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]
You and Your Research was a talk given by Richard Hamming in 1986. Read it if you have an interest in doing first-class work.
The Academy of Achievement brings students face-to-face with the extraordinary leaders, thinkers and pioneers who have shaped our world. Through profiles, biographies, and interviews Achievers in The Arts, Business, Public Service, Science, and Sports teach us how the Academy's core values of passion, vision, preparation, courage, perseverance, and integrity can, and will, lead to success. [more inside]
Dorkbot is a "monthly meeting of artists (sound/image/movement/whatever), designers, engineers, students, scientists, and other interested parties who are involved in the creative use of electricity." Started in NYC in 2000 by Douglas Repetto, Director of Research at the Columbia University Computer Music Center as well as one of Wired's 10 Sexiest Geeks, there are now dozens all over the world. Past presenters have been featured here on the blue. For instance Jeff Han presented his multi-touch interface at dorkbot-nyc in April of 2006. Miru Kim presented her naked city spleen at dorkbot-nyc in October of 2006. Bummed that there's not one in your own city? Start your own! [more inside]
Dogs get jealous. Or, if you are a scientist, they exhibit inequity aversion.
Where did Venus’s water go? Water may have once been as abundant on Venus as it is on Earth. New data from the Venus Express suggests that the planet's lack of a magnetic field has allowed water in the atmosphere to be stripped apart and carried into space by the solar wind.
The Hellstrom Chronicle "The film posits a theory any science fiction buff would glom onto in a second—that dominion over the world will come down to a battle between two classes of Kingdom Animalia, Man and insects, and that insects will win." Watch on youtube, 11 parts.
The Economist on Drugs -- Scientists in North America, Europe and Israel are studying the use of MDMA, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and other banned psychoactive substances in treating conditions such as anxiety, cluster headaches, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are supported by private funds from a handful of organisations: the Beckley Foundation in Britain; the Heffter Research Institute and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in America. [related]
Rethinking Earthrise. On the 40th anniversary of the NASA's Apollo 8 mission [caution: weird JFK animation], which answered Stewart Brand's epochal, LSD-inspired question "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?" with an unforgettable image of a seemingly fragile and isolated blue planet, Nature editor Oliver Morton -- author of a new book on photosynthesis called Eating the Sun -- disputes the notion that the Earth is fragile and isolated. "The fragility is an illusion," he writes. "The planet Earth is a remarkably robust thing, and this strength flows from its ancient and intimate connection to the cosmos beyond. To see the photo this way does not undermine its environmental relevance -- but it does recast it."
British scientists discover hundreds of new species in a remote forest in Mozambique using Google Earth. The pictures are the best part.
"...we see on the ground a number of spots of light, scattered irregularly, some large, some small..."
The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air "Moreover, this book is written for all those who love Nature; for the young people going out into the wide world and gathering together round the camp-fire; for the painter who admires but does not understand the light and colour of the landscape; for those living in the country; for all who delight in travelling; and also for town-dwellers, for whom, even in the noise and clamour of our dark streets, the manifestations of Nature remain." - Marcel Minnaert [more inside]
The conclusion of a research paper by associate professor Andrew McIntosh and research assistant Declan Patton of the School of Risk and Safety Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia: "To minimise the risk of head and neck injury, head bangers should decrease their range of head and neck motion, head bang to slower tempo songs by replacing heavy metal with adult oriented rock, only head bang to every second beat, or use personal protective equipment." (Via)
The British government's Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology retains PhD and EngD students to produce POSTnotes, information-dense 4 page summaries of science and technology issues, aimed at informing members of parliament. Topics covered include HIV/AIDS in developing countries, large scale electricity storage, future nuclear technologies and next generation broadband access.
Bracing for Islamic Creationism (PDF). "To avoid a vast rejection of evolution in the Muslim world, scientists can present the theory as the bedrock of biology and can stress its practical applications." [Via]
The new Star Trek movie is both canon and a (partial) reboot. Screenwriter Roberto Orci explains using canon examples - and a discussion of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. [more inside]
A team of researchers at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto have managed to reconstruct black-and-white visual images from an fMRI scan of a test subject's brain. Some more examples of the recovered data. The organization responsible claims that the technology to record thoughts and dreams is just around the corner. [more inside]
Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA. "This four-part series details how the Bush administration weakened the EPA. It installed a pliant agency chief, Stephen L. Johnson. Under him, the EPA created pro-industry regulations later thrown out by the courts. It promoted a flawed voluntary program to fight climate change. It bypassed air pollution recommendations from its own scientists to satisfy the White House." [Via Reality Base]
Source Of Geysers On Saturn's Moon Enceladus May Be Underground Water. Earlier this year the Cassini spacecraft detected organic material in the geysers of Enceladus. The question now is, how's the fishing?
