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Posts Tagged "rio+20"

Anecdotes from the Archive

X-Rays at War, 1915

The most modern field medicine, 1915: a van that can provide X-rays to mobile hospitals. Image: Scientific American Supplement, January 30, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 30, 1915 X-rays were used for medical operations within a couple of months after they were discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen in late 1895. Their usefulness was also quickly recognized by military surgeons: suddenly it became easy to find broken bones, bullets and chunks of [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Fortress of Water, 1915

“Night attack by German armored motor boats in a flooded section of Flanders” in late 1914 or early 1915.  Image: Scientific American, January 23, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 23, 1915 The cover of this issue of the magazine has a boisterous scene from the opening months of the First World War, titled “Night attack by German armored motor boats in a flooded section of Flanders.” There is no story inside relating to [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Extreme Submarine, 1915

The Simon Lake design for the ultimate sneaky submarine: crawling around on the seafloor and nudging mines out of the way. Image: Scientific American, January 16, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 16, 1915 Before the First World War, Simon Lake designed and built some innovative submarines for the U.S. Navy—and also for the Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Imperial German navies. A few months after the outbreak of the war, he seems rather smugly pleased by the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1915 (Part III)

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Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 9, 1915 In this issue of Scientific American from 1915, we published the last installment of a three-part account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: A Battle in the Clouds,” by Frederick C. Hild, an “American volunteer with the French Aviation Corps.” Hild joined [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1915 (Part II)

An early aerial weapon: steel darts. Hild called them steel “pencils” or “arrows” and accurately stated “after a fall of say, 6,000 feet, they will penetrate almost anything.” However, they were not accurate when dropped from 6,000 feet and only occasionally effective. Aerial darts have been used occasionally as skyborne weapons since 1914. Image: Scientific American, January 2, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: January 2, 1915 In this issue of Scientific American from 1915, we published the second installment of a three-part first-hand account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: Patrol of the Sky” by Frederick C. Hild, “American volunteer with the French Aviation Corps.” We were introduced [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

An American Pilot at War, 1914 (Part I)

Frederick C. Hild, an American volunteer in the French air forces, photographed in his issue leather coat, 1914. Image: Scientific American, December 26, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 26, 1914 In this issue of Scientific American from 1914, we published the first installment of a three-part first-hand account: “War Experiences of an Air Scout: The Diary of an American Volunteer With the Aviation Corps of the French Army,” by Frederick C. Hild. [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Ramming a Submarine, 1914

“Ramming a Submarine,” says the caption for this image on the cover of the issue. It illustrates the British HMS Badger ramming the German U-19. Image: Scientific American, December 19, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 19, 1914 Scientific American in 1914 sometimes used large, single-theme images for the issue cover. Some of these images have no information with them at all. This cover has only a short caption: “Ramming a Submarine,” but no story inside. The image apparently illustrates [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Lawrence in Arabia: from Archaeologist to Spy, 1914

Hittite soldiers from the 9th century B.C., on a freize excavated at Carchemish (Karkemish) a site that is now on the border between Turkey and Syria. Among the archaeologists working at the site in 1914 was T. E. Lawrence, known later in life as “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 12, 1914 Here’s a short, cryptic note from our December 12, 1914, issue, about scientific work being carried out in the Middle East: “Survey of Southern Palestine.—A considerable amount of surveying and exploration has recently been done along the southern frontier of Palestine under [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battleships and Diplomacy, 1914

SMS Goeben, a German battle-cruiser transferred in 1914 to the navy of the Ottoman Empire under diplomatically dubious circumstances and renamed the Yavûz Sultân Selîm. The ship here flies the Ottoman flag.

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: December 5, 1914 Two ships from the German navy had an outsize part in the history of the First World War: the Goeben and Breslau. Our coverage in the December 5, 1914, issue gives a description of them—size and guns and whatnot—and hints at their [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battleship Disaster Coverup, 1914

HMS Audacious as she looked in her prime, commissioned in August 1913: a powerful modern battleship of 23,000 tons, armed with a main battery of ten 13.5-inch guns.

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: November 28, 1914 On this date 100 years ago Scientific American reported on the sinking of HMS Audacious, one of the British Royal Navy’s most modern “dreadnoughts”—the largest and most powerful battleships in existance in 1914. Only one man died, but the loss of the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Whose time are we celebrating for the New Year?

Photo by Nick, CC. Click on image for license and information.

Note: A version of this post appeared on Anthropology in Practice in 2010. It’s New Year’s Eve in the United States, and in New York City tourists and residents are getting ready for the countdown in Times Square that marks the end of the year and the beginning of a new one. This widely televised [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Our public affair with food porn

Image by Phil Thomas, CC. Click on image for license and information.

Do you ever feel like your social feed is overrun by pictures of food? A report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project from October 2013 found that more than half of all Internet users have posted original photos or videos to a website. Thanks to the portability of cell phone cameras and the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Obligation of Gifts

Photo by KDCosta, 2013.

For those of you with Christmas trees, they probably look a little barren following the unwrapping of presents. What did you get for Christmas? And what did you give in return? Gift giving is a large part of the holiday season, but for many the exchange of presents can be a stressful exercise. Some people [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Santa Traditions Around the World

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "A merry Christmas." New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed December 24, 2014.  Click on image for original link to collection.

Earlier this week, I shared a link on Twitter to a piece on Brain Pickings on how anthropologist Margaret Mead suggested we talk to children about Santa Claus: Belief in Santa Claus becomes a problem mainly when parents simultaneously feel they are telling their children a lie and insist on the literal belief in a [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Thanksgiving Tidbits

Photo by Satya Murthy, Creative Commons.

Now that you’ve filled yourself with good company and good food and you’re settled on your couch, how about some light reading before the tryptophan sets in? I’ve assembled some of my favorites from around the web. What did your meal look like? The New York Times has a neat round up of recipes from [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Thanksgiving Live Blog 2015

Our Thanksgiving table, 2013.

Happy Thanksgiving from the D’Costas! Back in 2011, I experimented with sharing my Thanksgiving with you, Readers, and I thought it might be time for a resurrection, so welcome to our kitchen and table. This year we’re not hosting, but we’re still cooking! Instead of the traditional late dinner tomorrow that we usually prepare, we’re [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Emergence of Death and Dying as We Know It

Photo by KDCosta, 2011. Sleepy Hollow, NY.

Once upon a time, people died in their homes. Up until the time of death they were cared for by friends, family members, and appointed religious leaders. (The latter reminded the dying and their loved ones of the frailty of life in preparation for the impending separation.) And following death, the deceased remained in the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Why do we need to have so many meetings?

A model of my calendar for the week of Oct. 6. Client details have been removed, and meetings classified by function.

These days my calendar is a source of stress. My morning routine of reviewing my appointments for the day during my commute often leaves me dreading the coming workday—and frantically looking for 15 minute blocks that I can hold to catch-up on email or return phone calls if needed. It’s not uncommon to find myself [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Why did Pirates Fly the Jolly Roger?

Photo by eddiemcfish. Click on image for license and information.

The “pirate brand” has long been tied to the skull and crossbones—the Jolly Roger—as a symbol of terror on the high seas. A 2011 article in The New York Times hails the ominous design as a magnificent exercise in collective hybrid branding, noting that economics drove pirates to adopt a version of this particular symbol [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Is data really changing the nature of wearable technology?

Fitbit and other health trackers.

Do you have a FitBit story? Last November, S came home with a Fitbit Flex. For those of you who don’t have one of these increasingly ubiquitous devices, it’s a small, plastic band that you wear on your wrist (there are other tracker options as well). It tracks the number of steps you take each [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Two-Billion-Year-Old Fossils Reveal Strange and Puzzling Forms

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To a human, two billion years is an unfathomable interval. But that, a team of European, Gabonese, and American scientists now say, is how long ago a recently discovered hoard of fossils suggests Earth’s first big life evolved — large enough to see with the naked eye, and in a spectrum of forms that tease [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Ocean Giants: How Big Are They Really?

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Just how big is a giant squid? Not quite as big, perhaps, as you might think. This fabulous new graphic from the Deep Sea News crew and several other scientists represents *a lot* of research to find out the true largest sizes of 25 ocean creatures of giant repute. It appeared today to accompany an [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Deepest Fish Features Angel Wings, Tentacles and Amazing Ability to Perform Under Pressure

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There comes a depth at which even fish struggle to survive the titanic pressure. But that depth is only found at the few places on Earth that lie below 27,600 feet of water, where the weight of the water warps piscine proteins and crushes cells. Such a place is the Mariana Trench, which plunges to [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: Ferns Eject Their Spores with Medieval-Style Catapults

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Author’s note: This is the latest post in the Wonderful Things series. You can read more about this series here. One of the more under-appreciated and ingenious machines evolved by plants is the cavitation catapult of leptosporangiate ferns. If that sounds exciting and mysterious, that’s because it is. This is a leptosporangium, where the fern [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

A Sweet Seahorse Tale From Fantastic New Web Series “Deep Look”

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Today I have a small biology present for you courtesy of a new series of short videos produced by PBS Digital Studios and KQED San Francisco. For those of you who, like me, take pleasure in exploring Earth’s more diminutive wonders, this new web series is a treat you should know about. It’s called “Deep [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Bacterial Motors Come in a Dizzying Array of Models

flagellar_motor_borellia_burgdorferi_chen_et_al_2011

Bacteria that can swim propel themselves with corkscrew tails anchored in rotary motors. That may seem surprisingly mechanical for a microbe, but it is a system that has been wildly popular and conserved across billions of years of evolution. To see what I mean, I encourage you to visit this page. All four videos are [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Parasitic Trypanosomes Contain Nature’s Only Chain Mail DNA

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The organisms that cause us untold suffering can also be astounding works of art, sculpted by evolution into elegant, deadly packages. Such is the case for the trypanosomes, the protists I discussed last time as the source of Chagas Disease, but which also cause sleeping sickness in Africa. But what lurks inside those little packages [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Americans May Be More at Risk from Deadly Heart Parasite Than Realized

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The kissing bug may have the most misleadingly cute name in entomology. It bites, rather than smooches, its victims around the mouth or face. But far worse than the bite itself is what may find its way into it: wriggling worm-like parasitic protists called Trypanosoma cruzi that teem in the feces of these bugs, which [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Giant Transparent Ribbons of Eel Larvae

ribbon_eel_larva_miller_et_al_2013

Author’s note: This is the latest post in the Wonderful Things series. You can read more about this series here. It is startling how different the larvae of fish can be from the adults that produced them, as I wrote in a blog post a few months ago. But even I was shocked by the [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Plankton Astound With Their Many Ways of Bustin’ a Move

zooplankter_swimming_Kiorboe_200

Though plankton drift with the ocean currents, that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of any movement. Many of them can move to find food or mates, and they do so in some surprising and sometimes entertaining ways. Just have a look at this sampler of dinoflagellaes, ciliates, rotifers, cladocerans, and copepod larvae and adults put together [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Video: We’re Huge in Hungary

screenshot from video "What Happens to Your Body After You Die," with Hungarian subtitles

In early January, Scientific American editor Mark Fischetti noticed that our video “What Happens to Your Body after You Die?” had 466,000 views on YouTube. Well, now it has more than 989,000. Holy cow. At first, we had no idea what was happening, but it struck us that maybe we should investigate what, indeed, was [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

A New Vision for Scientific American’s Blog Network

Blogs have been part of the media ecosystem for more than a decade now, but news outlets are still wrestling with how to best incorporate them into their operations. Dave Winer, one of the medium’s pioneers, once defined a blog as, “the unedited voice of a person.” Further to that, he argued: “If it was [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

A New Way to Share Articles—and Help Advance Science

ReadCube enables content sharing from nature.com

Paging through some old Scientific American scrapbooks recently, I found this gem from Gerard Piel, a past publisher, in a 1958 article: “Science moves forward in little jumps with small accretions to the total body of knowledge. But its progress is motivated at every step by the larger questions in which all men have a [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Online Now Speaks Spanish

saEsp

In 1845, when Scientific American was founded, the name was aspirational for a young country in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. Before the 1800s were out, however, it launched an edition in Spanish. Although that early effort disappeared for some decades, today we have an edition in Spain—along with translations into 13 additional languages. [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Science in Action Winner Kenneth Shinozuka

Kenneth Shinozuka, 2014 winner of the Scientific American Science in Action award, powered by the Google Science Fair. Credit: Google Science Fair

It’s no secret to Scientific American readers that we feel a special obligation to support the next generation of science enthusiasts, whom we hope to inspire both with our science coverage and our education initiatives, including the Scientific American Science in Action Award, powered by the Google Science Fair. The awards event was held a [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Particle Physics Informs the Ultimate Questions

Editor’s Note: Author and Fermilab Senior Scientist Don Lincoln is set to teach “Mysteries of the Universe” from October 13 – 24 for Scientific American’s Professional Learning Program. We recently talked with Dr. Lincoln about why he became a physicist and his motivations to share what he discovers. When I was a young boy, I [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Putting Science in Action in Swaziland

T.H. Culhane and Scientific American Science in Action winners and Google Science Fair finalists during a Hangout in Swaziland.

In 2012, the Scientific American Science in Action award became part of Google Science Fair. Last month, one of the judges for both, T.H. Culhane, traveled to Swaziland to work with our 2012 winners as well as another finalist and more; we had a Swaziland Hangout during the visit. Now I’m thrilled to bring to [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Quantum Short 2014 Film Contest Accepting Entries

When the 2008 Bond film came out with the title Quantum of Solace, science fans may have been hoping for a plot that hinged on quantum physics. Bond didn’t deliver, but there are some pretty great quantum-inspired movies out there. And soon there’ll be a few more. The Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

A Hangout with Google Science Fair in Swaziland

Left to right: Sakhiwe Shongwe, TH Culhane, Bonkhe Mahlalela, Rohit Fenn, Bayinda, Amit Fenn in Swaziland. Credit: YouTube

You know what’s awesome? Seeing a bunch of young people at work on changing the world to make it a better place for all. Today, I hosted a Google Science Fair Hangout On Air on Sustainability in Swaziland, and I got to have that privilege. Now I want to share it with you. My fellow [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

A Hangout IN Air–Off a Cliff Face–for Science

Jason Osborne rappelling, running Hangout On Air with phone, and looking for fossils. Credit: Aaron Alford.

When I last did a Google Science Fair Hangout On Air with Jason Osborne and Aaron Alford, founders of Paleo Quest, they were diving in a swamp looking for fossils. Yesterday, they took their fossil quest to new heights, rather literally: this time, they hung on ropes off the side of a cliff for a [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Modern rudeness in Stone Age minds with Amy Alkon

Reasontv-AmyAlkonOnBeatingSomeMannersIntoImpoliteSociety803

Advice columnist and science writer Amy Alkon sheds light on the evolutionary roots of modern impoliteness. She shares research on how to cure rudeness and make the world a friendlier place. Scott and Amy get personal as they cover topics like living with ADHD, being a starving artist, how to live a good life and [...]

