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I'm Drew Breunig and I obsess about technology, media, language, and culture. I live in New York, studied anthropology, and work at PlaceIQ.

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Posts tagged science

The 5 Blows to the Human Ego

Donna Haraway, one of my favorite professors from my time at UCSC, came up with a list of the four major blows to the human ego: ideas which caught on, undermined our supposed central place in the universe, and diverted culture. They are:

I haven’t seen this list referenced anywhere since Haraway introduced it offhandedly1 in a seminar, so apologies for no original sourcing. I think about it at least once every three months.

Stumbling on the 4 Blows to the Ego this morning I realized a fifth has emerged over the last couple years:

  • The Kepler revolution, which allowed us to realize that planets and solar systems are not the exception, but the norm.

It is now accepted that the Milky Way contains at least as many planets as it does stars. This is quite a change from my childhood, when all the space literature I read marveled at the exemption that was our solar system.

As Kepler winds down we’re just beginning to see this thinking trickle out of science communities into mainstream narrative. Only time will tell how it affects our culture, thinking, and overall worldview.


  1. Casually tossing out giant, mind-rearranging ideas on the way to her seemingly unrelated central thesis is the defining element of Haraway lectures and writing. 

Media Analysis: Measles Outbreak Traced to Anti-Vaccine Church

An astounding story that should be part of the national conversation regarding vaccines. Seems straight forward.

However, USA Today doesn’t mention the church’s stance on vaccines until the 13th paragraph. Gawker, on the other hand, essentially reblogs the USA Today piece but moves the pastor’s anti-vaccine stance to the headline.

They put the salmon in an MRI scanner and “the salmon was shown a series of photographs depicting human individuals in social situations. The salmon was asked to determine what emotion the individual in the photo must have been experiencing.”
Craig Bennet shoots holes in fMRI studies by finding correlations in dead salmon. (Via Nueroskeptic)
Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets, according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three planets located outside our solar system, called exoplanets.
NASA.
White roofs have always been considered a “soft” geoengineering scheme — an easy, painless way to cool the planet slightly in order to buy us time to reduce emissions and halt the global rise in temperatures. But even this simple solution can create unforeseen side effects. If white roofs are more complicated than expected, then what about all those other proposed schemes — like pumping sulfur into the air or lacing the ocean with iron — to artificially cool the planet?
The Washington Post’s Wonkbook on a recent Stanford study that shows that white-roofs make the world warmer, contrary to initial thinking.
The results presented in this paper don’t really make much sense until a human comes along, looks at events, looks at the data, and subjectively interprets the crap out of them until they fit.
The world is a dynamic mess of jiggling things if you look at it right.

The evolution of disciplines.

"Using new mathematical tools, a group of researchers created a fascinating chart that shows how neuroscience went from a hodgepodge of unconnected scientific disciplines, to a unified science that’s one of the most important today. In just under 10 years." (via io9)