Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism, Blogging, Ocean Kickstarter • March 25, 2016
Triton Gills. From their crowdfunding campaign.
I wasn’t going to review Triton Gills, currently racking up $700,000+ on IndieGogo. I hate being the wettest of wet blankets when it comes to new ocean innovations and I’m much happier boosting the profile of good, scientifically sound, ocean projects. But I was curious about Triton after a few journalists asked me to comment about it. On their Facebook page, I asked them to respond to the following articles:
Both of which raise important, salient questions and concerns voiced by experts in the field, including the research director of the Divers’ Alert Network, our friend Al Dove at Deep Sea News, and myself.
Their response? They deleted the comment and banned the Southern Fried Science account from their page.
I was willing to write Triton off as a team of hopeful idealists and wish them well on their quixotic quest. I’m certainly not one to audit what other people choose to support through crowdfunding. It’s always a gamble, and that’s fine. But now, having dug far more deeply into their proposal than I ever wanted to, I’m no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Triton Gills is almost certainly a scam. (more…)
Andrew David Thaler • Blogging, Popular Culture, Science Fiction •
This Monday I launched A Crack in the Sky above Titan, a science fiction adventure framed around the seemingly simple question: What is it like to sail across the methane seas of Titan?
While Southern Fried Science is all about ocean science and conservation, we do make the occasional foray into space. From celestial navigation on Mars, do diving robots on Europa, to exploring other (fictional) worlds to learn something about our own, we haven’t shied away from the ‘other’ final frontier. So, in honor of A Crack in the Sky above Titan (available now on Amazon*) here is a selection of our favorite space nerdery from Southern Fried Science.
(Note: Some of these are from our month of ocean science fiction. While the framing for these pieces is fictional, the science itself is sound)
The Extraterrestrial Ocean: Could OpenROV Trident explore the seas of Europa?
Our planet is an ocean, and it is almost entirely unexplored. OpenROV, and their new Trident underwater drone is one of many tools that will help change that by democratizing exploration, conservation, and ocean science. We are poised atop the crest of a wave that may change how humans interact with the ocean as profoundly as the invention of the aqualung.
Earth is not the only body in our solar system that hosts an ocean. As we (slowly) venture out into the stars, could OpenROV Trident dive in extraterrestrial seas?
Andrew David Thaler • #SciComm • March 23, 2016
My first personal research vessel, a 20′ runabout with a huge staging area, was name ‘Black Smoker‘. It was an homage to the hydrothermal vents I study (via a much larger vessel), but also a reference to the nasty old Force 125 outboard, that burned oil like it had just driven the Seleucid Empire from the Temple Mount. My second boat, was small, but lighter, faster, and much more aggressive. I sailed it in some seriously marginal seas. I named it ‘Iffy’.
The French named two different research vessels ‘Pourquoi Pas?’ (literally “Why not?”) which, in addition to being hilarious, is also the answer to the question: Why did you name your ship Pourquoi Pas? The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been studying Lake Mendota for over 6 years via the research platform ‘David Buoy’. And though the Celtic Explorer was given a strong and noble name, an engine incident on one fateful cruise led many in the Irish research community to informally rechristen it the Celtic Exploder (true story: I once reviewed a proposal that referred to it as the Exploder, throughout).
Giving a research vessel a silly name is a deep and abiding tradition within the marine research community. And, frankly, even if a vessel has a Very Serious Name (TM), the crew is still going to call it something else.
I think Boaty McBoatface is a perfectly good name for a ship, and I agree with Craig McClain that it is a great science outreach opportunity. Did you know the U launched Sikuliag last year? Or that the British christened the Discovery in 2013? No? Well I bet you know about Boaty McBoatface. (more…)
Andrew David Thaler • Blogging, Popular Culture, Science Fiction • March 21, 2016
A simple writing prompt–what would it be like to sail across Titan?–has taken me on a 20,000-word journey through the intricacies of life on Saturn’s largest moon. Join the Salvager on a journey across Kraken Mare to land the score of a lifetime, if the rest of the universe doesn’t get in their way. Discover the weird, wonderful world of Titan and her coastal colonies and confront the challenges of sailing across an alien world.
A Crack in the Sky above Titan takes a lot of the ideas developed during Field Notes from the Future and extends them out into the extremely distant future. At what point do humans, heavily augmented with hardware and software, stop being human? What rights are retained when a person contains no human parts? How does art evolve in a future obsessed with technology? And how exactly do you sail via celestial navigation with no polar star and an atmosphere of dense haze.
In honor of this new launch, my other novella, Prepared, an adventure in doomsday prepping, seasteading, and catastrophic sea level rise, is free to download all week long.
