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Last update: 2007-09-12

GC061 So long, and thanks for all the fish...

2007-09-12 :: Lorne Ipsum



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GC060 Climate Change Impacts

2007-06-02 :: Lorne Ipsum

Now that we've gone through the science behind climate change, and knocked down most of the kooks surrounding the issue, it's time to talk about what we're up against. In this episode, I spend a bit under 30 minutes laying out the most likely future impacts of climate change -- and while I wouldn't call it a catastrophe, things don't look too pretty. Since this is the eighth episode in a series, I'd recommend that before listening to this episode, you first listen to episodes 45, 47, 54, 56, 57, 58, and 59.…


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GC059 Climate Change Proponents

2007-05-13 :: Lorne Ipsum

Since the opponents of the climate change consensus have had their turn, now it's time to give the supporters of the consensus a little working over. Since this is the seventh episode in a series, I'd recommend that before listening to this episode, you first listen to episodes 45, 47, 54, 56, 57, and 58.…


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GC058 Swindled!

2007-03-24 :: Lorne Ipsum

A couple of Geek Counterpoint listeners (thanks, Travis and Bill!) pointed me to a show recently aired on BBC channel 4 called "The Great Global Warming Swindle." It purports to be a documentary, and is uniformly critical of the science behind climate change and the global warming concensus. It's generated a lot of heat both in British papers and online, and has been accused of playing fast and loose with the truth. Since video of the show is available online on both YouTube and Google video, and it rehashes arguments often made by climate change skeptics, I thought it would be a good topic for an episode. So this week's episode is my overview of the show, a discussion of how it's put together, and a little background on people appearing in (or quoted by) the show. See the blog post for this episode for a minute-by-minute commentary on the show.…


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GC057 Climate Change: the Skeptics (part 3)

2007-03-12 :: Lorne Ipsum

Now that we've simplified things by covering the more common arguments made by climate change skeptics, this episode is devoted to discussing some specific climate change skeptics and their arguments. Since this is the fifth episode in a series, I'd recommend that before listening to this episode, you first listen to episodes 45, 47, 54, and 56. In the next climate episode, it'll be time for some climate change proponents' turn in the barrel.…


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GC056 Climate Change: the Skeptics (part 2)

2007-02-21 :: Lorne Ipsum

A continuation of episode 54's treatment of general points used by climate change skeptics. Since this is the fourth episode in a series, I'd recommend that before listening to this episode, you first listen to episodes 45, 47, and 54.…


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GC055 Space Weapons

2007-02-10 :: Lorne Ipsum

When the Chinese government demolished one of its aging weather satellites a few weeks ago, they did more than just test out a potentially useful technology. They also cluttered up low Earth orbit with a huge amount of debris, and stirred up a comparable amount of controversy in the press. While nobody is yet quite sure what the motivation behind the test was (to send a message to the White House? to start discussions on a new space treaty?), there's been no shortage of speculation on the subject. What hasn't received much attention is the history of this technology. So this episode is all about the history of efforts to militarize space. …


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GC054 Climate Change: the Skeptics (part 1)

2007-01-22 :: Lorne Ipsum

It's taken some time to do a reasonable level of fact checking, but my climate cats have now been successfully herded, so it's (finally!) time for another climate change episode. Since (at least in the media) the discussion over climate change has been boiled down to two "sides," I'll start with the case made by various parties skeptical of the mainstream view. Mind you, as in any argument, a given position is held by a variety of parties -- some sincere and rational, some sincere and irrational, some merely misinformed, and some with nefarious motives. Since all of these approaches tend to get equal time in the mass media, I'll try to cover as many of them as possible in this episode and a few to follow. In this episode, I'll briefly discuss the history of climate change science, then start looking at some general arguments used by a variety of parties against the theory of global climate change. Subsequent episodes over the next few weeks will look at additional general arguments against climate change, then discuss some specific climate change skeptics and their arguments. Since this is the third episode in a series, I'd recommend that before listening to this episode, you first listen to episodes 45 and 47.…


