Author Archives: Josh Witten

My Kids Need a Velociraptor

UPDATE 2014-08-28 11:34 – Project is now 61% funded with £4643 pledged from 102 backers

Rebecca Groom, creator of Paleoplushies is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of scientifically accurate, poseable velociraptor stuffed animals (aka, plushies in the UK). You have until 28 September to pledge. As of this writing, 79 backers have pledged £3103 of the needed £7600. Misrepresentation of these creatures in toys and movies interferes with the communication of interesting discoveries in paleontology. It has also incorrectly convinced my children that Daddy could not beat a ‘raptor in a fight. Groom’s velociraptor, complete with feathers, opens up discussions.

Rebecca Groom’s velociraptor plushie prototype

If, like me, your kids* desperately need such a toy, the “perks” that include a toy start at £30 plus £4 shipping to the US (about $56).

*Or your kids are a socially acceptable excuse for you desperately needing one.

HT: John Conway

Letter from Senator Lyndsey Graham on Net Neutrality

If Senator Tim Scott’s form letter on Net Neutrality didn’t say much, Senator Lyndsey Graham’s says even less. Unlike Senator Scott’s, only the first paragraph is subject specific. The final three are his form letter boilerplate. Senator Graham isn’t staking out a position. He is simply defending Congress’ power relative to the FCC, something he is usually loathe to do when it comes to the executive branch. Congress can act to declare internet service providers as common carriers; but will they?

I’d like to add a brief moment to address Senator Graham’s office on the matter of etiquette. Senator Graham and I are not on a first name basisContinue reading

Letter from Senator Tim Scott on Net Neutrality

As is my habit, I publish the form letters I receive from my elected representatives. On that front, Net Neutrality is the gift that keeps on giving – if you enjoy letters that don’t say anything – such as this missive from Senator Tim Scott. My general interpretation of this is that while Senator Scott is generally in favor of Net Neutrality, he is not going to spend any political capital flexing his muscles on behalf of the FCC’s reach or to push Congress to define internet service providers as common carriers. Thanks to rules about local internet service providers, the diversity of competition, which is key to Senator Scott’s hope for the future, has been decreasing, especially for those of us living in small towns in South Carolina. Continue reading

Geology of Thrones

The folks at Generation Anthropocene have created a geologic history of the fictional world in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. They walk us through eight eras of geological development that explain the environment in which all the characters you like die horrible (plus one more explanation of how big the planet is). Each post helps you understand both geology and the Game of Thrones world a bit better.

Generation Anthropocene: ALL OF THE MAPS CREATED FOR THIS PROJECT ARE BASED ON MAPS CREATED BY JONATHAN ROBERTS, TEAR, AND THEMOUNTAINGOAT.  CERTAIN ARTISTIC DETAILS (SUCH AS MOUNTAIN RANGES) HAVE BEEN COPIED AND ADAPTED TO SUIT THE NEEDS OF THE GEOLOGIC RECONSTRUCTIONS.

Generation Anthropocene: ALL OF THE MAPS CREATED FOR THIS PROJECT ARE BASED ON MAPS CREATED BY JONATHAN ROBERTS, TEAR, AND THEMOUNTAINGOAT. CERTAIN ARTISTIC DETAILS (SUCH AS MOUNTAIN RANGES) HAVE BEEN COPIED AND ADAPTED TO SUIT THE NEEDS OF THE GEOLOGIC RECONSTRUCTIONS.

If you are interested in how people got around Westeros, you should check out Michael Tyznik’s stylish transit map.

5 Very Good Questions

Nature has published a comment by William P. Hanage suggesting ways to inoculate oneself against the hype associated with the burgeoning field of microbiome studies. As Bethany Brookshire (aka, SciCurious) notes, these questions should be applied to any and all research, not just the microbiome.

1. Can experiments distinguish differences that matter?
2. Does the study show causation or just correlation?
3. What is the mechanism?
4. How much do experiments reflect reality?
5. Could anything else explain the results?
-paraphrased from William P. Hanage in Nature