A Supernova Could Nuke Us | Edward Sion | Big Think

Wouldn’t it be funny if the human race existed just long enough, discovered just enough math and uncovered enough physical laws, to understand what the bright light in the sky was that is killing everything on Earth?!

A Supernova Could Nuke Us

Edward Sion

Astronomer and Astrophysicist, Villanova University

A nearby star system may “go supernova” in 10 million years—far sooner than scientists once predicted. The resulting explosion would “outshine the galaxy,” not to mention kill life on Earth.

via A Supernova Could Nuke Us | Edward Sion | Big Think.

Chances Are – Strogatz on Math

That’s what it’s like for me whenever I teach probability theory. It was never part of my own education, so having to lecture about it now is scary and fun, in an amusement park, thrill-house sort of way.Perhaps the most pulse-quickening topic of all is “conditional probability” — the probability that some event

A happens, given or “conditional” upon the occurrence of some other event B. It’s a slippery concept, easily conflated with the probability of B given A. They’re not the same, but you have to concentrate to see why. For example, consider the following word problem.

via Chances Are – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com.

Change in Experiment Will Delay Shuttle’s End

A $1.5 billion seven-ton cosmic-ray experiment scheduled to be carried aloft July 29 on the space shuttle Endeavour won’t be ready until August, according to the experiment’s leader, Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, delaying the end of the 29-year-old shuttle program.NASA officials acknowledged that there would be a delay but said they had not yet decided when the final launching would be.The experiment, known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, was to be installed on the International Space Station as one last scientific errand before the final shuttle launching, of the Discovery, now scheduled for Sept. 16

via Change in Experiment Will Delay Shuttle’s End – NYTimes.com. Continue reading

Strogatz on Math-Calculus 2: It Slices, It Dices

Mathematical signs and symbols are often cryptic, but the best of them offer visual clues to their own meaning. The symbols for zero, one and infinity aptly resemble an empty hole, a single mark and an endless loop: 0, 1, ∞.� And the equals sign, =, is formed by two parallel lines because, in the words of its originator, Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde in 1557, “no two things can be more equal.”In calculus the most recognizable icon is the integral sign:

via It Slices, It Dices – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com.

Strogatz math blog-Change We Can Believe In – CALCULUS

…..maybe during his time in the South Pacific repairing B-24 bomber engines, he’d gotten a feel for what calculus could do. Imagine a mechanically controlled bank of anti-aircraft guns automatically firing at an incoming fighter plane. Calculus, he supposed, could be used to tell the guns where to aim.

Every year about a million American students take calculus. But far fewer really understand what the subject is about or could tell you why they were learning it. It’s not their fault. There are so many techniques to master and so many new ideas to absorb that the overall framework is easy to miss.

Calculus is the mathematics of change. It describes everything from the spread of epidemics to the zigs and zags of a well-thrown curveball. The subject is gargantuan — and so are its textbooks. Many exceed 1,000 pages and work nicely as doorstops.

via Change We Can Believe In – Opinionator Blog – NYTimes.com.

Rita Colwell-role of the environment and climate in cholera outbreaks

This week microbiologist Rita Colwell received the Stockholm Water Prize.  Dr. Colwell was recognized for her “numerous seminal contributions towards solving the world’s water and water-related public health problems.”I interviewed Dr. Colwell at the 2008 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science .

Q: What’s the most important thing you want people today to know about the environment and infectious diseases?

Rita Colwell: Infectious diseases are closely related to the environment. In other words, it’s important for us to understand seasonality, climate, and the drivers for infectious disease, and the fact that the ecology of the environment plays a very significant role in infectious disease outbreaks and their persistent patterns.

Q: Tell us more about this connection between infectious disease and the environment.

Rita Colwell: Let me give you an example. Cholera is a devastating disease in the developing world. It was a massive epidemic disease in the United States, but that was pre-1900, before water treatment and good sanitation was introduced to the country. The organism is resident on plankton, marine zooplankton –  the small, microscopic animals of the sea. The organism is a marine bacterium, but yet it can also live in fresh water associated with plankton.

via Interview with Rita Colwell, winner of the 2010 Stockholm Water Prize | Water | EarthSky.