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Beautiful Minds

“What is it like to be a psychopath?”

Kent Kiehl

Cognitive neuroscientist Kent Kiehl discusses his research and personal experience working with “those without conscience.” Scott and Kent demystify the historically fascinating illness as it relates to criminal activity, genius, evil, flourishing, the brain, gender and treatment. In this episode you will hear about: Why there’s been so much interest in psychopathy What it means [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Todd Kashdan on dancing with the dark side of your personality

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Psychologist Dr. Todd Kashdan shares some unconventional research on how we can harness “negative” psychological characteristics to live whole, successful and fulfilling lives. Topics include the dark triad, emotional experimentation, mindfulness, education, evolution and what it means to live well. In this episode you will hear about: How feelings like anxiety, jealousy and selfishness can [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Messy Minds of Creative People

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Creativity is very messy. According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages:  preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this: Or this: The creative process– from the first drop of paint on the canvas to the art exhibition– [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Adam Grant on givers, takers, matchers and fakers

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University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Professor and bestselling author Adam Grant presents some heartening research on how being a giver can lead to success. He and Scott chat about a plethora of topics, including the meaning of friendship, introversion, takers, and fakers, and the importance of challenging dogmatic science. In this episode you will hear: [...]

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Beautiful Minds

What Forms of Creativity Turn You On?

It’s no secret: creativity is sexy. People all over the world rank creativity as a highly desirable quality in a partner, and people who are creative across a variety of fields report more sexual partners (similar results have been found in specific fields such as visual art, music, and humor). But are all forms of [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Discussing the origins of extraordinary athletic performance with David Epstein

Sports-Gene

Bestselling author David Epstein discusses research on the complex interplay of nature and nurture in sports, how mentality propels success, how we assess potential, sex differences in sport, and why getting older doesn’t mean we can’t achieve greatness. In this episode you will hear about: Baselines abilities vs. trainability Common mistakes we make when judging [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Talking Mastery and Social Intelligence with Author Robert Greene

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Five time international bestselling author Robert Greene shares his thoughts on creativity, finding your calling, social intelligence and his latest book about what it means to be a master of your craft. In this episode you will hear about: How to become a master of your craft Robert’s own struggle to find his uniqueness that [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Daydreaming and Mental Contrasting for Goal-Fulfillment with Gabriele Oettingen

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Psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen’s research on goal-setting and self-regulation animates discussion of some incredibly practical tools to help with constructive daydreaming, hurdling obstacles, implementation intentions and goal-fulfillment. In this episode you will hear about: The ‘WOOP’ framework for goal-setting and goal-realization How simply thinking positively about goals can actually hinder efficacy The right way to use prospection [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Science of Growing Smarter with Annie Murphy Paul

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Science writer Annie Murphy Paul’s fresh perspective on intelligence and personality prompt a heart-to-heart about learning, intelligence assessments, growth mindsets and rethinking intelligence. In this episode you will hear about: Nature vs. nurture and the dynamic nature of personal identity How intelligence/personality are more situationally influenced than we tend to think The follies of IQ [...]

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Budding Scientist

Last-Minute Science Gifts For Kids

facebug

These books, movies and experiences are some of my family’s favorites from the last year. All are gettable by Christmas at either Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, or at your local bookstore and aquarium. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, these will help you pass the time before school starts up again in January. Happy New Year! Face [...]

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Budding Scientist

Girls With a Plan to Ease World Hunger Win Top Science Award

A chance observation about warts on a pea plant led a trio of teenagers on a three-year mission to solve the world food crisis. Their perseverance earned them top honors at the annual Google Science Fair in Mountain View, California. Emer Hickey, 16, Ciara Judge, 16, and Sophie Healy–Thow, 17, of Kinsale, Ireland won the [...]

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Budding Scientist

7 Amazing Google Science Fair Projects

Tonight, Google will announce the winners of its fourth annual Google Science Fair, which Scientific American co-sponsors. Watch the awards ceremony here live. The 15 global finalists, ages 13 to 18, set up their projects yesterday at Google headquarters in Mountain View California for judges and members of the public to see.  The grand prize [...]

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Budding Scientist

Hooked on Metrics: Why Learning Can and Should Be Measured

The following is a guest post by Scott Bennett, principal of eSTEM Academy in Reynoldsburg, Ohio When I first started teaching science 10 years ago, no one ever talked about achievement or thought about data. You just entered the classroom, taught and assumed what you were doing were the right things. One day, my principal [...]

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Budding Scientist

Skulls, Bloodletting, and How to Teach Science

[View the story "Skulls, Elephants and How To Teach Science" on Storify]

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Budding Scientist

Jell-O Brains and DNA: High School Students Launch Innovative STEM Program

Project BEST Jello Brains

The following guest post is by Roy Rinberg, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. and an incoming freshman at New York University. He is co-founder of Project Building Excitement for Science and Technology (BEST), an afterschool program for junior high school students. My love of science, technology, engineering [...]

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Budding Scientist

Texas Museum Loses Climate Change Display

The hall at Dallas's Perot Museum of Nature and Science, where the missing panel was supposed to hang.

Science museums are among the most trusted sources of information about the world around us. At their best, they offer fun, interactive, rich learning environments that surprise, inspire and enlighten their visitors. Readers of this blog know that my daughter and I spend hours at these places working on engineering projects, building bridges and ball [...]

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Budding Scientist

Stop Lecturing Me (In College Science)!

Screen shot 2014-05-19 at 10.53.21 PM

College lecture classes have been around for more than 900 years. Lately, a handful of science and engineering professors have been experimenting with a more innovative way of teaching science, especially at the introductory level. The idea is to have students spend their class time solving problems and engaging in activities that are designed to [...]

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Budding Scientist

A High School Lab As Engaging as Facebook

Just down the hall from Paulo Blikstein’s office at Stanford University is a student laboratory of the future. It has spring green-and-yellow tiled floors, matching walls and is stocked with every type of digital fabrication tool one can imagine: laser cutters, 3D printers, 3D scanners, 3D milling machines, robotics, and programming tools.  “In short, we [...]

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Budding Scientist

A littleBit of Electronic Literacy

Guest Post by Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits, an award-winning open source library of electronic modules that magnetically snap together to allow users to create simple circuits and innovative projects. Probably one of the most annoying things I hear adults say is, “I’m not really a technology kind of person.” Unfortunately, I hear [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: January 24, 2015

Image: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester

Sunday brought two NFL playoff games, whereby the Seattle Seahawks eked out an unlikely victory over the Green Bay Packers, and the New England Patriots trounced the Baltimore Colts. But the latter game sparked a controversy (dubbed “DeflateGate” on Twitter) about whether the Patriots may have illegally deflated the football slightly to make it easier [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: January 17, 2015

1997 Nobel Laureate Steven Chu. Credit: Volker Steger

This week on Virtually Speaking Science, I chatted with physicist Ainissa Ramirez, co-author of Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game about her life as a self-described science evangelist and “Science Underground,” her new micro-podcast with journalist Bill Retherford. Related (since we talked a bit about the rare earth metals used in so many consumer [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: January 10, 2014

Credit: Alberto Seveso, http://burdu976.com

As you read this, we are making our way back to sunny Los Angeles after spending some time in Seattle. The Emerald City is on fire with Seahawks fever, so it seems appropriate to read that geologists Are Going to Measure Seattle Seahawk Fans’ Feetquake, via the judicious distribution of sensors around the stadium. Scientists [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: January 3, 2015

Convective mass transfer in a champagne glass. Image credit: F. Beaumont et al.,

Welcome to 2015 and take a moment to bask in The Beauty of a Grain of Sand on a Cosmic Beach. You, too, can start off the new year admiring a gorgeous photo of a barred spiral galaxy, along with thoughts from the Bad Astronomer on how big our human minds can be — even [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

My Favorite Physics Books of 2014

trespassing_on_einstein_s_lawn

Sneaking in at the last couple of  hours of 2014, here’s the promised list of Jen-Luc Piquant’s favorite popular physics books of 2014 — although as always, the definition of “physics book” can be a little fuzzy. Boundaries are for blurring, people. All in all, it was a great year for the genre, starting with: [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: December 27, 2014

Credit: A. Gonoskov, C. Harvey, A. Ilderton, F. Mackenroth, M. Marklund, http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.5998

Welcome to the final links roundup of 2014. It’s a little light this week, because, well, folks are busy with family and holidays and whatnot. Nonetheless, a few hardy souls still managed to feed the Internet some sweet, sweet content. December 21 was the winter solstice. Vox had a post declaring that December 21, 2014 [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: December 20, 2014

Credit: Jonty Hurwitz, http://www.jontyhurwitz.com/nano/

The Christmas holiday approacheth, and for those of a Maker bent, here’s how to Build A Sled For Slinging Snowballs — Winter Warfare Will Never Be the Same.  If you’re more the craft-y sort, now you can deck the halls with Nobel physicists with this physics twist on the craft of cutting paper snowflakes. Bonus: [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Celebrating the Silly and the Sublime: the Best Physics Papers of 2014

Credit: DR Fred Espenak/SPL

It’s tradition for various science media outlets to publish their lists of biggest scientific breakthroughs of the year right about now. And no doubt those breakthroughs deserve the attention and acclaim. But let’s face it, most scientific papers don’t get lauded as major breakthroughs; science progresses incrementally. We at the cocktail party think such papers [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Best Physics Videos of 2014

Credit: Andrzej Dragan

It’s that time of year, when we all look back over 2014 and reflect on all the cool science stuff that happened. Today, Jen-Luc Piquant has compiled her Top 20 physics-themed videos of 2014 — with the caveat that not all of them were actually created in 2014. But we discovered them this year, and [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: December 13, 2014

Gift idea for the metaphysicist? The Science Tarot! http://www.sciencetarot.com

If you missed this week’s Virtually Speaking Science, the theme was This Is Your Brain on Movies. I chatted with cognitive neuroscientist Jeffrey Zachs, author of  a fantastic new book — Flicker: Your Brain on Movies — about science, cinema, and the brain. This is awesome: Parable of the Polygons: how harmless choices can make [...]

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Compound Eye

Recipe For A Photograph #5: The Angry Ant

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This 2007 photograph of a fire ant brandishing her stinger is among the most heavily circulated images from my collection. Since several people have asked how I managed to coax the animal into such a dramatic pose, I bring you the following recipe. But first, a digression into fire ant biology. Everyone knows fire ants [...]

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Compound Eye

Giving Birth To A Tropical Parasite [Video; Not For The Squeamish]

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“Why is it that an animal that is actively trying to kill us, such as a lion, gets more respect than one that is only trying to nibble on us a little, without causing much harm?” -Piotr Naskrecki Biologist Piotr Naskrecki, who traveled with me to Belize last year, returned home to find himself incubating [...]

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Compound Eye

Into the Public Domain

In honor of January 1st being Public Domain Day, I am releasing a few of my older images from copyright: These images are now available for all uses, including commercial use, without the need for attribution or permission. Enjoy! Why am I doing this? Public Domain Gallery at Alex Wild Photography Wikimedia Commons  

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Compound Eye

My Personal Best Photographs of 2014

Aedes aegypti

2014 was a busy year, and an odd one in terms of subject matter. Usually my stream is full of ants. I am trained as an ant biologist, after all, and these charming social insects typically weigh heavily in my photographs (see 2013, 2012, 2011). I’ve been broadening my scope, though. Wandering out of my [...]

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Compound Eye

January 1 is Public Domain Day!

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[The following piece is a modified repost from 2013] Every year, on the first of January, copyrights on certain older creative works expire and the works pass into the public domain. In 2015, for example, a selection of pieces by mythologist Joseph Campbell and artist Edvard Munch will, in some countries, become open for anyone to [...]

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Compound Eye

These Spider Fangs Aren’t Going To Photograph Themselves

Atrax robustus

Here is a photograph of a Sydney funnel-web spider, Atrax robustus: I won’t explain the biology of this delightful animal here – you may read about it at Wikipedia in greater arachnological detail. Instead, I want to show the process by which I arrived at this composition. Most photographs involve some combination of creativity and constraint, and [...]

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Compound Eye

Successful Science Photographers Have Access. Here’s How To Get It.

Yuko Ulrich

If you spend time reading online photography fora, which you do because you’re here, you will already know the key to great photos is owning the Canikon Extended 15-1000mm F1.2 Stabilized Howitzer XL III. You probably can’t afford the Canikon XL III. But if you could, you’d know to shoot in camera raw with mirror [...]

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Compound Eye

Wasps Are Our Friends: Part IV

Encarsia

When most people think of wasps, they imagine a stereotypically striped stinging insect. Such wasps are part of the family Vespidae, but they are, in fact, a minority of species and unrepresentative of their order. Taken by sheer number of species, the average wasp is quite a different animal: timid, stingless, and very, very small. [...]

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Compound Eye

How To Manipulate a Firefly Photograph The Old-Fashioned Way, Through Focus

Fireflies

In the previous post, I listed a couple ways in which photographers digitally alter firefly photographs. How nefarious of them! I admit, however,  the post was a wee bit facetious. Photoshop can be used to alter the appearance of an image, of course, but cameras themselves have enough variables that a photographer can exercise tremendous [...]

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Compound Eye

How To Pick A Photoshopped Firefly

Photinus pyralis

Now that firefly season is sparking up our eastern and midwestern summer evenings, I am starting to see not just the insects themselves but the attendant media buzz. That nature gets some public attention is a good thing, of course. But nature untouched isn’t apparently enough for everyone. A surprising number of common stock firefly [...]

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Cross-Check

Did Edgar Allan Poe Foresee Modern Physics and Cosmology?

Poe presented an ambitious theory of everything—which seems to anticipate certain modern scientific ideas--in Eureka, a book-length work that he write just before he died.

I’ve always been an Edgar Allan Poe fan, so much so that I even watched the horrifying—not in a good way–2012 film The Raven. But when I spotted an essay on Poe by novelist Marilynne Robinson in the February 5 New York Review of Books, I hesitated to read it, thinking, What more can I [...]

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Cross-Check

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Haunting Reflections on Science and Progress

In his 1964 Nobel acceptance speech, King lamented the "poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance."

Wanting to post something to honor Martin Luther King Day, I searched online for commentary by King on science. I found some examples in a terrific 2012 column by science journalist Cara Santa Maria, who quoted King decrying how science had served the causes of white supremacy and slavery. I also discovered King’s 1964 Nobel [...]

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Cross-Check

A Brief, Ironic History of “Ironic Science”

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Football is dead to me! I can’t watch any more without thinking about brain-damage and abuse of women and dogs. So instead of watching playoff games today (although I’m beaming bad-luck vibes at Brady and Belichick, whom I love to hate), I traced the history of “ironic science.” In my previous column, I claimed ownership [...]

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Cross-Check

What Is “Ironic Science”?

As far as I know, the phrase "ironic science" was first employed in my 1996 book The End of Science.

