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Science Chamber of Horrors

Astronomers find the closest known black hole to Earth!

Astronomers find the closest known black hole to Earth!:

I forgot to share this post from Bad Astronomy from last week! Astronomers have found the closest known black hole to Earth, which is about 3 times closer than the previous record holder.

This could be cause to make folks really nervous, because there aren’t a lot of things about black holes that are good for living creatures, to put it nicely. Fortunately, this black hole is still 1,000 light years away, which is way too...

A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal

A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal:

Nuclear power is an amazing and quite safe technology… at least until human beings are the ones working on it. Via my twitter friend nuclearkatie, I learned of this rather terrifying story involving improperly handled plutonium at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory… in 2011. In short: don’t bring all of your plutonium samples together for a photo op.

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What the 'Humans Are the Virus' Meme Gets So Wrong

What the 'Humans Are the Virus' Meme Gets So Wrong:

As long as I’ve got plagues and catastrophes on my mind, here’s a thoughtful article about the rather common thought these days that the coronavirus is some sort of punishment or reaction to humanity’s destructive effect on the planet. Here, Brian Kahn argues that it’s not humanity in general that’s the problem, as we are PART of the planet, but a rather greedy subset that have pushed and either/or view of humans vs....

Archaeologists uncover remains of man crushed while fleeing Pompeii

Archaeologists uncover remains of man crushed while fleeing Pompeii:

My apologies for the long silence here at the Chamber of Horrors! It’s been an incredibly rough – even horrific – year for me in many ways, and my blogging fell off dramatically because of it.  But I’m hoping to get back in the swing of things, and as a return, let me share this image which has gone viral in the past couple of days – a man from the ancient city of Pompeii who was crushed by a falling rock during...

Arsonist falcons suggest birds discovered fire before humans did

Arsonist falcons suggest birds discovered fire before humans did:

Okay, it can be creepy enough thinking of birds of prey as flying carnivorous dinosaurs. But now you can also think of them as flying carnivorous dinosaurs that like to burn things. From New Scientist

Some birds of prey have learned to control fire, a skill previously thought to be unique to humans. The birds appear to deliberately spread wildfires in order to flush out prey. The finding suggests that birds...

‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet

‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet:

Yeah, I really couldn’t let this story pass by without some comment here!

Just when you thought that 2020 couldn’t get any more ridiculously bad, here come the invasive murder hornets!

This comment in the NYT article struck me:

For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger — long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit — make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened...

The first news report of the laser (1960)

The first news report of the laser (1960):

Lasers as death rays? Somehow, whenever a new scientific discovery is made, there are some folks who anticipate the worst from it. (Often with justification.)  Over on my main blog, I talk about the first news report of the discovery of the laser in 1960, which is hilariously over the top with somewhat tongue-in-cheek predictions of impending doom.  Fortunately, things have not turned out quite so bad, and the laser has been overall...

Dancing Through Our Bad Year

Dancing Through Our Bad Year:

Welcome to the resurrection of the Science Chamber of Horrors! Since I’ve got a lot of time (like everyone), I thought I would try to pick things up again.  First up is an interesting article about the curious dancing malady known as St. Vitus’ Dance that struck Strasbourg in 1517. There have been many attempts to explain it, some suggesting disease or food contamination, but the linked article argues that it was more a natural reaction to turbulent...

The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it

The Arctic is full of toxic mercury, and climate change is going to release it:

Some time back, I did a post on this Tumblr noting that the scariest part of climate change is all the horrible stuff that can happen that we didn’t anticipate. I would add this to the list: 

Permafrost, the Arctic’s frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere — where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming....

The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism

The Real Danger To Civilization Isn’t AI. It’s Runaway Capitalism:

I don’t include a lot of social commentary on this blog, but if you want to read an excellent, even brilliant, piece on the dangers of AI, look no further than this article written by the amazing science fiction author Ted Chiang.

Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems...