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Web Monitor

14:13 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Celebrating the riches of the web.

Today in Web Monitor: an alien lottery, teaching physics to a dog and why Lady Godiva wouldn't be shocking now.

Frank DrakeWeb Monitor mentioned previously the Drake equation being used in an inventive way by Peter Backus in his search for a girlfriend.
Now the New Scientist talk to the man who invented the equation for finding aliens, Frank Drake. He says that we would need to look at 10 million stars before we find one that might host life. Mr Drake says when he started out looking for extra-terrestrials over 50 years ago he used to be a little more hopeful:

"In 1957 I was studying the Pleiades star cluster at Harvard University's radio observatory. On one occasion we saw an added feature in the data. It turned out to be an amateur radio enthusiast near the observatory, but at the time I thought we had detected clear evidence of another civilisation. You feel a very strong emotion that you never feel otherwise. It's a combination of elation and excitement and the sense that everything we know is going to change."

• Physics, according to Chad Orzel in Seed Magazine, can be taught to a dog. Or at least that's what his agent told him, who convinced him to write the book How to Teach Physics to Your Dog.
The physics professor usually spends his day teaching quantum mechanics but explains that dogs see the world as a constant source of wonder which helps. Here's a conversation he says he has with his dog:

"'Pretty cold, dude,' she says.
'Yeah,' I say. 'It's cold, all right.'
'You better let me outside,' she says, tail wagging. 'I'm gonna catch a whole bunch of bunnies!'
'A whole bunch? How do you figure?'
'Well, it's so cold that they'll all be together. You know, like one of those Bozo condensates.'
'Bozo condensate?' It's too early in the morning for this.
'You know. When you get stuff cold enough, all the atoms in it suddenly condense into a single quantum state. A Bozo condensate. Since it's so cold, all the bunnies will condense together. Then when I catch one, I'll catch them all. Bunnies galore!' Her whole rear end is wagging."

• Are we just not shocked by naked bodies anymore? Elizabeth Kirkwood in Prospect magazine seems to thinks so. She asks if naked protest has had its day:

"From Lady Godiva to the bra-burning of the 1970s, naked protest has been deemed rebellious largely because of the 'deviant' associations of nudity. Although we now like to consider ourselves too liberal and liberated to find public nudity deviant, clothing still remains the most powerful and immediate signifier of our socialisation. And the re-emergence of nudity as a popular form of political protest in recent years is striking - groups such as Breasts Not Bombs, World Naked Bike Ride and Bare Witness use it as their primary campaign tool. But it perhaps suggests a different story: not that we find nudity scandalising, but that it has become harder to appear truly naked in public."

Links in full

New ScientistRichard Fisher | New Scientist | Frank Drake: Half a century listening for ET
see alsoChad Orzel | Seed Magazine | The Dog Particle
ProspectElizabeth Kirkwood | Prospect | Decent Exposure

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