I was scanning my Twitter feed recently, pretending to look for “news” while really searching, as usual, for items that praise, condemn or merely allude to me—I mean, let’s face it, all of us social-media addicts are narcissists–when the bells in my amygdala started clanging. Someone had tweeted a paper called “The Ethics of Ironic [...]

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Cross-Check

Would Global Violence Decline Faster If U.S. Was Less Militaristic?

Global violence has declined, but wars instigated by the U.S. have produced enormous casualties. Graph from costsofwar.org.

2015 has begun with horrific violence: the slaughter in Paris, allegedly by Muslim extremists, of the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Outbursts like these lead many people to despair over the prospects for peace. A recent essay in Slate, “The World Is Not Falling Apart“–subtitled “Never mind the headlines. We’ve never lived in [...]

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Cross-Check

Troublemaker Lee Smolin Says Physics—and Its Laws—Must Evolve*

Smolin: "Fundamental physics and cosmology have to transform themselves from a search for timeless laws and symmetries to the investigation of hypotheses about how laws evolve."

What separates good from bad troublemakers? Productive provocateurs from mere contrarians, bullshit artists, attention-seekers? This is the personalized equivalent of philosophy’s demarcation problem, which involves telling genuine from pseudo-science. Lee Smolin, a 59-year-old physicist at the Perimeter Institute in Canada, has always struck me as a good–even necessary–troublemaker. I first interviewed him in the early [...]

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Cross-Check

Need a New Year’s Resolution? Believe in Free Will!

Choices, freely made, are what make life meaningful. Try telling prisoners in Guantanamo or Syrian civilians fleeing bombs and bullets that choices are illusory. “Let’s change places,” they might respond, “since you have nothing to lose.”

New Year’s Day is approaching, a time when we—by which I mean I–brood over past failures and vow to improve ourselves: I will be less judgmental with my kids and more romantic with my girlfriend. I will stop binging on Christmas cookies and television–except X Files re-runs, which are awesome! I will remember that people [...]

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Cross-Check

How an Agnostic Science Writer Celebrates Winter Solstice

Sitting in a circle of stones on Winter Solstice can help us intuit what science also tells us, that life is infinitely improbable.

Winter Solstice, darkest day of the year, is fast approaching. So once again I’m posting an edited version of a column I originally wrote for The New York Times more than a decade ago, when I was still married and living in a Hudson Valley hamlet. –John Horgan My wife recently decided that our family [...]

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Cross-Check

Advice to Young Science Writers: Think Like Chomsky*

Science journalists should challenge dogma and authority, just as Noam Chomsky does in the realm of politics.

I’ve been pondering my profession again lately, for several reasons: shifts in the Scientific American Blog Network; the launch of a science communication program at my school, Stevens Institute of Technology, which is closely allied with a new program in science, technology and society (STS); and finally a chat with editors at IEEE Spectrum, where [...]

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Cross-Check

A Profile of Biologist, Warrior, Poet, Philosopher Edward O. Wilson

In a 1994 interview, Wilson expressed doubt that "we are going to go through any revolutionary changes of how evolution works or how diversification works or how biodiversity is created, at the species level."

Personal feelings can complicate science journalism. I dislike some scientists whose views I admire, and like some whose views make me squirm. For example, I admired Stephen Jay Gould’s hostility to biological reductionism but thought he was a jerk. Conversely, I resist some views of Gould’s archenemy, Edward O. Wilson, but in person I find [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Quasars, Black Holes, and the Origins of “Intercontinental Radio Astronomy”

Owens Valley interferometer

Not long ago I came across a piece in the Scientific American archives from the earliest days of very-long baseline radio interferometry, the technique employed by the Event Horizon Telescope. As readers of this blog will know, the Event Horizon Telescope is a planet-size array of radio telescopes, currently being developed, that will soon be [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

The Black Hole in Interstellar Looks Amazingly Realistic

SgrA_bestfit (1)

Wired has a fun piece about physicist and black-hole guru Kip Thorne’s work on the film Interstellar, which comes out November 7. We’ve known the premise of the film for a long time: Earth is a disaster, the human race is on the verge of extinction, and mankind must find a new home. Alas, space [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Giving ALMA a Heart Transplant

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Credit: ESO/C. Malin

Before they can see Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, the astronomers of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) must complete an epic to-do list. The most important item on that list: Bring the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) into the group. It’s easy to see why. After all, ALMA [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Time Travel: Installing an Atomic Clock at 15,000 Feet

The Large Millimeter Telescope in the Mexican state of Puebla

A few months ago I went to Cambridge, Mass. to check in with the Event Horizon Telescope crew and found Shep Doeleman, the project leader, fresh off the completion of a major purchase. He and his colleagues had just closed a deal on two hydrogen masers, among the most precise atomic clocks available. He displayed [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Cloud Bound for Milky Way’s Black Hole Puzzles Astronomers

A simulation of the G2 dust cloud approaching the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Stellar orbits around the black hole are traced in blue. Credit: M. Schartmann and L. Calcada/ European Southern Observatory and Max-Planck-Institut fur Extraterrestrische Physik.

For the past year, astronomers around the world have been watching the center of the Milky Way in anticipation of a once-per-eon event. Right around now (or, technically, 24,000 years ago—that’s roughly how far away the galactic center is in light years), a cloud of gas and dust plummeting toward our galaxy’s supermassive black hole, [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

How to Build an Earth-Size Telescope

The full Event Horizon Telescope array

Looking into the galactic center is hard. So much dust and gas lies between us and the center of the Milky Way that very little of the visible light emitted there makes it to us. We can peek through that dust and gas by collecting x-rays, infrared radiation, and radio waves. Even then, however, resolving [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

How to See a Black Hole: Introducing Dark Star Diaries

Sagittarius A*

The image you see here is a computer-generated model of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, which we call Sagittarius A*. More precisely, it is a model of the “shadow” that Sagittarius A*, with its mass of four million suns, should cast. The glowing blob in the lower right corner is [...]

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Dog Spies

Why Do Dogs Love Snow?

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Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half Yesterday, East Coasters prepared for the blizzard of the century. I learned of the storm’s potential severity while at the supermarket — all the bread was gone. All of it. Why bread? Do people just sit at home chomping on bread during snow days? “Alright kids! Finish sledding so [...]

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Dog Spies

Why Do People Sometimes Give Up Their Dogs?

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“We would love to tell you that every dog can flourish in every home, but the truth is that, no matter what you do, sometimes a dog and family are not a good fit.” ~ Patricia McConnell and Karen London, Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home My first dog [...]

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Dog Spies

Do Dog Athletes Get Dog Injuries?

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My inbox has changed in the last few years. I still receive work, friend, and family emails, but I increasingly receive dog product and promotional emails, which I’ve learned to delete as quickly as possible. Apparently, I’m not a fan of newfangled dog products that no dog would want (and that could only have been [...]

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Dog Spies

A Dog Rolling Over During Play Is a Combat Tactic, Not Submission

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I’ve got the ‘dog play’ bug, arguably one of the better winter bugs to have. I recently covered which toys dogs prefer (the answer: new ones, although old ones can be reinvigorated), as well as the unfortunate finding that when a dog’s not “playing right,” it could be you, not them. But toys and people [...]

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Dog Spies

It’s Not You It’s Me: If a Dog Won’t Play With You, It Could Be Your Fault

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You’ve probably heard the expression, Life Is Short: Play With A Dog. “Okay!” you think. “I’ll do it!” After all, dogs play together until they are gray in the face. Dogs also play with people, although that’s not always a given. Have you ever tried to play with a dog and it just doesn’t work? [...]

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Dog Spies

Studies Find Dogs Prefer New Toys, But You Can Make Old Toys New

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Despite their individual differences, dogs as a species still have overarching ‘dog like’ attributes. If you live with a dog, you might have reflected on a particular doggie characteristic this holiday season without even realizing it. Dogs like new things. The scientific term for a preference for novelty is called neophilia, and neophilia could explain [...]

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Dog Spies

28 Santa-Approved Dog Science Articles

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Can’t believe so-and-so said that in front of everyone? Is it time for a break from members of your own species? The dogs are here to help. 2014 was a big year for canine science, although that’s not entirely true. Every year, particularly since the late 1990’s, has been a ‘big year’ for canine science [...]

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Dog Spies

Why Dogs Hump, Brought to Life In a Way You Can’t Unsee

buzzhootroar_2_10Nov14

I’ve been writing about dog humping for years. Jon Stewart mentioned my first piece, “H*mping: Why Do They Do It?” on air. Fine, it could have had something to do with the dog-friendly workplace at “The Daily Show” being featured in that issue of The Bark magazine, but for some reason, my humping article grabbed [...]

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Dog Spies

Could Our Love of Dogs Obscure Their Most Important Parts?

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Ask me about my childhood dog Brandy, and I hope you have at least an hour to spare. The story of how she came into my life (told here) is entertaining enough (and to hold your attention, I would play up the parts about the mother-daughter conflict that preceded visiting the shelter, as well as [...]

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Dog Spies

What Did Your Dog Just Say? Researchers Want to Know

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The Beagle stopped dead in his tracks. It. Was. Coming. As the fire truck neared, the Beagle held his stance, put his head back, and out came a long, deep howl. The Beagle’s human companion waited patiently by his side for the inevitable to conclude. Dogs make noises. There’s no getting around it. To bring [...]

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Expeditions

Call of the Orangutan: Rescuing a Crashed Drone

Using a second UAV, SOCP's Graham Usher was able to locate the drone lost the week before, which sat on top of the tree canopy. (Photo by Graham Usher)

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part post about using drone technology to search for orangutans around the Sikundur research station in North Sumatra. To read the first part, click here. For all posts in the series, “Call of the Orangutan,” click here. After our drone, which was designed to help our [...]

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Expeditions

Call of the Orangutan: Using Drones to Scan the Forest

A collection of photos of orangutan nests taken by different survey flights. (Photo courtesy of Conservation Drones)

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part post about using drone technology to search for orangutans around the Sikundur research station in North Sumatra. To read the second part, click here. For all posts in the series, “Call of the Orangutan,” click here. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are increasingly being [...]

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Expeditions

Extreme Ice Survey: Farewell to the Antarctic Peninsula

Dan McGrath and Matthew Kennedy attempt to excavate a battery box that became entombed in ice over the winter. Thankfully the cameras still functioned properly. ©2014 Extreme Ice Survey/Stephen Nowland.

Editors Note: Members of the Extreme Ice Survey team are returning to South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula to maintain time-lapse camera systems. These cameras have been patiently snapping a photo every hour of every day since they were installed and are part of a much larger project that includes 38 time-lapse cameras spread [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: It’s All in the Stripes

A 3D model wireframe fit onto a tiger with ExtractCompare sof​tware.

Editor’s Note: “Along the Tiger’s Trail” is a  series about the efforts to monitor tigers and their prey in the Malenad landscape in southwestern India that harbors one of the world’s largest population of wild tigers. The series tracks on-going annual activities of the world’s longest running research project on tiger and their prey, implemented [...]

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Expeditions

Neutrinos on Ice: Launching the Balloon

The tip of the balloon is filled with helium. (Credit: Christian Miki)

Editor’s Note: Welcome to ANITA, the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna! From October to December, Katie Mulrey is traveling with the ANITA collaboration to Antarctica to build and launch ANITA III, a scientific balloon that uses the entire continent of Antarctica for neutrino and cosmic ray detection. This is the sixth installment in a series, “Neutrinos on Ice,” documenting that effort. [...]

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Expeditions

Extreme Ice Survey: Installing the Palmer Station Cameras

The jagged edge of the Marr Ice Piedmont towers above the frigid waters of Arthur Harbor. During the installation the familiar sound of calving seracs constantly echoed through the air. (©Extreme Ice Survey/Stephen Nowland)

Editors Note: Members of the Extreme Ice Survey team are returning to South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula to maintain time-lapse camera systems. These cameras have been patiently snapping a photo every hour of every day since they were installed and are part of a much larger project that includes 38 time-lapse cameras spread [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Trapping Season Begins

A photograph from a camera-trap. (Courtesy of K. Ullas Karanth/WCS)

Editor’s Note: “Along the Tiger’s Trail” is a  series about the efforts to monitor tigers and their prey in the Malenad landscape in southwestern India that harbors one of the world’s largest population of wild tigers. The series tracks on-going annual activities of the world’s longest running research project on tiger and their prey, implemented [...]

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Expeditions

Neutrinos on Ice: Waiting to Fly

ANITA rolling out to the launchpad. (Katie Mulrey)

It’s another beautiful day in Antarctica, and the time has come to launch ANITA! Finding the right date is tricky. Many factors have to fall into place. In order to detect neutrinos and cosmic rays, we want to fly over the Eastern ice sheet in Antarctica. We detect these particles via their radio emission. The [...]

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Expeditions

Extreme Ice Survey: Water and Electronics Don’t Mix

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Editors Note: Members of the Extreme Ice Survey team are returning to South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula to maintain time-lapse camera systems. These cameras have been patiently snapping a photo every hour of every day since they were installed and are part of a much larger project that includes 38 time-lapse cameras spread [...]

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Expeditions

The Lawson Trek: Paddling the Intracoastal Waterway

Lunch on an oyster shoal after a surprisingly easy first morning of paddling. (It got harder.)

We stopped for lunch during the first day of the Lawson Trek on an oyster shoal, an uncharacteristically hot October sun stinging my shoulders, but surprisingly unbothered by four hours of kayak paddling. We had crossed Charleston Harbor against the current — the tide was coming in, whereas we were heading offshore. From the Charleston [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Rarely Seen Saharan Cheetah Revealed in Incredible Photos

Saharan cheetah

It’s not easy to get a glimpse of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki), the rarest of the six cheetah subspecies. Only about 200 to 250 of these nocturnal cats are thought to survive in remote pockets of Algeria, Niger, Togo, Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso, making them the rarest—and at the same [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Rescued Baby Orangutan Shines Light on Cruel, Illegal Pet Trade [Video]

rescued orangutan

The plight of an emaciated, possibly crippled baby orangutan has brought worldwide attention this week to the cruel practices that resulted in the endangered ape spending the first 10 months of his life in a chicken cage in Borneo. Budi, as the baby orangutan has come to be known, arrived at the Orangutan Rescue Center [...]

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Extinction Countdown

1,215: The Record Number of Rhinos Poached in 2014

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South Africa has finally finished compiling its report on the number of rhinos poached in the country last year and, as expected, the news is terrible. All-told, 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa in 2014, the highest number ever and an increase of 21 percent over 2013. By comparison, just 13 rhinos [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Venus Flytraps Risk Extinction in the Wild at the Hands of Poachers

venus flytrap

Earlier this month four men were arrested for poaching on the Holly Shelter Game Land preserve in North Carolina. Their arrest made national headlines, and history, as they became the first people charged with a felony for stealing Venus flytrap plants (Dionaea muscipula) from the wild. Yes, Venus flytrap poaching is a thing. Not only [...]

