This is the greatest climate change debate of all time

Not content with standard American “balanced” coverage of climate change, as if there were a real debate, John Oliver made the score far more believable on his new show last night (Last Week Tonight). So much of conventional coverage is one skeptic/denier vs. one believer, making it look like there’s actually two sides. Instead, Oliver set up 97 scientists (including Bill Nye the Science Guy himself, because of course) against 3 deniers, a ratio with its origins in a famous study highlighting that 97% of papers published show that the climate is changing and that it is, indeed, because of human activity.


Smart Dolphins

Cool interview in NYT the other day with Diana Reiss, psychology professor/dolphin researcher.  This anecdote kind of floored me:

Let me tell you a story. One of the first dolphins I ever worked with was Circe. I’d bring her a fish when I wanted her to do certain things. If she didn’t do them, I did a “time-out” where I turned my back and walked away. Well, there was a certain type of fish that Circe loathed because it had a spiny tail. So I accommodated her by cutting the spines off of the tail. One day, I forgot to do that. Circe spit it out, swam to the other side of the pool and placed herself into a vertical position that mimicked my time-out. I wanted to test this. I gave her untrimmed fish on four different days. Whenever I gave her fish with spiny tails, she gave me a time-out. What that suggested was that she saw time out as a correction and used it back on me. Well, that’s how we learn to communicate.

I love the image of the dolphin, fins crossed over its chest, freezing out Reiss because she’s pissed about being fed the wrong fish.  Just the latest proof that Douglas Adams was right about dolphins’ smarts…

man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much–the wheel, New York, wars and so on–while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man–for precisely the same reasons.


 (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Juggalos: How do magnets work?

Jonah Weiner at Slate, for some reason, brings us a review of the new Insane Clown Posse video “Miracles.” It’s a rather grand review, comparing this particular posse of clowns to a rap-rock Wordsworth “dropping f-bombs aplenty in praise of the natural sublime,” for example.

The song is a catalog of whoa-dude epiphanies, the sort that teenagers in movies enjoy while lying on the hoods of subcompacts, passing joints, and gazing up at the stars. Wide-eyed and wondrous, rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope hail a variety of phenomena that will “blow your brain,” from “the Milky Way and fucking shooting stars” to “long-necked giraffes” to “fucking rainbows.” One especially quotable line, courtesy of Shaggy, suggests a profane David Macaulay: “Fucking magnets, how do they work?” The rhymes are children’s-song simple, but the music swirls with portent: A synthesizer plays a flickering, ascending melody, and the song climaxes with a cathartic electric guitar solo. There are awed shout-outs to pets, sound waves, and for some reason, to a pelican that once tried to eat Violent J’s cell phone. The video, a four-minute parade of not-inexpensive-looking computer animation, illustrates nearly every “miracle” mentioned. (Emphasis mine.)

I would respond that “electromagnetic force,” one of the fundamental four interactions in nature, is responsible for how magnets work, but, it seems that the Insane Clown Posse is, er, averse to science:

“I don’t wanna talk to a scientist,” Shaggy raps after his magnet stumper. “Y’all motherfuckers lying and getting me pissed!”

Huh. Oh well. Guess they have something in common with flat-earthers, creationists and global-warming deniers. The rest of the review is basically an ode to Juggalos, and their heroes, the Insane Clown Posse. In any case, I recommend we start teaching physics to Juggalos. It might help. At the intersection of “music” and science lies understanding.