Higher Order Aberrations

Because the world is an interesting place.

The Physics of Gridlock

Even when American traffic engineers have ventured closer to rocket science, with computer simulations of traffic flow on multi-lane highways, the results have tended to reinforce the American reputation for practicality and level-headedness. The mathematical and computer models indicate that when traffic jams occur, they are the result of bottlenecks (merging lanes, bad curves, accidents), which constrict flow. Find a way to eliminate the bottlenecks and flow will be restored.

SUCH was the happy, practical, and deterministic state of affairs up until a few years ago, when several German theoretical physicists began publishing papers on traffic flow in Physical Review Letters, Journal of Physics, Nature, and other publications not normally read by civil engineers.

Some thoughts on the police

I figure that if a cop has to fire a gun—justified or not—there have been a whole lot of societal, personal, and institutional failures to get to that point. We should never view it as unavoidable, even when it was the right thing to do.

jtotheizzoe:

Beautiful, huh?
Chances are better than slim that this picture has popped up on your Tumblr dashboard (or elsewhere) during your recent internet wanderings. All that strange and beautiful life, present in just a single drop of seawater! A microscopic bestiary overflowing with life’s smallest oddities! Isn’t it amazing?
Just one problem: It’s not true. 
This is certainly a collection of zooplankton (what we call non-photosynthetic plankton species), but it’s absolutely not from a single drop of ocean. As Miriam Goldstein explains at Deep Sea News, it’s from a volume more like that of a swimming pool, captured and concentrated in a special net that scientists use to survey these microscopic species. Check the link to find out more about why and how scientists collect these beautiful samples!
So who cares? What’s the difference if it’s a drop or if it’s a swimming pool? The problem is that we’re missing out on some very cool truth by lazily inserting some very cool lies. We don’t need to lie about how amazing nature is. The ocean is (quite literally) full of amazing life. We can celebrate that without inventing a story, right? Because the real story, the one that uses a beautiful image to connect us to actual scientific research, is awesome in its own right.
Although this image has gone viral recently, I posted it five months ago, wrong information and all. I didn’t check to make sure that what I posted was true, and that was my bad. I should do better. We all should. 

jtotheizzoe:

Beautiful, huh?

Chances are better than slim that this picture has popped up on your Tumblr dashboard (or elsewhere) during your recent internet wanderings. All that strange and beautiful life, present in just a single drop of seawater! A microscopic bestiary overflowing with life’s smallest oddities! Isn’t it amazing?

Just one problem: It’s not true. 

This is certainly a collection of zooplankton (what we call non-photosynthetic plankton species), but it’s absolutely not from a single drop of ocean. As Miriam Goldstein explains at Deep Sea News, it’s from a volume more like that of a swimming pool, captured and concentrated in a special net that scientists use to survey these microscopic species. Check the link to find out more about why and how scientists collect these beautiful samples!

So who cares? What’s the difference if it’s a drop or if it’s a swimming pool? The problem is that we’re missing out on some very cool truth by lazily inserting some very cool lies. We don’t need to lie about how amazing nature is. The ocean is (quite literally) full of amazing life. We can celebrate that without inventing a story, right? Because the real story, the one that uses a beautiful image to connect us to actual scientific research, is awesome in its own right.

Although this image has gone viral recently, I posted it five months ago, wrong information and all. I didn’t check to make sure that what I posted was true, and that was my bad. I should do better. We all should. 

Scientists have odious manners, except when you prop up their theory; then you can borrow money of them.

—Mark Twain, “As Concerns Interpreting the Deity”

Quotes for Today

"Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.” - Gustavo Flaubert

"If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.” -Dostoevsky

"Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation." -Aristotle