“In the land of Green and Gold” — Magaliesburg, South Africa (StormSignal, 2015)

January 2021 Update and TL;DR Summary

In the few months since this piece was first posted, the price of gold has remained relatively stable (about 5% fluctuation). Meanwhile, the price of bitcoin quadrupled to hit a new record high of over $41,000 — primarily influenced by fears of US political instability. This skews some of the original financial comparisons of gold and bitcoin, but the main argument remains the same. Both bitcoin and gold are still unwise investments.

Let me clarify. I make no predictions regarding the future financial value of gold or bitcoin. I purposely avoid this given Bitcoin’s…


(Tomasz Mikołajczyk, 2014)

Years ago, a student out for a night run at a nearby university campus was grabbed by an assailant. She managed to get away physically unharmed, but the sense of safety in the wealthy suburban community was not so lucky. The student had been running on a sidewalk through a remote area of campus surrounded by athletic fields and woods. There was an immediate call for better lighting since the crime occurred in an area where the only lighting was from widely spaced streetlamps. As a sign of the university administration’s responsiveness, additional lighting construction began within days.

Security lighting…


(Dallas, 2006)

Fear has been a semi-helpful guide throughout history. It saved some of our ancestors from falling off cliffs on windy days, but it also led to some of them being killed for witchcraft. While the world today seems slightly less mysterious, fear remains an imperfect guide for making sensible decisions.

For example, the emerging COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is showing the shortcomings of the world’s public health systems as they attempt to recognize and respond to a potential pandemic. It should come as no surprise. …


Damian Gadal, 2016

Since social media emerged at the turn of the century, it has democratized the free expression of ideas, but inevitably not in the way that its creators and early proponents envisioned. As its limitations have become increasingly apparent, it is unsurprising that one of the current heavyweights of the social media establishment has decided to preemptively self-regulate.

Twitter recently announced that the platform would no longer run political advertising stating that, “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought.” After explaining that civic discourse is being distorted by “machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information…


Jakub Hałun, 2010

Jaron Lanier is a founding father of the field of virtual reality and a Silicon Valley veteran with experience working for companies ranging from Atari to Microsoft Research. Without knowledge of his other writings, one might be surprised that he published a book in 2018 titled Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. In reviews, the most common criticism of the book was that it was unworkably idealistic — a fair point in a world where technology often feels inevitable. Mr. …


Follow Your Dreams (Cancelled) by Banksy, Photo by Dunk, 2011

The glut of Ph.D.s in academia is common knowledge. The cynical consensus is that graduate assistantships and postdoc appointments provide much of the cheap labor that keeps university classrooms and laboratories operational without much concern for what comes afterwards. Any offered defense of Ph.D. overproduction tends to follow the vague assertion that graduate training makes one versatile or that education is its own reward. Both assurances are true, but useless as career guidance. Rather, individuals committed to scholarly life are in need of more realistic advice.

First, the bad news. While the academic job market is infamously bleak (even in…


Photo by Jan Vašek, 2017

Humans are not indestructible like cartoon characters or gods. Yet throughout history, we have sought to move across the ground, water, and more recently through the sky, at ever increasing speeds — the very conditions most likely to cause irreparable harm should something go awry. Why do we do it?

Even a cursory look at the history of transportation shows an obvious trend towards moving faster. The mysterious part is that there is so little discussion regarding why we want to go faster. The attraction to speed was more understandable back when life was more dangerous and people had a…


Photo by Nelson L., 2014

Transportation in the US is the largest source of greenhouse gases — contributing over a quarter of the nation’s emissions in 2016. While transitioning to electric vehicles and increasing mass transit are necessary steps in addressing climate change, there is one simple action that is often overlooked. It is the lowest of low hanging fruits; the equivalent of an environmental magic pill because it can be done instantly at no cost with minimal negative side effects. The simple trick is slowing down. This obvious recommendation has been made many times before and most people and policymakers ignore it. …


Photo by Derrick Coetzee, 2005

Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents under the age of 20 in the US — causing over 4,000 deaths in 2016. As sad as that unfortunate statistic may be, behind it hides stories of indescribable grief and guilt. Consider the following three accidents that occurred within the past year:

As students returned to school in the new year, a Missouri patrol office pulled her SUV onto a sidewalk near a high school to monitor school buses loading and accidentally struck and killed a four-year-old child.

A Colorado woman taking her older children to school…

Daniel Rozell

Exploring the intersection of science, technology, and society • Dangerous Science ➜ https://doi.org/10.5334/bci

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