Weekly Buzz: 12/8/14

Flat Earth

Did Christopher Columbus discover that the earth isn’t flat? How did a noted skeptic react to a personal experience he couldn’t explain?

Find out in this week’s buzz.

“Bill Nye: The Earth is Really, Really Not 6,000 Years Old”

In a new Big Think video, Bill Nye talks about young-earth creationism. His candor makes this short video interesting and worth watching.

In case you missed it, check out my take on Nye’s debate with Ken Ham.

“Theories of Everything: Why ‘Interstellar,’ ‘The Imitation Game,’ and the Year’s Other Science-Driven Movies Can’t Stop Explaining Themselves”

Matt Patches wrote a great Grantland piece about how movies have explained science over the past 20 years. He compares and contrasts Jurassic Park with recent movies like Transcendence:

The kind of scientific enthusiasm that would have earned a person a swirlie in the ’90s1 is now a component of every conversation. . . . People are smarter and savvier than they were when Jurassic Park conquered imaginations. They’re also dying for informed pop culture.

Patches explains that movies in the ’90s weren’t terribly concerned with scientific accuracy, unlike films such as Interstellar:

The idea for Interstellar originated from a powwow between theoretical physicist Kip Thorne and producer Lynda Obst (Contact). The goal: Produce a Hollywood movie that was faithful to modern cosmological research. They took their wormhole-themed pitch to Spielberg, who set the project in motion.

For Patches, movies tell better stories when they spend more time developing characters than describing science:

The Nolan-esque Transcendence — directed by his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister — dedicates merciless amounts of time to framing its AI singularity scenario before remembering it needs action scenes. . . . To be thorough is to court death — or a Twitter breakdown from deGrasse Tyson. . . . Jurassic Park endures because it dares to spend one-eighth of its time “telling.”

What do you think of this argument?

“DO ANOMALIES PROVE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD?”

Atheist Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, has made a career out of trying to debunk spiritual/supernatural claims.

That’s why a recent article he wrote for Scientific American made such a splash: he wrote about one experience he had that defied his explanatory abilities. In a Slate article last week, he clarified his thoughts on this “anomalous experience”:

Until such time when science can explain even the most spectacularly unlikely events, what should we do with such stories? Enjoy them. Appreciate their emotional significance. But we do not need to fill in the explanatory gaps with gods or any such preternatural forces. We can’t explain everything, and it’s always okay to say, “I don’t know,” and leave it at that until a natural explanation presents itself.

What do you think of Shermer’s experience, and his reaction to it?

“Is Earth Actually Flat?”

Of course not, but check out an energetic, enthralling, and punny video from VSauce. This guy looks at a simulation of what a flat earth would look like, and he does some helpful myth busting: e.g., people stopped believing in a flat earth millennia ago, not mere centuries ago.

What do you think of this flat earth video, and the rest of this week’s buzz?

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