The Beautiful Cosmos: Aurora borealis from space

This is an amazing picture taken by the good folk at the International Space Station (ISS) earlier in February. Moving at such a great speed, the ISS crew experiences a total of 16 Earth dawns every day, constantly catching up with the Earth time zones. The green and blue lights at the Earth horizon is the fantastic aurora borealis, the northern lights, which were especially active this February. Watch this and more photos of Earth from space at Flickr.

Life, part 2: Six months of Chinese studies

As I’m writing this it’s hard to imagine six months have passed already since I first walked into a Chinese class at Linköping University. It feels like an eternity has passed since I first decided to study the language, about a year ago, and applied for the program.

I was nightmarishly late for my very first class. I had met with my future classmates previously, but for my very first actual lesson I was late. I can’t recall the circumstances, but I remember the panic when I finally found the classroom (U4, I believe) and realised the door was closed – the class had already begun. I was perhaps three or four minutes late, in spite of having told myself for weeks that I had to be there at least ten minutes before the scheduled time. I peeked in through the round glass in the door, and indeed my class was seated, and by the blackboard stood two gentlemen, one of them talking. As I walk in, timidly seating myself trying not to disrupt, I realise the one talking (who would later turn out to be Olle Linge, who’s website on studying Chinese – Hacking Chinese – I now follow in awe) is speaking in Chinese.

In hindsight, I don’t remember a word of what he said, having barely heard a word of Chinese prior to the lesson. While I understand that he probably talked rather slowly, it all sounded like a complete mess of racing words. Again, I was close to a complete panic attack.

But it all turned out for the better before crashing down. After introducing themselves on Chinese, our temporary teachers Olle and Gustaf started talking in Swedish about what we were to expect from the program we were about to take. Other than that, I remember absolutely nothing of our first lesson. Absolutely nothing.

I have learned a lot in six months, not only about the Chinese language, culture and history, but about studying and (sorry for sounding pretentious) about life. I have become much more disciplined in my everyday life, with many 10-hour study sessions and early morning wake-ups. I have learned to read several hundred pages of text in a day, and I have learned to take proper notes and reading much more effectively. I have had great help from my classmates, from my teachers (Chunyang Wang, Mats Andersson, Lili Tunek), from Olle’s website which I have already mentioned, and from the Anki software. I have everyone to thank, even do I do think I have worked a great deal myself. Many interests, including my novel ”The Tempest”, the album ”As Autumn Leaves Decay” and several website projects have been suffering. I do think it’s ultimately worth it though.

In the early days of my studying, and even more so in the months leading up to it, I was constantly battling inner demons. When first discussing whether to pursue this international program, or a mere masters program in physical engineering, my brother (who took the non-international masters program three years prior) told me of those he knew who took the international class. He talked about complete nerds who didn’t have a life outside Japan or China, to whom this was their entire life. This almost had me decide not to go with the program after all. I had never tried learning Chinese before the autumn of 2011, and I had never been particularly interested in Chinese culture. How could I focus so heavily on a language and a culture that wasn’t in my interest sphere to begin with?

I ultimately decided to go with my gut and apply for the program anyway. I had decided that if I were to fail completely, I could just quit and go for the other program again. I would have wasted time, but at least I would have tried. One scene kept repeating in my head: me in five or ten or fifteen years, meeting some people wherever, discussing what happened in our lives, what we did. What we learned. I couldn’t help imagining one or several of them fluently speaking a foreign language, while I stood at the sideline, cursing my 19-year-old self for not choosing that international program five, ten or fifteen years prior. And a second scene kept playing in my head, with me reading about the Chinese space programs, those lucky bastards who would be the first to step on Mars… and me standing on the sidelines, not understand a word. So I did it. I went for it and tried.

In hindsight, I don’t remember how I became a China geek. I am now completely enthralled with Chinese history, culture, politics and language. I spend the most part of my time either studying, or reading just for the fun of it. I am completely devoured by my current project, an article on the development of the social phenomenon of guanxi in the reform era, a project of social sciences which I thought I’d never be interested in. I could never stand studying what I study if I didn’t have the interest in it, and yet I have only had it for a few months. I am nowhere near giving up, and I am getting pretty good grades too. And above all, it’s fun as hell.

Back on the net

anton.nordenfur.se was down Monday through Thursday but is finally up again. Apparantly it was a misunderstanding between my hosting brother and the web hosting service, but everything is now back on track again. It got me scared though, especially considering I had forgotten to backup my blog for quite some time.

