Explore the deepest mysteries at the frontier of fundamental physics, and the most promising ideas put forth to solve them. A map of the frontier of fundamental physics built by interactive developer Emily Fuhrman.
I've looked at the US Census Bureau data, and the numbers don't lie. They paint a dire picture. On top of all that they closed one of my favorite mac & cheese joints. Look, I still love this place. Sometimes. But I'm done with wherever I am. Best of luck to those who stay wherever they are.
Last night, Virginia Tech grad student Ann Hilborn, her labmate Chris Rowe, and their research supervisor Marcella Kelly were posting pictures of animal genitals on their lab’s Twitter account (@Whapavt). When Hilborn added some more from her collection, one of their readers called it a “junk-off”. And thus a hashtag was born. [NSFW?]
In Baylor County, paleontologists are assembling clues to the prehistoric world of Dimetrodon. [previously]
Since the pandas’ arrival, the team at Edinburgh zoo had already tried three times to breed the bears – with considerable fanfare and public attention – and each attempt had ended in disappointment. After a thoroughgoing review of these attempts in late 2014, this year’s season carried with it a sense of added pressure. But the keepers had also come up with one or two new tricks. A few weeks earlier, Maclean had daubed urine from Long Hui, an impressive male panda kept at Schönbrunn zoo, in Vienna, all over Yang Guang and Tian Tian’s enclosures, in order to spice the air with competition and possibility. “She spent a lot of time sniffing and seeing what was going on,” said Maclean. “He came out and was just like, ‘Whoa!’ He was all over the place.”
Your name could be on Mars in the next several months. You've already paid for it, so you might as well go. In March 2016, NASA is launching its Insight lander, which will be the first Mars mission to probe beneath the surface of the Red Planet and explore its interior in-depth. (In-depth, get it? Nevermind) They're offering to micro-etch the name of any Earthling who wishes on the lander. Here's where to sign up. [more inside]
Whistled Turkish is a non-conformist. Most obviously, it bucks the normal language trend of using consonants and vowels, opting instead for a bird-like whistle. But more importantly, it departs from other language forms in a more fundamental respect: it's processed differently by the brain.
From FiveThirtyEight, a 3 part series on p-values, retraction, and the importance of experimental failure and nuanced interpretation: Science Isn't Broken.
The Weight of the World: Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself? by Elizabeth Kolbert [New Yorker]
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none). The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea. When Figueres took over the Secretariat, in 2010, there were lots of people who thought the job so thankless that it ought to be abolished. This was in the aftermath of the fifteenth COP, held in Copenhagen, which had been expected to yield a historic agreement but ended in anger and recrimination.
We think of the Stone Age as something that early humans lived through. But we are not the only species that has invented it.
Baseball, perhaps more than any sport, is always straddling that delicate line between old school and new.
In the United States, only 22 states require that sex education should be taught in their schools. Of those, only 13 insist upon medical accuracy. There is no federal standard. As a result, classroom lessons that teach purity culture – the idea that virginity is a state of moral accomplishment – are pervasive. John Oliver's Last Week Tonight covers Sex Education in America. (NSFW) The end of the segment features a modern sex education video created by LWT, narrated by several celebrities (including Laverne Cox, Nick Offerman, Jonathan Banks, Kristen Schaal and Aisha Tyler) that touches on topics outdated lessons may be ignoring. [more inside]
Interactive simulations for science and math for teachers and interested students, from acids and bases to waves
Spreading awareness of Artificially Selected Organisms. They have a Facebook page full of images sure to go viral, and even a White House petition. [This is satire.]
