M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Think small

December 3, 2022
MThomas

On Tuesday as I was walking back from work, much later than usual, my shoes were bothering me.

They felt stretched, loose, especially irritating on a rainy day.

I had spent too much time polishing them, I thought.

Too much effort making them “waterproof.”

Too much money on these damn useless things.

I resolved to throw them away and get a new pair.

But of course it would take time, and money, and effort to go get them.

Damn shoes. I would have to rearrange my entire week because of you.

The next morning, as I put my shoes on, I realized that the laces were loose.

So I re-tied them, and instantly they felt better.

Sometimes, when a small, insignificant problem arises, there is a simple fix.

Think small.

FB censorship, here we go again…

May 8, 2022
MThomas

Right. So I quit Facebrat a couple years ago after I got fed up with the self-righteous, arrogant attitude of its founder Mark Zuckerberg and its blatant stealing and selling of personal information of its users.

And also because I was wasting hours and hours each week reading meaningless Facebark posts on my smartphone (so I deleted the app, which I strongly recommend you all do to prevent the company from tracking your location, then selling that info to the spam industry…although you’re probably going to be tracked via BlueTooth anyway if you keep it on).

But after my mother passed away, and while I was still away from family, friends, and colleagues and living in Montréal, I couldn’t take the isolation.

And also a teacher’s group based at the McGill University (William Shatner’s alma mater!) named BILD asked me to join a FB Group.

So I rejoined and vowed to avoid posting anything about religion and politics, and to focus on the things that matter – food, family, and occasional humorous events.

Until I foolishly wrote a casual comment on my brother’s post:

Continue Reading

No, Leonardo has no “descendants”

July 18, 2021
MThomas

The news spread quickly last week.

Fourteen people alive today in Italy can claim that they are descendants of Leonardo da Vinci, according to a study of the Renaissance genius’ family tree.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/fourteen-living-descendants-leonardo-da-vinci-are-identified-rcna1402

I won’t bother posting the other two to three dozen “news” about it, since they all pretty much copy each other without doing much (or any) actual journalistic research.

Nor do they use common sense.

In the paragraph following the one quoted above, this sentence appears:

Researchers traced da Vinci’s genealogy over nearly 700 years and 21 generations, from 1331 to the present day, beginning with da Vinci’s great-great-great grandfather Michele.

OK. So this is family genealogy, not just Leonardo, right?

That would explain why so many people were found. But they’re his relatives, not descendants.

Da Vinci, best known for painting “The Last Supper” and “The Mona Lisa,” had no children, but his blood relatives include 22 half siblings.

If he had no children (which is true), then he has no descendants.

Simple.

Yet another case of media happily exaggerating studies they don’t understand but are eager to exploit.

Also, Leonardo always signed his name “Leonardo di Ser Piero” or “di Piero.” Vinci is a small town near where he was born. (People at that time period in Europe didn’t have surnames in the modern sense.) So saying the research is about the “da Vinci family” makes little sense. Nor does the idea that “genius” runs in families. The famous Edison dictum applies here.

I’m also fairly certain Leonardo had 12, and not “22,” half-siblings. Ser Piero was a bit indiscrete but not that indiscrete. He was a notary, not a king.

mRNA and nanotech? Stay skeptical and use the Baloney Detection Kit!

June 25, 2021
MThomas

It’s becoming increasingly common to see social media posts claiming that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, which include those made by Pfizer and Moderna, could alter a person’s DNA. Some posts even suggest that nano-machines are being injected into the body.

https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/covid/technically-no-longer-human-can-mrna-covid-19-vaccines-meld-with-your-dna/

Yeah, I’ve seen some of these posts. Talked to a neighbor who was convinced Bill Gates was trying to inject us all with a chip to control our minds.

Is there any truth to these rumours? Could an mRNA vaccine be modifying your DNA?

No.

(Read the linked Cosmos article for more details!)

Actually, all you need to do is use logic and reasoning, apply some critical thinking, and demand lots of science-based evidence.

It’s called the Baloney Detection Kit and was introduced in a Cornell University undergraduate course about critical thinking and the scientific method by astrophysicist Carl Sagan.

In his book The Demon-haunted World, he lays out nine steps to bust BS and call out unscientific baloney. I use it with my second year undergrad students in a current news and global issues course.

The link above to the kit also outlines some of the most important logical fallacies to avoid, with number 8 and 9 being the most difficult to explain and convince people about (because they involve education about basic statistics).

So will this convince anti-vaxxers who make outlandish claims online?

Probably not. Unless it goes viral 😉.

Sorry, Venus is just a lot of gas

February 4, 2021
MThomas

There’s a reason I didn’t post a while ago about the supposed “there’s life in the clouds of Venus” finding.

It was just a big load of gas.

Sorry, folks. Venus is a big rotten egg. 🥚

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/signs-life-venus-might-just-be-ordinary-sulfur-gas-n1256739

No, it’s not actually an iPhone. Yes, please stop the sloppy reporting, thanks

January 9, 2020
MThomas

AncientIPhone

This is already a few months old, but I thought I’d finally get around to blogging about it: The “ancient iPhone” of “Russia’s Atlantis.”

Spoiler alert: it’s not one, and there was no such place. But that didn’t stop the “news” from spreading. Continue Reading

ESA and NASA? Airbus? Still not ready? 🤦‍♂️

December 6, 2019
MThomas

Right now, engineers have got a dummy rover practising the business of retrieving packaged rock samples. And, yes, the stand-ins really are whiteboard markers.

Yay! Whiteboard markers. Um. OK.

But different agencies and companies are finally working together?

Great!

Wait. What’s the catch?

It is, though, going to take more than a decade to achieve.

Sigh.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50663278

No, the “golden asteroid” will NOT make you rich

June 27, 2019
MThomas

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I wrote about this a couple of days ago (based on an article from two weeks prior), but it’s interesting to see random websites suddenly jumping on the “we’ll all get rich!” asteroid mining band wagon. Hey, everybody, let’s copy-paste stuff and not use our brains!

A new article by rt.com even includes two click-bait links to “how gold was formed” that have nothing whatsoever to do with NASA’s probe to (16) Psyche. Of course, we shouldn’t expect any less from an obvious Russian “news” distributor. But in the interests of calling out the bad reporting in this and similar “news” articles spread online recently, let’s give this a hearty smack-down.

Continue Reading

Aliens are among us! Um, apparently…

April 30, 2019
MThomas

oxford-invisible-aliens-breeding-humans-1200x630

Still, the fact that someone as highly educated as Chi wrote an entire book based on salvation by extraterrestrials could be a sign of how daunting our future is starting to look.

Or, conversely, how wack some Oxford dons really are…

https://futurism.com/the-byte/oxford-invisible-aliens-breeding-humans?fbclid=IwAR16jgOZNhpe6Q4tQrjDD7myYRF7vhC3ZJhf15GoPxrYPbMDxMF7fH5Xz2o

The Stainless Steel Musk Strikes Again!

January 23, 2019
MThomas

He described the concept as a “stainless-steel sandwich” that can “bleed water…fuel” through tiny holes on its surface to keep it cool as it enters the Martian atmosphere at breakneck speeds.

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 2.17.40 pm

Not sure, but I don’t think there are a lot of people who want to travel to Mars inside a sandwich…

www.inverse.com/article/52605-starship-spacex-elon-musk-stainless-steel

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