Many readers noticed that we were down for a few days. What happened was that I was given a very kind mention in an article in the LA Times (along with some of my fellow skeptical bloggers). This had the very nice effect of sending a pulse of traffic to my blog.
However, this traffic exceeded the limits of my host, HostPapa, for simultaneous users. HostPapa responded by (without warning) permanently suspending my account, and putting up a friendly notice for all to see, making it seem like I haven’t been paying my bills. Now that’s customer service.
I noticed right away and contacted HostPapa, but this was over the weekend and they were less than responsive. Eventually they simply refused to turn my account back on, even temporarily, and simply said that I was permanently banished. That was their way of punishing me for increasing my blog traffic. It certainly seems as if they did their best to turn what is ordinarily a boon to a blog into a disaster – thanks HostPapa.
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This is the time of year for looking back at the big news stories of the previous year. I’m not going to give any numbered top-ten list – but will simply reflect, in no particular order, on those science news items that made an impression on me this year.
Ardi, as he is known, was certainly the coolest fossil of the year. The remains of 17 individuals were actually found in 1993 and first described in 1994, but this year the first full analysis of these fossils was published, along with the new genus designation of Ardipithecus. Ardi is the oldest hominid species now known, displacing Lucy – an Australopithecus afarensis.
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Sherlock Holmes has always been a favorite fictional character of mine. He is a deeply flawed character, and that is likely part of his appeal and popularity. But mostly, at his core, he is a profoundly rational character, combining impeccable logic, keen observation and attention to detail, and an astounding fund of knowledge.
I doubt there is a fictional character more famous than Holmes for his towering intellect.
Like any fan, I approach a new imagining of a favorite hero with some trepidation – and that is how I approached the new Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.
There is simply no way for me to discuss this movie without massive spoilers. So do not read on if you have not seen the movie and are planning to. I do recommend the movie – so go see it, and then come back and read the rest of this post.
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Happy Holidays to all my readers – whichever holiday you choose to celebrate during this season. I am partial to Festivus myself. And although I am not a druid, I do love the Winter Solstice – we are turning the corner at the bottom of the analemma and the days will now start to get longer (and also this is likely the original reason why this is the holiday season).
I will be spending the holidays with family, and while I will continue to post blogs through the holidays, I will be away from the computer most of the time and so comment moderation will be slow – so be patient.
SBM was down on Friday and is down again today after days of very slow responses. We are not sure what the problem is – it could be simply the wild popularity of the blog, or a denial of service bot, or something else.
In any case, we are already in the process of changing hosts and significantly upgrading the service. This process should be done today, so hopefully SBM will be back up and running soon.
Recently the data file for this blog was corrupted and about half of my posts were down. As soon as I discovered this we worked on the problem (thanks to Mike for helping with this) and restored every post from the archive. However, for some reason they appear to be down again.
Interestingly, Michael Egnor noticed the absent posts and wrote about it here. I never received the e-mail he sent me, and there is no way to leave comments on his blog.
All of the blog entries are archived. We will have them restored as soon as possible and I will leave a notice when they are back.
— Update 05/20/08 —
The problem appears to be with the new version of WordPress we just installed and Brinkster, our host. I am told that by tonight everything will be back. We will have to go back to the old version of WordPress, but that will not affect subscribers, just the back end.
I suggest that if you leave any long brilliant comments today you should save a copy offline. We will try not to lose anything in the transition, but it”s better to be safe.
Thanks for your patience.
All blog entries seem to be back up. Please let me know if you find missing entries or broken links.
Note – if you registered between 5/17 and5/21 please re-register.
Thanks again to Mike for fixing my blog.
Next week I will be in Los Angeles filming a pilot for a new TV show called The Skeptologists. The show is the brain child of Brian Dunning (of Skeptoid fame) and producer Ryan Johnson (of American Dragster fame). At this point the show is just a pilot, produced on spec, as it were, so not big TV contract yet. But we can always be hopeful.
The show will be a reality investigative documentary – we will explore fringe and unconventional claims from a scientific point of view. I think the time is ripe for such a show. There are far too many credulous paranormal shows out there, with kids and plumbers playing at science but getting it wrong. I think (hope) the pubic will welcome a show with actual live scientists taking a look at some of these claims.
Here’s the lineup:
Me, Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Yau-Man Chan (yes, that guy from Survivor), Kirsten Sanford, and Mark Edward (here are more details on the cast).
This also means that next week I am planning on being too busy to update my blog, but fear not. I will be re-editing and updating some of my classic essays from back in the day (originally published either in my Weird Science Column or in the New England Journal of Skepticism) and posting them up throughout the week. If I have time I may also give you an update on how the shooting is going for Skeptologists. So stay tuned.
University of Sheffield professor and computer scientist Noel Sharkey, best known for his appearances on the BBC show Robot Wars, in a talk before Britain’s Royal United Services Institute warned the world that automated military robots “pose a threat to humanity.” I agree. Seriously.
Well, OK – not right now. But it is not too early to think about the implications of developing increasingly automated robots designed for warfare. While I think it is an unlikely scenario that such machines will take over the world anytime this century, as in The Matrix or Terminator, they may pose a credible risk in the near future.
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Carl Sagan, noted astronomer and science popularizer, died 11 years ago today, on December 20th 1996. Beginning last year, on the 10th anniversary of his death, and continuing this year (and hopefully into the future) there is an informal Sagan blog carnival, honoring the memory of the man who meant so much to so many of us.
As I wrote last year, Sagan was a critical early mentor in my personal journey to understanding the nature of science and its role in society. In part, this blog is a manifestation of both the personal effect that Sagan had on my life and also the tradition of promoting the public understanding of science that Sagan so successfully nurtured.
One of the things I admired about Sagan’s style was his ability to step back and look at an issue from a broader, dare I say cosmic, perspective. I remember in an interview he was asked about his religious beliefs. He responded by pointing to a map of the known universe. He said (I am paraphrasing) “See this map, this is the universe. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe. See this one galaxy – there are hundreds of billions of stars in this galaxy. On the edge of one of the arms of this galaxy there is an ordinary star. Around that star there are nine planets and on one of those planets there live people who think they are the center of the universe.”
Sagan made it cool to popularize science, to be enthusiastic about science, and his enthusiasm was contagious. I hope the tradition of science for society and for the people that Sagan promoted continues to thrive, and I will continue to do my small part in keeping it alive.
This blog entry concludes exactly one year of the Neurologica blog. I wanted to take the time to look back at my first year of science blogging.
It has been a wonderful experience overall. First, I am proud that I managed to maintain 4-5 posts per week for the entire year. Statistics vary, but about 80% of all new blogs are abandoned within a month. The average blog has the life expectancy of a red blood cell – about 120 days. There are now an estimated 12 millions blogs in America alone, but most are not maintained and/or have few readers. I have been averaging several thousand readers per post, so by all measures I think my first foray into blogging has been a success.
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