P values, the 'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume.
Open warfare erupts in the world of mathematical biology, as Lior Pachter of UC-Berkeley writes three blog posts attacking two papers in Nature Bioscience, accusing one of them of being "dishonest and fraudulent": The Network Nonsense of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, The Network Nonsense of Manolo Kellis, and Why I Read the Network Nonsense Papers. Kellis (MIT) and his co-authors respond (.pdf.)
In his 1996 book The Song of the Dodo, David Quammen observed that if you destroy most of a habitat and leave only a small patch of wilderness behind, you have effectively created an island—and islands, for complex ecological reasons, sustain far fewer species and far more extinctions than mainlands. Now watch things get complicated. At the same time that our logging, mining, farming, road-building, suburban-sprawling species is turning the entire planet into an archipelago, “global trade and travel do the reverse: they deny even the remotest islands their remoteness.” The result, as Kathryn Schulz reports, is that we are living through The Sixth Extinction.
Bill Nye is debating the head of the Creation Museum tomorrow. Ken Ham, founder of Northern Kentucky tourist attraction "Answers in Genesis" Creation Museum, has challenged Science Guy Bill Nye to a duel, errr, a debate. Nye, while tolerant of Ham's religious beliefs, draws the line at creationism creeping into science curriculum. More pre-event throwdowns are here. [more inside]
Climatologist Michael E. Mann, known for introducing the famous "hockey stick" graph, has filed a defamation suit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. [more inside]
Palaeocast: "An open broadcast of paleontological information, a place where the beauty, diversity and complexity of the field can be conveyed and discussed in a digital format." Every interview-centric episode is associated with a blog post, organized by era and period. [more inside]
Over 150 documentaries available free online on science, consciousness, and several other topics. Occasional link is broken.
From I Fucking Love Science: "In a paper posted online this week Professor Stephen Hawking claimed that black holes do not exist - at least, not as we currently understand them. He claims that the traditional notion of a black hole's "event horizon" from which nothing can escape, even light, is incompatible with quantum physics. If so, physicists will have to redefine black holes entirely." [more inside]
Is the worlds supply of helium running out? [PDF] Interesting article about the supply and demand of Helium and how in the shortage to come, we can continue to meet the demands.
or the inner Grotesque and Gorgeous, and outer fantastic world of The End of Times: The Apocalyptic Book revealed, as it was imagined "couple" years ago. To be seen with your morning coffee.
A natural occurence of the rare and mysterious weather phenomenon known as ball lightning has been captured on video by researchers in China. [more inside]
"Given the desire for ambitious scientists to break from the pack with a striking new finding, Dr. Ioannidis reasoned, many hypotheses already start with a high chance of being wrong. Otherwise proving them right would not be so difficult and surprising — and supportive of a scientist’s career. Taking into account the human tendency to see what we want to see, unconscious bias is inevitable. Without any ill intent, a scientist may be nudged toward interpreting the data so it supports the hypothesis, even if just barely." [more inside]
"In October 2013, Drs. Tim Perkins and Abby van Den Berg of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, revealed the findings of a study at a maple syrup conference in New Brunswick, Canada that sent waves through the industry. In 2010, they were studying vacuum systems in sap collection operations. Based on the observation that one of the mature trees in the study that was missing most of its top was still yielding high volumes of sap, they hypothesized that the maples were possibly drawing moisture from the soil and not the crown. Previously, they had presumed that the sap dripping from tap holes was coming from the upper portion of the tree. But, if the tree was missing most of its crown then, they surmised, it must be drawing moisture from the roots. ... They realized that their discovery meant sugarmakers could use saplings, densely planted in open fields, to harvest sap. In other words, it is possible that maple syrup could now be produced as a row crop like every other commercial crop in North America." [more inside]
Gender Swap - Experiment with The Machine to be Another. "Gender Swap is an experiment that uses The Machine to be Another system as a platform for embodiment experience (a neuroscience technique in which users can feel themselves like if they were in a different body). In order to create the brain illusion we use the immersive Head Mounted Display Oculus Rift, and first-person cameras. To create this perception, both users have to syncronize their movements. If one does not correspond to the movement of the other, the embodiment experience does not work. It means that both users have to constantly agree on every movement they make. Throughout this experiment, we aim to investigate issues like Gender Identity, Queer Theory, feminist technoscience, Intimacy and Mutual Respect." [NSFW, Via]
"....many a tragic episode in family life is superinduced by the baleful influence of a tortured stomach. Mighty is the hand that holds the ballot-box, but mightier is the hand that wields to advantage the pepper-box, the salt-spoon, and the sugar-shaker." read the entirely of Maud C. Cooke's, Breakfast, Dinner and Supper; or, What To Eat and How To Prepare It (1897) online and enter a world of home remedies, large scale recipes, sound advice, leftover wizardry, squirrel stews, scientific digestion, and horrible things done to vegetables.
A video showing a chain of beads behaving in a very peculiar way appeared on Youtube some time ago. Many people attempted to provide explanations, but most of them weren't quite satisfactory. [more inside]
"Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?" WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT? (171 essays; 125,000 words) [more inside]
Stuck in the Antarctic ice we set out to study - Erik van Sebille of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 describes his fieldwork in Antarctica. The Guardian has extensive coverage of the expedition, including visiting the remains of a previous expedition, how they became icebound, and their rescue.
