I have a confession to make. In the past, I have admitted to a certain ... predilection, shall we say, for trivia, politics, YearlyKos, and, of course, comments on Daily Kos. But, truth be told, I am a science junkie.
I was forced to confront this fact last week as I plopped down $300 to renew my subscription to New Scientist. Given my profession as a chemical engineer, a fascination with science is understandable. But, since New Scientist isn’t tax deductible, I have to concede that my interest in it is more than professional. It may even be more than a predilection. In fact, it may be more like an addiction.
Of course, New Scientist isn’t my only regular science read, but it’s the only one that I require both the online and dead tree versions. Science Daily, Science News, and Technology Review are great online reads. But New Scientist has a staying power equal only to Mental Floss and the Utne Reader. I want to take it with me. I want to read it even when I don’t have an internet connection. And I don’t want to throw away a single issue.
So what makes New Scientist a keeper? Certainly the science is challenging. You can learn about the secrets of superstrings, quantum gravity computers, or using quantum tool kits in archaeology. You can find out how to protect your brain against the effects of ageing, how to boost your alertness by yawning, or how to tell right from wrong. Or you can track the latest science on global warming, genetically modified foods or the Cassini mission to Saturn.
But most science magazines will cover these topics, although they may not go into as much detail. So what’s different about New Scientist? Well, ScienceNews may talk about quantum computing, but New Scientist will tell you about Online daters: tall, dark and dishonest or why Gender-bending avatars inspire less trust. Science Daily has articles on global warming, but New Scientist explains how tequila threatens biodiversity and that beavers act as surrogates for frogs. Technology Review discusses robots, but New Scientist takes you to see Robot eating robot at the AI zoo. And what other science magazine would point out thing you really need to know, like Are my online friends for real? and Does the universe exist when no one is looking?
In short, New Scientist is British. It has that quirky British attitude that combines quantum physics and Monty Python. The end product is both entertaining and educational. But it has a couple of additional advantagesBut it has a couple of additional advantages: Feedback and an international perspective. Feedback is a column on the last page of each issue. From its continuing series, you can learn things like
Quantum instruction: ANOTHER quantum instruction, similar to the one that tells train passengers to "use all possible doors to exit" (16 June). Similar quantum logic applies in the case of Tony Lang's laser pointer, which takes a single battery. The warning that comes with it states, "Do not mix old and new batteries," suggesting that the single battery is capable of being both old and new at the same time.
Partial flights: INCOMPREHENSIBLE offer of the week. SkyEurope Airlines' summer promotion is "99.999 flights for £19 including taxes." Jim Turton wonders what 0.001 flights would cost - "and indeed where it would get you. Presumably they throw you out after taxiing off the apron and giving you the safety brief."
Inscrutable Amazon: FINALLY, here is yet another peculiar Amazon recommendation (10 March). The online retailer suggested to Trevor Gout that he might enjoy The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden. He was told it was "recommended because you purchased or rated... the Dyson DC08 Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner Silver/Lavender." Gout says that he did indeed purchase the vacuum cleaner and that so far it has been completely safe.
Although it has correspondents in the United States – including at least two Kossacks – New Scientist also provides an external perspective that is hard to come by in the US, even in the science press.
Like other British media, New Scientist isn’t afraid to take an editorial stance that takes on politicians. As you might imagine, the editors have little use for Tony Blair or shrub and the detrimental impact of their decisions on the environment and scientific inquiry is well documented in New Scientist. But New Scientist is also a vocal opponent of the Iraq war and it documents the atrocities at every level, from depleted uranium to Iraq’s overcrowded, understaffed hospitals.
Here, too, New Scientist provides information not readily available in the US, particularly about weapons and technology. For example, it is the only place I have read that a Plague of bioweapons accidents afflicts the US. Did you know about the real-word transformers the Army is deploying in Iraq? The New Scientist blog has video of the Army’s Griffon, its first-generation transformer.
The Army already has uncrewed air vehicles (UAVs) like the Predator, and
uncrewed ground vehicles (UGVs) such as Talon, both of which have been used extensively in Iraq. Now they'd like something that can combine the abilities of both. Interestingly, the US Air Force Research Laboratory has its own plans. Fred Davis, of the Assessment and Demonstrations Division recently told me that they are looking at small UAVs that can morph or otherwise change their shape, and switch between different modes. These might include flying, perching and hopping or crawling. This would extend their endurance, as well as allowing them to go into buildings.
Or how about shockbots? Brought to you (literally) through collaboration between the friendly folks at iRobot, who make the Roomba, and TASER, which makes tasers, the shockbot equips a Packbot with a taser. And it’s not just for Abu Ghirab anymore.
The Packbot is already used in Iraq and Afghanistan to defuse roadside bombs and recently these robots have been fitted with lethal weapons like machine guns and shotguns. But, until now, weaponised robots have been for military use only. The iRobot-Taser collaboration changes this as it is geared towards making robots capable of shocking people available to law enforcement as well as the military...
Then there’s the possibility that such robots could someday be autonomous, deciding for themselves whether a target represents a threat. It might seem far fetched, but it's something iRobot has in mind, and it’s a possibility that has some researchers worried.
"If someone is severely punished by an autonomous robot, who are you going to take to the tribunal? The robot won't talk," says Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK.
And where might these shockbots be deployed? New Scientist suggests they might be use against protesters, such as those at the G8.
