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Chris Reeve
I'm building a scientific social network designed to facilitate innovation in science
I'm building a scientific social network designed to facilitate innovation in science


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~ The Shutdown: Google+ will be Shut Down Sometime Over the Next 10 Months / All of the Controversy Cards have been Backed Up with the Wayback Machine / However, Since Comments are Dynamically Loaded, a Script will Have to be Written to Preserve the Comments Data / I Intend to Make these Comments Available at on a Future Date

Announcement is here:
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~ The Petroglyph: One of the Most Important Science Videos Ever Published on Youtube Remains Almost Completely Ignored / Government Researcher Anthony Peratt Explains His Shock at Learning that the Classified Results of His Plasma Experiments Were Etched into Millions of Stones Across the World / The Discovery Led Him to Travel the World in an Attempt to Reconstruct the Event Which Apparently Inspired these Etchings / And in Every Case, He Found that the Rock Has a View Towards the Magnetic South Pole / It Will Prove to Be One of the Most Important Scientific Discoveries of the 21st Century

Peratt and Petroglyphs
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~ The Scientific Social Network: What if We Created an Online Space where New Speculative Scientific Ideas are Methodically Elaborated? / It's Not Impossible

This is a request for thoughtful feedback. I think there is a way to solve a bunch of different problems at the same time with the same social network. Is there something that I'm missing? How can we make this idea better?
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~ The Confusion of Unreported Shifts in Scientific Theory: When Scientific Topics are Controversial or Considered "Settled", Science Journalists May Refuse to Report on the Subject / The Resulting Void of Context Can Lead to the Confused Situation Where Entire Communities of People Fail to Notice that a Shift in Theory Has Even Occurred / We Can Better Understand this Peculiar Social Phenomenon by Observing the Reactions of Slashdot Readers to the Recent Mainstream Astrophysical Acknowledgements that Electricity Travels through Space Over Vast Distances - an Idea Which this Technology Community Has Decided to Reject for More than a Decade Now
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~ Universities Have Yet to Systematically Track Scientific Controversies and the Public Should Do It For Them: The Original EdgeScience Article Submission Has a Remarkably Different Feel to It / It Doubles as a Tour of the Controversies of Science Collection and Approach
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~ Tracking Scientific Controversies: A Proposal for the Creation of a Scientific Social Network Where Users Learn to Think at a Higher Level Using the Medium of Controversial Science / My Recent EdgeScience Essay Defines the Problem, Suggests a Specific Solution, and Recounts the Personal Story Which Led to the Idea

EdgeScience Issue 32
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~ A Search for Scientific Controversies: Academia has Refused to Track Challenges to their Own Preferred Theories / This Lack of Exposure to Critique Leaves the False Impression that the Current Theories are in Good Shape / The New Search is Designed to Get a Person to Understanding a Controversy as Fast as Possible / The Site Will Become a Place to Crowdsource Information About Scientific Controversies / By Demonstrating that the Public Can Participate in Science at a Very High Level, the Relationship Between Professional and Maverick Will Fundamentally Shift

How to Use the Interface:

- Click the elephant to observe the categories. Most of them are categorized quotes. The quotes may or may not appear in the controversy cards.

- The 182 controversy cards are broken up into six categories: ongoing (controversies), historical (controversies), person, reform, thinking, critique.

- Feed posts attach to controversy cards. They will be managed by moderators. (The content for the 68 sample feed posts will activate in the next 1-2 weeks).

- The intent is to create URL links which never change.

- When searching through the "All" category, the results are a mixture of controversy cards, quotes and feed posts, more-or-less in that order.

- The search result scrolling is "endless" -- meaning that if there is more content, it will fill in as you near the end of the current batch of content.

- The categories will also match on queries just beneath the search box, and clicking them will send you into that category with the query reset.

- You can use shortcut keys to navigate the interface. ESC will defocus the search box and SPACE will focus it. When the search box is not focused, you can use the keyboard to change the category. Try hitting a letter (a-z); it should take you to the first quote category that starts with that letter. Then, you can use the arrow keys to move yet more through the list.

- You can also type certain key combinations in quick succession to jump to those specific categories: C-O-N to jump to the controversies category, F-E-E for Feed Posts, A-L-L for All, Q-U-O for the quotes category. Same idea for the controversy card categories.

- I have far more content planned for the controversy cards and quotes. I could easily take the controversy card collection to 300 - 400 and the quotes up to around 3,000, without assistance.

- I should have the basic UI built out in just a month or two. All of the participatory features will take a few more months beyond that.

- Then we will get back to creating more controversy cards.
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~ Science as a Personal Journey: Your Own Personal Reaction to Controversial Science Says Much about the Depth of Your Own Thinking and Your Own Propensity to Lead / When we Treat Controversies as an Open-Ended Clash of Worldviews Where the Answer is Not Already Known, We Sharpen Our Critical Voice, We Develop the Habits of Higher-Order thinking, and We Open the Door to Becoming Effective Leaders

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~ The Intermission: Controversies of Science Will Temporarily Suspend the Production of New Controversy Cards Until February, in Order to Make Time for Job Interviews, and Further Development of the Infographic Viewer and Controversies of Science API / We are Only Halfway to My Objective of 360 Controversy Cards, and there are Many More Books of Critique to Go Through / This Should also Give me the Time it Takes to Learn React.js

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The Comet of Justinian: Around the Same Time as the Devastating Outbreak of Plague in the 6th Century AD, a Comet Appeared / This Comet is Recorded to have Induced "a Remarkable Paleness of the Sun" for 3 Full Years / The Mosaics of Ravenna from this Time Period Appear to Record the Conditions which Contributed to Europe Losing 40% of its Population: Not Just Plague, but also Terrible Explosions, Earthquakes, a Dry Fog in the Air, and Fire and Stones Raining from the Sky

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Vol 1)
by Edward Gibbon

(The first volume of this classic was published in 1776. It is one of the most read historical works of modern times.)

"I shall conclude this chapter with the comets, the earthquakes, and the plague, which astonished or afflicted the age of Justinian.

Comets A.D. 531-539

I. In the fifth year of his reign, and in the month of September, a comet was seen during twenty days in the western quarter of the heavens, and which shot its rays into the north. Eight years afterwards, while the sun was in Capricorn, another comet appeared to follow in the Sagittary: the size was gradually increasing: the head was in the east, the tail in the west, and it remained visible about forty days. The nations, who gazed with astonishment, expected wars and calamities from their baleful influence; and these expectations were abundantly fulfilled. The astronomers dissembled their ignorance of the nature of these blazing stars, which they affected to represent as the floating meteors of the air; and few among them embraced the simple notion of Seneca and the Chaldeans, that they are only planets of a longer period, and more eccentric motion. Time and science have justified the conjectures and predictions of the Roman sage: the telescope has opened new worlds to the eyes of astronomers; and, in the narrow space of history and fable, one and the same comet is already found to have revisited the earth in seven equal revolutions of five hundred and seventy-five years. The first, which ascends beyond the christian era one thousand seven hundred and sixty-seven years, is coeval with Ogyges the father of Grecian antiquity. And this appearance explains the tradition which Varro has preserved, that under his reign the planet Venus changed her colour, size, figure, and course: a prodigy without example either in past or succeeding ages. The second visit, in the year eleven hundred and ninety-three, is darkly implied in the fable of Electra the seventh of the Pleiads, who have been reduced to six since the time of the Trojan war. That nymph, the wife of Dardanus, was unable to support the ruin of her country: she abandoned the dances of her sister orbs, fled from the zodiac to the north pole, and obtained, from her dishevelled locks, the name of the comet. The third period expires in the year six hundred and eighteen, a date that exactly agrees with the tremendous comet of the Sibyl, and perhaps of Pliny, which arose in the west two generations before the reign of Cyrus. The fourth apparaition, forty-four years before the birth of Christ, is of all others the most splendid and important. After the death of Caesar, a long-haired star was conspicuous to Rome and to the nations, during the games which were exhibited by young Octavian, in honour of Venus and his uncle. The vulgar opinion, that it conveyed to heaven the divine soul of the dictator, was cherished and consecrated by the piety of a statesman: while his secret superstition referred the comet to the glory of his own times. The fifth visit has been already ascribed to the fifth year of Justinian, which coincides with the five hundred and thirty-first of the christian era. And it may deserve notice, that in this, as in the preceding instance, the comet was followed, though at a longer interval, by a remarkable paleness of the sun. The sixth return, in the year eleven hundred and six, is recorded by the chronicles of Europe and China; and in the first fervour of the crusades, the christians and the Mahometans might surmise, with equal reason, that it portended the destruction of the infidels. The seventh phenomenon, of one thousand six hundred and eighty, was presented to the eyes of an enlightened age. The philosophy of Bayle dispelled a prejudice which Milton's muse had so recently adorned, that the comet from its horrid air shakes pestilence and war. Its road in the heavens was observed with exquisite skill by Flamstead and Cassini; and the mathematical science of Bernoulli, Newton and Halley, investigated the laws of its revolution. At the eighth period, in the year two thousand two hundred and fifty-five, their calculations may perhaps be verified by the astronomers of some future capital in the Siberian or American wilderness.