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GC053 Sergey Korolyov

2007-01-12 :: Lorne Ipsum

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of a giant of space exploration -- Sergey Korolyov (sometimes also transliterated as Sergei Korolev). For much of the 20th century, Korolyov was the prime driving factor behind the Soviet space program. He led the efforts to launch Sputnik, put Yuri Gagarin into orbit, and hold up the USSR's end of the race to the moon. Yet during Korolyov's life, even his existence was a Soviet state secret -- he was only ever publicly referred to as the "Chief Designer." After his death, he finally received some recognition for his accomplishments, yet many parts of Korolyov's life and work were more rumor than fact until after the collapse of the USSR. Tune in this week, and you'll learn more about the impressive contributions made by a man who, until recently, was almost unheard of.…


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GC052 Antikythera Mechanism

2007-01-04 :: Lorne Ipsum

Sure, it's not much to look at -- but this humble lump of corroded bronze completely demolished our previous understanding of the history of mechanical inventions. The Antikythera Mechanism was built late in the 2nd century BC, and is the earliest example ever found of a geared mechanism, but represents a level of mechanical technology not seen again for nearly 2000 years!…


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GC051 Stardust Preliminary Results

2006-12-21 :: Lorne Ipsum

Yes, I know -- I just talked about Stardust in episode 50. But in the meantime, the first batch of preliminary science papers was released on the 15th of December in the journal Science. There's a full set of material available (currently, at least, freely available) on the Science website, but many folks could probably use a bit of help in interpreting the news, and putting it into some sort of context. Tune in this week, and I'll try to explain it all to you. If you're new to the podcast, I'd recommend you listen to episodes 16, 17, and 37 before this one.…


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GC050 News Grab Bag #5

2006-12-08 :: Lorne Ipsum

Yes, it's time for another "grab bag" episode to get everybody caught up on recent and semi-recent developments in topics I've covered in past episodes. This week's fodder includes updates on the following subjects: Mars -- see episode 41 (September 2006) Asteroids and comets and dinosaurs -- see episodes 16, 17 (January 2006), and 24 (April 2006) RFID -- see episode 13 (January 2006) "Intelligent Design" -- see episodes 4 (October 2005), 11 (December 2005), 40 (September 2006)…


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GC049 Reactionless Drives

2006-11-29 :: Lorne Ipsum

It's the holy grail of flight -- propulsion without the expenditure of reaction mass. A practical reactionless drive system would render wheeled vehicles (flying cars, anyone?), aircraft with wings, and rockets as we know them obsolete. But is it real? Can it ever be real? This episode covers the history of attempts at reactionless drives, and some recent news on a related controversy that "New Scientist" magazine unwittingly stirred up. In a first for this podcast, this episode has been researched and presented by a Geek Counterpoint listener -- Jason, from Brisbane, Australia. Let's all give Jason a warm welcome, and listen in as he gets us up to speed on this technology that lies somewhere between science and science fiction.…


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GC048 A Tale of Two Caves...

2006-11-21 :: Lorne Ipsum

I talked at length about the Neanderthals just a few months ago, and then as often seems to happen, a bunch of new Neanderthal news popped up shortly afterwards. Listen in this week, and you'll get caught up with some really interesting recent discoveries on our beetle-browed friends (and relatives?). Before you listen to this episode, I'd recommend you listen to the episodes on Piltdown (#9, 12/2005), Flores Man (#15, 1/2006), and the original Neanderthal episode (#36, 8/2006) first. …


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GC047 Climate Change and Logical Fallacies

2006-11-13 :: Lorne Ipsum

This episode, the second in a series on climate change, is intended to give everybody a little background in logical fallacies. In particular, a number of logical fallacies seem to be particularly prone to use in news reports, political debates, and various pundits' writings on climate change -- so this episode will cover my own "top 10" list of climate change fallacies. With both episode 45 and then this episode under our belt, we'll be ready to start putting all sorts of climate-related arguments to the test. Oh, and you get a promo too -- for a science fiction serial drama called Silent Universe.…


