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12 Oct 15:27

Isaac Asimov Laments the “Cult of Ignorance” in the United States: A Short, Scathing Essay from 1980

by Josh Jones


Painting of Asimov on his throne by Rowena Morill, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1980, scientist and writer Isaac Asimov argued in an essay that “there is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been.” That year, the Republican Party stood at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution, which initiated a decades-long conservative groundswell that many pundits say may finally come to an end in November. GOP strategist Steve Schmidt (who has been regretful about choosing Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate in 2008) recently pointed to what he called “intellectual rot” as a primary culprit, and a cult-like devotion to irrationality among a certain segment of the electorate.

It’s a familiar contention. There have been critiques of American anti-intellectualism since the country’s founding, though whether or not that phenomenon has intensified, as Susan Jacoby alleged in The Age of American Unreason, may be a subject of debate. Not all of the unreason is partisan, as the anti-vaccination movement has shown. But “the strain of anti-intellectualism” writes Asimov, “has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

Asimov’s primary examples happen to come from the political world. However, he doesn’t name contemporary names but reaches back to take a swipe at Eisenhower (“who invented a version of the English language that was all his own”) and George Wallace. Particularly interesting is Asimov’s take on the “slogan on the part of the obscurantists: ‘Don’t trust the experts!’” This language, along with charges of “elitism,” Asimov wryly notes, is so often used by people who are themselves experts and elites, “feeling guilty about having gone to school.” So many of the American political class’s wounds are self-inflicted, he suggests, but that’s because they are beholden to a largely ignorant electorate:

To be sure, the average American can sign his name more or less legibly, and can make out the sports headlines—but how many nonelitist Americans can, without undue difficulty, read as many as a thousand consecutive words of small print, some of which may be trisyllabic?

Asimov’s examples are less than convincing: road signs “steadily being replaced by little pictures to make them internationally legible” has more to do with linguistic diversity than illiteracy, and accusing television commercials of speaking their messages out loud instead of using printed text on the screen seems to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the medium. Jacoby in her book-length study of the problem looks at educational policy in the United States, and the resistance to national standards that virtually ensures widespread pockets of ignorance all over the country. Asimov’s very short, pithy essay has neither the space nor the inclination to conduct such analysis.

Instead he is concerned with attitudes. Not only are many Americans badly educated, he writes, but the broad ignorance of the population in matters of “science… mathematics… economics… foreign languages…” has as much to do with Americans’ unwillingness to read as their inability.

There are 200 million Americans who have inhabited schoolrooms at some time in their lives and who will admit that they know how to read… but most decent periodicals believe they are doing amazingly well if they have circulation of half a million. It may be that only 1 per cent—or less—of Americans make a stab at exercising their right to know. And if they try to do anything on that basis they are quite likely to be accused of being elitists.

One might in some respects charge Asimov himself of elitism when he concludes, “We can all be members of the intellectual elite.” Such a blithely optimistic statement ignores the ways in which economic elites actively manipulate education policy to suit their interests, cripple education funding, and oppose efforts at free or low cost higher education. Many efforts at spreading knowledge—like the Chatauquas of the early 20th century, the educational radio programs of the 40s and 50s, and the public television revolution of the 70s and 80s—have been ad hoc and nearly always imperiled by funding crises and the designs of profiteers.

Nonetheless, the widespread (though hardly universal) availability of free resources on the internet has made self-education a reality for many people, and certainly for most Americans. But perhaps not even Isaac Asimov could have foreseen the bitter polarization and disinformation campaigns that technology has also enabled. Needless to say, “A Cult of Ignorance” was not one of Asimov’s most popular pieces of writing. First published on January 21, 1980 in Newsweek, the short essay has never been reprinted in any of Asimov’s collections. You can read the essay as a PDF here. There’s also, one of our readers reminds us, a transcript on Github.

via Aphelis

Related Content:

Isaac Asimov’s 1964 Predictions About What the World Will Look 50 Years Later

How Isaac Asimov Went from Star Trek Critic to Star Trek Fan & Advisor

Isaac Asimov Explains His Three Laws of Robots

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Isaac Asimov Laments the “Cult of Ignorance” in the United States: A Short, Scathing Essay from 1980 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

12 Oct 15:44

Can Transcendence Be Taught?

by S. Abbas Raza

John Kaag and Clancy Martin in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

ScreenHunter_2289 Oct. 12 17.43I have, alas! Philosophy,
Medicine, Jurisprudence too,
And to my cost Theology,
With ardent labour, studied through.
And here I stand, with all my lore,
Poor fool, no wiser than before.

For two professors, the opening words of Goethe’s Faust have always been slightly disturbing, but only recently, as we’ve grown older, have they come to haunt us.

Faust sits in his dusty library, surrounded by tomes, and laments the utter inadequacy of human knowledge. He was no average scholar but a true savant — a master in the liberal arts of philosophy and theology and the practical arts of jurisprudence and medicine. In the medieval university, those subjects were the culminating moments of a lifetime of study in rhetoric, logic, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

In other words, Faust knows everything worth knowing. And still, after all his careful bookwork, he arrives at the unsettling realization that none of it has really mattered. His scholarship has done pitifully little to unlock the mystery of human life.

Are we and our students in that same situation? Are we teaching them everything without teaching them anything regarding the big questions that matter most? Is there a curriculum that addresses why we are here? And why we live only to suffer and die?

More here.  [Thanks to Eric Chaffee.]

12 Oct 16:00

Women’s Rage

by Kelly Lynn Thomas
[The Girl on the Train is] also the latest in a long line of texts that channel women’s rage at living under patriarchy. It offers an escapist fantasy, but unlike most fantasies, the escape is not into a more perfect world, just one where women can call bullshit, some more murderously than others, on the increasingly impossible expectations that legislate our lives.

So writes Anne Helen Peterson at BuzzFeed about why thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train have exploded in popularity over the past five years.

Related Posts:

03 Sep 00:40

A cross-section through the Earth

by Chris Rowan

A post by Chris RowanOne of the first things I do in my introductory geology class is talk about the structure of the Earth. Knowing the names, composition and physical properties of the different layers is an important foundation for the rest of the course, which means I fret about presenting the information in a clear and memorable manner*. This year, I decided to try a slightly different approach to in the past: I started my lecture by drilling an imaginary borehole down into the Earth from our lecture room. We discussed how what we were drilling through changed as we crossed the Moho, the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary and the core-mantle boundary, and then crossed them again as we came up at the antipode of NE Ohio, which lies in the Indian ocean off Australia. Rather conveniently, this meant I had a good opportunity to discuss the differences between oceanic and continental lithosphere. It seemed to work pretty well. This is what the board looked like at the end of my lecture:

The whiteboard following my Earth Structure lecture

The whiteboard following my Earth Structure lecture. I ended up having to move a table which restricted my access to the right hand side of the board in the middle of the lecture. I’m sure my class thought this was very amusing.

I gave the students blank cross-sections to fill in with all the information as we went, but then I thought that maybe I could give my students an even better study resource. I took the rough figure I had created in Inkscape to work out how to arrange all the information in the cross-section, spruced it up and added text boxes explaining all the most important information, and voilà:

The Earth, Down From Kent, Ohio.

The Earth, Down From Kent, Ohio. Click here for a large version.

I think it turned out pretty well. Anyone who finds this useful is welcome to use it with attribution; if you want the .svg file so you can modify it to fit your location, get in touch.

*a constant worry for most of the course, to be honest.

30 Sep 21:41

A Map of Canada’s Roads and Highways

by Jonathan Crowe


This striking high-resolution map of Canada’s roads and highways, produced by EarthArtAustralia, is a work of GIS: it’s assembled from Canadian GIS road data, with roads coloured and weighted by importance (freeways are bright yellow, back roads are blue). This map is also inarguably a work of art: I could easily have one on my wall. It’s certainly being sold as such, with high-resolution digital downloads and prints available. (EarthArtAustralia has a number of downloadable and frameable maps based on road and waterway data: they’ve been coming at a furious clip lately.)

03 Oct 22:44

Mapping the Ocean Floor by 2030

by Jonathan Crowe

Newsweek looks at efforts by a group of scientists and mariners to map most of the ocean floor by the year 2030. The objective was endorsed by a meeting of GEBCO, the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, last June. The scale of the project is vast:

To date, more than 85 percent of the seafloor has not been mapped using modern methods. Since 70 percent of the Earth is covered in oceans, this means that we quite literally don’t know our own planet. “We know the surface of Mars better than we do the seafloor,” says Martin Jakobsson, a researcher at Stockholm University.