The Ravenna Mosaics

Eclipses, Comets and Craters, Raining Fire, Justinian’s Plague, the Hagia Sophia and the Ravenna Mosaics. The Comet of 536

"As the Emperor Justinian was building the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (532-537), a series of spectacularly dramatic climate and celestial events occurred. These were not just ordinary pestilence and earthquakes, these were biblical in their enormity. In the midst of construction, in the year 536, the earth was rocked with terrible 'explosions and earthquakes.' Fire and stones 'rained' from heaven, and a dry fog, so dense and so thick that a 'weak sun' was visible for only 2 hours per day, hung in the air for more than three years. The air temperature dropped precipitously. Snow was reported in August. Eclipses occurred, which had been predicted. Famines and plague took the lives of 40% of Europe’s population. Scholars have been debating the source for the earthquakes and the thick dry fog. The mosaics of Ravenna tell us the truth: the earth had a very close encounter with a comet. And once we know how to read the marble decorations of the Hagia Sophia we will be astonished to learn that the eclipses which were predicted are pictured on the walls."

These detailed mosaics have been interpreted by Dr. Ruth Dwyer in a series of online videos. The second one of the series is the most important for our purposes here ...

The imagery of the mosaics are visual indications of the celestial catastrophe and subsequent plague that struck Constantinople and the east. Regardless of the recent debates over the reconstruction of this time period's chronology (like by Heinsohn), the fall of Rome plainly created a power vacuum during this era. In that vacuum, Christianity and Islam rose to power simultaneously. Clark Whelton remarks that, "both religions offer competing ritual formulae for pacifying the heavens and avoiding future celestial disasters."

A Firsthand Account

The letters of Cassiodorus
Translated by Thomas Hodgkin – 1886
Page 518

25. Senator, Praetorian Praefect, to his Deputy Ambrosius, an Illustris.

[This letter appears to have been written in the early autumn of 538, about a year after the three last letters, and also after Letters 27 and 28, which precede it in order of date, though they follow it in this collection. For an account of the terrible famine in Italy, the beginning of which is here described, see Procopius, De Bello Gotthico ii. 20.]

Famine in Italy

"Since the world is not governed by chance, but by a Divine Ruler who does not change His purposes at random, men are alarmed, and naturally alarmed, at the extraordinary signs in the heavens, and ask with anxious hearts what events these may portend.

The Sun, first of stars, seems to have lost his wonted light, and appears of a bluish colour.

We marvel to see no shadows of our bodies at noon, to feel the mighty vigour of his heat wasted into feebleness, and the phenomena which accompany a transitory eclipse prolonged through a whole year.

The Moon too, even when her orb is full, is empty of her natural splendour.

Strange has been the course of the year thus far.

We have had a winter without storms, a spring without mildness, and a summer without heat.

Whence can we look for harvest, since the months which should have been maturing the corn have been chilled by Boreas?

How can the blade open if rain, the mother of all fertility, is denied to it?

These two influences, prolonged frost and unseasonable drought, must be adverse to all things that grow.

The seasons seem to be all jumbled up together, and the fruits, which were wont to be formed by gentle showers, cannot be looked for from the parched earth.

But as last year was one that boasted of an exceptionally abundant harvest, you are to collect all of its fruits that you can, and store them up for the coming months of scarcity, for which it is well able to provide.

And that you may not be too much distressed by the signs in the heavens of which I have spoken, return to the consideration of Nature, and apprehend the reason of that which makes the vulgar gape with wonder.

The middle air is thickened by the rigour of snow and rarefied by the beams of the Sun.

This is the great Inane, roaming between the heavens and the earth.

When it happens to be pure and lighted up by the rays of the sun it opens out its true aspect; but when alien elements are blended with it, it is stretched like a hide across the sky, and suffers neither the true colours of the heavenly bodies to appear nor their proper warmth to penetrate.

This often happens in cloudy weather for a time; it is only its extraordinary prolongation which has produced these disastrous effects, causing the reaper to fear a new frost in harvest, making the apples to harden when they should grow ripe, souring the old age of the grape-cluster.

All this, however, though it would be wrong to construe it as an omen of Divine wrath, cannot but have an injurious effect on the fruits of the earth.

Let it be your care to see that the scarcity of this one year does not bring ruin on us all.

Even thus was it ordained by the first occupant of our present dignity, that the preceding plenty should avail to mitigate the present penury."

Mainstream Suspicions

Why Halley's Comet May Be Linked to Famine 1,500 Years Ago
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer | December 18, 2013 07:53am ET

SAN FRANCISCO - The ancients had ample reason to view comets as harbingers of doom, it would appear.

A piece of the famous Halley's comet likely slammed into Earth in A.D. 536, blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably, a new study suggests. This dramatic climate shift is linked to drought and famine around the world, which may have made humanity more susceptible to 'Justinian's plague' in A.D. 541-542 -- the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.

The new results come from an analysis of Greenland ice that was laid down between A.D. 533 and 540. The ice cores record large amounts of atmospheric dust during this seven-year period, not all of it originating on Earth.

'I have all this extraterrestrial stuff in my ice core,' study leader Dallas Abbott, of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, told LiveScience here last week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Certain characteristics, such as high levels of tin, identify a comet as the origin of the alien dust, Abbott said. And the stuff was deposited during the Northern Hemisphere spring, suggesting that it came from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower -- material shed by Halley's comet that Earth plows through every April-May.

The Eta Aquarid dust may be responsible for a period of mild cooling in 533, Abbott said, but it alone cannot explain the global dimming event of 536-537, during which the planet may have cooled by as much as 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius). For that, something more dramatic is required.

Ice core data record evidence of a volcanic eruption in 536, but it almost certainly wasn't big enough to change the climate so dramatically, Abbott said.

'There was, I think, a small volcanic effect,' she said. 'But I think the major thing is that something hit the ocean.'

She and her colleagues have found circumstantial evidence of such an impact. The Greenland ice cores contain fossils of tiny tropical marine organisms -- specifically, certain species of diatoms and silicoflagellates.

An extraterrestrial impact in the tropical ocean likely blasted these little low-latitude organisms all the way to chilly Greenland, researchers said. And Abbott believes the object responsible was once a piece of Halley's comet.

Halley zooms by Earth once every 76 years or so. It appeared in Earth's skies in A.D. 530 and was astonishingly bright at the time, Abbott said. (In fact, observations of Halley's comet go way back, with research suggesting the ancient Greeks saw the comet streaking across their skies in 466 B.C.)

'Of the two brightest apparitions of Comet Halley, one of them is in 530,' Abbott said. 'Comets are normally these dirty snowballs, but when they're breaking up or they're shedding lots of debris, then that outer layer of dark stuff goes away, and so the comet looks brighter.'

It's unclear where exactly the putative comet chunk hit Earth or how big it was, she added. However, a 2004 study estimated that a comet fragment just 2,000 feet (600 meters) wide could have caused the 536-537 cooling event if it exploded in the atmosphere and its constituent dust were spread evenly around the globe."

A Hypothesis on the Subsequent Rise of Islam and Christianity

Louis Hissink links the emergence of the world's religions to this same event ... (again, I'm intentionally leaving the debate over chronology out of this particular discussion, so that we may discuss these two issues separately) ...

