27 March 2013

"Fighting Ships: 1750-1850" by Sam Willis

A good overview of the use, battling and development of naval vessel from around the world.

Interesting tidbit: Original night telescopes showed the image upside-down because the extra lens needed to flip the image would degrade the image too much.

26 March 2013

Mark Earls and Alex Bentley: I'll Have What She's Having: Mapping social behaviour

Remarkably, humans generally spend their lifetimes mimicking others. Even when we are adults and think that we are making our own "big" choices when we are still generally following social cues.

I'll Have What She's Having: Mapping social behaviour (RSA)

21 March 2013

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

Cain challenges us to respect the power of introverts instead of expecting or worse, pushing, them to be extroverts.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

19 March 2013

The Epic of Gilgamesh

I was recently watching some old Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes and watched a highly acclaimed (though not particularly liked by me) episode called "Darmok". In this episode, Darmok (the alien) is trying to teach Picard how to converse. Darmok's people use stories to communicate everything which makes it very difficult for Picard to understand because the stories mean nothing to him. To overcome this, they tell each other cultural stories:

I used to hate this episode... then Picard mentioned Gilgamesh. Then I read several versions of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Then I decided that this episode was alright.

15 March 2013

Thoughts on dinosaurs

Do you remember that part in Jurassic Park when the little boy is teasing Dr. Grant about his book not being very thick? Then the doctor's wife chimes in, "Yours was fully illustrated." I love illustrated books (mostly anyway, some things should just be left to the imagination). Especially if they are about something really cool like dinosaurs.

I guess I am still on a dinosaur kick. I have two more thoughts on the subject.

One should always catch on dinosaur reading before trying to answer questions about them. A lot has changed in the past decade alone. Things that used to be considered "wild speculation" about them are now taught as fact. Brontosaur and apatosaurus are the same thing... Birds are dinosaurs... Dinosaurs were killed by a meteor... We know some of their colors...

Second, I am still not sure which is more terrifying:
The giant velociraptors that Jurassic Park wrongly depicts (Based of the size, I think they were actually showing deinonychus:
4-5 foot tall deinonychus
2-3 foot tall velociraptor

but who I am to question Steven Spielberg. Graphics from Wikipedia.org)

Or... that velociraptors were covered in feathers, vastly improving their jumping capabilities.

13 March 2013

"The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs" by Dougal Dixon

Dixon's book is a very tastefully illustrated and fairly modern book about dinosaurs.

Interesting tidbit: T-Rex had long arms compared to many of its cousins.

08 March 2013

"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" by Gregory S Paul

Dinosauria is such a fascinating subject. This book opens with a rather in-depth overview of what we know (and what we are guessing) about dinosaurs and attempts to catalog most of the better know dinosaurs.

Interesting tidbit: We have actual preserved impressions of dinosaur skin (in "mummified" samples). In some case, we even know what colors it was.

07 March 2013

02 March 2013

A Muse on Whales

Whales weep not, neither do they sorrow. For they, more so than any other creature, know of nothing to cause either. They are born in the midst of their very womb, a womb they will only leave for mere moments as they leap out of the water into the infinite sky above.

Whales worry not, neither do they fret. For they, more so than any other creature, know that the earth, their true mother, will always provide for their every need. So, they are left to ponder their existence. Not in the same lowly way as a man, but from all, to all, for all.

Whales cry not, neither do they shed any tears. For they, more so than any other creature, know only of being surrounded by joy. Their greatest joys are shown in their bounding out of the ocean's soothing embrace and in the songs they sing from the ocean glades.

01 March 2013

"When Life Nearly Died" by Michael J Benton

Benton does a fantastic job detailing the evolution of geology, paleontology and other related sciences over the past couple of centuries. The author actually details the two largest mass extinctions, though he gives extra coverage to the larger of the two (which is the namesake of the book).

Interesting tidbit: most of our knowledge of these past two (of the five great extinction) has been put together over the past two decades. Sometimes I think that everything we know about the 'dinosaurs' we have known forever, but no, it is common for us to have only recently figured it out.