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Why Is Science Behind A Paywall?

A large portion of scientific research is publicly funded. So why do only the richest consumers have access to it?
posted by reenum on May 18, 2013 - 62 comments

Beethoven's Hair

On March 26th, 1827 Ludwig Van Beethoven died in Vienna. The day after, a twelve year old boy took a lock of his hair as a souvenir. 167 years later the hair was sold at an auction in London. Its new owners were two Americans, Ira Brilliant and Che Guevera. Between those dates the lock of hair undertook an extraordinary historical odyssey. From hand to hand, from country to country, and from century to century. This is the story of that journey. [more inside]
posted by 23 on May 18, 2013 - 15 comments

THUD! (only slightly bouncy)

Six science projects that kids and adults will love! (and you can do at home).
posted by quin on May 15, 2013 - 17 comments

Space Shack

Skylab, NASA's budget space station, launched 40 years ago today. Designed as an orbiting optical laboratory, she served as a cold war weapon, underwent an historic salvage job, and was the site of America's first space mutiny before landing hard in Australia while waiting for the Space Shuttle to be invented.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot on May 14, 2013 - 37 comments

O, Canada...you're doing it wrong.

"Scientific discovery is not valuable unless it has commercial value" The Canadian scientific research and development agency has announced a major policy change. Going forward, they will only perform research that has "social or economic gain".
posted by bitmage on May 13, 2013 - 97 comments

One genome, two plants

Mosses Make Two Different Plants From the Same Genome, and a Single Gene Can Make the Difference
One of the most astonishing secrets in biology is this: every plant you see makes two different plants from the same genome. And, scientists recently reported, a single gene from an ancient, powerful lineage can make the difference.

posted by Joe in Australia on May 12, 2013 - 24 comments

Crazy like an Arctic Fox

Scientific American reports: "An isolated population of Arctic foxes that dines only on marine animals seems to be slowly succumbing to mercury poisoning." Though a definitive causal link is difficult to establish, an isolated population of arctic foxes on Russia's Mednyi Island is believed to be collapsing due to mercury contamination as a result of its seafood-heavy diet. Where does all that mercury in the environment come from anyway? Why, it's another biproduct of burning fossil fuels, of course, and predictably, rates of mercury pollution are only expected to increase. In some places in the US, even rainwater is showing high levels of contamination. [more inside]
posted by saulgoodman on May 10, 2013 - 25 comments

On the slippery slope to Mecha-Mothra

Turns out moths are pretty good at operating small robotic vehicles.
posted by prize bull octorok on May 9, 2013 - 17 comments

Every meteorite since 861 AD: watch them fall

From Nogata to Chelyabinsk. [more inside]
posted by Gilgongo on May 8, 2013 - 16 comments

One thousand tubes of lipstick FOR SCIENCE

Do you wear makeup? Are you a giant nerd? If so, you should check out Brightest Bulb in the Box: Beauty for Critical Minds. Robyn examines makeup and beauty care products with a scientific eye, performing comparison tests and debunking pseudoscientific bullshit to the delight of anyone who wants to know what they're buying. [more inside]
posted by KathrynT on May 6, 2013 - 22 comments

Why Philosophers Should Care About Computational Complexity

"One might think that, once we know something is computable, how efficiently it can be computed is a practical question with little further philosophical importance. In this essay, I offer a detailed case that one would be wrong. In particular, I argue that computational complexity theory---the field that studies the resources (such as time, space, and randomness) needed to solve computational problems---leads to new perspectives on the nature of mathematical knowledge, the strong AI debate, computationalism, the problem of logical omniscience, Hume's problem of induction, Goodman's grue riddle, the foundations of quantum mechanics, economic rationality, closed timelike curves, and several other topics of philosophical interest. I end by discussing aspects of complexity theory itself that could benefit from philosophical analysis."

posted by cthuljew on May 5, 2013 - 31 comments

Why I Study Duck Genitalia

In the past few days, the Internet has been filled with commentary on whether the National Science Foundation should have paid for my study on duck genitalia, and 88.7 percent of respondents to a Fox news online poll agreed that studying duck genitalia is wasteful government spending. The commentary supporting and decrying the study continues to grow. As the lead investigator in this research, I would like to weigh in on the controversy and offer some insights into the process of research funding by the NSF.
Come for the passionate defense of basic science, stay for the explosive eversion of a duck penis.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on May 3, 2013 - 33 comments

The rise of the tick

With incisor-like claws that can tunnel beneath your skin in seconds, ticks are rapidly establishing themselves as the Swiss Army knife of disease vectors. Carl Zimmer walks into the woods to find out why these tiny beasts appear to be skyrocketing in number – and outsmarting environmental scientists trying to control them with every bite.
posted by Blasdelb on May 2, 2013 - 79 comments

Lamar Smith Chairs House Science Committee

The U.S. House has appointed SOPA architect and climate change skeptic Lamar Smith (R-TX) to chair the House Science Committee. His initial proposal (pdf) would strip the peer-review requirement from the NSF grant process and restrict grants to “groundbreaking” research. [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on May 1, 2013 - 148 comments

The weather was unseasonably warm, an astonishing 50 degrees F!

Imaging The Arctic: "In Spring 2013, based out of the small settlements of Niaqornat and Kullorsuaq, expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin will accompany scientist Dr. Kristin Laidre onto the pack ice of Baffin Bay." They are keeping an online field journal detailing Dr. Laidre's study of the effects of sea-ice loss on narwhals and polar bears, with Maria Coryell-Martin's illustrations accompanying field notes.
posted by ChuraChura on May 1, 2013 - 1 comment

She could put her lips together for the first time. “It was beautiful."

Groundbreaking Surgery for Girl Born Without Windpipe: [New York Times] — Using plastic fibers and human cells, doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a 2 ½-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.
posted by Fizz on Apr 30, 2013 - 16 comments

Pathological Physics: Tales from "The Box"

This is a talk I gave on June 1, 2012, about the numerous crank physics letters and books that had been sent to, and saved by, the Physics Department at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA.
Don't believe the apparent video length, the talk is 41 minutes long and the camera sticks around for about 20 minutes of the awesome Q&A afterwards.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Apr 30, 2013 - 67 comments

CO2 to hit 400 parts per million next month, highest since the Pliocene

Scripps Institute of Oceanography projects that next month its monitoring station will for the first time measure CO2 at 400 parts per million. Atmospheric CO2 has risen from 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. 400 ppm is an arbitrary milestone that we'll blow right past on our way to 450 ppm within a few decades. This is an unprecedentedly fast rate of increase and it's getting faster. Not all measuring stations are exactly the same: A NOAA station in the Arctic measured CO2 at 400 ppm last year. [more inside]
posted by Sleeper on Apr 25, 2013 - 127 comments

DNA Lab Party at 4 PM: Staph only!

Celebrate the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's structure with a pictorial story behind DNA's double helix and the Rosalind Franklin papers, including correspondences and lab notes that detail some of her crystallography research, findings that laid the groundwork for Watson and Crick's later publication.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 25, 2013 - 6 comments

Public's Knowledge of Science and Technology

Pew Research and Smithsonian Magazine recently performed a survey, looking at the American public's knowledge of science.
Pew: The public underestimates how well American high school students perform on standardized science tests compared with students in other developed nations. A plurality (44%) believes that 15-year-olds in other developed nations outrank U.S. students in knowledge of science; according to an international student assessment, U.S. 15-year-olds are in the middle ranks of developed nations in science knowledge.
An examination of the results from Smithsonian Magazine.
posted by frimble on Apr 24, 2013 - 57 comments

It will have 10-20 failures and two successes. That's my hypothesis.