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GC046 Flying Aircraft Carriers

2006-11-01 :: Lorne Ipsum

A few weeks ago, researchers finished the first exhaustive study performed of the wreck of the USS Macon, a U.S. Navy airship. What's unique about this particular wreck is that the Macon isn't alone on its piece of ocean floor off the California coast -- it's debris also contains the wreckage of four fighter aircraft. The Macon was one of a handful of flying aircraft carriers to have been in operation over the years. In the process of doing some research on the Macon, I discovered that there's actually an interesting slice of technological history tied up in the varied approaches taken to flying aircraft carriers, so I thought it'd make a good podcast topic. Listen in this week, and you'll find out all about these odd and wonderful beasts!…


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GC045 Climate Change 101

2006-10-24 :: Lorne Ipsum

At least in the U.S. (and judging by material on the net, increasingly in Canada and Australia as well), debate about climate change long ago left the scientific arena, and entered the world of politics. As a result, if you're trying to figure out for yourself where the truth lies, you're confronted with a confusing mess of information -- some of it is scientific, but much of it is pure garbage packaged as science. In the interest of helping people sort out solid science from the deliberate misinformation (as well as from well-intentioned but poorly-informed material), I'm going to be doing a series of episodes on climate in general, and climate change in particular. This episode is the first in that series, and is intended to give everybody a very quick background in some terminology and concepts involved in climate science. In upcoming weeks, I'll be lining up all the arguments I can find on all sides of the climate change argument, then essentially throwing bricks at them all. The idea is to subject all arguments to a scientific "acid test," then once the arguments are reduced to a subset with a reasonably sound scientific basis, we'll see what the "surviving" data has to tell us. …


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GC044 The 2006 U.S. National Space Policy document

2006-10-14 :: Lorne Ipsum

A few days ago, the White House released an update to the United States' "National Space Policy" document. In a sense, an update is overdue as this document hasn't been tweaked since 1996, when Clinton was president. It's release got a number of folks spun up, labeling the document agressive and unilateral. Some commentators got even more excited, bringing North Korea into their commentary, and talking about the militarization of space, Orwell's 1984, the war in Iraq, and even stories of allegedly faulty body armor. Since there seems to be a dearth of solid analysis online, I thought this would be a good time to give the document a good scrub, compare it to the 1996 version of the policy document, and see what's really changed.…


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GC043 Social Darwinism and Eugenics

2006-10-07 :: Lorne Ipsum

So-called social "Darwinism" and eugenics are two intertwined topics that always seem to come up whenever somebody wants to insult, or at least disparage, the scientific community in general. Realistically, though, neither one is really "Darwinian," and both represent the misuse and abuse of some basic biological concepts when applied in social and political contexts. Tune in this week, and you'll be prepared to fend off that annoying creationist who likes to insist that Charles Darwin was somehow responsible for the Holocaust.…


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GC042 USAF Museum Tour

2006-09-30 :: Lorne Ipsum

We recently had a family reunion of sorts in Ohio, and after some pretty stiff negotiations, I managed to finagle some time at the "National Museum of the U.S. Air Force" in Dayton. Anybody who's even slightly interested in military aviation, or the history of aviation, could easily spend a whole day here just looking at all the airplanes (and a few spacecraft). Also note that I've put up stills from this tour in the Geek Counterpoint "Flickr" pages. Tune in this week, and you'll get a scenic 5 minute vacation without all the driving...…


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GC041 "Mr. O" Goes to Mars

2006-09-19 :: Lorne Ipsum

MRO, a.k.a. the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, just got into its science orbit. As a result, you should expect to soon see a flood of new images and other interesting data coming back from Mars (adding, of course, to the goodies already coming back from MGS, Odyssey, and the MER rovers). Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to get folks up to speed on the MRO spacecraft, the instruments it carries, and the mission of exploration that it is only now really starting.…


