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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Zeppelin Earns a Fearsome Reputation, 1915

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

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

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Magnets of Mercy Treat War Injuries, 1915

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

The Big Guns, 1915

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

American Fear, 1915

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Airborne Scouts, 1915

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Air Defenses Against Zeppelins, 1915

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Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 13, 1915 German Zeppelins (airships with rigid frames) bombed Liège, Belgium, on August 6, 1914, only a few days after the Great War broke out. Over the next few weeks, Zeppelins carried out raids throughout Europe on military and civilian targets. The actual damage [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Deception and Camouflage at Sea and on Land, 1915

German commerce-raider SMS “Emden” added a fourth, dummy, funnel to look more like a British ship. The ruse worked well. Image: Scientific American, February 6, 1915

Reported in Scientific American, This Week in World War I: February 6, 1915 The archetypical historical scene from World War I involves straight-ahead charges of huge numbers of soldiers against masses of artillery and machine guns. But those fighting the war also needed to be adept at the art and craft of subtlety, feint and [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

X-Rays at War, 1915

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

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

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Fortress of Water Defends Belgium, 1915

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Can anthropology defeat self-deception to build better apps?

7 Krystal D Costa  Liar  liar pants on fire    YouTube

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Is email one of the last private spaces online?

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

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

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

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

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Is there joy in missing out?

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Whose time are we celebrating for the New Year?

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Our public affair with food porn

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

The Obligation of Gifts

Photo by KDCosta, 2013.

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Santa Traditions Around the World

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

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

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Anthropology in Practice

Thanksgiving Tidbits

Photo by Satya Murthy, Creative Commons.

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Ferns Get It On After 60 Million Years Apart

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Ahoy! Thar Be a New Seadragon in the Briny Deep

Leafy_Seadragon

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

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The Artful Amoeba

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

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Tiny Cell Grows Giant Death Spike and Lives to Grow Another

sponge_spicule_cell_fig1f_Imsiecke_et_al_1995_200

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

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The Artful Amoeba

What on Earth Made These Perfect Fossil Rings?

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Lowly Sponges Conceal Astounding Architecture

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

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The Artful Amoeba

For These Plants, No Victim Is Too Small

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

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The Artful Amoeba

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

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

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The Artful Amoeba

Ocean Giants: How Big Are They Really?

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

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The Artful Amoeba

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

snailfish_youtube_200

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

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@ScientificAmerican

Hangout with Kit Parker: Engineering the Body

Kit Parker of Harvard holds up nanofibers.

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

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@ScientificAmerican

The Science of Learning and Trying

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

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@ScientificAmerican

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

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

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

Kid Scientists Make Real Fossil Finds at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Kids searching for fossils using SharkFinder kits at Scientific American's booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Kids searching for fossils using SharkFinder kits at Scientific American’s booth at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Credit: Jason Osborne Jason Osborne was trying to grab a quick lunch away from the crowds when his wife called his cellphone. “Jason, you’ve got to come see this boy at the booth. He’s amazing!” When Osborne, [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Astrophysics, Citizen Science and the Google Science Fair

Chris Lintott, astrophysicist of Oxford University and founder of The Zooniverse. Credit: YouTube

Find out why Oxford University astrophysicist and founder of The Zooniverse Chris Lintott believes that humanity’s ability to be “deliciously distractable” is a creative engine powering the benefits of citizen science for discovery–and how, if you are a researcher, you might like to “play with your phyiscs.” With Google Student Ambassador Hanne Paine, we had [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Google Science Fair Hangout On-Air: Meet the Deep-Sea-Diving Exosuit

Vincent Pieribone, John Sparks, Exosuit and Mariette DiChristina. Credit: YouTube

Scientists studying marine life now have a new tool in a next-generation atmospheric diving system called the Exosuit. The suit–which looks like something an astronaut would wear and is on display at the American Museum of Natural History until March 5–lets a diver descend to 1,000 feet at surface pressure for several hours. As part [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Scientific American Science in Action in Swaziland

Sakhiwe Shongwe (left center, in green sweater), Bonkhe Mahlalela (right center, in green sweater) and local farmers in Swaziland.

We judges and others who work on the Google Science Fair believe that kids have the power to change the world. The $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award recognizes a particular type of change—one that focuses on making a practical difference by addressing an environmental, health or resources challenge. (For more on the award [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined Is Out in Paperback!

index

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

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Beautiful Minds

Imaginary worlds and creativity with Michele Root-Bernstein

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

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Beautiful Minds

The Creative Life and Well-Being

iStock_000017095249Small_610_300_s_c1_center_center

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

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Beautiful Minds

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

economist-human_potential-day_2-WEB-094

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

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Beautiful Minds

Is an Optimistic Mind Associated with a Healthy Heart?

iStock_000037763364Small

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

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Beautiful Minds

How to change your habits with Dr. Art Markman

Markman, Art 2011

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

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Beautiful Minds

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

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

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Beautiful Minds

Modern rudeness in Stone Age minds with Amy Alkon

Reasontv-AmyAlkonOnBeatingSomeMannersIntoImpoliteSociety803

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

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Beautiful Minds

“What is it like to be a psychopath?”

Kent Kiehl

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

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Beautiful Minds

Todd Kashdan on dancing with the dark side of your personality

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

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Budding Scientist

Teens Engineer a Way to Help Swazi Farmers

SA Science in Action winners

Two teenagers from the southern African country of Swaziland have won Scientific American’s inaugural Science in Action award, part of the Google Science Fair. The prize is awarded to a project that addresses a social, environmental or health issue to make a practical difference in the lives of a group or community. This year’s winners [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: March 28, 2015

Credit: Ben Shields et al./University of Adelaide

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

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: March 21, 2015

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

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

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Cocktail Party Physics

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

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

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

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review (Pi Day Edition): March 14, 2015

Planet – bottom of a glass containing half and half, water, food coloring. Stars – salt, cinnamon, baking powder. Credit: Navid Baraty, http://www.navidbaraty.com

Today we celebrate the Pi Day of the Century: March 14, 2015, is the first five digits of pi, or 3.1415.  It’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday, so Sean Carroll reminded us how they are intimately connected; yes, Pi has something to do with gravity. So did Rhett Allain over at Dot Physics: Why is Pi [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: March 7, 2015

Credit: EPFL

Brrr! Winter still has much of the country in its iron grip. While you’re waiting for spring to make its presence known, perhaps you’d like to try your hand at photographing Snowflakes in Freefall.  A team of researchers at the University of Utah have developed a Multi-Angle Snowflake Camera to do just that. Related: here [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

The Physics of Diving Gannets, Bird Navigation, and Speedy Tiger Beetles

Photo courtesy of Lorian Straker (Smithsonian) and Sunny Jung

Jen-Luc Piquant was at the APS March Meeting in San Antonio, Texas this week, a longtime favorite conference, and often touted as the largest physics conference of the year, covering a diverse range of topics: biophysics, fluid mechanics, materials (exotic or otherwise), complex systems, quantum mechanics — it’s a treasure trove of cool cutting-edge physics. [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: February 28, 2015

Meteorite clasts imaged in different colors. Image: AMNH/YouTube.

Science fared pretty well at this year’s Academy Awards. Case in point: Here’s Best Actor Eddie Redmayne on Portraying Stephen Hawking. The Alan Turing biopic, The Imitation Game, also received multiple nominatians, and the mathematician who wrote the book on Turing told journalist Christopher Mims that The Imitation Game is a fitting tribute to the [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review: February 21, 2015

Iconic image from Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" album (1979), based on pulsar data.

Winter is in full force in the Northeast, so naturally science has some insights to share for those caught in the snowdrifts. For example: Don’t Jump Out of a Window Into Snow: But If You Do… it’s best to understand the physics of a snow jump. Related: Winter Thermodynamics: the science of Foggy Glasses. Mysterious [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Physics Week in Review (Valentine’s Edition): February 14, 2015

Credit: Marcus DeSieno, http://marcusdesieno.com

Today is Valentine’s Day. In love? Or just the opposite? Express how you feel with physics-inspired Valentines—and anti-Valentines for those who perhaps aren’t huge fans of the holiday. Or check out these science-y valentines for geeks in love.  Related: The stats of Sex & Love: Mathematician’s formulae for how to pull abd who to marry. [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

What Does It Take to Change a Mind? A Phase Transition [UPDATED]

Credit: Zach Weiner/Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2865

This week’s Virtually Speaking Science episode featured yours truly in conversation with Laurie Paul, a philosopher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, and author of a new book, Transformative Experience. We chatted about so-called transformative experiences, empathy, identity and the fluid nature of the self, and whether having a child [...]

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Compound Eye

Google’s Reverse Image Search

Earlier this summer Google quietly embedded a powerful new tool in their image works: the reverse search. The concept is simple. Drag an image into the search bar (as above), and Google will return locations where the same image appears on the web. If you’ve not used the reverse search, try it out! This technology, [...]

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Cross-Check

Don’t Believe Scare Stories about Cyber War

graphic of soldier imposed on computer chip

For years, a friend I’ll call Chip, knowing my obsession with war, has been telling me: "Cyber War! That’s what you should be writing about! Real war is passé!" Chip keeps sending me stories about all the damage digital attacks do—or rather, might do, because as far as I can tell cyber war hasn’t claimed [...]

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Dark Star Diaries

Hunting Black Holes at the South Pole

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

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

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Dark Star Diaries

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

Owens Valley interferometer

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

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Dark Star Diaries

The Black Hole in Interstellar Looks Amazingly Realistic

SgrA_bestfit (1)

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

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Dark Star Diaries

Giving ALMA a Heart Transplant

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

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

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Dark Star Diaries

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

The Large Millimeter Telescope in the Mexican state of Puebla

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

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Dark Star Diaries

Cloud Bound for Milky Way’s Black Hole Puzzles Astronomers

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

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

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Dark Star Diaries

How to Build an Earth-Size Telescope

The full Event Horizon Telescope array

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

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Dark Star Diaries

How to See a Black Hole: Introducing Dark Star Diaries

Sagittarius A*

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

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Dog Spies

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

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

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Dog Spies

Three Reasons Not to Leave a Dead Body on the Carpet

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

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Dog Spies

Dog of the Dead: The Science of Canine Cadaver Detection

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

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Dog Spies

This Month, Step Inside the Dog’s Nose

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

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Dog Spies

Do Spayed and Neutered Dogs Get Cancer More Often?

