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Posts Tagged "rio+20"

Anecdotes from the Archive

Battle of Gallipoli: A Strategic View, 1915

Giant guns of HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful battleship afloat when it shelled Turkish forts onshore. The main battery of 15-inch guns was impressive, but not particularly useful against well-camouflaged land targets.  Image: Scientific American, April 13, 1918

Scientific American looked at the wider context of the battle for Gallipoli. This Week in World War I: April 24, 1915 April 25, 2015, marks the 100-year anniversary of an important battle in the First World War: it was a major defeat for the Allies (Britain, France and Russia) and a great victory for the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Heavy Guns Blast Trenches, 1915

Two Austrians with a 305-millimeter shell for a siege howitzer (the propellant was loaded separately). Image: Scientific American, April 17, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: April 17, 1915 World War I was an artillery war. In the opening days, the German army used a new variety of siege gun to blast holes in the Belgian and French forts that had been designed and built—decades earlier—to bar passage. These new guns [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Rescuing the Drowning Submarine, 1915

German submarine rescue ship and mobile dry dock “Vulkan,” built in 1912. Image: Scientific American, April 10, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: April 10, 1915 The United States submarine F-4 was launched in January 1912, and foundered in March 1915 near Honolulu in 300 feet of water, with the loss of all 21 crew. This disaster was a stern reminder, if any was needed, that this relatively [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Proud Battleships, Subtle Mines: Dardanelles, 1915

British battleship "Irresistible," launched 1898, sunk in the Dardanelles, 1915.  Image: Scientific American, April 3, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: April 3, 1915 “The day when Constantinople will be covered by the guns of the enemy is not very far distant.” That’s the ebulliant sentence from the article in Scientific American two weeks before this one, just after the initial British and French attack near [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Zeppelin Earns a Fearsome Reputation, 1915

German civilian Zeppelin “Viktoria Luise.” After war broke out it became the military “LZ-11.” Image: Scientific American Supplement, March 27, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: March 27, 1915 Airships with rigid frames were developed by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin of Germany starting in the late 19th century. He had envisaged them being used in a viable business for mail delivery, fee-paying travellers and sight-seers—and also for military use. After the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Naval Attack on the Dardanelles: Prelude to a Disaster, 1915

French battleship “Bouvet.” The ship attacked Turkish forts in the Dardanelles and was sunk by a mine on March 18, with a disastrous loss of life. Image: Scientific American, March 20, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: March 20, 1915 The report published in this issue from a century ago delivers a robustly optimistic outlook on the Allied attack on Turkish territory at the entrance to the waterway between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean: “If the great Mahan were living to-day [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Magnets of Mercy Treat War Injuries, 1915

Demonstrating how a powerful electromagnet could extract steel shell splinters from wounded men. Image: Scientific American, March 6, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: March 13, 1915 In a war that was defined by the mass production of war supplies, the great manufacturing center of Pittsburgh, Pa., was already an important source of matériel for all the armies involved: “Pittsburgh’s great industrial plants are furnishing practically all the barbed [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Big Guns, 1915

A 42-centimeter German shell that failed to explode, displayed as a trophy by the French. Image: Scientific American, July 17, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: March 6, 1915 World War I was an artillery war. Even as new technology—tanks, airplanes, submarines and poison gas—changed the nature of fighting, it was the power of mass manufacturing that had the most profound effect on the conduct of war. The size and number [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

American Fear, 1915

U.S. Marines at the occupation of Veracruz, Mexico, 1914. Image: Scientific American, February 27, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 27, 1915 The size, speed and ferocity of the Great War was unprecedented. By the time this issue was published on February 27, 1915—only seven months after the war began—the vast and well-armed military forces of Europe had lost in dead and wounded 10 [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Airborne Scouts, 1915

Aircraft scouts: Before two-way radio was developed, it was suggested that an Edison recording machine might be useful for airplane observers. Image: Scientific American, February 20, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 20, 1915 The usefulness of scouting from the air had been demonstrated in the early days of the Great War. But gathering information from an airplane is one thing; it is another thing to give that information to people on the ground who could [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Culture Bites: The Changing Nature of the Food Truck Industry

Broad St. lunch carts, New York, N.Y. | Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-DIG-det-4a13502

What do you normally have for lunch? Leftovers? A sandwich? Do you bring it from home or do you buy it from a local eatery? In New York City, a sandwich from a deli (with a pickle and a bag of chips) will cost you about $8.00 to $12.00. A salad starts at about $6.00; [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Is there more to locking up than personal safety?

Photo by John Finn | CC, Click on image for license and information.

Do you lock the door to your home when you’re inside during the day? Or do you leave the door open if you are just running out for a minute? Some people, even in unforgiving New York City, do not. They are called the No Lock People. But if we’re all locking our doors then [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Then and Now: April Fools’ Day—How did we get here?

Photo by Will Montague. CC, click on image for license and information.

Where is here exactly? Here is a tired, eye-roll inducing pseudo-holiday that we endure with a grimace every year. Hopefully you have room for one more article about April Fools’ Day. Maybe you spent the day avoiding the Internet as much as possible—clicking around as carefully as you could and refraining from commenting where possible [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Can anthropology defeat self-deception to build better apps?

7 Krystal D Costa  Liar  liar pants on fire    YouTube

Last September, I participated in the relaunch of Ignite NYC. These mini-presentations test your game by only allowing you five minutes and 20 slides to share your idea with the audience. It’s intense. And having survived two of them now, I feel like I’ve survived some sort of public speaking boot-camp. The talk was based [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Is email one of the last private spaces online?

Photo by Dennis Skley; CC, click on image for license and information.

Someone has been using my email address. First, she registered it as the recovery address for another account she created, so I was notified about that account. Then she used my email address to register for FIOS (an Internet, cable, and telephone service provider), sign-up and make purchases on Groupon (which she then cancelled), and [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

It’s True: We’re Probably All a Little Irish—Especially in the Caribbean

A bed of clover | Photo by Adam Selwood. CC. Click on image for license and information.

In the United States, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. This Irish national holiday celebrates Saint Patrick who is—potentially—the most recognizable of Irish saints, known for championing Irish Christianity (and using a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity). The observance of St. Patrick’s Day has also been viewed as a one day break from the abstinence of [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How many TV sets do you have—and why does it matter?

Photo by SteveStein1982. CC. Click on image for license and information

In the early nineties, researchers predicted that at the current rate of growth, there would be two televisions per US household by 1995. It’s probably safe to say that we have likely exceeded that prediction. While our smart phones, tablets, and laptops may have a prominent place in our lives, they haven’t quite replaced our [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Is there joy in missing out?

Photo by Kate Ter Har. Click on image for license and information.

Researchers talk about our attachment to social media in terms of the fear of missing out (FOMO). We can’t look away from our mobile devices because we might miss the possibility to make or enhance a connection. After all, one of the benefits to having a large social network is the access to social support. [...]

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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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The Artful Amoeba

Discover the Puerto Rico Trench with America’s Ocean Exploration Team

Every two years people around the world suddenly obsessively watch odd niche sports like ice dancing, biathalon, and rhythmic gymnastics. So I wish similar enthusiasm could be summoned for the exploration dives of the Deep Discoverer, NOAA’s ROV aboard the research vessel Okeanos Explorer and vehicles like it, which are streamed live on the internet. [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Glass Anchors Strengthen Sponges and Enlighten Engineers

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It must be the Year of the Sponge here at The Artful Amoeba, because I can’t seem to write enough posts about sponges and their amazing micro-scale architecture. Below is the Sponge of the Day, and it’s one I’ve discussed here before:  Euplectella aspergillum, also called Venus’s flower basket. “Euplectella aspergillum” by NOAA/Monterey Bay Aquarium [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Amazing Mimicry of the Mummy Berry Fungus

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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. There is a fungus on our planet which is capable of not one, but two audacious and duplicitous acts: it pretends, on separate occasions, to be a flower and a pollen grain, and its performances [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Ferns Get It On After 60 Million Years Apart

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An unassuming little fern has left scientists scratching their heads at the feat of reproductive hijinks it apparently represents. The fern, xCystocarpium roskamianum (the prefix ‘x’ indicates it is a hybrid), collected in the French Pyrenees, appeared to be a blend of two ferns they know well. Although this fern is infertile as many hybrids [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Ahoy! Thar Be a New Seadragon in the Briny Deep

Leafy_Seadragon

As fabulous, fantastical gems of evolution go, seadragons are hard to beat. The weedy seadgragon: “Weedy seadragon-Phyllopteryx taeniolatus” by Sylke Rohrlach – http://www.flickr.com/photos/87895263@N06/11259275943/sizes/l/in/photostream/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. The leafy seadragon, one of my favorite animals of all time: “Leafy Seadragon” by Joseph C Boone – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Ever Wish You Could Put Ernst Haeckel On Your Lamp Shade? Now You Can

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If you’re like me, you’ve always wanted Ernst Haeckel in your house. Well, not literally Ernst Haeckel, the great 19th century biologist (although that would be cool, in alive form). “Ernst Haeckel 1860“. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. His prints. “Haeckel Discomedusae 8” by Original: Ernst Haeckel. Scan: Ragesoss. Cleanup: Ilmari Karonen. – [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Tiny Cell Grows Giant Death Spike and Lives to Grow Another

sponge_spicule_cell_fig1f_Imsiecke_et_al_1995_200

Let’s say you’re a small cell engaged in heavy manufacturing. Like most animal cells, you are coated only in a thin membrane made a double layer of fluid fat-like molecules. The thing you make is a giant, pointy glass rod twice your size. Would you expect to survive this process? Well, if you’re a cell [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

What on Earth Made These Perfect Fossil Rings?

rings_wisconsin_Hughes Lab, UC Riverside_200

See these annular structures? They are 492 million years old and come from Wisconsin. Here are some more. Was there a severe shortage of beer coasters in Cambrian Wisconsin? We’ve seen a lot of interesting fossils around the blog lately (see here, for instance, for some strange fossils that are four times as old as [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Lowly Sponges Conceal Astounding Architecture

lithistid_skeletons_fig3bdfh_Schuster_et_al_2015_200

To look at a rock sponge, which usually has all the visual appeal of a potato, you would never guess that inside lies the Notre Dame of animal skeletons. But so it is. Here are a few: The rock sponges (named for their notable lack of squish) build their skeletons out of tiny bits of [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

For These Plants, No Victim Is Too Small

pleurozia_trapped_ciliates_hess_et_al_2005_200

The tropical plant Genlisea is a tiny, homely rosette of simple green leaves. If you dig up its roots, you will find what look like an unremarkable bunch long, pale underground roots. Except they are not roots. They are death traps.

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@ScientificAmerican

Hangout with Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn: Can Cells Live Forever?

Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Elizabeth Blackburn of the University of California at San Francisco, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Carol Greider of Johns Hopkins University and Jack Szostak of Harvard University, was fascinated about animals and life while growing up in Tasmania. As a researcher, she started studying Tetrahymena, which lives in pond [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scenes from the White House Science Fair

Harry Paul of Port Washington, N.Y., himself born with congenital scoliosis, developed an implant that "grows" with the child, extending the time between invasive operations. Credit: Mariette DiChristina

At the fifth annual White House Science Fair on March 23, 2015, some 30 students shared their hard work on their research projects and collected insights. It was striking how many of these young people were trying to address problems that we adults had either created or left unsolved ourselves. I saw projects for the [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Hangout with Kit Parker: Engineering the Body

Kit Parker of Harvard holds up nanofibers.

