Clouds are super cool

I hate flying. I’ve always hated flying. And the world we live in these days makes me even more terrified. But, when I have to get on a plane, I marvel at what the world looks like from very very far above. Seeing your city or neighborhood from overhead is pretty cool, but the show gets even more fascinating when you get above the clouds, because clouds are amazing to look at.

We recently flew from Houston to Detroit to attend our friend’s wedding in Ann Arbor (a sweet place, btw). We had great weather in both directions, and I had a window seat both times so I was excited to take some pictures of basically anything I could while we were in the air. We were pretty much over the wing, so I didn’t have the perfect vantage, and it was hazy leaving Houston in the early morning so I didn’t get anything of the city.

But, as the title of this post mentions – I got plenty of cloud pictures because if you stop and think about it, clouds are really freaking cool. Yes, they are literally just big puff balls of water droplets, condensed water, and various other aerosols and particles. But, have you ever stopped and just watched those big puffy clouds for a few minutes. I think it’s mind blowing that you can see them expanding in real time. They take amazing shapes, especially when they are at the forefront of a big bad weather system. Clouds are awesome.

TL;DR – Clouds are awesome. Here are some pictures of clouds I took from a plane.


I liked this particular bank of clouds because of the spires reaching up. It’s amazing what you can’t see from the ground below.


Click to see a larger version and more towers of clouds.


Anvil shaped cloud towers above the rest.

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The Dynamics of Motion

I saw this on the IFLS website the other day, and wanted to share it because it shows how awesome science and the world around us is – and why it works.

From IFLS:

Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest will stay at rest, while an object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. An easy way to demonstrate this is in the car. When the car accelerates, you (and all other objects in the car) appear to be pushed backwards because the car is moving faster than you were as a resting object. A sudden deceleration makes you fly forward in your seat, because your body was now traveling at a particular speed and was going to keep going at that rate. This is why seat belts are important.

Smarter Every Day host Destin explores these ideas in his minivan (accompanied by two adorable and incredibly polite little science helpers), first by using a pendulum, then by using a helium balloon. The pendulum acts completely predictably, swinging back when the van accelerates and forward when it slows to a stop. The helium balloon, however, doesn’t act like Newton said it would at all. That’s because in the case of the lighter-than-air helium balloon, Newtonian physics are out and fluid dynamics are in.


Maybe the best take on the Anti-Vaccination ‘Movement’ to date

This has a little NSFW language in it, so don’t blast it at work.

Don’t be stupid. Get your kids vaccinated. Because if you don’t, you not only risk your child getting preventable diseases, but you risk spreading it to other people. All because you’re a crazy person.

COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey

I forgot to post about this earlier today, but in case you forgot the new COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey premiered tonight. The Carl Sagan original from the decades ago is reborn with Neil DeGrasse Tyson as the host. It just ended here in Texas, and it was absolutely fan-freaking-tastic. If you follow me on Twitter you probably noticed me tweeting a lot during the show. If you missed the first episode tonight on FOX, it will re-air tomorrow night on the National Geographic channel.

I cannot express to you how important it is for people to watch. Get your kids interested in science. Get them involved in science.

The Evolution vs. Creationism Debate

As many of you know, Ken Ham invited Bill Nye to a little debate the other night about the merits of evolution and creationism. Here’s the video of it if you didn’t catch it:

Now, I’m not going into depth about the specifics of the debate because we could be here for hours, but needless to say it has once again brought to the forefront the argument of science vs. religion – and more specifically evolution vs. creationism.

Buzzfeed, everyone’s favorite website for lists of things, featured this list yesterday, and I want to take a minute to respond to some of them (you should click the link to see the whole list). I am not religious and believe in evolution, and while I [mostly] respect other’s rights to believe in their own stuff it frightens me when people have such incredibly absurd beliefs about the nature of the world around them, and are passing these beliefs on to their children.

Yes. It is. Rings are evidence of growth. Growth is evidence of time. Why create trees with a mechanism that shows growth over time and a way of measuring the tree’s age if it had none to begin with because it just magically appeared? I won’t even get into plate tectonics, and layering of sedimentary rocks and fossils.

