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Albert Einstein's special mark on the universe

It has been exactly 100 years since Albert Einstein presented his theory of general relativity to an audience of scientists on November 25, 1915. While virtually everyone has heard of Einstein and his theory, very few people have any idea of what the theory actually is.

This is a shame, not only because there is a great public thirst for understanding of it, but also because relativity is important, for at least four major reasons.

General relativity provides our modern understanding of space, time and gravity -- which means it's crucial to almost everything we do in physics and astronomy. For example, you cannot understand black holes, the expansion of the universe or the Big Bang without first understanding the basic ideas of relativity. Though few people realize it, Einstein's famous equation E = mc2 is actually part of the theory of relativity, which means that relativity also explains how the sun shines and how nuclear power works.

A second reason everyone should know about relativity lies in the way it changes our perception of reality. Relativity tells us that our ordinary perceptions of time and space are not universally valid. Instead, space and time are intertwined as four-dimensional space-time. Read more...

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Federal Jury Hands Down Rare Conviction For Coal Executive

Link recommended by Patrick Mullarkey

A federal jury has convicted former Massy Energy CEO Don Blankenship for conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards at the Upper Big Branch mine, site of a 2010 explosion that killed 29 people. The misdemeanor charge carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. He was acquitted of two more serious charges involving securities fraud and making false statements.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In West Virginia, a federal jury has convicted former Massy Energy CEO Don Blankenship of conspiring to willfully violate federal mine safety laws. The case concerned the Upper Big Branch mine. In 2010, an explosion there killed 29 miners. Convictions like this are rare among top coal executives. From West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Ashton Marra has more.

ASHTON MARRA, BYLINE:
Dozens of West Virginians gathered outside the Charleston courthouse awaiting the verdict - guilty on one misdemeanor charge, not guilty on two felony counts. Read more ...

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How are all those screens changing kids' behavior?

In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, businessman and author Tony Schwartz offered an honest yet troubling account of what he calls his "addiction" to technology.

The medical and research fields have not yet come to a clear consensus on what constitutes technology "addiction" and which factors distinguish a true technology addiction disorder from problematic use or just bad habits. But the behavior Schwartz describes is remarkably familiar to those of us who are on our devices more than we know we ought to be. Read more...

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Statisticians issue warning over misuse of P values

Policy statement aims to halt missteps in the quest for certainty.

Misuse of the P value — a common test for judging the strength of scientific evidence — is contributing to the number of research findings that cannot be reproduced, the American Statistical Association (ASA) warns in a statement released today. The group has taken the unusual step of issuing principles to guide use of the P value, which it says cannot determine whether a hypothesis is true or whether results are important.

This is the first time that the 177-year-old ASA has made explicit recommendations on such a foundational matter in statistics, says executive director Ron Wasserstein. The society’s members had become increasingly concerned that the P value was being misapplied in ways that cast doubt on statistics generally, he adds. Read more...

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