05 Oct 15:31

Poetry’s rich tradition of urban wandering

by Morgan Meis

People-walking-nycKathleen Rooney at Poetry Magazine:

Many poets have recognized the connection between urban walking and poetry, but perhaps the first to do so in any kind of systematic way was Charles Baudelaire. He posited in both his nonfiction and his poems, particularly those in Paris Spleen(posthumously published in 1869), that such close observation and curiosity ought to be among the governing emotions of the urban walker and artist. In his 1863 essay “The Painter of Modern Life,” Baudelaire lays out much of his theory of flânerie, or aimless walking through a city; he writes of the titular painter and archetypal flâneur Constantin Guys that “to begin to understand M. G., the first thing to note is this: that curiosity may be considered the starting point of his genius.”

To be curious can mean to be eager to learn or know something, or it can mean strange or unusual, and Baudelaire’s literary output offers examples of both definitions. Etymologically, the word derives from the Latin curiosus, meaning “careful, diligent; inquiring eagerly”; it is also related to cura or “care.” In other words, paying attention to the city outside you and what it evokes within you can be a form of care. 

more here.

06 Oct 20:15

Documents Reveal Stranger Things Really Freaked Out the Department of Energy

by Bryan Menegus on Gizmodo, shared by Adam Clark Estes to io9

Netflix’s runaway hit Stranger Things did a lot of things right, and chief among them: antagonizing the US Department of Energy.


06 Oct 11:00

WIRED Book Club: Is Three-Body Problem’s Translation Better Than the Original?

by Lexi Pandell
WIRED Book Club: Is Three-Body Problem’s Translation Better Than the Original?
This week, the WIRED Book Club spoke to the book's English translator to find out how he brought Liu Cixin's popular novel to a whole new audience. The post WIRED Book Club: Is Three-Body Problem’s Translation Better Than the Original? appeared first on WIRED.
06 Oct 14:00

WIRED Book Club: We’re Going to Read a Trilogy in a Month and You Can’t Stop Us

by Wired Staff
WIRED Book Club: We’re Going to Read a Trilogy in a Month and You Can’t Stop Us
If there's one trilogy we could possibly get through in a single month, it's Jeff VanderMeer's 'Southern Reach' series. The post WIRED Book Club: We’re Going to Read a Trilogy in a Month and You Can’t Stop Us appeared first on WIRED.
06 Oct 16:40

Newswire: The Rolling Stones announce first studio album since 2005, Blue & Lonesome

by Esther Zuckerman

Apparently having sympathy for the devil means being granted remarkable stamina for a bunch of old dudes, because The Rolling Stones revealed this morning that their next album is due out at the end of this year. Called Blue & Lonesome, it will be available for purchase come December 2.

In conjunction with the announcement, The Stones released a snippet of their new song “Just Your Fool,” which is heavy on the traditional blues and light on the pure rock, making sense of the album’s title. The cover art is even a blue version of the familiar Stones tongue. Get it?

Per a press release, the band believed their latest endeavor “should be spontaneous and played live in the studio without overdubs.” They recorded it in three days, and Eric Clapton sat in on the jam session for two tracks because he was at the same London studio doing ...

06 Oct 17:16

Sean Carroll: Do Cause and Effect Really Exist?

by S. Abbas Raza

Video length: 3:27

06 Oct 11:00

6 Ways to Dress Like a Houstonian for Halloween

Halloween is coming up, and a lot of folks are trying to figure out what kind of costumes they'll be wearing this year. This is a weird year, and some outfits just won't cut it anymore - Dressing like an evil clown might get a person arrested or shot, and...
06 Oct 07:00

Spark of Science: Joyce Poole - Issue 41: Selection

by Carla Rebai

Joyce Poole can tell you exactly why she loves elephants: They share many of our best characteristics, and avoid many of our worst. They are familiar, social and intelligent, like us, but also mysterious and foreign—and, occasionally, terrifying.

Over a long career spent studying elephants, Poole has shed new light on elephant musth (which is periodic sexual and aggressive behavior among males), infrasound communication, social learning and role models, the effects of poaching, and management issues. She is also the co-founder of ElephantVoices, a conservation non-profit that works on elephant welfare, and maintains a database of elephant sounds and gestures.

