Trek at 50: The quest for a unifying theory of time travel in Star Trek by Xaq Rzetelny [Ars Technica] [more inside]
In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome in the early 2000s, genome pioneers and social scientists alike called for an end to the use of race as a variable in genetic research. Unfortunately, by some measures, the use of race as a biological category has increased in the postgenomic age. Although inconsistent definition and use has been a chief problem with the race concept, it has historically been used as a taxonomic categorization based on common hereditary traits (such as skin color) to elucidate the relationship between our ancestry and our genes. We believe the use of biological concepts of race in human genetic research—so disputed and so mired in confusion—is problematic at best and harmful at worst. It is time for biologists to find a better way. - An editorial in Science exploring the conundrum facing genomic researchers where race is both fundamentally flawed as a scientific model and violently dangerous but still the only consistent lens through which study participants understand the information they have about their own connection to human diversity [more inside]
The images for JPL’s Visions Of The Future 2016 Calendar, which was an internal gift to JPL and NASA staff along with scientists, engineers, government and university staff, have been put online. "As you look through these images of imaginative travel destinations, remember that you can be an architect of the future." [via] [more inside]
Loudly, and apparently without caring who heard her, a research assistant at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City charged that her boss—noted paleoanthropologist Brian Richmond, the museum’s curator of human origins—had “sexually assaulted” her in his hotel room after a meeting the previous September in Florence, Italy. At the meeting, one person who heard the allegations was Bernard Wood, 70, a senior paleoanthropologist originally from the United Kingdom. In St. Louis, Wood canvassed younger researchers about their experiences with Richmond. He asked everyone the same question: “Does this alleged behavior come as any surprise to you?” He didn’t get the “yes” he was expecting.
Kept in the dark for 60 years, fruit flies begin to reveal their genetic adaptations. In 1954, seven years after their cousins returned from space, a colony of fruit flies was plunged into a darkness which would continue through 1500 generations right up till the present day. The results of this study shed considerable light on the role of genetic variation in physical adaptation. Spoiler: [more inside]
Meet the "rented white coats" who defend toxic chemicals: How corporate-funded research corrupts America's courts and regulatory agencies. [more inside]
In the far reaches of the sky there are sun-bright discs as wide as solar systems, their hearts run through by spears of radiation that outshine galaxies. The energies that feed these quasars beggar all metaphor, and their quantification seems all but meaningless. What does it serve to know that they are converting matter to energy at a rate that equates to the complete annihilation of a planet the size of the Earth ten times a second? Or that all the fires of the sun, from its birth to its death, would be a few weeks' worth of work to one of them? No human sense can be made from so inhuman a scale. Boggle, and move on. [via 3quarksdaily] [more inside]
What is Design Fiction?
"the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. That’s the best definition we’ve come up with. The important word there is diegetic. It means you’re thinking very seriously about potential objects and services and trying to get people to concentrate on those rather than entire worlds or political trends or geopolitical strategies. It’s not a kind of fiction. It’s a kind of design. It tells worlds rather than stories." — Bruce SterlingExamples of Diegetic Prototypes in Design Fiction. [more inside]
A Colleague Drank My Breast Milk And Other Wall Street Tales I kept the conversation light. I shared a funny story about my first day on Wall Street, when I opened up a pizza box to find condoms instead of pepperoni slices. Unwrapped. I was “the new girl,” and the guys just wanted to see me blush. I did blush, and I lived. “It’s not that bad anymore,” I said with a laugh. [more inside]
Two years ago, when Oregon parents Jill Brown and Jason Young met Brad and Tricia Salyers, the families had no idea that they would eventually be sharing in a tragedy that sickened four of the Salyers’ children and left Brown and Young’s youngest child, Kylee – 23 months old at the time – with such severe medical complications that she would need a kidney transplant from her mother. All of that and more happened beginning in April 2012 when the children were among 19 people – 15 of them under the age of 19 — who fell ill with E. coli O157:H7, a potentially fatal foodborne pathogen. Soon after, Oregon health officials determined that the outbreak was caused by raw milk from Foundation Farm near Wilsonville in Western Oregon — the Salyers’ family farm. Four of the sickened children were hospitalized with kidney failure. Foundation Farm had been providing 48 families with raw milk. Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill harmful and sometimes deadly foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
The China National Space Administration released all of the images from their Chang'e 3 moon landing mission (previously), including hundreds of amazing true color, HD photographs. Some 35 GB of datasets, including photographs of and by the Yutu rover have been difficult to retrieve outside of China and have been mirrored by Emily Lakdawalla at planetary.org.
A tyrannosaur of one’s own. by Laurie Gwen Shapiro [Aeon] Dinosaur collecting isn't just for museums any more — film stars and sheikhs do it too. What drives a man to covet big bones?
The world’s most famous palaeontologist doesn’t understand why anyone wants to collect dinosaurs. Mark Norell sits across from me in his expansive corner office at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and launches right in: ‘People are weird. I think: “Who is buying this shit?” No accounting for people’s taste. I have a passion for dinosaurs, but certainly not what I would call “dinosaur insanity”. Dinosaurs are just a medium for me to do science. But if I were doing the same thing on some other organism – you wouldn’t be here.’
Welcome to WorldPopulationHistory.org, an interactive site that lets you explore the peopling of our planet from multiple perspectives – historical, environmental, social and political. It is about the 2,000-year journey of human civilization and the possible paths ahead to the middle of this century.
Scientists find evidence of mathematical structures in classic books. [The Guardian] James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake has been described as many things, from a masterpiece to unreadable nonsense. But it is also, according to scientists at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Poland, almost indistinguishable in its structure from a purely mathematical multifractal.
“The absolute record in terms of multifractality turned out to be Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. The results of our analysis of this text are virtually indistinguishable from ideal, purely mathematical multifractals,” said Professor Stanisław Drożdż, another author of the paper, which has just been published in the computer science journal Information Sciences.
“A calorie isn’t just a calorie. And our mistaken faith in the power of this seemingly simple measurement may be hindering the fight against obesity.”
"Don't look at them directly,” Rie Henriksen whispers, “otherwise they get suspicious.” The neuroscientist is referring to a dozen or so chickens loitering just a few metres away in the car park of a scenic observation point for Opaekaa Falls on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. As the two try to act casual by their rented car, a jet-black hen with splashes of iridescent green feathers pecks its way along a trail of bird feed up to a device called a goal trap. Wright tugs at a string looped around his big toe and a spring-loaded net snaps over the bird. After a moment of stunned silence, the hen erupts into squawking fury. Biologists see in the feral animals an improbable experiment in evolution: what happens when chickens go wild?[more inside]
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World - "With interviewees ranging from Elon Musk to a gaming addict, Werner Herzog presents the web in all its wildness and utopian potential in this dizzying documentary." (via)
Today The Doomsday Clock will have its time recalibrated. In 2015 the scientists set the hands to 23.57 - "due to climate change, the modernization of nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia, and the problem of nuclear waste." Is the apocalypse closer or further away? Watch the result live at 13.30 EST. There's really only one way it can go.
We have identified ten red-flag areas that can help to differentiate healthy debate, problematic research practices and campaigns that masquerade as scientific inquiry. None by itself is conclusive, but a preponderance of troubling signs can help to steer the responses of scientists and their institutions to criticism.
The Mysterious, Murky Story Behind Soy-Sauce Packets: How Chinese takeout, a Jewish businessman from the Bronx, and NASA-approved packaging have shaped the 50-year reign of a well-loved American condiment (The Atlantic) [more inside]
Influential science fiction editor David Hartwell died yesterday of complications resulting from head injuries suffered during a fall at his home. [more inside]
Christian Ott, a young astrophysics professor at the California Institute of Technology, fell in love with one of his graduate students and then fired her because of his feelings, according to a recent university investigation. Twenty-one months of intimate online chats, obtained by BuzzFeed News, confirm that he confessed his actions to another female graduate student. [more inside]
For most of human history . . . [i]t was unthinkable to ignore the stars. They were critical signposts, as prominent and useful as local hills, paths or wells. The gathering-up of stars into constellations imbued with mythological meaning allowed people to remember the sky; knowledge that might save their lives one night and guide them home. Lore of the sky bound communities together. On otherwise trackless seas and deserts, the familiar stars would also serve as a valued friend. That friendship is now broken.
The whale is so big, the frogs are so bright, the Hall of Biodiversity an astonishing swarm of life. The planetarium space show tells a story, but it holds your attention by engulfing your senses with an experience. And then maybe this excitement inspires a little girl to go home and learn the names of the constellations and all the planets and their moons, and the night sky is no longer spooky darkness, but a beautiful realm full of things she can name. The museum today teaches you about science, but it makes you care by getting you to fall in love.