Read an excerpt from my latest novella, below: (more…)
Andrew David Thaler • #OceanOptimism • March 17, 2016
1. “I was once bitten by an octopus at the beach and got terribly ill. (Yes, apparently octopuses can be poisonous.)” Senator Ted Cruz
Chris Parsons • Animal welfare, Conservation, Sustainability •
Earlier today SeaWorld announced to the media that it was making major changes in its practices when it comes to marine wildlife. The announcement comes after years of bad publicity and failing stock prices as the result of the documentary Blackfish, criticism from marine mammal and marine conservation scientists and an unrelenting social media campaign by online activists. The changes announced are a major paradigm shift for the company and include:
Kersey Sturdivant • Education • March 16, 2016
Roughly every few Thursdays the Condon Lab at the University of North Carolina Wilmington host an “Who Am I” Throwback Thursday. The premise is to expose people to scientist who have had a measurable influence in their respective fields. We will start broadcasting those Who Am I at Southern Fried Science.
This week features one of the pioneers in zooplankton, HAB and particle export research. Sh formed early paradigm on particle flux, detrital & plankton food webs, and toxic plankton blooms. She is also the academic grandmother of Dr. Rob Condon. So, Who am I?
Go to the Condon Lab’s page to vote:
“Her contributions to marine science and education, and her leadership in mentoring junior staff, are fitting tributes to the high standards, spirit of collaboration, and strong commitment to the field” Dr. Robert Gagosian, Ocean Leadership (Photo Credit: Carl Lamborg)
“She led the way for people with strong family commitments to go to sea, showing that scientists could combine challenging, field-based careers with family life.” Dr. Margaret Delaney, UCSC (Photo Credit: Jim MacKenzie)
Michelle Jewell • #SciComm, climate change, Personal Stories • March 14, 2016
The month of February 2016 just broke a global temperature record, previously held by… January…2016.
While the Trubama climate plans are being praised, the comments section of this Guardian article was still inundated with “Well, it’s cold where I am” posts. Perhaps we need to create more awareness about the difference between weather and climate…
I know, I’m not supposed to talk about this, but I love to sing. Every neighbor, flat mate, and unwilling car passenger knows this. In fact, the only thing I love as much as singing is teaching science, but the metaphorical light bulb didn’t come on until I attended a SciComm workshop in Portugal. Why not sing about science like many others? Maybe even weather and climate??
Adele songs were the obvious choice, both for singability and availability of karaoke versions on YouTube, so I began my research. I asked facebook if this would be a valuable addition to the internets, or best not to talk about it ever again, and the response was significantly positive. Thus, #SingingScience was born and with it a commitment to do more of these when I have free time.
Enjoy, Weather vs. Climate set to Adele’s “Hello”
**Note (because evidently it’s not obvious): This is not real meteorological data.
Here are the lyrics for any science teachers who would like them: (more…)
Andrew David Thaler • Academic life, publishing • March 5, 2016
I really didn’t want to care about this paper, at all.
When news broke Wednesday afternoon that a paper in PLOS One referenced the “Creator” in the abstract, introduction, and discussion, I took a look, read through the methodology and results, asked a few colleagues in that field if there were any methodological problems that would indicate that the actual science was unsound, and concluded it was… fine. Not phenomenal, earth-shattering, or paradigm shifting, but methodologically sound.
Incidentally, publishing based on the soundness of the methodology rather than the ground-breakingness of the research, is one of PLOS ONE’s mandates.
But the paper was awkwardly framed around a few phrases referencing the role of the Creator. This framework didn’t bleed into the methods or results but it was there, and the scientific community noticed. I noted, under the assumption that the authors were inserting creationist language into their paper, that there are numerous papers that try to hang their studies on tenuous frameworks and draw not entirely supportable conclusions, and not just in PLOS. Then I chatted with a few colleagues about it and called it a day.
Here’s the weird thing about Twitter: sometimes even your apathy is newsworthy. (more…)
Andrew David Thaler • Blogging, Personal Stories • March 2, 2016
3D Printing. No new technology in the last decade has been heralded with as much hope and hyperbole as the promise of desktop replicators fabricating whatever object you need at the push of a button. 3D printing has made huge steps forward, with more sophisticated machines at lower prices, new materials that vastly expand the printer’s capabilities, and the breathless optimism that foresees a printer in every home, as mundane and easy to operate as a conventional printer*.
A Printrbot in the home.
And yet, for all the hype, most personal 3D printers are pressed into service fabricating plastic tschotskes — low quality, low function items of little to no utility. While the raw potential of 3D printing continues to expand, the promise of personal printers seems mired in the sandbox: an expensive toy for grownups. A toy that produces heaps of plastic detritus that will eventually find it’s way into the environment.
I posit here that, while it is true the the vast majority of people currently have no practical need for a 3D printer, under the right circumstances, a personal 3D printer can be an incredibly useful tool in the modern home.
A little over a year ago, we bought a personal 3D printer. It’s a Printrbot Simple Metal, a tough, no nonsense machine that works as well in my home office as it does at sea. Its footprint is small, and it can handle object up to 150 mm by 150 mm by 150 mm. Not huge, but big enough to be useful. And yes, this printer has primarily been used to fabricate parts for Oceanography for Everyone and other scientific endeavors. You can read more about that here: A 3D-printable, drone and ROV-mountable, water sampler and Oceanography for Everyone: Empowering researchers, educators, and citizen scientists through open-source hardware. I’m not talking about the scientific utility of the printer, but rather, how it fits into our homestead.