7-year old Audri builds a Rube Golberg machine to trap a monster. (SLYT) [more inside]
posted by Room 641-A on Apr 23, 2013 - 42 comments

SCIENCE

The Origins Project at ASU presents the final night in the Origins Stories weekend, focusing on the science of storytelling and the storytelling of science.The Storytelling of Science. Part 2. [more inside]
posted by lazaruslong on Apr 21, 2013 - 3 comments

"Ring it Out"

Last fall, the Canadian Space Agency asked students to design a simple science experiment that could be performed in space, using items already available aboard the International Space Station. Today, Commander Chris Hadfield conducted the winner for its designers: two tenth grade students, Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner, in a live feed to their school in Fall River, Nova Scotia. And now, we finally have an answer to the age-old question, What Happens When You Wring Out A Washcloth In Space? [more inside]
posted by zarq on Apr 18, 2013 - 63 comments

Handmade halftones

Throughout the printing process the human printer assumes the role of the machine and is therefore controlled and restricted by the process of using CMYK halftones created on the computer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 18, 2013 - 2 comments

Cory Nebacterium vs. Sally Staph

Microbiomes & Health "We conducted a study during a flat track roller derby tournament, and found that teammates shared distinct skin microbial communities before and after playing against another team, but that opposing teams’ bacterial communities converged during the course of a roller derby bout." [more inside]
posted by OmieWise on Apr 18, 2013 - 11 comments

1993 -> 2013

For WIRED magazine's 20th anniversary, they've "gathered stories for, by, and about the people who have shaped the planet's past 20 years—and will continue driving the next."
posted by zarq on Apr 16, 2013 - 36 comments

I need tungsten to live

Magnetic Putty Magic (Extended Cut)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 15, 2013 - 33 comments

belters expanse trajectory: working up the Epstein Drive

How NASA brought the monstrous F-1 "moon rocket" engine back to life - "The story of young engineers who resurrected an engine nearly twice their age." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Apr 14, 2013 - 34 comments

Gene genie, let yourself go

After a decade or so of legal back-and-forth between Utah-based Myriad Genetics and medical researchers, the ACLU, and the Public Patent Forum, the US Supreme Court will hear a case next week which attempts to address whether genes — isolated (derivative) or original — can be patented. The stakes are high on both sides: opponents use Myriad's actions to argue that giving short-term monopoly control over humanity's genetic constituency is not in the public interest, while proponents defend the use of patents to spur private research in biotech, alternative energy and other nascent industries.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 12, 2013 - 58 comments

Mars Eats Probes

Russian amateurs may have found the lost Mars 3 Lander.
posted by Artw on Apr 12, 2013 - 13 comments

Intelligence Tests

Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Apr 11, 2013 - 113 comments

The Future of Political Science Just Showed Up

GDELT data is now publicly available. GDELT stands for Global Data on Events, Location and Tone, and is a dataset that contains information on over 200 million geolocated events. [more inside]
posted by MisantropicPainforest on Apr 11, 2013 - 11 comments

Brains have never looked so pretty

Karl Deisseroth and his team at Stanford University [previously] have developed a completely new technique to make a brain perfectly see-through. They call it CLARITY, and the result has to be seen to be believed. [more inside]
posted by harujion on Apr 10, 2013 - 43 comments

Silicon-based viruses of the analog kind

A selection of glass viruses by artist Luke Jerram (a full gallery and photographs of other sculptural work are also available directly from his site)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 9, 2013 - 9 comments

Brain games are bogus

"Brain training games don't actually make you smarter." Looking at recent meta-analyses and replication attempts of studies showing increased cognitive abilities gained from brain-training games, the New Yorker article comes to the conclusion that the results are suspect and these games haven't been shown to improve cognitive abilities broadly. Currently, brain training is a multi-million-dollar business.
posted by tykky on Apr 9, 2013 - 61 comments

Selection pressure

Researchers have found that size does matter as it relates to overall proportions of the male body (PNAS link, PDF)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Apr 8, 2013 - 233 comments

BRAIN Initiative

President Obama recently announced a big new effort to map and understand the human brain. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 8, 2013 - 22 comments

How amazing is my thought!

