Humans have co-evolved with the resident microbes that call us "home", known as the microbiota, consisting of trillions of cells that colonize our bodies. The microbiota carry out many beneficial functions, such as producing vitamins, aiding in digestion, and protecting against invading microbes, but disruption from antibiotics or delivery by Caesarian section may have consequences for human health. Recently, antibiotic use has been linked with obesity and asthma. Using both human studies and experimentally observed mice, we are beginning to understand how antibiotics may lead to the disappearance of microbes and to identify key microbes that impact our health.[more inside]
This morning the U.S. government released the newest National Climate Assessment, which "concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country." You can explore the assessment here. Previously.
The Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Projects has been tackling this and other vital subjects from the world of popular culture. As well as the Winnie the Pooh question, they consider whether Miley Cyrus really can come on like a wrecking ball, where a tiny frog gets the extra mass to turn into a human prince, Sherlock's ability to see dog hairs at a great distance, how many lies Pinocchio could tell before the weight of his enlarged nose caused his neck to snap and the feasibility of Gus Fring's last walk. Word of warning: they're all PDFs. [more inside]
Jeffrey Mogil’s students suspected there was something fishy going on with their experiments. They were injecting an irritant into the feet of mice to test their pain response, but the rodents didn’t seem to feel anything. “We thought there was something wrong with the injection,” says Mogil, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The real culprit was far more surprising: The mice that didn’t feel pain had been handled by male students. Mogil’s group discovered that this gender distinction alone was enough to throw off their whole experiment—and likely influences the work of other researchers as well. [more inside]
"Peter and Rosemary Grant are members of a very small scientific tribe: people who have seen evolution happen right before their eyes."
Linda Gormezano, a researcher with the American Museum of Natural History, studies polar bear ecology by collecting and analyzing polar bear feces. "One thing I didn’t mention is I don’t find the scat, my dog Quinoa finds it." via.
Walter Kitundu is an artist and MacArthur Fellow (previously). In this video, he gives a lecture at the San Francisco Exploratorium about his bespoke instruments and lighting experiments. At around 16 minutes in, he plays his digital revision of a kora.
Whether it's the constant fretting over Miley Cyrus' influence on school girls or the growing (and troubling) tradition of Purity Balls, it's clear that society has a fascination with young women's sexuality — especially when it comes to controlling it. But what are we actually teaching today's girls about sex? Fueled by outdated ideals of gender roles and the sense that female sexuality is somehow shameful, there seem to be certain pernicious myths about girls and sex that just won't die. That sex education in America has gaping holes in its curriculum hasn't helped much, either; in a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report just 6 out of 10 girls said that their schools' sex ed program included information on how to say no to sex. This lack of personal agency was reflected in a forthcoming study by sociologist Heather Hlavka at Marquette University as well, which found that many young girls think of sex simply as something that is "done to them." Knowledge is power, and we can promote a healthier relationship with sex by encouraging a more open dialogue, teaching girls to feel comfortable with their sexuality and, most importantly, emphasizing that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. [more inside]
And now for my magic marketing trick! (I mean, illusion.) By simply conflating surfactants and their main use, soap, I will now proceed to warn you that soap is in absolutely everything, and we should all freak the hell out, NOW. -- Through a handy demonstration Michelle Wong explains why the danger of chemicals is often inflated for The Toast's Gal Science column.
Clones Are People Too: The Science and Science Fiction of BBC America’s Orphan Black. BBC America's science fiction series Orphan Black has returned for a second season, with Tatiana Maslany reprising her extraordinary performance playing half a dozen different clone characters. Meanwhile, in the real world, scientists have created cloned embryonic stem cells from the DNA of two adult humans. [Previously]
Following on the heels of Phonebloks, a Google/Motorola formed a design group called Project Ara. The Verge recently interviewed Paul Eremenko, the project lead, about progress made towards modularization of mobile phone components, overcoming engineering issues, and the group assigning itself an ambitious timetable to succeed in delivering a sellable product within two years, or disbanding.
