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Norman Sperling
2625 Alcatraz Avenue #235
Berkeley, CA 94705-2702

cellphone 650 - 200 - 9211
eMail normsperling [at] gmail.com

Norm Sperling’s Great Science Trek: 2014

San Luis Obispo
Santa Barbara
Palm Springs
Death Valley
El Paso
Corpus Christi
Baton Rouge
Key West
Winter Star Party, Scout Key

MARCH 2014:
up the Eastern seaboard

APRIL 2014:
near I-40, I-30, and I-20 westbound

MAY 2014:
near US-101 northbound
May 17-18: Maker Faire, San Mateo
May 23-26: BayCon, Santa Clara

California till midJune

JUNE 2014:
Pacific Northwest

JULY 2014:
Western Canada, eastbound

AUGUST 2014:
near the US/Can border, westbound
August 22-on: UC Berkeley

Speaking engagements welcome!
2014 and 2015 itineraries will probably cross several times.

Norman Sperling's blog

The Travel Plan for April and May, 2013

Norman Sperling, March 29, 2013

Spring Training, Phoenix: Athletics v Rangers; Cubs v Japan
Midland: Petroleum Museum; Commemorative Air Force; Rockhounds
place names: Carbon, Rising Star, Mercury, Star, Altair
23-26 March: off duty around San Antonio, Austin, Houston
27 March-2 April: unplanned RV repairs, Buda, Texas.
30-31 March: interviews in Killeen & Austin


near I-20: Superconducting Super Collider, Waxahachie
Venus, Fate, Uncertain
Vicksburg, Miss
8-9 April: Tuscaloosa
tour Mercedes Benz factory
10-14 April: Atlanta Area: CDC, World of Coke. off I-20.
East of Atlanta: Deerlick Astronomical Village, Laurel & Hardy, Signal Corps Museum, Athens Stonehenge, Guidestones
SC: DoE Savannah River Plant; USC Archives; baseball water tower
16-19 April: NC: Norman, Lake Norman, Star, Research Triangle
20-24 April, around DC: Wallops Island, Scientists Cliffs, Janelia Farm (HHMI)
25-28 April, near I-81: Charlottesville, Foamhenge, roadcuts.
29 Apr - 1 May: Tenn: Oak Ridge, Dayton, Rugby

2-3 May: 1811 Earthquakes: Land Between The Lakes, Reelfoot Lake, New Madrid, Mo.
4 May: Near I-40: Memphis
5 May: Cushing oil pipeline confluence
I-35 Arbuckle, OK
6-7 May: Amarillo: Marsh's signs; Ozymandias Legs
8-9 May: Albuquerque and Los Alamos: meteoritics lab; nuke museum
10-11 May: Lowell Observatory, Discovery Telescope
Grand Canyon off I-40
Near US-101: 13-14 May: Santa Barbara
14-15 May: San Luis Obispo
17 May: Tri-Valley Star Gazers, Livermore
18-19 May: Maker Faire, San Mateo
24-27 May: BayCon, Santa Clara off US-101

Great Book Sale

I'm moving into an RV and simply can't keep the library I've built over 50 years. (What I do next is described at www.everythingintheuniverse.com/node/76.)
* Thousands of books, mostly <$10.
* These are the best copies I ever got, the ones I kept for myself.
* Many scholarly, lots of popularizations at all levels.
* A few hundred are from the 1800s.
* Over 100 are autographed by their authors.
* Runs of many science periodicals.
* Posters.
* Miscellaneous clippings, brochures, pamphlets ...

Cash preferred. Checks and time-terms accepted from people I know, and people they vouch for personally. PayPal possible, but I'm not set up for credit cards.

11 AM to 4 PM
Saturday, August 11, 2012
413 Poinsettia Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94403
(enter left of the garage, through the courtyard)
near the Hillsdale exit off US-101
Landline: 650-573-7125 (expires about September 22)
Cell: 650-200-9211

Solar System
Celestial Mechanics
Historical astronomy
early NASA
and much, much more

Historical Astronomy
Histories of Science, and specific sciences
Heroes of Science

Earth Science
Science Fiction
Africana/Black Studies
and miscellaneous other interests

The family is also selling kids' bikes, a drum set, 1990 Ford van ($1990), and (closer to September 22) household furniture and stuff ... and then, of course, the house itself. I'll move about September 22, perhaps to Pittsburg, CA, for the fall, then Trek in the RV.

See me at Wonderfest Nov 6 & 7

Wonderfest is the San Francisco Bay Area's free science festival. wonderfest.org . I'll be at Stanford's Hewlett Teaching Center on Saturday, 4-7 PM, for the Amateur Science Forum, and at UC Berkeley's Stanley Hall Sunday, Noon-4 PM, for the Science Expo. I have a delicious array of new and used science books (back to the 1800s) and some other neat stuff to sell at Berkeley. I'd love to know what you think of my new blog!

Why Mass Media Keep Running Horoscopes, and How That Shows You Who Not to Heed

Norman Sperling, BASIS, vol. 21, no. 4, October-December 2004, p6.

For many years – decades, now – I've criticized mass media for continuing to publish horoscopes. Scientists and skeptics have demonstrated repeatedly, scientifically, logically, persuasively, that those published horoscopes are junk. They're not valid. They mislead readers. They even influence some readers to act in ways that they otherwise wouldn't, and to that degree they harm their audience.

I've worked in several mass-communications media, including a daily newspaper in a big chain, a web-based general news outlet, an authoritative independent scientific magazine, and now an independent science humor magazine. Colleagues in other radio, television, and assorted media tell me what those are like. Outside of specifically-scientific media, neither scientific literacy nor scientific mindset prevail. The vast majority of media owners and employees don't know science, and don't care much about it. Neither science literacy, nor gullibility for pseudoscience, seems relevant for hiring or promotion. Anywhere that science is concerned, they literally don't know what they are doing.

Profit-Driven Corporate Media

Corporate owners are notorious for being driven by the near-term bottom line. They aren't far-sighted enough for the long run (by contrast, some family-owned newspapers count by generations, not quarters).

Some owners make it clear that their principal purpose is to make money. Rupert Murdoch obviously puts profit foremost throughout his empire, so his Fox outlets, for example, may place journalistic standards second (or lower), and scientific validity third (or lower), along their way to lowering cultural standards generally. When Murdoch retires, I hope his successors will prioritize for greater public responsibility.

It's almost as bad outside Murdoch's empire. Most local newspapers are parts of large chains, which achieve economies of scale by operating non-local factors by corporate dictum. The corporation picks the cartoons and non-news features to run, including the horoscope column. The local news staff gets to fill the "news hole" on each page, but has zero influence on anything else. They funnel their attention to what they can do something about. Most newspapers don't have a science writer, and simply copy Associated Press reports, though AP is depressingly careless. I know a science writer who professed to not know whether her newspaper even ran a horoscope because she never looked at the non-news pages ... in which their horoscope runs every day. Most readers don't distinguish the different sources of what that newspaper prints on different parts of different pages.

Editing from Ignorance

I don't know any science writers or science editors who favor running horoscopes. But none rise high enough to make grand corporate decisions. Most stay within their subject. They report to general-journalism veterans, who are usually knowledgeable about public affairs, but emphatically ignorant about nature. The general-news media I worked for published horoscopes, and I carped about that, but gently enough not to threaten my employment.

Those senior editors impose templates of ignorance on the science coverage. I once had to put all my science coverage through a senior editor who was utterly ignorant, who kept failing to understand anything significant, and kept directing me to irrelevancies.

Another senior editor declared that "all stories are people stories", thus crippling coverage of, for example, a comet hitting a planet. That's how reporting about that comet and that planet gets shunted aside for personality-pieces about whoever happened to discover things.

Science coverage is likely to remain poor in corporate mass media. The bean counters don't understand science. The moguls don't understand science. The journalists in general don't understand science. They'll probably remain disgustingly ignorant for disgusting decades to come. So the presence of a horoscope will keep indicating a medium's scientific invalidity: media that publish horoscopes pander and profiteer; they don't understand science, and don't respect the reader enough to report reality.

Less-Filtered Voices

Now, however, little voices have a far better opportunity to be heard. I run an independent magazine, and I can print anything that won't alienate my subscribers. My contributors are often delighted to find an outlet where science, validity, and humor dominate decision-making. Horoscope-free specialty newsletters and magazines abound – seek them at your newsstand and library.

But the biggest influence by far is the World Wide Web. Small media have a far louder voice when you read what they say. For a horoscope-free, non-corporate take, follow links from these among your explorations: disinfo.com; projectcensored.org; transparency.org; eurekalert.org; quackwatch.org; debunker.com; csicop.org; utne.com. I don't agree with all their views, but I don't think any of them features a horoscope.

Because media like those – and of course your own favorite alternate viewpoints – can no longer be stifled, corporate influence is actually limited. If corporate media don't serve your needs, stop buying them, and find your own horoscope-free inputs instead.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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