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

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Dog Spies

Why Some Dogs Hate Snow

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

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Dog Spies

Why Do Dogs Love Snow?

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

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Dog Spies

Why Do People Sometimes Give Up Their Dogs?

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

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Dog Spies

Do Dog Athletes Get Dog Injuries?

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

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Dog Spies

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

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

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Extinction Countdown

Can Google’s page-rank algorithm help save endangered species and ecosystems?

Google HP on Earth Day 2008

When users seek information from Google, the search engine relies on a proprietary algorithm called PageRank™ to determine the order of the sites that show up in search results. Now, two researchers say a similar algorithm can be used to determine which species are critical to the preservation of ecosystems, allowing scientists to focus conservation [...]

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Food Matters

GMOs are Still the Best Bet for Feeding the World.

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

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

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Food Matters

Growing a Baby Microbiome

Figure-1

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

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Food Matters

New Issue of the Journal Cell is All About Food

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

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

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Food Matters

Political Climates: Drought and Conflict in Syria

PoliticalClimate

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

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Food Matters

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

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

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Food Matters

February Link Dump

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

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Food Matters

How to Study a Complex Microbial World – Part 3: Genes to Genomes

The 16S profile of human skin [Image from Wikimedia Commons]

In part 1 of this series, I talked about what DNA sequencing is, and why it’s an important tool. In part 2, I explained some of the technologies that scientists are currently using to actually “read” the letters of DNA sequences from organisms. In this final piece, I’ll explain how we go from reads of [...]

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Food Matters

Confessions of a Nanny-State Food Cop: The Truth about Public Health

The All-Seeing-Apple

I’m not really sure when I first started hating freedom. Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved controlling people, interfering with their lives, and keeping them from having any fun. That’s why I went into public health. For years, people like Michelle Malkin and Richard Berman have been warning you about the meddlesome food police—determined [...]

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Food Matters

How to Study a Complex Microbial World – Part 2: Next Generation Sequencing Technology

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In Part 1 of this series, I described a bit about why sequencing the DNA of microbes is a useful way to study them An individual microbe is like a single book in a vast library. Over the last 100 years, we’ve learned to read and interpret, at least to some extent, the language of [...]

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Food Matters

Antioxidant Supplements: Too Much of a Kinda Good Thing

Emergen-C

There appears to be a continued public misconception (encouraged by the supplement industry) that free radicals are bad, and that antioxidants are good. Of course, like most phenomena affecting our health, it’s not that simple. Free radicals are molecules or atoms containing an unpaired electron. Unpaired electrons are attention seekers. They really don’t like being [...]

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Frontiers for Young Minds

Not Your Grandma’s Science Competition – Part 3

GSF Student Competitors

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

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Guest Blog

The Quest for Better Broccoli Starts with More Science

Image: Puamelia/Flickr

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

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Guest Blog

Cord-Blood Research Sits Poised for Therapeutic Discovery

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

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

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Guest Blog

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

Pi 1

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

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Guest Blog

How Identity Evolves in the Age of Genetic Imperialism

Image: Wildpixel/iStock/Thinkstock

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

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Guest Blog

Beyond Resveratrol: The Anti-Aging NAD Fad

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

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

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Guest Blog

Birdwatchers, Hunters Train Their Scopes on Conservation

A group of men stand birdwatching. (Ryan Hagerty/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia)

Sparked by Richard Louv’s book on Nature-Deficit Disorder, many organizations, agencies, teachers and the White House have made the push to get people outside for the benefit of their mental and physical health. Now there is another reason: to benefit environmental health. In a new study my colleagues and I show that outdoor recreationists—in this [...]

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Guest Blog

How Designers Can Improve Health Care for Everyone

Designers craft experiences that function with humans, not in spite of them.

The last place anyone expects to find a designer is in a hospital, clinic or operating room, but those are exactly the spaces where I embed myself. My first step toward this world occurred when I made fourteen paintings of microorganisms that explored the relationship between human development and disease. I was a sophomore at [...]

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Guest Blog

Effective Communication, Better Science

science communication

Science communication is part of a scientist’s everyday life. Scientists must give talks, write papers and proposals, communicate with a variety of audiences, and educate others. Thus to be successful, regardless of field or career path, scientists must learn how to communicate. Moreover, scientists must learn how to communicate effectively. In other words, to be [...]

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Guest Blog

Project Superhero: Using Pop Culture to Inspire Kids’ Interest in Science

Jesse as Batgirl. (Illustration: Kris Pearn)

In my pop-sci writing, mainly here, at Psychology Today, and in the books Becoming Batman and Inventing Iron Man, I use superheroes as foils for communicating science. I have encouraged other scientists to pursue similar approaches in articles such as “From Claude Bernard to the Batcave and Beyond: Using Batman as a hook for physiology [...]

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Guest Blog

Why Can’t Gravity Believers and Skeptics Get Along?

Credit: The Mad LOLscientist/Flickr (Original photo by Richard Peters)

Multiple media outlets around the world covered a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change.* This study sought to explain why “believers” in climate change cannot get along with “skeptics” and how “believers” can argue the matter better to convince “skeptics.” Seems like a fascinating dive into the sociology of science, until [...]

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Illusion Chasers

Blind Justice: Biasing Moral Choices With Eye Tracking

From Wikimedia Commons

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

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Illusion Chasers

Brain Awareness Week in NYC

braiNY SFN

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

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Illusion Chasers

The Unforeseen Joys of Encapsulating The Present

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

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

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Illusion Chasers

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

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

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Illusion Chasers

Why Julianne Moore and Taylor Swift See That Dress Differently

RBG Wired image

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

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Illusion Chasers

Why Romantic Illusions Are a Good Thing

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

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Illusion Chasers

Obsession at the Rubin Museum

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

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Illusion Chasers

The Neuroscience of Lucid Dreams

Dreaming of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lucid dreams are perhaps the most bizarre perceptual experience one can have. You are asleep and dreaming, but suddenly you realize that it’s all just a dream. At that point, you can choose to wake up or you can continue to dream on, with one important advantage. You’re now aware that the world around you is completely made up by your brain.

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Illusion Chasers

A New Reverspective

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

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Illusion Chasers

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

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

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Image of the Week

Join the #SciArt Tweetstorm!

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

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Image of the Week

A Farewell to Formalin-Soaked Frogs?

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

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Image of the Week

Fresh Start for an Extinct Cat?

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

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Image of the Week

A Modest Mussel Is Making Waves

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

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Image of the Week

Team SciTweeps in Lego-Form

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

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Image of the Week

Painting Across Astronomical Units

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

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Image of the Week

Panic Viruses

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

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Image of the Week

Kids Coding With Compassion

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

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Image of the Week

Underground Beauty

MarjorieLeggittSquare

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

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Image of the Week

A Genome is Not a Blueprint

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

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Life, Unbounded

The March 11 Solar Flare

Gulp (NASA/SDO)

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

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Life, Unbounded

The Grand Texture of Planets

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

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Life, Unbounded

Have we got Solar System Habitability Backwards?

(NASA)

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

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Life, Unbounded

A Blizzard of Astrobiology

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

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

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Life, Unbounded

Tricksy Mars may be Obscuring Signs of Organic Matter

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

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

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Life, Unbounded

Titan Loses its Speckles

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

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

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Life, Unbounded

Is AI Dangerous? That Depends…

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

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Life, Unbounded

Jupiter’s Moons Ascending

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Some natural phenomena need few words to explain why they’re fascinating. Eclipses, transits, and phases in astronomy tend to fall into that category. Here’s a stunning sequence of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 showing the triple conjunction and transit of the large Jovian moons Europa, Callisto, and Io over [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Has An Exomoon Been Found?

A ringed world (Credit: Ron Miller)

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

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Life, Unbounded

Notes From The Frontier: Life’s Origins

(Credit: Wikipedia/Swollib)

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

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MIND Guest Blog

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

Credit: Luis Sarabia/Flickr

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

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MIND Guest Blog

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

Romantic pet names

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Using Light to Monitor and Activate Specific Brain Cells

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Calling It Sex When They Mean Love

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

How Our Brains Process Books

Reading. (Credit: Paul Bence/Flickr)

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

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MIND Guest Blog

Concussion Culture: How to Protect Young Athletes

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

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

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MIND Guest Blog

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

A Prescription for Psychiatry, book cover.

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

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MIND Guest Blog

To Feel Meaningful Is to Feel Immortal

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

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

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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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Not bad science

An Optical Illusion As Seen By a Fish

The Ebbinghaus Illusion

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

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Not bad science

Peacocks Produce Sounds We Can’t Hear

peacock

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

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Not bad science

Can Pigs Empathize?

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

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

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Not bad science

What Makes Bowerbirds Such Good Artists?

The Great Bowerbird, Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis

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

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Not bad science

Why Do Rock Sparrows Decorate Their Nests?

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

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Not bad science

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

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

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Not bad science

Nevada Celebrates Pollinator Week

NPW12

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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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

Google’s Cars Sniff Out Natural Gas Leaks to Deliver Cleaner Air

google-street-view-car

Of all the things to be leaking methane on Staten Island in New York City—corroded gas pipes, sewers, the Fresh Kills dump—who would have suspected the mail truck? But as I circled a Staten Island neighborhood in a specially equipped Google car, it was a parked mail truck that proved to be sending the biggest [...]

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Observations

Google Gives the Internet Amnesia in Europe

Logo of the Court of Justice of the European Union courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

One of the Internet’s greatest assets is also perhaps its biggest curse—it never forgets. Except in the European Union, where a court last month ruled that people have the right to have certain sensitive information about themselves deleted from Google search results. (pdf) As of Tuesday morning, the region’s most popular search engine has received [...]

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Observations

Why Big Data Isn’t Necessarily Better Data

Google,flu,big data

Tech companies—Facebook, Google and IBM, to name a few—are quick to tout the world-changing powers of “big data” gleaned from mobile devices, Web searches, citizen science projects and sensor networks. Never before has so much data been available covering so many areas of interest, whether it’s online shopping trends or cancer research. Still, some scientists [...]

