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Is the enthusiasm of the Internet FOR SCIENCE hurting real scientists?

That's the argument made by Ben Thomas earlier this week. Thomas charges that overenthusiastic viral sharing of half-baked scientific projects can make it more difficult for more well-planned projects to achieve success, particularly when high-profile crowdfunded projects go on to flop badly. Worse, the public backlash when real, messier science fails to live up to the flashy, unrealistic claims that media and social media hype blows up can have repercussions even for scientists who are funded by traditional grants. Signe Cane has a useful criticism of Thomas' piece with advice for non-specialists on how to try to separate cool things in real scientific work from cool things that are mostly hype and exaggerations. On the flip side of crowdfunding, Jacquelyn Gill shares her experience of using crowdfunding to fund her scientific research, ultimately concluding that it was a hell of a lot of work for relatively minimal payout. And Terry McGlynn, another ecologist, expresses some reservations about the effects of crowdfunding and other publicly marketed initiatives on science more broadly.
posted by sciatrix on Mar 14, 2015 - 19 comments

When your phone is also your doctor

The early days of Apple's ResearchKit software seem set to revolutionize clinical research recruitment, with one Parkinson's study enrolling thousands of people in just a few hours. Apple's new ResearchKit: 'Ethics quagmire' or medical research aid?, from The Verge, discusses some of the ethical quandaries surrounding recruitment for medical studies via mobile app. A follow-up article discusses some changes already made to the developer guidelines to address some of these concerns about informed consent and data sharing. Ars Technica covers the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory requirements for medical devices and how they may apply to mobile apps, including those using ResearchKit.
posted by Stacey on Mar 13, 2015 - 31 comments

Saving species is essentially a forever-type problem.

If other horses are the equivalent of feral dogs, then the Przewalski’s horse is a wolf. In its native Mongolia, where it goes by the name takhi, it is known as the father of horses. Mongolians regard the takhi as spiritual, holy animals, and for millennia they largely left them alone... The trouble all began in the late 19th century, when the Western world finally took note of the takhi. Nikolai Przewalski, a Polish-born explorer serving as a colonel in the Russian army, “discovered” the horses during an 1878 expedition to the Mongolian-Chinese frontier. Naturally, Przewalski named the horse after himself, and when he returned to the West, word quickly spread among zoos, adventurers, and curio collectors about the mysterious wild horses.

posted by ChuraChura on Mar 13, 2015 - 5 comments

The extraordinary life of Janet Vaughan

Douglas Starr, in Blood, quotes the British Secretary of War, asked in 1937 what the nation proposed to do about a mass blood supply. The secretary was dismissive. Blood could not be stored for long or in great quantities, he said. On the hoof was better. “It was more satisfactory to store our blood in our people.” Janet Vaughan did not agree, and Janet Vaughan did something about it. Her medical director gave her £100, and she sent off her assistants in taxis to find all the tubing that London shops could provide.
Longreads profiles Janet Vaughan, a British scientist who found better treatments for anemia than arsenic using herself as a test subject, was a major force in creating London's first blood banks using cheap tubing and ice cream trucks, studied emergency nutrition in a post-liberation concentration Nazi death camp, and continued active research into blood and radiation into her eighties, while occasionally serving as a model for Virginia Woolf characters.
posted by Stacey on Mar 12, 2015 - 6 comments

"Diversity fuels conversation and creativity"

“You Are Welcome Here”: Small Stickers Make a Big Difference for LGBTQ Scientists
Upon entering, I immediately noticed tiny stickers dotting the halls: the iconic WHOI ship, sailing in front of a rainbow sky over the words, “You are welcome here.” I can’t describe how powerful it was to see those welcome messages on the office doors of scientists’ whose work had inspired me to pursue biological oceanography – in a building commemorating an oceanographer, Alfred C. Redfield, who discovered a conserved atomic ratio between carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus that I think about in my research every day. The ship stickers are small, maybe even easy to miss if you’re not attuned, but they packed a punch strong enough to rid me of my worries. I left the Redfield Building with renewed vigor, confident about what I was pursuing, only worried about feet that were literally wet, but not figuratively.

posted by Lexica on Mar 11, 2015 - 16 comments

Why don't rodents vomit?

