Lots of Stuff

A little short on time this week, so here’s a bunch of links:

  • Glenn Reynolds has two excellent posts: A 9/11 Retrospective and a roundup of lessons learned from Katrina.
  • NASA and the Dream, and How To Get Back To The Moon: An excellent essay about the history of the Space Program and where we should be going from here.
  • The Old Negro Space Program: On the lighter side of things, this is a hilarious parody of a Ken Burns style documentary… (via Polytropos)
  • The gods are a) Angry, b) Happy, c) Indifferent, d) Bummed about the lousy weather.
  • Why Most Published Research Findings Are False: As The Economist summarizes:

    THEODORE STURGEON, an American science-fiction writer, once observed that “95% of everything is crap”. John Ioannidis, a Greek epidemiologist, would not go that far. His benchmark is 50%. But that figure, he thinks, is a fair estimate of the proportion of scientific papers that eventually turn out to be wrong.

    If Sturgeon’s law is relatively accurate, that would mean that Science is doing pretty good… It seems that a lot of people these days have pretty inflated expectations when it comes to a lot of things, and science is definitely one of them. Witness the “CSI Effect”:

    Prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges call it “the CSI effect,” after the crime-scene shows that are among the hottest attractions on television. The shows —CSI and CSI: Miami, in particular — feature high-tech labs and glib and gorgeous techies. By shining a glamorous light on a gory profession, the programs also have helped to draw more students into forensic studies.

    But the programs also foster what analysts say is the mistaken notion that criminal science is fast and infallible and always gets its man. That’s affecting the way lawyers prepare their cases, as well as the expectations that police and the public place on real crime labs. Real crime-scene investigators say that because of the programs, people often have unrealistic ideas of what criminal science can deliver.

    It’s a problem similar to the unglamorous march of technology; the achievements of science are great, but they are also abstracted enough that people begin to lose sight of some of the issues – and science works because of those issues, not in spite of them (which is the point). [thanks to Patton from the Ministry of Minor Perfidy for the original links. Bruce Schneier also mentioned the CSI effect on his blog a while back…]

  • Hogwarts Security: A little while ago, I examined some of the security measures in the latest Harry Potter book, using Bruce Schneier’s 5 step analysis process. Schneier himself is now looking at the issue:

    …can you really render a powerful wizard helpless simply by taking away his wand? And is taking away a powerful wizard’s wand simply as easy as doing something to him at the same time he is doing something else?

    I always assumed that the dewanding issue only really affected the students because they hadn’t learned how to go wandless, but now t hat he mentions it…

That’s all for now.