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Observations

Search the Web, Plant a Tree—Every Minute

search panel

Google, Yahoo and other search engines make gobs of money from advertisers who pay to have ads pop up when you look for a term. A few more socially minded search engines like Goodsearch and Everyclick donate a few cents to charity when you seek or shop. But one site begun in 2009, Ecosia, donates [...]

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Observations

G+ Hangout at Noon: Zombie Tits, Ungifted and Animal Wise Authors Win Scientific American’s Summer Reading Poll

Join our G+ Hangout On Air at noon today (Friday, July 26) with the three winning authors, here: G+ Hangout on Air with Virginia Morell, Rebecca Crew and Scott Barry Kaufman, hosted by SA blogger Joanne Manaster The votes are in for Scientific American’s poll in which we asked readers to choose their favorite authors [...]

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Observations

Zombies Invade Google Campus

She looked perfectly normal. But what was she doing roaming around at night on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif? She’d been drawn out of her home, following the light, and now was taking mincing steps across a white bed sheet. Had she just taken “the flight of the living dead”? Was she actually [...]

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Observations

Little-Used Voice Assistants Are the Future of Smart Phones

With the imminent arrival of Google‘s latest Android operating system later this month, Apple’s iOS upgrades this fall and Microsoft’s relentless push to make Windows relevant to mobile devices, a lot of people are talking about smartphones and tablets. The next few months will also likely see an increasing number of people talking to these [...]

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Observations

Planetary Resources’ Crazy Plan to Mine an Asteroid May Not Be So Crazy

Vesta, asteroid, Dawn, space

In a widely anticipated announcement today, the new company Planetary Resources revealed their plans for near-Earth asteroid domination. The group has mapped out a multi-stage process to map, observe, capture, tow and eventually mine asteroids for valuables. “A single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the platinum group metals mined in history,” reads [...]

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Observations

Do You Know What Happens to Your Cellphone When You’re Done with It?

DURBAN, South Africa—I rented a cellphone during my sojourn here to cover the recent climate change negotiations. A local number enabled me to keep in touch with home and office but also, perhaps more importantly, to make appointments on the fly with ever harried international negotiators. The Nokia 2330—which was dubbed, affectionately, my “hellphone” by [...]

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Plugged In

Toronto Rolls with the Grid

My colleague Melissa Lott presciently today in this very space recalled the enormous India blackouts of 2012 and discussed new algorithms for addressing similar events in the future. Cue thunder, offstage: Toronto got almost 5 inches of rain on the night of July 8, washing out its downtown to an unprecedented scale. And naturally, after [...]

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PsySociety

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

MMHeart

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

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PsySociety

The Making of a Tough Mudder.

Tough_Mudder_Gudkov_Facebook0002

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

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PsySociety

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

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

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PsySociety

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

1 DOGE

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

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PsySociety

The Best PsycHoliday Stocking Stuffer!

Our gratitude holders.

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

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PsySociety

How To Craft An Empirically-Supported Marriage

Wedding Reading

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

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PsySociety

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

x_men_logo

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

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PsySociety

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

Diet fork with tape measure

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

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PsySociety

“What else can you expect from a crappo?”

Man got an amazing idea

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

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PsySociety

Mind The Gap: Overestimating Income Inequality

MoneyCash

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

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Roots of Unity

The Cantor Function: Angel or Devil?

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

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

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Roots of Unity

A Few of My Favorite Spaces: The Cantor Set

200px-Cantor4.svg

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

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Roots of Unity

What’s so Great about Continued Fractions?

The continued fraction expansion for the number pi.

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

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Roots of Unity

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

zoidbergthumb2

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

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Roots of Unity

Uber, but for Topological Spaces

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

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

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Roots of Unity

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

cover-us

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

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Roots of Unity

Gauss and Germain on Pleasure and Passion

Portrait_Sophie_Germain

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

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Roots of Unity

The Media and the Genius Myth

Not many of us can be Serena Williams. Does that keep us from playing tennis? Image: Yann Caradec, via Flickr.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the genius myth, the notion that in order to be a successful in certain disciplines, you need to have a special innate talent that can’t be learned. Last month, a study in Science found that fields whose practitioners buy into the genius myth, say, mathematics, have lower proportions of [...]

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Roots of Unity

Understand the Measles Outbreak with this One Weird Number

A man sneezes, possibly transmitting measles or other airborne diseases. Image: James Gathany, CDC.

15. That’s all you need to know about the measles. OK, that’s not true at all. There’s no one weird trick that will give you a flat belly (besides lying face-down on something flat), and there’s no one weird number that explains measles epidemiology. But the basic reproduction number, or R0, of a disease does [...]

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Roots of Unity

Learn to Count like an Egyptian

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

A Perfect Book for Hooking Kids on Rocks

Image shows the cover of Everybody Needs a Rock.

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

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

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

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

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Rosetta Stones

Women in Geoblogging I: Maps, Science Education, and Geology in Space

Image shows a cat sitting at a computer table, looking excited. Caption says, "Really? Yay!"

Yesterday, I gave you a ginormous list of women geobloggers. Let us now explore their blogs. Settle in for some terrific geoscience, my darlings! A Cartographer’s Toolkit by Gretchen Peterson Maps are essential to doing geology. Gretchen Peterson shows you the elements of these critical tools, introducing you to all sorts of intriguing techniques. Cartography [...]

