Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887:

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For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this site, please feel free to read my "Diary of a Native Skeptic" page, especially if this is your first visit.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Could Discoveries in Superconductivity Finally Give Us Hoverboards?

From the act of virtually seeing inside the human body with medical imaging technology to helping physicists in their quest to discover the origins of mass in matter, superconductors are already incredibly useful. 

One of the most important applications of superconductors is making powerful electromagnets. In electronics, it is a basic principle that as electrical charges travel through conducting material, like current flowing through winding strands of copper wire, it generates heat and loses energy. Since the electric and magnetic fields are tied together, when charge passes through the wire it conducts electricity, it also creates a magnetic field. But, superconducting wire can carry an immense amount of electrical current without the effects of heating or energy loss. In this state of superconductivity, magnetic fields gets expelled from the equation by sending the electric current towards the outer surface, thereby, squeezing out any magnetic flux. This not yet fully understood phenomena is also known as, the Meisser effect. But what we do know, is that when the magnetic fields of the superconductor get cancelled out, the electrical currents do not change, or decay, with time. The electrical current can travel without a power source to drive it - infinitely! So, it's not just a clever name, it really is a super-conductor.    

One hundred years ago, Dutch physicist, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes and his team found that certain materials completely lose their electrical resistance when cooled to a temperature that is within what is called "absolute zero". The following quote is from the 'History of Superconductors' section on, a non-profit, non-affiliated website intended to introduce beginners and non-technical people to the world of superconductors. 

"Superconductors, materials that have no resistance to the flow of electricity, are one of the last great frontiers of scientific discovery. Not only have the limits of superconductivity not yet been reached, but the theories that explain superconductor behavior seem to be constantly under review. In 1911 superconductivity was first observed in mercury by Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes of Leiden University. When he cooled it to the temperature of liquid helium, 4 degrees Kelvin (-452F, -269C), its resistance suddenly disappeared. The Kelvin scale represents an "absolute" scale of temperature. Thus, it was necessary for Onnes to come within 4 degrees of the coldest temperature that is theoretically attainable to witness the phenomenon of superconductivity. Later, in 1913, he won a Nobel Prize in physics for his research in this area." (Eck 2011)

Within fifty years of the discovery made by Heike Onnes and his team, superconductivity was though to have been fully explained by a simple beautiful elegant theory, when in 1986, an ugly disproving fact overturned it all.

It seems that superconducting materials are still surprising us. Three years ago, in the Science and Technology of Advanced Materials, an international forum for refereed original contributions and reviews covering all aspects of materials science, Tadashi C Ozawa and Susan M Kauzlarich published a journal titled, "Chemistry of layered d-metal pnictide oxides and their potential as candidates for new superconductors", covering their new findings of an (iron-based) superconducting material. In 2008, Charles Q. Choi wrote about this story in the April 23rd issue of Scientific American, "Iron Exposed as High-Temperature Superconductor: New class of superconductor may help pin down mysterious physics",

"For more than 20 years, the only known superconductors that worked far above liquid-helium temperatures were a few dozen compounds—virtually all based on copper. Now scientists have discovered the first high-temperature superconductors based on iron. These novel materials could help unravel one of the biggest mysteries in science—how exactly the high-temperature versions work"(Choi 2008)

These iron-based superconductors that were discovered three years ago were utterly unexpected, and this highlights just how much we still have to learn. The following video is from the article, "Superconducting disc locked in upside-down levitation", posted on the "New ScientistTV Blogs section", under 'Physics and Math' in October 2011. It may seem to be some kind of reversed alien technology, but I assure you, it is perfectly explainable simply using the most natural laws of physics. The key ingredient in effect here lies within the material of the disc. It's make-up consists of poor electrical conducting sapphire crystals, while being coated with an outer layer of superconducting material known as yttrium barium copper oxide. As you can see from the video, the disc can be locked into position because of the love-hate relationship between superconducting fields and magnetic fields. There are tiny, tiny gaps in the disc which allow for some of the magnetic field to seep in, trapping them inside weak area's. Those tiny spaces can hold up the disc by acting as invisible "pins".   