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GC040 News Grab Bag #4

2006-09-10 :: Lorne Ipsum

This week's episode is a "grab bag," including news on three broad topics: * Stem cells -- see episodes 18 and 20 (February 2006), and episode 21 (March, 2006) * Evolution vs. "Intelligent Design" -- see episodes 4 (October 2005) and 11 (December 2005) * The "Hobbits" of Flores Island -- see episodes 15 (January 2006) and 30 (June 2006) Also, a brief commentary on Pluto, and a promo for the "UML in 7 minutes" podcast.…


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GC039 Politics and Science

2006-09-01 :: Lorne Ipsum

This episode started as an examination of political interference in science. But while doing research for the episode, I ran across two studies on the brain activity involved in partisan politics, and decided to also look at what science has to say about politics (or at least, partisan thinking). Listen in this week, and find out how politics really is "all in your head." Before you listen to this episode, it'd help if you listened to last year's Haloween show (episode 5, 10/30/05, a bit too macabre to be child-safe) and the episode on Lamarckian inheritance (episode 34, 7/18/06).…


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Geek Counterpoint Administrivia

2006-08-26 :: Lorne Ipsum

Reminder of video episode (for non-iTunes subscribers), announcement of upcoming server swap (may see odd behavior in last week of August)…


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GC038 Yellowstone Video Tour

2006-08-23 :: Lorne Ipsum

We recently got back from a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park, and I thought the park would make a nice subject for a quick video podcast episode -- OK, and it gave me an excuse to test out a new camcorder. Aside from the fun tourist aspects (although any place out of pager & cell phone range is a good vacation spot in my estimation), the geology and biology on display at Yellowstone are worth at least one episode. Expect an audio follow-up episode in the future. Tune in this week, and you'll get a scenic 5 minute vacation without all the driving...…


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GC037 What's in a Name?

2006-08-10 :: Lorne Ipsum

Planetary science used to be so simple. Our solar system had 9 planets, and a bunch of little leftover scraps called asteroids and comets. But over the last few decades, improvements in observing technology have helped astronomers to discover hundreds of new objects -- and they don't all fit the old, tidy categories (many of them don't even fit well into new categories). Since we now know of a dizzying variety of objects both in our solar system and elsewhere, astronomers have been caught up in "nomenclature wars" over how to describe and categorize things. Listen in this week to find out how this whole mess got started, and how astronomers may (or may not) tidy things up.…


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GC036 Meet the New Man

2006-08-02 :: Lorne Ipsum

2006 has been dubbed "The Year of the Neanderthal," since the first official discovery of Neanderthal remains was made 150 years ago this month in a limestone quarry in Germany's Neander Valley, east of Dusseldorf. Listen in this week, and you'll learn where things currently stand with respect to Neanderthal's place in our family tree, as well as learn how science's view of the species has changed over the intervening decades. Before you listen to this episode, make sure you've listened to the episodes on Piltdown (episode 9, 12/2005) and Flores Man (episode 15, 1/2006) first. …


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GC035 Inflatable Spacecraft

2006-07-26 :: Lorne Ipsum

Now that Bigelow Aerospace's Genesis 1 module is in orbit, the concept of inflatable spacecraft is starting to get a little bit of press attention. Genesis 1 is not the only inflatable space vehicle ever made -- and definitely not the only one ever proposed. It's not the first, or the biggest -- but it's by far the most ambitious. Tune in to this week's episode, and I'll give you the history of inflatable spacecraft, a quick description of Genesis 1, and what's known of Bigelow Aerospace's plans for the future.…


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GC034 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

