In 1991, the New York Times reported on the development of a new salt-water crop called salicornia that produced seeds rich in high-quality protein and oil. While it was acknowledged as having great potential for becoming a valuable crop in subtropical areas, the LA Times talks about a farmer who thinks the crop could help solve world hunger, provide abundant clean fuel for vehicles and slow global warming. This particular farmer has been touting salicornia for quite some time now, and he seems to have been successful in small-scale operations he's been allowed to lead.
Al-Jazari is the best-known Islamic inventor of the Middle Ages, famous for his waterclocks and automata. The wonderful History of Science and Technology in Islam has articles on him as well as other subjects. A medieval manuscript of Al-Jazari's masterwork, a book generally known in English as either Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices, can be perused in its entirety in flash form. It includes 174 illustrations. If you want to see working copies of his most famous automaton, the Elephant Clock, you can go either to the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai (Flickr pictures), the Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle in Switzerland (Cabinet of Wonders post about visiting the museum) or Institute for the History of Arab-Islamic Science in Frankfurt (article about the institute from a feature in Saudi Aramco World magazine called Rediscovering Arabic Science).
Frederick...made linguistic experiments on the vile bodies of hapless infants, "bidding foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no wise to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which had been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments." [more inside]
Scientists report a breakthrough in stem cell production: Stem cells created from ALS patient and used to make neurons. [Via]
"We have water," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."
Anything but clear. It is well known that panes of stained glass in old European churches are thicker at the bottom because glass is a slow-moving liquid that flows downward over centuries. Well known, yes, but long known to be wrong. Scientists still disagree about the nature of glass, and researchers continue to try to understand its dual personality . [more inside]
EO Wilson believes in
Darwinism group selection: "evolution as a multi-level process1 that can evolve adaptations above the level of individual organisms."
Correlative Analytics -- or as O'Reilly might term the Social Graph -- sort of mirrors the debate on 'brute force' algorithmic proofs (that are "true for no reason," cf.) in which "computers can extract patterns in this ocean of data that no human could ever possibly detect. These patterns are correlations. They may or may not be causative, but we can learn new things. Therefore they accomplish what science does, although not in the traditional manner... In this part of science, we may get answers that work, but which we don't understand. Is this partial understanding? Or a different kind of understanding?" Of course, say some in the scientific community: hogwash; it's just a fabrication of scientifically/statistically illiterate pundits, like whilst new techniques in data analysis are being developed to help keep ahead of the deluge...
For the first time in the Indian state of Maharashtra, life sentences were meted out based on the findings of Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature(BEOS) profiling. [more inside]
Festooning The Tree Of Life. Carl Zimmer describes new research on lateral gene transfer which makes the Tree of Life look more like a Gordian Knot.
A discovery leads to questions about whether the odds of people sharing genetic profiles are sometimes higher than portrayed. Calling the finding meaningless, the FBI has sought to block such inquiry.
Hellenica is an encyclopedia of Greek culture, from classical Hellas, through the Byzantine Empire until the modern day, though its focus is on antiquity and especially the science and technology of Ancient Greece. Featuring technical diagrams and explications, there's no better site if you seek information on gigantic galleys, now obscure great Greek mathematicians, the last still working Ancient lighthouse and gears and how they were used by Archimedes and other ancients. This is not to denigrate other sections of the site, such as the page on the Olympics (including a Google Map of the site of the games), biographies of ancient, Byzantine and modern Greeks, the warring and healing of the Byzantines or the overview of Greek literature, taking in antiquity, the medieval era and modern times. That said, Hellenica is at its finest when treating science and technology.
Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.] [more inside]
"In humans, the categories of gay and straight are socially constructed.” Researchers are now revealing that animals may engage in same-sex couplings to diffuse social tensions, to better protect their young or to maintain fecundity when opposite-sex partners are unavailable—or simply because it is fun. These observations suggest to some that bisexuality is a natural state among animals, perhaps Homo sapiens included, despite the sexual-orientation boundaries most people take for granted
The ocean gives us life. It gives us oxygen, the rain, food, excitement, wonder, and mystery. The ocean buffers the weather and helps regulate global temperature. It manages vast amounts of our pollutants, contains all kinds of amazing creatures, and supports all life on our planet. But, the ocean is just now beginning to be understood and with that understanding comes the increasing realization that the ocean is in trouble. Marine conservation efforts are outnumbered by the problems. MarineBio is here to call attention to those issues and to provide information to inspire the actions necessary to address them.
We have heard the PCR song. Now we have the epMotion song. "Yeah girl, it is time to automate." Even Nature has an article about it.
Jack "Marvel" Whiteside Parsons was the right hand man to Aleister Crowley, a founder of modern US rocket science, and early partner to L Ron Hubbard. Celebrate July 4th by investigating this major character in the birth of our age. [more inside]
If you like those giant plush microbes but maybe they're a little too life-sciencey for ya, perhaps you would like The Particle Zoo instead.
Record player + video camera = Phonographantasmascope, animator Jim LeFevre's extension of the zoetrope. "It is all live action and works by using the shutter speed of the camera rather than the rather irritating stroboscope methods other 3D Zoetropes use."
An old professor of mine used to ask graduating students, "What is the single most important true proposition or fact (not theory) that you learned in university?" This question has been aimed at many fields, and social scientists have long and famously struggled to find good answers, while scientists have had a large number of options, and those who study the humanities wonder if they can even answer similar questions. What is your most important (or interesting) fact?
