Science

Scott Adams: About the 97% of Climate Scientists

Dilbert Dude on Climate

Let’s say 1% of climate scientists are actually involved in generating the temperature data and deciding what to include, what to smooth, what to replace, and so on. … What follows next is pure speculation, based on my years of experience in corporate America and my understanding of human nature. No. It’s all speculation. There is no actual analysis in the analysis. It’s built on speculation.

Second, if he knew how scientists actually work he would know that if the source data were bad, the model builders would notice when the models made predictions that didn’t fit. This is how they realized that the ocean data was off in the early 2000s. Everything downstream serves as validation of source data.

My God. It’s Full of Black Holes.

My God. It’s Full of Black Holes.:

The scientists estimate that roughly 70 percent of the objects in that image are supermassive black holes, and in the whole image there are about 5,000 sources. Imagine: Thousands of black holes in just that one tiny part of the sky! Extrapolating to the whole sky, astronomers estimate there must be more than 1 billion supermassive black holes out in the deep Universe that Chandra could see. A billion.

That’s a lot of black holes. And it’s actually only a tiny percentage of what’s out there; there are hundreds of billions or even trillions of galaxies in the Universe. Each may have its own central black hole, but we just don’t see them (because they’re quiet, or feeding but still too faint to see at large distances).

And that’s just the supermassive black holes. Ones with lower mass, formed when stars explode, probably number in the many millions per galaxy. Extrapolating that means there are quadrillions of black holes in the visible Universe.

How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail

How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail:

Why? “Because it threatens their worldview or self-concept.” For example, subjects were given fake newspaper articles that confirmed widespread misconceptions, such as that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. When subjects were then given a corrective article that WMD were never found, liberals who opposed the war accepted the new article and rejected the old, whereas conservatives who supported the war did the opposite … and more: they reported being even more convinced there were WMD after the correction, arguing that this only proved that Saddam Hussein hid or destroyed them. In fact, Nyhan and Reifler note, among many conservatives “the belief that Iraq possessed WMD immediately before the U.S. invasion persisted long after the Bush administration itself concluded otherwise.”

The ironclad logic of conspiracy theories and how to break it

The ironclad logic of conspiracy theories and how to break it:

to deny the science of climate change is to believe in a conspiracy. It may be thought of as a conspiracy between scientists and “the left”, the UN, or all of them, but it is a necessary part of any such position.

Those in public life who deny climate science have long had a free reign in the media, appealing to the right for alternative views to be heard, claiming that this or that study is flawed, or explicitly claiming that a conspiracy exists.

Worth a read.

E.T. Call Waiting

E.T. Call Waiting:

Some media were very quick to jump on the idea that it might be aliens—the idea being that an advanced civilization might be building huge (really huge, like hundreds of thousands of kilometers across huge) solar arrays to collect starlight for power, and it was these that were blocking the star from our view, causing the dips.

The headline it might be aliens was everywhere. The correction no, it’s not likely aliens was no where near as viral. A lie travels at warp speed while the truth is still fixing it’s hyperdrive motivator.

Global warming 'hiatus' never happened, Stanford scientists say

An apparent lull in the recent rate of global warming that has been widely accepted as fact is actually an artifact arising from faulty statistical methods, Stanford scientists say.

“By using both datasets, nobody can claim that we made up a new statistical technique in order to get a certain result,” said Rajaratnam, who is also a fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

(via Global warming ‘hiatus’ never happened, Stanford scientists say | EurekAlert! Science News)

You could use a billion data sets and the climate change denial machine would still ignore the findings and claim it’s a hoax.

What Is The One Fact Humanity Needs To Know?

if you could preserve only one single sentence, I would push for: ‘The natural world is not governed by whimsical gods, but is essentially mechanical and can therefore be understood and then predicted by people, using careful observation, experimentation, and measurement, and importantly by testing your explanations to try to refute them.’ It’s this reiterative process of refinement that sets science apart from any other system for explaining how the world works.

Buzzfeed: I Asked 12 Scientists: What Is The One Fact Humanity Needs To Know?

That’s a pretty good one sentence description of the scientific method,

Quantum 'Spookiness' Passes Toughest Test Yet

It’s a bad day both for Albert Einstein and for hackers. The most rigorous test of quantum theory ever carried out has confirmed that the ‘spooky action at a distance’ that the German physicist famously hated — in which manipulating one object instantaneously seems to affect another, far away one — is an inherent part of the quantum world.

