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

New World Apocalypse 1889: The Last American

John Ames Mitchell’s The Last American (1889)

LastAmericanLibertyImages of a run-down Statue of Liberty against a backdrop of decaying New York are a staple of science fiction. So are visions of a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. As I’ve noted before, the fascination with ruin porn dates back to at least the late 18th century. But America was a backwater at the time – the New World (or the Western presence there anyway) was too new to ruin in futuristic visions. The very first work of science fiction set against a backdrop of ruined, major U.S. cities, as far as I can find, is the brief 1889 satire, The Last American: A fragment from the journal of KHAN-LI, Prince of Dimph-yoo-chur and Admiral in the Persian Navy, by the original publisher of LIFE magazine, John Ames Mitchell.

The book, as the title indicates, is presented as an excerpt from the journal of a Persian Naval admiral, who with his crew stumbles into New York’s harbor 1000 years after America’s demise in 1990. The Persians, who have mocking names like Nofuhl , Lev-el-Hedyd, and Ad-el-pate, comment on the follies of the lost civilization, while they themselves are portrayed as superstitious primitives who make the ancient “Mehrikans” look good by comparison. The Last American reads like a very mediocre Mark Twain — A Connecticut Yankee, published the same year, leaves Mitchell’s book in the dust. Nevertheless, Mitchell, who was surely influenced by After London, made an important contribution to the genre: satire. 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.

Science Caturday: All Dried Out

tungcat

California has been experiencing drought conditions for over a year, and now geological monitoring stations  show that the drying ground is actually rising up. According to this article by Sarah Zielinski in Smithsonian Magazine, “Measurements of these subtle movements, made using GPS instruments, suggest that the western United States is missing some 62 trillion gallons of water, enough to cover the entire region six inches deep.” Alarming news for farmers and thirsty kitties alike.

 

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