-Demonstration by physicist Boaz Almog from Tel Aviv University, Israel, at the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, illustrates how a superconducting plate can be fixed in 3D space while levitating above a track of permanent magnets.

This video below is from the article titled, "Superconductor flying saucer stunts", and it also appears on "New ScientistTV" in addition to those previously shown experiments from Boaz Almog and his team at Tel Aviv University.

-Filmed by physicist Boaz Almog and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University's superconductivity group, the clip builds upon Almog's 'hit demonstration' from the Association of Science-Technology Centers

As you can see from the clouds of gas in these two video's, the superconducting materials are cooled with liquid nitrogen. One of the main goals to help further the applications of this research is to find a material that can be superconducting at room temperature. As important as those achievements which have been made up to this point are, their potential for a future revolution in technology may be even greater. Then just maybe, we can all get our "Hoverboards".

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Superheroes, Ghosts, and the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Believe it or not...but most of us already know more about the Electromagnetic Spectrum than we are even aware of from pop-culture and comic book superheroes. Superman has x-ray vision allowing him to see through objects, while an experiment gone awry exposed Bruce Banner to gamma rays turning him into the Hulk. These are both examples of some very real "energies". However, it is that fascination for science-fiction that can often lead some to stray into an obsession with the just plain fiction.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reason Rises in the Valley of the Sun with Newly Established Phoenix Area Skeptics Society

The majority of the content in this particular post was inspired in light of the 2007 article by Canadian writer, illustrator, and Editor of Junior Skeptic magazine Daniel Loxton titled, "Where Do We Go From Here" [PDF]. This also helped serve for some background on the purpose of the newly established Phoenix Area Skeptics Society (PASS). It clearly lays out the future of skepticism and some of the reasons why, "skepticism is a movement with a mission: to organize an effort to discover reality, to expose fraud — and to help people."  

“Our underlying interest is not the paranormal per se, but the larger topics and issues such as how our beliefs in such things arise, how our minds work to deceive us, how we think, how our critical thinking capabilities can be improved.” (Loxton 2007)

In the end,
  • We can decrease the total number of scams and help clear up confusions. 
  • We can reduce the total amount of harm suffered by victims and potential victims. 
  • We can make things less profitable or more difficult for specific kinds of scam artists." (Loxton 2007)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How Science Changed My Life

Belief is a strong feeling in something that often cannot be explained. However, being the inquisitive minded person that I am, often that is not good enough for me. Faith is a word that I rarely use, but that was not always the case. As a young person, I was taught certain things that were “gospel”, so-to-speak. I did not question those particular things, nor was I in any position to do so. But, as I grew into a more confident and well equipped individual through school, I made it a point not to sway in that initial inquisitive nature. Being an artist gave me the reason to embrace and harness this quality in myself. I knew this was a unique trait that not everyone shared and even if it made me an outcast to whatever social click, somehow I knew this was a special ability that would lead to great things and possibly even greater understandings.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"The Healthy Skeptic" Gets A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this site by a self proclaimed "skeptic" promoting health and nutrition called, 'The Healthy Skeptic'. At first, I was enthralled to find another skeptical podcast that could be a potential source which I could listen to about nutritional information from a scientifically inclined perspective. As I began listening to a podcast episode, it did not take me very long to notice a few instances of my skeptical "spidey sense" going off. Upon closer examination, I saw that the main website had some interesting claims about acupuncture under the special "myth busting" section. Chris Kresser is a licensed acupuncturist who calls himself the "Healthy Skeptic", so I was more than intrigued to learn more about his premise that "everything we’ve been taught about Chinese medicine in the West isn’t accurate and is a functional, flesh and bones medicine based on the same basic physiology as western medicine." (Kresser 2010) Of course I wanted to see the evidence, after all, he does have the word "skeptic" in his title and it was provided for me in a series of six separate sections titled "Chinese Medicine Demystified". The following is a great example of some common logical fallacies, that ANY intelligent person can make, and includes my critique of what I encountered upon reviewing each section.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Why Do Native Americans Celebrate Indepedence Day? Should They?

