Science in America — Neil deGrasse Tyson

April 20, 2017

A very powerful video that speaks for itself.

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Robots, not immigrants, are taking American jobs

April 3, 2017

From the article:

On some not-too-distant day, it will become clear that our civilization has become so reliant on highly efficient, wondrously intelligent machinery that we simply do not need that many people to work in traditional jobs. There will be plenty of wealth to go around, but not that much work. Unless we want millions to starve or go homeless or riot in the streets, our society will need to guarantee a minimum income for everyone by letting all citizens share in the vast wealth created by robot labor.

Robots, not immigrants, are taking American jobs


De-Extinction: AMNH 2017 Asimov Debate – NdGT Moderator

April 1, 2017

Watch the 2017 Asimov Debate from the American Museum of Natural History. It was a great one. I did not expect the answer to the question of whether we can do this. No spoiler from me. Settle down for a couple of hours with a good drink for this one.

This debate discusses a wide variety of issues, including genetically modified organisms, agriculture, environmentalism, extinction, quality of DNA from preserved extinct animals, morality, animal welfare, legal issues, etc.

For a sample, just consider the question, if we brought back a mammoth (or mammophant) from extinction, is it automatically an endangered species? What is its “natural range”? What are its natural habitat and food? Is it moral to bring back a species adapted to the arctic in an age of climate change?

P.S. Neil is a bit out of his element on this first Asimov Debate that is NOT related to cosmology, astronomy, or astrophysics in any way. But, as he points out Isaac Asimov wrote about a variety of sciences, some of which did not even really exist at the time he wrote about them, such as robotics. So, de-extinction is perfectly within lines to honor the late Isaac Asimov who spent many hours at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Enjoy.


Why I Know There Are No Gods

March 22, 2017

Background:

Formally, I classify myself as a gnostic atheist, meaning I know there are no gods. Most atheists (from what I read online) appear to be agnostic atheists, people who are without gods but who do not claim to know there are no gods. Some people who fit this description simply call themselves agnostic. But, on formal forums, like reddit’s atheism subreddit, all who are without gods are atheists and agnostic or gnostic is a statement of whether they know or have doubt. Similarly, they allow for agnostic theists, those who believe in god(s) but have some doubt.

Regarding knowledge:

In no other area of discussion do we expect certainty or proof when we speak of knowledge. Nearly all knowledge, outside of mathematics, is empirical knowledge, gained by empirical evidence.

Empirical evidence, also known as sensory experience, is the knowledge received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ἐμπειρία (empeiría).

After Immanuel Kant, in philosophy, it is common to call the knowledge gained a posteriori knowledge (in contrast to a priori knowledge).

This is the type of knowledge we use when we say that we know that if we drop a ball on the surface of the earth, it will fall. I don’t hear a whole lot of people telling me, you can’t claim to know that because you can’t prove it. But, indeed we cannot. We know the ball will fall because it has done so the last gazillion times we performed the experiment.

For some reason, most people expect that if you say that you know there are no gods, that this one case of knowledge requires certainty. We do not require certainty from any other type of knowledge. Why do we demand certainty to state knowledge only when we are discussing knowledge of the existence or non-existence of gods?

Why this one?

Nowhere in the definition of knowledge does it ever specify that we must have 100% certainty.

So, when I say I know there are no gods, I mean it the same way that I know the ball will drop or that I know the planet on which we live will continue to rotate through the night causing the appearance of a sunrise in the morning, even if it is blocked by clouds. Night will become day as the earth rotates. I know it. You know it. We cannot prove it to 100% certainty. We only know that it has always done so before.

Classifying gods:

To begin our discussion, we have to classify gods. This way we can address different claims of gods individually.

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My Nightmare: What if it’s true that no one respects women more than Trump?

October 21, 2016

At the last debate, Donal Trump again reiterated that no one has more respect for women than he does. That got me thinking, unfortunately.

If all men had the same level of respect for women as Donald J. Drumpf, what kind of a world would we live in? Worse, what if some women had so little self-respect that they voted for someone who cared as little for women as Donald Trump?

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Remembering 9/11, with a twist

September 11, 2016

On this day 15 years ago, the United States experienced the largest terror attack in our history. It is a day that we will long remember. My heart goes out to the families of the victims.

On this day, I would also like for us to remember that Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the attack was of the house of Saud. 16 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. In response to our attack by Saudis, we attacked Iraq in what is now considered to be an enormous blunder of epic proportions.

We still treat Saudi Arabia as a friendly nation in that region. I don’t know why. We still talk about selling arms to Saudi Arabia. I don’t know why. We still buy oil from Saudi Arabia. I don’t know why.

Further, if we assume that every 3,000 lives lost prematurely is “one 9/11” then we have ten 9/11s on our highways every year. We have another ten 9/11s every year as a result of lax gun laws and a nationwide obsession with the damn things (should we consider the NRA a terrorist organization? perhaps). We have sixty-five 9/11s every year as a result of air pollution which we might have reduced tremendously if we took action on climate change (is ExxonMobil a terrorist organization? perhaps).

So, will we do anything for safer roads, stricter gun regulations, and strong regulation of pollution to actually prevent some or all of these 9/11s going forward?

I am not hopeful.

I grieve not only for the 3,000 victims 15 years ago, but also for the 3.9 million lives lost prematurely just from these causes and from many other causes as well since then. And, I grieve for the 260,000 we will lose in 2016.

Perhaps I should subtract out the highway deaths? We do, last I heard, have the safest roads in the world. Maybe we are already doing as much as we can about that. But, the other 230,000 every year can certainly be reduced by at least several 9/11s, if we were to pretend to care.


NPR: Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?

August 23, 2016

I’m glad to see this question becoming more public. Though it seems to still be considered radical. It is one of many factors that went into my (and my wife’s) decision not to have children decades ago.

Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?

P.S. I should really correct my statement above. Neither I nor my wife ever really wanted children. But, while we were still of breeding age and before my vasectomy, when we’d hear a wailing infant, we’d make comments like “Reason number 837 not to have kids.” But, we’d also make comments on hearing about overpopulation or some environmental crisis, especially climate change and ocean acidification, like “won’t be our kids dealing with this.” Actually, we still make such comments.