Through all of her work, her affection and respect for the elephant shines through. In this latest installment of Nautilus’ Spark of Science, Poole tells us about how she fell in love with the animal, and what it means to her. Share your own story by emailing

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06 Oct 14:23

Why writers procrastinate

by Rob Beschizza


I've just sent Megan McArcle's article, "Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators," to my Kindle. Tell me if it's any good, I'm going to check it out later.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A's in English class. ... This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.

06 Oct 14:17

Hurricane Matthew Is a Nightmare Scenario for Kennedy Space Center

by Maddie Stone on Gizmodo, shared by Adam Clark Estes to io9

All signs are pointing toward deadly hurricane Matthew slamming directly into Space Coast—home to Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station—on Friday. If that unfortunate prediction comes true, it’ll be the worst storm to hit the iconic Florida spaceport since it was built in 1962.


01 Oct 07:00

Rosetta's 12-Year Mission Ends With Landing On Comet

by BeauHD
sciencehabit writes: It was an unusual grand finale. The crowded European Space Agency (ESA) operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, waited in silence and then the signal from the descending Rosetta mission simply stopped at 1.19 pm local time showing that the spacecraft had, presumably, landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko some 40 minutes earlier, due to the time the signal takes to reach Earth. Mission controllers hugged each other; there was gentle applause from onlookers; and that was it. There were no last minute crises. Seven of Rosetta's instruments kept gathering data until the end. Holger Sierks, principal investigator of the 12-year mission's main camera, showed the gathered staff, officials, and journalists Rosetta's final picture: a rough gravelly surface with a few larger rocks covering an area 10 meters across. Earlier, it had snapped the interior of deep pits on the comet (shown above, from an altitude of 5.8 kilometers) that may show the building blocks it is made of. "It's very crude raw data but this will keep us busy," Sierks said. It is hoped that this last close-up data grab will help to clarify the many scientific questions raised by Rosetta.

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05 Oct 17:50

Verizon Workers Can Now Be Fired If They Fix Copper Phone Lines

by msmash
Verizon has told its field technicians in Pennsylvania that they can be fired if they try to fix broken copper phone lines. Instead, employees must try to replace copper lines with a device that connects to Verizon Wireless's cell phone network, ArsTechnica reports. From the article:This directive came in a memo from Verizon to workers on September 20. "Failure to follow this directive may result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal," the memo said. It isn't clear whether this policy has been applied to Verizon workers outside of Pennsylvania. The memo and other documents were made public by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union, which asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to put a stop to the forced copper-to-wireless conversions. The wireless home phone service, VoiceLink, is not a proper replacement for copper phone lines because it doesn't work with security alarms, fax machines, medical devices such as pacemakers that require telephone monitoring, and other services, the union said.

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28 Sep 17:32

How Vector Space Mathematics Reveals the Hidden Sexism in Language

by S. Abbas Raza

As neural networks tease apart the structure of language, they are finding a hidden gender bias that nobody knew was there.

From the MIT Technology Review:

ImageBack in 2013, a handful of researchers at Google set loose a neural network on a corpus of three million words taken from Google News texts. The neural net’s goal was to look for patterns in the way words appear next to each other.

What it found was complex but the Google team discovered it could represent these patterns using vectors in a vector space with some 300 dimensions.

It turned out that words with similar meanings occupied similar parts of this vector space. And the relationships between words could be captured by simple vector algebra. For example, “man is to king as woman is to queen” or, using the common notation, “man : king :: woman : queen.” Other relationships quickly emerged too such as  “sister : woman :: brother : man,” and so on. These relationships are known as word embeddings.

This data set is called Word2vec and is hugely powerful. Numerous researchers have begun to use it to better understand everything from machine translation to intelligent Web searching.

But today Tolga Bolukbasi at Boston University and a few pals from Microsoft Research say there is a problem with this database: it is blatantly sexist.

More here.  [Thanks to Farrukh Azfar.]

12 Sep 17:48

XKCD's massive, vertical climate change infographic

by Cory Doctorow

050 056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1175

Randall Munroe once again shows that he's one of the web's most talented storytellers, inventing ways of conveying information that use the web's affordances to novel and sharp effect (there's a reason he won a Hugo award). (more…)

12 Sep 20:44

Greed turned cheese bright orange

by Jason Weisberger

American Cheese!

The discussion of last weeks post about American Cheese led me to this article on NPR.