2006-07-18 :: Lorne Ipsum

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was a French biologist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and can be credited with a number of advances in the study of species origins and (in particular) invertebrate biology. Lamarck was an early proponent of evolution via natural causes, decades before Darwin's introduction of natural selection as the mechanism behind it. Despite Lamarck's bona fide contributions to science, he's now remembered mainly in connection with the discredited theory of evolutionary change as the "inheritance of acquired traits" (a.k.a. Lamarckism or Lamarckian evolution). While he did promote a form of the theory that now bears his name, it should be noted that he didn't originate it, he was far from the only scientist to promote it, and many of the excesses of "Lamarckism" can be traced to proponents of the theory that lived long after him (Kammerer and Lysenko, in particular). After years of abuse in textbooks, it's ironic that Lamarckian evolution actually has some basis in fact -- but only at the cellular level, and in sociological studies of cultural evolution. Listen to this week's episode, and you'll have a much fuller understanding of this poorly understood, and often unappreciated scientific pathfinder.…


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GC033 Quantum Mechanics

2006-07-10 :: Lorne Ipsum

This is the third in a scattered series of episodes that I'm in aggregate titling "20 Minute Lessons in 20th Century Physics." Tune in this week, and I'll give you a brief introduction to quantum mechanics. This episode makes references to general relativity (ep. 27 -- May, 2006), so make sure you've listened to that episode first if you're new to the podcast.…


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GC032 Net Neutrality

2006-06-23 :: Lorne Ipsum

There's a battle under way in the U.S. Congress over Net Neutrality -- and it's got broad implications for all internet users, regardless of where they live. Unfortunately, the mass media haven't been paying much attention to the debate, and some of the internet-based coverage tends to be a bit TOO focused to give a balanced view of things. In this week's episode, I attempt to give you some context in the form of an overview of the arguments on both sides of the debate. While Net Neutrality protections were rejected by the U.S. House in recent weeks, the COPE bill that's at the center of the action is under discussion in the U.S. Senate, so the debate is far from over.…


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GC031 Stuck in the ITAR

2006-06-18 :: Lorne Ipsum

Many a blog entry has been written in complaint about the difficulties of working in space with the U.S., or about the hurdles U.S. aerospace companies face in dealing with partners abroad. As is often the case, these difficulties come from good intentions, and revolve around a valid need -- for regulations on export of sensitive technologies. The crux of things is a set of U.S. State Department regulations known as ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations), a 4-letter word in many circles (particularly for small companies attempting to re-invent access to space). In this week's episode, I summarize the recent history of U.S. export control regulations, and give a brief overview of just what ITAR compliance entails. When you're done listening, you may not be any happier about the situation, but you'll at least have a good feel for what the current situation is. …


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GC030 News Grab Bag #3

2006-06-11 :: Lorne Ipsum

This week's episode is a "grab bag" of news on three broad topics: * RFID (see episode 13) "best practices," and in practice * The "Hobbits" of Flores island (see episode 15), and other dwarves * Asteroids (see episodes 23 and 24), and their impacts…


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GC029 The NSA and SNA

2006-06-03 :: Lorne Ipsum

Anybody that's been keeping up with the news lately (at least in the U.S.) has heard about the recent allegations that the NSA is collecting call routing information on most phone calls made within the U.S. Social network analysis (SNA) seems to be the leading candidate for the presumed use of all this data. So in this week's episode, I struggle mightily to keep my personal politics in check (this isn't a political podcast, after all) while discussing a bit of the mechanics of SNA, as well as the potential for mischief in the use of this data. Listen in, and at the end of things, see how concerned you may / may not be about this program (attire: tin foil hats optional).…


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GC028 Love at Goon Park

2006-05-16 :: Lorne Ipsum

A quick overview of an excellent book by the same name -- a description of the career of Harry Harlow and his studies of the science of affection, with special attention to the conflict between Harlow and the then-prevailing view of the subject. Whether you love Harlow or hate him, the animal studies that he and his students conducted resulted in dramatic changes in science's views of affection and the life-long impacts of children's home environments. It's a good example of paradigm shifts in science, and of how (to use Harlow's expression) sometimes science has to catch up with common sense. Listen to this episode, then go give your mom a big hug.…


