Author Archives: Stephen

Tunguska Explosion of 1908 Caused by Asteroid Grazing the Earth?

A new theory by Russian scientists argues that the Tunguska explosion of 1908 was caused not by a disintegrating comet or by the explosion of a small black hole (as has been traditionally theorized), but by an iron asteroid passing into and then out of the Earth’s atmosphere–like a through-and-through gunshot wound.

This theory fits many of the characteristic facts of the Tunguska explosion: eyewitness accounts of the sky “split in two,” a huge explosion, widespread fire, millions of trees flattened but no visible crater, and reports of dust in the upper atmosphere over Europe after the event.

If true, it would mean that an iron asteroid the size of a football stadium narrowly missed striking the Earth…and ending civilization.

Better to be lucky than good, I suppose?

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The Guitar Pedal 5G Chip COVID-19 Vaccine Conspiracy

Few would accuse rabid conspiracy theorists of suffering from an excess of intelligence, but this latest “theory” really takes the cake.

Conspiracy theorists in Italy have warned about a ‘5G Chip’ they claim has been planted in COVID-19 vaccines. However, the widely circulated image of the chip in question turns out to be…a reworked schematic for the Boss Metal Zone guitar pedal.

Conspiracists say the imaginary chip might track citizen movements…while offering a flexible EQ section.

While this is patently false nonsense–a ‘5G chip’ isn’t a thing anyway and all the COVID-19 vaccine will do is protect you and your loved ones against the virus–even if it were true given that the Metal Zone pedal is widely regarded as one of the worst pedals for metal players I’d suggest that, either way, we don’t have anything to worry about.

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028 – War of the Currents: Part 8 – Victory Niagara (1893-1897)

It’s the endgame of the War of the Currents! After their betrayal by the Cataract Construction Company, Tesla and Westinghouse finally secure the contract to harness Niagara Falls. They won the war and changed the world.

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How AI Tractors Could Transform Farming

Fully electric, driver-optional, AI-powered, smart tractors could be coming to a farmer’s field near you.

With the challenges that modern farmers face–including climate change, consumer demands for sustainability, and labour shortages–AI-enabled tractors have the potential to cut overhead costs and emissions thanks to electrification (traditional diesel tractors produce roughly 14 times the emissions as the average car), automation, machine learning, and deep data analysis of farmers’ existing field and operations.

Autonomous AI tractors can analyze hundreds of gigabytes of data a day about the fields they work. Sensors and imaging capabilities provide critical data about crop type and health, current growth stages, long-term yield estimates, and other crop health metrics to provide long-term forecasts of field health.

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Ancient Snack Stall Uncovered in Pompeii

Archaeologists in Pompeii, which was buried in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, have discovered a frescoed hot food and drinks shop that served ancient street food to Roman passersby.

Known as a termopolium, Latin for hot drinks counter, the shop was discovered in the archaeological park’s Regio V site, which is not yet open to the public.

Complete with a frescoed image of a Nereid riding a sea-horse, the termopolium includes other decorative still lifes, food residues, animal bones, and even victims of the eruption.

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Love in the Time of Coronavirus: Thank You for Your Sacrifice

I think this infographic gives some perspective on the current crisis and illustrates the choice before us: we get to choose how bad this pandemic becomes.

Infographic depicting the deadliest pandemics in human history in comparison to COVID-19

I did a history of epidemiology course as part of my history of science MA–it was the history of how medicine has learned to track, control, and prevent the spread of disease. We talked about some of these earlier epidemics and it was scary stuff. The best that medicine had to offer in each era was essentially useless in the face of these diseases. People dropping dead in the millions and no one could explain how or why, or what to do about it.

But, unlike them, this COVID-19 outbreak is the first pandemic that we as a species have the power to control and minimize.

Think of that! No generation of humans has ever been able to say the same thing. No generation before us has had the technical and scientific knowledge to identify and combat a plague in such swift fashion, nor the instantaneous communication and coordination abilities that we have to institute meaningful quarantine and isolation on a global scale.

We were alerted to this plague early. Our experience fighting SARS, that could-have-been-pandemic, helped us. We know what it is that we’re up against. We know how it spreads and how we can avoid it. We’re already trialling vaccines and antiviral drug therapies within THREE MONTHS of this thing first appearing. No other generation before us could say any of that about the pestilences that from time to time appeared, like a rider on a pale horse, and cut down great swaths of people.

I know that being cooped up for weeks or months sucks (I’m here with three little kids, believe me, I GET IT). But you’ll notice that right now COVID-19 is a little speck on that graphic, less than a pinhead in comparison to past pandemics. The sacrifices you make now by isolating and social distancing, by working from home and following the advice of medical experts–all those little things are what will help keep that tiny speck from becoming one of those giant, catastrophic blobs we see depicted in other eras for other pandemics.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Now, go wash your hands

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023 – Tesla – Tesla in the White City (1893)

It was the Fair That Changed America. And it was the chance for Tesla and Westinghouse to show the world the power of their AC system. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition made Tesla a household name and changed his life forever.

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022 – Tesla – War of the Currents Part 6: The Battle of Chicago (1892)

Westinghouse makes an 11th-hour bid to electrify the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 with Tesla’s AC system and GE will do anything to torpedo the deal. Welcome to Thunderdome: two bids enter, one bid leaves…

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021 – Tesla – War of the Currents Part 5: The Second Front (1890 – 1892)

Edison and Westinghouse battle over lightbulbs and high finance as we return to the trenches of the War of the Currents, and see how the war whittled itself down from fifteen combatants to just two…

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Show Notes for Episode 20 – A Most Painful Ordeal (1892)

My Son, and Stanley, and Me (c. 2013):

Helen Mirren Reads ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

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