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Rosetta Stones

Women of the Geoblogosphere: Follow Them! For They Are Awesome

Image shows a gray kitten with a white face sitting on a computer. Caption says "I'm in ur blog makin ur rss"

This is a very neat week, because it is the week between National Science Day and International Women’s Day. We’ll be celebrating women in science all week, culminating in a brand-new Pioneering Women in the Geosciences post. Super! I figured now would be the perfect time to start a list of women currently active in [...]

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Rosetta Stones

The Pinnacle of Evil Volcano Lairs – At Least in This Solar System

Image is a photo of Olympus Mons from space. It is huge.

A while back, we had a meme traveling around the geoblogosphere regarding evil volcano lairs. Many geologists came up with excellent lairs, as you shall see. But I decided we needed to think big as well as think evil. I also decided that an evil geologist would scoff at other evil geologists’ choices, because evil, [...]

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Running Ponies

Rare Ili Pika Photographed for the First Time in 20 Years

ily-pika-running-ponies-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

jerdons-babbler-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

dogs-cross-river-gorillas

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

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Running Ponies

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

lemming-ponies-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

beaver_running_ponies-featured

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

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Running Ponies

First footage captured of rare ‘Type D’ orcas

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

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Running Ponies

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

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

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Running Ponies

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

plateau-pika-featured

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

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Running Ponies

Running Ponies’ Top Ten Most Popular Posts for 2014

mike-plus-head-featured

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

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Running Ponies

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

Onuxodon-Fowler-featured

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

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SA Visual

The Oceans’ Origins and the Evolution of a SciAm Infographic

waterDetail

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

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SA Visual

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

Unknown Pleasures, Joy Division

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

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SA Visual

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

data_circle

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

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SA Visual

Math Is Beautiful, But Is It Art?

Concinnitas_detail

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

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SA Visual

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

Porter_detail

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

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SA Visual

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

Pain detail

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

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SA Visual

Mars’s First Close-up

MarinerIV_Mars_Map

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

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SA Visual

SA Recognized for Great Infographics

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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Symbiartic

Talking Atheism, Science and Art at FtBCon

ScienceChessmini-GlendonMel

Today at 2pm Central, I’m excited to be taking part in FtBConscience: Atheism with a conscience, a free online conference hosted by the Freethought Blog Network. Naturally, I’ll be talking about art, science and atheism. Here’s the official blurb: Atheism, science and art 2pm – 3 pm Central Artists within the secular, scientific and skeptical [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt on Google+

SciArtGplusmini

A couple of years ago, when the massive and amazing all-in-one scienceblogging.org was launching, the organizers asked if I thought there were enough artists blogging about science-related artwork to make an RSS feed that would update a few times a day or week, that could collect science-based artists under one roof. I said sure, and [...]

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

Does drinking alcohol—even heavily—protect against ALS?

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

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Talking back

Kids Sustain 240 Head Hits on Average During Football Season

Credit: Amherst Patriots/Flickr

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

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Talking back

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

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

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Talking back

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

yumanity.2

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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Tetrapod Zoology

A Fine First Finding of Darevskia

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

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

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Tetrapod Zoology

You Never Hear Much About Shrew-Opossums

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

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

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Huia and the Sexually Dimorphic Bill

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

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

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Tetrapod Zoology

Curious Complex Contentious Coots

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

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

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Atomic Worm-Lizard and Other Aprasia Flapfoots

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

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

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Tetrapod Zoology

New Books on Dinosaurs 2: Dean Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura’s Dinosaurs of the British Isles

Front cover of Lomax & Tamura (2014). Life reconstruction of Eustreptospondylus, with skeletal reconstruction of Cetiosaurus, and bones of Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Mantellisaurus.

Following on from February’s review of Matthew P. Martyniuk’s Beasts of Antiquity: Stem-Birds in the Solnhofen Limestone, it’s time once again to look at another recently published dinosaur-themed book. Anyone who knows anything about Mesozoic dinosaurs will know that the British Isles – England specifically – has a special role in the history of our [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Meet the Scaly-Tail Gliders

Lesser anomalure (Anomalurus pusillus), a small member of the group (c 45 cm long in total) from equatorial Africa. Painting by Joseph Smit, in public domain.

Among the weirdest and most fascinating of rodents are the scalytails/scaly-tails, scaly-tailed squirrels or anomalures, properly termed Anomaluridae. For those of you that don’t know, this is a small group of exclusively* African, mostly gliding herbivores that have a weird method of supporting their gliding membranes. Only three or four extant anomalure genera are recognised. Idiurus [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

The Tet Zoo Guide to Gazelle Camels

Life-sized stenomyline camel models at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, photographed c. 1999. Image by Darren Naish.

Some of you will know that I’m putting together a giant textbook on the vertebrate fossil record… and, oh god, it isn’t easy. If you want sneak-peeks on how things are going, please consider supporting me at my patreon page. And if you’re wondering what the book might be like when it’s finished, here’s an [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Spots, Stripes and Spreading Hooves in the Horses of the Ice Age

Life appearance of Pleistocene horses of at least some populations of western Europe: reconstructed based predominanlty on Ekain horses from Spain. Image by Darren Naish.

During the upper Palaeolithic (that is, between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago), prehistoric people in Europe and Asia (and elsewhere) depicted the animals they saw in thousands of piece of cave art. They drew, sculpted and painted rhinos, mammoths, giant deer and lions, but they also produced illustrations of less exotic beasts, like owls, mustelids [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Inside the Cassowary’s Casque

Our montage depicting casque anatomy - see Naish & Perron (2014) for explanation. Note the big air space in the casque (visible in D) and the mass of trabeculae filling its anterior part (visible in B).

I’m a big fan of palaeognaths – the terrestrial bird group that includes the mostly big, flightless ratites and the chicken-sized, flight-capable tinamous. Among the most interesting, most aberrant of palaeognaths are also among the most poorly known. I’m talking about the black-plumaged, elaborately adorned cassowaries of eastern Australia, New Guinea, and various of the [...]

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Unofficial Prognosis

Projection

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Finding the Right Confidence Interval

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

So, you want to write about medicine?

slide 1

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

The path of least resistance

two paths

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

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

When red cells "sickle," oxygen delivery is impaired

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

What’s so healthy about skepticism?

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Strange bedfellows

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

It’s a simple question – isn’t it?

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Reflections of a fourth year medical student

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

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Unofficial Prognosis

Taking sides

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

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Kristina Campbell and The Intestinal Gardener

Sci blogger spotlight. KCjpg

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

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The Urban Scientist

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

Mission to Mars coaster by DNLee

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

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The Urban Scientist

Wordless Wednesday: #DNLeeLab experience with Crystal Violet Vaginal Cytology

Pouched Rat Vaginal Cytology

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

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Dr. Melanie Harrison Okoro

spotlight MHO

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

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The Urban Scientist

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

Just-postage-stamp

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

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Michelle Hunter and Exploring Neuroscience Through Art

Sci blogger spotlight Michelle Hunter

Welcome to the twenty-third installment of You Should Know, where I give my own #ScholarSunday salute to Science Bloggers and the Blogs you may not yet know about. Introducing…Michelle Hunter and Exploring Neuroscience Through Art Michelle Hunter is an artist that loves science. Her paintings and drawings focus on how different areas of our brain [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Happy Bornday Darwin

Hip Hop Science Quiz Show

Today marks the 206th anniversary of Charles Darwin‘s bornday. February 12 is celebrated as International Darwin Day and many communities and colleges host events and town hall informal science events. If there is an activity happening in your region, I encourage you to attend. At the very least enjoy this replay from the Hip Hop [...]

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The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Dr J Marshall Shepherd, host of the The WxGeeks Show

Sci blogger spotlight JMS

Welcome to the twenty-second installment of You Should Know, where I give my own #ScholarSunday salute to Science Bloggers and the Blogs you may not yet know about. Introducing…Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd and The WxGeeks Show Wx is shorthand Weather and The WxGeeks is a new nationally televised talk show focused on STEM (science, technology, [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Wordless Wednesday: Heavy Weight

The Urban Scientist

You Should Know: Dr. Anna Wood and The Science of Scientific Learning

Sci blogger spotlight AW

Welcome to the twenty-first installment of You Should Know, where I give my own #ScholarSunday salute to Science Bloggers and the Blogs you may not yet know about. Introducing…Dr. Anna Wood and The Science of Scientific Learning The Science of Scientific Learning is a blog features discussions about issues in the learning and teaching of [...]

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Video of the Week

East River Ice Floes

East-River-Ice-blog

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

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Video of the Week

Erin Gee Blends Emotions, Science, Music and Robotic Pianos

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

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Video of the Week

The Art and Science of Peppermint

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I love the latest video from the folks at USC Dornsife, all about the art and science of peppermint. In addition to being a fun, fast paced and visually pleasing film, this work gives us a lot of basic information about peppermint from diverse points of view including psychology, history, art, neurobiology — and more. [...]

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Video of the Week

A Paper Puppet Homage to Microbes

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.03.13 PM

The amazing power duo of Flora Lichtman and Sharon Shattuck (Sweet Fern Productions) has come out with a new animated short on the discovery of microbes. I’ve written about their stunning use of paper art and puppetry before, and their current short film does not disappoint. According to their website: This video is the debut [...]

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Video of the Week

The Human Cost of Science: Stephen Hawking and The Theory of Everything

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 1.18.07 PM

This week’s video is a preview for the movie ‘The Theory of Everything’, which premiered last week to North American audiences. According to a post on the Observations blog by Clara Moskowitz, Stephen Hawking is one of our greatest living geniuses—his insights into the nature of black holes, space and time have truly revolutionized physics. [...]

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Video of the Week

A Stunning and Groundbreaking Simulation of the Human Heart

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 11.52.03 AM

At the cutting edge of research in the life sciences, a team of scientists and animators from Japan has created an astonishing new film about the function of the human heart. The team uses supercomputers to analyze and simulate biological functions in multilayer systems. The SCLS (Supercomputational Life Science) team conducts work in ‘computational life [...]

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Video of the Week

Sparks From Falling Water: Kelvin’s Thuderstorm

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 4.44.06 PM

This week’s video comes to us from the Physics Week in Review: November 1, 2014 by Jennifer Ouellette over at Cocktail Party Physics. The amazing Derek Muller (aka Veritasium) explains the physics behind Kelvin’s Thunderstorm in this collaborative video with folks from The Hunger Games. Supremely awesome!

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Video of the Week

A Soda Tax = Bad News for Big Industry

child-and-big-soda-300x199

This week’s video comes from Patrick Mustain over at the Food Matters blog. His short animation on the topic of applying taxes to sugary beverages gets directly to the point…and the point is bad news for the giants in the soda industry. According to Mustain: Sugary drinks are the single-largest contributor to added sugars in [...]

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Video of the Week

Wildscreen Film Festival: Here I come!

wildscreen

I’m thrilled to be a speaker at the Wildscreen Film Festival in Bristol, UK in a few weeks. Wildscreen is a highlight for film, television and digital media inspired by nature and biology. For more details about Wildscreen and two other major science film festivals happening this month in Europe, have a look at Joanne [...]

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Video of the Week

Under the Deep Sea (A Little Mermaid Parody)

Those of you following this blog know that I love me a great science music video parody. This awesome one from College Humor does not disappoint! Marine biologists will celebrate this awesome video about the deep sea. Enjoy!

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Voices

Media Portrayals of Female Scientists Often Shallow, Superficial

Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield speaking at an event in Wales in 2013. (Nationa Assembly for Wales/Flickr)

When British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield became the first woman to give the UK’s prestigious Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 1994, journalists at the time focused on her path-breaking achievement. But they also reported on something else: how she looked. The Times of London wrote that in the televised lectures she wore “a blush pink silk [...]

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Voices

It’s Time for More Racial Diversity in STEM Toys

The hugely popular Doc McStuffins is proving that consumers are ready for more STEM characters of color. (Photo: Disney)

It’s clear that we as a nation are failing to engage minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as we could. In a recent op-ed for The New York Times, columnist Charles Blow reminded us with sobering statistics that people of color remain vastly underrepresented in the STEM disciplines. He noted, for [...]

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Voices

Why There Is No Perfect Human in Puerto Rico or Anywhere Else

Actress Jennifer Lopez waves a Puerto Rican flag. (Yadriel/Wikimedia Commons)

Disappointed by James Watson’s decision to sell his Nobel Prize medal, Lior Pachter, a computational biologist who works on genomics at the University of California Berkeley, wrote an entry on his private blog in early December protesting the decision. To criticize Watson’s infamous positions on race (among other things), Pachter turned to the recent human [...]

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Voices

Inspiring Young Men from Minority Backgrounds to Code

“We knew there was so much talent out there who would be eager to code, and just didn’t know the field existed. It is very rewarding to see how their lives can change for the better,” says Lewis Halpern. (Image courtesy of All Star Code)

On a sign that adorns the premises of the vibrant New York technology charity, All Star Code, the bold messaging could not be clearer.  Displayed in large writing are the top ten principles that inspired the charity’s creation. Most prominently placed, and one that will ring true to many Americans, is number one. It reads: [...]

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Voices

Gone in 2014: Remembering 10 Notable Women in Science

Looking back on the year that was, science mavens may notice that tributes to those who’ve passed on in the preceding 12 months are far more often filled with stars of stage, screen, politics and sport than with the pioneering women and men who have bettered our society through discovery and invention. This is especially [...]

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Voices

“You Are Welcome Here”: Small Stickers Make a Big Difference for LGBTQ Scientists

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's "You Are Welcome Here" sticker.

When I visited the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod in early 2013 for an open house for prospective students, in many senses I was feeling under the weather. I stepped off my flight from California into a “wintry mix” and my inappropriate Bay Area shoes soaked up a puddle of water and then [...]

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Voices

Beyond “The Pipeline”: Reframing Science’s Diversity Challenge

Pipeline. (James T M Towill/Geograph)

One of the most commonly used metaphors for describing the solution for growing and diversifying America’s scientific talent pool is the “STEM pipeline.” Major policy reports have called on the U.S. to enlarge it so it does not fall behind other nations.  Scholars and the popular press have highlighted the need to fix pipeline “leaks” [...]

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Voices

When Being Borinqueña Acquired New Meaning

borinquena-1eraniversario

I knew my idea was not unique, mainly because it originated from a collective need. Like many others, I felt the need to have a voice and to form a space for a community that would highlight and represent the women in science of Puerto Rico. This was my personal desire and aspiration, but one I [...]

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Voices

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle is a Glamour Woman of the Year

Dr. Sylvia Earle speaks onstage at the Glamour 2014 Women Of The Year Awards at Carnegie Hall on November 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Glamour)

Her Deepness. The Sturgeon General. And now: Glamour Girl. On Monday night, renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle earned a new moniker when she joined eight others in receiving a 2014 Glamour Woman of the Year Award at a celebrity-packed Carnegie Hall. Since 1990, Glamour has set aside one evening each autumn to fête the remarkable accomplishments of [...]

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Voices

Toward a Tipping Point for Latinas in STEM

Courtesy of Latinas Think Big via Flickr

Over the last few weeks, in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, I have been sharing the work of organizations or projects that empower young Latinas to pursue and thrive in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) [see posts here, here and here]. If you can’t already tell, this is a topic I [...]

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