Symmetry, (previously) a magazine on particle physics, recently put out a list of particle-physics related license plates. Of course there are other lists of geeky plates. Some even appear to be MeFi related. You could always just AskMefi to come up with your own geeky plate. But some tags, geeky and otherwise, aren't allowed (previously 1 2).
Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy - a commentary in Nature that says, "we call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs". Farkesque debate here. [more inside]
The coming memristor revolution in electronics and how it works. The newly created memristor, only the fourth fundamental fundamental type of passive circuit element, has the promise of computing advances both prosaic (faster, cheaper and "bigger" flash drives) and momentous (relatively effortless mimicry of brain cells and their activity). This is the story of the memristor's genesis, told by R. Stanley Williams, the leader of the team that created the device. [more inside]
Star Wars Technical Commentaries. Learn about the Endor Holocaust. [previously] Learn why it's not really called a "Super Star Destroyer," and why it's not actually five miles long. You can even learn what all those little pips and cylinders mean! [more inside]
The newest Wholphin DVD contains the instructions for an experiment called "Select Your Intention," created by a company called Psyleron. Psyleron is the result of efforts by former research scientists at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory— (1979-2007) an interdisciplinary group of physicists, psychologists, engineers, and humanists, that explored the ability of the human mind to interact directly with the physical world. (VIDEO) "Now anyone with a home computer can explore the direct impact of consciousness with the portable, adaptable, and responsive Psyleron REG-1." And now, try new Pocket Reg! [more inside]
The Evoluon was a museum dedicated to science and technology, and the place of technology in society. It was closed for the public in 1989 and has not been re-opened as a public museum since. Watch the wonderfully 60s promotion (worth it just for the soundtrack). [via]
There used to be this problem you see, until one of our own kindly settled it. His services are desperately needed once again.
Dancing Scientists Invade YouTube. The winners of the 2009 AAAS/Science Dance Contest (previously) have been announced. [Via]
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) is the first video journal for biological research accepted in PubMed, featuring hundreds of peer-reviewed video-protocols demonstrating experimental techniques in the fields of neuroscience, cellular biology, developmental biology, immunology, bioengineering, microbiology and plant biology, free of charge.
The Brain Unveiled: A new imaging method offers a spectacular view of neural structures. Diffusion spectrum imaging, developed by neuroscientist Van Wedeen at Massachusetts General Hospital, analyzes magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data in new ways, letting scientists map the nerve fibers that carry information between cells.
Confirmed: Scientists Understand Where Mass Comes From. An exhaustive calculation of proton and neutron masses vindicates the Standard Model. Matter is merely vacuum fluctuations.
Art as Visual Research: Art and neuroscience combine in creating fascinating examples of illusory motion.
John Wyndham: The Invisible Man of Science Fiction (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) - documentary about the British science fiction writer best known for The Day Of The Triffids
Is the Multiverse Real? Discover takes a look at theories that our universe is one of many. This blogger adds some interesting commentary. via
An Introduction to Sine-Wave Speech Play the first sound and you'll probably hear nothing but squeaks and bleeps. Play the second one and then go back to the first. Cool!
"...the best place to hide bulls**t is in a refereed journal that’s not open-access!" The math-physics blog n-category cafe digs into the curious case of M.S. El Naschie. El Naschie is editor-in-chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals, published by the well-respected scientific publisher Elsevier and sold to academic libraries for US$4,520 a year. The problem? El Naschie has published 322 of his own papers in the journal -- papers that John Baez (of "This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics" and "The Crackpot Index") describes as "vague, dreamlike imagery," "undisciplined numerology larded with impressive buzzwords," and "total baloney." Is El Naschie a reverse Sokal? Or a Markov process for producing random publishable papers? One thing's for sure -- he knows how to cure cancer.
Now: The Rest of the Genome. "Only 1 percent of the genome is made up of classic genes. Scientists are exploring the other 99 percent and uncovering new secrets and new questions."
The "blind watchmaker" may not be as blind as we thought. A team of scientists at Princeton University discovers that organisms are not only evolving, they're evolving to evolve better, using a set of proteins to "steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness" by making tiny course corrections.
Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth. "Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star. Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say." [Via]
The DiVincenzo Code [youtube trailer, geekery]. Faced with a strict demand from a funding agency to allocate research funds towards the dissemination of research ideas to the public, an experimental physics group at the University of Oxford produced a feature-length (55 min) action thriller about murder, ancient prophecy, tea breaks, and quantum computation. [more inside]
Oregon prof's immunology research produces viral video. "We were all amazed ... like 'wow, look at the shrimp go!'"
iBioSeminars is a new project from the American Society for Cell Biology to release freely available lectures from leading scientists on the web. It features talks on such diverse areas as stem cells, malaria, HIV, and biofuel production.
Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? "Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey's stunning Gobekli Tepe upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization."