Links I liked, Aug 30 – Sep 5 (SpaceX explosion, winds in the stratosphere, and more)

1. SpaceX rocket explodes during test.

Golly.  Gives you a sense for how nervous those tiny Apollo astronauts might have been sitting at the end of those gigantic rockets.

2. A strange thing happened in the stratosphere

Winds in the tropical stratosphere, an atmospheric layer that extends from about 10 to 30 miles above Earth’s surface, circulate the planet in alternating easterly and westerly directions over roughly a two-year period. Westerly winds develop at the top of the stratosphere, and gradually descend to the bottom, about 10 miles above the surface while at the same time being replaced by a layer of easterly winds above them. In turn, the easterlies descend and are replaced by westerlies.

This pattern repeats every 28 months. In the 1960s scientists coined it the “quasi-biennial oscillation.” The record of these measurements, made by weather balloons released in the tropics at various points around the globe, dates to 1953.

The pattern never changed – until late 2015.

3. Coral Beauty Angelfish getting scrubbed by Cleaner Shrimp

From our aquarium actually – was pleased to finally catch this neat interspecies interaction on video.

4. How Trigger Warnings Silence Religious Students

Many passed this article around last week – happy to see this discussed in a mainstream publication.  I know a lot of people (especially outside of academia) would say that the whole point of trigger warnings, safe spaces, and the like is to silence speech.  This author would rather say that the silencing of speech is an unfortunate side effect that needs to be dealt with.  So I know a lot of readers would say this article is really much too nice but, as I said, happy to see this discussed in a mainstream publication.

Students should be free to argue their beliefs without fear of being labeled intolerant or disrespectful, whether they think certain sexual orientations are forbidden by God, life occurs at the moment of conception, or Islam is the exclusive path to salvation; and conversely, the same freedom should apply to those who believe God doesn’t care about who we have sex with, abortion is a fundamental right, or Islam is based on nothing more than superstitious nonsense. As it stands, that freedom does not exist in most academic settings, except when students’ opinions line up with what can be broadly understood as progressive political values.

5. I don’t.

About 2% of children in Japan are born out of wedlock – in America, about 40%.

6. Discrimination That Is Necessary For a Civil Society: A Response to David Gushee

A while ago a local news station had a poll that went something like “are curfews only for those of certain ages discriminatory?”. My reaction was – that is a terrible question to poll people about. One of the definitions of “discrimination” is to make a distinction between. By definition a curfew that applies to some ages and not others is discrimination, you don’t need a poll for that. What they really wanted to know, of course, is if people thought such curfews were wrong or unjust. But that isn’t what they said.

The law is usually more precise, forbidding discrimination based on X, Y, and Z, sort of implying thereby that there is a lot of other discrimination going on that is just fine. But the two definitions (basically “recognize a distinction” and “make an unjust distinction”) are often mixed, quite intentionally at times I think by people who want to create confusion of thought and draw people to their side (“it’s unjust discrimination”) without ever having to make an argument for why it is. (And mixed unintentionally at other times by people whose thought is simply, by now, thoroughly confused.) Therefore I am happy to see careful thinkers pointing this out and insisting on more precision.

7. 10 Steps to Fix a City

Throw out your parking ordinances.  Dramatically simplify your zoning.

8. Freshwater jellyfish discovered in Michigan lake

The non-native species is home to one region in China, but they have been reported in Michigan since the 1930s, according to the United States Geological Survey. Experts said these penny-sized invertebrates are not dangerous to humans nor Michigan’s ecological system.

This week brought to you by aurora north of Lansing, Michigan.


Links I liked, 6/22/2015 – 6/28/2015 (recycling problems, teacher teachspans, ACLU)

1. American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why

Single-stream recycling is actually a big pain for processors.  And it results in a lot of waste – 1/3 of glass picked up is crushed in processing and has to be sent to landfills, perhaps contaminating other materials along the way.