Yale Environment 360 is an online environment magazine from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. It has a lot of great material, like "Biodiversity in the Balance" by Carl Zimmer and "Carbon’s Burden on the World’s Oceans" by Carl Safina and Marah J. Hardt. [Via Zimmer's blog The Loom]
Teach the Controversy. Because we know that the earth sits on giant elephants which in turn ride an even gianter turtle. [more inside]
Stupid Design Neil deGrasse Tyson gives a short view from the other side of the coin. (SLYT)
The Cosmic Womb: Recently published findings from researchers with the Imperial College London’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering seem to bolster the case for extra-terrestrial sources for the origins of life on Earth. (A PDF of the published results can be downloaded here, if you want the technical specifics.) [more inside]
A woman ovulates during surgery for a partial hysterectomy, and it's caught on film.
ilovebacteria.com explains science to people who do not necessarily have a scientific background. You'll find a selection of DIY experiments like egg osmosis, and strange facts like the ever popular why does asparagus make your wee smell? And don't forget to meet the microbes.
In the 1980s, Richard Lenski hypothesized that his research team should be able to watch random mutations and natural selection taking place in a lab by observing a bacteria population over many generations. In 1988, beginning with a single bacterium, he started several replicate colonies. Recently, after 33,127 generations, his team has observed natural selection.
What Is A Species? "To this day, scientists struggle with that question. A better definition can influence which animals make the endangered list."
The Reality Tests. "A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it?"
Rehabilitating Carson: "Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?" [more inside]
"Associative Musical Visual Intelligence (or "amvi" for short) is a type of intelligence that's difficult enough to define, let alone test. Many creative people can associate across sensory domains: they "hear" hints of shapes and can "taste" the essense of colors. At its most extreme this phenomenon is called synesthesia. However, I believe that creative people subconsciously employ elements of synesthesia every day when attempting to think of things in new ways. This is a logic test that attempts to measure one's ability to correlate musical phrases with abstract shapes and symbols." [more inside]
Explore the playful side of invention and the inventive side of play in Invention at Play. Learn how play connects to the creative impulse of both historic and contemporary inventors. [more inside]
"The Guardian has been granted exclusive and unfettered access to one of the most controversial research facilities at a British university." Caring or cruel? Inside the primate laboratory. Audio slideshow. A necessary evil - Colin Blakemore. Wise monkeys - Gill Langley.
Assemble a rocket from main engine to payload fairing. Rocket Science 101 shows the basic parts of the launch vehicle, how they are configured, and how they work together to launch a NASA spacecraft. More Friday Flash Fun.
The Stupidity of Dignity: Conservative bioethics' latest, most dangerous ploy. Steven Pinker reviews Human Dignity and Bioethics, the latest report from the President's Council on Bioethics. [more inside]
Before developing exotic space propulsion systems like the ion engines on deep space probes, he developed guidance systems for Nazi Germany's ballistic missile, the V2. As Dr. Werner von Braun's Chief Scientist, he was one of the brilliant minds that founded the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and sent astronauts to the moon atop MSFC's Saturn V rocket. Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, one of the last surviving rocket scientists extracted from Nazi Germany in Operation Paperclip, died today at 94.
16% of US science teachers believe human beings have been created by God within the last 10,000 years. 25% of science teachers spend some time teaching about creationism or intelligent design. 12.5% teach it as a "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species". 2% say they do not cover evolution at all. Teachers who have taken more science courses themselves devote more time to evolution - "This may be because better-prepared teachers are more confident in dealing with students' questions about a sensitive subject."
Seven minutes of terror. A short video on describing how the Phoenix probe will land at the North Pole of Mars on May 25th. Follow updates to the mission via Twitter and the blog. Previously
Vatican's chief astronomer states that belief in alien life does not conradict faith in God. Fr. José Gabriel Funes, a Jesuit preist and chief astronomer for the Vatican, stated in an interview in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's official newspaper, that, "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation." [more inside]
foldit is a new computer game scientists have created that lets YOU help them make science!! [more inside]
Several websites have been trying to out do one another in the melt your oystercard using nail polish remover stakes. I like Skeptobot's idea of using an Oystercards RFID chip in a magic wand. But, so far, for me Chris Woebken is winning, not least because he ties it all in with an interesting discussion of e-money. Add a video of a magnetic glove being used to give Darth Vader like powers. And only one word remains - genius.
'There is no such thing as polywater because if there were, there would also be an animal which didn't need to eat food. It would just drink water and excrete polywater' - Richard Feynman
If you were doing research in the 60s, You might've heard of Polywater, A form of water that exhibited wide variety of interesting characteristics and existed under identical conditions to that of normal water. Eventually debunked, none the less is a fascinating story. Naturally one draws parallels to Vonnegut's ice nine, but did you know there actually is an ice nine? In fact, there's twelve to sixteen types of ice, depending on your opinion. More recently, computer simulations have indicated water may structure itself into icosahedra, which, incredibly, is the platonic solid (described over 2000 years ago!) representing the element water! And if you don't know what an icosahedron is, I bet you've used one before. One of the most ubiquitous, and arguably most important, substances in our lives, our understanding of water is far from complete.
"Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation" (PDF). A recent article in Trends in Cognitive Sciences on the neuroscience of meditation, focusing on how meditation alters and sharpens the brain's attention systems. The research is being done at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior (previously), who have also recently published research on the "Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation" (PDF), which describes how meditation can cultivate compassion by physically affecting brain regions that play a role in empathy. They shared this research with the Dalai Lama at the recent Seeds of Compassion forum.