Common Questions No. 1

18 Jun

So I was thinking of doing an ‘Ask The Nerd’ type of channel, just for all those fairly straightforward questions.  Hope you enjoy!



If you have any questions, as always, feel free to ask.  If the answer’s straightforward, it’ll wind up in one of these.  😀

29 Responses to “Common Questions No. 1”

  1. authortombaldwin June 26, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Ran into a “Banned” Ted Talk that got me thinking about science in general and how it is kind of a religion itself. It has dogmas of its own. It is not really as open and pure as most of us think. Take a moment and watch and it may set you to thinking too.

    • Loren Riley June 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

      Tom, there are a few problems I have with this TED Talk (which was not in fact banned by Ted Talks but was taken down from their normal area and placed in a different section of the website because they felt “a responsibility not to provide a platform for talks which appear to have crossed the line into pseudoscience.”) More than that, I feel like this is a political argument against… well, against no position I have made. I feel that it’s raging against a nonexistent machine, as it were. I have said nothing political, or social, to say anything of religion. I am blogging about astronomy. That’s really it. I have never intimated that science ‘knows everything’ or that scientists are “pure” and “open”. I feel like you’re trying to start a political/sociological argument but no one is Richard Dawkinsing it up in here so to speak, so I have to wonder what motivated you to bring it up…?

      Unfortunately I hear this argument against science a lot, and to argue back, science is not a religion. People (who admittedly make up a large percentage of scientists) are biased all over. But there’s a fundamental difference between agreed upon terms, results, scientific consensus, etc. and “dogma”.

      There’s also a major fundamental difference between empiricism and philosophy. I have no beef with either, but they are not the same things. Empiricism can only test what can be tested and philosophy is really relegated to everything else. Having said that, most scientists (that I know of anyway) are really quite clear on that. There’s a difference between believing the moon is made of cheese and believing in string theory for example. Currently, one of these things can be tested. That doesn’t stop people from forming opinions about un-testable things, but most highly empiric people are aware of the things that cannot be tested. This kind of response is actually fairly common (I’ve run into it a lot in the past), and I don’t really understand where it comes from. Especially when I’m not ‘using science’ to further anything social, political, philosophical, etc. I’m just interested in what we can see right now. And what we can see, is very, very interesting.

      For now I will just say, that if the whole of science can be counted as a religion, then probably so can every single idea human beings have. And at what point does the analogy simply break down?

      • authortombaldwin June 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

        Ouch! My bad. I’ll just crawl back under my rock now.

        • Loren Riley June 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

          Hey – you started it! Don’t call my beautiful science dogmatic! 😛

  2. sufiways June 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Dear TNND,
    What should we love more, the Pi (3.14159) or the Phi (1.61803), and why?

    • authortombaldwin June 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

      Phi of course. Pi is for nerds. Phi is all through nature. You don’t have to be smart to love it, you just have to appreciate beauty.

      • Loren Riley June 23, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

        Pi may be for nerds, but so is this blog… don’t offend the choir Tom! 😛

    • Loren Riley June 23, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      Oooh… that is a tough one. And a great question because I don’t have an immediate answer. After having thought about it for a while (I had to come back to this because it really was tough) I’d have to go with Pi. I’m not a mathematician, but from what I know of both numbers, Phi, or the Golden Ratio, is aesthetically pleasing, occurs in nature frequently, and has been considered to be ‘divine’ because of its non-man-made existence. I find it interesting that humans, who obviously did not create Phi, find it so aesthetic because there must be a reason we find works of art or natural objects that correspond to Phi, beautiful. Phi is interesting and beautiful.

      Having said that, Pi is extraordinarily useful. This is why I love Pi more. A wide variety of formulas that allow us to predict or describe the universe use Pi. Einstein’s field equation from General Relativity uses Pi, the Cosmological Constant relies on that field equation and uses Pi. Dirac’s Large Number Hypothesis (which relates size scales to force scales in the universe and is pretty interesting) uses Pi, Kepler’s 3rd Law uses Pi (when calculating for circular orbital periods), equations determining the luminosity of stars (which is important for distance and size measurements) use Pi, Thompson Scattering, Rayleigh Scattering, Jean’s Mass, Jean’s Length, the Chandrasekhar Limit, determining electron degeneracy pressure and other particle density states, the Bohr Radius – they all use Pi in their equations. There are many, many more useful equations that use Pi, but my point would remain the same: Pi is the winner.

      This is not to say that Pi is not beautiful and Phi is. Pi is used in a variety of ‘mathematically beautiful formulas’ including what is widely considered to be the most beautiful (or “remarkable” if you’re Feynman) formula ever conceived; Euler’s Identity.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking question Sufiways. Which one do you love more?

