"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.
Norbert Wiener: The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again)
- "The most direct reason for Wiener's fall to relative obscurity was the breakthrough of a young mathematician and engineer named Claude Shannon
." [more inside]
The American Museum of Natural History will unlock thousands of old photos from their vault, they announced this week. The new online image database (officially launching on Monday the 28th) will take you behind the curtain, delivering images that span the 145-year history of the Museum. The collection features over 7,000 images—many never before seen by the public—and includes photos, rare book illustrations, drawings, notes, letters, art, and Museum memorabilia. They say "it’s like stepping into a time machine and seeing a long ago NYC or just catching glimpses of ghosts from a forgotten world now seen only by researchers and Museum staff." Previously
. [more inside]
Such as Ulva lobata
from Josie Iselin's new book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed.
Feather boa kelp - Egregia menziesii
Sea grapes - Botryocladia pseudodichotoma [more inside]
Network Theory Overview
- "The idea
: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks
! People like to draw diagrams of networks. Mathematical physicists know that in principle these diagrams can be understood using category theory
. But why should physicists have all the fun
? This is the century of understanding living systems and adapting to life on a finite planet
. Math isn't the main thing we need, but it's got to be part of the solution
... so one thing we should do
is develop a unified and powerful theory of networks
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
Closing in on the twin prime conjecture
) - "Just months after Zhang
announced his result, Maynard
has presented an independent proof that pushes the gap down to 600. A new Polymath project
is in the planning stages, to try to combine the collaboration's techniques with Maynard's approach to push this bound even lower." [more inside]
CreatureCast - Rhizocephala
- a charmingly animated look at the lifecycle of rhizocephalan barnacles, one of the more horrifying
(non-charming) parasitic crustaceans
(likewise). NOT a practitioner of parasitic castration
but still disturbing: The bobbit worm
. Happy swimming!
"This is a story, a picture story, of two very lucky people before whom was spread out the greatest of treasures, the planet Earth.
We traveled aboard a magic carpet, the one with the yellow borders, National Geographic magazine. During four decades we wandered over all the continents and left wakes across the seven seas." [more inside]
Cheetahs’ Secret Weapon: A Tight Turning Radius [New York Times]
"Anyone who has watched a cheetah run down an antelope knows that these cats are impressively fast. But it turns out that speed is not the secret to their prodigious hunting skills: a novel study of how cheetahs chase prey in the wild shows that it is their agility — their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly — that gives those antelope such bad odds."
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]
The concept of nothing is as old as zero itself. How do we grapple with the concept of nothing? From the best laboratory vacuums on Earth to the vacuum of space to what lies beyond, the idea of nothing continues to intrigue professionals and the public alike.
Join moderator and Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson
as he leads a spirited discussion with a group of physicists, philosophers and journalists about the existence of nothing. The event, which was streamed live to the web, took place at the American Museum of Natural History on March 20, 2013. [more inside]
's "minimal realism" contributions to science and art are being celebrated by the graphic design blog Codex 99. Part 1 - Charley and Edie
. Part 2 - The Birds
. Part 3 - Tin Lizzie and Dinner for Two
. Part 4 - The Golden Book of Biology
. Part 5 - Bambi and Childcraft
. Part 6 - The Animal Kingdom
's illustrated (and explained) animal mating habits
. [somewhat NSFW]
The Nature of Computation
- Intellects Vast and Warm and Sympathetic
: "I hand you a network or graph, and ask whether there is a path through the network that crosses each edge exactly once, returning to its starting point. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Eulerian' cycle.) Then I hand you another network, and ask whether there is a path which visits each node exactly once. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Hamiltonian' cycle.) How hard is it to answer me?" (via
) [more inside]
First Evidence Found for Photosynthesis in Insects: [nature.com]
"The biology of aphids is bizarre: they can be born pregnant and males sometimes lack mouths, causing them to die not long after mating. In an addition to their list of anomalies, work published this week indicates that they may also capture sunlight and use the energy for metabolic purposes."
