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I also check my skeletons twice. You can never be too careful.

I waited silently for her to explain that the female pelvis is shaped slightly differently from the male’s, with a larger opening for childbearing. That part was the giveaway. The real purpose of the exercise was to make her prove her conjecture with measurements--to translate the theory to practice. I also wanted her to explain why this sexual dimorphism--that is, this sexually determined physical difference--is not nearly so pronounced in nonhuman primates, such as chimpanzees.

She spoke: Males have one fewer pair of ribs than females.
When teacher Robert S. Root-Bernstein got this answer to his question on how you should distinguish between male and female skeletons, he had to find a way to make her realise her error without disparaging her religion.
posted by MartinWisse on Oct 20, 2014 - 199 comments

UnScientific American

Things happen. "Psychic" events mainly take place in dramatic and family-based situations. Not in a lab. Here is one example. [more inside]
posted by kozad on Oct 18, 2014 - 199 comments

scientists are finally opening the black box of parasite mind control

Mindsuckers: Meet Nature’s Nightmare
posted by andoatnp on Oct 17, 2014 - 37 comments

When Arctic methane scientists disagree

Ignoring the Arctic Methane Monster: Royal Society Goes Dark on Arctic Observational Science. "The exclusion also highlights a large and what appears to be growing rift between those who observe the Arctic system and some that model it. Concern for larger carbon release from the Arctic system appears to be steadily rising among Arctic observational specialists, while some modelers appear to have retreated into silos in an attempt to defend previous understandings that were based on earlier work." [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Oct 16, 2014 - 63 comments

"The ESF ... considers that the statement cited above is slanderous"

Last year, Dr. Amaya Moro-Martin, an astrophysicist specializing in circumstellar disks and planetary systems, started a great deal of discussion in the astronomy community when she wrote an open letter to the Spanish Prime Minister explaining that she was leaving Spain because of the bizarrely oppressive bureaucratic policies of the Spanish government and their broken promises to scientific researchers. This year, she has written an opinion piece in Nature arguing that Europe's drastic research budget cuts are short-sighted. In response, the European Science Foundation (ESF) has threatened to sue her unless she retracts the statement that called an evaluation process supported by ESF "flawed".
posted by kyrademon on Oct 13, 2014 - 21 comments

The True Story of a Fake Name on Some Scientific Papers

"I asked Ciccotti what they meant. When he explained it to me, I thought that Stronzo Bestiale would have been the perfect co-author for a refused publication. So I decided to submit my papers again, simply by changing the title and adding the name of that author. And the researches were published."
With a few other examples of of the intentional overlapping of scientific publications and foreign profanity, including one relevant to every American worker who gets a FICA deduction on their paycheck. May be NSFW in Italy.
posted by oneswellfoop on Oct 12, 2014 - 18 comments

They didn’t see the whole system was going to sour so quickly

The Boston Globe reports on the post-doc crisis in science research:
The life of the humble biomedical postdoctoral researcher was never easy: toiling in obscurity in a low-paying scientific apprenticeship that can stretch more than a decade. The long hours were worth it for the expected reward — the chance to launch an independent laboratory and do science that could expand human understanding of biology and disease.
But in recent years, the postdoc position has become less a stepping stone and more of a holding tank. Some of the smartest people in Boston are caught up in an all-but-invisible crisis, mired in a biomedical underclass as federal funding for research has leveled off, leaving the supply of well-trained scientists outstripping demand.

posted by Diablevert on Oct 10, 2014 - 47 comments

The most radical thing I can do as a woman scientist is, well, science.

When words fail: women, science, and women-in-science – [Trigger warning for this and all following links] by Jacquelyn Gill (@JacquelynGill):
The seminars, workshops, blogs, op-eds, research, policy papers, luncheons, and happy hour discussions are all valuable, and important, and they need to continue. But when the beer is drunk, and the pizza gone cold, and the printed articles relegated to the recycling bin, we are left with words: words written by us and about us, spoken in confidence, tossed like poisoned barbs in the comments sections, smoldering as craters in our in-boxes, pounding in our ears when we run it out at the gym.

I’m sorry, you guys, but words are not enough. Not anymore.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 8, 2014 - 32 comments

"Where ignorant armies clash by night."