A few years ago, it occurred to a few scientists that neither mice or rats are capable of vomiting. What about other rodents? It turns out that being unable to vomit is a trait common to all rodents, not just mice and rats. Interests piqued, the researchers set out to find out why.
posted by sciatrix on Mar 10, 2015 - 49 comments

Engineering the Perfect Baby

Scientists are developing ways to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children. Should they stop before it’s too late?
posted by infini on Mar 9, 2015 - 89 comments

Big Data looks at your poop

The team gathered samples over the course of a year from sewage treatment plants in 71 different cities in 31 states, chosen for their geographic spread and range of obesity rates. The leanest city sampled was Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with an obesity rate of 13.5 percent, while the heaviest was St. Joseph, Missouri, with a rate of 37.4 percent. ... "If we had a city with a higher percentage of obese people, we would see a higher percentage of the kinds of bacteria associated with obesity,"
posted by mecran01 on Mar 8, 2015 - 31 comments

Shame and Ideology

Study Confirms That Abstinence Education Has Utterly Failed At Preventing AIDS In Africa
posted by Artw on Mar 7, 2015 - 22 comments

Get ready to rumble, if you are furry and nurse your offspring.

That's right - it's time for Mammal March Madness! "Battle outcome is a function of the two species' attributes within the battle environment. Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, fight style, and other fun facts that are relevant to the outcome. These are one on one- head to head combat situations- um except for the mythical mammals that have multiple heads. Some random error has been introduced into calculating battle outcome & the amount of that error is scaled to the disparity in rankings between combatants. Early rounds, the battle occurs in the better-ranked species' habitat (home court advantage). BUT once we get to the ELITE EIGHT, battle location will be random: forest, semi-arid desert, intertidal zone, or snowy tundra." Action kicks off on March 9 with the wildcard match up between the pygmy jerboa and the bumblebee bat (Kitti's Hognosed Bat). You can follow the action on twitter using the hashtag #2015MMM or on the blog Mammals Suck. In the meantime, start filling out your brackets - common names or binomial nomenclature.
posted by ChuraChura on Mar 5, 2015 - 13 comments

Troubles in Paradise

Troubles in Paradise is a review of the history and arguments of the creationism/intelligent design movement, written by James Downard.
posted by brundlefly on Mar 4, 2015 - 25 comments

Squirrels? That's where I'm a Viking!

Common knowledge about squirrels is that they are basically furry rats. Yes, they are adorable in an amnesiac sort of way, what with their inability to remember where they buried their nuts, but the modern squirrel is not typically considered a manifestation of anything monstrous. Interestingly, much like Coca-Cola and Pop Rocks, if you combine Viking aesthetics with squirrels, you produce a malevolent little rodent called Ratatoskr (“Drill Tooth” in Old Norse) that spends his days spreading malicious gossip and trying to start a fight between the eagle at the top of the World Tree Yggdrasil and the angry Wyrm beneath called Níðhöggr, generally with phrases like, “Did you hear what he said about your mother?”

posted by ChuraChura on Mar 3, 2015 - 36 comments

Keep Korma and Curry On

Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious. [Washington Post]
In a large new analysis of more than 2,000 popular recipes, data scientists have discovered perhaps the key reason why Indian food tastes so unique: It does something radical with flavors, something very different from what we tend to do in the United States and the rest of Western culture. And it does it at the molecular level.

posted by Fizz on Mar 3, 2015 - 113 comments

"...the scientific study of the problems of flight..."

One hundred years ago today, on March 3, 1915, a Naval Appropriations Bill was passed through Congress and signed by president Woodrow Wilson. A small rider was attached to the bill and went through the process almost completely unnoticed. That rider legislated the formation of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. [more inside]
posted by backseatpilot on Mar 3, 2015 - 7 comments

First-ever snapshot of the dual nature of light

Scientists at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have captured "The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave" (images of the photo and the microscope in right hand column) using "EPFL’s ultrafast energy-filtered transmission electron microscope – one of the two in the world." The EPFL's explanatory video: Two-in-one photography: Light as wave and particle. Reference: Simultaneous observation of the quantization and the interference pattern of a plasmonic near-field. Nature Communications.
posted by cwest on Mar 2, 2015 - 23 comments

An argument for more cats and fewer humans in genetics class

Unfortunately, what textbooks, lab manuals and web pages say about these human traits is mostly wrong. Most of the common, visible human traits that are used in classrooms do NOT have a simple one-locus, two-allele, dominant vs. recessive method of inheritance. Rolling your tongue is not dominant to non-rolling, unattached earlobes are not dominant to attached, straight thumbs are not dominant to hitchhiker's thumb, etc.
posted by sciatrix on Mar 1, 2015 - 42 comments

“There’s pretty much no law on what you can do to a crime scene sample,”

Using DNA to Build a Face, and a Case by Andrew Pollack [New York Times]
The growing capability to determine physical characteristics from genetics can help the police, but it also raises questions of rights and profiling.

posted by Fizz on Feb 23, 2015 - 13 comments

A thoroughgoing rejection of science, technology, and reason itself.

Authenticity, anti-vaxxers, and the rise of neoprimitivism
posted by Faint of Butt on Feb 23, 2015 - 164 comments

Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity. [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Feb 21, 2015 - 39 comments

Shills for Big Paleo

British-based webforum Mumsnet (For Parents, By Parents) had a fun time this weekend, when a new member decided she was sick and tired of dinosaurs being forced on our children. [more inside]
posted by suelac on Feb 17, 2015 - 154 comments

“When the Cows Come Home,”

In 1900, the average dairy cow in America produced 424 gallons of milk each year. By 2000, that figure had more than quadrupled, to 2,116 gallons. We explore the incredible science that transformed the American cow into a milk machine—but we also uncover the disturbing history of prejudice and animal cruelty that accompanied it. Along the way, we’ll introduce you to the insane logic of the Lifetime Cheese Merit algorithm and the surreal bull trials of the 1920s. This is the untold story behind that most wholesome and quotidian of beverages: milk. Prepare to be horrified and amazed in equal measure.

posted by infini on Feb 17, 2015 - 33 comments

The Mars 100

From the initial 202,586 applicants, 100 hopefuls have been selected to proceed to the next round of the Mars One Astronaut Selection Process. The final 100 chosen come from around the world, with 39 from the Americas, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa, and 7 from Oceania. A total of 40 candidates will eventually be chosen to take part in a training programme and live in a copy of the Mars outpost on Earth. [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Feb 17, 2015 - 91 comments

Pot Kids

lnside the quasi-legal, science-free world of medical marijuana for children.
posted by ellieBOA on Feb 17, 2015 - 35 comments

American Tintype

American Tintype - After a personal tragedy, Harry Taylor discovered a passion for the 150-year-old craft of tintype photography.
posted by a lungful of dragon on Feb 16, 2015 - 1 comment

Science meets professional subjects

Amazon's Mechanical Turk has become an important tool for social science research, but a fascinating piece by PBS Newshour discusses why this might be a problem, with a great profile of professional survey takers, who average hundreds, even thousands of social science surveys each. This is not just idle speculation, recent research [PDF] shows that experienced Turkers no longer have typical "gut reactions" to social experiments, creating a struggle with how to deal with non-naivete [PDF]. Take a look at the questions that professional Tukers are asked the most, and be sure to take the survey in the middle of the first article! [more inside]
posted by blahblahblah on Feb 16, 2015 - 46 comments

Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?

There’s a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s comic masterpiece Dr. Strangelove in which Jack D. Ripper, an American general who’s gone rogue and ordered a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, unspools his paranoid worldview—and the explanation for why he drinks “only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure grain alcohol”
posted by josher71 on Feb 16, 2015 - 216 comments

The sun was warm but the wind was chill

Wind chill is vitally important information. Or is it a meaningless number useful only in making weather forecasts more dramatic? [more inside]
posted by sfenders on Feb 16, 2015 - 55 comments

The world is forever spawning Damned Things

So! The "bird" category has (somewhat culture specific) internal structure. For example, most Americans will agree that a robin is a better example of a bird than an albatross, and an albatross is a better bird than an ostrich. (And while bats are not birds, they are better birds than horses are, and horses are better birds than refrigerators are; so the gradations continue to some extent outside the category boundary).
Let's talk about category structure and oppression: how the way we think about categories feeds into social oppression and justice.
posted by MartinWisse on Feb 14, 2015 - 51 comments

Building Lego Creations for SCIENCE

How scientists are using Lego to manipulate insects. An unusual scientific paper has just appeared online detailing how entomologists can use Legos to build apparatuses to handle museum specimens. This is important: museum specimens are what we use to study biological history, and preserving them is increasingly less well funded. Fortunately, innovations like this fall into a larger biological tradition of building your own equipment. [more inside]
posted by sciatrix on Feb 13, 2015 - 7 comments

The Ouroboros of Scientific Evidence

"Do whatever it takes to not fool yourself, period, that's the scientific method" - Neil deGrasse Tyson. What if we can't do that?
posted by LiteS on Feb 13, 2015 - 37 comments

Science fair season is upon us.

Science fair projects for kids. 128 pages of science fair projects for kids, graded by difficulty. 40 more experiments. This has been your Metafilter parenting resource for the week of February 9-13.
posted by pjern on Feb 12, 2015 - 17 comments

Spinal Zap

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants suffered back and other musculoskeletal injuries more than any other occupation in 2013. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling investigated the root cause for many of these injuries: Lifting and moving patients. [more inside]
posted by Gelatin on Feb 12, 2015 - 12 comments

Junction Gate

The station is called Junction Gate, a colony seed that never fully blossomed. You see plans for mines, habitat modules, research facilities, and shipyards.
posted by boo_radley on Feb 7, 2015 - 55 comments

Social Identity Threat Motivates Science-Discrediting Online Comments

"Another simple pseudo-scientist who gets a pat on the back for finding what he was looking for. No subtle thinking here. No qualifying or consideration of alternate interpretation. No honest presentation of the limits of your study. No alternative explanations. This is why the majority of social scientists are flimsy. It is a weak science desperately pretend[sic] it has hard evidence for complex phenomena." [more inside]
posted by Made of Star Stuff on Feb 7, 2015 - 62 comments

These effects are too important for me to allow you to jeopardize them

Kubricks' 2001: One Man's Incredible Odyssey - "With today's article I've decided to cover the truly outstanding visual effects and design work from one of the single most influential and remarkable pieces of cinema of the twentieth century - Stanley Kubricks' 2001-A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) - a film that just gets better and better with the passing years"
posted by a lungful of dragon on Feb 6, 2015 - 35 comments

Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism

Mapping the Bacteria in New York’s Subways [more inside]
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Feb 6, 2015 - 51 comments

ENDLESS AMUSEMENT

Have you any spare mercury about the house? Are you well supplied with saltpetre, phosphorus, and oil of vitriol? Such domestic staples can you afford you ENDLESS AMUSEMENT! in the form of hundreds of science tricks from 1847! [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Feb 6, 2015 - 36 comments

"To a scientist, that’s just incredible.”

Michael Pollan in the latest New Yorker about the mainstreaming of research on psychedelic treatment for depression, anxiety, and addiction. "The fact that a drug given once can have such an effect for so long is an unprecedented finding. We have never had anything like it in the psychiatric field.”
posted by vecchio on Feb 5, 2015 - 36 comments

Globule c doth hitt away the particle b

According to the laws of Newtonian physics, capillary action occurring in Earth's atmosphere should be able to lift water 10 meters high at most. For centuries scientists struggled to ascertain how, then, trees were able to lift water considerably higher. Finally, in 1894, Irish plant physiologists H. H. Dixon and J. Joly proposed the cohesion-tension theory which remains the leading theory today, though it is still not fully understood (PDF).

On the topic of Newton and his physics, a recently unearthed note from Isaac Newton's college days shows that he had it figured out 200 years before anybody else.

(Previously).
posted by Hot Pastrami! on Feb 5, 2015 - 15 comments

Riding Light

Follow the realtime path of a photon leaving the surface of our Sun
posted by a lungful of dragon on Feb 4, 2015 - 26 comments

Animals getting high, drunk and tripping

African Animals Getting Drunk From Ripe Marula Fruit | Why animals eat psychoactive plants | How catnip gets cats high | Stoned wallabies make crop circles | Dolphins 'chew puffer fish to get high | Fly Agaric: The Psychedelic Secret of Christmas | Jaguar trips on DMT and Reindeer eat Amanita mushrooms | Animals getting high: 10 common drunks | 7 Species That Get High More Than We Do | Tree-shrew is heavyweight boozer | Animals Like to Get Drunk | Lemur gets high | Alcoholic Vervet Monkeys. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Feb 3, 2015 - 52 comments

A History of Ideas

A History of Ideas, animated, on YouTube. Philosophical concepts in under 2 minutes from the BBC Radio 4 programme | A History of Ideas, animated, on BBC Radio | All episodes, both animated and podcasts on BBC, downloadable. Narrated by Gillian Anderson and others. A fresh take on the History of Ideas as big subjects like beauty, freedom, technology and morality get dissected by a team of thinkers.
posted by nickyskye on Feb 2, 2015 - 5 comments

"I'm so ready to stay sober."

"Dying to be free : there’s a treatment for heroin addiction that actually works. Why aren’t we using it?" -- A long-form article, focusing on heroin addiction and its "treatment" in Kentucky, by Jason Cherkis. (Huffington Post Projects) [more inside]
posted by spitbull on Feb 1, 2015 - 50 comments

Islamic Astropolitik

Despite Western anxieties over Muslim conquest, traditions of Islamic astronomy and the portability of ritual space in Islam find Muslims at home among the stars. [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Feb 1, 2015 - 1 comment

Your childhood is fine. Calm down.

A Comprehensive Guide to Dinosaur Feathers and Scales
posted by brundlefly on Feb 1, 2015 - 16 comments

"My psychological time had compressed by a factor of two."

Cabinet Magazine interviews Michel Siffre, whose work helped found the field of human chronobiology. He spent months isolated in a subterranean cave, with no clock, calendar, or sun. He slept and ate only when his body told him to.
posted by artsandsci on Jan 31, 2015 - 48 comments

"No academic institution... is particularly great for family."

An associate professor of biology with two children speaks more negatively about the effects of balancing work and family on his career: “It's a disaster.” [1]
[more inside]
posted by en forme de poire on Jan 28, 2015 - 75 comments

It also means "unboil" is now a word.

Scientists unboil an egg, and it may be a big deal. "This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins," Such as new, and much faster ways of producing anti-bodies to fight cancer and cheese-makers who could use recombinant-proteins to improve their products.
posted by quin on Jan 26, 2015 - 29 comments

Fish Live Beneath Antarctica

Scientists find translucent fish in a wedge of water hidden under 740 meters of ice, 850 kilometers from sunlight
posted by brundlefly on Jan 23, 2015 - 25 comments

Asteroid 2004 BL86

Asteroid 2004 BL86 will safely pass about three times the distance to the moon on January 26. It will not be bright enough to view with an unaided eye; however, astronomy sites including Earthsky and Universe Today have instructions for amateur astronomers with suitable equipment. [more inside]
posted by tykky on Jan 21, 2015 - 10 comments

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