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Wolfgang Alexander Moens
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Science!
Science!

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A nice review in The New Yorker of the BBC radio programme In Our Time.
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"On 27 October 1962, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov was on board the Soviet submarine B-59 near Cuba when the US forces began dropping non-lethal depth charges. While the action was designed to encourage the Soviet submarines to surface, the crew of B-59 had been incommunicado and so were unaware of the intention. They thought they were witnessing the beginning of a third world war.

Trapped in the sweltering submarine – the air-conditioning was no longer working – the crew feared death. But, unknown to the US forces, they had a special weapon in their arsenal: a ten kilotonne nuclear torpedo. What’s more, the officers had permission to launch it without waiting for approval from Moscow.

Two of the vessel’s senior officers – including the captain, Valentin Savitsky – wanted to launch the missile. According to a report from the US National Security Archive, Savitsky exclaimed: “We’re gonna blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all – we will not become the shame of the fleet.”

But there was an important caveat: all three senior officers on board had to agree to deploy the weapon. As a result, the situation in the control room played out very differently. Arkhipov refused to sanction the launch of the weapon and calmed the captain down. The torpedo was never fired.

Had it been launched, the fate of the world would have been very different: [...]"

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"Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the development of theories about dinosaur feathers, following discoveries of fossils which show evidence of feathers.

All dinosaurs were originally thought to be related to lizards - the word 'dinosaur' was created from the Greek for 'terrible lizard' - but that now appears false. In the last century, discoveries of fossils with feathers established that at least some dinosaurs were feathered and that some of those survived the great extinctions and evolved into the birds we see today. There are still many outstanding areas for study, such as what sorts of feathers they were, where on the body they were found, what their purpose was and which dinosaurs had them."

With Mike Benton Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Bristol

Steve Brusatte Reader and Chancellor's Fellow in Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Edinburgh and

Maria McNamara Senior Lecturer in Geology at University College, Cork
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Some comments on the value and future of peer review.

"[...] Defences of formal peer review tend to focus on three functions it serves. The first is that it is supposed to ensure reliability: if you read something in the peer-reviewed literature, you can have some confidence that it is correct. This confidence may fall short of certainty, but at least you know that experts have looked at the paper and not found it ­obviously flawed.

The second is a bit like the function of film reviews. We do not want to endure a large number of bad films in order to catch the occasional good one, so we leave that to film critics, who save us time by identifying the good ones for us. Similarly, a vast amount of academic literature is being produced all the time, most of it not deserving of our attention, and the peer-review system saves us time by selecting the most important articles. It also enables us to make quick judgements about the work of other academics: instead of actually reading the work, we can simply look at where it has been published.

The third function is providing feedback. If you submit a serious paper to a serious journal, then whether or not it is accepted, it has at least been read, and if you are lucky you receive valuable advice about how to improve it.

Let us consider these functions in turn. [...]"

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"Stephen Fry, actor, comedian, journalist, author, tech enthusiast and polymath delivered his Shannon lecture "The future of humanity and technology". With over 150 film, TV, and audio performances and over 20 written works, as well as over 12 million Twitter followers, Fry’s wit and wisdom have been read, seen or heard around the globe over multiple generations.

Fry explores the impact on humanity of emergent technologies and, in classic Bell Labs style, looks back at human history to understand the present and the future. He will outline how humans have adapted to revolutionary changes in all aspects of life over the past millennia, and uses this as a basis for conjecture about the future of human existence in the machine or industrial internet age, and how best to navigate these murky technological and societal waters. [...]"

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"[...] To get the highly detailed portraits, he took over 8,000 shots of a single specimen and stitched them together, a process that takes about three weeks to complete. [...]"
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"Cassini may be gone, but these gorgeous Saturn photos are ours forever."

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Featured on Open Culture: Gustav Klimt’s Haunting Paintings Get Re-Created in Photographs, Featuring Live Models, Ornate Props & Real Gold

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Stephen Fry tells a punny story about a solar eclipse.

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