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The Myth of the Medieval Repression of Science

In the academic sphere, at least, the "Conflict Thesis" of a historical war between science and theology has been long since overturned. It is very odd that so many of my fellow atheists cling so desperately to a long-dead position that was only ever upheld by amateur Nineteenth Century polemicists and not the careful research of recent, objective, peer-reviewed historians. This is strange behavior for people who like to label themselves "rationalists".-- The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews “God’s Philosophers”
posted by Pater Aletheias on Dec 29, 2013 - 95 comments

Computer, enhance

Researchers at the University of York were able to identify people using the reflection of their faces in pupils of photographs of other people. Original paper
posted by Chrysostom on Dec 28, 2013 - 32 comments

Cool Science GIFs in 2013

"If a picture’s worth a thousand words, a GIF is easily worth a million. The file format—which uses a series of images to produce a looping video, like a flip book—is a tremendous way to convey all sorts of moving wonders. ... It’s appropriate, then, that we use the GIF to explore some of the coolest, weirdest, most remarkable science stories of 2013. What follows is a non-exhaustive list of amazing science GIFs from 2013, in no particular order." [more inside]
posted by SpacemanStix on Dec 27, 2013 - 21 comments

...and then "some clown invented the printed circuit."

During the 1950's, Wernher von Braun served as technical adviser for three space-related television films produced by Disney: Man in Space, Man and the Moon and Mars and Beyond. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 24, 2013 - 40 comments

Complex Things Explained

This Video Will Hurt
A detailed explanation of a fascinating field of science and medicine by the always interesting C.G.P. Grey.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 23, 2013 - 7 comments

Shall these bones live? shall these Bones live?

Settling in for a long winter's nap? In need of a memento mori to guard against the unbridled jollity of the season? Just want to explore the wonderful world of 3D scans, osteology, and bioarchaeology on the internet a little further? Sad that Santa probably isn't bringing you a T-Rex for Christmas? Well, just peak inside... [more inside]
posted by jetlagaddict on Dec 23, 2013 - 4 comments

What Does the Furby Say?

Reverse Engineering a Furby
posted by cjorgensen on Dec 22, 2013 - 18 comments

Intuitive Guide to Principles of Communications

Charan Langton (blog) hosts Complex To Real: which "...offers tutorials I have written on various topics in analog and digital communications that will help you cut through this complexity." [more inside]
posted by Confess, Fletch on Dec 21, 2013 - 8 comments

That's when you started graphing everything.

The 15 Best Behavioural Science Graphs of 2010-13. [more inside]
posted by aka burlap on Dec 21, 2013 - 4 comments

Red Planet Blues

The trouble with terraforming Mars...
posted by Artw on Dec 20, 2013 - 73 comments

Worst Case Scenarios

The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency’ [more inside]
posted by eviemath on Dec 18, 2013 - 254 comments

Giving Back

"After two to three hours, the body is transformed into a sterile coffee-colored liquid the consistency of motor oil that can be safely poured down the drain, alongside a dry bone residue similar in appearance to cremated remains." GOOD magazine: The emergence of the sustainable death industry.
posted by The Whelk on Dec 17, 2013 - 93 comments

Paul van Hoeydonck's Fallen Astronaut

The Sculpture on the Moon. "Scandals and conflicts obscured one of the most extraordinary achievements of the Space Age."
posted by homunculus on Dec 16, 2013 - 25 comments

Naturalis Historia

"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."
Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 16, 2013 - 24 comments

In Nature, the biggest study on gender citation gaps EVER!

We analysed 5,483,841 research papers and review articles with 27,329,915 authorships. We find that in the most productive countries, all articles with women in dominant author positions receive fewer citations than those with men in the same positions. And this citation disadvantage is accentuated by the fact that women's publication portfolios are more domestic than their male colleagues — they profit less from the extra citations that international collaborations accrue. Given that citations now play a central part in the evaluation of researchers, this situation can only worsen gender disparities. The data are also used to make a really cool interactive map.
posted by MisantropicPainforest on Dec 13, 2013 - 53 comments

From WNYC in New York, this is Radiolab...LIVE!

