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Silver Lake: In the jaws of the forest, the galaxy

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Bucklin Trail

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Chaffee Falls Trail Loop, pt. 2

The Chaffee Falls Trail Loop in Pittsford, VT

tinder fungus



Chaffee Falls Trail Loop, pt. 1

The Chaffee Falls Trail Loop in Pittsford, VT

lamb skull



Anaxyrus americanus

A fairly large Anaxyrus americanus, or American Toad was just hanging out by my home one morning…

American Toad


How Do I Know?

The scientific method, for those who understand this paradigm, has been a fundamental force in how we know what we know, and how we continue to further our understanding of the universe. There is a strong and pervasive, faith-based opposition to this paradigm in The United States. Despite this, thanks to modern information technology, scientific understanding continues to grow.

In The United States, we have a reputation for being science-ignorant. However, as the proliferation of scientific information and publicly available research continues, as well as through the increasing influence of the skepticism and rational thought cultural movement, the line between anti-science and pro-science is shifting us closer to the entrance of Plato’s cave. If you look at the Pew findings on evolution broken down by demographic, you see that acceptance of evolution increases significantly the younger the demographic. At 65 and older, 49% accept evolution, ages 50-64 is 59%, ages 30-49 is 60%, and ages 18-29 is 68%[1]. That is a percentage jump of nearly one fifth between two generations.

photo by Scott Frank   Darwin’s theory of evolution, a refining of a long-standing concept, hit deep into the heart of the ego of the divine man and woman. I speculate that many who were initially repulsed by the notion of humans having evolved from primate ancestors were heavily influenced by the notion they were raised on that man was higher than the so-called beasts of the field. I still hear this reaction echoed in evolution deniers today. Others, I presume, simply resist anything that could refute their holy scriptures. This is why, as Asimov said, Darwin worked, “fourteen years gathering evidence for a theory he himself must have been convinced was correct from the beginning.”[2] Thankfully, the number given by Pew for adults who deny evolution is a minority 33%. It can be safely predicted that this figure will continue to shrink, when we look again at the age demographic breakdown. Still, the number is large enough to be statistically significant, and therefore how Darwin’s work and the scientific method presently shape America is split. To some of us, it is a cornerstone work which fundamentally underlines our view of ourselves and our origins. To the others, it is anathema.

Charles Darwin   Just as Darwin’s On The Origin of Species and Newton’s Opticks lit the fuses of monumental paradigm shifts in the science world, so now has the skeptic community, with the help of the internet, begun a cultural shift into the science world. Kuhn said, “Acquisition of a paradigm and of the more esoteric type of research it permits is a sign of maturity in the development of any given scientific field,”[3] and it is true as well in cultural movements as firmer grasps of scientific concepts become more and more accessible to the layman.

My own objectivity was something I learned, not a trait I was born with. I was not raised too religiously, but in my teens I was very attracted to it. I grew superstitious, biased, ideologically convicted, and fantasy-oriented escapist. In my mid-twenties, I began questioning everything I had adapted into my world view in my teens. I discovered Aristotle, Plato, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the “New Atheist” movement. This fundamentally changed how I sought out and assessed information. As I entered my thirties, I began reading about neurology and how the brain processes sensory information and creates the simulation we experience as reality. This birthed in me a new hunger.

photo by Scott Frank   The more I learn, the more fascinated I become. I have trained myself to avoid cognitive dissonance and evidence denialism. I regularly debate to keep my ideas in check, fresh, and defensible. The last monument to fall in my knowledge base was the organic-Genetically modified organism (GMO) topic. I used to be a very vocal proponent of organic produce, as well as the obligatory opponent of GMO, despite evidence to the contrary of my ideology. When challenged on this topic, I spent hours revisiting the research, the peer reviews to the research, and meta-analyses. I had no base for that belief and I had to accept it. A very well-known science advocate, Bill Nye, recently underwent that very same transition of idea, prompted by a debate on an open interview (an “Ask Me Anything,” or AMA, session) on the web community Reddit[4]. It is intellectually painful to tear down a long held belief, but if the belief is proven to be wrong, one would be doing oneself a disservice to maintain it.

It is crucial to not let the concrete of ideas dry. It must remain wet and able to be reshaped. It needs creativity. It needs to have, as Asimov wrote, “and attitude that creativity is a permissible activity”[2]; but more than permissible, it must sit just shy of compulsory! Once the concrete dries, the mind lies still and unyielding, and nothing shy of a jackhammer will break it. We all know that is not fun.

1. Pew. “Public’s Views on Human Evolution.” Pew Research Center. 30 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Mar. 2015. <>.

2. Asimov, Isaac. “Those Crazy Ideas.” Inquiry: Questioning, Reading, Writing, Second Edition. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Edward M. White, with Shane Borrowman. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 142-51. Print.

3. Kuhn, Thomas S. “How Can We Explain What We Know?” Inquiry: Questioning, Reading, Writing, Second Edition. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Edward M. White, with Shane Borrowman.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004. 35-47. Print.