Find the lost Soviet mission on Mars

Nancy Atkinson writes on Universe Today of the lost Soviet Mars 6 lander, which crashed on the surface on Mars in 1974, and has been lost for almost forty years now, until… it can now perhaps be found. The high resolution picture below shows the area where the lander supposedly crashed, and the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) of the University of California is now trying to locate the lander on it, though fearing it might be totally covered by sand by now. Click for a larger picture (2560*1920) and try your best.

http://www.universetoday.com/93639/can-you-find-the-lost-soviet-mars-6-lander-in-this-image/

Movie night

The concept of international movie night should be tried by all at least one. I do it all too seldom, but it’s always fun. The advantage as compared to watching the movie sitting side by side? You can discuss the movie (or anything else) without disrupting it. If you’re caught up in a scene, you can just hold replying until the scene is over, instead of hushing.

Scientific misconduct, its problems and its solutions

There’s no denying that the current scientific institution has some great flaws, but that’s not to say it should be thrown out or replaced by some pseudoscientific alternative. The very core of science holds up by its very nature, and most scientists agree that the current flaws should be exterminated.

The one solution that we shan’t do, is to make science a monolithic process. Science must always be an open process where anyone can participate – no matter their degree, background, ethnicity or university. We shall not fall for the tempting, simple solution of only letting a selected few participate, instead there are much better ways, two of which are suggested in this graphic by clinicalpsychology.net and two of which are my additions:

  1. Make the journals publish all raw data (not necessarily in the physical journal where it takes up place, but on their website where it doesn’t disturb those less interested).
  2. Don’t just blame the researcher, blame the journalist and the journal. As I said, anyone should be able to participate, and it’s the job of the journal and the peer review process to distinguish the good scientists from the lousy ones.
  3. Publish all studies, positive or negative. A great problem in today’s scientific literature is that the interesting studies (i.e. positive ones or groundbreaking ones, not those that confirm what we already know) have a much greater chance of getting published. Obviously – the journal wants to sell copies, and so they want groundbreaking news. Sadly, this makes for statistical flaws, where confirming results on topics such as homeopathy seem much larger than they actually are. The solution to this is to release all studies of quality. Sure, journals can continue to release whichever they want in their physical edition, but there’s no harm in also releasing additional, less interesting articles on the web.
  4. Open up to the public. Most people are not students or researchers, but many who aren’t are still interested in science. They too want to confirm for themselves what works and what doesn’t, what’s true and what isn’t. Most journals today require amounts around €25 for borrowing an electronic edition of an article for a few days. An article – i.e. maybe 20 or 30 pages of material. Few if any would pay this amount just to check up on something. Open up, and release all publicly funded articles to the public. With current internet technology, it wouldn’t cost anything to allow free sharing of all articles, while still making money by selling physical copies or through state funding.

The purpose of this blog

When I started blogging in October 2006, now five and a half years ago (then at http://blog.mangaworld.se), I had no idea what the purpose of this blog would be. I still have no idea, even if it might be at least a tad clearer today. When I first started blogging, I was fourteen years old, and the posts were peevishly personal and dripping with hormonal hubris (and I’m still awesome at alliteration). The egocentrism of the posts has fallen off with the years, to the degree that I very rarely talk about my personal life. There are ofcourse exceptions, such as this post (and no, I still don’t know where it’s going).

All in all, this blog has always been (and will continue to be, in the foreseeable future) a ventilation of thoughts and opinions. The blog hasn’t got a specific purpose or destination, but is the hangar for multiple projects with varying seriousness and purpose. The longest-running project of this type is that of my political views, mostly concerning the Pirate Party but on occasion straining into energy policy, drugs and immigration. Other projects include my skeptical view of the world, my interest in science, and (since I started studying it in last fall) Chinese culture and language.

Why am I writing? What’s the purpose? I dare say that it’s not part hubris. Because no-one ever comments on any post that gets the slightest bit personal. It’s simply not interesting – and I am the same way when I follow other blogs, the personal stuff rarely interest me. But I still enjoy writing, and I enjoy looking through my old posts, including those that I find completely moronic and unscientific in hindsight.

And I would be lying if I didn’t find some occasional appreciation. The comments on my writings on political topics are often phenomenal, which I see when it comes to Facebook likes, Twitter mentions, flattrings and comments. Some people actually do find my musings interesting. That just adds to the enjoyment.

Cheerios.

Pioneer One – hur en serie klarar sig tack vare internet

Jag upptäckte en ny serie – Pioneer One. Ännu en grupp som utnyttjar internet till att sprida någonting de annars aldrig kunde ha producerat, i detta fall en TV-serie helt släppt via torrenter, YouTube och deras webbsida. En CC-licens (som i grund och botten tillåter vem som helst att sprida den) gör spridningen ännu större. Hela serien sponsras av frivilliga donationer, merchandise som tröjor och affischer, och en framtida DVD/BluRay-release. Ett perfekt exempel på hur en serie kan klara sig i IT-världen, inte trots internet utan tack vare internet.