"... If the Comet of Justinian catastrophe was global and resulted in the death and disruption of human civilisations, then the actions of the survivors would be quite specific and aimed at one goal -- survival ...

One of the core beliefs Mohammed had was that wealth should always be devoted to the common good and this, more or less, makes Islam another variant of socialism and wealth redistribution. But was Islam an ideological imposition on the nomadic Arabs by Mohammed or was it what they needed to do in order to survive the Justinian Catastrophe? The point is that Islam appeared out of the middle of the 1st millennium CE at about the same time as the appearance of the Comet of Justinian.

Imagine civilisations operating on the division of labour and elsewhere nomadic peoples more or less existing at the subsistence level. Add a climate catastrophe and the various metropolitan cities and towns would simply collapse, mainly from mass deaths and the collapse of trade and markets that such civilisations depend on when organised on the division of labour. Such a catastrophe would have less effect on nomadic peoples who would be more or less self-sufficient and would constitute the bulk of the survivors. This is not to say that nomadic peoples would be unaffected by a climate catastrophe, but that being self-sufficient would ensure that these peoples would have a better chance of surviving than town-based peoples utterly reliant on the daily exchange of goods and services that the division of labour needs; town folk simply are not self-sufficient as a result, and are the first to suffer from a natural catastrophe.

This leads to the hypothesis that the ascendancy of Islam during this period was the result of the nomadic Arabs, being more or less self-sufficient and thus the majority survivors of the Justinian Catastrophe, and because their trading systems would also have been destroyed, becoming reliant on the plundering of the surviving remnants of the Levant and Byzantine civilisations, even to the extent of taking over those ruined cities and towns, and then forcibly sharing their plunder with the rest of the survivors in their region as described, more or less, as the policies of Mohammed at the time.

It seems plausible to think Mohammed might have been the right man at the right time to organise the survival of his tribe by implementing the necessary, and compulsory, sharing of all the wealth among the survivors of the Roman and Arabic worlds in his region.

Communism or socialism is an appropriate economic system for a previously civilised people, mostly destroyed by a massive global catastrophe, to survive. Freedom becomes irrelevant when survival is paramount and all trading systems are destroyed. In this sense Islam is most certainly a socialist or communist system of social organisation, with Allah representing the cometary apparition in the heavens sent to punish humankind. It is of course to be expected that a traumatised illiterate and nomadic peoples would fabricate fantastical explanations to explain their immediate past, and subsequently codified in their oral and later, literary traditions. Consequently, once the cometary or heavenly apparition disappeared from the heavens, surviving peoples would then tend to memorialise it as an abstract idea or ‘authority’ that would return if the people started to sin again, the belief being that the just passed catastrophe caused by an heavenly apparition was to punish people in the first place. (That it was more likely an accident or unpredictable natural phenomenon would not have entered their analysis, especially in the case of illiterate nomads that most of the Arabs were probably at the time).

And having set up, by absolute necessity, a socialist or communist system in order to survive, the followers of Mohammed would then have, over time, become habituated with this state of affairs and established an institutionalised governing system that simply gelled into existence from habit and developed into the theocratic regimes that exist now.

But let us not forget the survivors of the recently destroyed Roman Civilisation, for they too would have slowly started rebuilding their world, but finding their ancient homes now invaded by the nomadic Arabs under the ideology/theology of Islam, apart from the invasion of other people elsewhere, would strive to regain their previous living spaces and cities, hence the Crusades and the continuing conflict between the Christian and Islamic worlds.

It thus seems plausible that the rump of the Roman and Byzantine worlds then adopted socialist or communist policies in order to survive, and instituted Christianity as an explanation for that change. Which version of Christianity is entirely another matter and definitely not gone into here. As the climate crisis dissipated and peoples returned to the humdrum of daily existence, the need for autocratic control in order to simply survive became unnecessary and people started to demand more freedoms."

Ruth Dwyer's video on the comet is a worthwhile watch ...

The Comet of 536 and the Ravenna Mosaics

There is some additional analysis and conjecture on the origin of the debris here:

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