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Mother Fracking Science

May 1st, 2012

I’ve been busy of late and not keeping up with my blogging duties. Nevertheless, this morning I came across two things which I decided needed a place on this blog.

The first (found at The Awl) is a collection of images from Voyager and Cassini/Huygens which would make both Carl Sagan and Carolyn Porco proud. Note that all of the pictures interlaced in this video are raw image data from the missions… including the brilliant ice geysers of Enceladus. Ungh.

The song is The Cinematic Orchestra -That Home (Instrumental).

Click through to follow up with some fun NdGT adaptations.

The second item I found came my way via It’s OK To Be Smart. It’s a comic adaptation link that visualizes in graphic form the should-be-more-famous Neil de Grasse Tyson “Most Astounding Fact” quote. First the actual quote:

Now here’s the link to Zen Pencils graphic adaptation of the same:

Click the image to read the full comic

NdGT’s most astounding fact is not too unlike Lawrence Krauss’ stardust bit that he likes to bandy about. Unfortunately for the author of A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, YouTube currently doesn’t have a prettied up version of his little ditty, so I’ve just linked from one of his stock lectures.

Anyways, back to NdGT, it’s worth noting that he is not, in fact, infallible. de Grasse Tyson is quite vocal as an opponent of religion impinging on the sphere of science education, but he’s also a bit of an appeaser when it comes to standing with his non-believing brethren. People are more than free to take personal stands as they see fit, but I do want to criticize NdGT for promoting a continued adherence to the improper definition of agnostic as something in between a theist and an atheist. That’s just not the case and Jerry Coyne (citing Hemant Mehta’s criticisms) takes the astrophysicist to task for the below video. This is the link to the blog post from Coyne, who’s book Why Evolution Is True is a very worthy read.

The rebuttal to this video is that de Grasse Tyson is either being intellectually lazy or appeasing theist America in order to keep his prominence within the pop culture world secure. That’s hooey. de Grasse Tyson’s would-be-mentor and Cosmos predecessor Carl Sagan took a similar route, avoiding the label of atheist by incorrectly defining it; however, in this era of coming out of the closet as non-believers in a largely believing America, such a stance is no longer acceptable. Yes, Sagan and NdGT are giants in the the world of promoting science education (and in killing Pluto), but this is not a terribly difficult definitional issue and it’s one that science educators should be clear on. Both Sagan and NdGT ARE atheists and here is why:

For the full image above, visit Thinking Doesn’t Hurt. It really isn’t that hard a concept. Theism addresses belief, while gnosticism addresses knowledge. Everyone is plotted somewhere along those two axes. As for me, you’ll find me decidedly in the agnostic atheist corner… but you won’t find me hiding behind the agnostic label for fear of repercussion.

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