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What is Philosophy of Science (And Should Scientists Care)?

doing-good-science[1]Just about 20 years ago, I abandoned a career as a physical chemist to become a philosopher science. For most of those 20 years, people (especially scientists) have been asking me what the heck the philosophy of science is, and whether scientists have any need of it. [Read more]

$100-Million Federal Lab Will Bring More Science to Bear on Global Poverty and Development

The Agency for International Development (USAID) today announced the launch of its $100-million Global Development Lab in Washington DC — a move that will elevate the role of science at the agency. USAID says that it will put in place a research-and-development pipeline for food security and nutrition, maternal and child survival, energy access and sustainable water solutions. [Read more]

Science Has Nothing to Tell Us About the Soul? I Disagree

An MRI scan of brain.Can science tell us anything about the soul? A lovely clear answer came from Iain McGilchrist, talking at the RSA this week. “No,” he said, and the room filled with laughter, not entirely kindly. He had been responding to a questioner who wanted to know whether the increasing sophistication of brain imaging would not reveal the soul to be an illusion, an unnecessary imprecision. “To expect that we will find something in the brain that corresponds with the soul is just crass,” he said. The moderator, Jonathan Rowson, pressed him: “Is it the case that science can help us understand better what the soul is?” [Read more]

What Happens to Your Body after You Die?

Whatever your beliefs, most people would agree that the body left behind when we depart this mortal coil is just a heap of bones and flesh. But what happens to those leftovers? [Read more]

Darwin Meets Newton: Evolution and the Mass of the Galaxy

large-magellanic-cloud[1]Many of the 200 billion stars in our galaxy, known as the Milky Way, can be seen in a narrow band stretching across the night sky. The southern night sky throws up more surprises, in the form of two indistinct, fuzzy blobs. Larger than the full moon, and often seen overhead, these are two galaxies in their own right, known as the Large and Small Clouds of Magellan. But these Magellanic Clouds are caught in the gravitational grip of our much larger Milky Way, pulling them in their orbit. [Read more]

The Google Earth Guide to a Changing Planet

How is the Earth’s surface changing over time? The image above depicts Alaska’s Columbia Glacier retreat from 1984 to 2011. This is just one of the many stunning phenomena that can be observed using the tools of the recently launched Timelapse project. [Read more]

Neil deGrasse Tyson Gets the “SNL” Treatment

BT_Tyson_on_SNL_final[1]It was bound to happen: Neil deGrasse Tyson was impersonated on “SNL.” Played by Kenan Thompson, the fake Dr. Tyson appears on an episode of the morning talk show “Fox & Friends” to talk about his new show“Cosmos.” In the skit, he explains to the hosts that global warming is indeed a real threat, a fact confirmed by science. Ironically, on a recent episode of “Cosmos,” Dr. Tyson took on creationism by disproving it with an onslaught of facts. We’re sure that he appreciated the honor of being impersonated on “SNL.” To catch the real Dr. Tyson, check out his interview with Big Think on the importance of just being oneself. [Read more]

The Center of the Universe

It turns out I’m the center of the universe.  This shouldn’t have actually surprised me, though.  It’s something that’s rather obvious when you think about it. [Read more]

Are We Any Closer to Knowing How Many Species There Are on Earth?

0B9C5C7C-3048-439C-AD975D27746D8CED_article[1]How many species are there? For decades scientists have been asking—and trying to answer—this question. Guesses, estimates and calculations have been as low as half a million and as high as 100 million. But despite increasingly sophisticated models and a greater understanding of ecology, we’re no closer to a number, or even a range, than we were several decades ago, argues a new paper published in the April Trends in Ecology & Evolution. Knowing the total number of species in the world—or at least having a good approximation—is important for both symbolic and practical reasons, says Julian Caley, a researcher at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the lead author of the paper. [Read more]

A Win for Evolution at CuriOdyssey!

Yesterday morning I posted a picture (below) and an email I sent to officials at CuriOdyssey, a science education center for children in San Mateo, California. I objected to the caveat about evolution at the bottom of their sign, and requested that they reconsider it. Upon arriving in California yesterday afternoon, I found a gracious answer from one of the officials of CuriOdyssey, agreeing to remove the caveat about evolution. [Read more]

NASA Photo Captures Strange Bright Light Coming Out of Mars

622x350[1]A NASA camera on Mars has captured what appears to be artificial light emanating outward from the planet’s surface. The photo, beamed millions of miles from Mars to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., was taken last week, apparently by one of two NASA rovers on the red planet. Although the space agency hasn’t issued any official statement yet about the phenomenon, bloggers and NASA enthusiasts have started chiming in. [Read more]

Why You Should Donate Your Brain to Science

Autism researchers recently made a major discovery. They found that the cerebral cortex wasn’t neatly layered in the brain tissue of autistic children like it is in the brains of non-autistic children. [Read more]

Fossil Galaxy May Be One of First Ever Formed

8136E243-C9DC-478B-BE1077A77FA22BEE_article[1]A tiny galaxy circling the Milky Way may be a fossil left over from the early universe, astronomers say. A recent study found that the stars in the galaxy, called Segue 1, contain fewer heavy elements than those of any other galaxy known, implying that the object may have stopped evolving almost 13 billion years ago. If true, Segue 1 could offer a window into the conditions of the early universe and reveal how some of the first galaxies came to be. Segue 1 is very, very tiny. It appears to contain only a few hundred stars, compared with the few hundred billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. [Read more]

The Search for Earthlike Planets

For many years, the remarkable planet-searching mission, Kepler, gazed at a large body of 150,000 stars situated in a neighborhood located 3,000 light years away from planet Earth. The valuable information harvested by this space probe has brought a critical point in this lengthy search for earthlike planets. Is planet Earth one of many life-supporting worlds scattered across the galaxy; or is it a unique garden of Eden in a desolate universe? [Watch Film]

. . . and something different . . .

Earthly Things, Wombs and the Resurrection of the Dead

laz41[1]When I first re-entered the Christian faith as an adult, I took a catechumenate class (like an adult confirmation program) at the Lutheran church Matthew and I attended.  This is where I learned about and fell in love with Lutheran theology. It just made sense to me. Mostly. Pastor Ross grew quickly accustomed to my raised hand in the back row as I waited to ask clarifying, and at times, belligerent questions. [Read more]