Sometimes reading New Scientist is a great way to get my mind off of politics. Other times, not so much. And while Top Comments may not take your mind off politics, they can inform and entertain. So when you see a great comment, send it to:
topcomments at gmail.com
and please remember to include your dKos screen name
And now, on to tonight’s nominations:
From Pandoras Box
From donnamarie and MontanaMavne (great minds, and all that)
Terminus gives an hilarious description of Tweety's swinger's ad.
From Crashing Vor
JimP sets up a great conversation on the corporate media in james' diary,MSM Gatekeepers spell out their Disapproval Agenda.
Dallasdoc starts off this witty thread with a new definition of 'pundit' that gets built on by several kossacks. I love it when this sort of thing happens!
dmsilev talks about and others the ski slope that is Bush's approval ratings graph.
DebtorsPrison wonders if George Washington had his own Sally Hemings in a woman named Ona Judge. Fascinating comment.
CTLiberal and musing85 discuss family histories and both provide good advice to those doing further searching, including myself.
Delaware Dem starts off a good thread discussing the secret of his hidden identity. PhillyGal's comment is my favorite of the day. Inland wants proof that it's really Delaware Dem. And one more from that diary, PhillyGal with another winner.
And from me
Arlingtonian has Fred Thompson's new nickname. Pass it on.
skralyx points out that Dan Froomkin cited litigatormom in his WaPo White House Watch column today.
Now ..... Top Mojo ..........
Top Mojo excluding search-identifiable tip jars, first diary comments, and C&J comments:
1 - Dems win battle, but war rages on......Rep Brad Miller.....337
2 - If there happens to be a next time.....Bob Johnson.....135
3 - BEFORE ANYONE SAYS INCOMPETENCE.....Chaoslillith.....120
4 - Yes, I asked David Corn.....L C Johnson.....112
5 - David Brooks is full of David Brooks.....teacherken.....101
6 - *$*@(@)@()$)^_#)#@_$^)$^*@($_#^.....Chaoslillith.....93
7 - Yes, Important.....Deep Harm.....93
8 - This is mostly old, mostly ignored news.....overlander.....89
9 - Don't forget the important 1974 and 1976 ........Meteor Blades.....80
10 - Brad, You are my congressman.....FishOutofWater.....74
11 - GODLESS CAPITALISM - PURE PROFIT MOTIVE.....FishOutofWater.....72
12 - It Is Just A Lack Of Leadership.....webranding.....69
13 - I believe in social responsibility.....FishOutofWater.....65
14 - and the fact that all the victims.....nailbender.....64
15 - Yep. She was a "recess appointment.".....Rep Brad Miller.....62
16 - Oh, and speaking of Cheney.....overlander.....61
17 - Well look who's first......Bill in Portland Maine.....60
18 - You are correct, sir......Rep Brad Miller.....58
19 - Will this be like Total Information Awareness?.....Dallasdoc.....57
20 - Don't expect a Christmas Card.....LondonYank.....56
21 - Susan Dudley is heading this office.....Naturegal.....56
22 - This excellent diary..............Ekaterin.....56
23 - Good Morning Y'all.....Tonga 23.....55
24 - I've said it before.......MotleyPatriot.....53
25 - dare I say it?????.....MotleyPatriot.....53
26 - Larry posted KO's commentary.....SusanHu.....50
27 - I don't even live in the same state, but........Noor B.....50
28 - Happy Thorsday!.....Debbie in ME.....50
29 - Poor Waxman,.....Chaoslillith.....47
30 - Miller and Sanchez......Kagro X.....46
Top Mojo with No Exclusions:
1 - Tip jar.....lapin.....445
2 - tips, flames, rants, and tin-foil jar... n/t.....MotleyPatriot.....363
3 - Dems win battle, but war rages on......Rep Brad Miller.....337
4 - Urinal/spitoon.....FishOutofWater.....273
5 - This story needs to get wide play in the MSM.....litigatormom.....220
6 - Tips if you think I'm right........ImpeachKingBushII.....198
7 - Tips, Comments, Etc.....MLDB.....180
8 - here i am!.....buhdydharma.....169
9 - Tip jar.....zenbowl.....156
10 - a bit long, I know.....clammyc.....156
11 - If there happens to be a next time.....Bob Johnson.....136
12 - Man........RichM.....130
13 - BEFORE ANYONE SAYS INCOMPETENCE.....Chaoslillith.....120
14 - Tips for hope that this story.....CTLiberal.....119
15 - Yes, I asked David Corn.....L C Johnson.....112
16 - David Brooks is full of David Brooks.....teacherken.....101
17 - Yes, Important.....Deep Harm.....93
18 - *$*@(@)@()$)^_#)#@_$^)$^*@($_#^.....Chaoslillith.....93
19 - This is mostly old, mostly ignored news.....overlander.....89
20 - Don't forget the important 1974 and 1976 ........Meteor Blades.....80
21 - Brad, You are my congressman.....FishOutofWater.....74
22 - Happy Thursday! :-).....Common Sense Mainer.....73
23 - GODLESS CAPITALISM - PURE PROFIT MOTIVE.....FishOutofWater.....72
24 - It Is Just A Lack Of Leadership.....webranding.....69
25 - Return Mojo Jar (or flames).....Delaware Dem.....68
26 - Even if I do prefer rib-eye and Caesar's.....calipygian.....67
27 - I believe in social responsibility.....FishOutofWater.....65
28 - and the fact that all the victims.....nailbender.....64
29 - To me this is an important issue.....teacherken.....64
30 - Yep. She was a "recess appointment.".....Rep Brad Miller.....62