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Extinction Countdown

The Real Paddington Bear: Cute, Unique and Endangered

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As the new “Paddington” movie opens in U.S. theaters today, let’s take a look at the real-life endangered species that inspired author Michael Bond’s beloved books: the Andean spectacled bear. Species name: Andean or spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), sometimes referred to as the Andean short-faced bear for its unique abbreviated snout. The bears are the [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Mexican Wolves Finally Get Endangered Species Status

mexican wolf

North America’s smallest and rarest wolves will finally have the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. Well, almost. Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) nearly went extinct 40 years ago. After decades of hunting and persecution the last five wild members of the subspecies were rounded up in 1973 and placed in an emergency [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Teeny, Tiny Relative of Komodo Dragon Discovered in Australia

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Lizards don’t get much bigger than the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), which can reach three meters in length and may weigh as much as 70 kilograms. But not every member of the Varanus genus is a giant. Scientists in Australia last month unveiled the newest Varanus species and it’s as small as the Komodo is [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Monarch Butterflies Could Gain Endangered Species Protection

monarch butterfly

The flutter of a single butterfly’s wings may or may not be capable of causing tsunamis, but the loss of millions of butterflies is definitely being felt here in North America. Populations of the iconic and beloved monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) have dropped an astonishing 96.5 percent over the past few decades, from an [...]

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Extinction Countdown

The Best (or Worst) of 2014

northern white rhino

I wrote more than 150 articles about endangered species in 2014. Very few of them could be considered “good news.” But be they good news or bad, here are some of the best “Extinction Countdown” articles of the past year. Shocking Study Finds Lions are Nearly Extinct in West Africa — One of the most-read [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Holiday Species Snapshot: Christmas Island Shrew

christmas island shrew

Many species don’t have anything to be thankful for this holiday season. Here’s one that may have already been lost. Species name: The Christmas Island shrew (Crocidura trichura) Where found: This miniscule mammal only exists—if it still exists at all—on Australia’s Christmas Island, a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean that is also home to [...]

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Food Matters

Jonathan Eisen and Jessica Richman on the Microbiome

464px-Skin-Microbiome-Human

I just finished listening to a pretty great discussion between Jonathan Eisen, whose work I mentioned last month, and Jessica Richman, founder of uBiome (a sort of 23andMe but for the microbiome). It’s on the podcast of Tim Ferriss, who I’d never heard of, but is apparently a big deal. The discussion is wide-ranging, but [...]

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Food Matters

Microbial sex and not sex – Passing genes around the dinner table

Horizontal-gene-transfer

As mammals, I think we sometimes take sex for granted. I’m not talking about the frequently messy act of having sex, or the extensive effort most of us go through in order to have sex. I’m talking about the fact that sexual reproduction gives rise to some pretty impressive genetic diversity in a population. But [...]

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Food Matters

What To Eat When You’re High (up): Why Not Caviar? And Plenty Of H2O

Winter Park, Colorado, Image buy Author

If you are from the Midwest, or a place of comparable altitude, and have ever taken a trip to the mountains, then you are probably familiar with the humbling experience that is trying to breathe air that just doesn’t seem to be there. A simple task, such as walking up a hill can elicit dizziness, [...]

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Food Matters

The Truffle, Shuffled: Attempting To Make Alinea’s Famed Black Truffle Explosion

BTE7

Have no fear–there will be no re-enactments of this anywhere in this post. Instead, attempts to shuffle truffles will strictly be limited to those involving Tuber melanosporum mixed in various forms: juice, oil and fresh. Since it’s truffle season and dinner at Alinea is not in the foreseeable future, the next best thing seems to [...]

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Food Matters

Black Truffles: The Other Magic Mushroom?

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Just one try and some become addicted. They’re smuggled through airports and often counterfeited. According to a recent study, there may be one more way black truffles are similar to drugs. Researchers in Italy have found that black truffles produce anandamide, a natural chemical similar to marijuana’s active compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). One of the study’s [...]

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Food Matters

An Experiment in Open Science – My fermentation journal

A dehydrated Kombucha mother

I’m a strong believer in the notion that science, especially academic science that is performed with public money, should be openly accessible to everyone. I’m sort of on the radical fringe of this belief, as I think that not only published results, but lab notebooks, and in-process stuff as well should be shared. Alas, since [...]

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Food Matters

A look back at 2014

It was a scant blogging year for me, what with defending my PhD thesis, launching a masters program at Harvard and getting married. But I still have a couple of posts I’m proud of: It’s only been a couple of months, but it’s already hard to remember what life was like before my fermentation obsession. [...]

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Food Matters

Brewing the “First” Alcoholic Beverage

Raw wild flower honey

My fermentation obsession has reached new heights – on Christmas day I bottled my first mead, and it was delicious. My wife also gave me a book on mead making, and I’m getting ready to start a wild-ferment mead. So what is mead? Mead is an alcoholic ferment of honey. All alcoholic ferments start with [...]

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Food Matters

The First Supper

Hark! The herald angels weren’t singing in Matthew’s narrative. Boticelli’s Mystic Nativity more accurately depicts Luke’s account--he alludes to a stable (instead of Matthew’s house) and the oxen were an elaboration attributed to St. Francis of Assisi based off a subtle hint from Luke.

Last Christmas, we looked at why most celebrate the birth of Jesus with foods more closely associated with Bethlehem, Pennsylvania than the Bethlehem Jesus was born in. The popularity of Christmas in nineteenth century England and the influence of Charles Dickens’ short story, A Christmas Carol, contributed to current Christmas cuisine. There may be one [...]

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Food Matters

The Weight of the World: A Look At Global Obesity Prevalence and Dietary Trends

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Increased consumption of sugar, fats, and a more sedentary lifestyle have led to rising levels of obesity in the United States and parts of Europe. According a report from the UK based think tank, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), this trend may also be occurring throughout the developing world. Along with exploring the increasing rates of [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Aiming Too High (Or Too Low) When Communicating Science

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I recently had the opportunity to take part in a workshop for researchers about communicating science to the public. At one point the speaker suggested that the first step for anyone would be to learn how to translate scientific concepts so that a child would be able to understand them. When one of the researchers [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

What Rabbits and Martian Rovers Taught Me About Scale

Atacama Salar

Quite often when I am looking at photos, I just feel like something is missing. It is not a criticism of the light or the composition, but rather that something is, quite literally, missing: a scale. As someone who completed a PhD in geology, I am probably biased. I have more photos of my rock [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

This Box is Heavier; I Can Just Hear it! Illusions of Sight and Sound in the Blind and Deaf

(Source: http://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2013.00006)

The last time someone told you to look at an optical illusion, they probably described it as playing a cool trick on your eyes. But these quirks of perception – as well as most other illusions – have more to do with tricking your brain than anything else. Rather than thinking about illusions as being [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

How Many Raincoats Does it Take to Model a Prison Escape? Using Models to Get Into Those Hard-to-Reach Places

FIX ME

New technology is developed each year that lets us measure things that are smaller, colder, faster, or farther away than ever before. But there are some things, even with all of this technology, that we just can’t measure. What if we wanted to measure a certain property in the Earth’s core? Despite what movies like [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

It’s Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Christmas: The Neuroscience of Our Nostalgia

Traditional cookies ever bring back your childhood memories? Science knows why (credit: Amanda Baker)

Have you ever smelled something so familiar that it felt like you were transported back through time into one of your earlier memories? Have freshly baked cookies, your grandmother’s chili sauce, or a specific brand of sunscreen after a long winter actually affected the way you feel? It turns out that science can explain this [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

#SHAKING! How the Internet is Changing the Way We Respond to Earthquakes

Earthquake from USGS

With services like Twitter and Facebook ready at our fingertips, the internet is making it possible for people to share more than ever about their personal experiences. In some ways it may not be obvious how such information might be useful to scientists – like status updates about running out of orange juice or having [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Hot Dogs in Cages and Dead Gecko Feet: The Importance of Asking Small Questions

When we hear about science in our textbooks or on the news, we usually only hear about the big moments: discovering DNA, studying gravity, or understanding plate tectonics. But it is important to remember that science is about asking questions, and it is not only about asking big questions. Most of the time, those big [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Language: What Your Brain Remembers Even if You Forget

(Source: doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00014)

What is the earliest thing you remember? How old were you? What was happening? Have you ever wondered about all the things from before that moment that you can’t remember? Or all the things since that moment that you have forgotten? Maybe your family says that you used to refuse to eat yellow food, listened [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Hearing – Not Just For Your Ears Anymore

SeeingWithYourEars

Everyone learns about the senses from when we are very young. We smell with our noses, taste with our tongues, see with our eyes, touch with our skin, and listen with our ears … right? When scientists study our senses, they find that things are a bit more complicated. The sensory inputs that we receive [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

How Scientific Are Your Instruments?

Common items

What do coins, a Wii remote, or card games have to do with science? More than you might think. Scientific instruments are devices specifically designed to measure the subject of your research reliably and accurately. In many cases this includes specialized equipment like beakers, lasers, scales, and microscopes. Sometimes, depending on what you are trying [...]

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Guest Blog

Why We Need More Scientists in Davos

WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/swiss-image.ch/Photo Jolanda Flubacher

Science at the World Economic Forum is about inspiration, solutions and collaboration. First and foremost, leaders come together in Davos to address global challenges such as antibiotic resistance, climate change and understanding the human mind. Science has a critical role to play helping leaders understand why we have these problems, and increasingly leaders are looking [...]

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Guest Blog

Despite Esteem for Science, Public at Odds with Scientists on Major Issues

Scientists and their work have an important place in every major aspect of American life. Many hope that advances in science will improve people’s lives and enhance the economy. They are anxious to understand what innovations will disrupt existing daily activities and business routines. Policy arguments about science-related issues have held center stage in the [...]

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Guest Blog

Genetic Memory: How We Know Things We Never Learned

I met my first savant 52 years ago and have been intrigued with that remarkable condition ever since. One of the most striking and consistent things in the many savants I have seen is that that they clearly know things they never learned. Leslie Lemke is a musical virtuoso even though he has never had [...]

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Guest Blog

Virtual Dissection Method Could Reinvigorate Zoology

A 3D rendering of an earthworm made from a micro-computed tomography imagery dataset. This specimen was virtually dissected using the ‘wedge dissect’ tool in the open-source visualization software Drishti.

Last summer, researchers demonstrated that non-invasive imaging combined with a staining technique enables the fast comparison and study of earthworm species and other animals in unprecedented detail. In the first comparative morphology study of its kind, the research team produced three-dimensional images of individual muscle fibers and single blood cells in earthworms. The technique allowed [...]

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Guest Blog

How Overeating May Contribute to a Metabolic “Traffic Jam”

Oooh, donut! (Mark H. Anbinder/Flickr)

In what has been dubbed “The Great Crawl of China”, in August 2010 commuters in Beijing accumulated along a 74.5-mile-long stretch of road for a preposterous 11 days straight. No mere rush-hour delay, the absurdity of this pile-up—one of the worst in recorded history—suggests that multiple factors were to blame. Just as fewer cars and [...]

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Guest Blog

Fight at the Museum: Confronting Visitor Biases

The Field Museum in Chicago. (Ancheta Wis/Wikimedia Commons)

Midway through the school year, parents and teachers are starting to plan (and fundraise) for winter and spring field trips. Among the most popular destinations is the science museum. The Association of Science-Technology Centers estimates that 12.1 million children in the United States visited science museums as part of a school group in 2013, accounting [...]

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Guest Blog

Stephen Hawking, Hawking Incorporated, and the Myth of the Lone Genius

With assistants looking on, the famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking experiences weightlessness aboard a swooping airliner in this image from 2007. Credit: Zero Gravity Corp.

Comfortably sitting in the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown in San Francisco, I was watching The Theory of Everything with an audience of hundreds. Like them, I was eager to watch the life of Hawking; like them I was moved by his extraordinary story; like them I was restraining myself from crying, especially when the [...]

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Guest Blog

Forecasting the Sun’s Fury: How Artificial Intelligence Can Predict Solar Flares

Credit: NASA

A couple of months ago, the sun sported the largest sunspot we’ve seen in the last 24 years. This monstrous spot, visible to the naked eye (that is, without magnification, but with protective eyewear of course), launched more than 100 flares. The number of the spots on the sun ebbs and flows cyclically, every 11 [...]

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Guest Blog

How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought

Visualization of social network analysis. (Calvinius/Wikimedia Commons)

Science and common sense are alike grounded in human experience. Yet these ways of thinking about things are often in conflict. Sometimes the simplicity of most commonsense explanations can make it hard to win people over to the complexity and uncertainties of most scientific arguments. Consider the textbook case of the mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus [...]

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Guest Blog

Let’s Expand Terrestrial Parks into the Ocean

A southern elephant seal colony on Argentina’s Patagonia coast. Argentina has for several years been expanding a number of its coastal protected parks for penguins, sea lions and elephant seals to the limits of its territorial sea. (Credit: Cristián Samper/WCS)

“A land ethic,” the great naturalist writer Aldo Leopold observed toward the end of his famous Sand County Almanac, “reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.” This philosophy of care for the earth’s ecosystems and species provides one of the [...]

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Illusion Chasers

A New Reverspective

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One of the very strange effects of reverse perspective is that the images seem to follow you as you pass by them. As if, while you are observing them, the pictures are watching you back. John Kubie of SUNY Downstate Medical Center realized that, in the case of the Hollow Mask illusion, this must have to do with how viewers track the perspective of the nose of the nose with respect to the rest of the face.

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Illusion Chasers

Out of Mind, Out of Sight: Suppressed Unwanted Memories Are Harder to See

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I realized that I had somehow managed to forget a horrible account of my grandmother’s deathbed. And I immediately wished that I could forget it for a second time. But I knew that the memory was now there to stay. I was wrong.

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Illusion Chasers

With Black Art, iLuminate Dancers Dazzle Your Brain

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iLuminate mixes dance, light, and computerized timing to create a unique amalgam of illusory perception. Imagine that all the neon in Times Square got together and performed Stomp. iLuminate’s incredible light suits imbue the dancers with seemingly magical powers. They disappear and reappear instantly across the stage. They swap heads with each other. They levitate. It’s like watching real-life Jedis.

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Illusion Chasers

New Year’s Eve and the Meaning of Life

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Some scientists conclude that even though we age continuously, we ponder the passage of time more at some arbitrary points in our lives than others. This can prompt us to take major –and sometimes irreparable– trajectory changes in our lives. How can we use these imagined milestones to our benefit?

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Illusion Chasers

A Coursera Course on Visual Perception—Starts January 7th.

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There’s a new 8-week course available on visual perception taught by Dale Purves of Duke University. It’s available for free and starts on January 7th, 2015. Purves’s approach to visual perception is exciting because it’s a bit different than the usual approach.

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Illusion Chasers

How To Change Your Past

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“Too late” might be the two most tragic words in English, but what if you could rewind the clock? What if the past was not immutable? Would we regret past bad decisions more or less? Would it affect the way that we feel then about our past choices, and the moral decisions that we may face in the future? New research has found out using virtual reality.

