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Posts Tagged ‘new york’

Sweet Photo of Shuttle Launch Goes Viral

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been out of the loop for a few days, and look at the cool stuff I miss!

Stefanie Gordon was on a plane heading from New York to Florida on Monday, May 16. She was fortunate enough to look out her window and see an amazing sight: the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Space Shuttle Endeavor from Delta flight 2285 - Photo by Stefanie Gordon

The photo has since appeared in a plethora of news outlets, including MSNBC, Time, and CBS.

You can also see a short video of the launch by Stefanie on TwitVid. 

She has written about the experience and the ensuing media barrage of attention on her blog, ‘Not a Typical Girl’, which you should definitely check out. In short, the experience sounds quite overwhelming,

This whole viral situation has completely caught me off guard. I never thought anything of the magnitude my photo would have when I sent an innocent tweet moments after I landed in West Palm Beach. I am still in shock about it all.

Well congratulations to Stefanie for her internet notoriety. Hopefully it will lead to good things for her!

Keep those cell phone cameras handy, cause you never know…

Relative Radiation

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

With the current crisis in Japan with the nuclear power plant, the media has latched onto the public’s fears of radiation.

And y’know what? I understand that fear. Radiation is invisible. It could be anywhere and you won’t know it until it’s too late.

But I am not afraid. Why?

The thing is that I know how much radiation we get on a daily basis, and how it compares with certain medical procedures and working near radiation sources, like a nuclear power plant. Most people do not, and the media plays on those fears to drive up ratings.

Thankfully, Randall Munroe of xkcd fame has created another wonderful (and timely) poster illustrating the relative doses associated with doing certain tasks or living near certain places.

Click on the image see the large version.

Some of the most interesting comparisons:

  • You get more than 3 times the radiation dose living within 50 miles of a coal power plant than you do living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant
  • Flying round-trip from New York to Los Angeles would give you the equivalent dose of living within 10 miles of the Three Mile Island accident.
  • Living in a stone, brick, or concrete building for 15 years gives you a larger radiation dose than anyone got from the Three Mile Island accident.
  • Using a CRT monitor for a year gives you a larger radiation dose than living next to a nuclear power plant for a year (but then again, who uses CRT monitors anymore?)

So while the Japan nuclear crisis is indeed serious, it is no reason to stop using nuclear power in general.

Oh, and the radiation dose from cell phones is zero, because phones don’t generate ionizing radiation and they don’t cause cancer. Relax, people.

Of Psychics and Serial Killers

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

It was announced on Monday that the remains of four women who were buried near a Long Island beach were most likely the victims of a serial killer.

The women are supposedly prostitutes who advertised on Craigslist, which is where the killer most likely targeted them.

It is a horrible and sad story, and hopefully the police will catch the bastard before he hurts anyone else.

But of course, the media has found a way to make the story even worse with this little gem about a psychic who “predicted” where the bodies would be found. As reported in the New York Post:

A psychic eerily predicted where the victim of a suspected serial killer could be found — nine months before cops dug up the corpse and that of three other young women on a Long Island beach, police sources said.

In April, the clairvoyant, hired by the desperate family of Melissa Barthelemy, 24, of Buffalo, chillingly saw “her body buried in a shallow grave overlooking a body of water,” the police source said. The psychic also said “there was a ‘G’ in a sign nearby.”

Fox News has also run the same story on their website.

This makes me sick. Melissa Barthelemy was missing since July 12, 2009. So 10 months later, a desperate family willing to do anything to find her, turned to a psychic to try to find her.

This psychic took these bereaved people’s money and gave them nothing. Absolutely nothing in return.

What did they actually predict? After being missing for 10 months, the odds of the poor girl being dead were unfortunately pretty good. So nothing there.

Next the “psychic” told them that her body was buried “overlooking a body of water”. You are in New York! On the Eastern seaboard! There is water everywhere. If the poor girl was killed, odds are pretty good that she would turn up somewhere near a “body of water”.