4. Kloor, Keith. “Bill Nye Had a Fixed View on GMOs. Then Something Happened.” CollideaScape. Discovery, 1 Mar. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2015. <>.

Convert Kg and Lb to Stone (Python)

I needed to wake my brain up this morning, so I wrote a quick conversion script in Python to convert pounds or kilograms into stone over coffee. (Really, I’m just procrastinating my errands. Humor me.)


condition = 1
while condition == 1:
  weight_type = raw_input(“Do you prefer [i]mperial or [m]etric? “)
  if weight_type == ‘m’:
    weight_kg = int(input(“Provide your weight in kilograms: “))
    weight_stone = weight_kg * 2.2 / 14
    print “You weigh” , weight_stone , “stone.”
    condition = 0
  elif weight_type == ‘i’:
    weight_lb = int(input(“Provide your weight in pounds: “))
    weight_stone = weight_lb * .071429
    print “You weigh” , weight_stone , “stone.”
    condition = 0
    print(“Please choose i for imperial or m for metric.”)
    condition = 1

Fear Not The Science

Originally appeared on

   What is Science? Many associate it with an eccentric villain, a misguided asocial misfit, or an unknown sinister lab profaning nature to our ultimate demise. Most associate it with the unknown, which they project their fears upon. The latter sentiment has been true from the earliest days of the Scientific Method. In highly religious climates, those preaching logic and evidence were often treated as heretics, with every effort to defame them employed to disastrous end. Others see Science as another religion, just trying to preach another set of beliefs, but those perceptions are misconceptions. Science is not a maniac perverting some immaculate nature to twisted, unintended, evil ends. Science is not a dogma or mythology. Science is not technology, though it surely fuels it. Heck, Science isn’t really even its own body of knowledge. Science is a method. Science is a verb. Science is a way to test and discover. Science is a way to determine. Science is the means to the end. Science is the way to approach learning and answering questions which, when done correctly, leaves bias and preconception behind. Science is how the universe is learning about itself.

Have I explained it horribly? Here’s a flow chart for the visually-inclined!

Have I explained it horribly? Here’s a flow chart for the visually-inclined!

In a nutshell, the Scientific Method is a process which, logically, answers a question. It was designed (and refined) to provide an objective means to do that. Science begins with a question. The question is examined and refined to be very specific. Preliminary research and evidence gathering commences and, from that, a hypothesis is born. The hypothesis, next, must be tested and it must be done with objective rigor to control for potential result-skewing variables. (This is where the phrase ‘controlled double blind study‘ comes from. Fun times!)

Once all testing is done and data has been collected, the researcher(s) will analyze the data and report the results. If the study was conclusive, a conclusion will be drawn. Did it confirm or smash the hypothesis? Did it show the hypothesis needed more refining? If the question wasn’t answered or the hypothesis was not confirmed, it’s back to the drawing board! With the results, a new hypothesis can be developed and we go ahead again from there. Wash, rinse, repeat. Do we have a seemingly correct idea yet? Great!

The paper then goes before peer review for publication. If it passes that scrutiny, congratulations! You’ve been published! The peer review doesn’t end there. The hypothesis and every aspect of the study then is dropped in the global sea of the scientific community to be pecked at, picked apart, and run through the proverbial ringer. Other researchers will attempt to reproduce the results. Other aspects of the hypothesis will be examined. The process never ends!

Humans are incredibly fallible. We’re terribly unbalanced, emotional, biased, lazy, and utterly flawed beasts of burden. We’re embarrassingly prone to botch objectivity, which is why the edicts of logic, skepticism, and rigors of science are so vitally important. Unfortunately, despite these, badly executed science slips through the cracks. Usually, the wider scientific community will pick up on it and point it out. It is important for anyone who cares about issues, which science plays a role, to be educated in the basics and to know what to look for.

Don’t be afraid of Science. Science is learning. Science is discovery. Science is illumination and wonder all wrapped into one. Science is beauty.

Recommended reading:
What is Science?
The Definition of Science: What is Science?
10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

I stood in the lake as the storm blew in over it.

I stood in the lake as the storm blew in over it. It grew ominously dark while scuds swelled up to the front of the main cloud on the wind. The storm breathed warm air across the water onto the shore. The lake steadily became more and more choppy. I swam there, watching the rain move across the lake toward me. When it finally arrived, it pelted me like hail, clearing the last few stragglers out. Finally, I was the only one in the lake. Choppy waters, pouring rain, subtle rumbles, and dark majestic clouds welcomed me. It was just me and the storm, communing, sharing this body of water. It was beautiful, spiritual, refreshing, awakening. I felt alive. I felt alive not from some thrill seeking spike of adrenaline, but from such an encompassing experience of natural beauty. I am alive.

Lovely Clouds In A Severe Storm

Severe Thunderstorm passing over Rutland, VT on 2 June 2013. It dropped quarter sized hail in Rutland City and unleashed heavy winds. It went on to cause quite a bit more damage further northeast on its path. It was an awful purdy thing.