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Illusion Chasers

How Brains Know Where Things Are—Making Space by Jennifer Groh

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Groh launches her book with a BIG FAT LIE: she tells us that nine-tenths of our brain power is spent determining where things are. Then she immediately admits that she just made that up, but that she’d dedicate the rest of the book to explaining why she thinks its true. I was hooked! Brilliant, tantalizing, probably correct, but maybe not! I knew right then I would read this book cover-to-cover.

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Illusion Chasers

The Power of Cute

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Scientists conclude that cute things not only make us happier, but they also improve our performance in tasks that require behavioral carefulness

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Illusion Chasers

Your Brain on Thanks

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It may not have the cache of winter holidays or the Cash! Yay! of a birthday, but it is the best feel-good holiday of the year. At least it feels that way to me. But why is that? Of all the wonderful annual holidays, why would I prefer a single meal, shared with family, loved ones, and friends? Many of these holidays include similar meals. What makes Thanksgiving different for my brain?

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Illusion Chasers

Art and Science Team Up To Steal Your Attention With Magic

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Artist Ellen Levy teamed up with neuroscientist Michael E. Goldberg, Director of the Mahoney Center for Brain and Behavior at Columbia University in New York, to apply the concept of change blindness to an interactive art installation. The resulting animation, “Stealing Attention”, was recently shown at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery in New York City, as part of the “Sleuthing the Mind” exhibit that Levy curated.

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Image of the Week

A Farewell to Formalin-Soaked Frogs?

VirtualEarthwormDissection

Source: from Virtual Dissection Method Could Reinvigorate Zoology by Adrian Giordani on the Guest Blog Credit: Image courtesy of Alexander Ziegler Whether you dissected an earthworm, frog, cat or fetal pig in a science class during your childhood, you probably remember the stuffy smell of formalin that hovered around your classroom and tagged along with [...]

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Image of the Week

Fresh Start for an Extinct Cat?

CloudedLeopard-FEATURE

Credit: An 1862 painting of a Formosan clouded leopard by Joseph Wolf, image in the public domain Source: from Could Extinct Clouded Leopards Be Reintroduced in Taiwan? by John R. Platt on Extinction Countdown As 2014 draws to a close, a large portion of us will participate in the time-honored tradition of reflecting on the [...]

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Image of the Week

A Modest Mussel Is Making Waves

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Image: A mussel shell engraved by Homo erectus between 540,000 and 430,000 years ago Credit: Wim Lustenhouwer, VU University Amsterdam Source: Kate Wong’s World’s Oldest Engraving Upends Theory of Homo sapiens Uniqueness on Observations These scratches may not look like much but they predate the existence of our species, Homo sapiens, and upend any claim [...]

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Image of the Week

Team SciTweeps in Lego-Form

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Credit: Maia Weinstock Source: Oceanographer Sylvia Earle is a Glamour Woman of the Year by Maia Weinstock on Voices In her post about oceanographer Sylvia Earle getting recognized this month by Glamour magazine for her contributions to science and society, Maia Weinstock included this picture of a custom Lego figurine of Dr. Earle scuba diving. [...]

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Image of the Week

Painting Across Astronomical Units

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What we find in space continues to challenge our imaginations, and we haven’t even discovered extraterrestrial life yet. Last week,  in Caleb Scharf’s post Astrobiology Roundup: Planets, Moons, and Stinky Comets, he featured the bizarre visualization above. Burning space gases often seem blended and painterly to my eye, like an oil painting on a vacuum [...]

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Image of the Week

Panic Viruses

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In the midst of what has been dubbed “ebolanoia,” many are flashing back to the response (or lack thereof in some cases) to the rise of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s. In a recent post on Absolutely Maybe, Hilda Bastian describes the rise and fall of the panic surrounding HIV/AIDS in Australia. It provides [...]

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Image of the Week

Kids Coding With Compassion

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Source: from “Middle Schoolers Develop App to Help Visually Impaired,” by Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer’s on Voices Credit: Image courtesy of Maggie Bolado From the Department of Inspiring Teenagers, meet the all-female team of six that invented an app to help visually impaired students navigate their schools. They are students at Resaca Middle School, a small, [...]

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Image of the Week

Underground Beauty

MarjorieLeggittSquare

On Symbiartic, September is a month-long celebration of science artists called the SciArt Blitz. A different science artist is featured each day, so head over and check out the latest from the science art world. This piece is a soon-to-be mural at the Denver Botanical Gardens in Denver, CO by Marjorie Leggitt. It illustrates the underground world [...]

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Image of the Week

A Genome is Not a Blueprint

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Image: 1936 Joy Oil gas station blueprints (top); sequence from human chromosome 1 (bottom). Source: from A Monkey’s Blueprint by Martin Krzywinski on SA Visual When artist Martin Krzywinski was challenged to come up with a graphic that quickly and concisely shows how the human genome is more similar to chimpanzee and bonobo genomes than [...]

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Image of the Week

Octomonth Belongs to the Octopus

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Over at Octopus Chronicles, Katherine Harmon Courage commemorated the eighth day of the eighth month with eight hiding octopuses. Let’s keep the octomonth celebrations going in honor of everyone’s favorite invertebrate. Head over to Octopus Chronicles to read more about these fascinating molluscs, pick up a copy of Octopus!: The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Has An Exomoon Been Found?

A ringed world (Credit: Ron Miller)

Intriguing data from an event in 2007 hints at an exomoon forming around a giant planet in a youthful star system 420 light years from Earth. Moons are a big deal. In our own solar system we’ve discovered 176 natural satellites (even asteroids have them). Some, like Ganymede or Titan, are comparable in size to [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Notes From The Frontier: Life’s Origins

(Credit: Wikipedia/Swollib)

I spent some of last week at a fascinating and lively symposium on the origins of life and the search for life in the universe, held at the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. To say that the science under discussion was broad in scope would be the understatement of the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Dawn Approaches Ceres

Dawn's latest, and best, images of Ceres (NASA)

NASA’s Dawn mission, having performed remarkably at the asteroid Vesta, is homing in on Ceres. The spacecraft’s ion engines will bring it to a capture orbit around this 590 mile diameter dwarf planet on March 6th, 2015 – at a distance some 2.5 times further from the Sun than the Earth. Now at a separation [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Lost And Found On Mars

Close up, showing a possible partial deployment of solar panels (ESA).

Lost, presumed crashed, the Beagle-2 lander is finally located on Mars. Back in December 2003 a bold and decidedly British robotic device was released from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express orbiter. The $120 million Beagle-2 lander was designed to plunge through the martian atmosphere and parachute down to the surface. Once there it [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Will We Find Extraterrestrial Life In 2015?

ESO

Probably not, but just possibly yes. One of the reasons that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is so exciting is that it would take only one chance discovery, one lucky break, for all the walls to come tumbling down. But where is that revolution going to come from? Perhaps the best news [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Mars, Ancient Water, Deep Hydrogen, and Life

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Two billion year-old water pockets and a revised deep hydrogen content are good news for Earth’s vast subsurface biosphere, and could offer clues to life on Mars and much further beyond. Excitement over the Curiosity rover’s recently reported detection of a ‘spike’ in localized atmospheric methane – persisting over a couple of months – is [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Comet 67P Only Looks Gray, It’s Actually Black

Comet 67P in all its colourful glory (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has now released the first narrow-angle color composite image of Comet 67P – taken through a set of red, green, and blue filters. And here it is, in all its glory from a mere 120 kilometers away, with a roughly 3.9 meter per pixel resolution. You might be forgiven [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Big Mirrors, High Hopes: Extremely Large Telescope Is A Go

What will be the biggest optical telescope in the world (Credit: ESO/L. Calçada)

In astronomy, bigger is almost always better. The size of a telescope’s aperture (or primary optical element) not only determines how many pesky little photons it can capture, but also the ultimate resolution of the image that can be formed. The challenge is to fabricate optics on large scales, find somewhere really good to put [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Alien Yet Familiar: Following Curiosity Across Mars

(Mastcam image, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

822 Martian days after landing, NASA’s Curiosity rover, carrying the Mars Science Laboratory, continues on its extraordinary journey across landscapes that are both utterly alien, and remarkably familiar. Here’s a small update. On November 18th 2014 the rover was in the center of this region (within the Pahrump Hills), continuing across the base area of [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Cusp of Knowing and the Evolution of Science

(Credit NASA/JPL)

In a nice piece on his Scientific American blog ‘Cross-Check‘, John Horgan recently gave me some much appreciated praise, whilst provoking discussion on a contentious subject – whether or not big science as we’ve known it ‘may be coming to an end’ (John’s words). Wrapped into this assertion is the idea that fundamental physics and [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Using Light to Monitor and Activate Specific Brain Cells

Artist's rendering of a spatial light modulator fires precise beams of laser light at neurons targeted by researchers, triggering those neurons to fire. (Courtesy of Hausser Lab/UCL)

The past several years have brought two parallel revolutions in neuroscience. Researchers have begun using genetically encoded sensors to monitor the behavior of individual neurons, and they’ve been using brief pulses of light to trigger certain types of neurons to activate. These two techniques are known collectively as optogenetics—the science of using light to read [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Calling It Sex When They Mean Love

Always kiss me goodnight. (Credit: Courtney Carmody/Flickr)

The saying “Why do they call it love when they mean sex?” is often used when a person feels a strong physical attraction toward another person and they camouflage it as love or a special connection. Though it’s common, the opposite phenomenon, where sex means love, also exists and it’s slowly becoming more common, especially [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

How Our Brains Process Books

Reading. (Credit: Paul Bence/Flickr)

We all know how it feels to get lost in a great book. Sometimes the characters and emotions can seem every bit as real as those of our everyday lives. But what’s happening in our brains as we dive into those pages? How is it different from what happens as we experience real life – [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Concussion Culture: How to Protect Young Athletes

A collision in girls soccer. (Credit: Ole Olson via Flickr)

In May of 2012, former NFL linebacker Junior Seau took his own life by shooting himself in the chest. Seau was dealing with depression, mood swings and insomnia. An autopsy of Seau’s brain revealed that he suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which Boston University’s CTE Center defines as “a progressive degenerative disease of the [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Why We Need to Abandon the Disease Model of Mental Health Care

A Prescription for Psychiatry, book cover.

The idea that our more distressing emotions such as grief and anger can best be understood as symptoms of physical illnesses is pervasive and seductive. But in my view it is also a myth, and a harmful one. Our present approach to helping vulnerable people in acute emotional distress is severely hampered by old-fashioned, inhumane [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

To Feel Meaningful Is to Feel Immortal

Still Life with Skull by Philippe de Champagne (1602-1674). (Wikimedia Commons)

Imagine when our ancestors first started to look up at the stars and question their place in the universe. Why are we here? Are we alone? What happens to us when we die? It is difficult to know for sure at what point in time we became a species obsessed with existential questions. We can [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Technology May Lift Severe Depression, but Full Recovery Takes Time

Courtesy of Dave Gingrich via Flickr.

This blog is the last in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. I have been a practicing psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic since 1989. [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

In the Future Your Therapy and Education Will Be Tailored to Your Brain

Courtesy of Brian Gates.

This blog is the sixth in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Ask any two people about any process in their lives, be it [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Simply Shining a Light Can Reveal the Brain’s Structure

Pseudo-colored angiogram of a rodent somatosensory cortex with surface vessels in yellow and orange and deep vessels in green. Credits: Vivek Srinivasan and Harsha Radhakrishnan.

This blog is the fifth in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Imagine having to spot a single grain of cereal at the bottom [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Giving the Brain a Buzz: The Ultimate in Self-Help or a Dangerous Distraction?

The  tDCS device on the left can localize stimulation to a smaller area than the one on the right. Each machine connects to electrode cap. Credit: Joe Moran.

This blog is the fourth in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Imagine a medical device that is so simple to build and cheap [...]

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Not bad science

Can Pigs Empathize?

Pigs are social animals with complex emotions - but do they empathize?

There are a handful of traits that scientists and philosophers would argue would make us human, including self-awareness and language. Another key part of being human is thought to be our ability to empathize (although I sometimes find myself doubting some humans’ abilities to empathize). I also doubt that we are the only animal that [...]

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Not bad science

What Makes Bowerbirds Such Good Artists?

The Great Bowerbird, Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis

Bowerbirds are perhaps the most intriguing artists of the bird world. Their beautiful constructions are built purely to impress females (they are not nests, as often mistaken to be). One bowerbird, the Great Bowerbird, creates a particularly fantastic bower: in addition to building a symmetrical avenue made of carefully placed twigs, he also rearranges the [...]

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Not bad science

Why Do Rock Sparrows Decorate Their Nests?

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When you read the word ‘communication’, you probably think of language in some form, likely spoken or written. This is because, as humans, we’re obsessed with communicating through language; it’s likely that an hour doesn’t go by in your day when you don’t communicate with someone by phone, email or text. While animals are generally [...]

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Not bad science

Male Praying Mantids Have a Strategy For Not Being Eaten by Their Mates

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We usually think about male and female mates getting along pretty well (that’s ‘mate’ in the biological sense, not your friendly British/ Australian friend). Often after mating, male and females have to work together to ensure that the female gets the nutrition she needs while incubating eggs or rearing offspring. Even after this, many animals [...]

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Not bad science

Nevada Celebrates Pollinator Week

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The title of this article probably is an overstatement. Perhaps instead it should have been ‘a small subset of people in Reno, and possibly in Vegas (because everything you can think of exists there) celebrated pollinators for a week. And what week was this, I hear you say? Well, in case you missed it, National [...]

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Not bad science

Psychic Animals and Football-Playing Bees

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Working in the field of animal behaviour means that around World Cup season it’s hard to avoid being sent links to so-called ‘psychic’ animals that predict the outcome of matches, such as Paul the octopus, Leon the porcupine and Anton the tamarin. However, while these animals may have made predictions useful to people placing bets [...]

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Not bad science

Chimpanzees React To A Robo-Doll

Once the chimps calmed down they actually quite liked the robodoll, offering it toys to play with

A large portion of what animals do is interact with each other. As a social species, we can hardly go an hour without some kind of interaction with another human, be it face-to-face or via text or email. Even animals that aren’t particularly social still generally have to interact with each other once in a [...]

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Not bad science

Unique Science Communication: Isabella Rossellini

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I recently wrote an article about science communication, and in it mentioned that people can communicate science in many different ways using many different types of media. One more unusual way is what Isabella Rossellini has adopted. Using real animal behaviour science, she conveys it by dressing up as the animal in question, and presenting [...]

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Not bad science

Bumblebees Are More Flexible Than We Knew

A bee drinking the sucrose reward on the yellow 'flower'

I recently wrote about how bumblebees were able to perform some seemingly impressive feats, although the underlying reason they could do so was relatively simple. However, recent work by Caroline Strang and David Sherry has demonstrated that bumblebees are capable of another behavioural feat, never before shown in this species. In this post, researcher Caroline [...]

