Science Blogging: On Zombies, Asshats, Sex Organs and the Great Black Hope

Filed as Features on January 20, 2007 3:24 pm

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This installment of The Wonderful World of Science Blogging will take a look at some interesting diversions that scientists like to indulge (because they can). First, there’s news from the Zombie wars based on some very timely analysis of the nature of zombies.

In case you are among the few humans who haven’t yet become aware of the threat, I was originally alerted to the Zombie Crisis when I enrolled in a course on quantum consciousness at the University of Arizona some years ago. Philosopher David Chalmers was one of the instructors, and he is inordinately fond of zombies. He has published many papers on the subject, and has compiled a collection of Zombies on the Web that any true zombie-phyle will love. Hollywood zombies, Haitian zombies, philosophical zombies, the zombie within, functional zombies… You name it, Chalmers has links to it in his collection.

So when I saw that RPM over at coalesced had written a blog entitled On the Evolution of Zombie Populations, I just had to click on it. He offers the latest on the never-ending debate, noting that fellow sci-blogger Anders Sandberg at Andart has produced a fine analysis of Zombie evolutionary epidemiology complete with supporting graphic simulations of the decline in human populations as zombies become more efficient at brain eating. Not to worry. Just keep your copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks in your purse, in the glovebox of your car, in the toilet reading-basket or handy on the coffee table at all times and you should be fine. Survival of the fittest!

While we’re on the subject of the evolution of odd species and survival of the fittest, Kevin Beck over at Dr. Joan Bushwell’s Chimpanzee Refuge steers us toward sci-oriented web comic Saint Gasoline’s site to learn about Survival of the Asshats in online communities. You know the type – the asshats dominate those blogsites where personal arrogance and pointless combativeness matter ever so much more than scientific fact and rational discourse. Saint Gasoline tells us these asshats are an “evolutionarily stable” population we just have to learn to live with in virtual reality. And since they tend to draw more participation than more sedate blogsites can muster, it couldn’t hurt to learn how to deal with them in their own insulting terms. Besides, expressing the dark side of one’s personality without social inhibition is a pretty good way of letting off enough built-up steam to get through a day of face-to-face meetings with people you’d rather not hang out with, but are too nice (in real life) to avoid.

The blogosphere as psychological playground and group therapy session. Even better, there are a few asshats that actually run sci-blogs of their very own. That way they can’t be banned for bad behavior and can abuse commenters at will. The most infamous of those would have to be PZ Myers, whose blog is Pharyngula. Pharyngula was elected the Science Blog of the Year for two years’ running, using a clever internet voting scheme where you can vote both early AND often!

Professor Myers sometimes intersperses some biology (and pretty pictures of cephalopods) in between his political and anti-religious tirades. He offers us some prurient scientific information about Penis evolution and How to make a vulva, so it’s not all asshattery. But be forewarned… they’re worm vulvas. Yuck!

Now, for all you science geeks out there who never got much benefit from the myriad commercial products offered in your spam folder to enlarge that evolved penis, there’s some bad news from the physics front. Chad Orzel of Uncertain Principles informs us that an experiment reported in Physical Review Letters this month has established a size limit on extra dimensions. According to his blog Extra Dimensions Get Smaller, gravity works in our large dimensions all the way down to less than .045 millimeter. Which is smaller than the “Dark Energy Length Scale.” Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance has some further details about the experiments conducted at the University of Washington.

Speaking of the less-than-tiny, blogger Bee over at Backreaction gives us a rundown on what all this means to experiments planned at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN in light of recent experiments on quantum gravity. In Micro Black Day Bee links to previous blogs, articles and papers on the web that discuss the likelihood of actually producing micro holes that some promoters (seeking funding) claim will solve our planet’s energy problems. Bee’s not too gung-ho on the idea, citing some serious objections to the theoretics.

Finally, if your head is aching with the effort of trying to assimilate all this excellent sci-blog information, you may enjoy Steve Higgins’ take on Mind Control and Severed Heads over at Omni Brain. Perhaps a head transplant will help! Does anybody know if insurance pays for this sort of thing, or is it considered elective surgery? I seem to have misplaced my policy book after it gave me a big headache…

Over and out from the intrepid sci-blog watcher. Happy surfing!

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  1. By Tony posted on January 20, 2007 at 11:58 pm
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    Ahhhh, the asshat. Sadly, I tend to agree — there is no Darwinian pressure for them to get weeded out of the gene pool; rather, there seems to be elements within the blogosphere that certainly *promotes* a certain level of asshatt-ery.

    I guess anonymity and a keyboard breeds lots of things, including, but not limited to ass hats.

    Cheers
    t