      • sufiways June 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

        Agree with you TNND. Plus, if you add a little “e” to Pi, it is so much sweeter than Phi (or Phie).

  3. Richard Kowalski June 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    Something you may find interesting when answering about how much life is out there:

    • Loren Riley June 22, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      That is amazing! I hope her work gets some good funding in the future. That is so awesome. I am slightly disheartened by the percentage of quiet stars – I didn’t know most of Kepler’s finds were around such inhospitable stars. But two detectable, habitable planets out there is amazing. If we make contact with an alien civilization, I can pretty much die happy. Thank you for sharing that, I’m definitely going to use it in a video on life.

  4. authortombaldwin June 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Don’t forget alien abductions! Everybody always forgets them. Are they not indicative of life elsewhere and/or elsewhen? Once we admit they are here, the next question is how did they make the journey? Through a black hole, duh.

    • Loren Riley June 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

      Ha ha! I doubt it. Could aliens survive a black hole Tom? I maintain that they could not! Which reminds me… I have to do an episode on aliens now… thanks! 😀

      • deecrowseer June 21, 2013 at 12:25 am #

        There was a programme on UK TV last week where they interviewed alien abductees, and I was amused to note that while most of the civilian abductees simply reported being taken up and tested, the local politician abductee happily admitted to having an alien mistress and illegitimate child! Although his actual wife (who refused to be filmed) was very upset about this, he claimed it wasn’t really cheating because it wasn’t sex “on a human level”! Classy guy.

        • Loren Riley June 21, 2013 at 9:29 am #

          Wow. That’s a whole new level of lying from a politician. He kind of reminds me of the guy who started Raelianism. Just really out there…

          I am personally surprised by how many people are abducted that aren’t very far up there in society. But this guy is a politician. Apparently they’re slowly figuring out who our leaders are… 😀

          • deecrowseer June 21, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

            Those Raelians sound fun! I wonder if I can start a local chapter…? 🙂

            • Loren Riley June 22, 2013 at 10:09 am #

              I think it’s illegal in some countries. So maybe check that out first… 😀

            • authortombaldwin June 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

              Abduction is not fun, at least for those abducted. This politician got off easy. Most abductee are anally probed! I fail to understand the aliens fascination with our naked bodies and especially our rear ends, but statics bare me out.

      • authortombaldwin June 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

        Just yesterday I watched “Contact” once more. It would have to be on my list of top ten SciFi movies ever. (Love how she never says she comes to believe in God, but starts to sound just like her cleric boyfriend. Anyway,) she travels across the galaxy by wormhole. Might not a black hole be the entrance to a wormhole.

        • authortombaldwin June 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

          Your program needs help, The above comment starting “Just yesterday” was written as a reply to your comment starting “Ha ha.” yet see where it ended up. Naughty naughty program.

        • Loren Riley June 22, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

          Contact is my favorite movie of all time (which I think you already know). I don’t think she ever does, but she realizes that she’s had an experience she can’t verify, and that changes her. I will say though, if every cleric looked like that, I think there would be approximately zero atheists… I’d go (whatever he was) for 90s Matthew McConaughey… 😀

          And maybe she doesn’t actually physically go anywhere, just her consciousness. They did say virtually no time had passed…

          • authortombaldwin June 22, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

            I knew you liked “Contact” but #1? I don’t think I knew that. It really is very good, isn’t it?. Carl Sagan was agnostic and I think his heroine was too by the end of the movie. She’s not and can’t be absolutely sure of what happened to her, but she thinks it happened. Which, of course, it did. And more than just her consciousness went to wherever. Don’t forget her headset, which she wore the entire time recorded static. It didn’t record nothing, it recorded static which is something. So it went too.

            • Loren Riley June 23, 2013 at 12:21 am #

              Yes. No. 1! That is true – I forgot about the headset. 🙂

  5. deecrowseer June 19, 2013 at 12:41 am #

    Knowing next-to-nothing about astronomy, this video is definitely more on my level… informative, accessible and straight-up adorable! “Your spaceship’s not special!!!” Hee! 🙂

    Btw, have you seen the news about the Lego Mars Rover? Seemed like something you might get a kick out of…,0,1127339.story

    • Loren Riley June 19, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Thank you! I was honestly worried it might be a bit on the boring side, but I do get some questions a lot more than others.

      I hadn’t seen that – but it is awesome! Lego Rover! I’m going to get me one – oooh! We could build a giant one with regular legos… 😀

      • deecrowseer June 20, 2013 at 12:04 am #

        “Boring”!? Poppycock! That’s right, I said “Poppycock”!

        And, to paraphrase the great poet-philosopher Bender Rodriguez, “We’ll build our own Mars Rover… with blackjack… and hookers!”

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