(via Quantum “Spookiness” Passes Toughest Test Yet)

Climate models are even more accurate than you thought

When accounting for these factors, the study finds that the difference between observed and modeled temperatures since 1975 is smaller than previously believed. The models had projected a 0.226°C per decade global surface air warming trend for 1975–2014 (and 0.212°C per decade over the geographic area covered by the HadCRUT4 record). However, when matching the HadCRUT4 methods for measuring sea surface temperatures, the modeled trend is reduced to 0.196°C per decade. The observed HadCRUT4 trend is 0.170°C per decade.

(via Climate models are even more accurate than you thought)

At this point, the climate change deniers are not going to convinced by models.

Oklahoma Oil Executive Told OU Dean He Wanted Earthquake Scientists Fired

Oklahoma Oil Executive Told OU Dean He Wanted Earthquake Scientists Fired:

>“Mr. Hamm is very upset at some of the earthquake reporting to the point that he would like to see select OGS staff dismissed,” wrote Larry Grillot, the dean of the university’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy, in a July 16, 2014, e-mail to colleagues at the university.

Right wing political correctness in action. 

Don't Overthink It, Less Is More When It Comes to Creativity

Don't Overthink It, Less Is More When It Comes to Creativity:

Grace Hawthorne, an associate professor of design at Stanford University Institute of Design, known as the d.school, approached Allan Reiss, a behavioral scientist at Stanford’s School of Medicine. Hawthorne wanted to find a way to objectively measure whether or not her design class enhanced students’ creativity and Reiss, inspired by the game Pictionary, developed an experiment.

Interesting study. Not quite convinced that it actually measured creativity.

Maher did it again

Maher did it again:

Bill Maher has been raked over the coals on his irrational, anti-scientific attitude towards vaccines; his own guests have scorned his views on his own show; he’s been confronted repeatedly with the evidence and the rebuttals. He’s got to know by now that there is no rational justification for claiming that vaccines or thimerosal cause autism, or that the drug companies are profiting hugely by including poisons in their vaccines (which makes no sense, even if you do believe in greedy pharmaceutical mega-corporations).

So what does he do? He invites anti-vax crank extraordinaire, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to sit around and commiserate with one another about how they’re called cranks and liars for merely denying the scientific consensus.

Maher wants it both ways. He want to be just an comedian and also a serious public intellectual. The last one to pull that off was Mark Twain and he is no Samuel Clemens.

This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study

This is why you shouldn’t believe that exciting new medical study:

It’s a fact that all studies are biased and flawed in their own unique ways. The truth usually lies somewhere in a flurry of research on the same question. This means real insights don’t come by way of miraculous, one-off findings or divinely ordained eureka moments; they happen after a long, plodding process of vetting and repeating tests, and peer-to-peer discussion. The aim is to make sure findings are accurate and not the result of a quirk in one experiment or the biased crusade of a lone researcher.

John Kerry Bashes Florida's Reported Ban On Term 'Climate Change'

John Kerry Bashes Florida's Reported Ban On Term 'Climate Change':

Numerous former officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that they were banned from using the terms “climate change,” “global warming” or “sustainability.” They said the unofficial ban was put in place shortly after Gov. Rick Scott (R) took office.

The correct description for this is political correctness. I’m guessing its only a matter of time before discussion of climate change requires trigger warnings.

Welp, Lions Can Open Car Doors. Humans Are Screwed.

Welp, Lions Can Open Car Doors. Humans Are Screwed.:

While at a safari park in South Africa, a family got a bit of a shock when a lioness casually wandered up to the car and opened the door with her teeth. It’s the nonchalant way she does it that gets me here. She doesn’t rampage at the door and manage to, by luck, get it open. She’s clearly seen cars before and figured this shit out.

And they don’t need thumbs to do it.

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia

How Mice Turned Their Private Paradise Into A Terrifying Dystopia:

The few secluded spaces housed a population Calhoun called, “the beautiful ones.” Generally guarded by one male, the females—- and few males — inside the space didn’t breed or fight or do anything but eat and groom and sleep. When the population started declining the beautiful ones were spared from violence and death, but had completely lost touch with social behaviors, including having sex or caring for their young. In 1972, with the baby boomers coming of age in a ever-more-crowded world and reports of riots in the cities, Universe 25 looked like a Malthusian nightmare. It even acquired its own catchy name, “The Behavioral Sink.” If starvation didn’t kill everyone, people would destroy themselves. The best option was to flee to the country or the suburbs, where people had space and life was peaceful and natural.