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GC027 General Relativity

2006-05-05 :: Lorne Ipsum

This is the second in a scattered series of episodes that I'm in aggregate titling "20 Minute Lessons in 20th Century Physics." Tune in this week, and I'll give you a brief introduction to general relativity. This episode makes lots of references to special relativity (ep. 22 -- March, 2006), so make sure you've listened to that episode first if you're new to the podcast. The graphic for this week's show comes courtesy of Nick Strobel's Astronomy Notes.…


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GC026 Down With The Old Canoe! (pt. 2)

2006-04-22 :: Lorne Ipsum

This week, I wrap up my treatment of the loss of the Titanic with a simplified (if not brief) failure analysis. How the ship broke up and sank is fairly straightforward -- so I don't spend much time on that. On the other hand, the decisions that went into how the ship was built and operated are less often discussed, and far more pertinent to the modern day -- so they are the focus of this episode. It's been nearly 100 years since the Titanic sank, but you'll learn how some of the mistakes that played a role in that disaster are still being repeated in modern times.…


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GC025 Down With The Old Canoe! (pt. 1)

2006-04-15 :: Lorne Ipsum

April 15 is the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and it's been just over 20 years since the ship's wreck was found, so I thought it'd be a good time to talk about some aspects of the tragedy that aren't often discussed, but still hold lessons for our day. Listen in, and you might learn a thing or two about the loss of (what one satirical rag has tagged) "the world's largest metaphor." I'm a bit of a Titanic buff, so since I tend to get a bit chatty on the subject, this is the first of two episodes.…


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GC024 A Bad Day on the Beach

2006-04-08 :: Lorne Ipsum

No sooner had I uplinked last week's episode, than related news showed up. This, a study doubting the asteroid theory of dinosaur extinction. Disappointingly, the study was presented non-critically by a number of media outlets (even popular "science" magazines). In particular, it was presented as "new" hypothesis, when it's really just the latest volley in a long-running exchange of scientific articles and press releases. I try to give everyone a little background on all this, and the underlying controversy that rarely gets much press.…


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GC023 Quantifying Chicken Little

2006-03-30 :: Lorne Ipsum

We've all heard or read about some scare or another based on the potential future impact of an asteroid or comet. Often, the core issue behind such scares (leaving aside an occasionally over-excited member of the press) is weak communication between astronomers and the mass media. Not that it's due to any lack of trying. In this episode, I give you a bit of background on two impact risk scales -- one intended for communications between astronomers, and the other specifically meant for "public consumption."…


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GC022 Special Relativity

2006-03-17 :: Lorne Ipsum

As I mentioned in the last episode (#21), I've got a whole list of topics I'd like to discuss that require at least a cursory background in modern (non-Newtonian) physics. So this week's episode is the first in a scattered series of 3 episodes that I'm in aggregate titling "20 Minute Lessons in 20th Century Physics." Tune in this week, and I'll give you a brief introduction to special relativity (listen closely, and you'll see just how special it is...). This episode makes lots of references to the scientific method, so make sure you've listened to episode 4 (October, 2005) if you're new to the podcast.…


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GC021 News Grab Bag #2

2006-03-02 :: Lorne Ipsum

This week's episode contains updates to previous episodes based on recent news, and a little bit of news about Pluto (I don't have enough material for an episode all about Pluto, so it gets tossed in here). I also go through the results of the "Topics" survey I had on the website last month. Just to sweeten the pot, I wrap up with previews of coming attractions (physics fans -- rejoice!).…


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GC020 Gone to the Dogs (Scientists Behaving Badly #2)

2006-02-22 :: Lorne Ipsum

Now that we've got a little background in stem cells (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, make sure you listen to episode 18), let's talk about recent news. This week's topic is South Korea's own Hwang Woo-Suk -- his meteoric rise to prominence, and his even faster fall from grace. The story has patriotism, vast sums of money, and international prestige on one hand; lies, arrogance, coercion, and scientific fraud on the other -- a modern greek tragedy all tidily packaged in one man. Hwang may well be headed to prison, but to steal a line from "Casablanca," at least he'll always have Snuppy... …


