"I attempted to repeat the experiment, however once my assistant discovered that I didn’t really have any tuna, she declined to participate in any further tests."
The Pliocene Pussy Cat Theory (which originally appeared in The Annals of Improbable Research) argues that the human ancestor Australopithecus domesticated cats for hunting, defense and harvesting static electricity to make it easier to climb trees. The theory, which was proposed by Lorenzo Love, is a parody of the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (which is critiqued here and in shorter form here). Whether you know about the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis or not, the Pliocene Pussy Cat Theory, and Love's follow-up, the Subterranean Ape Theory, will completely alter your understanding of human evolution.
UCLA neuroscientists have reconstructed Phineas Gage's head injury and mapped out how his brain was affected by the tamping rod that went through it. You can read the full scientific article here. Phineas Gage has become one of the most famous cases in the history of science. A railroad worker who survived having an iron rod go through his brain with subsequent changes in personality. Malcolm McMillan of Deakin University, Australia, has the great Phineas Gage Information Page, which includes his story and a page on unanswered questions. [Phineas Gage previously on MeFi]
Day at Night was an interview series on the public television station of the City University of New York that aired from 1973-4. CUNY TV is in the process of digitizing and uploading the 130 episodes that were produced, with 46 done so far. The episodes are just under half an hour in length. Among the people interviewed by host James Day are author Ray Bradbury, actress Myrna Loy, medical researcher Jonas Salk, singer Cab Calloway, writer Christopher Isherwood, nuclear scientist Edward Teller, comedian Victor Borge, tennis player Billie Jean King, linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, composer Aaron Copland, actor Vincent Price and boxer Muhammad Ali.
"I can sense stars, and their whispers amid the roaring of our own Sun." So goes one poetic status of the Voyager 2 twitterfeed, which appeals to my sense of wonder like nothing else on the internet. Interstellar space probes and microblogging go hand in hand in the 21st Century.
Al-Jazari is the best-known Islamic inventor of the Middle Ages, famous for his waterclocks and automata. The wonderful History of Science and Technology in Islam has articles on him as well as other subjects. A medieval manuscript of Al-Jazari's masterwork, a book generally known in English as either Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices, can be perused in its entirety in flash form. It includes 174 illustrations. If you want to see working copies of his most famous automaton, the Elephant Clock, you can go either to the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai (Flickr pictures), the Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle in Switzerland (Cabinet of Wonders post about visiting the museum) or Institute for the History of Arab-Islamic Science in Frankfurt (article about the institute from a feature in Saudi Aramco World magazine called Rediscovering Arabic Science).
Hellenica is an encyclopedia of Greek culture, from classical Hellas, through the Byzantine Empire until the modern day, though its focus is on antiquity and especially the science and technology of Ancient Greece. Featuring technical diagrams and explications, there's no better site if you seek information on gigantic galleys, now obscure great Greek mathematicians, the last still working Ancient lighthouse and gears and how they were used by Archimedes and other ancients. This is not to denigrate other sections of the site, such as the page on the Olympics (including a Google Map of the site of the games), biographies of ancient, Byzantine and modern Greeks, the warring and healing of the Byzantines or the overview of Greek literature, taking in antiquity, the medieval era and modern times. That said, Hellenica is at its finest when treating science and technology.
Traveling a lot this weekend? Long drive, plane or train ride? You can use that transit time to listen to the Dalai Lama talk for more than four hours with neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars on the topic of craving, suffering and choice. Part one. Part two. [iTunes links] If you're stuck at home, you can watch the video. The video link has the full list of participants.