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Not bad science

Left-Eyed Fish Are Faster Learners

The rainbowfish, Melanotaenia duboulayi

You may have heard the claim that left-handed people are smarter than right handed people. Specifically, it seems that left-handed people are over represented in musicians, architects and art and music students. Why this might be isn’t entirely clear, but it is possible that it has something to do with the left-handed brain being larger [...]

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Observations

Senators Vote in Circles about Global Warming and the Keystone XL Pipeline

US-capitol-building

The U.S. Senate voted 62 to 36 yesterday to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil from tar sands in Canada down through the U.S. Tar sands are one of the dirtiest forms of oil and expansion of their use would ensure too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, helping climate change wreak [...]

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Observations

Shopping Habits Reveal Personal Details in “Anonymized” Data

Credit/Source: PhotoDisc/ Getty Images

Details about where and when you use your credit card could help reveal your identity to data thieves—even if they don’t know your name, address and other personal information. That’s according to the latest study to poke holes in the notion that anonymous data records are an effective way to protect privacy. Businesses, medical facilities [...]

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Observations

Planet Hunters Bet Big on a Small Telescope to See Alien Earths

A view of Alpha Centauri hanging over the horizon of Saturn

In 1990, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft briefly looked back from its journey out of the solar system, capturing a view of the faraway Earth. Carl Sagan called it the “pale blue dot.” From more than 6 billion kilometers away, beyond the orbit of Pluto, it seemed remarkable that our planet was even visible. But the [...]

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Observations

Obama Asks Astronaut for Instagrams from Space During State of the Union

Obama state of the union

President Obama made a rare shout-out to space in Tuesday’s State of the Union Address, referencing NASA’s recent Orion capsule launch and addressing astronaut Scott Kelly in the audience at the Capitol. “Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars,” Obama said, [...]

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Observations

Astrobiologist Aims to Make Science Education More Interactive

screen grab from Habitable Worlds course

I remember battling sleepiness as I slouched in a large lecture hall, squinting to make out the writing on the blackboard during my freshman introductory physics course in college. My difficulty staying alert in class was not the fault of the subject—I went on to major in physics—or even the teacher. Instead, I think it [...]

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Observations

Science Far from Center Stage in Obama’s State of the Union

Pres. Obama delivers his State of the Union

President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, his first before a Republican-led legislature, was studded this evening with references to science and technology amidst talk of middle class tax cuts, thawing U.S. relations with Cuba, economic empowerment and closing the pay gap between men and women. The speech included mentions of climate change, [...]

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Observations

Humans Cross Another Danger Line for the Planet

Disappearing Forests: Green are sustainable for now, yellow and red are past the safe limit.

Five years go an impressive, international group of scientists unveiled nine biological and environmental “boundaries” that humankind should not cross in order to keep the earth a livable place. To its peril, the world had already crossed three of those safe limits: too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, too rapid a rate of species [...]

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Observations

The New Chevy Volt Is Impressively Unremarkable

2016 Chevrolet Volt. Credit: General Motors

Over the holidays, while visiting family in Southwest Missouri, where I grew up, I saw one of the oddest sights on local roadways since armadillos started showing up as road kill: multiple Chevrolet Volts. In cities and suburbs, cars like the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model S are pretty common. But Southwest Missouri [...]

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Observations

Free Community College: Obama Heeds Scientific American‘s Advice

It took awhile. But President Obama finally decided to take us up on the editorial we published last summer on making community college free. What kept him? Kim Jong Un? John Boehner? Actually, beats us if he actually read it. But the idea of making community college free is one whose time has come. “Great [...]

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Observations

Beef from Former Mad Cow Epicenter Could Hit U.S. Shelves This Year

american cuts of beef diagram

  After nearly 16 years, the U.S. has agreed to import beef from Ireland—the first European country to get the go-ahead since the epidemic of mad cow disease swept the continent In the 1980s and 1990s. The move—which may extend to the rest of the British Isles later this year—serves as a milestone in the [...]

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Plugged In

Beyond Oil Sands: The Carbonates are Coming

keystoneprotestorsDC

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Deborah Gordon, the director of the Energy and Climate Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. When it comes to Keystone XL, it’s not really about the pipeline. It’s about the numerous unintended consequences that the pipeline portends. This is what the U.S. State Department—and the American public—should [...]

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Plugged In

What is the World’s Busiest Airport?

Global map of flight patterns, showing a heavy concentration in the U.S., Europe, China, and Japan. Image credit: Jpatokal

Is it Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, or Dubai International? Both apparently. But it depends on the metric. If you go by number of flights, then O’Hare is the world’s busiest airport (881,933 flights in 2014), dethroning Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (868,359) after 10 years at the top – by this way of measuring. However, if [...]

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Plugged In

Low oil prices aren’t working against solar (probably)

2013 US energy - small

In the United States, reducing electricity probably won’t lead to a significant reduction in direct oil consumption. Instead (in terms of fossil fuels) it is more likely to reduce your consumption of coal and natural gas. In turn, low oil prices aren’t necessarily working against solar deployment in a direct sense. The United States uses [...]

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Plugged In

Rooftop Solar Increases a Home’s Selling Price Across Multiple Markets

SolarHomeSold

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a report showing that homes with solar panels typically sell for $15,000 greater than those without solar panels installed. The study analyzed data collected from over 22,000 homes between 2002 and 2013 to measure the effect that solar panels have on a home’s [...]

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Plugged In

Brrrrrr – it’s cold outside! Taking a look at winter car idling

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Idling of cars costs money, consumes energy, and pollutes the air. But, when winter temperatures dip below freezing, many Americans intentionally idle their cars for long periods of time. The reasons why were discussed this month in detail in a series of articles by Chris Mooney*, who is leading the Washington Post’s new energy and [...]

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Plugged In

Taking a closer look at the global oil supply/demand balance

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 10.25.07 AM

Global oil prices are at their lowest levels in six years. Supply is up and demand increases are sluggish. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) oil prices have crashed by 60% since June. In Wednesday’s “Visualizing a global price oil crash in three charts” I discussed the IEA’s latest oil market report and their [...]

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Plugged In

Energy in the 2015 State of the Union

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Tonight President Obama will address a joint session of Congress for the 2015 State of the Union. In 2009, his speech described that renewable energy would “transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change.” By 2014, he highlighted natural gas as as “the bridge fuel that can [...]

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Plugged In

Visualizing a global oil price crash in three charts

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 12.09.28 PM

Since last summer, global crude oil prices have dropped by about 60%, from upwards of $110 to the current $45 per barrel. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the heart of this crash lies in simple supply and demand economics. That is, the fact that supply has surged far far ahead of demand. On [...]

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Plugged In

How to Make Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty – The Future of UK Carbon Reductions

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The United Kingdom has been on a purposeful path toward a less carbon-intensive energy sector since passing the UK Climate Change Act in 2008. But, questions exist regarding the achievability of future carbon targets. The controversy was highlighted during discussions of the UK’s 4th carbon budget, which applies to the years 2023-27. These carbon budgets [...]

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Plugged In

The Road to Paris and COP-21

Wind and others form of renewable power generation need to be ramped up in order to meet climate targets. Image credit: Shutterstock.

As 2015 begins, the road to the crucial COP-21 summit here in Paris (where I am based) is being outlined by the French government, the UN, and a huge number of other actors and NGOs. But the first big question might be, is it crucial at all? The 2009 UN summit in Copenhagen was famously [...]

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PsySociety

The Making of a Tough Mudder.

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In November 2011, I participated in my first Tough Mudder, an event officially billed as a “hardcore, 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie” (and unofficially billed as “probably the toughest event on the planet”). Since then, I’ve participated in 3 Super Spartans [...]

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PsySociety

Five Things Being A Zumba Instructor Has Taught Me About Science Communication

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So, here is something that the casual reader of this blog may or may not know about me: In my other, non-psychology life, I’ve been working part-time for the past 2 years as a licensed Zumba® Fitness instructor. People who know me well usually aren’t very surprised by this fact. I’m bubbly, I’m packed with [...]

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PsySociety

I’ll Show You My Holiday Card If You Show Me Yours.

1 DOGE

Earlier this week, my husband and I returned home from our holiday travels after being away from our apartment for the past 9 days. We walked into our chilly apartment, greeted our whining cats with a quick pet and a kiss hello, put down our bags, and walked into the kitchen. Our cat sitter always [...]

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PsySociety

The Best PsycHoliday Stocking Stuffer!

Our gratitude holders.

If there are three things that people tend to have on their minds during the holiday season, it’s a) saving money, b) friends & family, and c) finding the perfect gifts for everyone on their lists. With this in mind, why not step outside of the box when it comes to this year’s stocking stuffers? [...]

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PsySociety

How To Craft An Empirically-Supported Marriage

Wedding Reading

Many of you have likely noticed that I have been on an extended hiatus from blogging due to an especially crazy 2014, filled with lots of big events and life changes that have kept me exceptionally busy. One of those events was my wedding on September 13th to Justin Hepler, my partner of almost 4 [...]

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PsySociety

Envying Evolution: What Can The X-Men Teach Us About Stereotypes?

x_men_logo

This weekend marked the opening of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest installment in the wildly successful X-Men movie franchise. For those who are unfamiliar with the X-Men series, the stories revolve around groups of ‘mutants,’ super-powered beings who supposedly represent the next stage in human evolution and whose powers run the gamut from [...]

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PsySociety

If obesity is a disease, is labeling it that way the cure?

Diet fork with tape measure

My final guest post at the BPS Research Digest went up on Friday, covering recent work by psychologists Crystal Hoyt, Jeni Burnette, and Lisa Auster-Gussman on the motivational implications of formally classifying obesity as a “disease,” as the American Medical Association did in July 2013. The good news is that the AMA is right to celebrate the [...]

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PsySociety

“What else can you expect from a crappo?”

Man got an amazing idea

I’m back at the BPS Research Digest today, with my second of three guest posts this week on recent social psychological research. My second post is on a recent paper published by P.J. Henry, Sarah Butler, and Mark Brandt. In light of recent debates about whether or not certain group-based slurs are “more offensive” than [...]

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PsySociety

Mind The Gap: Overestimating Income Inequality

MoneyCash

I’m thrilled to be breaking my dissertation-imposed “mini-hiatus” this week with a series of guest posts over at the BPS Research Digest, where I’ve been asked to take over guest hosting duties for the week and write a few pieces on some recent awesome Social Psych research. First up — recent research has given us [...]

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PsySociety

Blind athletes provide clues about the nature of our emotions.

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One of the most important ways that we learn how to interact with the world around us is through observational learning. By watching how our friends and family members behave, we learn at a very young age how to do things like turn on a lightbulb, open a door, or play with a doll, without [...]

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Roots of Unity

Learn to Count like an Egyptian

Count Like an Egyptian by David Reimer. Image: Princeton University Press.

Last semester, I began my math history class with some Babylonian arithmetic. The mathematics we were doing was easy—multiplying and adding numbers, solving quadratic equations by completing the square—but the base 60 system and the lack of a true zero made those basic operations challenging for my students. I was glad that the different system [...]

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Roots of Unity

Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Amal Fahad and Rasha Osman, Part II

Amal Fahad

I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum in September. Modeled after the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, it brings together recipients of prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science and young researchers in those areas. A focus of the meeting was the role of mathematics and computer science in the developing world, [...]

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Roots of Unity

Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Amal Fahad and Rasha Osman, Part I

Rasha Osman

I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum in September. Modeled after the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, it brings together recipients of prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science and young researchers in those areas. A focus of the meeting was the role of mathematics and computer science in the developing [...]

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Roots of Unity

12 Things I Had Way Too Much Fun Writing This Year

A knitted (5,15) torus link. Image: sarah-marie belcastro.

It’s the season for family, hot chocolate, and year-in-review lists. Guess which one this is! Roots of Unity has been around for two years now, and I’m so glad I have a place to share some of the weird and wonderful math I think about. In chronological order, here are 12 of my favorite posts [...]

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Roots of Unity

What We Talk about When We Talk about Holes

A visualization of some points on the sphere and their fibers in the Hopf fibration. Image: Niles Johnson, via Wikimedia Commons.

For Halloween, I wrote about a very scary topic: higher homotopy groups. Homotopy is an idea in topology, the field of math concerned with properties of shapes that stay the same no matter how you squish or stretch them, as long as you don’t tear them or glue things together. Both homotopy groups and the [...]

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Roots of Unity

Online Game Crowd-Sources Theorems

So close! Can we just round this one up to success? Screenshot from Nice Neighbors by Chris Staecker.

Now is your chance to prove some theorems without knowing what they mean! Chris Staecker, a mathematician at Fairfield University, created the game Nice Neighbors to get crowd-sourced solutions to problems from a field called digital topology. Whether that means anything to you or not, you might be able to help Staecker and his colleagues prove some [...]

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Roots of Unity

Seeing Music: What Does the Missing Fundamental Look Like?

The function y=f(x) is shown in black, and the function y=sin(2x)+sin(4x)+sin(6x)+sin(7x) is in orange.

I wrote a post yesterday about the missing fundamental effect. It’s a startling auditory illusion in which your brain hears a note that is lower than any of the notes that are actually playing. I decided to go to Desmos, an online graphing calculator, and play around with sines to see whether the missing fundamental [...]

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Roots of Unity

Your Telephone Is Lying to You About Sounds

telephone

Telephones lie about sounds because odd numbers aren’t even. Once again with those integers and sound perception! Telephones can only pick up frequencies above 300 or 400 Hertz (cycles per second, also called Hz), but most adults’ speaking voices are lower than 300 Hz (approximately the D above middle C). And yet every day, people [...]

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Roots of Unity

The Saddest Thing I Know about the Integers

This beautiful piano cannot be tuned. Image: Gryffindor, via Wikimedia Commons.

The integers are a unique factorization domain, so we can’t tune pianos. That is the saddest thing I know about the integers. I talked to a Girl Scout troop about math earlier this month, and one of our topics was the intersection of math and music. I chose to focus on the way we perceive [...]

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Roots of Unity

The Math Geek Holiday Gift Guide

The perfect necklace for the special mathematician in your life. Image: Sarah Wood, used with permission.

Looking for a gift that says, “Hey, I know you like math”? Look no further. There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to wonderful mathematical things to give to people, but here are some of the coolest items I’ve seen this year. To read I wrote reviews of Jordan Ellenberg’s How Not to Be [...]

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Rosetta Stones

An Offensive Strategy for Dealing With Creationist Attacks on Science

Image is a cat with narrowed eyes. Caption says, "Skeptic Cat demands proof."

I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading about the failures of young earth creationist attempts at doing geology. Many people have come before me, tearing this nonsense down bit-by-bit. It’s an extraordinary amount of work, and leaves the so-called creation scientists scrambling for ever more bizarre ways to overcome the laws of science. But [...]

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Rosetta Stones

It’s National Hug Day! Let’s Hug the Geology of Hug Point!

Image shows part of the cliff and the side of the waterfall.

Hug Point State Park in Oregon could use a hug. Pioneers certainly weren’t very affectionate with it: they blew bits of it up. Millions of years before that, massive amounts of flood basalt intruded a nice, calm delta, which also made things pretty explosive. Despite that rather hazardous history, it’s a super-lovely place that is [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Wallace’s Woeful Wager: How a Founder of Modern Biology Got Suckered by Flat-Earthers

Image shows a younger Alfred Russel Wallace posing jauntily with his hand on a chair and one leg cocked. His hat makes him look vaguely Amish.

In January of 1870, Alfred Russel Wallace found himself on a collision-course with a group of creationists who fervently believed the earth is flat. The father of biogeography, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection, seems an unlikely sort to be mixed in with religious fanatics on a question of geography settled since [...]

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Rosetta Stones

A Snippet o’ Subduction Zone Goodness for Ye

Image is a hand-drawing of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (spreading center), the Olympic Mountains (accretionary prism), Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains (magmatic arc).

If I ever become ridiculously rich, I’m going to open up a geological theme park. Can you imagine the rides? Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and more – all very exciting. And educational. I think we could make it work, don’t you? Imagine the field trips! Of course, we’d have to have a roller coaster based on [...]

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Rosetta Stones

It’s a Brand New Year! What Are We Gonna Do With It?

Picture of me pointing to contact between basalt and sedimentary rock. Caption says, "2015's gonna be amazeballs"

Hello, and welcome to 2015 at Rosetta Stones! Are you ready for incredible geological goodness? Yes? Excellent! I’ve got Plans for ye: We’ll continue our Creation Earth Science Education. We’ll resume our explosive Mount St. Helens series. We’ll get to know some more Pioneering Women in the Geosciences. We’ll find out what flat-earthers, wagers, and [...]

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Rosetta Stones

The Year in Rosetta Stones: 14 Posts for Your Reading Pleasure

Image shows me walking toward a serpentinite cliff with a rock hammer and camera. Caption says, "See you in 2015"

What a year it’s been here at Rosetta Stones! We covered a lot of ground: just have a look at this selection of experiences from the last twelve months. We found out how the gods garden: Shrooms of the Gods: A Geostory. “If I told you the gods were rock gardening in southern Illinois, would [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Just in Time for Christmas! All the Gargantuan Guides in One Place!

Image shows a cat resting its chin and paw on a printed page. Caption says, "Multum legendum non multa."

Do you still have gifts to buy? Don’t want to leave the comfort of your home or office? Are you dreading the very thought of stepping into a store? Want to give the gift of knowledge and laughter in just a few easy steps?

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Rosetta Stones

A Short Georney with Doctor Evelyn, Complete With Geology-Themed Christmas Gift Ideas!

Image shows Evelyn in a kayak, holding a little cocker-spaniel/shi tzu mix.

A few weeks ago, I put together a cornucopia of geoscience blogging for ye, but I saved Doctor Evelyn for her own post. She’s one of the first geologists I got to break rocks with, and the only person to date I’ve ever gone kayaking with.

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Rosetta Stones

Holiday Road Trip? Compelling Reasons to Stuff a Geologist in Your Car – But Do Your Own Driving

Image shows my silver Honda Civic parked in front of a shiny gray roadcut.

“‘If I’m going to drive safely, I can’t do geology.’” -Geologist quoted by John McPhee in Basin and Range There’s nothing like roadtripping with geologists. If you’ve got a long, dull trip coming up, stuff a geologist or two in the car with you – it’ll liven things up considerably! Of course, you’ll find yourself [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Science Books Suitable for Gift-Giving II: Science for Kids!

Image shows a cat lying in front of an open lolcat picture book. Caption says, "Lolcat Accadamee Study Hall"

Welcome to Part II of our Super-Gargantuan Guide! In this edition, we’ll be exploring the world of science books for kids. I attempted to cast my mind back to when I was a child, and also solicited the advice of child-possessing readers. Feel free to toss more titles my way – this list has plenty [...]

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Running Ponies

Here’s why 76 beavers were forced to skydive into the Idaho wilderness in 1948

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Some time in the late 1940s, a very patient, elderly beaver called Geronimo was put in a box, flown to an altitude of between 150 and 200 metres, and tossed out the side of an aeroplane. Over and over and over again. He didn’t know it at the time – because beavers – but each [...]

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Running Ponies

First footage captured of rare ‘Type D’ orcas

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As they were tracking a Nigerian poaching vessel through the South Indian Ocean on Boxing Day last year, Australian conservationists aboard the SSS Bob Barker saw something pretty incredible – a pod of 13 Type D orcas. These orcas are so rare, they’ve only been seen on 13 recorded occasions. This footage is believed to [...]

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Running Ponies

One-eyed fish gets googly prosthetic to stop all the bullying

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“Hey! One-Eyed Pete! Stop, where are you going? Wait up!” “Yes?” “Hey what are you bringing to Martin’s corner on Friday? I’m thinking just Doritos? Is that enough? And how are you getting there, want to swim over togeth— Oh wait, oh. Sorry, you’re not One-Eyed Pete. You just… look like him, I guess. My [...]

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Running Ponies

Here’s why mass-poisoning pikas is a terrible idea (and not just because look at their fat little faces)

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You know, when I look at a pika, poisoning it isn’t the first thing I think about. I think about giving it cuddles, I think about giving it scritches, and yes, I might also consider building it a tiny home with a tiny bed in a tiny city where all of its friends can live [...]

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Running Ponies

Running Ponies’ Top Ten Most Popular Posts for 2014

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With 2014 almost at an end, I’ve compiled the year’s top 10 most popular Running Ponies posts. Read on for coordinated projectile vomit,  headless tragedy in a Phoenix motel room, inflatable birds, monstrous swimming insects, and so much more animal insanity. 10. Meet the Ten Most Endangered and Distinctive Birds in the World Back in [...]

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Running Ponies

Here’s how pearlfish call to each other from inside the bodies of other living animals

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A new study has revealed how marine pearlfish communicate with each other from the confines of their very safe and comfy homes inside oysters – they use the internal structure of the shell to amplify their strange, pulsing noises to the ocean outside. When we’re kids, we learn really early on how to imitate the [...]

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Running Ponies

The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit

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On 3 March 1876, large hunks of flesh fell from the sky over Olympia Springs in Bath County, Kentucky. According to a New York Times article published the following week, the phenomenon occurred right nearby the house of one Allen Crouch, whose wife was outside making soap when it happened. “The meat, which looked like [...]

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Running Ponies

Long live the morbidly obese Termite Queen, and her terrifying army of sweat-licking babies

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There’s an anime-style visual novel/role-playing video game called Long Live the Queen, in which you play a 14-year-old princess named Elodie whose mother, the Queen, only recently passed away under suspicious circumstances. Your objective is to make it through the next 40 weeks so you can be coronated and officially named the queen of a [...]

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Running Ponies

Is this octopus carrying the severed tentacles of a Portuguese man o’ war to use as weapons?

octopus-joshua-lambas-featured

Joshua Lambus is an award winning photographer and videographer based on the Big Island of Hawaii. He specialises in ‘blackwater’ diving, which involves travelling up to 8 kilometres off the shore of Hawaii, and diving into the ocean in the black of night, when thousands upon thousands of deep-sea species head to the surface to [...]

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Running Ponies

Meet Miracle Mike, the Colorado Chicken who lived for 18 months without his head

mike-plus-head-featured

Mike meet everyone, everyone meet Mike. No, no, don’t wave. He can’t see, you’re just making this awkward. Also known as Miracle Mike, Mike the Headless Chicken was a plump, five-year-old cockerel when he was unceremoniously beheaded on 10 September 1945. Farmer Lloyd Olsen of Fruita in Colorado did the deed because his wife Clara [...]

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SA Visual

Math Is Beautiful, But Is It Art?

Concinnitas_detail

Every so often, beauty comes up as a topic of conversation in editorial meetings at Scientific American. Surely there’s an article, or series of articles that we can develop on the topic? After all, it’s not unusual for theories and/or equations to be described as beautiful. Our conversations circle around to perception and aesthetics and [...]

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SA Visual

The Influential Murals (Really!) of Scientific American Founder Rufus Porter

Porter_detail

Perhaps the tweet below from editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina last weekend shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, I knew that Rufus Porter, founding editor and publisher of Scientific American, was a well-rounded fellow. From Frank Luther Mott’s Pulitzer-Prize winning series A History of American Magazines (Volume 2): “The founder of the Scientific American was one [...]

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SA Visual

The Evolution of a Scientific American Information Graphic: Clues to Dampening Pain

Pain detail

Every graphic is a new adventure. Some of our magazine articles involve abstract concepts that require lots of time and energy at the front-end, making decisions about what, exactly should be illustrated. For others, the crux is more obvious, and clearly illustratable. That was the case when it came to “Pain That Won’t Quit” in [...]

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SA Visual

Mars’s First Close-up

MarinerIV_Mars_Map

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Mariner IV spacecraft (November 28, 1964). In total, the mission gave us 21 complete images of Mars, including this, our first close view of the planet—courtesy of data transmitted by the interplanetary probe and earth-bound scientists wielding pastels (below). How did the image come to [...]

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SA Visual

SA Recognized for Great Infographics

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I’m thrilled to report that two Scientific American graphics (on bees and caffeine) are featured in The Best American Infographics 2014. The book, which is edited by Gareth Cook, includes an impressive range of graphic styles and subject matter—from a fresh look at T. Rex (Nature) to an illustrated and playful look at the evolution of Justin [...]

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SA Visual

Visualizing 4-Dimensional Asteroids

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Jake VanderPlas, a data scientist who worked on the Graphic Science illustration in the October issue of Scientific American magazine. One of the largest treasure troves of astronomical data comes from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), an ongoing scan of the firmament that began 15 [...]

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SA Visual

Art and Science of the Moiré

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I’m a bit obsessed with Scientific American covers, but my knowledge of the archive during the years before my time on staff is broad rather than deep. Artist Philippe Decrauzat, on the other hand, has developed an intense connection with a very specific cover image: May 1963. It was the inspiration point for his series [...]

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SA Visual

A Monkey’s Blueprint

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Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post from Martin Krzywinski, a contributing artist who designed the Graphic Science illustration in the September issue of Scientific American magazine. For a graphic in the September 2014 issue of Scientific American, the editors challenged me to visually support the statement that we’re more like chimps and bonobos [...]

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SA Visual

Beyond Classic Brain Illustrations That Make Us Drool

From The Anatomy of the Brain Explained in a Series of Engravings, by Sir Charles Bell, 1802 (Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London)

I threw down a bit of a challenge last month at the Association of Medical Illustrators Conference in Minnesota. But first, I had to—somewhat unexpectedly—accept some challenges presented by others. And face the reality that some of us simply do not have the constitution of an anatomist. I love classic anatomical illustrations such as the [...]

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SA Visual

A Look under the Hood of Online Data Visualization

openvis_logo_square

Andy Kirk (of Visualising Data) recently published a clever image-driven post in which he uses automobiles to make a series of points about the practice of data visualization. Interestingly, cars also came to my mind when reflecting upon a data visualization gathering held a few weeks ago. OpenVis Conference is an annual event (now in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Blood Test Tells How Long Concussion Symptoms Will Last

Courtesy of Blondin_Rikard via Flickr.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving last year proved tragic for family and friends of 22-year-old Kosta Karageorge. The defensive tackle for the Ohio State Buckeyes was found dead that day after apparently shooting himself in the head. Looking for a cause for this terrible event, his family noted that he had suffered several recent concussions, which [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Neuroscientists Break into the Brain to Expose Its Workings

Courtesy of Saad Faruque via Flickr.

The brain is a dazzlingly complex web of somewhere around 100 billion neurons, each of which communicates with others through thousands of connections. The idea of manipulating such a complex system to figure out how it works seems, on the face of it, improbable. Yet a few intrepid explorers have set their sights on this [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Brilliance Often Springs from Boredom

Every so often, we face a job we dread because it seems exceedingly dull. As a child, I felt that way about household chores—scrubbing a toilet, sweeping a floor, wiping a countertop, weeding. I remember one day my grandmother was visiting and announced that she would sweep the floor for me, because she liked sweeping. [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Parents of Young Athletes: Protect Your Child’s Brain in 8 Steps

When I was kid, I remember my dad scolding my brother and me when one of us decided to hold the other one upside-down. In that position, he reasoned, we could fall on our head. As a cognitive psychologist, my dad was always thinking about the brain. Despite his concern with all things cerebral, my [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Do Actions Speak Louder than Feelings? [Video]

    // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the tenth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in New York [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Children Reason Differently from Adults [Video]

          // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the ninth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Multitask at Your Own Risk

unicycle_Elsie esq

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the eighth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Is Your Sense of Humor in Your Genes? Geneticists Crack the Code

          // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the seventh video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Acts of Kindness Explained [Video]

helping_Donald_Lee_Pardue

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the sixth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Remember When…How Your Brain Builds A Memory [Video]

Courtesy of Genista via Flickr.

        // Editor’s note: Brain Basics from Scientific American Mind is a series of short video primers on the brain and how we feel, think and act. Below is a synopsis of the fifth video in the series written by a guest on this blog, Roni Jacobson, a science journalist based in [...]

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Symbiartic

Viral Inspiration

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Exactly three weeks ago I started feeling awful. It’s been 21 days of a viral roller coaster — getting better, feeling worse, coughing, bruising ribs (from all the coughing), getting sick of cough drops, and running out of tissues. It can be pretty hard to get work done when you’re in a congested fog and [...]

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Symbiartic

Designing Science Tattoos

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Ink and bones. Depictions of rocky matrix embedded under the skin. Time for a peek at some science tattoo designs, including one I have not shown before: Some of the most rewarding work I do from time to time is designing science-inspired tattoos. The Tylosaurus above was a clear vision from the client: they knew [...]

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Symbiartic

An Intricate 3D-Printed Dress, No Assembly Required

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One of the most inspired design studios working at the intersection of science, art, and technology today is Nervous System, a Massachusetts-based team led by Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg. In the past, I have touted their spectacular lamps, housewares, and jewelry designed with algorithms derived from patterns in nature and printed in 3D in [...]

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Symbiartic

Science and Art Exhibits To Launch 2015

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The number of exhibits combining science and art in some capacity has grown steadily since I began blogging about them in 2011. With exhibits in galleries and museums across the country, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy! EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION WILDERNESS FOREVER: 50 Years of Protecting America’s Wild Places September 3, 2014 – TBD Smithsonian Museum [...]

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Symbiartic

Naked Mole Rat Self-Esteem

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January is weird. We make resolutions (or at least are told we should be doing so) with the aim of bettering ourselves, and we’re marketed a slew of diets, fitness club memberships, and exercise equipment to lose our holiday weight, so it all takes on a negative tone pretty fast. You’re not good enough, so [...]

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Symbiartic

Father Time Overcome by Hope, Love and Beauty

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It is not enough to see the ugliness of 2014 overcome by the grind of time and the ball drop of New Year’s Eve. We should want the exhausting and terrible year to be overcome by memories of 2014′s hope, love and beauty, just as in this Baroque era painting by French artist Simon Vouet. [...]

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Symbiartic

Paintings under an iPhone Olloclip

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I can’t help myself. I take a lot of pictures using my macro lenses on my Olloclip for iPhone. Leaves, snow, thistles and teasels, rocks and skin. The Olloclip company makes a number of slide-on lenses for smartphones, and a few months ago my wife got me the 4-in-1 Olloclip as gadget-based medicine for my [...]

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Symbiartic

Pinch of Pigment: Can Black Paint be Vegan?

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Vegan, but not edible. [Photo by the author] A surprising amount of art can be made by tools that have been burnt in a fire. Willow or vine charcoals are made from charred willow or vine branches. Verona Brown is the ancient pigment Terre Verte after being exposed to high heat. And there are paints [...]

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Symbiartic

A Farewell to Peers

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The Symbiartic team (Katie McKissick, Glendon Mellow, Kalliopi Monoyios) are sad to say farewell to the blogs and their bloggers that left the Scientific American blog network earlier this month. If you missed the announcement, the SciAm Blog Network has been pruned and is taking on a new shape. Many of the blogs have chosen [...]

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Symbiartic

A Photographic Survey of the American Yard

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Though it’s tempting to think you must spend thousands of dollars on equipment to take great photographs, Joshua White is helping prove that the best camera is the one you have on you when the inspiration strikes. His series, titled “A Photographic Survey of the American Yard,” is taken entirely with his iPhone and is [...]

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Talking back

Kids Sustain 240 Head Hits on Average During Football Season

Credit: Amherst Patriots/Flickr

Coinciding with Super Bowl week, the journal Neurology just came out with a study by Boston University researchers that looked at retired professional football players, comparing the cognitive functioning of players who had started tackle football before age 12 with others who hadn’t. Here is a summary of the findings, encapsulated in an accompanying editorial [...]

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Talking back

Site Survey Shows 60 Percent Think Free Will Exists. Read Why.

We are responsible for our own actions. Of course we are. Sure about that? “I think I can?” “I think I can’t?” All philosophizing aside, the assumption that we have free will has been called into question by research that suggests our brains are deciding for us before we become conscious of the decisions streamed [...]

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Talking back

Bio Bigwigs Go after Drugs for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS

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Lists of the biggest challenges in brain science often start—or end—with consciousness. “End” because consciousness is considered so overwhelming a hack that it merits coming last on the list—the ultimate challenge. Consciousness probably deserves its first-or-last place of preference. But there is another entry that should be on the list that is frequently  left out. [...]

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Talking back

Brain Training Doesn’t Give You Smarts…Except When It Does

Our site recently ran a great story about how brain training really doesn’t endow you instantly with genius IQ. The games you play just make you better at playing those same games. They aren’t a direct route to a Mensa membership. Just a few days before that story came out—Proceedings of the National Academy of [...]

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Talking back

Bhopal at 30: Lessons Still Being Learned

In 1989, I was working as an at editor at IEEE Spectrum when I was assigned to write a feature on Bhopal. The thirtieth anniversary of that industrial disaster that killed thousands is tonight. My article back then began: On arriving at work on Dec. 3, 1984, Rick Horner, a chemical safety engineer with the [...]

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Talking back

A Mouse Experiment Suggests How We Might One Day Sleep Off Toxic Memories

One area of brain science that has drawn intense interest in recent years is the study of what psychologists call reconsolidation—a ponderous technical term that, once translated, means giving yourself a second chance. Memories of our daily experience are  formed, often during sleep, by inscribing—or “consolidating”—a record of what happened into neural tissue. Joy at [...]

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Talking back

Brainfest 2014: Will Football Players Be Tested for Magnetic Polarity as Well as Anabolic Steroids?

Virginia Commonwealth University is not exactly known as a big football school. A former president once commented that a football team would not be fielded by VCU “on my watch.” The campus bookstore, at least at one time, has sold T-shirts with the slogan: “VCU Football, Still Undefeated.” The school now has a club team. [...]

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Talking back

Learning About Your Family’s Elevated Alzheimer’s Risk—as Early as Age 8

A Colombian university is providing regular workshops on brain basics and genetics to grade schoolers from families who face a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the prime of life from a rare genetic mutation. The “talleres” set up by the University of Antioquia in Medellin attempt to prepare these youngsters for the all-too-frequent possibility [...]

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Talking back

Anarchic Autism Genetics Gain a Touch of Clarity

Two new studies demonstrate the promise and pitfalls of the industrial-scale gene-processing technologies that define the meaning of the much-ballyhooed Big Data. Bad news first. One of the two reports published in Nature provided a four-digit estimate of the number of genes involved with autism. [I’m obligated to break here to say that Scientific American [...]

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Talking back

Cocoa Constitutents Fend Off Senior Moments—the Memory of a 30-Year-Old?

Scott Small, a professor of neurology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, researches Alzheimer’s, but he also studies the memory loss that occurs during the normal aging process. Research on the commonplace “senior moments” focuses on the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with formation of new memories.  In particular, one area [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Today marks NINE YEARS of Tetrapod Zoology

Have you heard about the new tapir? Now available on merchandise...

Yet again, it’s January 21st and, yet again, Tetrapod Zoology is another year old. As of today, Tet Zoo has been going for nine years. I’ve discovered that children (should you produce and raise them) are a good means by which you can plot the swift burning away of your short time on the planet*. [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

A brief introduction to reed, sedge and lily frogs

Hyperolius viridiflavus, photographed in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Nick Hobgood. Image CC BY-SA 3.0.

Here’s a very brief article to a group of frogs. It’s a slightly modified version of an article that initially appeared on Tet Zoo ver 2 during November 2007. Reed, sedge and lily frogs, or hyperoliids, are a moderately large group (containing approximately 215 species) of mostly arboreal ranoids that climb in vegetation at or [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

It’s the Helmeted water toad… this time, with information!

C. gayi, drawn from a photo. Illustration by Darren Naish.

Back in October 2007 (at Tet Zoo ver 2) I wrote a very brief article on a poorly known, gigantic, deeply weird South American frog: the Helmeted water toad, Chilean giant frog or Gay’s frog* Calyptocephalella gayi (long known – incorrectly it turns out – as Caudiverbera caudiverbera). Back in 2007, so little information was [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

‘Strange bedfellow frogs’ (part I): rotund, adorable brevicipitids

Breviceps frogs are not exactly the ideal shape for normal amplexus. This is B. montanus. Photo by Abu Shawka, in the public domain.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, I have the urge to write about frogs. Today we look briefly at the first of two behaviourally peculiar, anatomically surprising groups, both of which are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, both of which belong to a major neobatrachian frog clade called Allodapanura, and both of which have been united in a clade [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

There is so much more to flying frogs than flying frogs

Beautiful painting of Wallace's flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus) by the unique Carel Brest van Kampen.

Episode 2 of David Attenborough’s Conquest of the Skies appeared on TV the other day, and I watched it (in fact, I livetweeted throughout, mostly because I wanted to talk about their portrayal of pterosaurs and Mesozoic theropods). And hence I have rhacophorid frogs on my mind – the mostly tropical Afro-Asian frog group that [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Frogs you may not have heard of: Brazil’s Cycloramphus ‘button frogs’

Things are not looking good for many of the Cycloramphus species. This is is C. boraceiensis. Photo (c) Ariovaldo Giaretta, CC BY-SA 2.5.

The world is full of frogs, and while I’ve made reasonable efforts over Tet Zoo’s nearly nine years of operation to cover some of this diversity (see the links at the bottom of this article), there are many groups that I’ve never even mentioned. Today I want to talk about the Cycloramphus ‘button frogs’, the [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Gladiatorial glassfrogs, redux

The same individual as that shown above, photographed 31 hours after a fight, and with injuries visible on his dorsal surface. Images from Hutter et al. (2013).

Readers with supernaturally good memories might remember the two articles, published here back in January and February 2013, on glassfrogs, a highly unusual and poorly known group of Neotropical frogs, so named due to their incredible translucent or transparent ventral skin. Glassfrogs (properly: Centrolenidae) are weird and fascinating for all sorts of reasons (if you [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Tadpole nests, past and present

Modern impressions made by tadpoles, photographed in a drainage ditch in Tennessee in 1958, from Maher (1962). A pipe serves as a scale.

Thanks to that recent Tet Zoo article about American spadefoot toads and their tadpoles, I’ve had visions in my mind of drying ephemeral pools in hot, arid environments, crammed with crowded, gasping tadpoles. All are racing to complete metamorphosis before what remains of the water is finally gone… It’s a sad scene, replayed annually in [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

North American spadefoot toads and their incredible fast-metamorphosing, polymorphic tadpoles

There are essentially NO creative common images depicting spadefoot toad cannibalism (what the hell?), so I had to create my own. This images (based on various photos) depicts a cannibalistic encounter between a carnivore-morph Spea tadpole and an omnivore-morph one. Image by Darren Naish.

Time for more spadefoot toads (that is, members of the anuran clade Pelobatoidea or Anomocoela). This time, we’re going to look at the two North American spadefoot toad genera (Spea and Scaphiopus). Like megophryids (the horned spadefoot toads discussed in the previous article) these have, conventionally, been classified as part of the Old World spadefoot [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Megophrys: so much more than Megophrys nasuta

Profile of M. nasuta by O. Leillinger, photo CC BY-SA 3.0.

In the previous article, we looked at parsley frogs or pelodytids – a small and conservative lineage within the anuran clade Pelobatoidea (also known as Anomocoela, and commonly as the spadefoot toads). Parsley frogs are very nice, but they’re dull compared to certain other pelobatoid lineages, especially the (sometimes) rather spectacular megophryids (or megophryines) of [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

The path of least resistance

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I was glad she never asked if I had done this before. My first nasogastric tube was placed on an elderly woman with chronic liver disease. As her illness worsened, it gradually turned her skin yellow, her abdomen swollen, and her mind foggy. One day, we realized that she was at too high a choking [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

These agents prevent disease. Why aren’t we using them?

When red cells "sickle," oxygen delivery is impaired

The life cycle of a medical advance usually goes something like this: from discovery at the research bench and replication of findings, to translational research and clinical trials, to implementation. The bottleneck can be at any one of these stages, and often it is in the discovery one; we just haven’t yet found the thing [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

What’s so healthy about skepticism?

He was known to the hospital as someone who would try to manipulate his caregivers. And I fell for it anyway. Frequently admitted for pain crises associated with a chronic illness, he spent most of his hospital course avoiding eye contact with the team. So, too, were avoided answers that involved more than a few [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Strange bedfellows

“You wanna talk? Let’s talk.” The 42-year-old man sits up straighter in the hospital bed and grins a toothless grin. “Those other doctors, they don’t understand. They don’t get what I’m going through, you know?” I know only what they told me. A few minutes earlier, our team had gathered outside the door, where the senior [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

It’s a simple question – isn’t it?

“So, is this the sickest list you’ve ever had?” the resident asked me at 2 AM, after I finally finished checking off all my boxes for the night. I nodded. I agreed. I was also shaking. I had been covering nine patients that night. Almost none were stable. In the span of one shift, we [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Reflections of a fourth year medical student

“We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.” – Milan Kundera Two weeks ago, I [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Taking sides

The page comes from the psychiatry intern on call. “There’s a situation with patient RB on the unit. Please advise.” We gather in the hall outside the patient’s room. There are already three – no, four – security guards standing several feet away with their arms folded. Backup. Ready. Ready for what? We whisper in [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Disrespect in hospitals isn’t just unpleasant. It’s unsafe.

Read the full piece here Hospital bullies: they’re a minority, but they’re sizable enough that they can unfortunately set the tone for everyone else. Most health care providers have in their arsenal some juicy tales of mistreatment to tell, but most is far less glamorous. It’s micro-aggressions; and this is what creates a culture. There are [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Talking shop: when doctors forget to fill in the blanks

“Ms. M,” the resident says, “I saw in your chart that the last time you had surgery you had a pulmonary embolism.” She nods with recognition: “I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was really scary.” Then: “I sure don’t want that again.” The resident lifts up the covers and sees that the patient’s calves [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Because I work in a hospital, I can’t help you

Had I met her anywhere but the hospital, I would have gone to her side. I would have asked her what was wrong. I would have offered to help. She was 99 years old and about to undergo surgery. Pre-operative holding is generally a busy place. Patients lie in gurneys, spending some last moments with loved [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Weekend To Do: Apply for Science Communication Awards, Fellowships & Internship Programs

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Participation of broader audiences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) requires engaging under-served audiences. The conduit of this engagement is communication. Journalism, or the 4th estate, has been a precious and important part of of social and political life. Today engaged and diverse science communication is needed now more than ever to cultivate an inclusive [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Remembering NASA Challenger and #STEMDiversity

photo courtesy of NASA (Remembering Challenger)

The crew of STS-51-L: Front row from left, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair. Back row from left, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik. Monday, January 28, 1986: It was a cold morning. There was no school. It was a snow day and my newborn sister was only a week home from the [...]

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Nadia Myrthil and A Lady in Neurophilosophy

Sci blogger spotlight.jpg Nadia Myrth

It’s the 20th installment of this series, and the first one of the new year. Happy 2015! You Should Know introduces you to scientists (and engineers), science blogs and now science communicators that offer value information via social media to wider and broader audiences. Introducing…Nadia Myrthil and A Lady in Neurophilosophy Lady in Neurophilosophy is a new [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Weekend To Do: Apply for paid Summer Research Programs in STEM

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Lately, I’ve been posting a lot of REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) on Facebook (Like my Fan Pages and get updates, too. Here and Here) and Twitter, and now I am going to put it all in one place so that it is easy to share.  REUs are opportunities for students to brighten up their [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Time To Teach: Supporting Technology for Science Education in Special Education Classrooms

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As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am deep proponent of science outreach to the under-served. However, I acknowledge one of the areas that I am weak and that’s in my science outreach to individuals with special education needs. I have attended teaching workshops designed to assist educators in revamping courses for students [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#ReclaimMLK: The Revolutionary and Geek – my thoughts on rejecting sanitized images of Dr. King

I was a tour guide of Black History and Civil Rights History in Memphis from 1994-1999. I've been in this museum close to 100 times, maybe more and guided groups through it's halls.

The United States national holiday that commemorates the birth of human and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is always a somber occasion for me. I acknowledge that I am all into my feelings today, because of today, because of the current climate of social injustice our nation is witnessing again. I’m [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Undergraduate Research Highlights from #SICB2015

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Happy New Year! I hope you all had a restorative holiday break. I spent nearly two weeks with family and friends and it was glorious. I capped off the break attending the annual meeting Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. I attended talks and networked.   The highlight of the meeting was meeting undergraduate researchers [...]

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