The “psychic” also said that there would be a “G” in a sign nearby. And Melissa Barthelemy was found near Gilgo Beach. That’s pretty good, right? *facepalm*

They didn’t say if the “G” would be in the name of the lake, or the town, or a nearby store, or the hi*g*hway.

Simply looking out the window of my office, I count no less than 5 signs that contain the letter ‘G’. She certainly played the odds on that one.

But psychics don’t care if their predictions are vague. That’s the whole point. Horoscopes do the same thing. “You will face a difficult decision today.” Thanks horoscope, even though I face difficult decisions every day, you got that one right I guess.

If this “psychic” had this great power, why couldn’t they predict anything useful? Like the name of the lake, or a road, or the face of the serial killer? Because psychics don’t have a great power. They makes vague “predictions” and, after the fact, overzealous news outlets try to fit the facts to the vague predictions. This person is a con-artist who takes the money off grieving people.

So whoever this “psychic” is that took advantage of the Barthelemy family should be ashamed of themselves. These people have lost a family member and the idea of someone profiting off their misery makes me physically ill.

Update (April 14, 2011):

As it turns out, this psychic was even more off than I had originally thought. It seems that Barthelemy was not buried in a grave at all. She was found above ground in a wooded area, just like the other victims.

Also, even though she was found at Gilgo Beach, there was no indication that there was a sign nearby at all.

So again, chalk this one up to psychics taking blatant misses and spinning them so they seem like hits.

Fail.

UFO Over NYC! Run! Run For Your…Oh Wait, Nevermind.

October 16, 2010 3 comments

UFO Sighting Above Manhattan (Twitter @mobius1ski / October 13, 2010)

You may have seen some of the headlines. They weren’t just in tabloid newspapers either:

Local Group Investigates UFO Reports in Manhattan (NBC Connecticut)

Mystery shiny objects floating over Manhattan spark UFO frenzy (New York Daily News)

UFOs Spotted Over NYC Prompt Panic, 911 Calls (Chicago Tribune)

UFO over Manhattan Caught on Tape (CBS News)

Said Peter Bryant,one of the witnesses,

I saw five or six lights shining in the sky. There was no way that thing was a balloon.There was something weird about it. Light just doesn’t reflect off balloons like that. If Martians were to land anywhere, New York is a much better location than some backwoods town in the Midwest.

Another witness compared what he saw to the “creatures from ‘Predator’.”

Indeed, around 1:30 in the afternoon on October 13th, the Federal Aviation Administration began receiving calls about the strange lights in the sky over West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

But alas, it was not Martians or the aliens from the (possible) exo-planet Gliese 581g. Looks like Peter Bryant was on the right track, he just didn’t want to believe it.

It seems a Westchester Elementary school was holding an engagement party for Andrea Craparo, one of their teachers (aww). They had about 40 pearl balloons filled with helium and around 1 pm the wind blew a bunch of them away.

From the New York Daily News, the day after their original story:

“UFO? They’re crazy – those are our balloons!” said Angela Freeman, head of the Milestone School in Mount Vernon. “To me it was the most automatic thing. But it’s all over YouTube.”

Andrea Craparo and her students pointing to a news story featuring UFOs, which actually were their party balloons. Image from New York Daily News

Some of the sightings could also be explained by a tourism promotion event held on Broadway in Times Square for the centennial of the Madrid’s Gran Via on Wednesday, which included the release of several bunches of yellow balloons into the sky.

A tourism promotion in Broadway Times Square involved releasing many yellow balloons which could have contributed to the UFO sightings. Image from Chicago Tribune

I know whats it’s like to “Want to Believe”. I’ve written a previous blog post about my coming of age into the world of science. And as I’ve said before, there is much more exciting things in the world of real science, than that of pseudoscience.

As the great Carl Sagan once wrote,

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.