The public radio science program Radiolab recently wrapped up a tour featuring their latest live show, Apocalyptical. It is, as you might have guessed, about the end times. The show, hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich and featuring live performances from comedians Kurt Braunohler and Reggie Watts and an appearance from dinosaur puppets, is now available for free on YouTube.
posted by inturnaround on Dec 11, 2013 - 13 comments

"[L]uxury journals are supposed to be the epitome of quality"

Prestige scientific journals are bad for science, and we should avoid them. "Just as Wall Street needs to break the hold of bonus culture, so science must break the tyranny of the luxury journals." So argues Nobel laureate Randy Schekman, urging scholars to shift their work to open source journals. [more inside]
posted by doctornemo on Dec 10, 2013 - 26 comments

Aliens didn't do it

The mystery of the Mima mounds may have been solved.
posted by Artw on Dec 10, 2013 - 42 comments

What Young Gay Men DO Know About AIDS

[Eleven] days ago, The New Yorker’s Daily Comment blog published an essay by Michael Specter titled “What Young Gay Men Don’t Know About Aids,” in which Specter points to the increase of “unprotected anal intercourse among gay men,” claims that “the rates of HIV infection will surely follow,” and then identifies the cause of this shift as the ignorance of my generation, who weren’t around to see the AIDS epidemic for themselves. The piece is a call to arms of sort, stating the need for increased public funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, and concludes by quoting Larry Kramer’s famous 1983 warning, “1,112 and Counting.” It’s a familiar argument—one that, in my lifetime, I have heard repeated ad nauseam and, I fear, largely misses what AIDS means to me and many other young gay men.
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 9, 2013 - 71 comments

One pill makes you nano, and one pill makes you giga...

The pressure of a human bite is about 1/9th of the atmospheric pressure on Venus. The fastest bacterium on earth is just outstripping the fastest glacier. A square meter of sunshine in the spring imparts about 1 horsepower. [more inside]
posted by kagredon on Dec 7, 2013 - 20 comments

Are you alive? If so, can you define what that means?

Why Life Does Not Really Exist
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Dec 7, 2013 - 85 comments

The Invisible World of cute Animalcules doing cute things

We are all surrounded by microorganisms, they live on us within us and around us, they affect everything we do, yet most people have no idea what they look like. Using the latest technology it is possible to see into this normally invisible world
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 7, 2013 - 24 comments

The Pit of Bones

Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue (NYT) to Human Origins: The pit of bones hides our oldest DNA.
posted by homunculus on Dec 6, 2013 - 7 comments

Wrist Mounted Gadgets Ahoy!

Drop Kicker is a blog that investigates products on Kickstarter and Indiegogo that look scientifically implausible, outright impossible, or completely scammy
posted by The Whelk on Dec 6, 2013 - 15 comments

Where My Ladies At?

Recently Emily Graslie, of the fantastic natural history tumblr and youtube series TheBrainScoop, was asked a question about whether she had personally experienced sexism in her field. Her response is fucking amazing.
Inside is her goldmine of awesome female science educators online with channels that focus on Science Technology Engineering and Math. My work day is fucked.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 6, 2013 - 37 comments

Mannequins and the peculiar morgue between Paris and Rome

Because who is perfect? Disabled mannequins will be eliciting astonished looks from passers-by on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse today. Between the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions. One will have shortened limbs; the other a malformed spine. The campaign has been devised for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by Pro Infirmis, an organisation for the disabled.

Busty Mannequins and an Inflated Sense of Beauty in Venezuela In Venezuela, women are confronted with a culture of increasingly enhanced physiques fueled by beauty pageants and plastic surgery. - The New York Times [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 5, 2013 - 26 comments

Math with Bad Drawings

Headlines from a Mathematically Literate World [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 4, 2013 - 32 comments

Gravity Visualized

Dan Burns explains his space-time warping demo at a PTSOS workshop at Los Gatos High School, on March 10, 2012. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 3, 2013 - 27 comments

binding the andat

Closing in on the twin prime conjecture (Quanta) - "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]
posted by kliuless on Dec 1, 2013 - 16 comments

ASCII fluid simulator

ASCII fluid simulator (source code)
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Nov 30, 2013 - 24 comments