Dr. Henry Marsh has performed 400 "awake craniotomies" -- a surgical procedure he helped pioneer -- in which a specific kind of brain tumor that looks just like the brain itself is identified through electric stimulation and removed. Without surgery, 50 percent of patients die within 5 years; 80 percent within 10 years, and the operation can prolong their lives by 10 to 20 years or more. He was profiled in a 2007 documentary: The English Surgeon as well as this article by Karl Ove Knausgaard: The Terrible Beauty of Brain Surgery. Images in some links in this post may be disturbing to some viewers.
By the dawn of the 19th century, the deadliest killer in human history, tuberculosis, had killed one in seven of all the people who had ever lived. The disease struck America with a vengeance, ravaging communities and touching the lives of almost every family. The battle against the deadly bacteria had a profound and lasting impact on the country. It shaped medical and scientific pursuits, social habits, economic development, western expansion, and government policy. Yet both the disease and its impact are poorly understood: in the words of one writer, tuberculosis is our "forgotten plague." [54:11]
What's the most interesting recent [scientific] news? Why does it matter? 194 responses 133,000 words, available via a table of contents and as a manuscript.
Jesse Singal on Alice Dreger's book about witch hunts in social science: "It’s hard not to come away from Dreger’s wonderful book feeling like we’re doomed."
Maternal kisses are not effective in alleviating minor childhood injuries (boo-boos): a randomized, controlled and blinded study, by the Study of Maternal and Child Kissing (SMACK) Working Group.
Jack Gilbert, a Microbial Ecologist at Argonne and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, gave a free public lecture at Argonne. In recent years, scientists have discovered that our bodies teem with microbial life, which outnumber our cells 10 to one. In his talk, Gilbert explored how your microbial world influences your health, probing where that microbial world comes from, and highlighting the ways in which your lifestyle, diet and medical treatment can influence your microbiome.
The Seattle Natural Hazard Explorer lets you explore where different parts of the city of Seattle, Washington are most vulnerable to potentially catastrophic geological events like earthquakes (previously) and volcanoes. It is one of many visualizations or choropleths that connect ever-changing data with explorable geographic locations, such as an Atlas for a Changing Planet and Syria: Epicenter of a Deepening Refugee Crisis
There's a lot of folk wisdom and myths surrounding baking Yorkshire puddings, so J. Kenji López-Alt decided to test them all and figure out which (if any) are true.. Previous perfect puddings post.
Vice Motherboard on the immortal jellyfish and Shin Kabota, the man who sings their praise. Shin Kubota music video.
Galalith. The world's first plastic. Known as "milk stone" it was created by the interaction of casein and formaline. Produced in the 1900s in great quantities in France and Germany, it was used as an ivory substitute in billiard balls, piano keys and a variety of jewelry. Production declined post-WWII and while vintage galalith is pricey on ebay you can make it yourself at home.
“Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost,” the researchers wrote in their paper. It exists, they continued, and it’s called “interacting with nature.”
Sleepy gorillas make their nests in Kahuzi-Biega National Park. You can visit these gorillas by going on a virtual gorilla trek in Democratic Republic of Congo!
Breeding Improved Honey Bees was originally printed in 1951, in The American Bee Journal. It is an informative and often dryly amusing introduction to the history and arts of bee breeding. "The honey bee has a definite place in our modern world. Its products of honey and wax are useful to man, although perhaps not essential to all men." Those histories and arts are, as you might expect, covered in bees.
José L. Duarte is one author of an upcoming paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, "Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science." The authors review how academic psychology has lost its former political diversity, and explore the negative consequences of this on the field's search for true and valid results. Duarte has blogged about his own experience of bias when he was denied admission to a Ph.D program, possibly for for his perceived political views in another blog post. [more inside]
Altmetric's top 100 academic research articles of 2015. These are the articles that captured the most attention from the mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia, and social networks this year, according to Altmetric.
By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster. - A historic deal has been struck in Paris to reduce carbon emissions and reduce global warming, with a ceiling of 2 degrees centigrade and a goal of 1.5C. 2015 has been the hottest year on record.
One of the most beautiful, amazing, and depressing things I’ve ever done is participate in a whale necropsy. This work helps us understand the patterns of whale mortality, and determine whether whale deaths are natural, or possibly man-made. This is important stuff. In fact, their work has helped guide changes in policy, especially when it comes to designing the shipping lanes that go into and out of San Francisco Bay. Their research helped establish new, longer, and narrower shipping lanes that reduced the chances of ships hitting, and often killing, whales. This work saved whales’ lives. [more inside]
Creatures avoiding planks - "After around a thousand generations of training, the agents became half decent at avoiding planks. Please see the final result in this demo." [more inside]
Cloudy, with a chance of cryovolcanoes - unraveling the secrets of the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres, including the mysterious bright spots.