Sea of Faith: a six-part documentary television series, presented on BBC television in 1984 by Don Cupitt. [youtube]
"The programme dealt with the history of Christianity in the modern world, focussing especially on how Christianity has responded to challenges such as scientific advances, political atheism and secularisation in general"
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 7, 2014 - 4 comments

запомнить практики запоминать практика запоминать практику

Time after time, professors in mathematics and the sciences have told me that building well-ingrained chunks of expertise through practice and repetition was absolutely vital to their succes Understanding doesn’t build fluency; instead, fluency builds understanding. In fact, I believe that true understanding of a complex subject comes only from fluency.
posted by sammyo on Oct 3, 2014 - 19 comments

Cats drink water "as if they're doing the equations in their head."

NPR's 2010 story about "the conclusive study of how cats drink." With videos. [more inside]
posted by artsandsci on Oct 2, 2014 - 49 comments

Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.” However, that’s not what the epidemiology of the disorder suggests. By age 35, half of all people who qualified for active alcoholism or addiction diagnoses during their teens and 20s no longer do, according to a study of over 42,000 Americans in a sample designed to represent the adult population.
Only a quarter of people who recover have ever sought assistance in doing so (including via 12-step programs). This actually makes addictions the psychiatric disorder with the highest odds of recovery.
Metafilter's own maias on myths surrounding the disease(?) of substance addiction, and their impact on medicine and policy.
posted by grobstein on Oct 1, 2014 - 84 comments

Why do migrating birds fly in a V formation?

"It was always assumed that V-formation flight was learned from the adult birds. But these guys are all the same age and they learned to fly from a human in a microlight. They learned V-formation flying from each other. National Geographic reports on some of the fascinating intricacies of the V formation observed in migrating birds.
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Sep 21, 2014 - 28 comments

“Oh, this is where the science I like is.”

How Long Does It Take to Get to Tatooine? [The New Yorker] "We use much more brainpower on subjects that interest us."
posted by Fizz on Sep 20, 2014 - 17 comments

#WomenTweetScienceToo

This is Science Magazine; this is one of their featured front-page stories (date stamped 17 September 2014 8:00 am): "The top 50 science stars of Twitter", by Jia You. The list has 46 men and 4 women. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 18, 2014 - 23 comments

Calculus without limits

Hyperreal numbers: infinities and infinitesimals - "In 1976, Jerome Keisler, a student of the famous logician Tarski, published this elementary textbook that teaches calculus using hyperreal numbers. Now it's free, with a Creative Commons copyright!" (pdf—25mb :) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Sep 17, 2014 - 34 comments

Future Politics

Future Politics (PDF link) is a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign class by Jake Bowers on the political theory of science fiction and a great recommended reading and discussion list for the rest of us.

How can imagining the future help us understand the present? How does considering the future help us think critically about politics today?...The future hopes and imaginings of past political thinkers do not include either enough detail or enough information about our rapidly changing technological, social, political, and economic landscape to provide us with enough practice to confidently confront the future as citizens as it happens to us. Science fiction allows us a much more detailed view of life in alternative futures, and the writers that we choose to read here tend to think seriously and logically about how current cutting edge technology might have social and political ramifications — however, science fiction authors are also mostly working on a narrative and thus may skim over core concepts that ought to organize our thinking about politics and society. Thus, we read both together in order to practice a kind of theoretically informed futurism (which is not the same as prediction or forecasting, but is more like the practice of confronting the unexpected).
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory on Sep 17, 2014 - 4 comments

"A Pyramid Scheme"

"Imagine a job where about half of all the work is being done by people who are in training. That is, in fact, what happens in the world of biological and medical research." --- NPR reports [audio] on postdocs & the scientific workforce as part of a series on the funding crisis in biomedical research. The series also includes When Scientists Give Up [audio], and U.S. Science Suffering From Booms And Busts In Funding [audio].
posted by Westringia F. on Sep 16, 2014 - 53 comments

Selected Lectures on Science and Engineering in the Boston Area

If you live in the Boston area and would like to attend science, technology, math, or engineering lectures, you'll find Fred Hapgood's exhaustive and continually-updated list of Selected Lectures on Science and Engineering in the Boston Area very useful. (Here's his list of sources.) Perhaps you know of a list like this for lectures in your locality or field of preference?
posted by not_on_display on Sep 15, 2014 - 6 comments

Stable pluripotent stem cell production

"Scientists reset human stem cells to earliest developmental state" The paper, published in Cell, is available under a CC-3.0 license. [See: earlier Mefi post] [more inside]
posted by peacay on Sep 13, 2014 - 18 comments

You're gonna need a bigger boat.

