What name will we use for "Thankful Thursdays"?
Thanks, Technology
Technically Grateful
Thank Galápagos It's Thursday (TGIT)

At Thanksgiving this year, Cantor and I were reading a list of science-themed reasons to be thankful (canonical example: the fine-tuned universe).

Previously, among extended family and friends, we had a mailing list called Science Friday in which we worked our way through a science literacy quiz, one question per week for a year.

We decided to do something like that again: one science/technology-themed reason to be thankful every Thursday until next year's Thanksgiving.

Now we just need to settle on the name.

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EnTHUsiastic THUrsdays?

Thunderclap Thursdays (don't just be modes in your applausel, MAKE SOME NOISE!!) ?

TTTT - Thursday Tributes To Tech?

@AnthonyTowns If it was on Tuesdays it could be Tech Tuesdays

@DavidPennock It would need to be "Tech-O Tuesdays" in that case. (The O is short for "Standing Ovation". Any relation to tasty tasty mexican food completely coincidental)

bought Ṁ1 of Technically Grateful YES

Thank Galápagos It's Thursday (TGIT)

bought Ṁ3 of Thank Galápagos It's... YES

Or Galileo

Or Higgs boson


Thank God (Particle) It's Thursday

Here's the first entry, in case anyone's curious (as you can see, "thursgiving" is in danger of sticking already):

Unignited Atmospheres And Not Pushing Our Luck

It's 1 week since Thanksgiving and time for our first official Thursgiving entry. I'll start with this entry from a blogger I like a lot, Dynomight, who gave me the idea to do this. Ready?

We are thankful that...

...our atmosphere has low enough pressure and levels of deuterium that nuclear fission in air doesn’t cause hydrogen atoms to fuse into helium, meaning that the first nuclear bomb test in 1945 didn’t in fact ignite the atmosphere and engulf the planet in flames, which was still a bit of an open question when it happened.

Did you all see the recent movie, Oppenheimer? This question was a plot point. Of course we know, ex post, that nuclear bombs don't set off a chain reaction through the whole atmosphere and annihilate all life on earth. It's interesting to speculate what that probability was ex ante.

Here's an excerpt from Scott Alexander's review of Toby Ord's The Precipice in which that question is considered:

Even when people seem to care about distant risks, it can feel like a half-hearted effort. During a Berkeley meeting of the Manhattan Project, Edward Teller brought up the basic idea behind the hydrogen bomb. You would use a nuclear bomb to ignite a self-sustaining fusion reaction in some other substance, which would produce a bigger explosion than the nuke itself. The scientists got to work figuring out what substances could support such reactions, and found that they couldn’t rule out nitrogen-14. The air is 79% nitrogen-14. If a nuclear bomb produced nitrogen-14 fusion, it would ignite the atmosphere and turn the Earth into a miniature sun, killing everyone. They hurriedly convened a task force to work on the problem, and it reported back that neither nitrogen-14 nor a second candidate isotope, lithium-7, could support a self-sustaining fusion reaction.

They seem to have been moderately confident in these calculations. But there was enough uncertainty that, when the Trinity test produced a brighter fireball than expected, Manhattan Project administrator James Conant was “overcome with dread”, believing that atmospheric ignition had happened after all and the Earth had only seconds left. And later, the US detonated a bomb whose fuel was contaminated with lithium-7, the explosion was much bigger than expected, and some bystanders were killed. It turned out atomic bombs could initiate lithium-7 fusion after all! As Ord puts it, “of the two major thermonuclear calculations made that summer at Berkeley, they got one right and one wrong”. This doesn’t really seem like the kind of crazy anecdote you could tell in a civilization that was taking existential risk seriously enough.

In conclusion, um, I think I better finally read The Precipice. But Scott Alexander's review of it is a great place to start: