scans from the transparencies.

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Nobel Prize in Physics goes to three for showing that formation of black holes is predicted by relativity theory

Why Evolution Is True

This morning the Karolinska Institute awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics to two men and a woman—Roger Penrose, Reinhard Genzel, and Andrea Ghez—for work on black holes.  As the press release notes:

Three Laureates share this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their discoveries about one of the most exotic phenomena in the universe, the black hole. Roger Penrose showed that the general theory of relativity leads to the formation of black holes. Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez discovered that an invisible and extremely heavy object governs the orbits of stars at the centre of our galaxy. A supermassive black hole is the only currently known explanation.

Penrose got half the prize, with Genzel and Ghez sharing the other 50%.

My Nobel Prize Contest (see here and here) is already a big flop this year, with nobody guessing even one person from each of…

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The Alchemist by Ben Jonson (1610)

Books & Boots

The Alchemist is a plague play. Not only was it written in 1610, when the London theatres were closed (yet again) for (yet another) outbreak of plague, but the plot itself derives from that fact. The master of the house, Lovewit, has (like everyone else who can afford it) fled London and is waiting at his country seat for the plague to abate (his retreat appears to be in Kent; he is said to be waiting in his ‘hop-yards’). In the meantime his housekeeper, Face, has invited a conman, Subtle, and a prostitute, Doll Common, to come and stay in the house in a kind of joint criminal enterprise, persuading a series of gullible victims that Subtle is a renowned alchemist who will supply each of them the Philosopher’s Stone and make their dreams come true… for a price.

The cast

The three crooks

SUBTLE, the alchemist
FACE, the Housekeeper

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Lowitja, the authorised biography of Lowitja O’Donoghue, by Stuart Rintoul

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

It was Bismarck who said that ‘politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best’.  Well, the two women I most admire in Australian politics are exponents of that art: Penny Wong, who, as I read in Margaret Simons’ recent biography Penny Wong, Passion and Principlesays that you can’t achieve change unless you’re ‘in the room’, even if that means that sometimes you have to settle for less;  and Lowitja O’Donoghue, whose steely determination to represent Indigenous people changed Australia for the better, even though there is still much more to be done.

Stuart Rintoul’s biography traces the story of this remarkable woman’s life, tracked alongside significant events in Australia’s Black History, rendering the biography also a refresher course for those who lived through these events and an education for younger readers who did not.  The book begins in 1979 with…

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A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714 by Mark Kishlansky (1996) 7 – the reign of James II

Books & Boots

Because King Charles II died in February 1685 without a son and heir – without, in fact, any legitimate children from his marriage to Catherine of Braganza – the throne passed automatically to his brother, James Duke of York, who ascended the throne as King James II.

James was a professed Roman Catholic and a zealous reformer. He wished to lift the multiple legal restrictions which had been placed on his fellow Catholics and, as a balancing gesture, to lift legal constraints on the Puritans and non-conforming Protestant sects. However, within three short years he managed to alienate almost every party and profession in the country, and especially the powerful Whig politicians.

The crisis came to a head over two big issues. First James made the error of trying seven Anglican bishops for seditious libel. To be precise, in April 1688, encouraged by the Quaker leader William Penn with whom…

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Favorite words

Why Evolution Is True

Many times I’ve posted about “words and phrases I hate,” but now let’s walk on the sunnier side and list the words we like (phrases would be too onerous). I was inspired by the tweet below that Matthew sent me from Jonathan Eisen, evolutionary biologist and brother of Wormageddon instigator Michael Eisen:

These words seem to be chosen because of their sounds, which, I suppose, is the best criterion for having a favorite word. Mine, however are a mixture of sound and meaning. And I don’t have a list, so I’ll just put a few down off the top of my head:

ratiocination (learned from Hitchens)
rodomontade

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Notes on Nationalism, by George Orwell

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

My next (NF) book was going to be Michael Ackland’s Henry Handel Richardson, A Life, (because I am still peeved by Brenda Niall’s representation of HHR in Friends and Rivals, Four Great Australian Writers, see why, here) but Orwell’s essay in the Penguin Moderns series was on top of the NF pile… I was sure that his thoughts about nationalism were bound to be pertinent for our age… so HHR will have to wait. (But not for long because these mini-books can be read in a day.)

Orwell writes in his usual acerbic way, starting with his definition of nationalism: the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  But more importantly, he says, he means the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or…

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Increased testing does not explain the increase in US COVID cases

The Logic of Science

The US is experiencing another sharp increase in COVID19 cases. This is a simple fact, but as always seems to be the case in today’s world, this fact is being treated as an opinion. Countless people (including prominent politicians and even the president) are claiming that cases are not actually increasing, and the apparent increase is simply the result of increased testing. This claim is dangerous and untrue, but it also offers a good opportunity to teach some lessons in data analysis. Obviously, an increase in testing will result in an increase in the number of cases that are documented, that much is true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the entirety of the increase is from increased testing. So how can we tell whether the true number of cases is increasing? There are multiple ways to examine this, and I’m going to walk through several of them and try…

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Trump retweets a video of deplorables calling for white power

Why Evolution Is True

This morning I retweeted Trump’s own retweeted video of people in Florida yelling at each other, with one screaming “white power” several times, but that tweet been quickly removed by the Prez or his minons:

But you can still see the original on the Rolling Stone site, and I’ve put a version below the screenshot:

The Bad Tweet passed on by tRump. The seniors in their golf carts are feisty (and badly deluded), but there’s also pushback.

From Rolling Stone:

On Sunday morning, the president of the United States once again showed his racist leanings by retweeting a video of one of his supporters chanting “white power.”

“Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe…

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The eclipse photo that made Einstein famous

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