world of science, space, invention, discovery
Science: What are we discovering about ourselves and our world? Space: How will we inhabit our solar system, our galaxy, our universe? SETI: Are we alone? Inventions: What new tools are the world's greatest toolmakers devising? Discoveries and wonders: The universe continues to amaze, but can we keep up?
COMETS & ASTROPHYSICS
Every science show that depicts a comet now portrays the model developed in my PhD research (UCSD 1981) -- a spinning icy mass insulated by carbonaceous dust, with sun-heated, geyser-jets spewing particles into space. That work inspired my novel with Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet, just before the 1986 Giotto mission confirmed the model. See the Astrophysical Journal paper "Three Models of Dust Layers on Cometary Nuclei" or an abstract of the dissertation: "Evolution of Cometary Nuclei as Influenced by a Dust Component."
Other scientific papers that appeared in peer-reviewed scientific journals can be found on my bio page, on topics ranging from astrophysics to anthropology to psychology, philanthropy and dispute resolution, e.g.: "Neoteny and Two-Way Sexual Selection in Human Evolution," (J. Social and Evolutionary Systems 18(3) 1996), speculates why we turned out so strange compared to other species. Or the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (15(3) 2000), "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition."
I have written about scientific appraisal of the subject of parapsychology, originally for the site for the Public Television show Closer to Truth. Reprinted here, my article "Seeking a New Fulcrum: Parapsychology and the Need to Believe in a New Transcendence" offers some perspectives you may never have seen before.
Perhaps parapsychology is something other than its enthusiasts imagine. Not a trail leading back to ancient wisdom, but a predictor of humanity's future course, more an expression of our desire to anticipate and predict than an exploration of existing or ancient talents.
how we evolved & WHY
I've reprinted here a speculative paper, "Neoteny and Two-Way Sexual Selection in Human Evolution: Paleo-Anthropological Speculation," which originally appeared in the Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems (vol. 18(3), pp. 257-276, January 1996). In it, I speculate about some of the ways that human beings turned out to be so strange compared to other species.
our WORST ADDICTION
Could a single scientific breakthrough help get us past today's rising mass frenzy of self-righteousness that has poisoned politics in the United States and some other countries? I've long corresponded with experts, trying to find out. The resulting essay, "An Open Letter to Researchers In the Fields of Addiction, Brain Chemistry, and Social Psychology," led to papers in psychiatric journals and a speech at the National Institutes for Drugs and Addiction.
other ID theories
Intelligent Design (ID) pays tribute to its rival, by demanding to be recognized as a direct and "scientific" competitor with the Theory of Evolution. But by basing their offensive on core notions of fair play and completeness, ID promoters have employed a clever short-term tactic, but have incurred a long-term strategic liability: Their grand conceptual error is in believing that their incantation of Intelligent Design is the only alternative to Darwinian evolution. It's not.
Another essay "Other Theories of Intelligent Design," explores the irony in how the battle over Creationism v. Darwinism has taken shape. A clue to both the recent success -- and the eventual collapse -- of 'Intelligent Design' can be found in its name, and in the new tactics that are being used to support its incorporation into school curricula -- tactics which appear to acknowledge just how deeply science has pervaded modern culture.
I recently participated in a conversation with Robert L. Forward and Jonathan Vos Post, moderated by NASA scientist (and Nebula Award winner) Geoff Landis, about the possibility of interstellar flight without faster than light travel. (This article originally appeared in the magazine Science Fiction Age.)
SETI & ETs
Since 1983, my Great Silence paper remains the only scholarly review article about the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, comparing assumptions and theories (instead of leaping for just one). Other articles I've written explain this complex and fascinating subject in more popular and accessible ways. Here is a comprehensive compilation of articles and speculations by me about the current state of the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence.
Oh, and the topic came up in my latest science fiction novel, EXISTENCE!
a CLIMATE of CHANGE
Every few years I weigh into a battlefront in culture war: Global Climate Change. Trained as a scientist, and knowing many who research the atmospheres of 8 planets or who propelled spectacular advances in weather forecasting, I tend toward listening to expert advice on this one - especially since we're only being asked to do things we should be doing anyway. (Ironically, I coined the term "age of amateurs" and pushed citizen power! Still, expert knowledge matters.)
In 2007 I posted an essay dealing with some logical flaws in the denial-movement. Now I go after those who claim: "I'm not denying science - I'm a skeptic, just asking questions!" In fact, I know some real skeptics. I'm one, myself! But in "Distinguishing Climate 'Deniers' From 'Skeptics'" I distinguish these posers from the real thing.
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