Can Something Be True and Also Socially Constructed?

In a recent episode (podcast) of the CBC series "How to Think About Science," here's how Harvard historian of science Steven Shapin answers that question:

I believe of course that there are facts of the matter, independent of our culture, independent of our social order, independent of our language, but I believe that at the same time when we make statements of fact, those statements of fact, belong to our culture. So I believe completely that there is a world independent of our thoughts, but when we start to represent that world, we are talking about cultural entities, what else could they be.

Shapin's interview is just the latest in a fascinating new series from the CBC that I spotlighted back in January. The series popularizes the field of science studies, an important growing discipline that was unfairly attacked during the so-called Science Wars of the 1990s. Since my original post, among the best episodes, I recommend the interviews with Brian Wynne and Evelyn Fox Keller.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
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China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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