When I told Kit Parker of Harvard University to think about explaining what he does to teenagers who would be watching our Google Science Fair Hangout On Air earlier today, he had a great answer for me: “My job is to work on cool.” Among Parker’s many “cool” research passions are understanding cardiac cell biology [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

The Science of Learning and Trying

To really change the future of education for the better, we need a combination of creative vision powered by the social entrepreneurship of education leaders and teachers. This is why the annual South by Southwest EDU (SXSWedu) conference is so unique and valuable — a time when thousands of entrepreneurs, educators, policy makers and thought [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015

What innovations are leaping out of the labs to shape the world in powerful ways? Identifying those compelling innovations is the charge of the Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, one of the World Economic Forum’s network of expert communities that form the Global Agenda Councils, which today released its Top 10 List of Emerging Technologies for [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

15 Surprises about Scientific American

256px-Scientific_american_2808184

Scientific American’s parent company, Macmillan Science & Education strives to be both a place where curious minds gather together to achieve great things for our customers—and where we can, working together as a company, be more than the sum of our parts. Scientific American serves science enthusiasts, scientists, business leaders, policy leaders, educators and students [...]

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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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Beautiful Minds

Ryan Holiday on Stoicism, strategy and creativity

Ryan-Holiday-Writing-a-kick-ass-book-the-obstacle-is-the-way

Best selling author Ryan Holiday discusses how Stoicism can help us transform trials into triumph. It’s a pragmatic episode, full of strategies to invert obstacles and wrest opportunity from adversity. The conversation includes invaluable advice for aspiring creatives, research affirming the Stoic approach, how great historical figures have used Stoicism and more… In this episode [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Are Social Daydreams Related to Well-Being?

ThinkstockPhotos-94381309

Daydreaming often gets a bad reputation. While yes– researchers have associated “lapses of attention” with memory loss and depression, here’s the thing: not all daydreaming is a lapse of attention. Sure, when we need to pay attention to the outside world, it can be helpful to quiet the inner monologue. But much of our lives [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Examining standardized testing with Anya Kamenetz

testing_anyakamenetz

Award-winning education writer Anya Kamenetz provides practical guidance for parents looking to understand standardized testing. She and Scott roll up their sleeves and delve deep into the nature, origins, drawbacks and future of our high-stakes testing culture. The dialogue spans varying topics including broadening our educational priorities, holding schools accountable, implementing better assessments and helping [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined Is Out in Paperback!

index

Here’s to the kids who are different, The kids who don’t always get A’s The kids who have ears twice the size of their peers, And noses that go on for days . . . Here’s to the kids who are different, The kids they call crazy or dumb, The kids who don’t fit, with [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Imaginary worlds and creativity with Michele Root-Bernstein

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Creativity scholar Michele Root-Bernstein discusses her work exploring the playful imaginative worlds of children and their correlation with creativity. Scott and Michele tease out the implications of imaginary worlds on education, giftedness, vocation, self-perception and more. Some other topics include the importance of play, technology’s effects on self-expression and high-level creative achievement. In this episode [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Creative Life and Well-Being

iStock_000017095249Small_610_300_s_c1_center_center

The Creative Life is full of new possibilities, discoveries, exploration, experimentation, self-expression, and invention. It’s a habit, a way of being, a style of existing. But is the Creative Life full of well-being? Depends on how you define well-being. In recent years, psychologists have taken a deeper look at well-being. The traditional approach to well-being [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Peter Sims Explains How “Little Bets” Spur Big Creative Successes

economist-human_potential-day_2-WEB-094

Award-winning author Peter Sims shares some heartening research on how people like Steve Jobs, Chris Rock and Frank Gehry use small experiments to lay the groundwork for big creative successes. It’s an encouraging episode for all the creative types out there thinking they have to have it all figured it out from the get go. [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Is an Optimistic Mind Associated with a Healthy Heart?

iStock_000037763364Small

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” — World Health Organization (1946) Many poets, philosophers, and thinkers throughout history have recognized the intimate link between physical and mental health. The ancient Roman poet Juvenal once declared “A healthy mind in a healthy [...]

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Beautiful Minds

How to change your habits with Dr. Art Markman

Markman, Art 2011

Dr. Art Markman discusses tools, tips and tricks for editing our behaviors and achieving our goals. It’s an incredibly practical episode for those of us who want to lose that weight, write that book and change our lives. Topics include why we tend to fail with habit change, how to live a good life and [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The science of raising happily productive kids with Dr. Dona Matthews

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Expert Dona Matthews presents ample research regarding how to help children flourish into happy and successful adults. Scott guides the interview across a wide array of vital domains including creativity, flow, standardized testing, growth mindsets and the many myths about intelligence. In this episode you will hear about: A more comprehensive definition of intelligence How [...]

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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: April 25, 2015

Credit: Julian Salaud, http://julien-salaud.info

Here’s a treat for fans of movies and the brain: an article called Strange Continuity. Throughout evolutionary history, we never saw anything like a montage. So why do we hardly notice the cuts in movies?  Sure, it’s not technically physics but it’s a topic I love and have written about for Pacific Standard and on [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: April 18, 2015

“Ride of the Valkyries” by Richard Wagner. Credit: Reify, http://reifynyc.tumblr.com

In honor of Tax Day in the US, here is a piece on the IRS’s Favorite Mathematical Law: Armed with Benford’s law, “the IRS can sniff out falsified returns just by looking at the first digit of numbers on taxpayers’ forms.” So, beware. A Grand Theory of Wrinkles: A collaboration between mechanical engineers and mathematicians [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Putting a New Spin on Space Elevators

Credit: LiftPort.

Fans of sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke know and love his 1979 classic novel, The Fountains of Paradise. The plot centers on efforts of a visionary structural engineer in the 22nd century, Dr Vannevar Morgan, to construct a space elevator connecting the surface of the earth with a satellite in geostationary orbit, almost a kind [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Neutron Stars Serve Up Plates of Nuclear Pasta

Different phases of "nuclear pasta"

Along with black holes, neutron stars are the result of stars collapsing under gravity once their fuel burns out, until their density is about the same as that of the nucleus of an atom, at which point the protons and electrons “melt” into pure neutrons. Just how dense are we talking? If you had a [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

New Dark Matter Map Confirms Current Theories

Credit: Dark Energy Survey

The American Physical Society is holding its annual April Meeting at the moment in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of the highlights, research-wise, comes to us courtesy of the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration. This afternoon, the researchers released the first in a series of maps of the dark matter that makes up some 23% of [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: April 11, 2015

Credit: Niyoko Ikuta, http://www.yufuku.net/artists/niyoko-ikuta

The Large Hadron Collider’s Second Run broke its own energy record for accelerating particles when it started up again this week. Here’s an inside look at how the atom smasher has been amped up.  Related: The LHC made simple: here’s what it’s doing in five simple steps. Also: The three main ways physicists look for [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: April 4, 2015

Credit: Mana Morimoto, http://manamorimoto.tumblr.com

First up: a spot of science-y April Foolery: Physicists Warming Up the LHC Accidentally Create a Rainbow Universe. Related:  CERN researchers confirm existence of the Force (the photos alone are hilarious).  Also: Smithsonian displays Wonder Woman’s invisible jet for April Fools’ Day. Bonus: Six of Ben Franklin’s Greatest Hoaxes and Pranks.  A bit of foolish [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: March 28, 2015

Credit: Ben Shields et al./University of Adelaide

The much-ballyhooed Large Hadron Collider restart hit a snag this week, thanks to an electrical short discovered over the weekend, apparently caused by a metal particle. (Hey, it’s the most complicated machine ever built! It’s sensitive! Remember that infamous baguette that knocked it off kilter back in 2009?) Engineers and technicians may need to warm [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: March 21, 2015

Credit: Tom Wagner, http://iowatom.weebly.com

That deafening sound you heard over Wednesday and Thursday was the sound of millions of science-minded folks collectively banging their heads against their computer screens in frustration. The trigger: a fear-mongering Op-Ed in the New York Times Style section by Nick Bilton, who decided that the new Apple watch and similar smart watches and wearable [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

CSI: Picasso: X-Rays Reveal the Master’s Materials

"Wheat Stack Under a Cloudy Sky," Vincent van Gogh

Every field has its raging debates among impassioned experts, and the art world is no exception. Case in point: some art historians long suspected that master painter Pablo Picasso used common house paint rather than the oil paints traditionally used in his era, which would make him the first known artist to do so. But [...]

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Compound Eye

Photo Tip: Help The World See Your Hairy Fly By Using A Black Background

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Compare and contrast. Zooming in for greater detail: The same fly, the same pose, the same camera settings. All I changed was the background, and the difference in the animal’s appearance between the two photographs is immense.  

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Compound Eye

Announcing Insects Unlocked

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A while back I wrote a feature for Ars Technica on the dysfunctional online copyright landscape. The piece was personal. My photographs average around $50 each to make, mostly in time, equipment, and travel costs. These costs have traditionally been covered by commercial users who buy permissions, as copyright law requires. Yet fewer than 10% [...]

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Compound Eye

Meet Gil Wizen’s Neighbors

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Unless you live under a rock, you have likely seen the clean white natural history work of the Meet Your Neighbours project. And even if you do live under a rock, chances are one of the project’s members has found you, removed you to a plastic stage, and snapped a photo. Meet Your Neighbours is [...]

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Compound Eye

Another Quick Tip For Crediting Photos and Visual Art on Twitter

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Symbiartic recently mentioned tagging science artists on Twitter as an easy way to give credit. Tagging the artist is a great idea, of course, but not everyone is on Twitter. Is there a more general method for social media attribition? Why yes, there is! Twitter’s tidy 140 characters do not leave much space for even [...]

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Compound Eye

Then and Now: A Decade Later, A Decade Better

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Every once and a while I stumble across a dusty forgotten folder on my hard drive, full of photos so old I don’t even remember taking them. Like this 2002 shot of an Azteca adrepens ant from Paraguay: I was terrible at photography. I mean, I still make impressive numbers of truly bad photographs, but [...]

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Compound Eye

Build a World-Class Insect Imaging System for under $6,000

papilio1f

Compound Eye has been quiet of late. My silence is for a good cause, though! The past few months have been hectic as I transitioned from freelance photography in Illinois to a new job: Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas in Austin. The move has meant a blogging hiatus. My new academic digs [...]

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Compound Eye

The Ethics of our Brave New Drone Photography World

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It’s a marvelous time to be a photographer. The blossoming tech industry has made us all kids in a candy shop, suddenly realizing the whole street is candy shops, on a street with peppermint cobblestones and licorice fountains. And if that weren’t enough, flying robots are now dropping candy from the sky. With the advent [...]

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Compound Eye

Window To A Wetter Past In Tucson

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When I lived in Tucson a few years back, I often wondered why a city even existed there. Modern Tucson is completely dry, save a few artificial ponds propped up for the golfing set. The few desert washes that pass through town are bare sand most of the time, filling only briefly during the heaviest [...]

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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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Cross-Check

How to Handle Doubts about Evolution, Global Warming, Multiverses: Teach the Controversy!

The phrase "teaching the controversy," which intelligent-design proponents coined to describe their strategy for sneaking religion into classrooms, describes my philosophy of teaching and journalism. Image: Discovery Institute.

I’ve been blabbing a lot about free speech lately–in posts here and here, on New Hampshire Public Radio and the online chat show Bloggingheads.tv, in my classes. I’ve defended the right of all citizens to challenge scientists and other “experts,” who are often wrong. I may have confused matters by mentioning “rights” and “free speech.” [...]

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Cross-Check

“Ecomodernists” Envision Utopia—but What about War?

The fastest route to utopia--a world in which all living things flourish--is to end war once and for all.

For an in-class exercise, I like asking students: “What’s your utopia?” I tell them that utopias aren’t fashionable these days; “utopian” is generally employed in a derogatory sense, meaning naively optimistic. Some cynics, notably philosopher John Gray, insist that our utopian yearnings invariably lead to disaster. That conclusion is far too pessimistic. We humans, in [...]

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Cross-Check

Was I Wrong about “The End of Science”?

In an new edition of my 1996 book The End of Science, I argue that "my prediction that there would be no great 'revelations or revolutions'—no insights into nature as cataclysmic as heliocentrism, evolution, quantum mechanics, relativity, the big bang--has held up just fine."

One of the coolest—and most stressful–moments of my career took place November 7, 1996, when I was a staff writer for Scientific American. That evening, the New York Academy of Sciences sponsored a “Sneak Preview of Science in the 21st Century” featuring a panel of seven scientific luminaries. I had interviewed four of the panelists–cosmologist [...]

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Cross-Check

Journalist Chris Mooney Is Wrong, Again, about “Experts”

Philip Tetlock's 2005 book Expert Political Judgment, which journalist Chris Mooney claims supports his defense of experts, is actually a devastating critique of them. Image: Princeton University Press.

I recently knocked science journalist Chris Mooney for asserting that “You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts.” Non-experts have the right and even the duty, I retorted, to question scientific experts, who often get things wrong. Far from reconsidering his stance, Mooney doubles down on it in a Washington Post column, “The science of why [...]

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Cross-Check

How Does Alcoholics Anonymous Beat Rival Treatments?*

Research suggests that A.A. (logo pictured) is about as effective as other approaches to alcoholism, contrary to an article by journalist Gabrielle Glaser in this month's Atlantic.

Alcoholics Anonymous, the 80-year-old self-help program, has always had critics, who fault it for being too religious and unscientific. Journalist Gabrielle Glaser revives both these charges in her April Atlantic article, “The False Gospel of Alcoholics Anonymous.” She claims that “researchers have debunked central tenets of A.A. doctrine and found dozens of other treatments more [...]

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Cross-Check

Steven Pinker, John Gray and the End of War

Philosopher John Gray asserts that the statistics with which Steven Pinker documents the decline of violence "are murky, leaving a vast range of casualties of violence unaccounted for."

Fisticuffs have broken out in The Guardian between two intellectual big shots, philosopher John Gray and psychologist Steven Pinker. The fight, which features lots of rhetorical flourishes and high dudgeon, addresses a serious issue: Is humanity achieving moral progress? Or, as Gray would put it, “progress”? More specifically, are we becoming less violent? I’ve written [...]

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Cross-Check

Steve Fuller and the Value of Intellectual Provocation

Steve Fuller has been called "one of the few wild intelligences that I've seen in decades of being around academics."

Philosopher Daniel Dennett once asked: Would you rather be remembered for being right about something, or for being “original and provocative”? I’ve been mulling over Dennett’s question in the aftermath of sociologist Steve Fuller’s recent visit to my school, Stevens Institute of Technology. After hanging out with Fuller for most of a day and night, [...]

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Cross-Check

Sociologist Steve Fuller: Scientists Aren’t More Rational Than the Rest of Us

Steve Fuller: "Make no mistake: it is not that scientists are less rational than the rest of humanity; rather, they are not more rational." Photo: University of Warwick.

In a column last week, I argued that journalists and other non-scientists have the right and even in some cases the responsibility to question the authority of scientific experts; after all, “even the most accomplished scientists at the most prestigious institutions often make claims that turn out to be erroneous or exaggerated.” My post criticized [...]

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Cross-Check

Everyone, Even Jenny McCarthy, Has the Right to Challenge “Scientific Experts”

Journalist Chris Mooney argues that the views of anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy can be dismissed because she is not a "scientific expert," but by his logic the views of journalists should also be dismissed.

Years ago I was blathering to a science-writing class at Columbia Journalism School about the complexities of covering psychiatric drugs when a student, who as I recall had a medical degree, raised his hand. He said he didn’t understand what the big deal was; I should just report “the facts” that drug researchers reported in [...]

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Cross-Check

For Pi Day: A Reminiscence on “The Death of Proof”*

The 1993 article "The Death of Proof" argued that "the doubts riddling modern human thought have finally infected mathematics."

In 1993, when I was a full-time staff writer for Scientific American, my boss, Jonathan Piel, asked, or rather, commanded me to write an in-depth feature on something, anything, mathematical. Fercrissake, I was an English major! I whined. I could fake math knowledge for little news stories about the Mandelbrot set or Fermat’s last theorem, [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Building an Earth-Size Telescope, 1 Station at a Time

The Large Millimeter Telescope in the Mexican state of Puebla

Imagine a trio of aerobatic aircraft. Over the years they’ve gotten very good at their routine. But they want to add another five or six or seven members. They also want to upgrade from propeller planes to jets, with custom engines and digital avionics. And they plan to do all of this upgrading and expanding [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Hunting Black Holes at the South Pole

The South Pole Telescope. Credit: Daniel Luong-Van, National Science Foundation

Each of the telescopes that the astronomers of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) are currently working to bring into their black-hole-observing, planet-size array is a special case. Mexico’s Large Millimeter Telescope, for example, is an enormous single dish on top of an exceptionally high mountain, not to mention the biggest science project of any kind [...]

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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

The Guilty Looking Companion

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Live with a dog, and you’ve probably met the “guilty look.” It all happens so fast — you come home, the plants are knocked over, soil is tracked all over the floor, and there’s the dog, frozen, averting gaze, and tail thumping. Whip out your phone to record the behavioral evidence for YouTube, and bam, [...]

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Dog Spies

What You Don’t Know About Your Dog’s Nostrils

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Nostrils. Your dog has them. Two of them actually. And you don’t give them any attention, do you? Sure, you might take your dog to the vet when you see gunk coming out of them, but on any given ho-hum day, you’re not giving your dog’s nostrils a second thought. Of course, we all know [...]

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Dog Spies

Three Reasons Not to Leave a Dead Body on the Carpet

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“So many places to hide a dead body.” That’s what my mom remembers thinking on her first drive cross country during honeymoon number one. Maybe this was a premonition of things to come — marriage number one was short-lived — or maybe this was the only observation a person holed up in Queens, New York [...]

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Dog Spies

Dog of the Dead: The Science of Canine Cadaver Detection

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There are many reasons to seek help from a dog trainer, and Cat Warren confronted almost all of them when a new puppy came barreling into her life. Even a seasoned dog person like Warren wasn’t prepared for Solo. Born to a litter of one, Solo hadn’t learned many of the things that a dog [...]

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Dog Spies

This Month, Step Inside the Dog’s Nose

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Even from a block away, I could tell the dog was having a Best Day Ever moment. The dog walked with the bounce of newly melted snow, birds chirp-chirping, and a warm breeze pouring new smells from the street’s nooks and crannies. Spring has finally descended on New York City, and this dog is eating [...]

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Dog Spies

Do Spayed and Neutered Dogs Get Cancer More Often?

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Where I live, in America, it’s taken for granted that responsible owners spay or neuter their dogs. The population of homeless animals is still large enough that risking an unwanted litter is, to many owners, unthinkable. And spay/neuter is just what people do. But two papers were published, in 2013 and 2014, suggesting that these [...]

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Dog Spies

Why Some Dogs Hate Snow

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As we discussed last time, there are many reasons why dogs love snow, but then… You look down at your own dog. A wonderful companion. Loved and loving. But not a lover of snow. It’s true; not all dogs want to nose dive (again and again) into white winter powder. I asked a few canine [...]

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Dog Spies

Why Do Dogs Love Snow?

dogs36altalt

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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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Genetic Studies Aid Conservation

A Bengal tiger. (Photo: Prasenjeet Yadav)

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

The Richest Reef: Life in Layers

A porcelain crab (Neopetrolisthes maculate) right at home at the edge of an anemone. (Photo by Will Love)

Editor’s Note: “The Richest Reef” follows members of a scientific dive team as they attempt to pinpoint the center of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystem in the world. Long considered our planet’s most species-rich piece of ocean real estate, the Western Pacific’s “Coral Triangle” is a continent-sized patchwork of habitats, populations, and communities. Expedition [...]

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Expeditions

The Richest Reef: No Such Thing as Packing Light

A traditional Filipino fishing boat, or “banca,” packed with gear during the 2014 expedition. (Photo by Luiz Rocha)

Editor’s Note: “The Richest Reef” follows members of a scientific dive team as they attempt to pinpoint the center of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystem in the world. Long considered our planet’s most species-rich piece of ocean real estate, the Western Pacific’s “Coral Triangle” is a continent-sized patchwork of habitats, populations, and communities. Expedition [...]

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Expeditions

The Richest Reef: Exploring the Most Diverse Marine Ecosystem on Earth

An expectation-setting teaser from the expedition’s first team of divers. (Photo by Rich Mooi)

Editor’s Note: “The Richest Reef” follows members of a scientific dive team as they attempt to pinpoint the center of the most biologically diverse marine ecosystem in the world. Long considered our planet’s most species-rich piece of ocean real estate, the Western Pacific’s “Coral Triangle” is a continent-sized patchwork of habitats, populations, and communities. Expedition [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Counting the Prey

A herd of chital sighted during transect survey in Malenadu. (Photo: Varun Goswami)

Thimmayya, a Jenu Kuruba tribesman who lives in the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve is leading the way. Following him is Killivalavan Rayar, a senior research associate working with WCS India Program. They tread along a forested trail, silent and observant. Suddenly, to the left, they hear a crack made by the snapping of a branch. The [...]

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Expeditions

Call of the Orangutan: The Importance of Play

Suci breastfeeding 3-year-old Siboy, who must still be carried by his mother while traveling through the canopy. (Photo: James Askew)

The past couple of months have been excellent for our data collection, as we’ve encountered a number of parties of orangutans. This is a more common occurrence in the high productivity forests of Sumatra, where we’re working, than on Borneo, where animals tend to be much more dispersed due to limitations in food availability. For [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: Where Are the Cats Found and Why?

Grid array overlaid across Malenad landscape for tiger occupancy surveys (left). Traditional, presence-only surveys (center) underestimated tiger occupancy by 45% when compared to occupancy modeling (right), which estimated that tigers occupied 66% of the landscape.

A team of four WCS India Program field members are sweating it out in the rugged hilly terrain of Malenad. Walking neither too fast, nor too slow, they follow a trail, diligently observing and recording signs of tigers and other wildlife along the way. The solitary bark of an alarmed deer nearby instinctively makes them [...]

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Expeditions

Along the Tiger’s Trail: What’s in Scat?

Tiger scat on the forest floor. (Courtesy of WCS India)

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

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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Extinction Countdown

Should Humpback Whales Be Removed from the Endangered Species List?

humpback whale

Have decades of protection allowed the endangered humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) to recover? That’s the question asked this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). On Monday the agency proposed removing most of the species’s population sites from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, NOAA proposes a change in the [...]

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Extinction Countdown

A New Tool for Conservation Genetics: Seal Placentas

saimaa seal

It’s a sad fact that as members of a species become rarer they tend to suffer from inbreeding. This lack of genetic diversity can lead to birth defects and other problems, making a species even more endangered as time progresses. Conservationists regularly test the genetic makeup of many endangered species in order to understand the [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Critically Endangered Frog Claws Its Way toward Recovery

Lake Oku clawed frog

The evolutionarily unique frogs of Cameroon’s Lake Oku have no tongues, claw-tipped toes and 12 full sets of chromosomes. What the Lake Oku clawed frogs (Xenopus longipes) don’t have, however, is a lot of habitat in which to live. They only exist in a tiny mountaintop lake more than 2,200 meters above sea level. Although [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Conservation Group Seeks Protection for Endangered Crayfish, Gets Newly Discovered Species as a Bonus

big sandy crayfish

A funny thing happened on the way to the endangered species list. Five years ago the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned to protect an Appalachian crayfish species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) concurred and agreed that the Big Sandy crayfish of Kentucky, Virginia and [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Amazing Discovery: Nearly Extinct Bird Found Breeding in Japan

Bryan's shearwater

Higashijima Island doesn’t look like much from the sky. This tiny, uninhabited scrap of land 1,000 kilometers south of the coast of Japan is only a few hectares in size. The eastern half of the island consists of rocky outcroppings, while the western half contains small plots of grassland and shrubs. Nothing about Higashijima appears [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Is Chocolate Driving Monkeys into Extinction?

Cercocebus atys lunulatus

Ten years ago the forests of Ivory Coast were full of the hoots and howls of more than a dozen primate species. No more. Today the west African nation is much quieter. The forests are mostly gone and the monkeys that they once held aren’t far behind. Several species have become critically endangered. One may [...]

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Extinction Countdown

How Zoos Acquire Endangered Species

orangutan bob oregon zoo

How do you transport two young orangutans to a zoo thousands of kilometers away from their native lands? Here’s the simple answer: FedEx. Here’s the less simple answer: It’s a lot of work. Meet Bob and Kumar Kumar and Bob are in playful moods on the rainy morning that I see them at Oregon Zoo [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Sunday Species Snapshot: Swift Parrot

swift parrot

The beautiful bird known as the swift parrot may be on the fast track to extinction. Species name: Swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) Description: A small bird, just 25 centimeters long, with bright features and a particularly showy attitude. Where found: Small portions of Tasmania. The birds also migrate to mainland Australia after their breeding season. [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Keeping Tiny Delta Smelt Alive in Captivity Is No Small Feat

delta smelt

The delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) may be all but extinct in the wild, but it turns out that hope is not quite lost for this controversial California fish. Although a recent survey turned up only six delta smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin estuary, they are not alone. Another 20,000 of the tiny fish currently live [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Hungry Polar Bears Could Soon Start Devastating Bird Populations

polar bear

A hungry polar bear (Ursus maritimus) will eat just about anything. Oh sure, they prefer to dine on nice fatty seals (I mean, what Arctic creature wouldn’t?), but when push comes to shove they’ll eat caribou, walruses, nuts, birds, and even stinky, rotten whale carcasses. Oh yeah, they’ll also eat eggs. Research over the past [...]

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Food Matters

Go Ask Alice: The History of Toklas’s Legendary Hashish Fudge

Toklas2

Alice B. Toklas truly stirred the pot when she included a recipe for hashish fudge in her memoir-cum-cookbook. She published The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook in 1954, following the death of her lifelong partner, Gertrude Stein. Along with personal musings, it contained recipes primarily for French cuisine but it was the inclusion of the Moroccan [...]

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Food Matters

Foods on the High End: Exploring Haute Cuisine Cannabis

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Inside and outside the kitchen, chefs have been known to get into the weeds–but the majority of culinary cannabis creations have been mainly limited to a few cakes, cookies, and of course, the archetypal pot brownie. In GQ, writer Jesse Pearson opined, “We’re a nation that obsesses over food and chefs as much as we [...]

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Food Matters

Blue Zones: What the Longest-Lived People Eat (Hint: It’s Not Steak Dinners)

Photo by Gianluca Colla, Courtesy Blue Zones

On April 7th, the book “Blue Zones Solutions” will hit the shelves. In it, Dan Buettner, CEO of the eponymous organization describes his work over the last decade visiting and studying populations throughout the world where people live extraordinarily long, healthy, and happy lives. Dubbed “blue zones,” these pockets of longevity feature a number of [...]

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Food Matters

Fungal Foods, Science in Politics, and some GMOs – March Link Dump

Here are some things I saw around the internet in the last month that might be of interest. Food If you can access it, read this week’s edition of Cell, it’s all about food, and there are some great articles in there. Bill Nye examines the science, and admits that he got some stuff wrong [...]

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Food Matters

GMOs are Still the Best Bet for Feeding the World.

Demand for staple crops will begin to outstrip supply in the coming decades if current trends continue. From Long et. al.

It’s been a while since I’ve written on GMOs, but it may be time to start again. Recently, a huge amount of attention was given to an IARC report suggesting that glyphosate (brand name: Roundup), one of the most common pesticides, may cause cancer. The dangers of glyphosate have been a favorite whipping boy of [...]

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Food Matters

Growing a Baby Microbiome

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According to the world food program, 1 out of every 6 children on the planet suffers from malnutrition, and this is responsible for over half of deaths in children under 5 years old. The normal way to measure whether a child is malnourished is through weight – there are certain “normal” ranges of healthy weight [...]

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Food Matters

New Issue of the Journal Cell is All About Food

Microbes grow on all kinds of foods, from salami to cheese to tea (kobucha). Figure from Wolfe et. al.

I suspect that the Venn diagram of Food Matters readers and readers of the journal Cell doesn’t contain a lot in the overlap portion, but this week, that should probably change. Cell is one of the big three in biology science publishing (the other two being Nature and Science), and usually contains predominantly wonky, jargon-laden cutting-edge research on [...]

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Food Matters

Political Climates: Drought and Conflict in Syria

PoliticalClimate

Beginning in 2007, Syria and the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the worst three year drought ever recorded in the region. Recent research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests the drought may have contributed to the ongoing conflict in Syria. According to their study, the drought had detrimental effects on agriculture [...]

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Food Matters

That Time Big Tobacco Hired a Sugar Researcher to Help Them Muddle the Science on Health

candy-cigarettes_phillip_stewartz

Much has been made in recent years about the beverage and food industries borrowing from the tobacco industry’s playbook as they fend off increasing scrutiny about their role in preventable chronic health problems, like type II diabetes and heart disease. A case study published last week in the journal PLOS Medicine revealed a surprising early [...]

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Food Matters

February Link Dump

Food/Ag Feathers, beaver butt excretions and CHEMICALS!! in your food? Yeah, but it’s not what you think. Bill Gates weighs in on GMOs and their potential to feed to world. In a lot of places, there’s a lot of capacity to increase crop yields, just by catching up to the rest of the world Microbiology [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Interacting With Invisible Objects

ffym-illustration_Now-You-See-Me-Now-You-Dont_1280x640

What do you do when you are playing in the park on a hot day and your parents offer you an ice cream? Most probably, you go running to them, keep your eyes on the delicious ice cream cone, and reach out to take it from them. Although this feels like the most natural thing [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Boots or Heels: My Wardrobe Paradox as a Woman in STEM

A couple of weeks ago a wonderful hashtag was making its way around Twitter, with female scientists all over the world sharing photos of their feet to show a day #InMyShoes. The hashtag originated as a response from the TrowelBlazers to the plight of one eight-year-old dinosaur enthusiast, who was dismayed to find out that [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Are Adolescents Really Risk-Takers? Most Adults Say Yes, But the Science is Starting to Say No

This article is a re-posting ETC

Most adults firmly believe that as kids reach their teens, they start to take crazy risks that get them in trouble. Motivated to protect teenagers, adults impose age limits on what they consider to be really dangerous activities. But do teenagers simply love taking all risks much more than adults? Our research suggests otherwise. When [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Even Scientists Play With Their Food

Compliation

Have you ever been told not to play with your food? Perhaps been told that it isn’t polite or disrespects the other people at the table? I have a confession: sometimes I play with my food. I can’t help it! There are certain things I have learned throughout my life, in science classes or otherwise, [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

How Quickly Can (and Should) You Judge a Face?

Granny Enchanted Neutral Face

The internet is filled with claims about how we form initial assessments of other people within the first ten minutes – or even the first ten seconds – of meeting them. Add the ever-expanding world of apps that allow us to make decisions with just the swipe of a finger, and you may start to [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Seven Reasons Space Scientists Are Tougher Than You Think

Curiosity Landing

Whether it is waiting to hear about draft picks or the next release by Apple, there are many things that make enthusiasts hold their breath. When the Curiosity Rover experienced an electrical short on February 27th, I held mine. I acknowledge that this moment is hardly one of the most nail-biting of even this particular [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Do You Only Trust WALL-E Because He’s Cute?

Robot

Each year it seems a little less like science fiction to ask your phone for advice about local chinese food or trust your car to get you to a new location. Maybe you even wish you had a robot who could clean your house or fix your electronics. With the popularity of programs like Siri [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

What is Déjà Vu?

ffym-illustration_What-is-Deja-Vu_600x300

Déjà vu describes the strange experience of a situation feeling much more familiar than it should. Young people experience déjà vu the most. Many of us report our first experiences between the ages of 6 and 10. In this article, we review recent research on déjà vu including what it is, how common it is, [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Not Your Grandma’s Science Competition – Part 3

GSF Student Competitors

This post is the third in a three-part series highlighting youth science competitions that task young people with the real challenges and rewards of a life in research. The various components of the science process carved out in youth science competitions provide a valuable glimpse into the importance of embracing the competitive edge of your [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Not Your Grandma’s Science Competition – Part 2

Traverse-City-Michigan

This post is the second in a three-part series highlighting youth science competitions that task young people with the real challenges and rewards of a life in research. We have already discussed the importance of having a competitive edge and drive to create the best solutions to a given problem, but the daily life of [...]

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Guest Blog

What about Earth’s Microbiome?

Biological soil crust in Arches National Park, Utah. Biological soil crusts are composed of oxygen-producing cyanobacteria, green algae, brown algae, fungi, lichens and/or mosses. (Photo: Neal Herbert/National Park Service/Flickr)

The latest temperature readings from Antarctica are giving the world pause, along with the finding that 70 percent of the western Antarctic ice shelf has melted. As Earth day approaches, discussions around climate change tend to focus on rising temperatures and sea levels, stronger storms and disruption of agriculture. But one key player has been [...]

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Guest Blog

ScienceDebate Revs Up for 2016 Presidential Election

President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton launched the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a partnership between the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson on September 8, 2014. (Photo by Paul Morse)

This year, I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of the inaugural class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars (PLS) program, which brings together 60 leaders from around the country to work on projects designed to create significant social impact and change. PLS is co-sponsored by the presidential libraries of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, [...]

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Guest Blog

Darwin: the Movie

Clockwise from top left: Young Charles Darwin (George Richmond, 1840); Daniel Radcliffe (Joella Marano/Flickr); Henry Cavill (David Shankbone/Wikimedia); Andrew Garfield (Paulae/Wikimedia)

It’s true, Mr. and Ms. Hollywood Producer, Nash, Hawking, Turing were great and all, and their stories brought big bucks and a few Oscars rolling your way, but come on! When it comes to Hollywood science biopics, what about The Man? I mean his discoveries changed how we see our place in nature, who we [...]

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Guest Blog

Cell Phones Monitor Water, Soil on African Farms [Q&A]

Pulsepod, a cellular-enabled system for low-cost environmental sensing. (Photo: Adam Wolf)

When he was in elementary school, Kelly Caylor built a weather station in his parents’ Tallahassee, Florida backyard. Decades later, he’s distributing high-tech environmental sensors, or “pods,” throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike the DIY contraption he built as a student, these pods are smart, high-tech, and talkative. Now an ecohydrologist at Princeton University, Caylor wants to [...]

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Guest Blog

John Conway Reminiscences about Dr. Matrix and Bourbaki

John H. Conway holds an advance copy of a forthcoming biography. (Photo: Colm Mulcahy)

Last week, life took me through Princeton, and I seized the opportunity to drop in to see resident English mathematician John Horton Conway. He was in particularly good form despite health issues that come with aging, and proudly showed me an advance copy of a forthcoming biography of his life by Siobhan Roberts. “Being the [...]

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Guest Blog

The Quest for Better Broccoli Starts with More Science

Image: Puamelia/Flickr

Everyone knows that broccoli is good for you. What was not known—until researchers examined how broccoli was prepared for distribution—is that frozen broccoli lacked the cancer-fighting nutrients that the fresh vegetable provided. With a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), however, scientists at the University of Illinois discovered [...]

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Guest Blog

Cord-Blood Research Sits Poised for Therapeutic Discovery

Blood is extracted from an umbilical cord. (Blood and Tissue Bank/Flickr)

Whenever one examines any area of scientific inquiry, there are two important things to understand: where the science is today, and where it may lead us in the future. To examine only the former is to engage in half an inquiry and create the perception that things in this particular area have reached a dead [...]

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Guest Blog

How Many Digits of Pi Do You Really Need to Know? Find Out with This Bar Bet

Pi 1

A physicist or engineer who uses π (pi) in numerical calculations may need to have access to 5 or 15 decimal place approximations to this special number, but most of us—mathematicians included—don’t need to know more (decimal-wise) than the fact that it’s roughly 3.14. Yet there is an inexplicable nerdy subculture far removed from real [...]

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Guest Blog

How Identity Evolves in the Age of Genetic Imperialism

Image: Wildpixel/iStock/Thinkstock

From designer babies to women whose genitals smell like peaches, 2014 graced us with a taste of the hope, hype and superficiality of business as usual in Silicon Valley. It is tempting to listen to those who tell us that there is a gene-hack to solve every “problem”—that DNA is just a code to personalize [...]

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Guest Blog

Beyond Resveratrol: The Anti-Aging NAD Fad

Aging cells. Old human fibroblasts showing their mitochondria in large branched networks (red), their nuclear DNA (blue) and sites of DNA damage (green). (Image: Glyn Nelson/Flickr)

Whenever I see my 10-year-old daughter brimming over with so much energy that she jumps up in the middle of supper to run around the table, I think to myself, “those young mitochondria.” Mitochondria are our cells’ energy dynamos. Descended from bacteria that colonized other cells about 2 billion years, they get flaky as we [...]

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Illusion Chasers

The Implication of Motion

Dealing_with_bullies_lineart

To celebrate our new article on implied motion in Scientific American Mind, here’s a terrific movie of a chocolate zoetrope.

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Illusion Chasers

Why Babies (and Perhaps All of Us) Care About Magic

424px-Magic_wand_svg

As adults, we don’t often experience radical violations of our expectations, particularly those that concern core principles of object behavior. One important exception is magic — A magic performance turns our reasonable expectations upside down: objects vanish, levitate and metamorphose. What if each of these violations signals a unique learning opportunity not only to the infant brain but to the adult brain as well? It may be that magic performances are so compelling because we are wired to engage our minds and actions in unexpected situations.

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Illusion Chasers

Eyes Wide Shut: Laurie Simmons’s Gaze Illusions

thumbnail

The latest project of photographer Laurie Simmons, who has previously portrayed life-like dolls in everyday poses, features live subjects with doll gazes. The models are photographed with their eyes closed, but look all-seeing: their eyelid makeup consists of hyper realistic doll-eye depictions. The mix is not apparent at first sight, even as the uncanny gazes follow the exhibit visitors around the gallery.

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Illusion Chasers

Blind Justice: Biasing Moral Choices With Eye Tracking

From Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have set out to demonstrate a causal relationship–not merely a correlation–between gaze duration and moral decision making.

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Illusion Chasers

Brain Awareness Week in NYC

braiNY SFN

This week is Brain Awareness Week 2015! A number of great events are taking place around the world to promote public education of the brain and to support research in neurological and psychiatric diseases. Here in New York City there are dozens of events.

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Illusion Chasers

The Unforeseen Joys of Encapsulating The Present

A treasure trove of the mundane  -- Image from Wikimedia Commons

A recent study shows that underestimating the value of current experiences leads people to make time-inconsistent choices. We fail to document the present, only to wish we had done it, in the future. At the core of this contradiction is the illusion of self-immutability. We are notoriously bad at predicting how we will feel in the future, and we make the mistake of using our current mental state as a heuristic to make projections about our future feelings. Fundamentally, we do not believe that our future selves will be any different from our current selves, despite our whole life histories screaming to the contrary.

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Illusion Chasers

Call for Illusion Submissions: The World’s 11th Annual Best Illusion of the Year Contest

logo_color_title_1s

We are happy to announce the 11th edition of world’s Best Illusion of the Year Contest!! Submissions are now welcome!

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Illusion Chasers

Why Julianne Moore and Taylor Swift See That Dress Differently

RBG Wired image

I don’t think that the reason people see the dress differently from each other is an interesting brain process. Rather, it is a mundane differences in how people have viewed the image on their electronic display screens (phones, tablets, laptops, etc). So now we know that Taylor Swift and Ellen Degeneres set their phone screens to different brightness levels than Justin Bieber and Julianne Moore. You’re welcome.

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Illusion Chasers

Why Romantic Illusions Are a Good Thing

Showing_off_her_Oakley_shades-300x199

Scientists believe that idealizing one’s partner can work as a self-fulfilling prophecy, where illusion eventually becomes reality. That is to say, people can help to create the partners they wish they had, by exaggerating their virtues and minimizing their faults in their own minds. In such cases, love is not blind but prophetic.

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Illusion Chasers

Obsession at the Rubin Museum

ED-600

The brain region underlying motivation and pleasure are directly interconnected in a loop that we neurophysiologists refer to as a circuit. Whereas activation of this circuit can feel good in normal function, certain drugs, or diseases (like obsessive compulsive disorder; OCD) leave you wanting for more. Much much more.

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Image of the Week

Join the #SciArt Tweetstorm!

tweetstorm

Credit: Illustration by Glendon Mellow Source: Help Us Start a SciArt Tweet Storm by Glendon Mellow on Symbiartic This week, Glendon Mellow at Symbiartic has initiated a #sciart tweetstorm, and the sheer quantity of scienceart being shared is spectacular. Scienceart covers a huge array of science-related art, from fine art inspired by science to art [...]

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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

Trinil-shell-FEATURE

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

SylivaEarle-lego

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

triplestarsystem_mini

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

small

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

HelloNaviTeam-FEATURE

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

Genome-vs-blueprint

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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Life, Unbounded

NASA Goes Big and Bold for Exoplanet Science

The NASA vision for its Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (Credit: NASA)

                  A United States federal agency is not necessarily the first place you think of when it comes to answering some of the deepest existential questions for our species. Yet over the last half-century this is precisely where some of the greatest practical progress has been made. [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Where Would you Leave a Message From the Stars?

bottle.001

A recent article by Samuel Arbesman in the science magazine Nautilus discusses the extraordinary sounding possibility that – just perhaps – a search for extraterrestrial intelligence could be made by looking at our DNA. Yes, that’s right, at DNA. Not just human DNA either, but the codes of all living organisms. It’s a fascinating, if [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Watch the First Artificial Gravity Experiment

High above Baja California, the first artificial gravity experiment (Credit: NASA)

Gravity, as the old joke goes, sucks. It drags us down, pulls on our weary limbs, makes our feet tired, makes parts of us droop. But it’s also a critical factor for our long term well-being. Astronauts and cosmonauts circling the Earth over the past 60 years have discovered that zero-g, or microgravity, is really [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The March 11 Solar Flare

Gulp (NASA/SDO)

We live a mere 93 million miles from an enormous fusion reactor. It’s easy to overlook this, after all the Sun is only about halfway through its long slog of converting protons into helium nuclei deep inside its core. Decommissioning is still a few billion years in the future. But our nearest star can occasionally [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Grand Texture of Planets

color_etopo1_ice_low

              In an idle moment, while staring at a set of solar system data, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to display a set of planetary surfaces on an equal footing, where the overall texture of these worlds was visible (although topography is probably a more [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Have we got Solar System Habitability Backwards?

(NASA)

Enceladus, Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Triton, Pluto, Eris…they may all have, or have had, large oceans of liquid water trapped beneath a frozen crust. That poses some interesting questions. I’ve written before on these pages (and elsewhere) about the wealth of evidence for internal bodies of liquid water in our solar system. Since the Pioneer, and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

A Blizzard of Astrobiology

A wet Mars? (Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger)

Astrobiology has one key advantage when it comes to tooting its own horn – it can lay claim to a diverse range of scientific research as being relevant to the study of life in the universe. In that spirit (and an optimistic celebration of what might, just possibly, hopefully, be the advent of spring-like conditions [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Tricksy Mars may be Obscuring Signs of Organic Matter

The view from Curiosity (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

[Correction: jarosite has indeed been detected on Mars, this post has been updated to reflect that fact.] Picture a hot volcanic spring. Mineral-laden acidic water flows through sulfur-rich rocks. A foul odor hangs in the air. For us it’s a nasty environment, best enjoyed through the lens of a tourist’s camera. But for tough thermophilic [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Titan Loses its Speckles

A 3-D view of a region of Kraken Mare showing the sharp turns in a 'river' (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

Some of the most stunning images of Saturn’s moon Titan are made using a synthetic aperture radar to penetrate the thick atmosphere to see the frigid surface. But radar images are prone to what’s called ‘speckle noise’. This is the granular texture that covers the radar maps, and it’s caused by the physical roughness of [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Is AI Dangerous? That Depends…

earth-ai-web.001

Somewhere in the long list of topics that are relevant to astrobiology is the question of ‘intelligence’. Is human-like, technological intelligence likely to be common across the universe? Are we merely an evolutionary blip, our intelligence consigning us to a dead-end in the fossil record? Or is intelligence something that the entropy-driven, complexity-producing, universe is [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

“Optocapacitance” Shines New Light on the Brain

Francisco Bezanilla. (Photo: Kaspar Mossman, Copyright (2008) National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.)

A novel twist on the young field of optogenetics may provide a new way to study living human brains as well as offering innovative therapeutic uses. From time immemorial, philosophers, anatomists and scientists have pondered the inner workings of the brain. Efforts to look inside the black box consistently yielded far more questions than answers. [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

How to Help the Growing Female Prison Population

Source: Pixabay

Orange Is the New Black, the popular Netflix show based on the memoir by Piper Kerman, brought female prisons into America’s living room, highlighting several issues that are plaguing the correctional system. While the show exaggerates some of the illegal activities that happen in a prison, it accurately depicts how security personnel can exacerbate the [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

The Growing Economic Burden of Depression in the U.S.

Credit: Luis Sarabia/Flickr

Depression in America costs society $210 billion per year, according to the newest data available, yet only 40 percent of this sum is associated with depression itself. My colleagues and I have found that most of the costs of depression are for related mental illnesses, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Terms of Endearment: Why Do We Use Pet Names in Relationships?

Romantic pet names

I have been called a little owl, a swan and even a “panda-fish.” No, I’m not a supernatural, shape-shifting creature or a character in a children’s storybook. I’ve just been in a few relationships where cutesy, affectionate nicknames emerged as inside jokes. These names stuck around for months, even years – to the point where [...]

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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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Not bad science

Inside the Wonderful World of Bee Cognition – Where We’re at Now

A bumblebee drinks sugar water from an artificial flower and learns to return to yellow flowers in the future

As I wrote about in my last post, bees are capable of learning which flowers offer good nectar rewards based on floral features such as colour, smell, shape, texture, pattern, temperature and electric charge. They do this through associative learning: learning that a ‘conditioned stimulus’ (for example, the colour yellow) is associated with an ‘unconditioned [...]

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Not bad science

Inside the Wonderful World of Bee Cognition – How it All Began

Most research on bee cognition uses honeybees and bumblebees

One of the first things I get asked when I tell people that I work on bee cognition (apart from ‘do you get stung a lot?’) is ‘bees have cognition?’. I usually assume that this question shouldn’t be taken literally otherwise it would mean that whoever was asking me this thought that there was a [...]

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Not bad science

Male Bark Beetles Have to Sing a Password to Be Given Access To a Female’s Home

A female blocks a male bark beetle from entering her gallery

The males of many animals compete with each other for females. This can be through direct fighting, as in the case of crickets and fruitflies. However, males also compete for female attention through courtship displays. One common way males compete for females is through song. Song allows females to assess males through how good they [...]

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Not bad science

Both Winning And Losing Fights Makes Flies More Aggressive

fly

Many animals behave aggressively towards one another. This is usually when they are fighting for something like territory, mates or food.  However, an animal’s decision to become aggressive isn’t a simple on-off switch and many factors feed into how aggressive an animal is. For example, many animals become less aggressive after losing a fight against [...]

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Not bad science

Lost Penguin Chicks Try To Find Their Way Home

A King Penguin chick

King penguins are pretty social animals. Not only do they tend to hang out in a big group, but even within the group, they form little sub-groups; cliques of penguins who like to hang out together. In case this couldn’t get any cuter, their chicks also hang out in groups without any adult penguins around. [...]

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Not bad science

Teenagers Are No More Risk-Taking Than Children

Adolescents weren't actually any more risk-taking than children

For a change, I thought this week instead of writing about black widow spiders or praying mantids I’d write about an animal I often neglect: humans. A topic of conversation I often seem to stumble into with people is that of risk. As an amateur rock climber, something that gets said to me frequently by [...]

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Not bad science

An Optical Illusion As Seen By a Fish

The Ebbinghaus Illusion

Visual illusions are fun: we know with our rational mind that, for example, these lines are parallel to each other, yet they don’t appear that way. Similarly, I could swear that squares A and B are different colours. But they are not. This becomes clearer when a connecting block is drawn between the two squares [...]

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Not bad science

Peacocks Produce Sounds We Can’t Hear

peacock

If you’re lucky enough, you may have seen a peacock displaying to a female. It’s an impressive event to witness: the peacock spreads and ruffles his enormous, brightly coloured tail feathers for a female, who, after checking him out, may choose to mate with him or not. One of the most obvious features of the [...]

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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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Observations

Hubble’s Repairman Reflects on the Telescope’s Legacy

Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino

Twenty-five years ago, on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope soared into orbit. Since then, its great discoveries have been legion, and the story of how it became the most successful and productive astronomical observatory in human history is destined to become legendary. To help commemorate Hubble’s 25th anniversary, Scientific American collaborated with Nature [...]

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Observations

Can the U.S. Go All-Electric?

mueller-home

New homes wired with the latest smart gadgets cluster together around shared park spaces. Blue-black panels that transform sunshine into electricity grace a majority of roofs. Electric cars or hybrids glide silently to rest in garages. This is not some distant future; this is life today in Mueller—an innovative suburb of Austin, Tex., and just [...]

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Observations

Archaeologists Take Wrong Turn, Find World’s Oldest Stone Tools

SAN FRANCISCO–Archaeologists working in the Kenyan Rift Valley have discovered the oldest known stone tools in the world. Dated to around 3.3 million years ago, the implements are some 700,000 years older than stone tools from Ethiopia that previously held this distinction. They are so old, in fact, that they predate the earliest fossils representing [...]

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Observations

Supermassive Black Holes Make Merging Galaxies Green

The galaxy NGC 5972 is wreathed in glowing green bands of ionized oxygen

Green as a color can mean animal, vegetable or mineral. It is the stuff of crocodiles, chlorophyll and copper patina, the essence of serpentine or of snakes in the grass, the hue of a glacial lake, a stagnant pond and the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day. Green seems to be everywhere you look—everywhere, that [...]

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Observations

Against April Fools’ in Science Journalism

A slumbering dragon atop a hoard of gold

My lowest point as a science journalist came before I even knew what a science journalist was. I was a young punk in an eighth-grade science class at Northwood Middle School in Greenville, South Carolina. For homework, our teacher told us to summarize an article about a recent scientific discovery. I knew instantly what I’d [...]

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Observations

When Your Co-Author Is a Monstrous Ass

journal article title page with authors stronzo bestiale, william hoover

Who hasn’t worked with a disagreeable person—and in the world of science publishing, authored a paper with one?  That wasn’t exactly what went through the mind of William Hoover, a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, when he included an Italian co-author to his 1987 paper. But certainly, frustration and a little juvenilia can [...]

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Observations

After Enduring a Martian Marathon, NASA’s Opportunity Rover Faces an Uncertain Future

The path of NASA's Opportunity rover during its marathon journey on Mars

It’s been a long time coming, but this week NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover completed the first-ever Martian marathon. After landing on the Red Planet in January 2004 on a mission originally planned to only last 90 days, Opportunity has instead endured for more than a decade, and has taken eleven years and two months to [...]

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Observations

What Are Black Hole Firewalls? [Video]

Black Hole

Black holes break theories. These sites of extremely large masses in extremely small spaces invoke both of the behemoths of modern physics—general relativity (which rules over large masses) and quantum mechanics (which reigns in small spaces). But the two theories do not get along, and they break down in situations where both apply. For physicists, [...]

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Observations

The Science of TED 2015

What I love about the annual TED gathering in Vancouver is the way science coexists along with art, social justice, popular song and the rest of TED’s eclectic mix. Singers and celebrities may have bigger Twitter followings, but the scientists who come to TED—as newly minted TED Fellows or longtime attendees—do a pretty good job [...]

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Observations

Looking for Life in Our Soggy Solar System

Hubble Space Telescope data revealing Ganymede's ultraviolet aurorae overlays a visible-light image of the icy moon taken by NASA's Galileo orbiter. The ultraviolet aurorae are rocking back and forth in synchrony with Jupiter's magnetic field, suggesting the presence of a large ocean beneath Ganymede's surface. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Saur/JPL/The Galileo Project

Scientists are finding liquid water, the cornerstone for life as we know it, in surprising nooks and crannies of the solar system. Following Wednesday’s news that there seem to be hydrothermal vents churning away in the warm, alkaline seas inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus, researchers announced airtight evidence yesterday that Jupiter’s moon Ganymede also has a [...]

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Plugged In

Japan Now Has More EV Chargers Than Gas Stations

EV charging point in Amsterdam. Image by: Tali Trigg.

For any alternative fuel in transport, the key question is: what about infrastructure? As in, how much does infrastructure cost, what are the environmental effects, and who is actually going to pay for it? Without answering these questions, analysis of alternative fuels often becomes nothing more than an introduction to the fuel’s chemical properties. In [...]

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Plugged In

Hyliion Takes Home Big Prizes at Rice Business Plan Competition With Its Hybrid 18-Wheeler

Hyliion - back of prototype

On Saturday, a start-up called Hyliion was awarded the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Entrepreneurship prize at the 15th annual Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston. This Pittsburgh-based and student-led company has developed a slide-in suspension system for tractor-trailers that could reduce fuel use in these trucks by 31%.  With an anticipated price tag [...]

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Plugged In

Indian Railways and Military Go Solar

Sunrise in Tamil Nadu, India. Image courtesy: SR Sasikumar.

There’s been no shortage recently of big companies going big on solar, nor of middlemen trying to pave the way for bulk buying of solar power, but when the beast that is national procurement gets involved, the ante is upped. Entering this mix: India. While Indian solar potential has to date been largely untapped, there [...]

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Plugged In

Stanford Researchers Unveil New Ultrafast Charging Aluminum-Ion Battery

This schematic shows how the aluminum-ion battery shuttles AlCl4- ions from its graphite cathode to its aluminum anode in order to produce a discharge current (Source: Lin et al., 2015)

Last week, Stanford University researchers unveiled a new aluminum-ion battery chemistry with the unique ability to charge or discharge in less than a minute. The battery’s incredibly fast charging and discharging times are not its only breakthrough. It is also the first aluminum-based battery to achieve an operating voltage sufficient for common applications and last [...]

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Plugged In

Clinton Makes Climate Change A Central Issue for 2016

Hillary Clinton

It’s official. Hillary Clinton is running for President of the United States. That wasn’t a surprise, but something about her campaign really stood out yesterday – and most people missed it. This tweet by John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman: As reported at ThinkProgress, Hillary’s campaign is the first major presidential campaign to make combating climate [...]

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Plugged In

A Tale of Two City-States

Singapore gardens by the bay, the result of an urban planning project to turn unused land in the bay into open walkable space, part of Singapore's garden tradition. Image credit: Kathleen Sullivan.

How Hong Kong and Singapore Went from Fishing Villages to Urban Lodestars I’m writing this on a flight from Hong Kong where news has just broken that the father of the Singaporean city-state Lee Kuan Yew has passed away. On the airplane TV, BBC shows a 1993 interview with him, sharing his thoughts on the [...]

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Plugged In

Wellinghoff: Extend Electricity Market Visibility to the Distribution Grid

Wellinghoff_Large

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Austin-based research firm ZPryme’s annual Energy Thought Summit, which brought together business leaders and technical experts to discuss emerging energy technologies and trends. One of the featured speakers was former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff. He spoke about some potentially disruptive energy technologies currently [...]

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Plugged In

Visualizing U.K. and U.S. Energy Flows

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.55.15 PM

Where does it comes from? Where does it go? These two questions were asked last summer here on Plugged In with respect to the energy use in the United States. Now, let’s take a look at energy flows on the other side of the Atlantic – in particular the United Kingdom – and see how [...]

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Plugged In

In Los Angeles, Cleaner Air Is Helping Children Breathe Easier

PollutionLungHealth2-768x600

Children’s lungs are growing substantially stronger as air pollution in Southern California decreases. The Los Angeles area had struggled with air pollution for decades. But, according to new research published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, recent local air quality improvements appear to have led to a positive shift in children’s respiratory health. All [...]

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Plugged In

What’s Our Top Energy Concern?

OilBarrels

My last post explained why lower prices at the pump aren’t quite as black and white as most media outlets would have us believe. Sure it’s comfortable for our wallets, but the nuances don’t fit easily into a few bullet points for the mainstream media. Just yesterday, Melissa reported that oil prices are currently half [...]

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PsySociety

How To Make The Most Of Your Valentine’s Day!

MMHeart

Whether you’re single or partnered up this Valentine’s Day, psychology has all sorts of tips for you on how to find your next great love or improve your existing relationship with the one you’ve got. Finding A Partner… We like to think that we intentionally seek out the best, most optimal friends and romantic partners [...]

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PsySociety

The Making of a Tough Mudder.

Tough_Mudder_Gudkov_Facebook0002

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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Roots of Unity

Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Katie Steckles and Laura Taalman

Katie Steckles (center) and friends work on a level 1 Menger sponge. Image: Manchester Science Festival.

Katie Steckles is a math communicator based in Manchester, England. Laura Taalman is a Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University who has been on leave to work first as the Mathematician-in-Residence at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City, and now as Senior Product Manager for Education at the 3D-printer company MakerBot in Brooklyn. Both [...]

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Roots of Unity

In Praise of Fractals and Poetry

640px-Mandel_zoom_08_satellite_antenna

This year for Math Poetry month, I read Proportions of the Heart: Poems that Play with Mathematics, a collection of poems by Emily Grosholz. Grosholz is both a philosophy professor at Penn State and a poet. She does research in the philosophy of math, and her poems are peppered with references to both mathematics and [...]

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Roots of Unity

Lambert on Love and Hate in Geometry

Johann Heinrich Lambert. Image: public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The history of hyperbolic geometry is filled with hyperbolic quotes, and I came across a beautiful one earlier this semester in my math history class. Johann Heinrich Lambert, a Swiss mathematician who lived from 1728-1777, was trying to prove the parallel postulate and thereby establish beyond a shadow of a doubt the truth of Euclidean [...]

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Roots of Unity

The Cantor Function: Angel or Devil?

The Cantor function. Image: Theon, via Wikimedia Commons.

When you’re looking at it, it just stays there, constant and still. But if you turn your back for just an instant at a point in the Cantor set, the function grows impossibly quickly. It’s not a Weeping Angel, it’s the Devil’s staircase, or, if you’re a little less whimsical, the Cantor function. One of the [...]

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Roots of Unity

A Few of My Favorite Spaces: The Cantor Set

200px-Cantor4.svg

Last month, I wrote about the π-Base, a website that serves a similar function to the book Counterexamples in Topology. I’m teaching a topology class this semester, and it’s been fun to revisit some good counterexamples. As a new series on the blog, I’ll be writing about some of these strange and interesting mathematical spaces. [...]

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Roots of Unity

What’s so Great about Continued Fractions?

The continued fraction expansion for the number pi.

The more I learn about continued fractions, the more enamored I am with them. Last week, when I wrote about how much better continued fractions are than the arbitrary decimal digits we usually use to describe numbers, I mentioned that continued fractions tell us the “best approximations” of irrational numbers. Continued fractions are just fractions [...]

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Roots of Unity

Don’t Recite Digits to Celebrate Pi. Recite Its Continued Fraction Instead.

zoidbergthumb2

The digits of pi reciting contest is an all-too-common Pi Day event. And as this year is a once-in-a-century confluence of month/day/year with the first few decimal digits of pi, we might be in for more of those than usual. Our 10 fingers make decimal digits a natural choice, but if we were capybaras or [...]

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Roots of Unity

Uber, but for Topological Spaces

Cantor's Leaky Tent, one of the many lovely, perplexing, and colorfully named counterexamples available at the π-Base.

So it’s cold and rainy, and you’re up a little too late trying to figure out why that one pesky assumption is necessary in a theorem. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just order up a space that was path connected but not locally connected? You’re in luck, there’s an app a website for [...]

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Roots of Unity

Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension (Book Review)

cover-us

Sometimes you want to learn a “new” multiplication algorithm from a general interest math book, sometimes you want to learn why voting systems are doomed to imperfection, and sometimes you just want to play with numbers, patterns, and pictures. Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker is the third kind of [...]

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Roots of Unity

Gauss and Germain on Pleasure and Passion

Portrait_Sophie_Germain

Sophie German, who was not allowed to attend university, was the first woman to make significant original contributions to mathematical research. Today, her story is both inspiring and heartbreaking. What might this brilliant, creative mind have done if barriers had not been thrown in her way at every step? How many others like her do [...]

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Rosetta Stones

What Kind of Animal Are You?

Image is a cartoon of a komodo dragon, with the caption "You're a komodo dragon! You have an appetite for life–as well as the ability to swallow an entire goat."

Happy Earth Day, everybody! Have you paused for a moment and considered what a nifty planet we live on? It’s got all kinds of great stuff! I’ve shared a few of my favorite places for an Earth Day past. Today, I shall reveal what kind of animal I am: I’m actually quite surprised. I figured [...]

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Rosetta Stones

PSA: Bluffs Aren’t Bluffing – Use Caution!

Image is a warning sign showing a person falling down a cliffside. Text reads "Unstable bluff. Please stay behind the logs."

Bluffs are inherently unstable landforms. They’re gone in a geologic eyeblink, which means they can be dangerous. No matter how solid and stable that big, beautiful bluff looks, be cautious around it. Bluffs can kill without warning, as Arch Rock at Point Reyes National Seashore recently did. One hiker was killed and another injured when [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Famous Fools for Fool’s Gold

Image shows a nice piece of pyrite with octrahedral crystal faces.

So what would you do if I said, “Look! I got you some gold!” and handed you a chunk of this? Well, you would look at those lovely well-developed crystal faces, for one. You would maybe bounce it gently on your hand and determine it’s hefty but not heavy. You could take out a knife [...]

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Rosetta Stones

A Perfect Book for Hooking Kids on Rocks

Image shows the cover of Everybody Needs a Rock.

Do you want to interest young children in geology? Of course you do! Not only is it one of the greatest sciences of all time, and even one that can be done on other worlds, it gets kids out in the fresh air (and possibly sunshine). So let’s do it. Let’s start them on geology [...]

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Rosetta Stones

On This Day in 1980: Mount St. Helens Awakes!

Aerial view of Mount St. Helens erupting on May 18, 1980. Image courtesy USGS.

Don’t worry, Mount St. Helens isn’t exploding right at the moment (*sadface*). But if you’ll step into the Vulcan Mark III TimeMachine with me, we’ll go watch her wake up! Thirty-five years ago today, the earth beneath our beloved Mount St. Helens began quivering. The volcano stirred, restless. Soon, she would wake…

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Rosetta Stones

Inge Lehmann: “A Small Solid Core in the Innermost Part of the Earth”

Image is a sepia-toned photograph of a young Inge Lehmann.

At the age of 105, Inge Lehmann (1888-1993) looked back on a long, productive life with satisfaction. During her career in seismology, she had made two major discoveries and made other significant contributions. She’d won multiple prestigious awards, become a fellow of the Royal Society, and had honorary doctorates bestowed by Columbia University and the [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Women in Geoblogging V: Careers! Volcanoes! Birds! Earthquakes! Centaurs! and Geysers!

Image shows a kitten leaping, looking like it's dunking a basketball. Caption says, "Invisible slam dunk."

It’s our final (for now) installment of Women in Geoblogging. Oh, there will be more – I’ll be doing a follow-up for the blogs I’ve missed! For now, let’s go out with a bang. We’ve got six final geobloggers you’re gonna love!

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Rosetta Stones

Women in Geoblogging IV: People-Snatching Pterosaurs! Fossils! Argo Floats! Plus #SciArt!

Image is an artist's conception of the pterosaur Sordes pilosus. Caption says, "I'm a pterosaur indeed, but I hardly go round snatching people, sir!"

I’ve got more Women in the Geoblogosphere goodness for ye today, my darlings! Settle in for science!

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Rosetta Stones

Women in Geoblogging III: Extinctions! Glaciation! Movies! Books from Space!

Image shows a cat staring at an Apple laptop screen. Caption says, "ipsa scientia potestas est." (knowledge itself is power)

Women in Geoblogging Week continues with some brilliant posts from old friends and new. Settle in for moar great earth science writing! Letters from Gondwana by Fernanda Castano Fernanda Castano’s a paleontology student at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentena. If you want to know what Earth was like in deep time, start here! The [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Women in Geoblogging II: Zombies! Plus Kittehs, Water, and Plants!

Image shows a tuxedo cat lying on a bunch of geology books. Caption says, "I'm on yur geology boox, demonstratin superpuzishun."

There are so many great geoblogs by women, and we’re working our way down the list. There’s quite a diverse collection today! GeoMika and SpaceMika by Mika McKinnon These two blogs by Mika McKinnon cover a huge variety of geoscience topics, and definitely put the science in science fiction! Zombies: A Seismic Defense As trained geophysicists, [...]

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Running Ponies

Rare Ili Pika Photographed for the First Time in 20 Years

ily-pika-running-ponies-featured

If ever there was a face that read, “Goddamn it, they found me,” this is it. That small, downturned mouth, ever-so-slightly ajar in a moment of panicked contemplation, it really just says it all. Meet the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis), an endangered species that until last year, had not been seen in 20 years. Discovered [...]

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Running Ponies

‘Extinct’ Myanmar Jerdon’s Babbler Spotted for the First Time in 70 Years

jerdons-babbler-featured

Hey there, pretty bird. Welcome back. We’ve missed your jersey caramel colours and big, brown eyes since pretty much forever. What’s new with us? Well, we’ve got colour televisions now, but only old people actually watch television on them; there’s the Internet – you’ve probably got about 5 million emails waiting for you in an [...]

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Running Ponies

Shelter dogs are helping scientists sniff out world’s rarest gorillas

dogs-cross-river-gorillas

I think we can all agree that dogs are great at everything. Except being bad friends, they’re terrible at that. They’re especially great at having jobs, and increasingly, researchers are realising their potential as wildlife scouts to help them track down the struggling species that (understandably) are doing their best to stay hidden. In New [...]

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Running Ponies

When lemmings attack: Why carrying on like a deranged squeaky toy totally works

lemming-ponies-featured

It’s the future. No one really knows when, but it’s not so distant – everything looks pretty much the same as it did when we last saw it. The buildings, the subway stations, the billboards and the railway lines, they’re all there, except they’re now overgrown, hollowed out, and a little decrepit. There are no [...]

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Running Ponies

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

beaver_running_ponies-featured

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

type-d

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

fish-featured

“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)

plateau-pika-featured

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

mike-plus-head-featured

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

Onuxodon-Fowler-featured

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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SA Visual

There’s No Infographic without Info (and other Lessons from Malofiej)

malofiej23_detail

News graphics professionals converged in Pamplona, Spain for the 23rd annual Malofiej Information Graphics World Summit for one week last month. Presentations covered the gamut. Adolfo Arranz preached the practice of urban sketching as a way to hone observation skills and develop connections with place. Matthew Swift talked about building online graphics that live behind [...]

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SA Visual

Subatomic Particles over Time: Graphics from the Archive, 1952 to 2015

particle_detail

In the May issue of Scientific American, a familiar friend makes an appearance: a chart of fundamental particles. These particles—fermions (which include constituents of matter such as electrons and quarks) and bosons (usually carriers of force)—are at the very heart of the Standard Model of particle physics. Visualizing them in table form has become a [...]

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SA Visual

Behind the Scenes at Scientific American MIND‘s May/June Cover Shoot!

Aaron Goodman photographs Ten.

The May/June cover is a first for Scientific American MIND in that it features our first non-human cover boy – a very handsome 5 year old Border Collie named Ten! Photographer Aaron Goodman photographed him in his Manhattan studio in February. Ten, who is the first GCH OTCH (Grand Champion and Obedience Trial Champion) Border Collie in [...]

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SA Visual

The Oceans’ Origins and the Evolution of a SciAm Infographic

waterDetail

When it comes to developing an illustrated information graphic, sometimes you don’t really know what sorts of details you’re going to need until you dive in and start drawing. That was certainly the case for a timeline of the events that led to the development of Earth’s oceans, which appeared in “Oceans from the Skies” by [...]

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SA Visual

Pop Culture Pulsar: Origin Story of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures Album Cover [Video]

Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division

Sure, I was familiar with the graphic—and I’m not alone. Drop this image (right) on someone’s desk and chances are they’ll reflexively blurt, “Joy Division.” The band’s 1979 Unknown Pleasures album cover leaned entirely on a small mysterious data display, printed in white on black. No band name, album title or other identifiers. An interesting [...]

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SA Visual

How to Choose the Form of an Infographic: It’s All about Context

data_circle

As a graphics designer, I have a love/hate relationship with circles. The humble form provides a relief from rigid rectangular chart structures that are pinned to x- and y-axes. The shape can certainly help to enliven a page and engage a reader. Using circles may come at a cost, however. The ability of a reader [...]

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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

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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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Symbiartic

Where’s the Amphibian Love? Rally for Your Mosquito-Eating BFFs

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If you don’t already love amphibians, you should. Amphibians are useful fellows. Before the FDA approved at-home pregnancy tests in 1976 and they became widely available in 1978, women relied on their doctors to confirm they were pregnant. And for many years, doctors’ best pregnancy indicator was a gaggle of female frogs kept at the [...]

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Symbiartic

Science Board Games, SciArt in the Crowd Edition

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I love playing board games, and my favorites are ones that involve science in some way. I’m always on the lookout for crowdfunding campaigns for science board games, as it’s a great combination of science art and science communication. I’ve backed projects like Compounded and Go Extinct!, and today I’m excited about a new project [...]

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Symbiartic

Tube Worm Thoughts

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On the heels of science art about how “we all eat the sun,” I was thinking about the few exceptions to that rule. As my high school biology teacher would often say, “Always and never are never true in biology!” But when the ecosystems surrounding hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean were discovered [...]

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Symbiartic

OOPS! Basic Anatomy Wrong in National Campaign Announcing $50m Gift

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From the Department of Convoluted University Bureaucracies and the Havoc They Wreak, I bring you an example of why Certified Medical Illustrators are worth every penny you spend on them: If you opened up The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, or The Boston Globe this week you might have seen a [...]

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Symbiartic

New Beginnings, Old Themes and False Starts

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About a month ago, We started something new. Kalliopi Monoyios, 1/3 of the Symbiartic posse pushed Katie McKissick and myself to start working on themed creations made especially for our blog. The first theme: ‘New Beginnings”. See the introductory post to Art Takes on Science here See Kalliopi Monoyios’s New Beginnings art here See Katie [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt in the Crowd

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Welcome to a new feature here on Symbiartic! SciArt in the Crowd will share some of the most interesting crowdfunding projects by a variety of artists engaged in SciArt. Help them create and expand the circle of scientific literacy, visually. Mammoth is Mopey by David & Jennie Orr Mammoth is Mopey is a new children’s [...]

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Symbiartic

We All Eat the Sun; Content-Rich Science Art

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I talked about the art of Rachel Ignotofsky a while back after I found out about her amazing work featuring famous (and should-be-famous!) women in science — a series she continues to expand. But I wanted to feature some of her work featuring science concepts, complete with labels. I love the way she gets so [...]

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Symbiartic

Gardening Friends and Crocodile Meals

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While I was digging in the garden over the weekend, I made lots of new friends. Whether they liked it or not. Was digging around in the garden today, much to the surprise of the local earthworms, rolie polies, ants, and spiders. They were pissed. — Beatrice Biologist (@beatricebiology) March 9, 2015 And then I [...]

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Symbiartic

The Symbiartic SciArt Roundup: Exhibits On View Now

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Our recent effort to galvanize people around great #sciart on Twitter was a raging success, proving to us that science art is growing by leaps and bounds. These scienceart exhibits are ones you can see in the flesh and are popping up all around the country. Get out and see them while you can! EXHIBITS: [...]

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Symbiartic

Aftermath: SciArt Tweet Storm

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Overwhelming. Last week, from March 1-7, Kalliopi, Katie and I  asked members of the #SciArt community to post 3 pieces of their work on Twitter, and retweet 5 by other people each day, using the #SciArt hashtag. The goal was to raise the profile of science-based art and share the variety of work with the [...]

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Talking back

Could a Nonprescription Antifungal Become a Major Advance for Multiple Sclerosis?

In 2011, Paul Tesar, a professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, worked with collaborators to come up with a method of producing massive numbers of mouse stem cells that are capable of turning into oligodendrocytes, the cells that produce myelin, the protective coating on nerve cells. One thing you can do with such [...]

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Talking back

Learning to Make a Stone Age Axe Gives Clues to How the Brain Evolved

For many decades, scientists have tried to understand the past by doing as our forebears did. One important endeavor in what is called experimental archaeology involves moderns crafting Stone Age tools by chipping away at rocks. Why toil at whittling rocks by hand using other rocks when machine tools are readily available? One reason is [...]

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Talking back

Should We Take Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Contagion?

One of the most intriguing new areas of research in neuroscience has to do with the discovery that proteins involved with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative illnesses can contort into the wrong shape. The misshapen molecules can spread throughout the brain in a manner akin to prion diseases—the most notorious of which is variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob [...]

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Talking back

Does drinking alcohol—even heavily—protect against ALS?

Everyone knows that ALS is a very bad disease, an awareness underscored by the recent Ice Bucket Challenge. The death of neurons that results in paralysis can be caused by specific genetic mutations.  But in most cases, single genes are not the culprit. So researchers have looked for other risk factors that might play a [...]

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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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Tetrapod Zoology

That Brontosaurus Thing

At left: 'Brontosaurus is Back' by John Conway. At right: YPM 1980, the holotype of Brontosaurus excelsus. Photo by Mathew Wedel.

So, the name Brontosaurus is back in business. After comparing, analysing, measuring and coding an extraordinary amount of anatomical detail pertaining to diplodocid sauropods, Emanuel Tschopp and colleagues have produced the largest-ever phylogenetic analysis of sauropods (Tschopp et al. 2015). Their work is published in the recently launched open-access journal PeerJ (a venue that I [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Some of The Things I Have Gotten Wrong

Montage featuring some of the topics discussed in this article. But what's with the sea-snake and softshell turtle? All will be revealed in time.

As a regular reader, you might know that Tet Zoo has been going for over nine years now. I’ve written about a lot of stuff, I’ve been intrigued and enthused by a substantial number of animals and animal-themed topics, and I’ve been attracted to a variety of controversial ideas and claimed discoveries. And I’ve gotten [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

People Are Modifying Monitors to Make Gargantuan Geckos

Note the long, slender tail, the five-toed foot, five-fingered hand, and the blunt tips to the digits. The animal's right eye might be visible in this shot. It's gecko-like, but not like any gecko we know.

Over the last several days a consortium of people interested in herpetology, weird animals, animal lore, and special effects have worked together to help resolve an incredible and bizarre ‘mystery’*. People in Indonesia (and perhaps elsewhere in tropical Asia) are modifying live monitor lizards to make them look like gargantuan Tokay geckos Gekko gecko. * [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Turcana and Other Valachians

A Turkana sheep encountered in the field at Pui, Transylvania. This sheep is not three-legged - it's just a quirk of composition. Photo by Darren Naish.

I’m about as interested in domestic animals as I am in non-domesticated ones. Sheep of various kinds have been discussed on Tet Zoo a few times, and right now I want to say a few brief things about a breed I recently saw on several occasions in Romania – the Turcana or Tsurcana, a highly [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Cetacean Heresies: How the Chromatic Truthometer Busts the Monochromatic Paradigm

If you can't see the True colours of Science, you're an ordinary dullard and you should go away. True appearance of the Humpback. Rendition by Darren Naish and Gareth Monger.

Check any mainstream book on the whales, dolphins and porpoises of the world and you’ll see these creatures depicted in tedious monochrome; as eternally decked out in blacks and greys. It’s a stale, boring, bland view of these remarkable creatures, and as a young student, flicking through the cetological books in the library, I would [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

A Fine First Finding of Darevskia

Here's the refresher for squamate head scalation you were looking for. This image (depicting a lacertid) is from Arnold (1989). In case it isn't obvious, you need to obtain and read Nick Arnold's papers if you're really interested in lacertid diversity and evolution.

While in Romania back in 2011, I photographed the lizard you see here. It’s clearly a lacertid: a member of the Eurasian-African group that contains the familiar Lacerta sand lizards and green lizards as well as many other groups. But, beyond that, I couldn’t identify it in the field. Back at Tet Zoo Towers, and [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

You Never Hear Much About Shrew-Opossums

Caenolestes fuliginosus, image by Joseph Wolf, in the public domain.

You never really hear much about shrew-opossums or rat-opossums, the small group of living, South American marsupials properly called caenolestids or caenolestoids. Small (c 20-30 cm long in total), long-tailed, mostly dark brown, and predominantly faunivorous and nocturnal, they inhabit the grasslands and forests of the western side of the Andes. They’re said to be [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Huia and the Sexually Dimorphic Bill

Heads of male (above) and female Huia in old bird anatomy display at London's Natural History Museum. Photo by Darren Naish.

It’s time for one of those classic ‘from the archives’ type articles. This one was originally published in July 2008 at Tet Zoo ver 2. Apart from tiny editorial tweaks, it hasn’t been updated. Anyway… The original title for this article was going to be “Sorry Heteralocha, but you ain’t that special”. I ended up [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Curious Complex Contentious Coots

A pugnacious, highly aquatic, lobe-toed rallid grazing on grass in close proximity to humans? What form of devilry is this? COOTS.

One of the birds I see most regularly here in southern England is the Eurasian coot Fulica atra. This is another of those oh-so-familiar animals that we see so often that we normally pay it little attention. Stop and look properly, and you’ll discover something pretty incredible. While at Kew Gardens recently I took a [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Atomic Worm-Lizard and Other Aprasia Flapfoots

Flinders worm-lizard (Aprasia pseudopulchella). Note the strong superficial resemblance to a typhlopid blindsnake.

I’m feeling the urge to blog about lizards. So, today I’d like to talk about the Aprasia species, a group of short-tailed, near-limbless gekkotans that belong to the Australian Pygopodidae family, the so-called flapfoots, flap-footed lizards or pygopods. Historically, the term Pygopodidae has been used in more than one fashion. For the purposes of removing [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Projection

The patient was hacking sputum into a tissue when the resident and I entered his room. “How long have you had that cough?” “Oh this? As long as I can remember.” “But it’s been worse lately?” “Yeah.” “Worse how?” “More stuff coming out each time. See?” He opens the tissue. “How much sputum is there?” [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Finding the Right Confidence Interval

“Stick to your guns.” “Put your nickel down.” “Stand your ground.” If you’re a medical student, there is an excellent chance you have heard one of these in the course of your training. Confidence is an entrenched element of medical culture. Say what you will about TV representations of medical training, but one thing Scrubs [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

So, you want to write about medicine?

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Last year, I was honored to receive an invitation to address the Medical Student Section of the American Medical Association (AMA) on writing about medicine. I’ve been meaning to upload my slides for a while, if only to follow my own advice about how things get broader readership when you blog them. But mostly, I [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

The path of least resistance

two paths

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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The Urban Scientist

Earth Day 2015: 7 #BLACKandSTEM Environmental Scientists you should follow today

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1. Dr. Dawn Wright Dr. Wright is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and a professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University. Her research interests in seafloor mapping and tectonics, ocean conservation, and environmental informatics contributes to the overall understanding of climate, ocean science and environmental conservation issues of our day. [...]

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The Urban Scientist

We are not the same (& that is fine): Different Approaches to Animal Behavior

I don't wear a lab coat; and this is a baby pouched rat. A baby!

I’m in full throttle Research mode and as I am oft to do – I think very deeply about the meaning and purpose of my tests. My ever-evolving research philosophy is definitely a very whole organism approach. The whole animal is my subject. In my care, the whole animal is my responsibility, not just the [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#DNLeeLab: Rethinking my feeding enrichment biases

African Giant Pouched rat eating a grapefruit in a cage

I’m rethinking my feeding enrichment protocols. My pouched rats, Cricetomys gambianus and C. ansorgei, are food generalists but in the lab we feed them commercially available rodent or rabbit chow. In the past I’ve included dog food as a part of their regular diet to get protein in the diet. Then I would offer fresh [...]

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Irene Mathieu and Maladi Kache Pa Gen Remed

Sci blogger spotlight IM

Welcome to the twenty-seventh installment of You Should Know, where I give my own #ScholarSunday salute to Science Bloggers and Blogs you may not yet know about. I love how this series not only introduces readers to blogs and communicators they have overlooked in this big world wide web, but it also introduces me to [...]

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The Urban Scientist

April Fools Troll So Hard

Top 10 Most commented blog posts at The Urban Scientist

I don’t get very many comments. Much of that has to do with what I blog about – most introductory topics. I focus on curiosity. Yet, I’ve noticed that whenever I affirm a more activist tone in my posts and discuss topics related to diversity or inclusion or access to higher education or the sciences [...]

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Kristina Campbell and The Intestinal Gardener

Sci blogger spotlight. KCjpg

Welcome to the twenty-sixth installment of You Should Know, where I give my own #ScholarSunday salute to Science Bloggers and Blogs you may not yet know about. I am also continuing my Women’s History Month shout out and celebrating Dynamic Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and science communication. Introducing…. Kristina Campbell and The [...]

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The Urban Scientist

When discussing Humanity’s next move to space, the language we use matters.

Mission to Mars coaster by DNLee

Elon Musk’s vision for the humanity and colonizing Mars makes me incredibly uneasy. It’s not that Elon Musk has said very many inappropriate things, it’s that so much of the dialogue about colonizing Mars – inspired, initiated and often influenced by Musk – uses language and frameworks that are a little problematic (and I’m being [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Wordless Wednesday: #DNLeeLab experience with Crystal Violet Vaginal Cytology

Pouched Rat Vaginal Cytology

I recently took a look*  at these slides where vaginal epithelial cells from my pouched rats were collected in Summer 2013. One of our goals is to decipher the reproductive mysteries of pouched rat: sexual maturity, cycling, breeding, etc. * By I took a look, I mean I had an undergraduate take a look. This [...]

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Dr. Melanie Harrison Okoro

spotlight MHO

Welcome to the twenty-fifth installment of You Should Know. This week I am kicking off Women’s History Month and celebrating Dynamic Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics. Introducing…. Dr. Melanie Harrison Okoro Dr. Okoro uses social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to inform and engage readers on topics in environmental science – focusing [...]

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Dr. EE Just, Forgotten Father of Epigenetics

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Welcome to the twenty-fourth installment of You Should Know. Today I am shining a Black History Month spotlight on #BLACKandSTEM historical figure and scientific leader, Dr. Ernest Everett Just. Dr. EE Just was a cellular biologist who completed his doctoral studies with Professor Frank Lillie at the University of Chicago in 1916. While completing his [...]

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Video of the Week

East River Ice Floes

East-River-Ice-blog

Like much of the U.S., New York City is in the grip of a bitter winter cold. According to a post by Scientific American‘s Larry Greenemeier, more than a century ago, the East River would freeze over every few decades, but ice floes are far less common these days. The river, which which is technically [...]

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Video of the Week

Erin Gee Blends Emotions, Science, Music and Robotic Pianos

This week’s video comes from a post by Princess Ojiaku over at Science With Moxie. According to the original post: Erin Gee is a Canadian artist and composer who has created a way to directly feed human emotions into music played by robots that she built and programmed herself. Her project, entitled “Swarming Emotional Pianos,” [...]

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Video of the Week

The Art and Science of Peppermint

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I love the latest video from the folks at USC Dornsife, all about the art and science of peppermint. In addition to being a fun, fast paced and