North Americans may have noticed that U-Haul
trucks and trailers are emblazoned with colorful SuperGraphics
. First created in 1988 (previously
), the mobile gallery now comprises 206 images. Most U.S states and Canadian territories and provinces are now honored by multiple designs, as are the U.S. armed forces and 9/11
. The classic America and Canada's Moving Adventure
series, seen on trucks and trailers
, features an iconic image for each state, province and territory. The Venture Across America and Canada
series, begun in 1997, presents "carefully researched rare findings, little-known facts and mysteries,"
exploring science and nature, technology and history. At the U-Haul website, the "Learn More" link on each Venture SuperGraphic page leads to a surprisingly exhaustive discussion of the subject of each graphic. [more inside]
Morton and Vicary on the Categorified Heisenberg Algebra
- "In quantum mechanics, position times momentum does not equal momentum times position! This sounds weird, but it's connected to a very simple fact. Suppose you have a box with some balls in it, and you have the magical ability to create and annihilate balls. Then there's one more way to create a ball and then annihilate one, than to annihilate one and then create one. Huh? Yes: if there are, say, 3 balls in the box to start with, there are 4 balls you can choose to annihilate after you've created one but only 3 before you create one..." [more inside]
"Adrian Owen still gets animated when he talks about patient 23.
The patient was only 24 years old when his life was devastated by a car accident. Alive but unresponsive, he had been languishing in what neurologists refer to as a vegetative state for five years, when Owen, a neuro-scientist then at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium, put him into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and started asking him questions. Incredibly, he provided answers."
"Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets."
After an extensive
, months-long debate
, one of two controversial
papers showing ways the H5N1 "avian" influenza virus could potentially become transmissible in mammals with only 3 or 4 mutations was published
today. The journal included an editorial on the merits and drawbacks of "publishing risky research
" with regard to biosafety. The debate included an unprecedented recommendation by The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication -- a decision they later reversed.
's special report
has additional articles, including interviews with the teams behind both papers.
How the zebra came by his stripes.
"Why zebras evolved their characteristic black-and-white stripes has been the subject of decades of debate among scientists.
Now researchers from Hungary and Sweden claim to have solved the mystery."
Nine ways scientists demonstrate they don't understand journalism.
Ananyo Bhattacharya, chief online editor of Nature
, writes in the Guardian that science journalism will never and should never be what some scientists want it to be. Meanwhile, aggregators like Futurity
(previously on MetaFilter
) and The Conversation
are aiming to let scientists present their findings to the public without mediation through the traditional press. Bhattacharya describes both as "a bit dull." Bhattacharya, previously: "Scientists should not be allowed to copy-check stories about their work."
The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity has asked
the journals Nature and Science
to publish redacted versions of the studies by two research groups that reportedly created forms of the H5N1 avian flu that could easily jump between ferrets - animals whose response to influenza is similar to humans. [more inside]
In a room near Maida Vale, a journalist for The Nation wrote around 1914, an unfortunate creature is strapped to the table of an unlicensed vivisector. When the subject is pinched with a pair of forceps, it winces. It is so strapped that its electric shudder of pain pulls the long arm of a very delicate lever that actuates a tiny mirror. This casts a beam of light on the frieze at the other end of the room, and thus enormously exaggerates the tremor of the creature. A pinch near the right-hand tube sends the beam 7 or 8 feet to the right, and a stab near the other wire sends it as far to the left. "Thus," the journalist concluded, "can science reveal the feelings of even so stolid a vegetable as the carrot."
is a free field guide for iPhone (Android coming soon) that uses the phone's camera and some biometric processing to identify trees by the shape of their leaves
. Development was financed by the National Science Foundation
(NYT article), and includes research by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.
