Hey, bisexuals! Is your sweetheart terrified that you’ll have second thoughts after graduation? Are you trying to figure out how to tell your parents? Are presidential primary frontrunners lumping your orientation together with pedophilia and bestiality? Well, for the first two, at least, you can reassure them that bisexuality is not a phase ... by quoting SCIENCE! (pdf) (Side effects may include cheering at increasing cultural acceptance or eye-rolling at need to continue to demonstrate the obvious. Effects have been demonstrated in women only. Presidential primary frontrunners may be immune to science.)
"It's so black, it's like, how much more black can it be?(youtube link) The Answer is none. None more black." And I have just found out there is a band called None More Black.
Are We All Really Just Disembodied Brains Floating in Empty Space? Recent mathematical results in the field of cosmology related to the Boltzmann's Brain Problem may point toward a peculiarly arbitrary universe in which, as improbable as it sounds, it's more likely than not. [more inside]
Mercury Messenger, a NASA probe, just performed a fly-by of Mercury at a height of 200 kilometers. It's the first spacecraft to visit Mercury since 1975.
The Annals of Improbable Research magazine is available in two free online formats. Tagline: Research the makes people LAUGH and then THINK. Visit some of the site's classics or simply check out the newest members in the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. Hours and hours of brain stimulating fun.
In 1798, English economist Thomas Malthus promised "Famine ... the last, the most dreadful resource of nature." It took another 125 years for world population to double, but only 50 more for it to redouble. By the 1940s, Mexico, China, India, Russia, and Europe were hungry.
64-year-old Frank Pringle has figured out a way to extract oil and natural gas out of nearly anything.
Dr. President: "The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century." With the coming election, the AAAS has created a new website and devoted a section of their journal Science to the Democratic and Republican candidates' positions on science and technology issues. But to help further clarify their positions, some people are calling for the candidates to have a presidential debate on science and technology. [Via The Intersection and Wired Science.]
The scholarly literature forms a vast network of academic papers connected to one another by citations in bibliographies and footnotes. The structure of this network reflects millions of decisions by individual scholars about which papers are important and relevant to their own work. Therefore within the structure of this network is a wealth of information about the relative influence of individual journals, and also about the patterns of relations among academic disciplines. Our aim at eigenfactor.org is develop ways of extracting this information. [more inside]
"So by this analysis dead-tree magazines have a smaller net carbon footprint than web media. We cut down trees and put them in the ground. From a climate change perspective, this is a good thing" explains Chris Anderson, Wired Magazine's editor-in-chief. While some decry this type of carbon footprint accounting as "cheating", the paper industry has lately been eager to convince the public that they are carbon-neutral.
Open Culture's "10 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube" features "intellectually redeemable" channels from UC Berkeley, @GoogleTalks, TheNobelPrize, TED Talks, FORA.tv, the European Graduate School, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, BBC Worldwide, National Geographic, PBS, UChannel, MIT, Vanderbilt, and USC.
Parmenides. "The pre-Socratic philosopher sparked an intellectual revolution that still echoes today. Yet for philosophy and science to continue to progress in the 21st century, we may need to embark on an entirely new cognitive journey ."
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P
Warp Drive, When? "Have you ever wondered when we will be able to travel to distant stars as easily as in science fiction stories?"
Duelity - the beginning in two parts The Vancover Film School does a really cool visual retelling of creation. The 'biblical' version with a science edge. The 'evolution' version with a biblical edge. And you can watch them both at the same time!
Beyond Belief: Enlightment 2.0. Video of the five sessions of the 2007 Beyond Belief conference on science and religion has been posted at The Science Network's website. Each Google Video runs about four hours. (This year's speakers; this year's agenda; previously.)
Seeing, Hearing and Smelling the World. From the main page, click on the various articles to access a larger left-side menu, with articles including Illusions Reveal The Brain's Assumptions, A Hot Spot in the Brain's Motion Pathway, The Value of Having Two Ears, The Memory of Smells and much more.
Some kind soul has uploaded an exhaustive collection of Professor Julius Sumner Miller's Science Demonstrations to YouTube. This is my playlist, I thought the other fans of JSM on Metafilter might enjoy it.
Landsat Image Mosaic Of Antarctica UK and US researchers peice together the most detailed map of Antarctica yet, searching through years of data to find cloud free images.
Darwin's Surprise. "There may be no biological process more complicated than the relationships that viruses have with their hosts. Could it be that their persistence made it possible for humans to thrive?" [Via Disinformation.]
Astronomers find a giant hole a billion light years across & located 8 billion light years away from us. They believe it could be evidence of another Universe at the edge of ours.
Could giant magnetically levitated windmills be the solution to the worlds energy problems? Chinese scientist have reported 20 percent increase in capacity over traditional wind turbines using maglev turbines, and now Arizona-based based Maglev Wind Turbine Technologies claims their turbines will have 1000 times the capacity of a traditional turbine. Not everybody is convinced.
What Makes Us Moral and The Morality Quiz. It's war time, and you're hiding in a basement with a group of other people. Enemy soldiers are approaching outside and will be drawn to any sound. If you're found, you'll all be killed immediately. A baby hiding with you starts to cry loudly and cannot be stopped. Smothering it to death is the only way to silence it, saving the lives of everyone in the room. Assume that the parents of the baby are unknown and not present and there will be no penalty for killing the child. Could you be the one who smothered it if no one else would?
Traveling a lot this weekend? Long drive, plane or train ride? You can use that transit time to listen to the Dalai Lama talk for more than four hours with neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars on the topic of craving, suffering and choice. Part one. Part two. [iTunes links] If you're stuck at home, you can watch the video. The video link has the full list of participants.
