November Shirt Deals
November 17, 2011 - Thursday
Sorry all the blog posts have been product related lately, but I guess it's getting to be that time of year. I have two deals that will last until November 24th. You can get 5 products for the price of 4 by using the code XMAS5FOR4 when checking out. Or use the code BUY3SHIP to buy any 3 products and save up to $9.50 on shipping. Don't forget you can keep up to date with any current or upcoming deals on the discounts page.
Calamities of Nature 2012 Calendars
November 7, 2011 - Monday
With the holiday season nearly upon us, I have two new calendars that could make some nice gifts. One calendar features some of the most popular comics on the themes of science, math, and philosophy. For fun I've even included a bunch of important dates in these fields (birthdays, milestones, and so on). The other calendar is entirely bacon-themed comics. If you're not sure whether you're interested in these calendars, be sure to click the links because detailed previews are available.
Free Shipping on Shirts This Weekend
October 28, 2011 - Friday
This weekend, on October 29th and 30th, free standard US shipping is available for all shirt orders. Just use the coupon code WITCHINGHOUR when checking out. International orders can use this code for a savings on shipping of up to $9.50. Also, I've added a new discounts page so that you can always keep up to date with any savings that are available. Thanks for your support!
Update Schedule, Weird Coincidences, and Other Tidbits
October 8, 2011 - Saturday
I have a few odds and ends to discuss, so here it goes.
• In the coming months I have a lot of stuff to take care of with work and family. So instead of my regular update schedule, I'm just going to post new comics when I have the time. Hopefully this will allow me to meet my other responsibilities without having to totally shut down this comic. If you're the kind of person who doesn't like checking back and not seeing an update, don't forget you can sign up on the Facebook page, RSS feed, or for email updates, so that you'll never miss a new comic. Thank you for your understanding and your continued support.
• Similarly, I won't have time to do my weekly science news updates, which is too bad, because I got a lot of good feedback about them. Instead, I might just post interesting science news from time to time. Also, if you hear about some exciting new science results, feel free to post them to the Facebook page. Maybe we can get some fun discussions going.
• Funny story about Friday's graph comic. I actually started working on it about a month ago in anticipation of the anniversary. But sometime after that, I forgot all about it. Then a few days ago I drew another comic about the Afghan War anniversary. Just as I finished this second comic Thursday night, I happened to notice a file on my computer with the name "tenyearslater," and I then remembered the first comic that I had never finished. In the end, I decided to finish and then post the first comic, but that means I'm now stuck with another comic that I'm probably never going to post. Nice one, huh?
• Finally, my wife pointed out a strange fact to me. On March 24, 2008 I posted this comic, and 12 days later Charlton Heston died. On June 22, 2009 I posted this comic, and 3 days later Michael Jackson died. Finally, on Wednesday I posted this comic, and that same day Steve Jobs died. Obviously this is just a coincidence, but you have to admit it's pretty weird!
Science News for the Week, Sep 24-30
September 30, 2011 - Friday
Science news time!
• After over 26 years of operation, the Tevatron in Chicago will be preforming its final proton-antiproton collision today. The Tevatron is most famous for its discovery of the top quark. Looking over the timeline of important events in the Tevatron's history, probably the most striking thing is that after all these years, the Tevatron never really discovered anything that wasn't expected. This really says something about the amazing success of the Standard Model. The end of the Tevatron also marks the final demise of high energy particle experiments in the United States. If humans ever detect the Higgs boson or Supersymmetry, it will be done exclusively in Europe with the LHC. I appreciate that there were many money and management problems with the SSC, but it's somewhat disappointing that the supposedly most powerful country in the world can't find the resources to lead research on the fundamental constituents of the Universe. This turn of events is interesting to consider as it appears something similar may occur in the US for astrophysical satellites as well.
• The dominance of Eurasian cultures in our modern world is an interesting mystery. Historically, some have argued essentially racist explanations, such as intellectual, moral or inherent genetic superiority. In the last couple decades, scientists have suggested that the east-west orientation of Eurasia helped spread ancient culture and technological innovations such as agriculture and writing more rapidly than occurred in the oppositely oriented Americas and Africa. Biologist and ecologist Jared Diamond perhaps most famously made this case in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Gun, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. There was a recent report that new genetic evidence strongly supports this idea. Basically scientists find that there are larger genetic differences among human populations running north to south than east to west within continents. This opens up an interesting area of study on how ecology and geography influence our genetic and cultural differences.
• Einstein's Theory of General relativity, which tells us how matter and energy warp space and time, is our current best theory for how gravity works. But there are other competing theories of gravity, some of which also hope to avoid the existence dark matter or dark energy. In a paper that was released today, astrophysicists showed that we can test between these different theories of gravity by studying galaxy clusters, gravitationally bound groups of hundreds to thousands of galaxies. The basic idea is that light will be red-shifted less when climbing from the outskirts of the cluster than the center of the cluster, and this difference depends on which theory of gravity is correct. This is a very small effect, but by combining almost 8000 galaxy clusters, it can be tested. The scientists report that the data is consistent with General Relativity and other theories of gravity are disfavored. Excitingly, this result also argues that dark matter and dark energy are real things, which can't be explained away as us not understanding how gravity works.
Science News for the Week, Sep 17-23
September 24, 2011 - Saturday
Unfortunately, I don't have time to do an in-depth writeup this week. But there's plenty of interesting news, so I've listed some of my favorites below. Also, I won't be posting a comic on Monday. But there'll definitely be a new update by Wednesday.
• In Italy, six scientists and a public official are on trial for manslaughter for not warning the public aggressively enough of an impending earthquake that killed more than 300 people. It sounds like it should be an Onion article, right?
• The first genome of an Australian Aborigine has been sequenced. The Aborigines are direct descendants of the first modern humans to leave Africa, so there is potentially a lot we can learn about our ancestry from this work.
• The news that has been all over the Internet is a measurement of the speed of neutrinos, which seems to indicate that they can go faster than light. You can also read the paper detailing the results. I don't have time to go into too much depth, so I'll just say this is a pretty extraordinary claim. It's probably worth waiting for other experiments to confirm this result before getting too excited. Also, we have measurements from a supernova in 1987 that neutrinos and light move at the same speed. But this experiment in question did look at much higher energy neutrinos, so maybe that's something to consider as well.
• Finally, scientists have used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging to reconstruct people's visual experiences. How this works is that someone watches a bunch of YouTube videos while their visual cortex is being monitored. A computer can then learn what kinds of brain activity corresponds to different videos. The subject then watches a new YouTube clip, and the computer sifts through a huge database of videos and constructs an image of what the person was most likely watching. You can see an example below. Incredible!