So much to write about!

  • Carl Sagan Day?

Saturday was dubbed Carl Sagan Day in honor of what would have been the 75th birthday (on Monday) of Carl Sagan. Broward College in Florida hosted a celebration and New Scientist had a blog post, from which I learned about the celebration.

Carl Sagan, with Richard Feynman and several others, was one of the great communicators of science of the 20th century. His miniseries Cosmos introduced the wonders of modern astrophysics to people around the world. If you have not seen an episode of Cosmos, watch one: they’re on Hulu; although they’re old and some of the science is outdated, they remain a classic. The movie Contact was conceived by Carl Sagan (though released after his death) and inspired the book, which by the quirks of history, was published well before the movie. The novel Contact, in my opinion, is deeper than the movie. It’s a great  “What if?’ on first contact with extraterrestrials and a wonderful meditation on the relationship between science and religion by an agnostic/skeptic who knew how approach the issue with class and respect. Sagan was not my inspiration to go into physics or into astronomy, but exposure to his works certainly egged me on and he helped nourish public interest in astronomy at a time when the end of the Apollo program meant that national interest was fading.

  • Behavioral Genetics Shapes Sentencing of Murderer

This deserves its own blog post but the summary is that an Italian court has shortened the sentence of a murderer because genetic testing suggested he was predisposed to violent behavior. Here is the Nature news story. Apparently this is first time such a decision has been made in Europe, but a few similar decisions have been made in the US. This story raises some really interesting ethical questions, about which I’m not at all qualified to write, but nonetheless, which I think could make for an interesting post.

  • Babies Cry in Native Language

This is interesting. A German study suggests that babies’ cries differ by language even in the days immediately after birth. This follows up with studies that suggest that language recognition begins in the third trimester, with response to native language. Really cool stuff if you ask me….I wonder if there is also response to other sounds too? Music? I’m not so much thinking of the Mozart Effect, which hasn’t really been proven, but of the effect of prenatal exposure to music in regard to later musical preference.

  • Art and Science

I attended an excellent talk by an artist who works with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Blog post to come.

  • Went for a walk in Rock Creek Park…Miss the Cuyahoga Valley.