Native Intelligence

On March 22, 1621, a Native American delegation walked through what is now southern New England to meet with a group of foreigners who had taken over a recently deserted Indian settlement. At the head of the party was an uneasy triumvirate: Massasoit, the sachem (political-military leader) of the Wampanoag confederation, a loose coalition of several dozen villages that controlled most of southeastern Massachusetts; Samoset, sachem of an allied group to the north; and Tisquantum, a distrusted captive, whom Massasoit had brought along only reluctantly as an interpreter. Massasoit was an adroit politician, but the dilemma he faced would have tested Machiavelli. About five years before, most of his subjects had fallen before a terrible calamity. Whole villages had been depopulated. It was all Massasoit could do to hold together the remnants of his people. Adding to his problems, the disaster had not touched the Wampanoag’s longtime enemies, the Narragansett alliance to the west. Soon, Massasoit feared, they would take advantage of the Wampanoag’s weakness and overrun them. And the only solution he could see was fraught with perils of its own, because it involved the foreigners—people from across the sea.
The Indians who first feasted with the English colonists were far more sophisticated than you were taught in school. But that wasn't enough to save them In addition to providing a beautifully written account of what happened, the article does something subtle but incredibly cool in using a Native centered perspective that really illuminates how dramatically silenced and othered Native voices are in other accounts.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 28, 2013 - 92 comments

Cats: the original honey badgers

Cats recognise their owners' voices, but never evolved to care
posted by exogenous on Nov 27, 2013 - 110 comments

“Tell your second grade teacher I’m sorry.”

At the elementary school in Brooklyn where I taught first grade, science was a “special,” along with dance, art, and physical education. That meant that students were delivered by their homeroom teachers to the science teacher between one and three times a week for less than an hour each time.

...

“I’M NOT A SCIENTIST, man,” Florida senator Marco Rubio told GQ magazine in an interview published in December 2012, following the first presidential debate season in twenty-eight years to fail to mention climate change. Rubio had been asked how old he thinks the earth is; it is unclear whether he was signaling a fashionable disdain for scientific facts or whether he truly did not know.
[more inside]
posted by tilde on Nov 26, 2013 - 34 comments

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
posted by Potomac Avenue on Nov 26, 2013 - 103 comments

Scientists join #manicuremonday

Seventeen Magazine encourages its readers to post pictures of their nail polish on twitter every Monday, using the tag #manicuremonday. Starting last week, working scientists and engineers have been contributing their own fingers - often beautifully manicured - doing sciencey stuff. The movement was started by scientist Hope Jahren. [Slate, HuffPo] [more inside]
posted by moonmilk on Nov 25, 2013 - 34 comments

Extreme Measures May Mislead

How to think about "Science Studies Prove My Position", for politicians and all non-scientists. Any collation of measures (the effectiveness of a given school, say) will show variability owing to differences in innate ability (teacher competence), plus sampling (children might by chance be an atypical sample with complications), plus bias (the school might be in an area where people are unusually unhealthy), plus measurement error (outcomes might be measured in different ways for different schools). However, the resulting variation is typically interpreted only as differences in innate ability, ignoring the other sources. This becomes problematic with statements describing an extreme outcome ('the pass rate doubled') or comparing the magnitude of the extreme with the mean ('the pass rate in school x is three times the national average') or the range ('there is an x-fold difference between the highest- and lowest-performing schools'). League tables, in particular, are rarely reliable summaries of performance.
posted by Dashy on Nov 25, 2013 - 28 comments

Transgenic Spidergoats Brief

Spider webs are incredibly strong and flexible. It’s no surprise, then, that spider silk proteins may someday form durable artificial ligaments for people who have injured their knees or shoulders. Six different kinds of silk are produced by orb-web weaving spiders. These silk fibers have very different mechanical properties that are so effective they have changed very little over millions of years. How to synthetically develop these silks is one focus of Lewis’ research. The secret to producing large quantities of spider silk is to use “factories” designed to manufacture spider silk proteins that are easily scale-able and efficient. Lewis uses transgenic goats, E.coli bacteria, transgenic alfalfa and transgenic silk worms to produce the spider silk proteins used to create spider silk. Spider silk is 100 times stronger than natural ligaments and 10 times stronger than natural tendons; it is stronger than Kevlar and more elastic than nylon.
A 6min brief on the work being done in Laramie, WY whereby spider silk is being spun from goat milk. SPIDERGOATS
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 24, 2013 - 24 comments

