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Posts Tagged "History of Science"

Anecdotes from the Archive

From Patents to Poetry: A Breakdown of Scientific American‘s Very First Issue

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Earlier this month, Nature Publishing Group and Scientific American proudly launched the completion of Scientific American‘s archives, dating back to the first issue from August 28, 1845. As America’s longest-running consecutively published magazine, it’s no surprise the content of the publication underwent several changes since its debut. What appeared in 1845 shows a periodical aimed [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Anecdotes from the Archive: Taking On the Monocle Problem

Eyewear has always carried both positive and negative consequences for those who wear it either out of necessity or fashion. This article from March 11, 1911 gives a bit of background on one of the more prevalent eyewear options of the time, the monocle: "The ridicule which was cast upon the wearers of spectacles and [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Anecdotes from the Archive: Bed bugs are vintage, and vintage is in

According to the June 1924 issue, bed bugs weren’t always considered to be a pest worthy of professional extermination. It wasn’t until scientists warned the bugs were “dangerous” for having the potential to spread diseases such as typhoid fever and influenza that the little guys were able to produce feelings of fear and despair in [...]

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Context and Variation

Feedback Loops: The Biology and Culture of Premenstrual Experience

I think my umbilical hernia is getting bigger. I’ve had it since my pregnancy over five years ago, the result of diastasis, a situation where the abdominal muscles pull apart from the baby taking up so much darn room. I’ve consulted with a surgeon, and the hernia is tiny, not worth fixing until I’m done [...]

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Context and Variation

Diversity in Science Carnival: Identity Edition

I have a million thoughts swirling in my head after Science Online 2013, and a million more things I want to learn about and accomplish for Science Online 2014. I find reflection after these conferences a useful way to organize all those thoughts, and make an action plan for what I need to learn and [...]

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Context and Variation

There Will Be Blood: Follow Up to Skeptically Speaking Podcast

Keeper and Diva cups. And yes, I recommend you try them! Image by Greencolander.

  As many of you have already heard, I was a guest on Skeptically Speaking a few weeks ago, on the topic of why women menstruate. PZ Myers tackled the evolutionary perspective first, and then I got to answer audience questions and talk a little about my own research. Because I think it’s important for [...]

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Context and Variation

Sex, Gender and Controversy: Scicurious and Kate Clancy’s Science Online 2012 Session

Scicurious and I are leading the “Sex, gender and controversy: writing to educate, writing to titillate” session on Thursday (at 2:45pm, room 1cd) at Science Online 2012. Despite the fact that the discussion at #scio12 will only be an hour long, we managed to fill a two hour Skype conversation with our thoughts and ideas [...]

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Context and Variation

The three things I learned at the Purdue Conference for Pre-Tenure Women: on being a radical scholar

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The kiddo is asleep for the night. My husband and I sit on kitchen countertops, facing each other. “We should get back to work.” “Yeah.” We sit another moment, shoulders slumped, dark circles under our eyes. “I don’t know how I’m going to get all these grants done,” he says. “I don’t know how I’ll [...]

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Context and Variation

Menstruation is just blood and tissue you ended up not using

An image of the menotoxin flowers experiment. One vase of flowers is wilted while the other is not.

I love science, and I love the scientific method. I think that the scientific method is one of the most useful ways of knowing out there. I have devoted my life not only to the study of the science of human evolution and female reproductive physiology, but to increasing science appreciation and literacy in the [...]

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Doing Good Science

Careers (not just jobs) for Ph.D.s outside the academy.

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A week ago I was in Boston for the 2013 annual meeting of the History of Science Society. Immediately after the session in which I was a speaker, I attended a session (Sa31 in this program) called “Happiness beyond the Professoriate — Advising and Embracing Careers Outside the Academy.” The discussion there was specifically pitched [...]

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Doing Good Science

Building a scientific method around the ideal of objectivity.

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While modern science seems committed to the idea that seeking verifiable facts that are accessible to anyone is a good strategy for building a reliable picture of the world as it really is, historically, these two ideas have not always gone together. Peter Machamer describes a historical moment when these two senses of objectivity were [...]

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Doing Good Science

The challenges of objectivity: lessons from anatomy.

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In the last post, we talked about objectivity as a scientific ideal aimed at building a reliable picture of what the world is actually like. We also noted that this goal travels closely with the notion of objectivity as what anyone applying the appropriate methodology could see. But, as we saw, it takes a great [...]

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Doing Good Science

The ideal of objectivity.

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In trying to figure out what ethics ought to guide scientists in their activities, we’re really asking a question about what values scientists are committed to. Arguably, something that a scientist values may not be valued as much (if at all) by the average person in that scientist’s society. Objectivity is a value – perhaps [...]

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Doing Good Science

Ada Lovelace Day book review: Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Last year, I shared my reflections on Ada herself. This year, I’d like to celebrate the day by pointing you to a book about another pioneering woman of science, Maria Mitchell. Maria Mitchell and the Sexing of Science: An Astronomer among the American Romantics by Renée Bergland Boston: Beacon Press [...]

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Doing Good Science

Book review: The Radioactive Boy Scout.

When I and my three younger siblings were growing up, our parents had a habit of muttering, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” The muttering that followed that aphorism usually had to do with the danger coming from the “little” amount of knowledge rather than a more comprehensive understanding of whatever field of endeavor [...]

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Doing Good Science

Ada Lovelace and the Luddites.

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Today is Ada Lovelace Day. If you are not a regular reader of my other blog, you may not know that I am a tremendous Luddite. I prefer hand-drawn histograms and flowcharts to anything I can make with a graphics program. I prefer LPs to CDs. (What’s an LP? Ask your grandparents.) I find it [...]

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Guest Blog

Blood Lust: The Early History of Transfusion

Medea, the sensual and ravishing sorceress of Greek mythology, enters the royal chambers. Knife in hand, she commands the servants to bring her an old sheep. Plunging her knife into the animal, she bleeds it nearly dry and then casts the limp sheep into a bubbling cauldron.  Its feeble bleating is soon replaced by the [...]

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Guest Blog

What Bats, Bombs and Sharks Taught Us about Hearing [Video]

The most surprising part of this story was that they managed to record brainwave activity from the sharks. This tale is about one of the most fascinating figures in the history of neuroscience: Dr. Robert Galambos. This is his story. Right: Robert Galambos, MD, PhD  Source: The New York Times Decades ago, Dr. Galambos discovered [...]

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Guest Blog

Climate research in the geologic past

"Fire and Ice" Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice. Robert [...]

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Guest Blog

Words, pictures, and the visual display of scientific information: Getting back to the basics of information design

Data visualization. Infographics. Ooh, better yet, make that interactive infographics. The recent buzz around the visual display of information makes it seem like everyone should be rushing to whip up some multi-colored cartogram, bubble chart or word cloud. Never before have we had both the tools and the vast amounts of raw data to play [...]

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Guest Blog

The discovery of the ruins of ice: The birth of glacier research

"It has already been said, that no small part of the present work refers to the nature and phenomena of glaciers. It may be well, therefore, before proceeding to details, to explain a little the state of our present knowledge respecting these great ice-masses, which are objects of a kind to interest even those who [...]

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Guest Blog

The explosion of Iguanodon , part 3: Hypselospinus, Wadhurstia, Dakotadon, Proplanicoxa …. When will it all end?

Welcome to the third (and final) article in my little series on the dinosaur(s) once known as Iguanodon. As we’ve seen in the previous parts, Iguanodon of traditional usage – Iguanodon sensu lato – has recently been blasted into numerous separate genera. As we’ll see here, while some of these taxonomic changes are likely to [...]

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Guest Blog

The explosion of Iguanodon , part 2: Iguanodontians of the Hastings Group

Iguanodon of tradition (or Iguanodon sensu lato, if you will) was a huge, sprawling monster, containing numerous species spread across about 40 million years of geological history. Welcome to the second article in this series (part 1 here). In the previous article we looked at the Purbeck Limestone iguanodontian Owenodon – originally named as a [...]

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Guest Blog

The Iguanodon explosion: How scientists are rescuing the name of a “classic” ornithopod dinosaur, part 1

One of the most familiar and historically significant of dinosaur names is Iguanodon, named in 1825 for teeth and bones discovered in the Lower Cretaceous rocks of the Cuckfield region of East Sussex, southern England. Everyone who’s ever picked up a dinosaur book will be familiar with the legendary – yet mostly apocryphal – tale [...]

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Observations

A Presidential Pythagorean Proof

James Abram Garfield was born on this day, November 19, in 1831. Had an unstable, delusional stalker’s bullets and nineteenth-century medical “care” not cut short his life just six months into his presidency, he would be 181 today (more on that later). Garfield was an intelligent man who studied some math in college, but contemporary [...]

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Observations

“Wikithon” Honors Ada Lovelace and Other Women in Science

A Wikipedia edit-a-thon seems like a fitting tribute to the woman many consider to be the first computer programmer. October 16 is Ada Lovelace Day, an annual observation designed to raise awareness of the contributions of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Groups in the U.S., U.K., Sweden and India are marking [...]

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Observations

Which of the Basic Assumptions of Modern Physics are Wrong? Announcing the 4th Foundational Questions Institute Essay Contest

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There’s something unnerving about unifying physics. The two theories that need to be unified, quantum field theory and Einstein’s general theory of relativity, are both highly successful. Both make predictions good to as many decimal places as experimentalists can manage. Both are grounded in compelling principles. Both do have flaws — including an unfortunate tendency to [...]

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Observations

Circadian clock without DNA–History and the power of metaphor

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Last week, two intriguing and excellent articles appeared in the journal Nature, demonstrating that the transcription and translation of genes, or even the presence of DNA in the cell, are not necessary for the daily ("circadian") rhythms to occur (O’Neill & Reddy 2011, O’Neill et al., 2011). (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Helen’s Choice: Female Multiple Mating in the Natural World

“Helen would never have yielded herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the sons of Achaeans would come after her and bring her back. Heaven put it in her heart to do wrong, and she gave no thought to that sin, which has been the source of all our [...]

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The Primate Diaries

We Contain Multitudes: Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin, and the Song of Empathy

"Speech" by Nathaniel Gold

In the struggle for existence how do we herald the better angels of our nature? Author’s Note: On Tuesday I will be traveling to Manchester, England for the International Conference for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine where I’ll be giving my talk entitled “A Historical Epistemology of Empathy from Darwin to De Waal.” [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Macaque and Dagger in the Simian Space Race

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Why does the U.S. suspect Iran of faking their monkey space flight? Because we did it first. It was a blistering hot summer, as it usually is in that part of the world. The monkey’s arms and legs were tightly strapped to a metal chair as the forlorn creature was pushed into the narrow confines [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Ayn Rand on Human Nature

"Rand" by Nathaniel Gold

“Every political philosophy has to begin with a theory of human nature,” wrote Harvard evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin in his book Biology as Ideology. Thomas Hobbes, for example, believed that humans in a “state of nature,” or what today we would call hunter-gatherer societies, lived a life that was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The Good Fight

"Debate" by Nathaniel Gold

Prominent scientists are in a bitter struggle over the origins of kindness. But the root of this conflict may be the most ironic part of all. What would it take for you to give your life to save another? The answer of course is two siblings or eight cousins, that is, if you’re thinking like [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The Better Bonobos of Our Nature

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In contrast to “killer-apes,” the latest evidence suggests our peaceful primate cousins may be a better model for human origins. Author’s note: A new study published in the journal Nature has sequenced the genome of bonobos and compared them to chimpanzees as well as humans finding some surprising results. The following is an article I [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The Failed Synthesis: Eduard Kolchinsky on the Dangers of Mixing Science and Politics

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Science is social, but when political ideology takes precedence over experimental evidence the results can be fatal. The United States is in the midst of a partisan political battle over science. Whether the issue is evolution, global warming, stem cell research, or HPV vaccines, conservative politicians either disregard the evidence that would undermine their position [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Women and Children First

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For decades the science of child-rearing was guided by patriarchal ideas, but now the cradle rocks to an older rhythm. The infants had been arranged into neat rows, swaddled in aseptic white cloth the way precision instruments would be secured for shipping. Masked, hooded and gloved nurses cautiously moved down the aisle to record vital [...]

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The Primate Diaries

The Uses of the Past: Why Science Writers Should Care About the History of Science – And Why Scientists Should Too

"The Anatomy Lesson of Homo sylvestris" by Nathaniel Gold

Whether we are exploring our family genealogy or the genetic tree of our primate ancestors, all of us have a common yearning to know from whence we came. Origin stories captivate our imagination and offer a narrative structure for better understanding where we are today. The reality is that a knowledge of the history of [...]

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The Primate Diaries

Scientific Ethics and Stalin’s Ape-Man Superwarriors

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Author’s Note: The following originally appeared at archy. The anti-Darwin industry among fundamentalist Christians has produced thousands of pages of misinformation in their attempt to tar and feather the theory of evolution. I have responded to many of these false claims previously. However, one assertion that is especially outlandish is that the Soviet dictator Joseph [...]

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Roots of Unity

Felix Klein on Mathematical Progress

I just finished reading a set of lectures the great mathematician Felix Klein delivered at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The lectures are now in the public domain, and you can download them for free here. (Unfortunately, not all the mathematical notation survived digitization, so a good amount of creative interpretation—also known as [...]

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Roots of Unity

Lord Kelvin and the Age of the Earth

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin. Image: Smithsonian Libraries, via Wikimedia Commons. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

Today is the 189th anniversary of the birth of William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin. I don’t usually make a big deal about 189th birthdays, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Lord Kelvin recently. Yesterday I came across this quote of his on Pat Ballew’s blog, which reminded me that it’s his birthday: [...]

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Symbiartic

ScienceArt on View in March/April 2014

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A fresh batch of exhibits combining science and art are going up around the country, plus, there’s still time to catch some of the longer running exhibits that go through the middle of 2014. From John J. Audubon to dark matter to hybrid bodies created with modern transplant technology, there’s something in here for everyone. [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt on the Scene in Nov/Dec. 2013

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Ahhh, fall. Time to look for more indoor activities. And aren’t you lucky? Here’s a list of sciart exhibits that will warm your heart while you warm your toes. EXHIBITS: NORTHEAST REGION CLIMATE CHANGE IN OUR WORLD: Photographs by Gary Braasch October 16, 2013 – July 6, 2014 Museum of Science 1 Science Park Boston, [...]

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Symbiartic

What Did You Miss?

Last month, we posted a wide variety of science-art here at Symbiartic. We thought it’d be nice to post an overview in case you missed or wanted to revisit any. Enjoy!

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: Hyperdimensional Suffering

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As our month of SciArt of the Day winds down, I had to share this image. For me, this is a touchstone of what makes wonderful science-art: marrying metaphors from past and present, science and myth. The idea that art and science represent two cultures, as C.P. Snow described is a curious one. Art, or [...]

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Symbiartic

Windows on Evolution – can you outdo “March of Progress” imagery?

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  Charles Darwin’s grand discovery of evolution by natural selection (oh and hey – what’s up, Wallace!) has been with us for over 150 years and transformed medicine, society and any number of scientific disciplines. Paleoart and nature illustration are thriving, lively fields. So why are we still stuck with the Ascent of Man, March [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: The Seizure

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The great Symbolist draughtsman Max Klinger created this image as one of ten in a narrative series of etchings called, Paraphrase on the Discovery of a Glove, which follows the dreamy travels of a single lost glove. This second-last panel, The Seizure is remarkable in a couple of ways. Symbolists, like their artistic descendants the [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt Plugs 5: Lectures, Exhibits, News and more

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New this week: a New York City gallery is featuring three-dimensional topographic maps designed by cartographer Jeffrey Ambroziak; science artist Lynn Fellman hosts an open studio in Minneapolis; the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators Greater New York Chapter’s member show closes; and ScienceOnline2012 nears registration time (Nov. 1st!) SCIART LECTURES/EVENTS **NEW** Artists’ Studio Open House: [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt Plugs 4: Lectures, Exhibits, News and more

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This week, we’re adding a new science art exhibit in the UK inspired by the saline destruction of the Murray Darling basin in Australia and the bleaching of coral reefs as a result of sugarcane harvesting and another featuring work from the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators in Ontario. Don’t miss out! SCIART LECTURES/EVENTS [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt Plugs 3: Lectures, Exhibits, News and More

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This week, a new science art exhibit and a call for entries. Also, just six days left to submit a video in support of the James Webb Telescope. Get on it! SCIART LECTURES/EVENTS SONSI’s 2011 Presentation Day (Toronto, ON) October 16, 2011; 12-5pm | An afternoon of illustration-related presentations by members of the Southern Ontario [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt Plugs 2: Lectures, Exhibits, News and More

This week, there are several new exhibits to note, as well as a monthly discussion forum on science and art in DC. Also, don’t miss the calls for entries in two new exhibit opportunities – one pays in cash, the other, glory! SCIART LECTURES/EVENTS SONSI’s 2011 Presentation Day (Toronto, ON) October 16, 2011; 12-5pm | [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Diversifiers of the world – Unite!

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On my computer screen right now are two molecules. They are both large rings with about thirty atoms each, a motley mix of carbons, hydrogens, oxygens and nitrogens. In addition they have appendages of three or four atoms dangling off their periphery. The appendage in one of the rings has two more carbon atoms than [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Are We Entering a Golden Era of Private Science Funding?

Paul Allen is just one example of billionaires who are productively funding cutting-edge and important science (Image: Forbes)

Last week, the BICEP2 experiment dropped a bombshell in the physics world by announcing potential evidence for gravitational waves from inflation as well as support for the quantization of gravity. The news was all over the place. What was less appreciated was the fact that BICEP2 was prominently funded by the Keck Foundation and the [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Surprises in physics: From black bodies to the accelerating universe

Max Planck's revolutionary that energy in the subatomic world exists as discrete packets marked the beginning of a century of spectacular surprises in physics (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

Surprises rank high on the list of things that make science a source of everlasting delight. When it comes to being surprised scientists are no different from the general public. Just like children on their birthdays being surprised by unexpected gifts, scientists revel in the surprises that nature whips up in front of them. Surprises [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

On making mistakes

In postulating an incorrect structure for DNA, Linus Pauling surprisingly committed an elementary chemical blunder (Image: pauling blog)

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Freeman Dyson has a nice review of Mario Livio’s readable book on scientific blunders committed by great scientists. The book is important reading for anyone who wants to understand the true history of science as a process of fits, starts, blind alleys, occasional great [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Are physicists individualists or collectivists?

Richard Feynman was probably one of the very few true individualists in the history of physics (Image: Telegraph)

Ricardo Heras has a well-written and thought provoking essay in Physics Today in which he asks whether physicists should be individualists or collectivists. He draws from the history of science and largely concludes that individualism is necessary for bold, creative ideas. In response Chad Orzel points out that many of the individualistic physicists that Ricardo [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Chasing the trajectory of science, both Big and Small: A panel discussion

Here is the link to the YouTube video of my panel discussion with Steven Weinberg, Sara Seager and Neil Turok. I was very pleased to have a productive conversation about the future of science with such sparkling and provocative thinkers. I was also gratified to be able to bring a biology perspective to a discussion [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Who’s the greatest American physicist in history?

A photo of an impish Richard Feynman playing the bongos appears in Ray Monk’s biography of Oppenheimer. It is accompanied by the caption “Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger’s main rival for the title of greatest American physicist in history”. That got me thinking; who is the greatest American physicist in history? What would your choice be? [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Advice on running a world-class lab

One of this year’s Nobel laureates in physics, Serge Haroche, has a few words of wisdom for fostering a good research environment. Our experiments could only have succeeded with the reliable financial support provided by the institutions that govern our laboratory, supplemented by international agencies inside and outside Europe. European mobility programs also opened our [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

R. B. Woodward, general problems and the importance of timely birth

On his blog “In the Pipeline“, Derek Lowe has a contemplative post on the conditions necessary for seeing titans in particular fields, and whether these conditions can be replicated again. Building on examples from organic synthesis, music and art, he makes the case that every field has its heyday and you can never make the [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Theories, models and the future of science

Last year’s Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess for their discovery of an accelerating universe, a finding leading to the startling postulate that 75% of our universe contains a hitherto unknown entity called dark energy. This is an important discovery which is predated by brilliant minds and an exciting [...]

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