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GC019 Vision Problems

2006-02-14 :: Lorne Ipsum

The White House just released its proposed 2007 budget for NASA, and it seems the administration has an interesting perspective on both science and its own "Vision for Space Exploration" (VSE). While the Bush administration isn't reducing anything it's asking NASA to do as part of VSE, the White House is increasingly reluctant to actually provide money for any of it. As a result, since the space shuttle continues to overrun every "official" estimate ever made of its future costs, NASA's space science program will now be drained of at least $2 billion over the next five years in an attempt to keep shuttles flying and the VSE moving forward. In this episode, I give you all the gory details, along with a bit of historical perspective.…


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GC018 Stem Cells

2006-02-04 :: Lorne Ipsum

Stem cells have been in the press for a while now -- but many media outlets seem to be covering them more for the excitement of controversy, than in any attempt to educate people. You know how it goes, a lot of heat but very little light... In this episode, I give you a quick working background on the various types of stem cells, where they come from, and which kinds come with ethical strings attached (and which really shouldn't).…


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GC017 Stardust: Return to Sender (part 2)

2006-01-29 :: Lorne Ipsum

Last week, I gave you the story of where the Stardust mission came from -- technically, scientifically, and politically. With the background out of the way, we're ready to dive into the really good stuff. In this week's episode, we continue the Stardust story -- but focus now on Stardust's mission and science. The end result was a historic success -- the first successful return of cometary material to Earth. But the road that culminated in this success was anything but smooth. Tune in and find out just how many spills & chills & thrills are involved in a round-trip flyby of a comet.…


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GC016 Stardust: Return to Sender (part 1)

2006-01-23 :: Lorne Ipsum

On the 15th of January, a special package was delivered to a dry lake bed in Utah -- and nobody complained that it took 7 years to arrive and covered 3 billion miles in the meantime. This particular package cost $212M to produce, but its contents are (at least in scientific terms) priceless. This week's episode is a discussion of the Stardust mission, and its (political and technical) history.…


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GC015 The Hobbits of Flores Island

2006-01-15 :: Lorne Ipsum

In 2003 and 2004, a team of Australian and Indonesian anthropologists made some interesting discoveries in a cave on Indonesia's Flores island -- bones from small creatures, that may just prove to be cousins of humanity. Since these bones came from adults, but they apparently stood only about 3 feet tall, they were almost immediately christened "hobbits." These creatures seem to be more closely related to ancient hominids than to modern humans -- but were still alive 18,000 years ago, long after Neanderthal died out. While the initial fossil discovery was well publicized, more recent news hasn't been covered as thoroughly. Listen in, and I'll give you a summary of what's been found, and where things stand.…


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GC014 The Fossil Record

2006-01-08 :: Lorne Ipsum

When push comes to shove, it's tough to make a fossil. Tougher still is gathering enough of them to put together a coherent story (the Earth is, after all, a big place). In this episode, I talk about fossilization and why there are "gaps" in the fossil record. Thanks to Daryl for suggesting this topic...…


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GC013 RFID and You

2006-01-01 :: Lorne Ipsum

Now that the commercial spend-fest that is a modern Christmas has passed, I thought it'd be a good time to discuss one of the more promising (as well as disturbing) commercial technologies now appearing on store shelves -- RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification). Maybe it's a godsend for commercial inventory control, maybe it's the biblical "Mark of the Beast..." In any case, this episode will give you a quick grounding in what RFID is, and how it can be used for both good and ill. Copious links to more detailed information are included, as always, in the show notes.…


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GC012 Beagle2--Lost Or Found?