HPV: Sex, cancer and a virus

"On a sunny day in 1998, Maura Gillison was walking across the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, thinking about a virus. The young oncologist bumped into the director of the university's cancer centre, who asked politely about her work. Gillison described her discovery of early evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) — a ubiquitous pathogen that infects nearly every human at some point in their lives — could be causing tens of thousands of cases of throat cancer each year in the United States. The senior doctor stared down at Gillison, not saying a word. “That was the first clue that what I was doing was interesting to others and had potential significance,” recalls Gillison."
Human papillomavirus is causing a new form of head and neck cancer— leaving researchers scrambling to understand risk factors, tests and treatments.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 22, 2013 - 37 comments

Tearing down barriers to accessing research, one click at a time

"People are denied access to research hidden behind paywalls every day. This problem is invisible, but it slows innovation, kills curiosity and harms patients. This is an indictment of the current system. Open Access has given us the solution to this problem by allowing everyone to read and re-use research. We created the Open Access Button to track the impact of paywalls and help you get access to the research you need. By using the button you’ll help show the impact of this problem, drive awareness of the issue, and help change the system. Furthermore, the Open Access Button has several ways of helping you get access to the research you need right now." [more inside]
posted by daisyk on Nov 22, 2013 - 13 comments

Guys in Speedos portraying chicken sperm...

That's a winning combination for the "Dance Your Ph.D." contest, which celebrates efforts to turn doctoral thesis topics into interpretive dance. This year's top prize goes to University of Oxford biologist Cedrick Tan, for a series of dances based on his study of "Sperm Competition Between Brothers and Female Choice." The dance video has to be seen to be believed (and understood).
posted by billiebee on Nov 22, 2013 - 16 comments

The Unfixed Brain

In this teaching video, Suzanne Stensaas, Ph.D., demonstrates the properties and anatomy of an unfixed brain, showing its squishiness and vulnerability. [WARNING: The video contains graphic images, a human brain from a recent autopsy.]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 19, 2013 - 38 comments

Shocking exposé

Cloud services that power email and other technologies we use each day are themselves massive energy consumers. Gigaom reporters have written a pair of in-depth articles about efforts by Amazon and Apple to build infrastructure and source their own energy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Nov 18, 2013 - 16 comments

Quitting the Academy

An aspiring scientist's frustration with modern-day academia. A resignation letter circulated to staff and students at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, which has caused a bit of a splash in the science community. Lee Smolin, author of The Trouble with Physics, responds in the comments.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot on Nov 17, 2013 - 51 comments

Why Should Engineers and Scientists Be Worried About Color?

At the core of good science and engineering is the careful and respectful treatment of data. We calibrate our instruments, scrutinize the algorithms we use to process the data, and study the behavior of the models we use to interpret the data or simulate the phenomena we may be observing. Surprisingly, this careful treatment of data often breaks down when we visualize our data.
posted by cthuljew on Nov 14, 2013 - 58 comments

"Somebody's gotta stand up to these experts!"

Creationists' Last Stand at the Texas State Board of Education
posted by brundlefly on Nov 14, 2013 - 82 comments

BioRxiv

BioRxiv is a preprint server for biologists.
posted by dhruva on Nov 12, 2013 - 10 comments

Maybe they'll get lucky.

Get Data [SLYT]
posted by zennie on Nov 8, 2013 - 36 comments

Card tricks...

...to leave a smile on your face, by Helder Guimarães: Individual vs Crowd | Chaos | Freedom | Trick [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Nov 8, 2013 - 12 comments

Nanotubes are for wusses.

Theoretically sound model for metallic carbon found. Researchers from Peking University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics employed state-of-the-art theoretical methods to show that it is possible to manipulate carbon to form a three-dimensional metallic phase with interlocking hexagons. “Unlike high-pressure techniques that require three terapascals of pressure to make carbon metallic, the studied structures are stable at ambient conditions and may be synthesized using benzene or polyacenes molecules." The new metallic carbon structures may have important applications in lightweight metals for space applications, catalysis and in devices showing negative differential resistance or superconductivity. The research is supported by grants from China and the US Department of Energy.
posted by markkraft on Nov 7, 2013 - 25 comments

Science Journalism Award winners

2013 Science Journalism Award winners from the American Association for the Advancement of Science: [via Romenesko] [more inside]
posted by mediareport on Nov 6, 2013 - 4 comments

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