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Femion » Science

Gazette #36

February 4th, 2008

The Pope and science just can’t get along

I was telling my friend Alex how I hoped I hadn’t peeved off my Catholic friends too much with this article. He responded by saying: “Criticizing the pope is not controversial.”

I had a “I guess we’re not in Antigonish anymore” moment.

Of course, to say it wasn’t controversial was not exactly true. Yesterday, when describing her new boyfriend, a friend told me “I’ve read your column and I know that you’re all anti-religion and whatever, but I prayed to god to send me someone and He delivered…”. Today, at the Gazette meeting a law student, who, from what I could tell, was an atheist, showed up with a long essay responding to this article that he wanted to get printed in the Gazette. He wants to make the point that the Catholic church has been a benefactor to science. Fine. He wants to start an on-going debate with me about whether science and faith are compatible. Fine.

But the thing is, people seem to be missing the point of this article. I’m not trying to be anti-religious. I don’t want to point out how religion and science can’t get along (I did not pick the title of this week’s column, my editor did). I certainly have opinions on both subjects, but I don’t see the point in writing about them. I was simply trying to explain why scientists might find it offensive for the pope to show up at their university and give them a lecture on how they need the church for ethical guidance given the church’s track record with scientists.

My editor will publish the atheist law student’s piece. I’m kinda flattered though. It makes me feel relevant.

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Gazette #34

January 19th, 2008

A skeptic’s guide to infomercials

I had a lot of fun writing this one.

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Gazette #31 & 33

January 17th, 2008

Don’t be sick: get your vaccinations
The year in science

#32 was about refurbishing the U.S.’ nuclear arsenal, and hasn’t been published on the internet.

I’m back at school. This semester I’m taking Electromagnetism, Experimental methods in Physics, Intermediate Calculus 2, Honours Linear Algebra, and Foundations of Journalism 2, which means I’ve got three of the same profs. Nothing too much new with them, except that the prof who was a jackass to me last semester hasn’t done anything too jackassy yet, and my calc prof is retiring after this semester. My Electromagnetism prof is Swiss and speaks in a very funny accent - he calls phis pheees and thetas are TAAAI-tas. I’ve gotten into the habit of taking my textbook to class because his lectures consist of writing indecipherable squiggles on the blackboard. Experimental methods is fun too, although it can be really boring at times. So far I’ve put LEDs in liquid nitrogen to see their spectral output at really low temperatures and measured Planck’s constant with a photoelectric effect box.

Oh, and because I feel like bragging, I have the highest grade out of both sections of last semester’s Foundations of Journalism class. That’s despite not studying for the end of term exam because I thought it was open book and it turned out not to be, and being one of two science students in a class of about 90 students, most of whom want to be journalists. Yay me!

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Gazette #30 - oh the catchy article titles

November 18th, 2007

Contains 20 per cent more bullshit than the next leading brand
My original title for this column was ‘Enriched with Bullshit’. I guess my editor thought that wasn’t catchy enough. In the physical edition of this piece, the title is ‘Take every meal with a grain of salt’.

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Gazette #27 Contradictory Edits

November 4th, 2007

The Math behind Facebook
My editor requested that I write a column involving Facebook or the internet. So I wrote him this, about theories in a book I read this summer and applying it to Facebook. When I got to the Gazette meeting for that week, he told me it wasn’t ‘opinionated’ enough. So, I gave him carte blanche to edit it to his level of opinionatedness, telling him to go with the conclusion that “facebook imitates life”.
That’s what he did, at least in the first couple of paragraphs. But the problem is that my editor seems to have a deep hatred of Facebook (see the article about ‘Who’s using your personal information?’) and decided to include the line - It also goes to show that who you can be connected to on Facebook might not have so much to do with how popular you are., which contradicts my original opinion.
I’m not too upset about it. I don’t think anyone other than myself noticed it, but maybe I should pay more attention to the edited ‘opinions’ next time.

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Gazette #26 - Lisa Randall Speaks

October 23rd, 2007

Tying quantum Strings

This was a summary of the annual Guptill lecture. String theory may be weird and interesting, and Randall may be charismatic, but I don’t want to go into particle physics.

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Gazette #25 - Up the Knee of the Curve

October 12th, 2007

Everything is Exponential

This week covers The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. Next week will cover the Guptill lecture, which was given this year by Lisa Randall and was about string theory and dimensions. It was a really good lecture, especially entertaining for the questions. On guy got up and said, “I don’t want to sound like the village idiot, but I happen to have actually experienced three or four extra dimensions, and I understand some of what you’re saying, but some of it doesn’t make sense… So I’m wondering: Do I need to learn from you or should you be learning from me?”

Randall’s answer: “Why don’t you ask the people you meet in those dimensions?”

On another note, I had my first midterm today. My first midterm ever. I think it went pretty well. I studied for it! I’ve also started to volunteer for Andrew Rutenberg’s research group. Sounds like I’m going to be using C to develop some computer models to explain how which cyanobacteria in a filament know that they have to turn into nitrogen fixers (essentially commit suicide for the good of the colony). I’m interested in it because it’s sort of like nanotechnology in that Rutenberg’s lab is treating the bacteria as little machines. I’m not getting paid for it, but I’ll probably learn some good skills and I might get another publication out of it.

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Gazette #24 - Law of Attraction

October 7th, 2007

Thinking your way to the top

An investigation of the Law of Attraction. There’s a motivational speaker who charges 45$ to talk in Antigonish and Halifax about his bullshit about the Law of Attraction. Dalhousie even pays him to come in and do seminars for the profs.

I called him over the phone, told him I was a writer for the Dal Gazette, but didn’t tell him that I wrote the skeptic column. Protip: you can tell it’s pseudoscience if you ask for what scientific theories and evidence support his claims, and he points you to a book by Deepak Chopra.

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Gazette #23 - Beginning of Year 2

September 30th, 2007

Welcome to the modern skeptical movement
I don’t really like this piece. I did it as an introduction to the column but it got delayed because it had to go through so many edits… Next week’s should be more fun.
Also, I’m starting off at 23 because I wrote an article for the summer issue about DISP and another about living in Eliza Ritchie.

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First Published Research Paper!

September 22nd, 2007

frontpagecupj.jpg

It’s only the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Journal, but it’s still a publication. And if you want to cite it, you would write:

C. Holloway et al. “Morphology study of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes.” Canadian Undergraduate Physics Journal. (2007) 6(1), pp. 7-10.

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