Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rich, Indeed!

Where your friends are, there are your riches.

My dear friend Pam sent me a holiday card with the above German proverb on it. On the inside of the card it said, 'Tis the season to remember good friends like you!

Under that she wrote, "We're RICH!" I almost burst into tears when I read it.

Having Pam and my other dear friends and family in my life make me very rich, in all the ways that matter. During this holiday season, I want all my dear friends and family to know how much you mean to me.

In friends and family, I am indeed the richest woman on Earth. I will always be thankful for that.

Crockumentaries and Ancient Aliens

Chuck Doswell just released a great new blog post about crockumentaries, which reminded me why I quit watching the cable science and history shows. A crockumentary is a documentary program that presents fiction as fact. The number of crockumentaries has gotten so high that you have to have background knowledge in science or history to be able to tell which show is real and factual and which is sensationalized and filled with baloney.

As an example, the History Channel now has a show on "Ancient Aliens." On their web page about supposed ancient alien theory, it says:

According to ancient alien theorists, extraterrestrials with superior knowledge of science and engineering landed on Earth thousands of years ago, sharing their expertise with early civilizations and forever changing the course of human history. But how did this concept develop, and is there any evidence to support it?

Of course this is more nonsense from Erich von Daniken, a strange, sad person who fictionalizes the history of humans and presents his malarkey as fact. Wishing real hard that something is real does not make it so! The series explores ancient cultures and their texts and asserts that there are indeed records of extraterrestrial visits.

If there were real evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth in the past, you can bet that scientists would be studying and discussing it. By scientist, I mean a professional in a field of science who uses the scientific method, publishes his or her findings in scientific journals, and encourages other scientists to verify or question the results. The news of ET contacts would be the biggest science story ever, and would monopolize the headlines of all the news outlets around the world! The reality is that no reputable archaeologists, geologists, or space scientists have ever come forward with any evidence, proof or findings of extraterrestrial visits. None. Zero. Zip.

Part of civilization's coming of age into today's astronomical knowledge has brought the yearning to contact beings from other planets, if they exist. Sure, we'd all love to know that intelligent life does exist somewhere, and has tried to contact us. Science fiction authors have imagined what contact with beings from another planet could be like, such as Arthur C. Clarke in his triumphant book and movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Carl Sagan's Contact, to name a few. There are silly versions, such as Men in Black. And childish versions, such as E.T. But has it actually happened and been verified? No. NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project has combed the sky for radio or other messages from other beings for over twenty years, with no luck yet. Scientists would be very interested if there were real evidence.

For a cable channel to devote the resources of a series to a tired, fake fool like Von Daniken is disheartening, and points to the basic problem today in the TV and other media: some reporters and writers are looking for sensationalism, not reality. They are lazy, and want a series or program that they can produce quickly. They don't want to put any real effort into learning anything or verifying claims. The firing of science writers in all forms of news and entertainment media over the last 20 years because they were too expensive has added to this dumbing down of television programs.

In a time when the Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized astronomy by itself, when exciting new discoveries in biology, physics, geology, archaeology, oceanography, meteorology, and just about every scientific discipline are happening weekly, it's criminal that reporters aren't out creating more science series about the REAL science. On PBS, the Nova and Nature series are excellent, and illustrate what can be done, and what should be shown on cable outlets with lofty names such as the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.

It's not only the national cable channels which put baloney on the air. Here in Tucson, a local TV program called The Morning Blend presents astrology and numerology as real science. On Dec. 19, 2011, they had "Sun Signs with Susie Cox," a segment in which a supposed astrologer discusses Sun signs and Christmas gifts. "Let the sun signs point you to the perfect present!" Viewers are told that "Aries love weapons, guns and fast things," and other such nonsense. On Dec. 22, 2011, their show has "Numerology with Patricia Kirkman." The web site says, "Intuitive Numerologist Patricia Kirkman says numerology is an excellent tool in assisting people in their quests for direction when dealing with uncertainty." Our public access channels have many excellent programs produced locally, along with some goofy programs which state that aliens are here among us now, such as in "UFO Hypotheses," a hilarious show with endless CIA and other conspiracies working to keep photographs of aliens on Earth a secret, and others.

Perhaps the largest problem is that the general public, for the most part, doesn't know enough about science to be able to filter out the baloney from the real stuff, a situation that is just getting worse as education and public television dollars are cut.

What to do? Express your opinion. If a channel or program is presenting fiction as fact, send them a message by email, snail mail, or other method. Let their sponsors know that you do care about quality programming. Talk to local school kids and volunteer to help them discover real science. Most kids have never met a scientist or technical professional, I have found, and when they do meet you, it affects them deeply. They want to know more about science, once they know what it is! The general public wants to know more about how the Earth works, or how ancient people thought, or about the possibilities of life on other planets. In the end, our most potent weapons are our buying dollar, our opinions expressed by pen or keyboard, and the time we volunteer to spend teaching kids and the general public about science.

We have a lot to do! So get started...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Evil Macintosh Queen's Blog

The Evil Mac Queen, so named by a group of scientists long ago at the National Severe Storms Lab, now has a blog! This blog is for those who think about what computer they need before they buy one. Rants about Macintoshes, PCs, science, outreach, and anything else that interests me will be here.

Welcome to my world.