Salty water

How awesome that we can mess things up in so many ways!

Fun with maps!

I have to say, GeoMapApp is just getting better and better. Everyone involved is doing really good work on developing that free software.

If you’re not tuned in to the latest in geoscience public domain material, GeoMapApp is a collaborative effort by a group of scientists to make published and public-domain geophysical and geographical data accessible for everyone to use with free, publicly available software. With the recent arrival of the northern polar projection, it has really become great for most uses. I haven’t checked in this most recent version, but the last version was not quite ready to export to Google Earth from the northern polar projection, so if that becomes available it will be even more powerful. (As it is, you can already export to Google Earth from the mercator projection, which is both cool and pretty fun. My own Google Earth default has a very special Volcanista’s-Thesis layer!)

Anyway, I just spent an evening making a nice map figure, and although working with such large grid files takes a while, overall it went very smoothly. Thanks GeoMapApp!

New Target Women!

Everybody poops!

Science and politics

This post points out how McCain’s apparently disdain for science funding is extremely worrying. In the last two debates (not to mention stump speeches) he has used at least two different examples of federal science funding as jokes about irresponsible spending (har har), and as the WP article shows, he has enjoyed mocking science funding throughout his career. And I can see how he objects to funding science through bill add-ons, rather than through “proper” channels like NSF. But NSF barely funds anything these days, it seems, and what they fund they fund in part. Depending on your institution and what kind of matching funds you can get, it’s sometimes just not enough. The bear project was with USGS, anyway, and they have basically NO money of their own. They can barely afford to pay salaries to employees and rely heavily on unpaid volunteers… but that’s a topic for another day.

Look, science research is expensive. There’s no getting around that. Most proposals include some or all of the researchers’ salaries, often funding for students and maybe postdocs (which is a lot more than just tuition and stipends because of the level of overhead for most institutions), and then the money that actually buys supplies, pays for travel, and pays for analyses (keeping the machines running, the supplies used in analysis, etc.). If your field area is at sea, ship time is incredibly expensive, because the research money has to pay for the time of the entire ship. That’s why most scientific cruises have a whole bunch of projects going at the same time, because the scientists team up to get the work done. But it’s still a lot of money to fund, and generally that funding comes from the federal government (paying for a ship means not just expenses for the ship and instrumentation itself, but salaries and benefits for the ship’s crew as well, and these days health insurance costs have made that exhorbitant).

It not just gets my hackles up when McCain makes jokes about how useless or silly science spending is. In a situation where scientific projects continue to be generally underfunded, where a proposal with two “Excellent” reviews and two “Very Goods” can’t get funded anymore, there’s really no place for arguing that we should fund our science LESS.

Bold traveller!

This is awesome!

A community of the bacteria Candidatus Desulforudis audaxviator has been discovered 2.8 kilometres beneath the surface of the Earth in fluid-filled cracks of the Mponeng goldmine in South Africa. Its 60°C home is completely isolated from the rest of the world, and devoid of light and oxygen.

D. audaxviator (“bold traveller,” in a direct quote from Jules Verne, omg the nerdiness) lives off the radioactivity of uranium, in warm, 3 million-year-old, anoxic water. It lives alone with no other organisms, with no need of the sun even indirectly, and its genetic material is a mixture of genes seen in related species and archaea genes.

That is so cool!

New McCain ad

I can’t figure out how to get WordPress to embed the video, so I’m just going to have to link to this new ad, courtesy of the fabulous Jay Smooth. Shocking!

whoa.

I only just had a chance to listen to this week’s This American Life, which is the second in their awesome financial market series (part one is here). (I expect you can only download it for free this week.)

It’s well worth a listen if, like me, your understanding of economics is basic. TAL explains things so well.

Also, we are fucked.

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