Ahh. Trying to use science to disprove science. I bet you $100 you don’t even know what the 2nd law of thermodynamics is, and why it could possibly disprove evolution. You just heard someone say it and now you say it too – just like when people said Obama was a Socialist and couldn’t actually give any reasons why. Now I won’t pretend to understand thermodynamics but from what I do understand according to entropy, the universe and all the molecules in it are moving from order to disorder. The reason Creationists believe this disproves evolution is because they believe evolution means increasing biological complexity. The reason this does not disprove evolution is because evolution does not necessarily mean biologically we are getting more complex. Evolution is adaptation to one’s environment. Survival of the fittest means the organisms that evolve and adapt the best to their changing environment will be the most fit to reproduce. It does not mean your genetic makeup gets exponentially complex. The majority of the current human genome is almost identical to the mapped genome of Neanderthals and chimpanzees, the only differences are the slight mutations in the DNA that allowed this offspring to survive better in it’s new environment, and then reproduce sharing this new adaptation, while the others died out. Entropy & thermodynamics have nothing to do with evolution.

I literally didn’t know what to type here because what the hell?
First, obviously God cares not for proper grammar. Secondly, a sunset occurs when the rotation of the Earth causes the sun to fall behind the horizon from your perspective location on the Earth’s surface. The colors are a result of light interacting with the atmosphere (that’s a simple, easy explanation). I don’t understand where the disconnect is here? Even if you believed the Earth was still at the center of the solar system, and the Sun revolved around it, there would still be sunsets. This makes no sense.

Oh alright. I give up. We all know sunsets are made by the little Indian girl program in The Matrix.

I’ll assume you’re referring to the idea of intelligence and consciousness since that’s the closest thing I could find when I googled the word ‘noetics’ because no one knows what that is (nice job, that degree in philosophy is already paying off!). To answer the question: What about it? Humans aren’t the only organisms with consciousness. How did we all get it? I don’t know for sure – because I don’t think anyone does – but I’d be willing to wager it has something to do with how the brain developed and uses all them fancy chemicals and neurotransmitters and other words that doctors use. Also, remember, consciousness isn’t limited to humans. Try to disprove that next time you’re hanging out with your dog or cat. And are you also suggesting that Lucy or Neanderthals weren’t self-aware and had no consciousness?

Uh, yes.

Who believes this?  Oh yeah, this guy:

Science is not a theory – science is an encompassing field of study. Apparently this lady has decided to completely ignore the scientific method – you know, that series of steps that tests, observes, and attempts to repeat results of occurrences in nature. What this lady wrote makes no sense. And I object to it being taught in school because science taught in school is factual science based on the scientific method, not the Bible.

So my entire life’s purpose is to put all my eggs in the God basket hoping that I am worthy enough in my faith that he will rescue me from the putrid, festering, cesspool of evil that apparently the Earth is? That sounds like a pretty crappy existence. Who says you have to have a purpose? You exist because your parents had sex and the birds and the bees happened and then you grew up into an adult. Life is life. Some people feel like they have a purpose and they do things like run charities and join Doctors Without Borders or something. That’s awesome. Me, I prefer to watch Star Trek and laugh at cat videos. Does that mean my life has no purpose? Does that mean I have absolutely no reason for existing? My entire life is worthless and useless? Not sure about that.

You can’t see it, but I’m shaking my head in disbelief.
The more simple answer is it all depends on how the organism, be it a plant, insect, or proto-human, is preserved at the time of it’s death. This answer doesn’t even require science, just common freaking sense.

It’s the same reason we haven’t found millions of dinosaur fossils, or why the Grand Canyon exists: they degrade, erode, disintegrate, decompose. If rocks can be weathered away – then certainly an organisms body and skeleton can. Lucy was remarkably preserved – we got lucky. Today, we entomb bodies in coffins, and still they deteriorate over time. I don’t think Lucy’s people had a habit of leaving their dead in airtight coffins for future scientists to find. They could have been left where they died, and the bones could have been spread around for miles by scavengers.

Oh, also, Lucy wasn’t found by herself. We have found plenty of partial skeletons of Lucy’s friends, and other levels of evolutionary neanderthals. Try again.

I hate this argument. Hate it.
Ok, first, we didn’t come from monkeys. More accurately, we came from apes. But the short, easy answer is there are many different species of apes, monkeys and chimps, and humans derived from that one particular one that happened to have the right genetic mutation at the right time and survived and adapted. The other species continued on in their own versions. Evolution doesn’t mean you just replace your entire species or group of organisms.

So there you have it folks. These people are out there, and they’re serious. It’s frightening.