Red means it’s hotter than usual while blue means...



Red means it’s hotter than usual while blue means it’s colder than unusual. The Rocky Mountains and the US Southwest are actually enjoying an unusual warm spell, as are large swathes of Siberia. So while the eastern seaboard freezes, smug Russians are enjoying a relatively warm climate.

Conservatives are more likely to believe that vaccines cause autism - The Washington Post

Conservatives are more likely to believe that vaccines cause autism - The Washington Post:

The probability of believing in a link between vaccines and autism is much higher among conservatives than liberals — regardless of whether people identified as Democrats, Republicans or independents. The apparent impact of ideology is most pronounced among political independents. There is no evidence that support for the vaccine-autism link is higher among strong liberals. …That liberals are least likely to believe in a link between vaccines and autism might be surprising given well-publicized reports about low childhood vaccination rates in wealthy, liberal enclaves in states such as California. It may be that anti-vaccination liberals are quite rare and that their existence is mostly anecdotal.

Didn’t expect this at all. I’m thinking that at least some of this is tied to the self-reporting. We don’t actually know their political views, only their claimed identity.

Leading Climate-Denier Caught Accepting Bribes from Fossil-Fuel Corporations

Leading Climate-Denier Caught Accepting Bribes from Fossil-Fuel Corporations:

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Yep. If we had a functioning independent media, this would be called Climategate.

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

You can make a lot more money being a climate denier than being a climate scientist. You don’t even have to be a climate scientist. Just someone who can be described as credible.

Fast-Evolving Human DNA Leads to Bigger-Brained Mice – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science

Fast-Evolving Human DNA Leads to Bigger-Brained Mice – Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science:

Boyd’s team introduced the human and chimp versions of HARE5 into two separate groups of mice. They also put these enhancers in charge of a gene that makes a blue chemical. As the team watched the embryos of their mice, they would see different body parts turning blue. Those were the bits where HARE5 was active—the areas where the enhancer was enhancing. Embryonic mice start building their brains on their ninth day of life, and HARE5 becomes active shortly after. The team saw that the human version is more strongly active than the chimp one, over a larger swath of the brain, and from a slightly earlier start.

They’re Pinky and The Brain, Brain, Brain, NARF!

The Strange Tale of a New Species of Lizard

The Strange Tale of a New Species of Lizard:

In the 1960s, scientists noticed that some whiptail lizard species had a strange genetic makeup. They have two copies of each chromosome, just as we do, but each copy is very different from its counterpart. The genes look as if they come from different species. Perhaps stranger, many species produce no males. The eggs of the females hatch healthy female clones, a process known as parthenogenesis. Normally, unfertilized animal eggs have only one set of chromosomes. The second set is derived from a male’s sperm following fertilization. But parthenogenic female whiptail lizards can duplicate the chromosomes in their offspring without males. These findings led scientists to a hypothesis for how these strange species came about: Sometimes individuals from two different species of whiptail lizards interbreed, and their hybrid offspring carry two different sets of chromosomes.

Climate change deniers are not skeptics.

Climate change deniers are not skeptics.:

Skepticism is all about critical examination, evidence-based scientific inquiry, and the use of reason in examining controversial claims. Those who flatly deny the results of climate science do not partake in any of the above. They base their conclusions on a priori convictions. Theirs is an ideological conviction—the opposite of skepticism.

The key words being flatly deny. Its fine to be critical of climate science where there are gaps or issues with the models. That’s skepticism. But to conflate weather and climate. Or argue that it isn’t happening because something-something, that’s denial.

This Remarkable Scrap Of Paper Can Detect Ebola

This Remarkable Scrap Of Paper Can Detect Ebola:

It could be a while before we see this pocket-sized device deployed to field stations, but it could radically change the way diseases are diagnosed outside of the lab. Developed by researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard, the achievement could result in inexpensive, shippable, and accurate test kits that use saliva or a drop of blood to identify specific diseases or infections.

Amazing.

Evidence Connects Quakes to Oil, Natural Gas Boom

Evidence Connects Quakes to Oil, Natural Gas Boom:

He said energy companies can try to prevent human-induced earthquakes by avoiding faults when they inject oil and gas wastewater into the ground and by not pumping fluids too quickly into the ground. “You can reduce the risk of large earthquakes through careful monitoring and planning,” Jackson said. “You can’t make it zero, however.”

This isn’t conclusive just yet, but this can no longer be ignored.

The TSA really doesn't like it when you take your Nobel Prize in your carry-on

The TSA really doesn't like it when you take your Nobel Prize in your carry-on:

"They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’ I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’ They said, ‘What’s in the box?’ I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does. So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’ I said, ‘gold.’ And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’ ‘The King of Sweden.’ ‘Why did he give this to you?’ ‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’

Z machine makes progress toward nuclear fusion

Z machine makes progress toward nuclear fusion:

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, using the lab’s Z machine, a colossal electric pulse generator capable of producing currents of tens of millions of amperes, say they have detected significant numbers of neutrons—byproducts of fusion reactions—coming from the experiment. This, they say, demonstrates the viability of their approach and marks progress toward the ultimate goal of producing more energy than the fusion device takes in.

We’ve been 10 years away for 50 years now, but this time it might be true. There are three projects that all show promise of huge returns. If this works out we are looking at a 100x improvement in generating electric power.

How to Reduce Global Warming for Fun and Profit

How to Reduce Global Warming for Fun and Profit:

We’re not actually so far off from turning emissions into commodities, it turns out. In the United States alone, a number of companies aim to convert waste carbon dioxide into chemicals that can be used to make products we buy every day

The only people who think regulating CO2 will end capitalism are Libertarians and Marxists. Anyone who has an understanding of economics that doesn’t begin and end in the 19th century understands that markets react to regulations in the exact same way they react to everything else. Incentives change, prices adjust, people come up with new ideas that make money.

Denying Climate Change 'Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars, ' U.S. Budget Director Warns

Denying Climate Change 'Will Cost Us Billions Of Dollars,' U.S. Budget Director Warns:

“From where I sit, climate action is a must do; climate inaction is a can’t do; and climate denial scores – and I don’t mean scoring points on the board,” Donovan said. “I mean that it scores in the budget. Climate denial will cost us billions of dollars.”

The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’

The Strange History of ‘Mad Honey’:

The dark, reddish, “mad honey,” known as deli bal in Turkey, contains an ingredient from rhododendron nectar called grayanotoxin — a natural neurotoxin that, even in small quantities, brings on light-headedness and sometimes, hallucinations. In the 1700s, the Black Sea region traded this potent produce with Europe, where the honey was infused with drinks to give boozers a greater high than alcohol could deliver.

Red-State Cities Find Euphemisms To Prepare for Global Warming

Red-State Cities Find Euphemisms To Prepare for Global Warming:

The pattern illustrates a growing disconnect between the debate still raging in politics and the reality on the ground. In many city planning departments, it has become like Voldemort, the arch-villain of the Harry Potter stories: It’s the issue that cannot be named.

The cognitive dissonance can only hold so long. At some point the denial side will have to admit they are wrong.

Twenty-Two Percent of the World's Power Now Comes from Renewable Sources

Twenty-Two Percent of the World's Power Now Comes from Renewable Sources:

Wind, solar, and other clean energy sources “continued to grow strongly, reaching almost 22 percent of the global mix,” according to the IEA, “compared with 21 percent in 2012 and 18 percent in 2007.”

The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. The carbon age is ending and the fossil fuel industry is going to fight it as hard as they can.

The Kübler-Ross model

The Kübler-Ross model:

My friends on the right who are complaining about those black mothers saying my kids didn’t do nothing should take a moment to read about the Kübler-Ross model of grief. Those mothers are not clueless idiots unaware of the child’s actions. They are not monsters who care not about the victims of their child. They are in grief and acting exactly how the model suggests they would act.

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy

The Koch Attack on Solar Energy:

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Not surprised.

Canadian student has 'out of body experiences' whenever she wants

Canadian student has "out of body experiences" whenever she wants:

After attending a lecture on “out of body experiences,” a 24-year-old student from the University of Ottawa approached her professor saying, “I thought everybody could do that.” She can apparently do this at will — making her the first person with this condition to be studied.

Worth a read. Follow along to the abc article for a little more.

Volcano-powered electricity

Volcano-powered electricity:

“Drilling into magma is a very rare occurrence, and this is only the second known instance anywhere in the world,“ Elders said.

Elders said that the success of the drilling was “amazing, to say the least”, adding: “This could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature geothermal projects in the future.”

This is the most bad ass electric power project ever. Oh…you drill for oil? That’s cute. I drill into volcanos.