Cheese was once colored bright orange to falsely imply it had lots of yellow/orange pigmented cream in it, a sign of quality several centuries ago. The cream had been skimmed, for sale elsewhere, so the cheese mongers colored the cheese.

Greed is all natural, right?

Via NPR:

Cheese expert Paul Kindstedt of the University of Vermont explains that back in the 17th century, many English cheesemakers realized that they could make more money if they skimmed off the cream — to sell it separately or make butter from it.

But in doing so, most of the color was lost, since the natural orange pigment is carried in the fatty cream.

So, to pass off what was left over — basically low-fat cheese made from white milk — as a high-quality product, the cheesemakers faked it.

"The cheesemakers were initially trying to trick people to mask the white color [of their cheese]," explains Kindstedt.

12 Sep 21:12

Anadarko to buy Freeport-McMoRan assets for $2B

by Olivia Pulsinelli
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) plans to buy Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas’ deepwater Gulf of Mexico assets for $2 billion, the companies announced Sept. 12. The acquisition increases Anadarko’s working interest in the Lucius field from its previous 23.8 percent ownership to approximately 49 percent and adds approximately 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day to Anadarko’s sales-volume guidance. The Woodlands-based Anadarko plans to use the cash generated by the additional production…
02 Sep 15:37

A Horrifying Comic-Book Future Where Antibiotics Don't Work Any More

by Evan Narcisse

Imagine a future where the drugs we rely on to cure common yet life-threatening infections don’t work on most people. Now imagine a right-wing regime that only gives the medicine that still works to “productive” citizens. That’s right: millions of people would be screwed.


01 Sep 17:12

Here’s What Happens When Two Designers Speak Only in Infographics

by Liz Stinson
Here’s What Happens When Two Designers Speak Only in Infographics
A collection of their correspondence offers an intimate look at the lives of two designers as told through their personal data. The post Here's What Happens When Two Designers Speak Only in Infographics appeared first on WIRED.
01 Sep 18:29

Why you don't need 8 glasses of water a day

by Mark Frauenfelder

The beverage industry has been pushing the idea that you need to be drinking water and sugar water all day long, but according to Oakland University exercise physiologust Tamara Hew-Butler DPM, PhD, that's not true. "Our bodies already possess an extremely sensitive measure of dehydration," she says in this entertaining mythbusting video. "It's called thirst."

31 Aug 15:30

Marie Tharp: Continental Drift as ‘Girl Talk’

by Jonathan Crowe

tharp-heezenAnother profile of ocean cartographer Marie Tharp, this time from’s Erin Blakemore. As Blakemore recounts, Tharp crunched and mapped the sonar sounding data collected by her collaborator, Bruce Heezen; her calculations revealed a huge valley in the middle of a ridge in the North Atlantic seafloor.

“When I showed what I found to Bruce,” she recalled, “he groaned and said ‘It cannot be. It looks too much like continental drift.’ … Bruce initially dismissed my interpretation of the profiles as ‘girl talk’.” It took almost a year for Heezen to believe her, despite a growing amount of evidence and her meticulous checking and re-checking of her work. He only changed his mind when evidence of earthquakes beneath the rift valley she had found was discovered—and when it became clear that the rift extended up and down the entire Atlantic. Today, it is considered Earth’s largest physical feature.

When Heezen—who published the work and took credit for it—announced his findings in 1956, it was no less than a seismic event in geology. But Tharp, like many other women scientists of her day, was shunted to the background.

I really ought to get to Hali Felt’s 2012 biography of Tharp, Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor, at some point. Amazon (Kindle), iBooks.

Previously: Marie Tharp ProfileSoundings: A Biography of Marie TharpMarie Tharp and Plate TectonicsMarie Tharp.

31 Aug 21:10

The Map Against the World

by Jonathan Crowe

map-against-the-world daedongyeojido

Next month sees the release of The Map Against the World, a Korean movie about cartographer Kim Jeong-ho, who in 1861 produced an enormous, detailed map of Korea called the Daedongyeojido. The movie stars Cha Seung-won as Kim and is directed by Kang Woo-suk. Here’s a trailer:

According to IMDb, it opens on 7 September in South Korea and on the 9th in the United States. (I’d check that page for other international release dates, if any.) [WMS]

31 Aug 15:52

Life Began As Clay Crystals

by (Suvrat Kher)
There is a fine article on BBC Earth by Martha Henriques on the work of chemist Graham Cairns-Smith and his theory that life may have begun as clay crystals. Cairns-Smith reasoned that clay minerals are made up of sheets of atoms bonded in a regular lattice pattern that is stacked in layers.  Pieces of this latticework break off, forming offspring crystals often with minor dislocations to the latticework. These offspring crystals grow ..break off with more minor changes... grow.. and so on. Organic molecules like the precursors of DNA might have used such a "replicating entity" as a scaffolding to build an organic replicating system.