Lewis Thomas (1913-1993) was a physician and essayist, writing gracefully on topics as varied as language, nuclear war, and our excellent health and deplorable health-care system (PDF). He believed that the existence of Bach vindicates humanity, that "ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment", and that the Earth is perhaps best thought of as a cell. A three-time winner of the National Book Award, Thomas authored Lives of a Cell, which was voted the 11th-best nonfiction work of the 20th century by the Modern Library.
posted by seemoreglass on Apr 8, 2013 - 15 comments

Great Scientist ≠ Good at Math?

Do you need to know math to do science? Harvard professor emeritus E. O. Wilson says, "no." Jeremy Fox, an Associate Professor of Population Ecology at the University of Calgary disagrees.
posted by Obscure Reference on Apr 8, 2013 - 74 comments

A brilliant plan.

There is no way this could possibly go wrong.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch on Apr 6, 2013 - 135 comments

"chance favors only the prepared mind"

"The Art of Observation and How to Master the Crucial Difference Between Observation and Intuition"
Lessons In Mindfulness And Creativity
posted by the man of twists and turns on Apr 6, 2013 - 7 comments

To Boldly Design....

Artist/designer Shepard Fairey was commissioned the Center For The Advancement Of Science In Space to design a brand new patch for the International Space Station's ARK 1 (Advancing Researching Knowledge) mission. CASIS's Pat O'Neill unveiling the patch and the ARK 1 proposal.
posted by The Whelk on Apr 3, 2013 - 16 comments

the squidgy 1.5kg lump of pink stuff in our heads

NeuroBollocks: Debunking pseudo-neuroscience so you don't have to.
posted by cthuljew on Mar 31, 2013 - 18 comments

The Darwin-Hooker Letters

The Cambridge University Library houses the world's largest collection of Charles Darwin's letters: more than 9,000 of the 15,000 letters he is known to have written and received in his lifetime. They've been posting them online since 2007 (previously on MeFi), in the Darwin Correspondence Project, where we can now read and search the full texts of more than 7,500 letters, and find information on 7,500 more -- all for free. This weekend, they added nearly all of the Darwin-Hooker letters: Over 1400 pieces of correspondence between Darwin and his closest friend, botanist Joseph Hooker. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 31, 2013 - 9 comments

How to write about scientists who happen to be women

The New York Times has faced criticism after an obituary of Yvonne Brill, rocket scientist, opened with "She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. “The world’s best mom,” her son Matthew said." [more inside]
posted by ChuraChura on Mar 31, 2013 - 90 comments

“Thinking about science leads to [endorsing] more stringent moral norms”

Christine Ma-Kellams and Jim Blascovich. Does “Science” Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior. PLOS One, 6 March 2013. (Salon) [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Mar 30, 2013 - 18 comments

So this is what it's like to be eaten by a plant

How would you like to go on a mindbending 3D journey into the devouring maws of four different carnivorous plants? [more inside]
posted by prize bull octorok on Mar 29, 2013 - 12 comments

The best of the web - that'll be $30, please

Open access: The true cost of science publishing
posted by Gyan on Mar 29, 2013 - 45 comments

We're Going To Have To Find Out How To Deal With Lots Of Idle Hands

The Forces Of The Next 30 Years - SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks to students at Olin College about sci-fi, fiction, speculation, the limits of computation, thermodynamics, Moore's Law, the history of travel, employment, automation, free trade, demographics, the developing world, privacy, and climate change in trying to answer the question What Does The World Of 2043 Look Like? (Youtube 56:43)
posted by The Whelk on Mar 27, 2013 - 18 comments

Why the collision of big data and privacy will require a new realpolitik

Why the collision of big data and privacy will require a new realpolitik:
The paper, entitled Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility, took an anonymized dataset from an unidentified mobile operator containing call information for around 1.5 million users over 14 months. The purpose of the study was to figure out how many data points — based on time and location — were needed to identify individual users. The answer, for 95 percent of the “anonymous” users logged in that database, was just four.

posted by stoneweaver on Mar 26, 2013 - 17 comments

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