In a story about how the rotation of the earth has slowed 2/1000 of a second over the last century, science writer Ivan Amato explains how dependent our technology is on extremely accurate time-keeping. For example, if the clocks in your GPS device and the satellite it connects to are out of synch by as little as 1/1000 of a second, your location would be thrown off by hundreds of miles. [Read more…]
In 1961, a B-52 came apart in the air over North Carolina. The hydrogen bomb it was carrying fell towards the earth, its systems acting like it had been dropped intentionally. Its parachute and its trigger mechanism deployed. There were four safeguards to prevent the bomb from exploding unintentionally. Three of them failed. One electrical switch, which could easily have shorted out, held, preventing the nuking of North Carolina.
We’ll probably never know all of the other close calls we’ve had, not just these big dramatic potential disasters as a nation, but also in our personal lives. Have any of you had any close calls that you’d like to tell us about?
“How Evil Should a Video Game Allow You to Be?” That’s the title of a provocative essay for the New Yorker by Simon Parkin. When you read a work of literature featuring an evil person, you are in the mode of an observer. But when you play certain popular video games, you enter into the point of view of the evil person and are implicated in what he does (since, after all, you cause them). The article isn’t against video games as such–indeed, it shows how this ability to put the player into a particular point of view has great artistic possibilities. But still, as the article recounts some of the depravity that video games cause us to act out, it raises important questions, especially for Christians for whom sin “in the heart” can be as soul-destroying as sin acted out. [Read more…]
New York City is being plagued by a shocking crime that is being committed at ever-shifting secret locations, its perpetrators involved in a shadowy underground operation accessible only through a sinister online network. I am referring to illegal dinner parties.
Now the Washington Post just published a feature about meal-sharing sites that made them sound like great ideas, a way for tourists to hang out with locals and for amateur foodies to ply their craft. True, people who do this aren’t licensed and inspected as a restaurant is, but they are small, informal operations. What is funny about the story after the jump and especially the video at the link (I couldn’t embed it, but you’ve got to see it) is the tone of the journalists, who go “undercover” to expose this heinous crime. They write and speak with an indignation that is unintentionally hilarious, especially at the revelations that these operations are “unregulated!” You can hear the exclamation mark. And the biggest outrage is that some of these perpetrators (who aren’t even real chefs!) are trying “to turn a profit”! [Read more…]
Wikipedia depends on readers and volunteer editors to write, edit, and correct its entries. Theoretically, the vast network of contributors will make for an online encyclopedia that is accurate, objective, and self-correcting. But this also leaves Wikipedia open to contributors with an ideological agenda. Which is the plan for an organized effort–for college credit, no less–“to advance feminist principles of social justice” by “writ[ing] feminist thinking” into Wikipedia. The project is called “Storming Wikipedia,” an image from the French Revolution, with the revolutionary masses storming the Bastille. But the feminists doing this could inspire other sans-culottes. [Read more…]