Operation War Diary is the newest crowdsourced science effort from Zooniverse, cataloging WWI British soldiers' war diaries from the Western Front. Participants can help tag dates, locations, people, and events from 1.5 million pages of war diaries from the Western Front. Entries range from the uneventful (October 24 | PONT DU HEM | 5:30 am | Occupied same position. Did not fire all day) to the eventful (A & B cleared the village and the regiment eventually captured the convoy in the wood about a mile on after it had been headed back by a returning movement of 12th Lancers. In all 200 prisoners). [more inside]
M.I.T. professor Max Tegmark explores the possibility that math does not just describe the universe, but makes the universe.
"Why biotech whiz kid Jack Andraka is not on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list." Forbes science and medicine reporter Matthew Herper sends out Andraka's draft paper on his cancer diagnostic test to scientific experts, who find the results do not match the breathless excitement attracted by initial coverage, seen previously on MetaFilter and elsewhere. [more inside]
I’m trying to build a jigsaw puzzle. I wish I could show you what it will be, but the picture isn’t on the box. But I can show you some of the pieces that snapped into place this year, and try to share a context for why they mattered so much to me.Bret Victor discusses scientific thinking and computing from a deeply humane perspective through the eyes of Douglas Engelbart, Alan key and other great thinkers of our time.
Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, has become notorious for the way his government treats science. The latest news concerns the shutting of 7 of 9 regional DFO libraries across the country. Despite claims that the collections have been digitized, alarming reports are emerging that a lot of the materials, some dating back to the 19th century, were simply junked.
"The IPython Notebook is a web-based interactive computational environment where you can combine code execution, text, mathematics, plots and rich media into a single document". It can be installed faily easily with anaconda or on Amazon EC2. Various interesting notebooks are to be found at the official Notebook Viewer site Another collection of interesting notebooks on many topics. [more inside]
Smells can be very hard to identify and name, unless you are given some prompting - or you speak Jahai, the language of an indigenous group in the Malay peninsula.
"700 years ago, a monk needed parchment for a new prayer book. He pulled the copy of Archimedes' book off the shelf, cut the pages in half, rotated them 90 degrees, and scraped the surface to remove the ink, creating a palimpsest—fresh writing material made by clearing away older text. Then he wrote his prayers on the nearly-clean pages." - A Prayer for Archimedes
Bacteria have a Hobo Code. Next month's Science News carries a pretty interesting overview about the cutting edge of microbial science, including recent studies showing "in many mammals a microbial community ferments various sweats, oozes and excretions into distinctive scents that reveal age, health and much more to knowing noses in a select social circle". That's right, microbes are posting status updates to each other through smells, sharing with other microbes what they've learned about host animals.
Let me tell you a story. I was at a presentation that a friend, an Astrophysicist, gave to a potential donor ... After the talk the sponsor said to him, “you know what, I’m gonna pass because I just don’t feel inspired… you should be more like Malcolm Gladwell” ... So I ask the question: does TED epitomize a situation where ... a scientist... is told that their work is not worthy of support, because the public doesn't feel good listening to them? I submit that Astrophysics run on the model of American Idol is a recipe for civilizational disaster.Benjamin H. Bratton (Dept. of Visual Arts, UC San Diego) uses a TEDx talk to critique the medium of the TED talk itself. Does TED—"weird, inadequate and symptomatic"—encapsulate the twenty-first century's inability to face the challenges of the future in any honest way?
In the academic sphere, at least, the "Conflict Thesis" of a historical war between science and theology has been long since overturned. It is very odd that so many of my fellow atheists cling so desperately to a long-dead position that was only ever upheld by amateur Nineteenth Century polemicists and not the careful research of recent, objective, peer-reviewed historians. This is strange behavior for people who like to label themselves "rationalists".-- The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”
Researchers at the University of York were able to identify people using the reflection of their faces in pupils of photographs of other people. Original paper
"If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a GIF is easily worth a million. The file format—which uses a series of images to produce a looping video, like a flip book—is a tremendous way to convey all sorts of moving wonders. ... It’s appropriate, then, that we use the GIF to explore some of the coolest, weirdest, most remarkable science stories of 2013. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of amazing science GIFs from 2013, in no particular order." [more inside]
During the 1950's, Wernher von Braun served as technical adviser for three space-related television films produced by Disney: Man in Space, Man and the Moon and Mars and Beyond. [more inside]
This Video Will Hurt
A detailed explanation of a fascinating field of science and medicine by the always interesting C.G.P. Grey.[more inside]
Settling in for a long winter's nap? In need of a memento mori to guard against the unbridled jollity of the season? Just want to explore the wonderful world of 3D scans, osteology, and bioarchaeology on the internet a little further? Sad that Santa probably isn't bringing you a T-Rex for Christmas? Well, just peak inside... [more inside]
Charan Langton (blog) hosts Complex To Real: which "...offers tutorials I have written on various topics in analog and digital communications that will help you cut through this complexity." [more inside]
"After two to three hours, the body is transformed into a sterile coffee-colored liquid the consistency of motor oil that can be safely poured down the drain, alongside a dry bone residue similar in appearance to cremated remains." GOOD magazine: The emergence of the sustainable death industry.
The Sculpture on the Moon. "Scandals and conflicts obscured one of the most extraordinary achievements of the Space Age."
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
We analysed 5,483,841 research papers and review articles with 27,329,915 authorships. We find that in the most productive countries, all articles with women in dominant author positions receive fewer citations than those with men in the same positions. And this citation disadvantage is accentuated by the fact that women's publication portfolios are more domestic than their male colleagues — they profit less from the extra citations that international collaborations accrue. Given that citations now play a central part in the evaluation of researchers, this situation can only worsen gender disparities. The data are also used to make a really cool interactive map.