Serien handlar i grunden om en bemannad satellit som kraschlandar på amerikansk mark. Efter primära misstankar om ett misslyckat terrordåd, börjar myndigheterna istället att misstänka att det rör sig om någonting helt annat – mannen inuti har en sovjetisk flagga på sin rymddräkt, och enligt information som följer med ska han ha befunnit sig på Mars sedan 1980-talet. Serien är någon typ av drama med science fiction-inslag, och en perfekt blandning mellan konspirationstänkande och det betydligt mer realistiska kalla kriget.

Se trailer nedan.

De intressantaste motionerna till Ung Pirats förbundskongress 2012

Nu har jag gått igenom samtliga motioner till Ung Pirats förbundskongress 2012, och jag slänger in mina två cent om de intressantaste motionerna. Kommentera gärna egna åsikter, vare sig de är med eller mot mig – anledningen till denna post är både att influera andra och att få höra kritik!

05. Medborgarskap till alla!

Motionen vill att PP ska ”driva att Sverige blir ett samhälle där man gör det lättare för personer på flykt att stanna i Sverige, samtidigt som man utreder hur snabbt gränserna kan öppnas helt så att det är öppet för alla att erhålla ett svenskt medborgskap”, någonting jag länge varit en proponent av. Tyvärr tror jag att denna motion får svårt att passera. Den stora fördelen med den är att den är vag nog att inte kunna göra någon större skillnad, men den är ändå tydlig nog för att bestämma vad vi ska diskutera framöver.

06. En progressiv rymdpolitik

Jag skrev mer om detta igår, och håller fast vid att det är en av de intressantaste frågorna för mig. I grunden söker motionen att utöka EU:s koncentration av pengar och ansträngning på sitt rymdprojekt, någonting som i min mening är en av de allra viktigaste forskningsområden de närmsta århundraden. Jag ska inte gå in för mycket på det här eftersom jag redan diskuterat det, men jag håller fast vid att det är ett bra förslag.

14. Regelbundna kuratorkallelser i grundskolan

Motionären ger exemplet på hur Sveriges fantastiska tandvård är ett resultat av regelbundna kollar från ung ålder, vilket var unikt när det genomfördes. Tänk om vi införde ett liknande system vad gäller barn och besök hos kurator? Då kan vi mycket lättare upptäcka och motverka problem som depression, anorexia, och andra problem som idag allt för ofta upptäcks för sent. Samtidigt skulle detta hjälpa att ta bort den stigma som finns kring psykologisk ohälsa, men som inte finns inom bland annat tandvård.

19. Informationsneutral narkotikaproblematik

Denna motion vill att PP tillkännager och arbetar emot problematiken bakom den nolltolerans mot narkotika som idag färgas Sverige. Medan jag är emot nolltoleranssystemet (och för en liberalare drogpolitik) håller jag fast vid min tidigare slutsats, att detta inte är någonting som PP ska ge sig in på – dels för att det inte skulle vara strategiskt, och dels för att vi har viktigare saker att arbeta för. Medan motionären är tydlig med att detta inte skulle betyda att PP vill legalisera narkotika, är det onekligen så det kommer att tolkas. Detta är ett problem som kan lösas utan PP:s inblandning.

25. Staten skyldig att följa folkomröstningar

Jag har hört prat om detta förut, och det är kul att höra att det kommer en motion om det nu. Motionären vill som rubriken säger att staten ska bli skyldig att följa genomförda folkomröstningar, samt ett par extra detaljer. Jag är för motionen, förutom att den är en aning oklar. Jag tycker om något att staten ska tvingas avgöra i förväg om de tänker följa en omröstning eller om den bara ska vara en rådgivning, och sedan tvingas de göra vad de bestämde från början. Jag kan se poängen med folkomröstningar för det rådgivande syftet, och tycker inte att dessa ska behöva utraderas helt – det viktiga är att det är klart för folket till att börja med.

26. Motion om bostadspolitik

Motionen vill att PP ger sig in i att skapa en bostadspolitik, främst för att förhindra de stora bostadsköerna för studenterna just nu. Jag vet själv det jobbiga problemet – min plan var att flytta hemifrån när jag började studera i augusti, och hittills har jag inte kunnat få tag på någonting – men jag är osäker på om politiskt tryck är lösningen. Liberalen inom mig anser att bostadsbygge ska komma av en kapitalistisk vinning från företagens sida, inte ett politiskt tryck som bara kostar pengar. Jag är dock osäker.