Are plasma crystals alive? Cosmic dust can, in the presence of plasma, creates formations known as plasma crystals. An international team of researchers published a study in the Aug.14, 2007, issue of the New Journal of Physics (PDF here, abstract here) that indicates that these crystals may be more sophisticated than anyone realized. In simulations involving cosmic dust, the researchers witnessed the formation of plasma crystals displaying some of the elementary characteristics of life -- DNA-like structure, autonomous behavior, reproduction and evolution. [more inside]
Nasa is using friction stir welding to build its new space craft. No blowtorch, no solder, no sparks, no smoke, no ozone and no radiation. Instead, it uses friction to heat materials and then "stir" them together at a molecular level.
A dot in the sky becomes a rock in the hand. An asteroid near miss (as opposed to the more recent near hit) is the first time an object first seen in space is brought back to the laboratory. [more inside]
The American National Academy of Sciences recently released a report that punched a few holes in the credibility of the forensic sciences: often seen (and portrayed) as infallible, in practice they're non-standardized, subjective (warning: pdf with gory image), accepted without rigorous testing (pdf), and lousy with dilettantes. A Canadian inquiry into the work of a pathologist whose testimony wrongly convicted a man of anally raping his four-year-niece to death says that forensic science is useful, but that we're doing it wrong. It's beginning to dawn that what we used to think of as a few bad apples may actually be symptoms of a deep rot in the field itself. [more inside]
For most of us, science arrives in our lives packaged neatly as fact. But how did it get that way? Science is an active process of observation and investigation. Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know? [HTML version, Flash version also available] examines that process, revealing the ways in which ideas and information become knowledge and understanding. In this case study in human origins, the folks from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explore how scientific evidence is being used to shape our current understanding of ourselves: What makes us human—and how did we get this way?
In the summer of 2007, artist and medical student Satre Stuelke started the Radiology Art project. Dedicated to the deeper visualization of various objects that hold unique cultural importance in modern society, this project intends to plant a seed of scientific creativity in the minds of all those inclined to participate.
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage premiered on PBS on September 28, 1980. (Previously). With Carl Sagan as guide, on a "cosmic journey across space and time," on a "spaceship of the imagination," few shows inspired as many people to investigate science, many of whom went on to be scientists. [more inside]
Knowledge, in Real Time. "A new picture of science — and possibly future innovation — comes into focus with the mapping of scientists’ online research behavior."
How To Be A Bat [Life in Motion] Carl Zimmer has a lengthy post about Bats over at Discover magazine's website. Several slow motion videos of bat flight including a cool matlabish model of a bat flight vortex. As with all flying takoffs are optional and landings are mandatory so they also have slow motion video of two point and four point landings as well as well as some more pedestrian videos.
Ken MacLeod, Paul Cornell, Iain [M] Banks and Ian Watson comment on the relationship between science fiction and science fact.
Dolphins at SeaWorld Orlando make and play with bubble rings. Others learn by watching. (SLYP) via [more inside]
Sci Fi has a new name. Now it's SyFy. The Sci Fi Channel is distancing itself from its geek demographic by rebranding its network. The former SyFy Portal website (a nerd news outlet) has been rebranded "Airlock Alpha" after selling the name to an "undisclosed recipient".
Western musical intervals are derived from speech tendencies, according to Duke scientists. Specifically, "most of the 12 chromatic scale intervals correspond to peaks of relative power in the normalized spectrum of human vocalizations." A somewhat more layperson-friendly summary of the study is here. [more inside]
A great lecture on global warming given by Professor Stephen Schneider at Stanford University Professor Schneider discusses the pitfalls of presenting scientific ideas on global warming to the public.
When and if the dinochicken is created, Horner looks forward to bringing it out on a leash during lectures. (book)
A Medical Madoff: Anesthesiologist Faked Data in 21 Studies. "A pioneering anesthesiologist has been implicated in a massive research fraud that has altered the way millions of patients are treated for pain during and after orthopedic surgeries."
Tonight NASA is scheduled to launch the Kepler Mission (named after planetary legislator Johannes Kepler) with the goal of finding Earth size planets in orbit around stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the sky. Over the next 3 and a half years it will maintain a nearly unblinking gaze on the approximately 100 thousand stars in the region. NASA expects it to find about 50 Earth size planets, as well as hundreds that are larger. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV. [more inside]
Philosophy’s great experiment. "Philosophers used to combine conceptual reflections with practical experiment. The trendiest new branch of the discipline, known as x-phi, wants to return to those days. Some philosophers don’t like it." [Via]
The Virtual Laboratory - A collection of essays, biographies, instruments and trade catalogues (e.g. experiment kit) from between 1830 and 1930. I must warn you that some of the films are a bit disturbing. Check out the eerie sounding vowel experiments in the audio section too.
That Voodoo That Scientists Do. "When findings are debated online, as with a yet to be released paper (PDF) that calls out the field of social neuroscience, who wins?"
Functional Neurons Induced From Adult Stem Cells. Meanwhile, stem cells may be better than bone marrow for certain cancers, and have the potential to revolutionize the supply of blood. Anecdotal success stories continue to pile up.
World of Science contains budding encyclopedias of astronomy, scientific biography, chemistry, and physics. This resource has been assembled over more than a decade by internet encyclopedist Eric Weisstein with assistance from the internet community. MeFi visited Weisstein's Mathworld a couple years ago.
The Signtific Lab invites people to develop cutting-edge ideas through experiments of imagination and discussion. Experiment One: what would happen if outer space becomes as accessible as the Web today?
The Essential Parallel Between Science and Democracy. "[T]he restorative steps Obama has taken vis-à-vis science are praiseworthy not so much because they respect science as because they respect the grand institutions of democracy. This is no accident, because the very virtues that make democracy work are also those that make science work: a commitment to reason and transparency, an openness to critical scrutiny, a skepticism toward claims that too neatly support reigning values, a willingness to listen to countervailing opinions, a readiness to admit uncertainty and ignorance, and a respect for evidence gathered according to the sanctioned best practices of the moment."
Dawkins on Darwin | A Peek into the Life of Darwin with Jon Amiel, Director of Creation | Six scientific hot spots for modern Darwins | 'Why Evolution Is True,' by Jerry A. Coyne
The Invasion From Outer Space: Steven Millhauser gives The New Yorker a short, unsettling sci-fi story.
Darwin the abolitionist. "The theory of evolution is regarded as a triumph of disinterested scientific reason. Yet, on the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species, new research reveals that Darwin was driven to the idea of common descent by a great moral cause." [Via]
The Lecture System in Teaching Science "Meanwhile, back at the classroom, the lecture is drawing to a close. Just as the bell rings, the lecturer, if he's a really smooth operator, comes to the end of a sentence, a paragraph, a nice neat unit. He lays down his last piece of chalk — he knows exactly how many pieces the lecture will take — picks up his precious lecture notes, and goes out. The students, tired but happy, rise up and follow after him. Their heads are empty, but their notebooks are full. Their necks are a little tired; it's been like a sort of vertical tennis match: board, notebook, board, notebook. But other than that, everything is all right. Any student will tell you, "I never had any trouble with the course until the first examination."" [via]
Science & technology funding has an enormous long term impact on the economy, a fact that has not escaped China. Yet, Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have proposed cutting all National Science Foundation and Department of Energy Office of Science funding from the Senate American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, along with almost all other proposed funding of the sciences and technological development, as a part of a $77.9B reduction effort. Why? Well, you'll notice that Nebraska & Maine don't contribute much to science & technology in the United States, nor win many grants, and hence no bacon for Nelson and Collins. [more inside]
The Small Science Collective creates mini-zines about SCIENCE. Each zine downloads as a PDF. Learn about DNA computing, rediscover cephalopods, or host a bot fly. More information is available on the collective's accompanying blog. (via)
Sal Khan likes explaining things, and he's really good at it. Here he is on CNN giving an excellent explanation of the financial crisis. And here's a great explanation of Newton's Law of Gravitation. His YouTube channel has over 700 lectures and you leave understanding everything he talks about no matter the subject.
CERN Podcast - Lighthearted chats at the CERN laboratory with "a bit of particle physics thrown in". Featuring visits from British satirists and comedians, including Chris Morris and Kevin Eldon.
Scientists from the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland have managed to teleport information from one isolated atom to another over a distance of one meter, without it ever crossing space. Here's how they did it. [more inside]
One of the kings of nuclear proliferation has his own website. No mention of house arrest though.
Recent work by Yichao Wu, Judy Lieberman, and Deborah Palliser has led to a topical treatment that knocks out the herpes virus in testing with mice by way of RNA interference (RNAi). Notably, it works when applied prior to or after sexual contact and holds promise for human usage. (RNAi is a very recent (1998) discovery that garnered the 2006 Nobel prize [MetaFilter thread] for Fire and Mello.) You can read more about the intravaginal application of siRNAs in the January issue of Cell Host & Microbe.
Seeing and Believing: The never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion, and why it is doomed to fail. [Via Pharyngula]
The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Show is easily the most terrifying "children's show" ever broadcast. [more inside]
What do women want? A post-feminist look at female desire.
In a breathless, passionate, yet level-headed 15 part series, YouTube user, paleontologist, ex-Christian, and potential Space Coyote impersonator AronRa presents an uncommonly well-written and presented argument against what he identifies as the 14 "Fundamental Falsehoods of Creationism." [more inside]
Atmospheric Optics. Rainbows, in spray, of moonlight, in reflective paint, without sky, with spokes, twinned, reflected, in clouds, in the fog, more. Halos, horizon distortion, green flashes, pillars, near-contrails. Surface and volume shadows. Waves atop the atmosphere. Mysteries. Picture of the Day. Via. Previously. Still no unicorns.
My Genome, My Self: Steven Pinker considers what we can expect from personal genomics. Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes: Carl Zimmer looks at the hunt to learn about the role of genes in intelligence.
"The more we understand why we demonise certain scientific advances, the better we will be able to decide whether some areas of research are so sensitive they should always remain off limits to science." Is Science Out of Control?
Once every 27 years or so, the mysterious binary star system of Epsilon Aurigae undergoes an eclipse, lasting nearly two years. This gives this system the distinction of having both the longest eclipse and the longest period of any known binary system. However, it is not clear why the eclipses last so long, or even what the structure of the system actually looks like--the main star is a supergiant, with a radius as big as the distance from the earth to the sun, and yet its light is dimmed for two years by something yet bigger. The next eclipse is due to begin in August of 2009, and as part of the International Year of Astronomy in 2009, amateur astronomers are being called on to make their own observations of the changing brightness of Epsilon Aurigae. If you want to try it yourself, you can read the training guide to find out how to do your own observations and report them. In addition, the two scientists who organized observations of the previous eclipse both have webpages [1, 2] which are coordinating the organization for the upcoming observation. If you want to learn more about the science behind ε Aurigae, a good rundown with links to papers is available here.
Scientists at the Auckland Museum will be performing a necropsy of a great white Shark between 11am and 1pm New Zealand time on Thursday. Though they will be examining the contents of its gut, they will also, among other things, look at its sex organs (female) and jaw. The necropsy will be viewable on the web from 2pm NZ time (when's that?). [more inside]