Sunday, June 15, 2014

What Do You Really Know?

I am so sorry - your school hasn't taught you everything, because it couldn't.

Now that Facebook has allowed the speedy delivery of idiocy and nonsense from all over pop culture, I thought it might help if we all had somewhere equally speedy to look to figure out if what is posted is "the real deal". So, in addition to Snopes.com, here are a few links to help you figure out if your buddy's ladder has a top step:

Engineering Issues:
Now and then, somebody will post something nuts about how human artifacts are built. Try The Engineering Toolbox
Few things online indicate the advanced state of the scientific arts better than this page from the National Institute of Science and Technology...
Keep in mind that technology is not a thing - it is the process that allows things to be made!

Aircraft:
You might have a problem with statements about air travel.
The ultimate crash data center is the Joint Air Crash Data Evaluation Center
A ridiculously complete photographic archive - of everything that flies! - is at Airliners.net
If you want a pilot's perspective of how the aircraft industry is run, including some observations about the current state of American airline security, you can Ask The Pilot

Religion:
Ahh, yes, the subject best not mentioned in polite company!
Here's a list of most of them, along with summaries of their tenets and popularity by sect.
Hope you picked the "right" one... not much in that list is logical, and what they claim is surprisingly limited once you realize how much real study goes on elsewhere. In a world populated by those who can measure currents under the surface of the Sun and detect atmospheres on planets orbiting distant stars, there are those who haven't learned very much. Here are a couple of eye-openers that challenge some of the assumptions religious people make without really thinking about them (take a deep breath, these are serious articles!):

Earth Studies:
There is a HUGE amount of material to study at Darwiniana . In case you have a problem with the title of that Web site, well, you can independently find many of the same things by going to:
If you'd like to see photo-detail of the Earth itself, few things are as fun as Google Earth. The Moon and Mars are also shown in detail there courtesy of the Lunar and Mars Reconaissance Orbiters. Also, you can actually get Google Street View to show you what the Martian landers are seeing!
There are a couple of other places to find amazing photos. Take a look at Mars and Saturn while you're browsing. Those Cassini probe people have a lot for you.

Public Issues:
"News" vs. the law: You should know the difference between such editorial content and the information source. Do you know where to find the actual content of legislative bills?
Right here: The Library of Congress 

Nuclear Weapons: You might not know how many atom bombs the USA has tested, much less how many have been tested elsewhere; did you think that Iraq had no WMD program, because you forgot that the Israelis bombed it? Anyway, here's a fascinating report on those weapons: The Nuclear Weapons Archive

Crime is one of those things that everybody thinks they know about, but don't, because it depends on definitions. "Evidence", for instance, is only what is presented to a jury when you speak of a trial - it is NOT what you see as a spectator. I bet you think you saw evidence in OJ's trial. Nope.
I hope you have more sense than Cheez Whiz and can look up the laws of your state, rather than counting on hearsay or Facebook. Need crime statistics? Here's the Bureau of Justice Statistics page. No, some people are not being picked on by police.

Discussion Tool:
A fallacy is a statement containing a flaw which immediately invalidates that statement. Here is a list of those fallacies. If you want to make a point and make it true, you don't have a choice - you MUST avoid these! (No, really - you don't have a choice. The law of cause and effect extends from the real world into logical argument!)

If you're looking at this material, take a minute, sit back and relax, and then marvel at something almost invisible: there were thousands of discoveries, moments of inspiration and connections between investigations to produce what you see. There are people at the store now who have no idea where meat comes from.

Now, you can find out. We have something in common here!