When bombs explode in a crowded city street, individuals and governments naturally ask themselves, "Could we have prevented this if we had been paying better attention to people and things that were out of place?" Trouble is, that question leads to a whole cascade of other questions — covering everything from personal privacy to racism.
M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at SUNY-Oswego. She's giving a talk this afternoon on "If you see something, say something" and other campaigns aimed at getting average people involved in public security. I happened to be here on campus for a separate speaking engagement and thought this was something that BoingBoing readers would be interested in "sitting in" on, given the recent tragedy in Boston.
I'll be liveblogging this, updating regularly with key points and ideas from Jayawardane's talk. It's worth noting that her perspective is not the only way to think about these issues. I'm posting this in hopes that it will present some interesting information and spark good conversations. If you're interested in engaging with Jayawardane afterwards, she said that you can reach her via Twitter. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say — and what you all have to say about that. Read the rest
This is what the wind over the United States looked like on March 27th, 5:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time. It's beautiful. And it's even better if you go to the project page, where you can watch real-time wind currents move around the map.
The National Digital Forecast Database is a weather forecasting system that provides open access to weather data collected all over the United States. The National Weather Service has field centers all across the country, that collect information about things like wind speed/direction, precipitation, and barometric pressure. They combine this data with big-picture satellite tracking and algorithms that are based on what we know about how weather patterns work, and that's how you get the kind of daily forecast we rely on to plan our days.
In the process, the National Weather Service generates a lot of data—data that has not, traditionally, been accessible to just anybody. We saw the forecasts, but it wasn't as easy to see the measurements the forecasts were based on. The NDFD changes that. It's a really great example of publicly funded research being made available to the people who help provide the funding.
And when that happens, you get cool projects like this one, where data on wind direction and speed are used to create truly amazing art. The information on current conditions, and predictions for the future, are updated hourly. When you look at the animated version of this map, what you see is the most recent forecast playing out. Read the rest
Made by scientist Paul Vallett for his Electron Cafe blog, this funny cartoon is essentially about the differences between how science happens in the movies, and how science happens in real life.
On the one hand, I like it a lot, because the speed and ease of movie science does lead people to expect major breakthroughs to happen quickly, and makes them less critical of the sort of PR and journalism that tries to paint every new paper as a game-changer. In fact, you could probably make a case for movie science being one of the drivers that helps to create that bad PR and journalism to begin with. If decades of film and television have trained people to expect easy "Eureka!" moments, maybe they're likely to have less interest in nuanced results, or the fact that not all published science is correct. Unrealistic expectations matter.
On the other hand, well-done fiction is bound by reasonable constraints. There's not time for a "and then they do real science" montage in every movie. To a certain extent, I think this particular complaint might be a bit like wondering why nobody in Star Wars ever stops to pee. Read the rest