2. Video of Portland tornado

Pretty dramatic footage of a tornado that went through downtown Portland, Michigan (we don’t get many up here!).  You wonder about that car that turned off-frame two seconds before it went through.  No one was killed, but that must have been one spooked driver.

3. Sermon: The Communion of Saints

Sermon from our church’s international ministry director.  Question he got from a Muslim student – “why do your imams try to drown you?”  (Baptism reference.)  He he.

4. Most Michigan Teachers Leave Before Qualifying For a Pension

Found this interesting not directly because of the pension part, but because I know that you must work 10 full-time years before becoming eligible for a pension.  Which means most Michigan teachers don’t work ten full-time years.  Huh.

5. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Breaks Up During Launch Vehicle Failure

Video at link.  Second recent failed attempt to deliver cargo to the ISS.  Space travel is still more difficult than we often think.

6. ACLU: We’re only interested in protecting some civil rights

It continues to boggle my mind that merely declining to participate in an event (like a same-sex marriage) because you have a moral problem with it is “imposing your views on others”.  However compelling someone else to participate in such an event against their will, and suing them if they don’t, isn’t?  Exactly backwards, but the ACLU doesn’t get it.  (Ed Morrissey does, though.)

7. Gay Conservatism and Straight Liberation

Russ Douthat points out the irony that while Kennedy’s decision on gay marriage argues by placing marriage on a very high pedestal, most millenials seem to be rejecting that conception of the institution.  (But I don’t think they’ll object to the ruling.)  Good read for some historical perspective.

Lansing Lugnut Fireworks

Lansing Lugnut Fireworks

Links I liked, 4/27/15 – 5/3/15 (Evangelicalism, Vietnam, Exoworlds).

Hello after a long time – I have decided to reboot the blog in a low-key manner.  All of this stuff has been shared this week on my Twitter – but I realized that when I’m mobile, I generally find stuff to read via blogs through the Pulse app on my phone.  What about other people like me?  So I’m going to try sharing, once a week, links I found interesting the previous week, with some small comments from me.  In no particular order then…

1. All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Evangelicalism

Matthew Milliner, a former Wheaton College undergraduate, describes his disenchantment with some of the shallowness of evangelicalism (e.g., worship songs that feel like rebooted pop songs).  But then, reading old mystics of Catholic and Orthodox fame, he is surprised to find much of the same (e.g. finding words to express their praise of God in the secular poetry of the day) and comes to appreciate where he came from.  And now he teaches at Wheaton.

2. Last Days in Vietnam

A good, and sad, two-hour-long PBS documentary recommended by someone over at Ace of Spades blog.

3. 20 Exoworlds are now available for naming proposals

If you have an “astronomy-interested” club or organization, you can submit a name for one of twenty discovered exoplanets.  Proposals will then be voted upon (following some screening, I’d imagine).

4. The Wild Ideas of Social Conservatives

A nice piece by Russ Douthat.  He makes a point I’ve made before that we are now at a place where if something cannot be easily quantified, then it doesn’t exist to us (especially when it comes to setting public policy).  But his bigger point here is “isn’t it strange that we keep ridiculing the predictions of social conservatives when in fact they’ve built up a pretty good track record over the last 50 years or so?”

5. What if Students Could Fire Their Professors?

A little article via Sarah Brodsky mainly shared for its observation that students who have poorly rated (by them) professors often do better in later courses – nobody likes a taskmaster.

6. SpaceX mile-high escape test will feature ‘Buster’ the dummy

The SpaceX crew capsule will have an escape system – the Space Shuttle didn’t have that.

7. MI lawmaker pushes state home school registry

Interesting reasoning here I thought – essentially argues that one of the reasons we need public schools is because it gets children away from their parents for a time and we can may sure everything is OK at home.  Since we can’t do that for homeschooled students we need a registry.  (Never going to happen with the current MI legislature.)  Also I had not seen an estimate before – perhaps 3% of Michigan students homeschooled.  I would have put it higher.

Bec enjoying a flower

And now here is Bec enjoying a flower in East Lansing.