“In 1999, two Canadian astrophysicists, Stéphane Dumas and Yvan Dutil, composed and sent a message into space. The message was composed of twenty-three pages of bitmapped data, and was sent from the RT-70 radio telescope in Yevpatoria, Ukraine, as part of a set of messages called Cosmic Call.” [more inside]
"Erik, photojournalist, and I have come here to try and get the measure of this place. Nevada is the uncanny locus of disparate monuments all concerned with charting deep time, leaving messages for future generations of human beings to puzzle over the meaning of: a star map, a nuclear waste repository and a clock able to keep time for 10,000 years—all of them within a few hours drive of Las Vegas through the harsh desert." -- Built For Eternity, Elmo Keep on structures designed to potentially outlast human civilization. (Motherboard)
Science "explains things" in various ways. You can start with initial conditions, and apply laws of motion (classical kinematics). Or you can predict things via evolving probabilities (quantum mechanics). Or you can find emergent laws (thermodynamics). Or ... - There are many different modes of explanation. Recently, David Deutsch invented a new one: Constructor Theory. [more inside]
Not all science is about going to Pluto, curing cancer, or ripping apart the fabric of the universe. Chris Buddle gives an object lesson in curiosity, passion and science for its own sake. [more inside]
A study published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that measures currently afoot in nearly every area of science to increase the transparency requirements for research will mean we can expect to see more of these seemingly dull results in the future -- and that's a good thing. Far from boring, those trials that find a drug doesn't do what we hoped can be equally as important -- or even more so -- than the ones that do.
A computational approach for obstruction-free photography takes out the chain link fence obscuring the target of your photo, removes reflections, and--this is the crazy TV show part--can even build a separate image from the reflection. It uses multiple frames and
magic math to build up the two "clean" images. [more inside]
"Accidentally glued myself to a crocodile while attaching a radio transmitter." The #fieldworkfail hashtag reveals the hilarious perils experienced by the Science side of Twitter.
New Ebola vaccine shows 100% success rate in clinical trial. Today the World Health Organization has announced that the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine had a 100% success rate in preventing onset of the disease if administered within 10 days of exposure (n=4,000). In response to the current outbreak in West Africa that has afflicted over 27,000 and killed over 11,000, this collaborative effort led by the WHO pushed the vaccine through a process that usually takes more than a decade in just 12 months. Official paper from The Lancet here (pdf).
The Role of Writers in a STEM Obsessed Society
“As writers, it’s easy to think of how we matter to literature classrooms, but what the appointment of writers-in-residence in hospitals, history classrooms, foreign language learning spaces, and cooking schools reminds us is that we are relevant wherever there is humanity—which is to say, wherever humans are with their stories. Writing is healing. Writing is art. Writing is learning. As such, writing across the disciplines matters. Many models of artist residencies depend upon the retreat model, wherein the artist sequesters herself away with a small community of other artists. While these models have value, especially when considering how solitude relates to the creative process, it’s heartening to me to see more models catch on that value the place of the writer in society, rather than hidden away from it.”
Kaycie D. is an animator and artist who grew up on Disney films and has used that inspiration to create her own anthropomorphized illustrations of the chemical elements.
The Singular Mind of Terry Tao - "Imagine, he said, that someone awfully clever could construct a machine out of pure water. It would be built not of rods and gears but from a pattern of interacting currents." (via) [more inside]
Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science is an open-access scientific journal with a mandate to publish papers from academics and non-academics alike. Boasting a strong peer review process and a high impact factor, it's only partly serious. (Previously)
"Humans as Superorganisms: How Microbes, Viruses, Imprinted Genes and Other Selfish Entities Shape Our Behavior" by Peter Kramer and Paola Bressan discusses the idea that an individual homo sapiens is only one component of the human superorganism we call a person, focusing on the psychological and psychiatric ramifications thereof. (Paola Bressan previously.)
What were snakes doing before they lost their legs? A new fossil discovery of an early snake with four tiny, stubby legs might shed some light on that question. Assuming it really is a snake, of course. However, the status of this fossil as a specimen from a private collection raises ethical questions. This is likely to be an illegally obtained specimen, like 2012's controversial Tarbosaurus bataar (previously, previously). Is it ethical for Science to promote findings from unethically sourced fossils when these are an increasing problem for paleontology? (Previously, previously.)
Bismuth is element 83.
I do not think I will see my 83rd birthday, but I feel there is something hopeful, something encouraging, about having “83” around. Moreover, I have a soft spot for bismuth, a modest gray metal, often unregarded, ignored, even by metal lovers. My feeling as a doctor for the mistreated or marginalized extends into the inorganic world and finds a parallel in my feeling for bismuth.Oliver Sacks on dying. (SLNYT)
Princeton researchers have discovered a long-theorized, never-observed variety of massless (quasi)-particle called the Weyl fermion. Exciting things to come maybe! (Bat-signal: expert.) [more inside]
Rosin Cerate is an "intensely researched blog" bringing you all kinds of interesting and odd knowledge about biology and creatures and how certain esoteric metals give you garlic breath. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
With designs inspired by Peking opera the facekini protects its wearer from jellyfish stings and sunburns.
The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.
In the mid-1800s, a snail spent years glued to a specimen card in the British Museum (now the Natural History Museum) before scientists realized it was still alive. What became of this snail? Ask Metafilter found out! [more inside]
The Dynamic Periodic Table... probably the only periodic table most of you will ever need, or want, to consult (aside from Tom Lehrer's musical version). What makes this periodic table different? Take it for a spin and find out!
Dr. Dave Southall is an engineer who makes things, like monowheels, mini-monowheels, water bottle jetpacks, racing mowers, racing bars stools, uniboards, and other fun things.
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
About once a year he has nightmares of earth becoming a very alien planet. "Part of being a scientist is you don't want to believe there is a problem you can't solve."
She got off to an inauspicious start when she was born in poverty and then was struck by lightning as a small child. But when her father died when she was ten, leaving her family without any means of support, Mary Anning made her own luck with her skill at fossil finding. Her first big find came when she discovered the first complete skeleton of an Icthyosaur at twelve years old. She went on to discover pivotally important skeletons of plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and a fossil fish which was hailed as the "missing link" between sharks and rays. Despite being self taught, she was widely regarded as one of paleontology's greatest experts in the world when she died. Previously.
While California's water shortage continues, Cascadia has been suffering its own drought conditions, to the extent that expanding wildfires have lent the skies of Vancouver, B.C. a Mars-like orange hue.
Grilling with Lava [New York Times]
This July Fourth, we offer an intense, but minimalist way to grill steak. It requires 800 pounds of Wisconsin basaltic gravel heated to 2,000 degrees. New York Times food writers have advocated cooking directly on hot coals this Fourth of July, but the truly adventurous may want to consider another approach: lava-grilled steak. The Syracuse University professors Bob Wysocki and Jeff Karson, the leaders of this minimalist technique, say the key is to start with thin-cut steaks, the more marbled the better. You then find the nearest retrofitted bronze furnace. (Very likely, that is the one the professors have built for themselves in Syracuse as part of the university’s Lava Project. When not cooking dinner with it, Mr. Wysocki, an artist, and Mr. Karson, a geologist, create lava for scientific research and sculptures.)[more inside]
"Science, Chance, and Emotion with Real Cosima": A Longreads profile of Cosima Herter, the show's science consultant and the inspiration for Orphan Black's character Cosima. Mostly not directly about the show, but probably contains some spoilers if you're not fully caught up through season three.
Shared Prosperity, Common Wealth, National Equity and a Citizen's Dividend: Nirit Peled takes a look at social experiments in basic incomes for VPRO Tegenlicht, a Dutch public television documentary series. Starting with a German crowdfunded UBI chosen by raffle -- kind of like the opposite of Le Guin's Omelas (or Shirley Jackson's Lottery in reverse) -- the focus moves on to Albert Wenger who wants to disconnect work from income not only as automation progresses but to accelerate the process. Then it's on to Guy Standing who has conducted basic income experiments in India and Namibia (pdf) and is trying to get one off the ground in Groningen (Utrecht apparently is also a go). Finally, a stop in Alaska to ask some of its residents about their views on the state-owned Permanent Fund. This last part brings to mind the question: just what is wealth anyway? [more inside]
As part of our special focus on innovation in Africa, we have developed a list of 40 remarkable African innovators. Actually, it’s more like 47 but we counted teams as one. Our decision to celebrate these idea creators and solution providers stems from our belief that the true wealth of Africa is not buried under its soil, but in the brains of its best minds. This list is a testament to that belief.