2005-12-25 :: Lorne Ipsum

The news is all over the internet -- the wreckage of Beagle 2 has been found on Mars. Or has it? Let's take a look at what's behind all the fuss, and see what's really going on.…


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GC011 News Grab Bag #1

2005-12-18 :: Lorne Ipsum

Updates to previous episodes, and some snippets of interesting science & technology news. Recorded with new (upgraded) gear, so it should sound better than previous episodes.…


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GC010 Polynesian Navigation

2005-12-10 :: Lorne Ipsum

If my experience is any guide, the maritime history you learned in school may well have focused on various European nations, and their voyages of discovery. Many of us were taught that long-distance oceanic voyages had to wait for the compass to be invented, then imported into Europe from China. Unfortunately, this treatment of history leaves out the fact that Polynesian sailors were criss-crossing large areas of the Pacific ocean TWO THOUSAND YEARS before Columbus was born. Even more impressive is the fact that it was done without navigational instruments or charts, in canoes built with tools made of stone, bone, and shells. This episode describes the low-tech but scientifically based Polynesian approach to long distance oceanic navigation.…


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GC009 Piltdown Man (Scientists Behaving Badly #1)

2005-12-03 :: Lorne Ipsum

"Piltdown Man" is the undisputed grand-daddy of scientific hoaxes, and a great lesson in the importance of critical thinking (even in the face of things pronounced "scientific"). The first in an occasional series of episodes grouped under the theme of "Scientists Behaving Badly."…


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GC008 Geek Speak and Computer Security (part 2)

2005-11-27 :: Lorne Ipsum

Now that we've nailed down the jargon of computer security, let's look at some simple things you can do to protect yourself.…


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GC007 Geek Speak and Computer Security (part 1)

2005-11-20 :: Lorne Ipsum

A recent survey has revealed that a significant number of personal computer users is so baffled by computer "geek" jargon that they don't take even simple security precautions in their computer usage. In this week's episode (and a bit more in next week's episode), I try to give everybody a basic grounding in jargon you'll run across in discussions of security threats to your computer usage. Also, please check out the geekcounterpoint.net web site -- I've drawn up a handy reference sheet of all the terms used in this episode and next week's followup episode as well.…


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GC006 Covering All The Bases

2005-11-12 :: Lorne Ipsum

We're all familiar with base 10 numerals (i.e., 0 through 9) and how base 10 math is all that we ever use -- or is it? An episode about numerals, numeral systems, and how 4000 years of mathematical history plays out in our daily lives.…


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GC005 The Halloween Show

2005-10-30 :: Lorne Ipsum

Presented as a fitting Halloween subject and in the interest of very briefly illustrating how evolutionary history has impacted the structure of the human brain. Family friendly, but a bit macabre -- definitely not for younger children's ears (not if they're prone to nightmares, at any rate). …


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GC004 Yes, But is it Science?

2005-10-22 :: Lorne Ipsum

A lot of terminology is flying around in the argument between supporters of evolution and "intelligent design." This episode looks at two main points in this discussion: what is science (i.e., the scientific method), and what is a scientific "theory"?…


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GC003 Lemmings, Irony, and Mindsets

2005-10-15 :: Lorne Ipsum

While the myth of lemmings taking mass suicidal plunges off cliffs was disproven years ago, it stubbornly persists in popular culture. Let's take a look at the history of the myth, the evidence disproving it, and what it has to teach us about the danger of "received wisdom."…


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GC002 Has NASA Gone Hollywood?

2005-10-03 :: Lorne Ipsum

In episode 2, I tackle NASA's new exploration initiative. Is it a pragmatic program built on reuse of proven ideas and technologies, or a tired attempt to recapture past glories by going where we've already gone before?…


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GC001 Why This Show

2005-09-28 :: Lorne Ipsum

In episode 1, I attempt to sum up why I'm producing this podcast, and just what I am hoping / attempting to accomplish with it.…


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Geek Counterpoint -- Your antidote to soundbite science!

Your own personal geek-to-English translator, in handy Podcast form! Equal parts topical science background, correction / explanation of poorly reported science & tech issues, and just plain interesting points to ponder. A 20 minute helping of critical thinking every week, presented in conversational style and with a dash of dry humor.

Geek Counterpoint -- Your antidote to soundbite science!

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