A gigantic fish-eater (Bigger than a T. rex!) with a crocodile snout and a large sail on its back, Spinosaurus aegyptiacus has always been a strange and enigmatic creature. It may have just become something stranger: a semiaquatic, quadrupedal theropod dinosaur. [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Sep 11, 2014 - 39 comments

Bowling ball pendulum wave

A mesmerizing pendulum wave demonstration with 16 bowling balls in a North Carolina forest. [Previously]
posted by homunculus on Sep 10, 2014 - 22 comments

It seems this genet is making a habit of riding large herbivores.

A genet in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa has been photographed by camera traps for several weeks running, riding around on the backs of cape buffalo and rhinoceros . Researchers agree: this is weird! (via.) [more inside]
posted by ChuraChura on Sep 9, 2014 - 60 comments

Help scientists categorise whale song... also, why do whales sing?

Whale.fm is a project (which you can contribute to!) to help "marine researchers understand what whales are saying." - really it's a project looking at the effects that manmade sound has on marine life, but what whales are communicating with their songs is still a really interesting question, so I've listed some relevant links in extended description. [more inside]
posted by hanachronism on Sep 5, 2014 - 5 comments

is global collapse imminent?

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse [more inside]
posted by flex on Sep 4, 2014 - 61 comments

"There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality."

The Science of Truthiness
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI on Sep 3, 2014 - 26 comments

Publish or PERISH!!!

LEGO Academics experience the trials and tribulations of their taller, less-plasticy peers (previously 1, 2).
posted by ChuraChura on Sep 1, 2014 - 14 comments

Patterns in Palaeontology

Palaeoart – fossil fantasies or recreating lost reality? [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Sep 1, 2014 - 8 comments

When suddenly and without warning, there was this

Great American Eclipse of 2017. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Aug 31, 2014 - 46 comments

objectification and its effects on women

"If a woman is objectified in a relationship, the research indicates, it's more likely that her male partner will sexually coerce and pressure her." [more inside]
posted by flex on Aug 28, 2014 - 106 comments

xylem never looked so good

V Martineau Illustration: The Miracle of Trees, Sciencia Illustrations, Levels Of Complexity, Plants, The Paper Birch Tree, Why The Sky Is Far Away [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Aug 27, 2014 - 4 comments

The compelling history of vaccination

A timeline of diseases and vaccines [warning: graphic photo of cutaneous diphtheria at year 1975]. Categories are: diphtheria, measles, polio, smallpox, yellow fever, and 'others'. You can select one keyword to view only that subject's timeline. From the History of Vaccines website (about page | FAQ). Similar timelines at the same site for pioneers, science and society, and there's an En Español timeline, too. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 26, 2014 - 22 comments

If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 84 comments

But can it core a apple?

On Thursday, NASA released the names and designs of three vehicles that could replace the space shuttle as means of sending our astronauts into space. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Aug 23, 2014 - 70 comments

Talk with the animals?

A surprisingly dramatic world of lawsuits, mass resignations, and dysfunctional relationships between humans and apes. From Koko and Kanzi to Chantek and Nim Chimpsky, research into human-ape communications used to be all the rage. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?
posted by gottabefunky on Aug 21, 2014 - 33 comments

Bittersweet No More

In the wake of the great miracle fruit craze of the late 00's, Francis Lam tested two more obscure taste distorters: adenosine 5′-monophosphate, which blocks the sensation of bitter flavors, and Gymnema sylvestre, a South Asian herb that does the same for sweetness.
posted by Iridic on Aug 20, 2014 - 32 comments

Become a citizen scientist!

It's Science Week in Australia and the crowdsourcing call has gone out for Weather Detectives to look through old ships' log books and track weather observations from the 1890s and 1900s. It's a good project for older kids, and aims to improve weather forecasting and track climate change. Do try this at home, kids.
posted by superfish on Aug 20, 2014 - 3 comments

Our Microbiome May Be Looking Out for Itself

Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome. Naturalists first became aware of our invisible lodgers in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until the past few years that we’ve become really familiar with them. This recent research has given the microbiome a cuddly kind of fame. We’ve come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are — breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It’s a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being. But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success — giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.
Maybe the microbiome is our puppet master.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Aug 18, 2014 - 57 comments

Homosexuality Is For The Birds

Koryos, who previously explained how cats got domesticated using tumblr, now explains why homosexual pair-bonding can be a successful reproductive stratagem. Also, Coot Parenting Tips, Queen Cowbird Of The Brood Parasites , There's No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf, and Can Animals Have Pets?
posted by The Whelk on Aug 16, 2014 - 9 comments

girls and technology!

