Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new Constitution Fails Basic Epistemology

nealdegrassetyson

A couple of weeks ago, celebrity astrophysicist, podcaster, and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed an entire system of global government in a single tweet: “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.” This concept is admirable for its brevity… but not much else. While this particular hashtag hasn’t exactly gone viral (less than 400 posts so far), it has had a lot of reach (almost 800,000 viewers). It’s also generated a lot of discussion elsewhere, and US News, Slate, and Popular Science have all published op-eds attacking this popular scientist’s idea, and from several different angles.

Popular Science pointed out that science is merely an evolving tool. Slate’s Jeffrey Guhin lammed scientism, claiming that creationists are as scientifically adept as their evolutionist counterparts, and yet despite all this science they are still wrong. Robert F. Graboyes wrote for US News about several blood-soaked times that this “rational society” idea has been tried throughout history, and it’s a good read. We should never forget the “Temples of Reason” that presided over the French Reign of Terror, the sheer bodycount of “scientific socialism,” or the creeping horror of eugenic engineering.

But none of these articles criticizing the idea of science as a holy and pure ideal are complete. It is obvious that definitions of science change, and that imperfect human scientists will have flaws and foibles. It is even obvious that facts are not self-evident and statistics do not speak for themselves. Facts do not judge; they are judged. All evidence must be interpreted. All interpreters will have a lens through which they view the raw data; a worldview that shapes their conclusions.

Continue Reading

Make Your Own Cold-Brew Coffee Maker

ColdCoffeeDrip

In case our readers hadn’t noticed yet, it is now completely summertime (here in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway). Our air conditioning is running for a lot of the day, James is a little less excited about playing outside right after his morning nap, and Heidi and I are pretty much only drinking coffee that is full of ice.

We aren’t really coffee aficionados, but do we usually grind our own coffee and brew it in a French press like some coffee snobs swear by. Now that it’s warmer, we’ve begun cold-brewing our coffee, and despite the fact that cold-brewed coffee has a different flavor and possibly less caffeine, we like it. For those that haven’t tried the now popular practice, cold-brewing involves steeping ground coffee in much cooler water for a much longer time. We use room temperature water and let it steep for about 24 hours.

It’s just as easy to make, as long as you prepare the coffee far enough ahead of time that it will be ready when you want to drink it. We’ve been making tomorrow’s coffee right after pouring today’s coffee that we started brewing in our French press yesterday. However, the French press doesn’t hold too much, and it doesn’t filter out quite all the grounds. As usual, I thought there could be a better way.

Continue Reading

The L16 Camera’s Computational Photography

l16-Light-Camera

The L16 camera is the latest consumer-accessible version of a scientific imaging technique called computational photography. Now to some extent, all digital photography is computational photography. For example, all CMOS sensors that use a Bayer color filter require computational models to interpolate what the color values are in each of the pixels that they capture.

But what the L16 does is much more complicated. Instead of a recording the photons collected and focused by a single lens, it has 16 sensors and 16 lenses. There are some significant advantages to this. First of all, the total surface area of the sensor array can be increased by adding more small lenses, instead of increasing the size and weight of a single big lens.

This is not a new idea, in fact this is exactly how an insect’s compound eye works: many tiny lenses capture many images that the insect’s brain instantly comprehends as one image. The L16 does this a bit slower, taking the data from 16 different sensors and 16 different lenses, and assembling it into a single image that should have greater detail, less noise, and some additional data that a single sensor could not have captured on its own.

Continue Reading

Brexit Revisited

brexit2

It’s now been one week since the historic vote for British Independence, and the Brexit celebration and the Brexit panic have been colliding ever since. The Pound has yet to recover from that panic, but the $3 trillion dollars that journalist claimed had been evaporated, vaporized, or wiped out of the global markets has mostly come back. Amazing, how wealth can vanish into thin air, and then just as quickly reappear, right out of thin air, just like that.

Anyhow, in the last week, Britain’s angry “Remainers” have had time to publicly demand that their politicians not listen to public demands, and the EU’s angrier officials have been constantly breathing out threats and demands against the UK. In addition to possible embargoes and boycotts, the EU is how moving to punish British voters by banning the appliances that make their beloved tea and toast. There is even talk of war.

Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, has fretted that without the EU’s protection and advice, the UK and other European powers might be plunged into foolish and costly foreign wars (like the recent Gulf wars, perhaps?). Some analysts have gone further, suggesting that the only thing preventing bloody wars between European nations has been the benevolent oversight of the European Union. Without its British backing, the collapse of the EU is possible, which these fearmongers say would immediately spark a new series of European Wars, possibly a new World War.

Continue Reading

Bluetooth Headset with Heads-Up-Display

Headset3D

Despite the underwhelming response to Google Glass and the overwhelming hype surrounding various VR headsets, it’s pretty safe to say that the future of head-mounted displays is very bright. And while most folks are excited about the gaming potential of immersive displays like the Oculus Rift, I think that transparent Augmented Reality displays like Microsoft’s HoloLens will get more overall use, simply because they can be used for more things.

However, all of these displays seem too expensive, too big, too delicate, and too early in development to have any apps for your personal job. I’d love to have a little screen sitting just under my right eye showing me my emails, camera viewfinder, CNC machine terminal, caliper display, and so on, but that technology is a little far off, and who knows how useful it would actually be in day-to-day practice? I think it’s worth building something that’s a little simpler to implement for the sake of experimentation.

I think that someone should build a basic Bluetooth headset with a little microphone boom which has a multi-color LED on the end. I don’t think it would need to be much longer than two inches to get that flashing LED into the wearer’s peripheral vision (try this yourself with a tiny LED and let me know what you find), and little plastic prism would direct the light toward the eye and away from other folks.

HeadsetHead

Continue Reading

Brexit Means Freedom and Responsibility

UnionJacks

In many ways, Britain’s national history began when it left the Roman Empire. Throughout its many centuries, Britons have defined themselves as freedom-loving, independent people, very often resisting larger multi-national organizations or top-heavy systems of government. To choose just a few examples, King Alfred led his countrymen out of an encroaching Viking nation, Henry VIII removed his country from an increasingly tyrannical Roman Catholic Empire, William Wilberforce extracted Britain from the global slave trade, and Winston Churchill rallied his people to repel the ever-increasing Third Reich and then to beat it back from the lands it had swallowed up.

Despite this rich tapestry of freedom, I was a little surprised to watch as Britain voted itself out of the European Union yesterday. I’d seen so much fear and panic in the media, and so many English celebrities moping about how much costlier their vacations would be if the tiny UK left the utopic pantheon of European powers, that I wasn’t really sure if modern Britons would follow their ancestral heritage. Fortunately, they did… just barely.

As we watched the results being reported last night, the financial markets went wild. When it became apparent that little old Britain was probably going to paddle off alone into the Atlantic after all, the Pound dropped like a rock as investors swapped them out for safer currencies, like American Dollars, Yen, or gold. But despite deep pessimism about the UK’s future without the all-powerful EU, nobody was buying up Euros.

Continue Reading

Beetles, Teamwork, and Providence

BuryingBeetle
We had an unexpected visitor last night. Well, I should say that it was not expected by Heidi. Heidi is from Colorado, so she is often surprised to find bugs in our house. I have been living in Tennessee for long enough that I am more surprised when there are not bugs in our house.

We were on our way to bed after putting James down for the night, and found a large beetle flying around in our room. It was a pretty large beetle to be airborne, and demonstrated very accurate navigation, even in the dark. When it landed on the floor I noticed something very strange about it – it seemed to carrying a colony of tiny spiders that were swarming all over its head and body.

Because I am not an entomologist, I was just slightly grossed out. Also, when I pointed a flashlight at the beetle it flipped itself onto its back, and I noticed that its abdomen was emitting what real entomologists call “a foul-smelling fluid.” I quickly used a piece of paper to flick the dying beetle out our bedroom door, assuming that he had been unfortunate enough to be killed by a bloodthirsty mob of baby spiders… but that made no sense.

How could so many spiders have jumped a big, fast-moving beetle, and how could they have gotten through his thick plate armor so quickly? He seemed to have gone from precision flying to apparent death very suddenly, even suspiciously suddenly. It slowly dawned on me that I had just been outwitted by a bug playing possum, so I Googled “mites on beetle” and discovered something fascinating.

Continue Reading

6 Ideas for Lenovo’s New Modular Phone

MotoZconnector

Yesterday, Lenovo announced its newest addition to the Moto mobile phone line. The Moto Z is basically just a bigger and thinner Moto X, except for a very interesting addition to the back. Down near the bottom are 16 visible pogo pins, and a couple of invisible yet powerful magnets. Moto phones have had customizable back plates for years, but this data port enables the phone to snap on “Moto Mod” backs, accessories that add new electronic components.

LG introduced a modular phone earlier this year, but it required disassembly and a reboot to swap parts. Lenovo’s solution means that the Moto Mods just slap right on and power up. So far, the existing mods include a powerful JBL speaker back, a miniature projector back, and a basic extended battery. In order to encourage other developers to create backs for this new line of phones, Lenovo has offered a $1m prize for the best prototype, and Hasselblad has already announced a camera back. Let’s throw out a few ideas of our own, shall we?

1. Solar Battery Pack

While InCipio is already making a smart rechargeable battery back for the Moto Z, it would be neat to have one with a built-in solar panel. Previous attempts to add solar panels to phones have been unsuccessful for several reasons, mainly because a cell phone is usually in your pocket or being held in your hand or away from sun, because cell phones usually overheat when they are in the sun, and because a phone-sized solar panel doesn’t provide enough juice to power a phone.

Continue Reading

Why We are Looking Forward to Homeschooling

JamesHeidiPark

Last month, someone asked us if we were planning to educate James at home. There’s a lot of reasons why the answer is yes; mostly related to Biblical obedience. Heidi and I believe very strongly that it is our own personal responsibility to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Even if our current public school curriculum wasn’t fundamentally opposed to these things (and co-ed bathrooms are the least of our concerns, by the way), institutional education systems don’t leave the time or opportunities for us to set the examples for our children that we see Scripture describing for us, the parents.

But it goes beyond that. We’re not seeing home education as a burden we carry until our country’s messed-up schooling system gets fixed, and we’re not approaching it like a daily cross to bear (not until we get to Algebra, anyhow), but as a blessing! We may be a little nervous about our own personal abilities to teach, since this is our first time to do this, but we are genuinely excited about this. Why is that?

The best, clearest, most concise answer to that is simply that we were educated at home. I realize that lots of other homeschooled kids have rejected homeschooling, that not everyone who experienced homeschooling has the best attitude about it, and that we all had different parents and experienced a different process of homeschooling. And yet, there is no better way to explain why Heidi and I are just plain excited to teach our children at home than simply to explain that we have experienced it ourselves.

Our parents taught us to love God’s Word and God’s ways, and we want to do the same for our children. But it goes beyond that. We want to teach our children at home because we loved being with our parents and siblings growing up, and we want to allow our children to have that same wonderful experience. We’re excited about providing that experience to them and being a part of it with them.

JamesIsaacPark

Continue Reading

Adding Elastic Pockets to a Camera Strap

SonyRX100

I’m used to travelling with with a lot of camera equipment. I like having a kit of several lenses, some audio recording equipment, and at least one backup camera, just in case. However, now that Heidi and James are with me, and James requires a pretty sizable collection of accessories, support equipment, and backup clothing just of his own, I tend to carry a lot less production gear. Of course, if I’m travelling for work, I generally have a bag or two like this one, but on our last family trip, all I brought was an H2 recorder and a tiny point-and-shoot camera.

CameraStrapPocket

Of course, I still wanted to take along spare batteries and an extra memory card. The problem was that I didn’t really want to throw all this extra stuff in my pockets along with my phone, wallet, knife, and then James’ toys, pacifier, teething gel, extra socks, discarded shoes, bits of windscreen that he has chewed off of the H2, etc. And so to make all the camera gear fit into a single, easily grabbable item, Heidi made these nifty pockets for the neck strap. Each pocket is simply a loop of 3″ elastic threaded onto the strap, sewed shut on the bottom, and then sewed partly shut on the top. That little bit of stitching at the top of the pocket keeps card and batteries extremely secure inside.

CameraStrapComplete

Continue Reading