His idea stood at the intersection of geology, chemistry and biology and his wife Dorothy recalls the reaction he got from his peers:

"He could never get funding," Dorothy says. A major stumbling block to securing research grants was that his work straddled too many different disciplines.

One time we went to California, and Graham gave lectures to the Menlo Park Geology Survey," says Dorothy. "They all said, well, your geology's fine but I don't think your chemistry's right. Then he gave a lecture to NASA on the chemistry side and they said, well, your chemistry's fine but I'm not sure about your biology. And then he lectured to Berkeley and they said, well, your biology's fine but I'm not sure about your geology".

Nowadays such grand problems are tackled by multi-disciplinary teams of sub sub specialists. If a chemist is asked to talk on the geology aspects,  he just forwards the email of his teammate.

01 Sep 14:12

52 Things... Rock Physics

by Matt Hall

There's a new book in the 52 Things family! 

52 Things You Should Know About Rock Physics is out today, and available for purchase at It will appear in their European stores in the next day or two, and in Canada... well, soon. If you can't wait for that, you can buy the book immediately direct from the printer by following this link.

The book mines the same vein as the previous volumes. In some ways, it's a volume 2 of the original 52 Things... Geophysics book, just a little bit more quantitative. It features a few of the same authors — Sven Treitel, Brian Russell, Rachel Newrick, Per Avseth, and Rob Simm — but most of the 46 authors are new to the project. Here are some of the first-timers' essays:

  • Ludmilla Adam, Why echoes fade.
  • Arthur Cheng, How to catch a shear wave.
  • Peter Duncan, Mapping fractures.
  • Paul Johnson, The astonishing case of non-linear elasticity.
  • Chris Liner, Negative Q.
  • Chris Skelt, Five questions to ask the petrophysicist.

It's our best collection of essays yet. We're very proud of the authors and the collection they've created. It stretches from childhood stories to linear algebra, and from the microscope to seismic data. There's no technical book like it. 

Supporting Geoscientists Without Borders

Purchasing the book will not only bring you profund insights into rock physics — there's more! Every sale sends $2 to Geoscientists Without Borders, the SEG charity that supports the humanitarian application of geoscience in places that need it. Read more about their important work.

It's been an extra big effort to get this book out. The project was completely derailed in 2015, as we — like everyone else — struggled with some existential questions. But we jumped back into it earlier this year, and Kara (the managing editor, and my wife) worked her magic. She loves working with the authors on proofs and so on, but she doesn't want to see any more equations for a while.

If you choose to buy the book, I hope you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, I hope you share it. If you want to share it with a lot of people, get in touch — we can help. Like the other books, the content is open access — so you are free to share and re-use it as you wish. 

29 Aug 20:00

Managing Vitamin B12

by Mikey Sklar


Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation, proper neurological function and making our DNA. We can absorb B12 from foods like meats, poultry, eggs, seafood and dairy products. Unfortunately, mushrooms, algae and fermented foods have yet to show consistent results in providing an absorbable active form of B12.  This leaves vegans in a place where supplementation is required.

There are four types of B12 supplementation:

Methylcobalamin – Easiest absorb. Most active in our body. Natural and active form of B12.

Cyanocobalamin – Lab based synthetic. Most affordable form used to fortify foods (cereals, breads, etc).

Hydroxocobalamin – Form of B12 found in most foods. It converts to the easily absorbed methylcobalamin. This version less common and what you would get from a B12 shot.

Adenosylcobalamin – The least stable of the four. This is a natural and active form of B12. This is the second most absorbable form of B12. Vegansafe is a popular product which uses 20% (Adenosylcobalamin) and 80% (Methylcobalamin).


A Study of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Different Diseases – Clear summary of research papers testing for B12 from vegan food stuffs