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]
Can you ever be reasonably sure that something is random, in the same sense you can be reasonably sure something is not random (for example, because it consists of endless nines)? Even if a sequence looked random, how could you ever rule out the possibility that it had a hidden deterministic pattern? And what exactly do we mean by “random,” anyway?
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
The van goes forward, the balloon goes--wait a second. But truly, the cool balloon physics is the least terrific thing about this video. From Smarter Every Day. [slyt | via] Previously and previouslier
World's longest-running experiment captures elusive tar pitch drop fall on video after 84 years of waiting — though, sadly, too late for physicist and former pitch drop custodian Prof. John Mainstone, who passed away last year.
Pyro Board. Or flammable sound waves and music. Danish Fysikshow demonstrates a 2-D Rubens' tube (wiki, demo).
Bacterial diseases cause millions of deaths every year. Most of these bacteria were benign at some point in their evolutionary past, and we don’t always understand what turned them into disease-causing pathogens. In a new study, researchers have tracked down when this switch happened in one flesh-eating bacteria. They think the knowledge might help predict future epidemics. [more inside]
How Americans Die - a visual tour through surprising trends in mortality among Americans in the last several decades
Talented Ukrainian nature photographer Vyacheslav Mishchenko has an eye for taking photos that bring small natural worlds up to our level, showing us how the world might look if we could see it through the eyes of an ant, snail or lizard. [more inside]
The Nordic Society for Invention & Discovery has brought never-before-seen and totally exclusive technologies into the world, such as the Aaltopuck (an ice hockey puck modeled after Alvar Aalto's Savoy Vase), the Flower Shell (a shotgun shell that shoots seeds into the ground), the Wall of Sound (an 8000-watt iPod dock) and No More Woof (a device that wraps around your dog's head and translates his or her brain waves to computerized speech).
For those of you who prefer your science isolated with a side of moody furniture, I give you Lonely Chairs at CERN.
New smartphone battery charges in 30 seconds • Programmable nanobots injected into cockroaches I for one welcome our etc etc • MIT unveils shape-shifting furniture • Windtraps from Dune I mean the Smithsonian announces towers that distill water out of air • Body heat may soon power wearable gadgets • US Navy converts seawater to fuel
Computers are providing solutions to math problems that we can't check - "A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem! Trouble is, we have no idea what it's talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm." (via; previously ;)
As part of the ongoing Periodic Video series (previously and more previously), Martyn Poliakoff takes us inside Johnson Matthey, where he shows us some "Super Expensive Metals" — a few of the rare platinum group metals — as they are refined and processed from raw ore into finished products.
Four women have had new vaginas grown in the laboratory and implanted by doctors in the US. "A tissue sample and a biodegradable scaffold were used to grow vaginas in the right size and shape for each woman as well as being a tissue match. They all reported normal levels of "desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction" and painless intercourse. Experts said the study, published in the Lancet, was the latest example of the power of regenerative medicine. "
The Delian Mode (Kara Blake, 2009) - A 25-minute documentary about composer and pioneering electronic musician Delia Derbyshire, perhaps most familiar to Mefites for writing the theme song for "Doctor Who".
Harvard University and XVIVO have come together again (Previouslyw/ a commercial focus, Previouslierw/an Academic focus) to add to the growing series of scientific animations for BioVisions -- Harvard's multimedia lab in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. 'Protein Packing' strives to more accurately depict the molecular chaos in each and every cell, with proteins jittering around in what may seem like random motion. Proteins occupy roughly 40% of the cytoplasm, creating an environment that risks unintentional interaction and aggregation. Via diffusion and motor protein transport, these molecules are directed to sites where they are needed.
