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Asawin Suebsaeng's Posts


John Oliver on his hilarious, NSFW, and totally fact-checked HBO show


In late April, former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver kicked off his HBO news-satire program, Last Week Tonight. The premiere episode featured an exclusive televised interview with retired Gen. Keith Alexander, his first since stepping down as director of the National Security Agency. "The Cowboy of the NSA," Foreign Policy magazine dubbed him. "Never before has anyone in America's intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy," Wired declared. In other words, it was a pretty good get for John Oliver. So how, exactly, did Last Week Tonight -- a …

Read more: Climate & Energy


These movies changed your political views, according to science

people watching movie

Rush Limbaugh was right all along.

Sort of.

According to a study recently published in Social Science Quarterly, Hollywood is making you more liberal. The study, titled "Moving Pictures? Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes," was coauthored by Todd Adkins and Jeremiah Castle of the University of Notre Dame. It found that viewers who watched a movie with a message on healthcare (either Francis Ford Coppola's fairly polemical The Rainmaker or James L. Brooks' more subtle As Good As It Gets) generally saw their support for the Affordable Care Act, or similar policies, increase.

"We find significant evidence that viewers of both As Good As it Gets and The Rainmaker became more liberal on healthcare-related policies as a result of watching the movies, with this change persisting two weeks after viewing the films," the authors wrote. "Such evidence strongly supports our contention that popular films possess the capability to change attitudes on political issues. We believe the potential for popular films to generate lasting attitudinal change presents an important area for future research."

Read more: Living, Politics


Bill Nye wants to wage war on anti-science politics and save the planet from asteroids


William Sanford Nye (his friends call him “Bill”) made his first mark on history while sitting in a college classroom in 1976.

It was just another day at Cornell University for Nye as an energetic, Ultimate Frisbee-playing undergraduate student. He was chatting with fellow students when in walked their professor -- the legendary astronomer and author Carl Sagan — with an unexpected request. Sagan asked the class which Chuck Berry song should be included on the Voyager Golden Record, the collection of songs and images placed aboard the two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977. (If extraterrestrial life forms ever encounter the Voyager spacecraft, the Record is intended to reflect the culture and diversity of Planet Earth.) Sagan was chairing the committee responsible for selecting the music for NASA, and he told his class that he thought Berry's 1956 hit "Roll Over Beethoven" was the song the aliens should hear. This was when Nye and his classmates led a much-needed revolt.

"We all said, 'No, professor!'" Nye recalls. "'It has to be 'Johnny B. Goode! That's the definitive Chuck Berry song!' ... Berry was the guy who took blues and turned it into rock n' roll, after all. So we thought we needed to send a message on that spacecraft."

Sagan took his students' advice, and to this day, "Johnny B. Goode" is aboard the Voyager spacecraft, alongside the work of Bach and gospel blues artist Blind Willie Johnson.

Sagan left an indelible mark on Nye, but his his love for science and engineering was inspired much earlier.


Which Hollywood-style climate disasters will strike in your lifetime?

In a just-released report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has taken an extensive look at the scary side, the dramatic side … let's face it, the Hollywood side of global warming. The new research falls under the heading of "abrupt climate change": The report examines the doomsday scenarios that have often been conjured in relation to global warming (frequently in exaggerated blockbuster films), and seeks to determine how likely they are to occur in the real world.

So here's a list of some of the most dreaded abrupt changes (where abrupt means occurring within a period of a few decades or even years), and the probability that they'll happen — even if nothing like the Hollywood version — before the year 2100:

Disruption of the ocean's "conveyor belt"

movies day after tomorrow 2
20th Century Fox/Wikimedia Commons

As seen in: The scientifically panned 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

What would happen: The great overturning circulation of the oceans, driven by the temperature and the salt content of waters at high latitudes, transports enormous amounts of heat around the planet. If it is disrupted or comes to a halt, there could be stark changes in global weather patterns.

Chances it will happen this century: Low. For future generations, however, The Day After Tomorrow might be slightly less laughable (if still wildly exaggerated). In the longer term, the NAS rates the probability of a disruption as "high."

Read more: Climate & Energy


Life sucks in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” because of climate change

Matt Connolly

You can blame a lot on human-made climate change. Worsened violence in Syria. Bigger wildfires. Bad health. The totalitarian hell and political repression in The Hunger Games franchise.

This weekend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (the sequel to the popular 2012 installment) arrives in theaters to critical acclaim and a practically guaranteed place in box-office history. This film is more thrilling, more emotionally intense, and much, much better than its predecessor. The new additions to the cast -- particularly Jena Malone as the ax-swinging Johanna Mason -- are solid.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living


Republican senator: War in Syria increases chances for Keystone XL pipeline approval

Checkpoint at Damascus' edge.
Elizabeth Arrott/VOA News
Checkpoint at Damascus' edge.

The Syrian civil war has resulted in more than two years of misery, a body count of roughly 100,000, too many war crimes to count, and talk of yet another American war effort. It might also boost the chances for approval of the Keystone pipeline, says a Republican senator.

"I believe it does," Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) told the Dickinson Press on Thursday. "Right now, we're determining how to respond in the Middle East, specifically Syria, and it shows, with the volatile situation there, how important it is that we can produce our own energy in North America and not have to get it from the Middle East."