Scientists discover fossilized claw of enormous ancient sea scorpion. They estimate this thing was 2.5 meters long. Sorry about the nightmares. [via]
After recent promising results demonstrating the ability to change mouse skin cells into stem cells, researchers have replicated this change in human skin cells in papers published in Science and Cell (access to full articles requires subscription) . The White House, somehow, is trying to take credit for this. The potential of all this: huge.
Chocolate and the Beer of the Ancients. New archaeological evidence suggests that primitive beer brewers were the first to discover the goodness of chocolate.
The Inner Life of an Intelligently Designed Cell? Remember The Inner Life of a Cell animation (discussed here)? Apparently the Discovery Institute (recently discussed here) is showing it in presentations with a new title and narration, and without attribution.
Theory of Humor. A scientific paper, written by Tom Veatch, describes his Theory of Humor. When is something funny? When is it not funny? When does it cross the line? Why are puns generally shitty? And the mysterious and magical powers elephant jokes have on children, revealed! A great data set to use for practice in applying the theories presented in the paper can be found here.
Remember that X-files episode? The one with the robot cockroaches from outer space? Well, scientists in Belgium have created robots that act like cockroaches, and are accepted by the real cockroaches because they smell sexy to them. Better yet, the scientists were able to use the robots to change how the cockroaches behaved. [more inside]
See For Yourself - Purves Lab's optical illusions web page with empirical explanations of familiar and unfamiliar illusions.
From Ants to People, an Instinct to Swarm. Carl Zimmer looks at the work of Iain Couzin. [Via The Loom.]
The forest preserve of Białowieza is considered to be the last primeval forest in lowland Europe. Because of its unique position on the border of the temperate and boreal climate zones, it contains a unique mixture of trees, such as Norway Spruce and oaks. It also contains an interesting mix of fauna, including the European Bison, beaver, wolves, and the Nazi re-creation of an extinct species. [more inside]
NASA proposes using a Stirling cooler (essentially a Stirling engine in reverse) to keep a probe cool on the surface of Venus, which has had a tendency to melt or smash previous probes. The cooler would maintain a 25cm sphere within the probe at 200°C -- 100°C above the boiling point of water but sufficiently cool for a high-temperature microcontroller to operate. The waste heat radiators on the exterior of the sphere would reach the temperature of 500°C, 40°C above the the normal Venusian surface temperature.
Jonah Lehrer is becoming one of the most interesting science writers around. The 26-year-old Rhodes scholar and former Le Bernardin cook just published his first book, Proust Was a Neuroscientist [first chapter excerpt - NYT], an investigation of the ways poets, novelists, and artists accurately modeled the brain and memory before science did. This week he hilariously reenacted Escoffier's distillation of umami-rich veal stock [hit the audio link] with NPR's Robert Krulwich of Radio Lab. He also just published a very insightful profile of Oliver Sacks in SEED (addressing the pioneering neurologist's own recent struggles with an eye ailment) and writes a wide-ranging science blog. A new writer to watch.
Sex Ratio Theory, Ancient and Modern - An 18th Century Debate about Intelligent Design and the Development of Models in Evolutionary Biology [pdf file]. The design argument for the existence of God took a probabilistic turn in the 17th and 18th centuries. Earlier versions, such as Thomas Aquinas’ 5th way, usually embraced the premise that goal-directed systems (things that “act for an end” or have a function) must have been created by an intelligent designer. This idea – which we might express by the slogan “no design without a designer” – survived into the 17th and 18th centuries, and it is with us still in the writings of many creationists. The new version of the argument, inspired by the emerging mathematical theory of probability, removed the premise of necessity. It begins with the thought that goal-directed systems might have arisen by intelligent design or by chance; the problem is to discern which hypothesis is more plausible. From Professor Elliott Sober.
Have You Eaten Your Dirt Today, Honey? A New Approach To The Hygiene Hypothesis. The hypothesis argues: The reason why there is so much asthma, eczema, allergies and maybe even childhood diabetes in the modern world is because we — well infants really — live in too clean a universe. What our baby immune systems need is a kickstart by exposure to viruses, bacteria, worms, pollutants and so on. If you don’t get an infant hit from these icons of uncleanliness, the immune system goes haywire and your body over-reacts to all sorts of invasive things that normally could be ignored. Via. [more inside]
Yummy Science. Researchers unravel the complex combination of physical and emotional reactions that influence our perceptions of what tastes good. Once upon a time, flavor research was a matter of asking housewives to munch a few potato chips... Now it's about providing an exceptional flavor "experience." And as scientists learn to exploit the ways we perceive flavor, food manufacturers will be able to refine their products to appeal to us as individuals. Welcome to the world of personally tailored mass-produced food.
British diplomat William Hamilton (whose 2nd wife Emma is perhaps best known for having a scandalous public affair with Horatio Nelson) loved volcanoes. His 1776 book Campi Flegrei: Observations on the volcanoes of the two Sicilies* used stunning hand-coloured illustrations by Peter Fabris to demonstrate to the scientific world that volcanic processes can be beautifully creative as well as horribly destructive. [via this post at the nonist, which, in case you hadn't noticed, has been really great lately] [more inside]
Stem Cell Treatment in China. A site showcasing Beike Biotech, a company that seems to be getting more attention nowadays, with a very straightforward approach. Meanwhile, some recent hard science.
Gerbert D'Aurillac: mathemetician and engineer, Pope, ghost, and meddler with dark forces. [more inside]