Five years ago this week, the BBC started broadcasting one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever to grace television: Planet Earth
. The culmination of five years of field work
, it employed the most cutting-edge of techniques
in order to capture life in all its forms, from sweeping spaceborne vistas to shockingly intimate close-ups
-- including many sights
rarely glimpsed by human eyes. Visually spectacular
, it showcased footage shot in 204 locations in 62 countries
, thoroughly documenting every biome from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the lifegiving waters of the Okavango Delta
, a rich narrative tapestry backed by a stirring orchestral score
from the BBC Concert Orchestra. Unfortunately, the series underwent some editorial changes
for rebroadcast overseas. But now fans outside the UK can rejoice -- all eleven chapters of this epic story are available on YouTube in their original form: uncut, in glorious 1080p HD, and with the original narration by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough
. Click inside for the full listing (and kiss the rest of your week goodbye). [more inside]
SEED Magazine: Wealth of Nations
: "Shared natural resources underpin the global economy, but our current economic system does not acknowledge their worth. Can a major new effort to assess the costs of biodiversity loss force a paradigm shift in what we value?" [more inside]
translates scientific data related to meteorology
into woven sculptures
and musical scores
. She discusses her work in an interview
with the Peabody Essex Museum. (via Mira y Calla)
Today's issue of Nature contains
with a rather unusual author list. Read past the standard collection of academics, and the final author credited is... the FoldIt
multiplayer online gaming community. Even though most of them had no biochemistry experience, the human players of FoldIt turned out to be better at identifying three-dimensional protein structure patterns
than the algorithms of Rosetta@Home
. (Previously on MeFi
40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years
For it's 40th anniversary issue, Smithsonian magazine asks experts in various fields for insights into our future and compiles a list of 40 predictions about the future of science, nature, the arts and technology. The feature essay is by President Obama, in which he explains why he's optimistic
about America's future. (VIA) [more inside]
Mark "Dr. Bugs" Moffett
is a Harvard educated entomologist, author
and ecologist. He's also one hell of a nature photographer
, mainly studying Frogs and Ants (slideshow with audio)
. Galleries from Frank Pictures
, The Smithsonian
, and a slideshow and recent interview
from NPR's Fresh Air.
Vanessa Mae Nicholson is one of Britain’s most successful
young musicians. A classical violinist
and former child prodigy
who self-describes her crossover style as "violin techno-acoustic fusion
," her fans praise her modern creativity and frenetic
. But is her talent learned or genetic? Documentary from BBC1 in 2008: Vanessa Mae - The Making of Me
. [more inside]
Libraries and commercial publishers have struggled with each other over the skyrocketing costs
of academic journals for years. As costs have increased more rapidly than library budgets, the libraries have had to cut journal subscriptions and other acquisitions. The recent recession has necessitated further cuts. Against this backdrop, Nature Publishing Group told the University of California that next year subscription prices would increase 400 percent,
with the average annual cost of a journal increasing to $17,479. UC Libraries fought back with a combative letter to UC faculty
suggesting that faculty should consider boycotting the journals, and cease submitting or reviewing articles for these journals. NPG responds
, saying that UC currently pays unfairly low rates, and that "individual scientists, both within and outside of California are already suffering as a result of [UC]'s unwarranted actions."
Our amazing planet.
I could study this all day.
I am a giant squid
. I swam up from the briny ocean depths. I have a computer, with a specially-modified tentacle-friendly interface
. I have a fast internet connection. I seek to learn about humans and about the world. I have read much
on the internet
. Yet still, I have many unanswered questions
. And you must have questions of me
. We have much to learn
from one another. To this end, I have developed the assortment of quizzes
you find before you. They form part of my ongoing campaign to facilitate improved human-squid relations
. Try them out, you will most certainly learn something about squid
A new study
suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics
. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion
in human history, as well as more complex economies
). [more inside]
They sleep in fits and starts throughout the day, but are not so somnolent as previously thought. They can be vicious. Each one has its own personality
They are anything but slow when they need to be. [more inside]