Much of this is no doubt inspired by the beautiful art and explained illustrations of David Goodsell, a biologist at Scripps who has been accurately portraying the crowdedness of the cellular landscape for a long time now.[more inside]
Ben Goldacre, The Guardian: "Today we found out that Tamiflu doesn't work so well after all. Roche, the drug company behind it, withheld vital information on its clinical trials for half a decade, but the Cochrane Collaboration, a global not-for-profit organisation of 14,000 academics, finally obtained all the information. Putting the evidence together, it has found that Tamiflu has little or no impact on complications of flu infection, such as pneumonia." [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]
Feather boa kelp - Egregia menziesii
Sea grapes - Botryocladia pseudodichotoma [more inside]
Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
The depth of the problem - this WaPo infographic hints at the immense challenges that Australian and Chinese search teams will face in recovering the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 black box from its suspected location at the bottom of the Indian Ocean
The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown is a nine-part series posted by sci-fi author and statistician Michael F. Flynn to his blog last year, covering the historical conflict between heliocentrism and geocentrism, with a special focus on Galileo. They are based on an article (pdf) by Flynn which originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Analog. [more inside]
"Zebras are obviously the chillest animals on Earth, but how did they get that way? As it turns out, their signature stripes may not have evolved as camouflage, but instead are largely a deterrent to blood-sucking flies." -- At first blush it may seem a hoax, considering the publication date, but it turns out very likely that zebras got their stripes not as camouflage, but as protection against biting insects.
How to melt an aluminum slug (action heats up around the 2' mark) with a DIY induction heater (obl. wiki).
There's been an ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. With 122 cases so far, this is the worst outbreak since 2007's 264-case outbreak. The worst outbreak was 2000-2001's 425 cases. What makes this one different is the way it has spread so widely. [more inside]
An interview with physicist Freeman Dyson in Quanta magazine.
Who are the Nazi War Diggers?
Now four men – the War Diggers - are scouring Eastern Europe in a battered Soviet era jeep, armed with metal detectors, shovels and sheer grit. Their mission is to uncover these forgotten battlefields and the buried stories in them. This is a race against time to get the history from the ground before it’s lost forever.Talent biographies are available here. Conflict Antiquities has a long list of unanswered "urgent ethical and legal questions". The Anonymous Swiss Collector has a response from National Geographic [opens as word document], but questions remain. Archaeologists, osteologists, anthropologists, and others have not been pleased: the #NaziWarDiggers hashtag has more responses. [more inside]
Many people who say they can multitask show a cognitive deterioration when trying to perform more than one task at once. But according to Psychology Today, there are a small group of people who can actually multitask flawlessly.
"The greatest challenge to 21st century paleontology: When commercialization of fossils threatens the science," a commentary by four paleontologists. [more inside]
Evolutionary biologists at Northumbria University have used science to figure out "attractive human dance moves" that demonstrate optimum genotypic and phenotypic health to prospective mates. "Cutting-edge motion capture technology" was used to record good and bad dancing. (Technoviking was reportedly unpleased.)
James Dewar, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, and the quest for liquified hydrogen and helium. Come for the superfluidity, stay for the Supreme Court of the Netherlands decisions and multiple lab assistants losing eyes in explosions.
Chief Scientist Demetrios Matsakis gives us a tour of the U.S. Naval Observatory's Time Services and explains where time comes from.
The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution - "[Charles Percy Snow] was pleading for a more adequately educated ruling class so that the suffering of the poor might be ameliorated... Snow wanted to believe something like this: political decisions in the modern world often concern how to deploy science and technology, so people well-trained in science and technology will be better prepared to make those decisions. But that's a syllogism without a minor premise." (previously) [more inside]
Polyhedra and the Media - On the new polyhedra of Schein and Gayed, and mathematical journalism.
"Armed with Science," is a new science-focused TV show developed by two of the Department of Defense's in-house research laboratories and the Pentagon. They have always developed some crazy tech work, like perception tests on their robots. If Skynet is going to be real, I think these are the agencies that will put the terminators online.