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Posts Tagged "rio+20"

Anecdotes from the Archive

Ramming a Submarine, 1914

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Lawrence in Arabia: from Archaeologist to Spy, 1914

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battleships and Diplomacy, 1914

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Battleship Disaster Coverup, 1914

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Care of the Wounded, 1914

Dogs for medical use: “Major Richardson of the British army and two of the famous hounds that he has trained for Red Cross work on the battlefield.” Image: Scientific American, November 21, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: November 21, 1914 From the Scientific American Supplement issue of November 21, 1914, we note, “The first object of an army in war is to disperse or destroy the enemy, but a correlative duty is the care of its own men when wounded or otherwise [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Ferocity of Artillery, 1914

French fort at Maubeuge: rotating turret hit with a large-caliber German shell. The armored cupola, containing two guns, was apparently split and the top blown off. The two soldiers standing on the shattered cupola are German.  Image: Scientific American, November 14, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: November 14, 1914 The tactical use of artillery had been evolving in the years before the Great War: In South Africa in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 the British developed the concept of the “creeping barrage,” where a curtain of shellfire proceeded just in front [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Surprisingly Lethal Submarine, 1914

The cruiser HMS Hogue is struck by a torpedo, detonating the stores of ammunition aboard. Perhaps the image is overly dramatic, but it is a testament to the changed perception of the power of the submarine. Image: Scientific American, November 7, 1914

Reported in Scientific American this week in World War I, November 7, 1914 Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the man who built up the Imperial Navy of Germany, had dismissed submarines as a waste of money back in 1901. By the time the Great War broke out the British had at least three times as many [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Military Strategy, 1914: Avoid a Knockout Blow

Crystal Palace: This large exhibition space was taken over by the British Government to house recruits for a rapidly expanding Royal Navy in 1914. The men slept in traditional British naval hammocks. Image: Scientific American, October 31, 1914

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: October 31, 1914 The articles by “The Military Correspondent of the Scientific American” were probably written by an American army officer. He shows a remarkably good grasp of the wider strategies being pursued at the time by the Allies and the Central Powers. His articles [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Letters from the Firing Line, 1914

“Bivouac on the allied line.” French infantry sleeping in a comfortable haystack on some field in France; their rifles, packs and other accouterments carefully stacked at the ready in the hay.

Reported in Scientific American This Week in World War I: October 24, 1914 This article, “Letters from the Firing Line,” is bylined “By an Officer in the French Army—Special War Correspondent of the Scientific American.” The short biography describes an “artist as well as an officer.” The drawings here (see illustrations) may have been the [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Censorship and Armored Cars, Circa 1914

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This Week in World War I: October 17, 1914 The cover wrap of the issue has a painting of an armored car, charging into—surely not running away from!—some battle, gun blazing. There’s a boisterous quality to the image: it looks like some fictional illustration from the “Boy’s Own Guide…” to derring-do in the Great War. [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Thanksgiving Tidbits

Photo by Satya Murthy, Creative Commons.

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Thanksgiving Live Blog 2015

Our Thanksgiving table, 2013.

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

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Anthropology in Practice

The Emergence of Death and Dying as We Know It

Photo by KDCosta, 2011. Sleepy Hollow, NY.

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Why do we need to have so many meetings?

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Why did Pirates Fly the Jolly Roger?

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Is data really changing the nature of wearable technology?

Fitbit and other health trackers.

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: Cultivating Culture

Photo by KDCosta, 2014.

One of my goals this year—with a solid year of gardening experience under my belt—has been to try to make my garden pretty as well as practical. I’ve partially succeeded. The Bachelors Buttons and Rose Campion I tried to intersperse among the vegetables became too weedy and too needy for my liking, so I pulled [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How will today’s technology change our concept of “work”?

View of New York City at night from the 30th Floor of the Millennium UN Plaza. Photo by Luigi Crespo. Click on image for license and information.

Change is hard. We meet it with some trepidation and skepticism. This is certainly true when it comes to technology. Each wave of technological advancement has changed the economy; and in each age where it has done so, the there has been a ripple effect. For example, did you know that one of the reasons [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How Did Patterns Help Reveal an Older Origin of Mummies?

Coffin and Mummy of Nesmin (Around 250 BC). Photo by Daniel Decristo. Click on image for license and information.

I want to talk about patterns. We take them for granted but they shape our lives. That morning coffee you need to start your day has more meaning than you think. We build our sense of self on repetition, and we draw upon continuity to shape our society. Patterns can provide valuable clues about our [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

What will the future of education look like?

In the absence of a traditional classroom, learning goes on in Mexico. | Image by JIji Lee. Click for license and information.

Scientific American’s August supplement takes a look at the changing landscape of education in the face of emerging technology, and asks the question, how do we increase interest and engagement in STEM initiatives? Learning in the Digital Age tackles issues of using big data to better understand students, the validity of online courses, and the [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Bacterial Motors Come in a Dizzying Array of Models

flagellar_motor_borellia_burgdorferi_chen_et_al_2011

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Parasitic Trypanosomes Contain Nature’s Only Chain Mail DNA

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

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The Artful Amoeba

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

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Giant Transparent Ribbons of Eel Larvae

ribbon_eel_larva_miller_et_al_2013

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Plankton Astound With Their Many Ways of Bustin’ a Move

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Origin of Mysterious Portuguese Mathematical and Geographical Tiles Revealed

tiles_mathematical_simoes_fig27_200

A few months ago I wrote about some mystifying mathematical and geographic tiles I encountered at the National Tile Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. Their accompanying label gave no clue to who had made them or why. Several readers subsequently wrote to tell me what they knew about these tiles. Thank you to everyone who did [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Amborella, the Ancient Shrub with the Hoard of Foreign Genes

amborella_200_wiki

Amborella is a humble shrub with a noble pedigree: it is the first plant to have split from the rest of the flowering plants after their evolution that has survived to the present day. Its rather rudimentary-looking flowers and evergreen leaves may be testimony to that fact. This wasn’t known until relatively recently, though, partly because the plant dwells on only one island in the world — Grand Terre in the remote French archipelago of New Caledonia in the South Pacific — and partly because it was only when we got a look at its DNA that we could see this.

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The Artful Amoeba

Fern Frozen in Time by Volcanic Flow Reveals Stunning Detail

Osmunda_fossilized_fern_comparison_Bomfleur_et_al_2014_200

It defies belief, but a 180 million year old fern fossil unearthed in Sweden is so exquisitely preserved that it is possible to see its cells dividing. So pristine is the fossil, reported scientists from the Swedish Museum of Natural History in the journal Science in March, that it is possible for them to estimate [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Starry Night Beneath the Caribbean Sea

ostracod_cypridinid_elliot_lowndes_200

One of the most astounding events of my life was immediately preceded by one of the scariest: I turned out my dive light in the ocean at night.

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The Artful Amoeba

Cosmic Karma: Mosquitoes Have Flying, Blood-Sucking Parasites of Their Own

midge_parasitic_mosquito

In 1922, a scientist named F.W. Edwards published a paper describing a remarkable thing: a flying, biting midge collected from the Malay Peninsula in southeast Asia that he named Culicoides anophelis. What made the midge was remarkable was the thing it bit: mosquitoes.

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@ScientificAmerican

A New Vision for Scientific American’s Blog Network

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

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@ScientificAmerican

A New Way to Share Articles—and Help Advance Science

ReadCube enables content sharing from nature.com

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Online Now Speaks Spanish

saEsp

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Science in Action Winner Kenneth Shinozuka

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

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Particle Physics Informs the Ultimate Questions

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Putting Science in Action in Swaziland

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

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Quantum Short 2014 Film Contest Accepting Entries

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

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@ScientificAmerican

A Hangout with Google Science Fair in Swaziland

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

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

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@ScientificAmerican

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

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

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Hangout with Canopy Researcher Margaret Lowman

Margaret Lowman of the California Academy of Sciences. Credit: Google Hangout On Air

Margaret Lowman, who also goes by the nickname “Canopy Meg,” is chief of science and sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences. Her research focuses on life and ecosystems at the top of the forest canopy in far-flung places, including the Amazon and Ethiopia. In a Google Science Fair Hangout On Air conversation with me, [...]

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Beautiful Minds

What Forms of Creativity Turn You On?

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

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Beautiful Minds

Discussing the origins of extraordinary athletic performance with David Epstein

Sports-Gene

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

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Beautiful Minds

Talking Mastery and Social Intelligence with Author Robert Greene

robert-greene-10

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

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Beautiful Minds

Daydreaming and Mental Contrasting for Goal-Fulfillment with Gabriele Oettingen

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

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Beautiful Minds

The Science of Growing Smarter with Annie Murphy Paul

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

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Beautiful Minds

Introducing The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman

itunes_logo

It’s my great pleasure to introduce The Psychology Podcast with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, where we give you insights into the mind, brain, behavior and creativity. Each episode will feature a guest who will stimulate your mind, and give you a greater understanding of your self, others, and the world we live in. Hopefully, we’ll also provide a glimpse into [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Resources to help your child with ADHD flourish

iStock_000012862966Small

In my prior post (“The Creative Gifts of ADHD“), I argued that there are a heck of a lot of creative possibilities that remain dormant in children with ADHD due to the way we treat such children in an educational context. Since that post, I’ve received an outpouring of emails from parents who told me [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Creative Gifts of ADHD

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“Just because a diagnosis [of ADHD] can be made does not take away from the great traits we love about Calvin and his imaginary tiger friend, Hobbes. In fact, we actually love Calvin BECAUSE of his ADHD traits. Calvin’s imagination, creativity, energy, lack of attention, and view of the world are the gifts that Mr. [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Is Kindness Physically Attractive?

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One of the most robust findings in social psychology is the beauty-is-good stereotype: physically attractive people are perceived and treated more positively than physically unattractive people [1]. But here’s the thing: I have definitely met attractive people who went from hot to not the second they opened their mouths! Vice-versa, some people are so kind [...]

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Beautiful Minds

What Kind of Introvert Are You?

inline-brainstorm-mash-quiet-book

Are you an introvert? It depends on which book you read. Here’s a sampling of the various conceptualizations of introversion in pop culture [1]: Preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments: Quiet by Susan Cain Preference for concentration and solitude: The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling Rechargeable battery: The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney Thoughtful-introspective: [...]

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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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Budding Scientist

Teenager creates new flu drugs

Last month, 17-year-old Eric Chen from San Diego, California became the third Grand Prize winner in Google Science Fair history. Judges awarded him $50,000, a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands, a year of mentoring, and other prizes. At a meeting in Google Headquarters after the awards were announced, Chen spoke about how he created 6 [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

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

Credit: DR Fred Espenak/SPL

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

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Cocktail Party Physics

Best Physics Videos of 2014

Credit: Andrzej Dragan

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

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: December 13, 2014

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

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

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: December 6, 2014

Credit: James Duffin. Used with permission.

After Thursday’s aborted launch, the Orion Spaceship finally Blasted Off at Dawn on Friday morning. You can watch the official NASA video here. And here are 17 HQ Photos from the Launch. A few hours later, the Orion Capsule Finished its ‘By-the-Book’ Test flight with a clean landing in the Pacific Ocean.  Related: How a [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Explore Magical Dimensions and More with Matt Parker

Visualizing time as a fourth dimension via a tesseract in "Interstellar."

Should you happen to live in the United Kingdom, Matt Parker — a.k.a. @StandUpMaths on Twitter — probably needs no introduction. He’s a former math teacher from Australia, relocated to London, who combines his love of math with stand-up comedy. Parker is regular on the hugely popular BBC Radio4′s Infinite Monkey Cage (hosted by physicist [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review (Thanksgiving Edition): November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving dinner a la Piet Mondrian. Credit: Hannah Rothstein, http://www.hrothstein.com/thanksgiving-special/

Chances are our US readers are still in recovery from Thursday’s feasting. Fortunately Jen-Luc Piquant has compiled lots of interesting links for your weekend reading pleasure while you recuperate. First up: it’s time for the annual debunking ritual. No, the amino acid known as tryptophan in turkey doesn’t make you sleepy: these are the real [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: November 22, 2014

Credit: Nuala O'Donovan, http://www.nualaodonovan.com

Here’s a disquieting thought for your weekend: Dark Energy Might Be Stealing the Glue Holding the Universe Together. A new invisibility cloak simultaneously works for heat flow and electrical current. The Proton and Neutron Just Got Two Brand New Subatomic Cousins in the Baryon Family.  A new LHCb result adds two new composite particles to [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review (Philae Edition): November 15, 2014

The craggy surface of the comet - looking over one of Philae's feet. Credit" ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

“The Philae has landed!” Excitement over the Rosetta mission has been building for weeks, with tons of explanatory blog posts on what the lander is meant to find, helpful historical timelines, and an Astronaut Simulating the Comet Landing while on board the Space Station. At long last, the wait is over: European Space Agency’s Philae [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Nobel Vintage: Fundamental Physics Prize Co-Winner Sells No Wine Before Its Time

Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt checks the status of his fermenting grapes.

Last night the winners of the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes were announced, including the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize — likely the most lucrative such honor in science. And while prior winners have skewed heavily towards string theory and theoretical cosmology, this year’s winners were the Nobel-winning teams responsible for measuring the accelerating expansion of the [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: November 8, 2014

Credit: Simon Beck, https://www.facebook.com/snowart8848

It was a big week for physics in the movies, with the premiere of Interstellar, and the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. That translates into lots of pixels commenting on the science behind the films. For instance, Interstellar‘s Black Hole was Once Seen As Pure Speculation. Related: Learn more about the Physics of [...]

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Compound Eye

These Spider Fangs Aren’t Going To Photograph Themselves

Atrax robustus

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

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Compound Eye

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

Yuko Ulrich

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

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Compound Eye

Wasps Are Our Friends: Part IV

Encarsia

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

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Compound Eye

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

Fireflies

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

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Compound Eye

How To Pick A Photoshopped Firefly

Photinus pyralis

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

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Compound Eye

Selling the Public Domain

For only $3.50, you can buy 20 images already in the public domain.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a freewheeling online market where entrepreneurial educators sell lesson plans, powerpoints, and other didactic materials to each other. The site is a massive resource, with a blend of both free and paid content. It is big business, too. By their own account, the company has paid out nearly $80 million to [...]

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Compound Eye

Wasps Are Our Friends: Part III

Megischus bicolor

You might think an insect with an extra pointy derriere would pack a fearsome sting, but you’d be wrong. The extended rear appendage of the crown-of-thorns wasp is not a stinger but an egg-laying organ, the ovipositor, used to reach beetle grubs chewing through the wood below. Young wasps develop as ectoparasites of beetles in [...]

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Compound Eye

Wasps Are Our Friends: Part II

Eucharitid6f

The second in our series promoting the breadth and value of wasps features the gorgeous Orasema, a tiny metallic wasp that lives in ant nests. Young wasps feed on developing ant brood. When they mature, the winged adults leave the nest to fly and mate. After mating, Orasema biology gets weird. Instead of sensibly returning to [...]

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Compound Eye

Wasps Are Our Friends: Part I

Encyrtid6f

I’ve had about enough of people unfairly picking on wasps, so I’m fighting back with a series of photographs showing the bright side of these fascinating insects. Comperia merceti is only a couple millimeters long, but it has an outsized effect on cockroaches. Young wasps of this species develop inside cockroaches’ hardened egg cases, consuming the [...]

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Compound Eye

Professional Photography Approaches Gender Balance

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In 1970, fewer than one in five professional photographers were female. Times have changed: (Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research, with data from the U.S. Deptartment of Labor)

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Cross-Check

How an Agnostic Science Writer Celebrates Winter Solstice

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

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

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Cross-Check

Advice to Young Science Writers: Ask “What Would Chomsky Think?”

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

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

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Cross-Check

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

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

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

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Cross-Check

Edward Wilson’s Thrilling Prophecy of “Paradise” on Earth

We have enough intelligence, goodwill, generosity and enterprise to turn Earth into a paradise both for ourselves and for the biosphere that gave us birth," says Edward Wilson in his latest book.

Edward Wilson has earned the right to title his latest book The Meaning of Human Existence, which coming from almost any other author would sound laughably pretentious. Wilson is one of the towering intellectual figures of our era, who transcended his specialty—the study of ants and other social insects—to become a leading investigator of human [...]

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Cross-Check

Physicist Paul Steinhardt Slams Inflation, Cosmic Theory He Helped Conceive

Paul Steinhardt: "Scientific ideas should be simple, explanatory, predictive.  The inflationary multiverse as currently understood appears to have none of those properties."

I love apostates, believers in or, better yet, conceivers of a theory who turn against it. They restore my faith in science, because they show that scientists can overcome attachment to their own brainchildren, a feat that is essential for progress and cannot be taken for granted. Paul Steinhardt, Albert Einstein Professor in Science and [...]

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Cross-Check

Anthropologist Finds Flaw in Claim That Chimp Raids Are “Adaptive”

Chimp violence by one community produces little or no net advantage over other communities and hence may not be adaptive, according to anthropologist Brian Ferguson.

Since September, I’ve posted three columns, including two written by others, on whether lethal chimpanzee raids–and by implication, human warfare—are adaptive and hence innate. In the first, I critique a widely reported study in Nature: “Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts.” In the second, anthropologist Brian Ferguson criticizes the [...]

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Cross-Check

Thanksgiving and the Slanderous Myth of the Savage Savage

Native Americans, accused of Hobbesian savagery by modern scientists, actually treated Europeans kindly in some early encounters. This painting shows the legendary Thanksgiving feast between Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, who helped the newcomers survive and were eventually driven from their land.

The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding once again over slanderous scientific portrayals of Native Americans as bellicose brutes.* When I was in grade school, my classmates and I wore paper Indian headdresses and Pilgrim hats and reenacted the “first Thanksgiving,” in which supposedly friendly Native Americans joined Pilgrims for a [...]

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Cross-Check

Are Scientists on the “Cusp of Knowing” How Weird We Are?

In his new book Caleb Scharf writes: "So are we unusual or not?... Neither side is yet a winner. But we are much, much closer to an answer than we have ever been in the history of the human species; we are on the cusp of knowing."

I’m writing this post for two reasons. One is to recommend a new book by Columbia astrobiologist Caleb Scharf (who also writes a terrific Scientific American blog, “Life, Unbounded“), and the other is to defend an old book of mine. Scharf’s book is The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and [...]

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Cross-Check

Green Analysts Respond to Cross-Check Concerns about Warming, War and Hawkish U.S. Policies

Photo: Meditate.com, http://www.mediate.com/mobile/article.cfm?id=5042.

For a professional blowhard, there is no worse fate than being ignored. So I’m always—well, almost always—delighted when my posts get pushback, especially from people who are smart, well-informed and thoughtful. In my last post, “Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change,” I complained that discussions of how global warming might [...]

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Cross-Check

Hawkish U.S. Policies Pose Bigger Threat to Peace Than Climate Change

Hawkish U.S. policies are far more of a threat to world peace than global warming, if recent history is any guide.

In a previous post, I poked my nose into the debate over whether climate change will precipitate more conflict. I offered a half dozen objections to predictions that more warming means more war. One objection was that “many people making decisions that lead to large-scale violence—politicians, generals, warlords, drug kingpins and so on—work indoors in [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

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

Owens Valley interferometer

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

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Dark Star Diaries

The Black Hole in Interstellar Looks Amazingly Realistic

SgrA_bestfit (1)

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

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Dark Star Diaries

Giving ALMA a Heart Transplant

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

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

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Dark Star Diaries

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

The Large Millimeter Telescope in the Mexican state of Puebla

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

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Dark Star Diaries

Cloud Bound for Milky Way’s Black Hole Puzzles Astronomers

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

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

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Dark Star Diaries

How to Build an Earth-Size Telescope

The full Event Horizon Telescope array

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

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Dark Star Diaries

How to See a Black Hole: Introducing Dark Star Diaries

Sagittarius A*

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

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Dog Spies

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

buzzhootroar_2_10Nov14

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

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Dog Spies

Could Our Love of Dogs Obscure Their Most Important Parts?

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

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Dog Spies

What Did Your Dog Just Say? Researchers Want to Know

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

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Dog Spies

Oh the cuteness. Why do dogs sneeze?

10.24.14-Dogs-Caught-Mid-Sneeze9

A picture of a dog mid-sneeze is delightful. Twenty-seven dogs caught mid-sneeze is icing on the cake. It is impossible not to smile as you scroll through these dogs, squinting and contorting just like we do. But what’s with all the weird faces? I took to the literature to find out what makes dogs sneeze. [...]

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Dog Spies

Should Your Next Dog Be a Movie Star?

220px-The_Shaggy_Dog_-_1963_-_Poster

This past weekend, I saw Heather Graham wearing cut-off shorts with lacy black tights. Someone seeing this fashion statement might be quick to run out and buy a similar outfit. You could say there is a “Movie Star Effect” for clothes and fashion, and humans of all ages follow trends and fads. As a high-schooler, [...]

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Dog Spies

Forever And A Day: Can Our Bond With Dogs Survive Death?

groverclyde1

Grover Krantz was onto something when he had his remains donated to science. A professor of anthropology, he didn’t see why death should interrupt his life-long teaching. His body first went to the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center, where he contributed to the study of human decay. His skeleton was then moved to Smithsonian’s [...]

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Dog Spies

How Chaser The Dog Aces The Verbal Section Of The Dog SATs

e7346d_7595725dd818088e16429e99c500493a.jpg_srz_p_337_511_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

Chaser, a Border Collie from South Carolina, knows the names of over 1,000 different objects. Does anyone find themselves looking at their tail-wagging friend and wondering, “Well, what do you know?” When it comes to whether dogs can understand words, Chaser—the subject of not one, but two scientific publications—can attest that the answer is: Yes. [...]

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Dog Spies

Could a Life-Sized TV Control Your Dog’s Brain?

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This question was not proposed by a mad scientist bent on world doggie domination. The idea to see whether dogs follow life-sized videos is actually entirely sensible. Researchers studying non-human animals want to know whether their species of interest will attend to artificial stimuli—like photographs, slides or films—because if a species realistically attends to artificial [...]

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Dog Spies

Game Boy, Pimples and Archie Comics: Before They Were Scientists

JulieHecht Dog Spies

Tracking Cats. A Book of Common Ants. Want to meet the mites on your forehead or the bacteria in your armpits? Get all that and more at Your Wild Life. Your Wild Life (Twitter) is exactly what its name suggests: scientists, science communicators, students, and citizens exploring the ecology all around us. The familiar is [...]

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Dog Spies

Put Your Nose First: Smellwalks for You and Your Dog

5902359588_97a3ea5a46_q

There was no way I was going to miss something called a ‘Smellwalk.’ A social dilettante at heart, I revel in time spent in the mind of others — especially those who add an entirely different color to the palate of my worldview. While I think loads about the olfactory experiences of dogs, I give [...]

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Expeditions

Neutrinos on Ice: Waiting to Fly

ANITA rolling out to the launchpad. (Katie Mulrey)

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

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Expeditions

Extreme Ice Survey: Water and Electronics Don’t Mix

2014_10_30_SG-02

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

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Expeditions

The Lawson Trek: Paddling the Intracoastal Waterway

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

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

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Expeditions

Extreme Ice Survey: Success on South Georgia Island

Matthew Kennedy carries Extreme Ice Survey time-lapse camera equipment to the camera installation site above the terminus of Nordenskjöld Glacier. ©2014 Extreme Ice Survey/Stephen Nowland.

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

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Expeditions

Neutrinos on Ice: How to Keep Cool in Thin Air

ob_tube

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

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Expeditions

Call of the Orangutan: A Camera Trap Menagerie

elephants 1

In order to get more information about the forest here at the Sikundur research station in North Sumatra, I’ve set up four camera traps, which I’m using to get a better look at the wildlife around the site. The traps have been so successful in such a short time period that together with another graduate [...]

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Expeditions

Return to Nepal: Snow Sampling

Snow sampling along an unclimbed glacier near to Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak in the world.

Editor’s Note: This is the third and final installment in a new series by Ulyana Horodyskyj, who chronicled an earlier expedition to Nepal in a series called, “Climbing Mount Everest,” which can be found by clicking here. Horodyskyj’s work focuses determining how airborne particles such as dust and soot that settle on massive glaciers alter [...]

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Expeditions

Extreme Ice Survey: Antarctic Time-Lapses

Neko Harbor, Andvord Bay. 1st installation of Extreme Ice Survey cameras on the 2014 Lindblad Expeditions Trip to Antarctica.  2 cameras installed looking across the glacier at Neko Harbor.  The landing is on a beach and small rock knoll of a Gentoo Penguin Colony.  Across the bay is Bagshawe Glacier, a large tidewater glacier pouring off the interior of the peninsula. (Image courtesy of Extreme Ice Survey)

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

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Expeditions

Neutrinos on Ice: How to Build a Balloon

The first stage of ANITA construction. (Photo Credit: Christian Miki)

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

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Expeditions

Call of the Orangutan: Injuries and Their Limitations

Gradually the wounds became better, and the color came back, indicating a higher level of blood supply. Siboy would often try to groom his mother, picking at the open wounds.

This last month has been extremely stressful for all of us at Sikundur research station in North Sumatra while we’ve been following two of our favorite orangutans, Suci and her 3-year-old infant Siboy. As I mentioned in a previous blog, while I was in Medan for a break the boys sent me a text saying [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Could Extinct Clouded Leopards Be Reintroduced in Taiwan?

formosan clouded leopard

Two years ago, after an intense 13-year quest, scientists concluded that the Formosan clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) had gone extinct in Taiwan. But a new paper by the same scientists contains an interesting revelation: The island nation’s ecology has improved so much since the leopards disappeared that they might once again thrive there. Clouded [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Another Northern White Rhino Dies, Only 5 Remain

northern white rhino

And then there were five. The death by old age this past weekend of Angalifu, a 44-year-old northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) that lived at San Diego Zoo, reduces the world population of this critically endangered subspecies to just five, all of which live in captivity and none of which are breeding. One more [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Butt-Breathing Turtle Now Critically Endangered

butt-breathing turtle

Few reptiles can breathe underwater. Australia is home to one of the exceptions, the white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula), which can extract oxygen from water through its backside via a process called cloacal respiration. This unusual technique, shared by a handful of other turtle and fish species, gave the turtles an evolutionary advantage for millennia, [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Rare Iguana is Endangered Because People Like to Eat Egg-Carrying Females

Valle de Aguán spiny-tailed iguana

It’s a simple equation, really: If a species can’t reproduce, it will go extinct. A critically endangered species in Honduras faces that risk in a notable way. It turns out that the people who coexist with Valle de Aguán spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura melanosterna) not only like to eat the lizards they prefer the taste of [...]

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Extinction Countdown

As Sea Ice Disappears, Arctic Ringed Seals Could Get Largest Critical Habitat Ever

arctic ringed seal

Arctic ringed seals (Phoca hispida hispida) could soon get a critical habitat more than twice the size of California within the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Under rules (pdf) proposed this week by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the seals could have more than 900,000 square kilometers of protected waters. The seals were declared threatened [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Giraffes under Threat: Populations Down 40 Percent in Just 15 Years

giraffes

One of the world’s most iconic and beloved animals is quickly disappearing. Fifteen years ago about 140,000 giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) roamed the plains and forests of Africa. Today that number has plummeted by more than 40 percent, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF). As with so many other species, the causes of this decline [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Life on the Volcano Is Increasingly Tough for These Hawaiian Birds

palila

You have to hike a pretty long distance if you hope to see the critically endangered bird known as the palila (Loxioides bailleui), but if you’re lucky and work hard, you can walk their entire habitat in a single day. That’s because these beautiful yellow-headed birds live in just one place on Earth: the upper [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Bluefin Tuna, Chinese Cobra and Others Added to Red List of Threatened Species

Bluefit tuna

The latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was published Monday and, as you can imagine, it wasn’t good news. The Red List, the global inventory of species, now identifies 22,413 species as threatened with extinction around the world. Some of the most notable of the 310 additions to the Red List [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Critically Endangered Gecko Discovered in Madagascar

Paroedura hordiesi

The island of Madagascar is home to a pretty amazing and diverse collection of geckos, with nearly 70 species from 10 different genera. Now you can add one more species to the list: Paroedura hordiesi, a highly camouflaged nocturnal gecko that was recently discovered in northern Madagascar. It was described this week in Zoosystematics and [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Mapping Mistake Threatens 1,400 Chimpanzees and Newly Discovered Endangered Plant

Chimp in tree

How’s this for irony?: A newly discovered plant named after the reserve in which it is supposedly found is endangered because the reserve isn’t actually located where people thought it was. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the new plant—Dorstenia luamensis, which was discovered in 2012 and described last month in the journal PhotoKeys—was [...]

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Food Matters

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

WeightOfTheWorld

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

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Food Matters

The Microbes in Your Kitchen (Or in your Starbucks mocha)

Graph of microbial diversity in 3 different diets

I can’t write an intro better than this: Far more attention has been paid to the microbes in our feces than the microbes in our food. Research efforts dedicated to the microbes that we eat have historically been focused on a fairly narrow range of species, namely those which cause disease and those which are [...]

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Food Matters

Moving On – Farewell, Food Matters

Hello . . .and good-bye. After today, I’ll no longer be part of the highly talented crew at Food Matters. It was fun while it lasted! I wish Kevin, Layla, Pam, Julianne, and Patrick much success in their future posts, and hope we can all get together to share a meal someday (Dessert’s on me, [...]

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Food Matters

The Sound (And Taste) Of Music

SoundTasteofMusic

It’s said that a person can have good taste in music but what about the taste of music? What would it taste like? Experimental psychologist Charles Spence and researchers at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at the University of Oxford may be able to provide some insight. The lab explores how the five senses–touch, taste, smell, [...]

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Food Matters

All the microbes of the field will clap their hands

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: microbes are everywhere, and everywhere important. As regular readers will know, I’ve recently become obsessed with cultivating our microbial companions to make delicious foods. But you don’t have to have to constantly minding jars of kraut or jugs of mead in order for microbes to be [...]

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Food Matters

The Complete List Of All The Reasons Why Putting A McDonald’s In A Church Is A Good Idea

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 12.27.29 PM

1.   Um…   And yes, this is actually a thing.

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Food Matters

Two Podcasts About the Other Side of Eating

It’s a few days after Thanksgiving, but nevertheless, I’m thankful for sanitation. Here at Food Matters, we spend a lot of time talking about the things that go into our mouths, but throughout the world, the stuff that happens on the other end is almost as important. According to the UN, one in three people [...]

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Food Matters

Ferment Friday – My First 3 batches of Sauerkraut

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There’s something wonderful doing things yourself. This is not just my observation, there’s data on this. For example: people love their Ikea furniture more than any particle-board-glued-to-plastic-wood-patterned furniture has any right to be loved. Mostly, the hypothesis goes, because their own sweat and labor (and if my experience is any judge, a fair bit of cursing) [...]

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Food Matters

Putting a Band Aid On It: Famine, Ebola, And The Impact Of Song

BandAid

Thirty years ago, Bob Geldof and Band Aid recorded the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for famine relief in Ethiopia. Last week, a new version of the song was released, this time in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Not everyone is enthusiastic about the encore; some saw Geldof’s initial Band Aid [...]

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Food Matters

Dear Beverage Industry: Yes, 12-Year-Olds Are Children.

advertising-to-kids

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (full disclosure: I work for them) just released the Sugary Drink Facts Report, exhaustively detailing the nutrition of products offered by the beverage industry, and how the industry markets them. The authors are very careful to point out that progress has been made since their last [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

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

Earthquake from USGS

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

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Frontiers for Young Minds

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

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

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Language: What Your Brain Remembers Even if You Forget

(Source: doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00014)

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

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Hearing – Not Just For Your Ears Anymore

SeeingWithYourEars

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

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Frontiers for Young Minds

How Scientific Are Your Instruments?

Common items

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

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Frontiers for Young Minds

STOP! How We Inhibit Acts

(Credit: Swann N and Greenhouse I (2014) STOP! How we inhibit acts. Front. Young Minds. 2:7. doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00007)

This is a re-posting of an article originally published at Frontiers for Young Minds. (Swann N and Greenhouse I (2014) STOP! How we inhibit acts. Front. Young Minds. 2:7. doi: 10.3389/frym.2014.00007) Introduction Imagine you are standing on 3rd base and waiting to sprint to home plate to win the game for your baseball team. You watch [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

It is Never too Early to Think – and Communicate – Like a Scientist

Young Reviewers

When you think about the job of a scientist, what images come into your mind? A chemist wearing a lab coat surrounded by beakers? A geologist out studying rocks in the desert? An astronomer looking through a giant telescope? When most people think about science, they imagine characters from television shows solving murders and finding [...]

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Guest Blog

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

Credit: NASA

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

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Guest Blog

How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought

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

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

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Guest Blog

Let’s Expand Terrestrial Parks into the Ocean

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

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

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Guest Blog

Facing Up to Online Murder and Other Cyber Crimes

Crime scence, do not cross. (Credit: Yumi Kimura/Flickr)

A recent report from Europol’s European Cybercrime Center includes a forecast that the world’s first “online murder” will likely occur before the end of 2014. Obviously this is a frightening concept and one that a number of news outlets quickly seized upon with ominous headlines. However, there’s a far more dangerous story that underlies this [...]

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Guest Blog

Artificial Sweeteners May Have Despicable Impacts on Gut Microbes

Sweet'N Low is a brand of artificial sweetener made primarily from granulated saccharin. (Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr)

I find it ironic that Thanksgiving coincides with American Diabetes Month. In honor of that irony, two recently published studies have suggested a possible link between what you eat, how it impacts the behavior of the microbes living in your gut, and type II diabetes. To further explain, allow me use the most adorable analogy [...]

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Guest Blog

U.S. Particle Physics Program Aims for the Future

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Main Ring and Main Injector as seen from the air. (Credit: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab)

In the last few years, stories have abounded in the press of the successes of the Large Hadron Collider, most notably the discovery of the Higgs boson. This has led some to speculate that European research is ascendant while U.S. research is falling behind. While there is no argument that U.S. particle physics budgets have [...]

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Guest Blog

Battle of the ‘Staches Raises Money for Men’s Health

Duke's Movember team: the MoDukes. (Photo credit: Shawn Rocco)

People who donate money or fundraise for a cause are often silent heroes. However, unlike many fundraising efforts, it’s readily apparent who’s participating in one that’s currently taking the nation by its facial hair. The fundraiser in question is none other than the Movember movement. Its mascot? The glorious moustache…or ‘stache…or mo. It is, quite [...]

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Guest Blog

Practicing Narrative Medicine

Just listen. (Credit: Rick&Brenda Beerhorst via Flickr)

Since the first day of medical school, I was in breathless anticipation of my third year. I came to Harvard with a background in creative writing and the big draw of medicine for me lay in its compendium of human stories. In college, I volunteered at local hospitals where my primary responsibility was to go [...]

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Guest Blog

Technology Revitalizes Hands-On Education in Classrooms

Left: TinkerCad design of the U.S.S Monitor. Rigth: Student team's 3-D printed model of the U.S.S Monitor.

Technology has abstracted the educational sphere in the way it has abstracted all other aspects of our lives. Pencils and paper have given way to the more amorphous cloud-based computing, kids are presenting more with Prezi than on poster boards, and work can be turned in online instead of in-hand. Like any technological “progress” or [...]

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Guest Blog

Catching Big Mama Fish Curbs Ocean Fertility

A gravid female cod at the U.K.'s MacDuff Aquarium. (Credit: Bruce McAdam via Flickr)

Scientists recently confirmed what anglers have known for centuries—there’s something special about a big mama fish. The bigger the fish, the better the bragging rights—and often, the bigger paycheck or prize. For centuries, this has led anglers and fishers to selectively target the largest fish in a school. But a new study published in a [...]

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Illusion Chasers

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

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

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Illusion Chasers

The Power of Cute

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

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Illusion Chasers

Your Brain on Thanks

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

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Illusion Chasers

Art and Science Team Up To Steal Your Attention With Magic

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

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Illusion Chasers

The Society for Neuroscience has just announced the 2014 Science Education and Outreach Awards…

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Illusion Chaser Susana Martinez-Conde is the 2014 winner of the prestigious Science Educator Award from the Society for Neuroscience!

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Illusion Chasers

Let There Be Light!

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Today the Brookhaven National Lab turned on their new National Synchrotron Light Source II and saw its first emitted x-ray photon! http://www.bnl.gov/bwis/

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Illusion Chasers

Multitasking, pickpockets and hubris

Watch for Pickpockets! (Ypsilon via Wikimedia Commons)

One consequence of my laboratory’s collaboration with stage pickpocket Apollo Robbins is that I am often asked for strategies to thwart pickpockets in the real world. My usual advice is to avoid multitasking while you’re out and about, especially in the midst of a crowd. I speak not only from my experience as a cognitive researcher, but also as a former victim of pickpocketing.

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Illusion Chasers

New Science Channel show HACK MY BRAIN—Featuring Scientific American MIND’s Illusion Chasers!

scichan

Todd Sampson is an advertising exec in Australia. An average Joe, who, like the rest of us, wants to be super human. So he’s enlisting scientists all over the world to hack his brain and make him, smarter, faster, and more creative. In our labs we show him a little bit of neuromagic. Come check it out this Friday!

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Illusion Chasers

The Art of the Brick

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There is an intersection of art, science and engineering in the works of Lego artist Nathan Sawaya, whose “Art of the Brick” traveling show I visited last weekend at the Discovery Times Square Museum in New York (the exhibition closed Sunday).

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Illusion Chasers

Neuroscience in fiction: “Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs”, by Adam-Troy Castro

Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Eclipse#mediaviewer/File:Eclipse667.jpg

The people of Enysbourg lead merry, fulfilled, blissful lives – nine days out of every ten. On each Tenth Day, the country is ablaze with destruction. Cities are razed, children massacred, every single citizen and visitor to the country experiences unimaginable pain and suffering. But the Day After, peace is restored. All wounds, physical and psychological, are healed. Buildings and roads show no fractures. Families become whole again. Lovers reunite. Memories of the devastation remain, but they do not have the power to do harm.

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Image of the Week

A Modest Mussel Is Making Waves

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

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Image of the Week

Team SciTweeps in Lego-Form

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

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

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Image of the Week

Panic Viruses

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

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Image of the Week

Kids Coding With Compassion

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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Image of the Week

Octomonth Belongs to the Octopus

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

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Image of the Week

Dr. Fist-Bump

DrFistBump

Image Credit: Ghareeb et al. (2013), Journal of Hospital Infection Source: Fist Bumps for Germophobes by Christina Agapakis on Oscillator The thought of outlawing handshakes and making fist bumps mandatory for hospital employees might strike you as rather amusing. But in studies that attempt to quantify the transfer of potential pathogens via customary greetings such [...]

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Image of the Week

Guinness-Busting Bug

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Credit: China News Service/Zhong Xin Source: Bec Crew’s Largest aquatic insect in the world found in China on Running Ponies Remember the Guinness Book of World Records? Poring over the pages of tiny text and black and white images of record breakers was a hallowed summer time-busting tradition, at least in my circle of friends. [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Mars, Ancient Water, Deep Hydrogen, and Life

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

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Life, Unbounded

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

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

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

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Life, Unbounded

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

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

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

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Life, Unbounded

Alien Yet Familiar: Following Curiosity Across Mars

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

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

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Life, Unbounded

The Cusp of Knowing and the Evolution of Science

(Credit NASA/JPL)

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

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Life, Unbounded

That Comet? That’s You, 4.5 Billion Years Ago

The surface of a comet, with one of Philae's landing feet (Credit ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

As the European Space Agency’s Philae lander bounced and settled onto the surface of comet 67P/C-G’s crumbly nucleus it wasn’t just space exploration, it was time travel. This stupendous feat of spacecraft design and operation has brought us to a place little changed from its original state, a condensation and agglomeration of one small part [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Surreal Task of Landing on a Comet

The top of the 'duck's head' where Philae will attempt to land (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

On November 12th 2014 the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will eject the small robotic lander Philae on a trajectory that should take it down to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P/C-P for short). Already Rosetta is maneuvering from its 10 kilometer orbit to get into the right place to deploy Philae. The landing [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Astrobiology Roundup: Planets, Moons, and Stinky Comets

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Scientific discoveries across all fields just keep coming and coming. Here’s a small assortment of goodies from the past couple of weeks. How do you form planets around stars in triple systems? You feed them of course. New data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in northern Chile has probed the gas and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Failure Is Always An Option

One of the lucky ones...Saturn V launch (NASA)

Do not try this at home. A Russian Proton-M launch goes wrong – and it can happen to anyone (wait for the shock wave). A rocket is a controlled bomb. The fully fueled Saturn V ‘moon rocket’ held an explosive force of about half a kiloton of TNT, enough to do some serious damage if [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Complex Life Owes Its Existence To Parasites?

mitochondria.001

Is complex life rare in the cosmos? The idea that it could be rests on the observation that the existence of life like us – with large, energy hungry, complicated cells – may be contingent on a number of very specific and unlikely factors in the history of the Earth. Added together they suggest that [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Calling It Sex When They Mean Love

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

How Our Brains Process Books

Reading. (Credit: Paul Bence/Flickr)

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Concussion Culture: How to Protect Young Athletes

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

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

A Prescription for Psychiatry, book cover.

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

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MIND Guest Blog

To Feel Meaningful Is to Feel Immortal

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Technology May Lift Severe Depression, but Full Recovery Takes Time

Courtesy of Dave Gingrich via Flickr.

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

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MIND Guest Blog

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

Courtesy of Brian Gates.

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Simply Shining a Light Can Reveal the Brain’s Structure

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

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

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Can Video Games Diagnose Cognitive Deficits?

Five brain-training games available as an iPad “app” from Lumosity were evaluated as tests of cognitive dysfunction in cirrhosis: (a) Circles is a test of spatial orientation, information processing speed and attention. Colored circles appear one at a time and a user must decide whether each is a match when compared with the circle that showed up earlier. (b) Color Match evaluates selective attention, cognitive flexibility and processing speed. The names of two colors appear and the test-taker must decide whether or not the top word names the font color of the bottom word. (c) Memory Matrix taps visuospatial memory. A pattern of tiles appears on a grid; when the pattern disappears, a test-taker attempts to recreate it. (d) Lost in Migration examines attention as well as visual field and focus. Five birds appear and a user indicates the direction of flight of the center bird. (e) Chalkboard Challenge involves quantitative reasoning. A player must determine which arithmetic figure has the greatest value between two choices.

This blog is the third in a series of guest posts on technology and the brain to celebrate Scientific American Mind’s 10-year anniversary. The magazine’s special November/December issue similarly highlights the interface between code and thought in profiling a future, more digital YOU. Video games are an increasingly common pastime, especially for children, adolescents and [...]

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Not bad science

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

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

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Not bad science

Nevada Celebrates Pollinator Week

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

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Not bad science

Psychic Animals and Football-Playing Bees

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

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Not bad science

Chimpanzees React To A Robo-Doll

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

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

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Not bad science

Unique Science Communication: Isabella Rossellini

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

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Not bad science

Bumblebees Are More Flexible Than We Knew

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

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

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Not bad science

Left-Eyed Fish Are Faster Learners

The rainbowfish, Melanotaenia duboulayi

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

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Not bad science

Robins Pay Attention To Which Way You’re Looking When Stealing From You

The Wild North Island robin

In a week where gaze-following seems to be the hot topic, there being studies in both primates and dogs, another study took a rather different approach to looking at gaze-following. Wild North Island robins are unusual in that they live on an isolated island and as a result are unafraid of humans and other mammals. [...]

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Not bad science

Dogs Follow the Gaze of Humans, Especially When There’s Food Involved

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I recently wrote about how humans and other primates follow the gaze of others. This week I read about two more interesting findings relating to gaze-following, the first in dogs, the second in robins. The first study used forty family-owned dogs. The researchers wanted half of these dogs to think that there was food hidden [...]

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Not bad science

How To Get Into Science Communication Online

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I recently taught a class on science journalism and science communication. Although there have been a few articles on this topic already (in particular I’d recommend reading Ed Yong’s and Carl Zimmer’s) I thought I’d share a bit of advice from my own experience. I became involved in science writing just a few years ago, [...]

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Observations

Birthday of the First Airplane Flight: Happy 111th!

Credit: Scientific American

It was 111 years ago today that the world’s first piloted, powered, controllable, heavier-than-air machine built and flown by Orville and Wilbur Wright took to the air. Adding all of those qualifying adjectives had taken 120 years since the first manned flight in a balloon built by another pair of brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. [...]

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Observations

Who Eats Whom under the Arctic Sea Ice [Video]

Nereid

San Francisco — Although polar bears and seals have become the poster children for vanishing sea ice in the Arctic, they have thrived for a long time. The bears eat the seals, but what do the seals eat? Maybe fish, although in many parts of the Arctic fish are few in number. Even then, what [...]

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Observations

Fracking Banned in New York State

fracking-in-pennsylvania

Fracking, as it looks across the New York State border, in Pennsylvania. Fracking has been banned in New York State since 2008. Then-Governor David Paterson imposed a moratorium on the controversial technique— which fractures shale rock using high pressure, specially treated water to release gas trapped inside—citing the need for further study of health and [...]

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Observations

The Real Outcome of Global Warming Talks in Lima: A Future for Coal

US-climate-change-negotiator-todd-stern

“There will be coal burning.” Negotiators from around the world produced a four-page climate-change accord (pdf) after some sleep-deprived haggling over the weekend in Lima, Peru, but the agreement could be summed up in those five words. For the first time, all nations agreed that all nations must have a plan to curb greenhouse gases. [...]

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Observations

Google’s Top Searches of 2014

John Maino, radio personality in Wisconsin, performs the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Americans looked to Google for information on Ebola, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the actor Robin Williams’s suicide this year—all of which ranked among the hottest search terms of 2014. Google has announced the results of its “14th Annual Year in Search,” an inventory of the year’s most-searched-for keywords and phrases. The data gives [...]

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Observations

Frequent Flyers Could Take a Hit of Radiation from Lightning

Lightning

San Francisco — The energy released by a lightning bolt is so strong that it creates an intense flash of light and usually loud thunder. But recent data taken by spacecraft and a few crazy research pilots reveals that lightning also often emits an intense burst of X-rays and gamma rays. The bursts typically radiate [...]

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Observations

First Flexible Airplane Wing Takes Flight

A Gulfstream III jet retrofitted with flexible wing flaps takes its first test flight while an F-18 chase plane keeping watch. Credit: FlexSys Inc

In our May 2014 issue, Sridhar Kota, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan and founder and president of the company FlexSys, published an article about his long-running campaign to take complex, multipart machines and redesign them as flexible, one-piece devices (subscription required). Kota has been working on morphing airplane wings since the [...]

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Observations

What Is This “Atmospheric River” That Is Flooding California?

Scientific American - January 2013

The San Francisco Bay Area is getting flooded with relentless rain and strong winds, just like it did a week ago, and fears of rising water are now becoming very serious. Major news stations, weather channels, Web outlets and social media are all suddenly talking about the “atmospheric river” that is bringing deluge after deluge [...]

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Observations

Bad Science and “Folk Psychology” Guided CIA Torture Techniques

Yesterday the Senate Intelligence Committee released a scathing report on CIA interrogations conducted in the wake of September 11. The committee concluded that the CIA misrepresented so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding as far less brutal and far more effective than they actually were. There is still no clear answer as to whether the CIA [...]

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Observations

Tiny Fossil Is North America’s Oldest (and Cutest) Horned Dinosaur

Aquilops americanus

A tiny skull from southern Montana represents a new kind of horned dinosaur that had a distinctive hooked beak and was about the size of a crow. Dubbed Aquilops americanus, the specimen dates to between 104 million and 109 milllion years ago, making it the oldest known representative of the neoceratopsian group of dinosaurs in [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

7 Surprising Things Penguins of Madagascar Gets Right about Octopuses—and 4 It Gets Wrong

octopus dave

It’s not very often that a movie comes out that features an octopus as one of the main (speaking) characters. (And they only occasionally become the star of a video game.) So if you wouldn’t mind indulging me for a brief detour into animation territory, let’s see what Hollywood gets right (and wrong) about this [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Rare Octopuses Get Their Close-Up

There are some 300 known species of octopus. From the huge giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) to the tiny poisonous blue-ringed octopus (genus Hapalochlaena), from the shallow-water mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) to the deep-sea Dumbo octopus (genus Grimpoteuthis). But most of what we know about the animal comes from a few well-studied, (semi) lab-tolerant species. [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Soft Octopus Escape—and Paperback Octopus! Release [Video]

octopus book paperback

Octopuses long ago shed their ancestors’ protective shells in favor of a slinkier, floppier, softer existence. They were perhaps never meant to be held down by hard covers. In fact, many scientists credit this unlikely evolution for their wily intelligence. That is why I am extra excited for the publication of Octopus! The Most Mysterious [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Octopus Play and Squid Eyeballs—and What They Can Teach Us about Brains

For cannibals, octopuses seem to be surprisingly fun loving. Some have been observed using their funnels to repeatedly blow objects around in their tanks. Others, such as one common octopus named Dorian, have spent a countless minutes passing Lego blocks around among their many arms or towing them back and forth across the surface of [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Mistaken Octopus Sex Identity Leads to Multi-Armed Wrestling Match [Video]

The octopus, by in large, practices very safe sex. You would, too, if you and the object of your affection were both cannibals. But the algae octopus (Abdopus aculeatus) has developed a relatively sophisticated mating system that involves far more close contact than many other octopus species. In populations of these cephalopods, males and females [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

New Octopus Disguise Material for the Human World [Video]

It’s no doubt that, with a repertoire of everything from colorful coral to a poisonous sea snake, the octopus could win any costume contest handily. But while most of us are picking our way through fake fangs and unnecessarily revealing outfits, one team of researchers is working to bring the octopus’s camouflaging skills to the [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Is Smell the Key to an Octopus’s Heart?

We know that octopuses have awesome visual systems and super-sensitive suckers. We have even learned that they can hear. But little scientific attention has been paid to their sense of smell. And new research suggests that the octopus’s olfactory system could play a strong role in the octopus’s life cycle—especially when it comes to mating. [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Party with These 8 Famous Octopuses to Celebrate Octopus Awareness Day!

octopus awareness day

It’s Octopus Awareness Day, and although we at Octopus Chronicles treat every day as if it were a celebratory day for the cephalopod, today it gets extra special treatment. So to ring in the best day of the year, here are eight of the most famous—and infamous—octopuses—real and perhaps occasionally mythical: 8. Billye: This hungry [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Glowing Octopus Bacteria Light Up Living Lamp [Video]

glowing octopus

Octopuses might be charismatic, but not many can literally light up a room. One enterprising designer, however, has figured out how to repurpose bacteria from rare glowing deep-sea octopuses for terrestrial illumination. In the form of a stylish lamp—that requires no electricity. [See video below.] Inspired by glowing, bioluminescent waves, graduate student Teresa van Dongen, [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

First Common Octopus Cannibalism Filmed in the Wild [Video]

octopus cannibalism

Perhaps it’s time we stopped feeling quite so bad about eating octopus. Octopuses dine on other octopuses, too. And for the first time, that behavior has been caught on video in the common octopus in the wild—three times. Cannibalistic behavior in the lab setting is well known. This is one of the reasons octopuses can be so [...]

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Plugged In

Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room Join Forces

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Carbon War Room (right). Image courtesy of RMI.

Today Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), brain-child of famed energy thinker Amory Lovins, and Carbon War Room (CWR), the five-year old climate change outfit of Sir Richard Branson, merged to create a new alliance dedicated to the acceleration of a low carbon energy future. RMI was founded in 1982 and has established itself as a preeminent [...]

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Plugged In

Battle Rages Over Forecasts for U.S. Gas Production

FeaturedImage

Earlier this month, the prestigious academic journal Nature published a news feature titled “Natural gas: the fracking fallacy,” casting doubt on the long-term prospects of the U.S. natural gas supply*. The article cited recent findings from an interdisciplinary University of Texas (UT) study showing future gas production from the four major U.S. shale formations could [...]

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Plugged In

“Climate Change” Or “Global Warming?” Two New Polls Suggest Language Matters.

Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISS

On Friday, a new Yale-Associated Press-NORC poll on environmental attitudes reported that just 56 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening. This seems a bit low to me given our UT Energy Poll data on climate change over the past three years looks like this: [Click for larger] But then I thought about language. [...]

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Plugged In

#MapMonday: Biodiversity Map Shows Hemorrhaging of Species

The vulnerable white-winged cuckoo shrike, found in the Philippines. Image credit: Lance, https://www.flickr.com/photos/degilbo_on_flickr/

For this #MapMonday we return to Yale’s Environmental Performance group, featured previously here on #MapMonday. The newly released biodiversity map brings together a whopping amount of data to detail the state (quality not just quantity) of species around the world, and while the staggering diversity of life on our planet is breathtaking (and sometimes pretty [...]

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Plugged In

Competition Between OPEC, U.S. Drives Oil Prices to Four-Year Low

FeaturedImage

On Thursday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), an economic cartel responsible for approximately one third of global oil production, announced it would not decrease its rate of oil production. The announcement comes despite steadily decreasing global oil prices over the past several weeks, indicating that OPEC and its chief member Saudi Arabia are [...]

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Plugged In

Race and the Politics of Climate Change in Two Charts

Climate_March,_September_2014,_Higher_quality.jpg

At WashPo’s Wonk Blog, Chris Mooney and Peyton Craighill are wondering why black and Latino Americans support climate action more than whites. They cite a Spring 2014 Washington Post/ABC News poll reporting that Hispanics and African Americans were more likely than U.S. whites to say climate change is a very serious problem confronting the country. [...]

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Plugged In

The British Poo Bus – Turning Excrement into Fuel

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 5.23.21 PM

Humans produce around 360 pounds of poo over the course of a year – and the United Kingdom’s “Bio Bus” is taking this poo on the road. This 40-seater, single-decker bus now runs the 20-mile stretch between Bath and Bristol Airport in southwest England. Dubbed the “Poo Bus” or “The Number Two” by many in [...]

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Plugged In

German company wants to turn cloud computing into distributed heating

cloud and heat

A German company wants to turn server farms into “distributed cloud heaters.” By spreading computing power across a number of buildings, the company believes that it can provide reliable computing services while increasing the energy efficiency of these notoriously wasteful centers. Server farms currently use the equivalent of about 30 nuclear power plants worth of [...]

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Plugged In

The impacts of a changing climate on future Thanksgivings

4125543027_b2938f83d0

Agriculture is highly dependent on the climate. Global food supplies are already feeling the impacts of changing global rainfall and temperature patterns resulting from climate change. As Americans move from the Thanksgiving table to Black Friday sales, one wonders – how will these changes impact future Thanksgiving feasts? Will the country be full of tastier [...]

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Plugged In

Does Uber Make Cities More Energy Efficient?

Morning traffic in Paris. Photo by Tali Trigg.

It seems you can’t read an article about new mobility or the sharing economy without stumbling across Uber; the mobility service that sprung up in 2009 to only five years later become valued at more than Avis, Hertz, or Sony. Yes, Sony. Two weeks ago, I found myself using the service for the first time, [...]

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PsySociety

The Best PsycHoliday Stocking Stuffer!

Our gratitude holders.

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

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PsySociety

How To Craft An Empirically-Supported Marriage

Wedding Reading

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

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PsySociety

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

x_men_logo

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

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PsySociety

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

Diet fork with tape measure

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

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PsySociety

“What else can you expect from a crappo?”

Man got an amazing idea

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

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PsySociety

Mind The Gap: Overestimating Income Inequality

MoneyCash

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

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PsySociety

Blind athletes provide clues about the nature of our emotions.

514px-石井と鈴木

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

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PsySociety

Fear and Love on a Shaky Bridge

shakybridge

“Imagine being in the jungle, thousands of miles from civilization…” Thus opened the promo two years ago for Love In The Wild, the “extreme dating experiment” on NBC that sent its contestants on first dates that were jam packed with shaky bridges, crocodile attacks, and bungee jumping. Either NBC replaced their writing staff with former academics, [...]

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PsySociety

Sex and the Married Neurotic

800px-Wedding_rings

There are few things in this world that I truly loathe. One of those things is the show Everybody Loves Raymond. Why, you might ask? First of all, it’s actually quite hard to really ‘love’ Raymond. From what I’ve seen of the show (which is admittedly not much), he seems to care about three things: golf, [...]

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PsySociety

Love, hate…what’s the difference?

I_Hate_You_I_Love_You_by_asphyxiat3d

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to take a quick look at one of the most fundamental human emotions — hate. Wait, that doesn’t seem right. Hate? On Valentine’s Day? Isn’t V-Day supposed to be about love, Hallmark, and all of those positive, mushy feelings? Well, sure. Of course Valentine’s Day is supposed to [...]

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Roots of Unity

Seeing Music: What Does the Missing Fundamental Look Like?

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

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

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Roots of Unity

Your Telephone Is Lying to You About Sounds

telephone

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

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Roots of Unity

The Saddest Thing I Know about the Integers

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

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

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Roots of Unity

The Math Geek Holiday Gift Guide

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

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

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Roots of Unity

A Proof of the Math Fact of Rolle in Short Words

A pic that shows the math fact of Rolle. Image: the.ever.kid, via Wikimedia Commons.

This proof of the math fact of Rolle, I wrote it down; here was my goal: Use just words with one part. (So it won’t sound too smart.) Please tell me if you find a hole. The math fact of Rolle: Let f be a map from a closed length of the reals (the length [...]

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Roots of Unity

Higher Homotopy Groups Are Spooky

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

When I tell people I’m a mathematician, I get a lot of different reactions. Perhaps surprisingly, I mostly get positive responses. Many of them are of the “You go, girl” variety. Some people say, “I’m a [some other profession], but I always liked math” or, “I wish I had taken more math classes.” I get [...]

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Roots of Unity

In Which Omar Khayyam Is Grumpy with Euclid

A portrait of Omar Khayyam. Image: Atilin, via Wikimedia Commons.

My math history class is currently studying non-Euclidean geometry, which means we’ve studied quite a few “proofs” of Euclid’s fifth postulate, also known as the parallel postulate. I’ve written about this postulate before. There are many statements that are equivalent to the parallel postulate, including the fact that parallel lines in a plane are equidistant. This [...]

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Roots of Unity

Beyond Emmy and Sophie: Resources for Learning about Women in Math

Emmy Noether has a posse. Created by Evelyn Lamb based on a public domain image of Emmy Noether, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. If you’d like to read about women in math for the occasion, you’re in serious danger of coming across an article about Hypatia, Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, or Sofia Kovalevskaya. Of course, these are inspiring women with compelling stories, [...]

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Roots of Unity

Build Your Own Fractal with MegaMenger!

A completed level 1 Menger sponge. Image: Manchester Science Festival.

Later this month, people will be gathering at museums and schools around the world to build giant Menger sponges as part of a global fractal extravaganza called MegaMenger. A Menger sponge is a fractal that sits in three-dimensional space. To visualize one, imagine starting with a cube and splitting it into 27 sub-cubes, like a [...]

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Roots of Unity

Another Reason to Love the Number Seven

A seven of hearts. Image: Kiran Foster, via Flickr.

The world’s favorite number is seven, at least if the result of a poll conducted by Alex Bellos is to be believed. Some people like it because it is prime, some because they have a lot of sevens in their birthdates. But I went to a talk by 2014 Fields Medalist Manjul Bhargava that gave [...]

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Science Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

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

It’s the gifting time o’ year! You’ve got science readers on your list, but you’re not sure what books to get them, right? For those of you who can’t just say heck with it and buy a gift card instead, I’ve got some ideas for ye. Our main focus will be the earth sciences, but [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Geologists’ Manslaughter Verdict Overturned and Other Stories: A Cornucopia of Earth Science Links

Entrenched meanders in Goosenecks State Park, Utah. Image courtesy USDA/FSA.

Whilst I’ve been off designing geology-themed holiday cards and working on other time-devouring things, other folks in the geoblogosphere have been doing some fascinating writing. I thought I’d bring some to you! Chris Rowan has the story of the Italian geologists whose conviction for manslaughter was recently overturned. This is critical news for anyone doing [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Adventures in Creationist Earth Science Education I: In Which First Impressions Are Made

A choice selection of Christianist textbooks, plus one secular. Can you spot the odd book out?

Welcome to the first installment of our down-to-earth analysis of young earth creationist earth science textbooks*, in which we learn what good Christians™ are teaching the kids these days. Let’s take a moment to acquaint ourselves with our three texts. Two are for Christian schools; the third is a secular control. At first glance, it’s [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Smilin’ Stone and a Super-Sweet Rip-Up Clast

Image shows a dark gray, rounded rock within a lighter gray ledge. Lichen on the rock looks like two eyes, and there's a line along the bottom that looks like a crooked smile.

Sorry I’ve been gone so long! My kidneys conspired with some bacteria in order to attempt murder upon me, probably because they’re tired of me threatening to donate the one that used to get all the kidney stones. I’ve now recovered about 60% of my brain function, which means I can start talking geology to [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Adventures in ACE I: In Which Oddities Are Explored

My stack of ACE PACES. These are supposedly the entire 8th grade science curriculum.

I recently spent an instructive few months reading Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, where I learned just how screwed up Accelerated Christian Education is. Imagine a room full of young kids stuffed in study carrels (“offices,” in ACE parlance), sitting silent on hard plastic chairs while they’re taught truly-true Christian things from thin newsprint booklets. As they [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Bay Area Chance of a Lifetime: See Tanya Atwater at the Randall Museum!

This Thursday, Tanya Atwater will be speaking at San Francisco’s Randall Museum. For free! Her talk is about Living in the Plate Boundary, and it sounds awesomesauce: Superstar Geophysicist Tanya Atwater, will present an incredible and amazing series of images and ideas on the geologically active San Francisco area. She’ll also throw in some climate-related [...]

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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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Running Ponies

The Great Kentucky Meat Shower mystery unwound by projectile vulture vomit

meatrain-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

termite-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

octopus-joshua-lambas-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

mike-plus-head-featured

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

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Running Ponies

These adorable giant African rats detect land mines and TB for a living

training-rat-featured

So yesterday, I adopted an unborn land-mine-detecting African giant pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus) from Tanzania. Did I spend 20 minutes figuring out what I was going to call it, as one of my many privileges as an adoptive parent? You bet. It eventually came down to a character from my favourite video game, and as [...]

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Running Ponies

The plan to save the rarest fish in the world – that happens to be named after puppies

pupfish-featured

The Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) is the rarest fish in the world. Found only in a single, tiny limestone cavern in the Devils Hole geothermal pool about 100 km east of Nevada’s Death Valley National Park, these fish have the smallest known geographic range of any vertebrate in the wild. It’s thought that they [...]

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Running Ponies

These tiny scorpions would like to perform an important inspection of your old book collection

book-scorpion-featured

Book scorpions are the best/worst thing to happen to books, because book scorpions! But also book scorpions… Properly known as pseudoscorpions, these tiny, tiny creatures have a fondness for old books, because old books also happen to contain delicious booklice and dust mites. And they’re really not book scorpions… at all because they can’t hurt [...]

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Running Ponies

This snake’s venom makes you bleed from every orifice until you die

male-boomslang-featured

Hey so snakes that inject venom into the bloodstream are pretty bad, how about a snake that injects venom into your bloodstream AND makes you bleed out from every orifice? Sound good? The boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is a venomous tree snake native to Sub-Saharan Africa. Blunt-faced and pretty, with relatively enormous eyes and a bright, [...]

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Running Ponies

The Great Emu War: In which some large, flightless birds unwittingly foiled the Australian Army

emu-wars

I have to admit it – that’s some real Australian behaviour going on up there. Why are the emus so attracted to his upside-down bicycling? Beats me, but maybe his upturned shoes look like comely emu heads. Which sounds kinda dumb, but don’t let those 80-pound lugs fool you – they once brought the Australian [...]

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SA Visual

Mars’s First Close-up

MarinerIV_Mars_Map

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

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SA Visual

SA Recognized for Great Infographics

BAI2014_square

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

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SA Visual

Visualizing 4-Dimensional Asteroids

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

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SA Visual

Art and Science of the Moiré

Moire_featured

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

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SA Visual

A Monkey’s Blueprint

MK_icon

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

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SA Visual

Beyond Classic Brain Illustrations That Make Us Drool

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

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

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SA Visual

A Look under the Hood of Online Data Visualization

openvis_logo_square

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

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SA Visual

On Climate Surveys, the People Agree—Mostly [Interactive]

climate_detail

It’s interesting to see how different points can pique the interest of different people looking at the same data set. My colleague Mark Fischetti (senior editor and partner-in-crime for many of the Graphic Science items in the magazine) was intrigued by bipartisan agreement on questions related to global warming in the survey results shown in [...]

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SA Visual

How Do You Visualize the Brain? [Contest]

brain_detail

Here at Scientific American, we develop lots of infographics about the brain. From classic neural pathway diagrams, depictions of medical breakthroughs, and maps of the brain’s genetic activity, there are as many solutions for visualizing the brain as there are questions about how it works. Now it’s your turn. MIT’s EyeWire, FEI and Visually are [...]

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SA Visual

Scientific American Graphics Win 2 Medals at Malofiej

FlavorDetail

The 22nd annual Malofiej International Infographics Summit (hosted in Pamplona, Spain by the Spanish chapter of the Society for News Design) concluded today with award announcements. I’m thrilled to report that Scientific American won a silver medal in the online category for Jan Willem Tulp’s flavor connection interactive, and a bronze medal in the print [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Neuroscientists Break into the Brain to Expose Its Workings

Courtesy of Saad Faruque via Flickr.

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

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Streams of Consciousness

Brilliance Often Springs from Boredom

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

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Streams of Consciousness

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

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

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Streams of Consciousness

Do Actions Speak Louder than Feelings? [Video]

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

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Streams of Consciousness

Children Reason Differently from Adults [Video]

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

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Streams of Consciousness

Multitask at Your Own Risk

unicycle_Elsie esq

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

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Streams of Consciousness

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

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

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Streams of Consciousness

Acts of Kindness Explained [Video]

helping_Donald_Lee_Pardue

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

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Streams of Consciousness

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

Courtesy of Genista via Flickr.

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

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Streams of Consciousness

Terrified or Hopping Mad? What’s Going on Inside You [Video]

Courtesy of giarose via Flickr.

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

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Symbiartic

I Am a Tired Koala

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 11.22.38 AM

Finishing up 2014 is really exhausting me. Running holiday errands all over the place. The sun sets annoying early (for us northern hemispherians). It’s just no good, but I channeled my fatigue into a comic. Since I feel like I could benefit from double-digit hours of sleep, I started thinking about koalas, who spend some [...]

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Symbiartic

Women in Science Illustrations

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One of the many reasons I love tumblr is that I find amazing artists like Rachel Ignotofsky. She’s a graphic designer and illustrator currently working at Hallmark Greetings by day and as a freelance illustrator by night. Her work frequently touches on science with layers of the earth, inside a cell, body systems posters, how love [...]

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Symbiartic

10 Original Gifts for Science (and SciArt) Geeks

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It’s time again for me to offer up a few quirky gift ideas for the science enthusiasts in your life. I guarantee these will be the most original gifts under the tree! And the best part? Many are under $50. Squee! 10. Periodic Table Cutting Board by Elysium Woodworks, $45 on Etsy.com 9. Embroidered Anatomy [...]

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Symbiartic

A Riot of Color Covers SciArt in America for December

alexisrockman_sciartinameri

The cover to the December issue of SciArt in America magazine is like an explosion in my face. Check out the insane post-apocalyptic enviro-nightmare by painter Alexis Rockman: One of my favourite things about SciArt in America as a magazine, site, and brick & mortar center is that it largely was created out of the ethos, [...]

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Symbiartic

Jurassic World Butting Heads with PaleoIllustrators

Pachycephalosaurus_ntamura_

Once again, paleo-illustrators are being alienated from a movie they could probably love. At least a few paleo-illustrators are discovering their work has been put up on the Jurassic World “as-if-it-was-a-real-park” promotional website without their permission. Here’s a short history of pushing away what should be the movie’s most ardent supporters. First, the director Colin [...]

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Symbiartic

Travel the Solar System! See Distant Worlds!

guyatt-mini

Mars – Valles Marineris © Ron Guyatt Sol System – Meteor Shower © Ron Guyatt In an explosion of heroic art deco design, illustrator and designer Ron Guyatt has created a massive series of posters making our own solar system fascinating again. After 60 posters in the style of the ones we are sharing above, [...]

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Symbiartic

What’s an Artist Doing at Fermilab?

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When a revered research institution reaches out to a fine artist to create its first ever artist-in-residency program, we should all sit up and take notice. This month, Fermilab, the celebrated particle physics research laboratory, announced a year-long partnership with artist Lindsay Olson. For those of us invested in promoting collaborations between artists and scientists, [...]

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Symbiartic

Those Wild Little Trilobites

Triloarte6-copia_mini

Triloarte 1 © Samantha Fermo     Triloarte 6 © Samantha Fermo Triloarte 8 © Samantha Fermo Trilobites, in all their wild and crazy biodiverse forms, look delightful in this series by Italian painter Samantha Fermo. Created as part of paleontologist Dr. Gianpaolo Di Silvestro’s informative and visually-rich Trilobiti.com, this collaboration is the start of [...]

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Symbiartic

Small Science-Themed Art

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December 1st is the deadline to participate in an exciting annual exhibit at the Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, TX. For years, artists have created small trading cards to exchange amongst themselves at conferences and gatherings, but according to the rules of exchange, these cards must never be bought or sold. Art.Science.Gallery, a brick-and-mortar gallery in Austin, [...]

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Symbiartic

Thanksgiving Species

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I am a big fan of the holiday known as Thanksgiving. While it has questionable historical roots, it’s now an excuse to spend the whole day cooking food, drinking good wine, and hanging out. And you don’t have to buy presents for anyone! I’ve done Thanksgiving comics in the past, but this year I was [...]

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

Bhopal at 30: Lessons Still Being Learned

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

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

Anarchic Autism Genetics Gain a Touch of Clarity

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

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

Baby Prep School: A Brain Game or a Mama’s Coo-Cooing?

Baby’s first robot If  you could only learn a language with the innocent receptivity of a young child. That adage, repeated ad nauseam, once an adult has decided to learn French or Tagalog engenders endless debate.  Is it possible to create a teaching method or mental state that rewires the brain in a way that [...]

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Talking back

2014 Nobel in Medicine for Uncovering Brain’s Navigation System

The discoveries that the brain has defined systems that track an animal’s whereabouts as it makes its way about the world were honored on Oct. 6 with the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine going to three researchers. John O’Keefe of University College London discovered in 1971 the aptly named “place cells”—a term that [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The 300th article at Tet Zoo ver 3 is very weird

This is going to be an unusual article for a blog called 'Tetrapod Zoology'. Read on...

Welcome to the 300th article to be published here at Tet Zoo ver 3 (note: not at Tet Zoo as a whole). I feel that this momentous occasion should be marked in some way, so here we are. The 200th article – if you’re interested – was published in September 2013 and mostly consisted of [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Confrontational behaviour and bipedality in deer

Harangued moose turns to face human aggressors and make them regret their pursuit. Photo by Janis Powell.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most familiar and frequently encountered of mammal groups (at least, to those of us in Eurasia and parts of the Americas) – DEER – are weird and fascinating when you get to know them. The whole antler thing is bizarre, but the behavioural [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

African tree toads, smalltongue toads, four-digit toads, red-backed toads: yes, a whole load of obscure African toads

Highly simplified phylogeny for Bufonidae with some of the main evolutionary and biogeographical events marked at appropriate places. Based predominantly on Van Bocxlaer et al. (2010). Atelopus by Giovanni Alberto Chaves Portilla CC BY-SA-2.5, Rhaebo by Brian Gratwicke CC-BY-SA-2.0, Anaxyrus by LA Dawson CC BY-SA 2.5, Rhinella by Froggydarb CC BY-SA-3.0, Mertensophryne by Vladimir Dinets, used with permission, Bufo s. s. by Kruczy89 CC BY-SA 3.0, Bufotes by Richard Bartz CC BY-SA 3.0, Ansonia by Thomas Brown CC BY-SA 2.0, Duttaphrynus by L. Shyamal CC BY-SA 2.5.

Long-time Tet Zoo readers will be familiar with the long-running series on the toads of the world. It’s been running intermittently since October 2009 and is something like 50% published. Much of the text has been written but it’s the getting-hold of usable images of the relevant species that forms the main obstacle to completion. [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

South America’s very many remarkable deer

Fine specimen of South Andean huemul. Photo by Ricardo Hevia Kaluf, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Deer are strongly associated with Eurasia and North America and less so with the other regions of the world. In this brief article – part of which is an excerpt from my 2013 article on the conservation status of South American mammals (Naish 2013) – I’m going to say a few things about the deer [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Cricetomyines: the African pouched rats and mice

Beautiful rendition of Cricetomys gambianus by Willems van der Merwe, used with permission.

Sometimes, I pick up Volume II of Walker’s Mammals of the World, go to page 1400 or 1500 or thereabouts and look at all the obscure Old World rats and mice. You might have done the same thing. If you have, you might have been left with the same general feeling as me: of being [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Chet Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps

Front cover of Van Duzer's (2013) Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps.

One of the most spectacular and visually fascinating Tet Zoo-related books of recent-ish months is Chet Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps, published in 2013 by the British Library. I said a few words about this book back in June 2013, and here (at last) is the proper review I’ve been promising. Lavishly [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Short-snouted, suction-feeding ‘proto-ichthyosaur’ sheds light on fish-lizard beginnings

Mesozoic marine reptile 'super-clade' recovered by Motani et al. (2014) when they included aquatic adaptations in the data set. Image by Darren Naish.

Regular readers will know that I have a major interest in ichthyosaurs, the so-called fish-lizards of the Mesozoic (see links below). As you’ll know if you keep your finger on the pulse of Mesozoic reptile news, last week saw the publication of a really interesting new animal from the Lower Triassic: the Chinese ‘proto-ichthyosaur’ Cartorhynchus [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Terrestriality, high-walking and dimorphic snout crests: phytosaurs part II

Life-size model of the phytosaur Rutiodon at Dinosaur State Park, Connecticut. Image by Patrick Murphy, used with permission.

Time for more phytosaurs. The previous article is probably required reading. Phytosaurs are (so far as we can tell) members of the great diapsid reptile clade Archosauriformes. After all, they have an antorbital fenestra and various other characteristic bony features of this group. Within this clade, they’ve usually been regarded as members of Archosauria – [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Phytosaurs, (mostly) gharial-snouted reptiles of the Triassic, part I

Some representative phytosaur portraits. Top to bottom: Smilosuchus, xxxxx. Image by Darren Naish: available on merchandise at the Tet Zoo Redbubble shop!

As I hope I’ve said several or many times, there are many, many, many tetrapod groups that have never, ever received coverage on Tet Zoo. I know, it’s shocking. Today I’m extracting a section of text from a major in-progress book project. It’s on phytosaurs because they are among the neglected – readers with good [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Sandfishes and kin: of sand-swimming, placentation, and limb and digit reduction (skinks part III)

Captive Scincus scincus individuals - what neat and handsome animals they are. Images by HTO (at top) and Ltshears. Both images in public domain.

In recent articles I’ve made an effort to review the skinks of the world and today – it’s a momentous occasion – we see the last part of this series. I hope it’s clear that the Tet Zoo skink ‘review’ is very much a simple summary: it really doesn’t do justice to the full diversity [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Strange bedfellows

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

It’s a simple question – isn’t it?

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Reflections of a fourth year medical student

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Taking sides

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

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

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Talking shop: when doctors forget to fill in the blanks

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

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

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

But I remember you

You may not remember me, but when I asked how you were you said “Alive.” A few weeks earlier you were afraid of going under anesthesia and not waking up. They said you’d do great; that this was routine; that we’d see you again soon. Then you coded on the table. I’ve never met someone [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Watchful waiting

hospital room

“This is not normal for him.” A tearful mother pointed to her six-year-old son, lying in the hospital bed. Fevers had been intermittent. He was withdrawn, but not uncommunicative until a few minutes earlier. “My head hurts and my tummy hurts,” he had said before turning away from me and ignoring any further questions. “I [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

From classrooms to hospitals: when medicine doesn’t have all the answers

I’ll start with this: it’s great to be back. I’ve been on hiatus from blogging for the past few months because of the exam I took last week: the medical boards, or Step 1, an eight hour test that covers all of the first two years of medical school to prepare us for the hospital [...]

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