Home | Neorenaissance - A blog from the intersection of science, politics and the creative culture

Americans Deserve a Presidential Science Debate

In an age when the major US challenges revolve around science, we deserve candidates who will share their views on it

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Mar 19, 2012

America needs and deserves a president who can show that he or she understands the importance of basing public policy on the best available evidence, as the founders intended.

Why is Heartland Institute's president Joe Bast so concerned?

A revised computer analysis incorporates suggestions from the embattled climate denier

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Feb 29, 2012

It's possible that the program identified Bast as the most likely author because so much of the strategy memo appears to be cut and pasted from other Heartland documents. So I decided to take Bast up on his suggestion and rerun my stylometric analyses.

The most likely author of the Heartland Institute climate strategy memo?

A computer analysis may suggest the document's most likely author

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Feb 23, 2012

A lot of fuss is being made about the provenance of the Heartland Institute's climate strategy memo. Heartland says it's a fake. I decided to test that.

Pricing the New Energy Economy

We hear the term - but how much will a new US energy infrastructure cost?

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 16, 2011

We hear talk about how we need to transition to a green energy economy, but what exactly does that mean? A little math and some energy insight can paint a rough picture.

Am I a bad parent?

Why I gave my son a dangerous cell phone even after San Francisco said it's bad for him

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 01, 2011

Last week the big science news was a new study saying cell phones don't increase cancer risk in kids. It was promptly called into question on HuffPost and elsewhere. Several reporters referenced the May 31 release by the World Health Organization about a "possible" link between brain cancer and cell phone use, which classed it in the same risk category as eating pickled vegetables and drinking coffee. In a related move, last week San Francisco passed a regulation requiring retailers to post radiation exposure warnings on every phone and hand every customer educational material counseling them on the possible risks to their health.

Save Liberal Arts

A new movement is afoot to end liberal arts degrees and transform higher ed into trade school

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 19, 2011

Salon runs this article about the benefits of killing the liberal arts degree.

Stanley Fish wrote of this sort of triumph of small-mindedness in 2010 in an eloquent criticism of Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education, a set of recommendations made by an independent panel to the British government. It advocated “student choice” in funding higher education.

Among the report’s palliatives: “Our proposals put students at the heart of the system.” “Our recommendations…are based on giving students the ability to make an informed choice of where and what to study.” “Students are best placed to make the judgment about what they want to get from participating in higher education.” The idea is that the money follows the students. Courses that compete successfully for student attendance survive and prosper; those that do not wither and die. The assumptions of market economics have triumphed: Ideas are now considered commodities.

One week to Netroots Nation

Panel on talking about science in unexpected places works to counter GOP retreat from reason

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 10, 2011

I'll be there speaking on a panel about talking about science in unexpected places. This is a critical topic in a time when the GOP is retreating into unreason and science becomes, in their view, a partisan topic. This week, for example, Rush Limbaugh's response to Mitt Romney's statement that he "believes" in climate change was "bye bye nomination."

Join me at Netroots Nation

I'll be speaking at the national social action conference on Friday June 17

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 03, 2011

Netroots Nation is going on its sixth year, and this time the annual gathering of online experts, social change agents, bloggers, non-profits, social entrepreneurs and writers will be in Minneapolis.

Why I'm not worried about my cell phone causing brain cancer

The World Health Organization's cancer "risk" is indistinguishable from chance

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 01, 2011

Today the big news is a release by the World Health Organization about a "possible" link between brain cancer and cell phone use. They class the use in the same risk category as - get this - eating pickled vegetables or drinking coffee. Seriously?

My step mom died of glioblastoma multiforme. It was a particularly horrible way to go. But I'm not worried about my brain, my wife's brain, or my son's brain, at least from cell phone use. Why? Physics.

On Shooting Movies and Stars

Digital cameras now do the unthinkable - capture a far better image than film

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | May 31, 2011

Disclaimer: You may have to be an astronomer, director, dp, cosmologist, or visual effects geek to appreciate the wonder in this post. My pal Clark Graff is a great visual effects artist, with experience creating visual magic on films like the Lord of the Rings and the Matrix. He turned me on to a terrific post by Snehal Patel over at fearless productions blog, recounting the 2011 Zacuto Hollywood Great Camera Shootout.