WYNC's Manoush Zomorodi investigates the gender gap in tech and computer science, and finds a number of people working towards bridging that gap, from childhood to university: completely restructuring a required computer science course to make it more welcoming to female university students, celebrating women in computing history (and recognizing that computer science wasn't so male-dominated, and making children's books and toys (even dollhouses!) for kids to explore programming concepts on their own. She also noticed that the majority of female computer science students in the US had grown up overseas - possibly because computer science isn't a common subject in American high schools. This is slated to change: a new AP Computer Science subject is in the works, with efforts to get 10,000 highly-trained computer science teachers in 10,000 high schools across the US. If you want to join Mindy Kaling in supporting young girls entering computer science, tech, and coding, there's a lot [more inside]
posted by divabat on Aug 16, 2014 - 70 comments

Controlling the genetics of wild populations, a next step in GM research

New GM technique injects mosquitoes with a gene that results in mostly male offspring, eventually leading to a population crash. Previous efforts to tackle the disease, that kills more than 1 million people each year – most of whom are African children – have included bed nets to protect people and insecticides to kill the mosquito species most responsible for the transmission of malaria (Anopheles gambiae). The new technique by a team at Imperial College London involves injecting mosquitoes with a gene that causes the vast majority of their offspring to be male, leading to an eventual dramatic decline in population within six generations as females disappear. “You have a short-term benefit because males don’t bite humans [and transmit malaria],” Andrea Crisanti, one of the authors of the new research, which was published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, told the Guardian. “But in the long term you will eventually eradicate or substantially reduce mosquitoes. This could make a substantial contribution to eradicating malaria, combined with other tools such as insecticides.”
These new mosquitoes are now set to be used in Brazil, having been approved for use by the Brazilian government with a factory for their production now opened.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Aug 14, 2014 - 122 comments

In conclusion, LEGO is a land of contrasts.

LEGO does something good! (Sets revolving around female scientists sold out in one day; previously.) LEGO does something bad! (Sets with major petro-company branding.) [more inside]
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering on Aug 12, 2014 - 85 comments

Math and equations are fun.

The power of math: 17 Equations That Changed the World - a one table summary of the book by Ian Stewart FRS. Business Insider gives its interpretation of the importance of each equation. Brain pickings (2012) on this book and equations, and another extract from the book. [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Aug 10, 2014 - 36 comments

The Foehr Reef

The Foehr Reef is part of the worldwide Crochet Coral Reef Project. It was made by over 700 women and combines more than 4000 individual pieces of marine wonder. A short video shows its beauty [alternating English and German audio]. PDFs with pictures. "The Crochet Coral Reef is a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world." It originated out of a desire to increase awareness of environmental threats to the world's reefs and is a conjunction of art, environmentalism, and geometry. [more inside]
posted by travelwithcats on Aug 10, 2014 - 7 comments

Springtime on Saturn

Storm Chasing on Saturn with Cassini [viz. cf.] - "The sun is slowly rising over Saturn's north pole, exposing an immense six-sided hurricane. The storm, big enough to swallow four Earths, was first spotted by the Voyager missions in the early 1980s. [Cassini] will be passing directly over the north pole with its cameras pointing down later this month." (previously 1,2)
posted by kliuless on Aug 10, 2014 - 9 comments

Climate change and contemporary fiction

"Novels are no use at all in days like these, for they deal with people and their relationships, with fathers and mothers and daughters or sons and lovers, etc., with souls, usually unhappy ones, and with society etc., as if the place for all these things were assured, the earth for all time earth, the sea level fixed for all time." [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Aug 9, 2014 - 57 comments

An essay on the biology of pregnancy

"The mammal mother works hard to stop her children from taking more than she is willing to give. The children fight back with manipulation, blackmail and violence. Their ferocity is nowhere more evident than in the womb [...] Pregnancy is a lot more like war than we might care to admit."
posted by daniel_charms on Aug 8, 2014 - 28 comments

Scientific-Marvelous

On the Scientific-Marvelous Novel and Its Influence on the Understanding of Progress, written by Maurice Renard in 1909. Via.
posted by brundlefly on Aug 7, 2014 - 5 comments

there's nothing that is scientifically proven

(A theoretical physicist explains why) Science Is Not About Certainty [more inside]
posted by flex on Aug 5, 2014 - 33 comments

"We lost our deposit."

Robot vs. Shark (not a made for SyFy movie)
posted by brundlefly on Aug 4, 2014 - 15 comments

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