M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Crap, I did it again

July 16, 2021
MThomas

Man, I did it again.

I forgot to post the next chapter of Bringer of Light.

Also the next one after that. And the one after that.

It’s been a very tiring summer so far.

(For starters, we STILL don’t have enough Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, doses are get wasted left and right as the elderly randomly cancel reservations and the bureaucratic pinheads in charge refuse to give them to others, and several students at my school went out drinking and guess what happened…)

I haven’t even posted any science news lately.

But I promise that I’ll make up for it. Soon.

In the meantime, here’s a neat little article about some wild theories of the universe, starting with the Brane Universe and the Big Splat.

Yeah. I thought you might like that one.

https://www.livescience.com/strange-theories-about-the-universe.html?utm_campaign=socialflow

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 😉.

Squids…In…Space….!

June 6, 2021
MThomas

OK, yeah, squid doesn’t have a plural, but come on, can’t you just hear “Miss Squiddy”? 🦑 (Reference lost on younger viewers.)

The 128 baby bobtail squid will be used as part of research into the effects of spaceflight on beneficial interactions between microbes and animals.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57339989

So why use squid instead of dogs, chimps, or other mammals?

The squid have an immune system which is similar to that of humans.

Ah.

And their distinct lack of a spine makes them similar to most politicians, too. Very helpful for finding out what might happen if we decide to…

Nah.

Automated killer machines? Here already, but not what you think

June 5, 2021
MThomas

Diving into the topic doesn’t reveal that the world quietly experienced the opening salvos of the Terminator timeline in 2020. But it does point to a more prosaic and perhaps much more depressing truth: that no one can agree on what a killer robot is, and if we wait for this to happen, their presence in war will have long been normalized. It’s cheery stuff, isn’t it? It’ll take your mind off the global pandemic at least.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/6/3/22462840/killer-robot-autonomous-drone-attack-libya-un-report-context

Actually, the truly scary “killer robots” would be much less like Terminator and more like the self-replicating ones in PDK’s “Second Variety” (or Screamers for those who haven’t read the original short…my recommendation? forget the B movie, read the story).

But there are already plenty of “semi-automated” machines that kill. It’s relatively easy to program a device to wait until someone approaches, and then shoot/radiate/explode. Strictly speaking, even basic landmines fit this definition.

What would help is the media stopping sensationalistic yellow journalism that throws around fear-mongering hyped-up headlines to sell copy.

Yeah, right. Like that’ll happen any time soon.

Machines killing without a human operator? Already here.

Machines seeking out and killing humans without pre-programmed responses and of their own accord?

We’re a long way away from that.

For now.

Maybe we just need to take away their control stones…

Who wants an extra thumb?

May 20, 2021
MThomas

As the training progressed, the participants changed the way they used the device, which resulted in new finger coordination patterns. This was recorded in their hand movements as well as in their brains.

https://gizmodo.com/like-a-part-of-their-body-people-adapt-to-an-extra-thu-1846926329

The only problem with the design is that you have to control it with your foot. Not ideal if you’re walking!

Not to worry. That’s the next step. Er, stage.

“Wright Brothers’ moment” – helicopters on Mars

April 19, 2021
MThomas

“We together flew on Mars. We together have our Wright brothers moment.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/04/19/nasa-ingenuity-helicopter-mars/

Yeah, yeah, I know. Technically, a German immigrant in Connecticut flew a plane before Orville and Wilbur.

But PR counts. Kudos, NASA!

Frogs embryos turned into xenobots

April 12, 2021
MThomas

Oh you precious little life forms…

Using blobs of skin cells from frog embryos, scientists have grown creatures unlike anything else on Earth, a new study reports. These microscopic “living machines” can swim, sweep up debris and heal themselves after a gash.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/frog-skin-cells-self-made-living-machines-xenobots/amp?__twitter_impression=true

The possibilities are endless…

Warp drive is no longer science fiction

March 2, 2021
MThomas

“Many people in the field of science are aware of the Alcubierre Drive and believe that warp drives are unphysical because of the need for negative energy,” said Alexey Bobrick, scientist and astrophysicist at Lund University, according to a press release. “This, however, is no longer correct.”

https://interestingengineering.com/warp-drive-not-science-fiction-faster-than-light-travel?fbclid=IwAR2v4FPzkA90L_yPIZVt3zfY3-jnA0jqvwOgJmHFNdsxlxDxcUJLF8Bg6Gg

There can be only response to this news…

Sorry, there’s no “Planet X”

February 16, 2021
MThomas

This doesn’t exist, but it’s a cool drawing.

Critics of the Planet Nine claim said the apparent clustering of the discovered TNOs might only be because that’s where telescopes were looking or were most sensitive.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/claim-giant-planet-nine-solar-systems-edge-takes-hit

If you are looking to find evidence to prove your theory, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for.

You should instead try to find evidence to disprove your theory, and then ask at least two more people you don’t know (or even better, generally disagree with) to try to find evidence to support your theory.

“Seek and ye shall find” is a terrible way to support a claim. Have the courage to challenge your beliefs.

Also, it’s Planet X, not 9. Pluto is a planet. So there, Neil deGrasse Tyson. :-p

Far Beyond the Stars — 1953, 1998, 2021

February 9, 2021
MThomas

The Dreamer…and the Dream

On February 9, 1998, Star Trek Deep Space 9 broadcast one of the most important episodes in the entire history of the franchise.

And what it said about society back in 1953 was just as relevant as for 1998. And perhaps even more important for 2021.

Others have written more eloquently about the plot line, the characterizations, the background, the actors (Avery Brooks directed himself, and his performance should have earned him an Emmy). So I’ll just link to:

Memory Alpha Wiki

Avery Brook’s “proudest moments” interview

DS9 Season 6 Extras – the actors speak (Armin Shimerman calls it “perfect science fiction”)

The Movie Blog

Star Trek Official Website: Remembering “Far Beyond the Stars”

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