For most Americans, the Fourth of July is a time for getting together with friends and families. Much like any other holiday, often the meaning behind these celebrations get lost over time. When placed under closer scrutiny, it appears that Independence Day is not a celebration for quite everybody. Many tribes of indigenous people lived on this land for generations before any of the Founding Fathers even thought about writing a Declaration of Independence. For some Native American people, it marks the decline of their own people’s unique culture in America.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

De Omnibus Dubitandum

“All is to be doubted, of everything doubtful be", or "question everything” a motto often attributed to the French philosopher, Rene Descartes. This also falls in line with another motto, one of skepticism. Part of being a teenager going through the difficulties of adolescence begins with this process of questioning everything, especially if that thing is authoritative, intellectual, or political. This is also the primary process of any serious inquiry into education. Unless you just happen to be a skeptical thinker by nature, which is not usually the case, this is not going to be your way of reasoning.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers

When I was first deciding on an image for this site, I set out to find one that distinctively stood out from any other. The old looking, worn down, black and white picture that you see at the top of the page, not only reflected just that, but also included a unique personal hint of my own tribal affiliation and relationship to the Apache Crown Dancers. Until now, I have yet to explain some of the meaning behind these eerie and magnificent looking characters.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Wonderful Tim Minchin Presents: Storm the Animated Movie

Australian comedian, actor, and musician Tim Minchin uses his style of comedic songs and poetry to wonderfully portray an evening dinner party in which he cannot refrain himself from disputing the arguments of one "hippy-dippy" guest by exploiting the flawed logic in her mystical thinking in this new animated short.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Trial and Truth of Socrates

The city of Athens was one of the greatest ancient civilizations in history. One of the most influential men to be produced by Athens was a philosopher named Socrates. During the course of his life he became arguably one of the greatest minds who ever lived. Socrates was viewed in a number of ways. One was as a great philosopher and teacher. Another was as an antagonistic pest and the anti-democratic character of Athens. Although he was loved by many he was also widely hated. The effects of his teachings, beliefs, and relationships would ultimately lead him to a trial for his life. To quote the author of The Trial of Socrates by I.F. Stone,

“No other trial, except that of Jesus, has left so vivid an impression on the imagination of Western man as that of Socrates” (3).

In a city known for its’ culture, arts, and democratic freedoms, it’s hard to imagine how a person like Socrates could fall into such a predicament. Again the common reoccurring theme is present, it is through deeper understanding that we may come to find logic or reason where it previously did not appear. Or in other words, when the context of Socrates’ background is examined, it is easier to see how the people of Athens came to the conclusion that they did.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Life on the Rez: America's Crumbling Infrastructure

The article by Eliza Grisworld titled, A Teen’s Third World America, discusses the conditions on, and surrounding Native American reservations, specifically bringing to light some of the issues with infrastructure and the “third-world like conditions” found on some U.S. reservations, through the telling of a story about a boy named E.J. Montoya, a 16 year old member of the Santa Ana Pueblo, who travels nearly 80 miles a day in order to attend a public school called the Native American Community Academy, which is set up specifically for the Native Americans. In the article, the author sums up that sentiment with the following statement,

“Montoya's short life story is the unsung tale of America's crumbling infrastructure—bridges, roads, drinking water, sewage lines, and the list goes on. Essentially, everything we rely on to move through our daily lives, and never stop to consider—until it breaks down.”

This article really hit home with me, eerily reflecting some of my own personal experiences living on the Fort Apache reservation, located in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona. Much like E.J., I also had to tread through some rather treacherous terrain and the harsh conditions in the winter, often exposing the vulnerabilities within our reservations' system. The blizzard-like conditions of winter in the White Mountains of Eastern Arizona would make walking to or from school rather tricky, and potentially dangerous if you lost your way. But, treading through the mud, not even muddy roads, but plain mud on a mountain mixed with forest and scary darkness. While the scarcity of street lights makes for some awe inspiring nightscapes of a starry lit sky, it can also induce some seemingly frightful experiences.