What happens when you don't get vaccinated

What happens when you don't get vaccinated:

My two vaccinated children, on the other hand, have rarely been ill, have had antibiotics maybe twice in their lives, if that. Not like their mum. I got so many illnesses requiring treatment with antibiotics that I developed a resistance to them, which led me to be hospitalized with penicillin-resistant quinsy at age 21 — you know, that old-fashioned disease that supposedly killed Queen Elizabeth I and that was almost wiped out through use of antibiotics.

I realize that this is just one person, and should not be treated as a anything more than anecdote, but this is not what the anti-vac people say happens to an immune system with and without vaccines. They insist that people who are not vaccinated will develop a healthy immune system via some natural process. Modern medicine disagrees, and so does her experience. 

4 states confirm water pollution from drilling

4 states confirm water pollution from drilling:

Over the past 10 years, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has led to a boom in oil and natural gas production around the nation. It has reduced imports and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for companies and landowners, but also created pollution fears.

Its called an externality. But I’m sure the right will insist that this problem can only be solved by tax cuts and deregulation. 

Plant intelligence

Plant intelligence:

In a recent experiment, Heidi Appel, a chemical ecologist at the University of Missouri, found that, when she played a recording of a caterpillar chomping a leaf for a plant that hadn’t been touched, the sound primed the the plant’s genetic machinery to produce defense chemicals. Another experiment, dome in Mancuso’s lab and not yet published, found that plant roots would seek out a buried pipe through which water was flowing even if the exterior of the pipe was dry, which suggested that plants somehow “hear” the sound of flowing water.

I’d like a vegan’s opinion on this. If plants try not to be eaten, when is it moral to eat them? When is it moral to raise them with the purpose of eating them?

farmers are growing world record amounts of rice – with no GM, and no herbicide

farmers are growing world record amounts of rice – with no GM, and no herbicide:

In a village in India’s poorest state, Bihar, farmers are growing world record amounts of rice – with no GM, and no herbicide. Is this one solution to world food shortages?

"Farmers use less seeds, less water and less chemicals but they get more without having to invest more. This is revolutionary," said Dr Surendra Chaurassa from Bihar’s agriculture ministry. “I did not believe it to start with, but now I think it can potentially change the way everyone farms. I would want every state to promote it. If we get 30-40% increase in yields, that is more than enough to recommend it.”

Worth a read

Why are all the pig farms exploding?

Why are all the pig farms exploding?:

This solution to the exploding big barn is yet another example of environmental engineering that’s being done without an understanding of the complexity of the machine that we call Earth. Instead of changing what the pigs eat — or, indeed, changing how they are housed so that they aren’t living in their own shit — farmers are adding new inputs to this system that will eventually create an output of bacteria that humans cannot defend against.

Why isn’t the pig poop being collected and used to make methane? The methane could be burned for energy to power other waste disposal. Someone should do the math on this, I’m basing this idea on Barter Town from Mad Max 2.

CDC official: we've reached 'the end of antibiotics'

CDC official: we've reached "the end of antibiotics":

You know how when you first hear a joke it’s the funniest thing ever and then you hear it a second time and it’s less funny and then a third, fourth, and fifth times and it just keeps getting less and less funny until you’re not laughing at all and it actually becomes annoying? That’s how antibiotics work across the entire human population.

Brilliant description. 

Were the First Artists Mostly Women?

Were the First Artists Mostly Women?:

I find the counter argument pretty interesting:

For adults, caves would have been dangerous and uninteresting, but young boys would have explored them for adventure, said Guthrie, an emeritus professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “They drew what was on their mind, which is mainly two things: naked women and large, frightening mammals.”

That makes sense to me. Put the raw data makes sense too. This study does seem to end the idea that these were done by the hunters. 

The Great Library at Alexandria was destroyed by budget cuts, not fire

The Great Library at Alexandria was destroyed by budget cuts, not fire:

One of the great tragedies of ancient history, memorialized in myths and Hollywood film, is the burning of the great library at Alexandria. But the reality of the Library’s end was actually a lot less pyrotechnic than that. A major cause of the Library’s ruin was government budget cuts.

when the Emperor abolished their stipends, and forbade foreign scholars from coming to the library, he effectively shut down operations. Those scrolls and books were nothing without people to care for them, study them, and share what they learned far and wide.

Short-sided emphasis on the current needs of the elite over the long terms needs of the public and generations to come. It’s a good thing we’ve learned from history and will not make that mistake again. 

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts:

“They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” Dr. Hart said. “When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions.”


At some point we will have to come to terms with the fact that addiction, poverty and violence are related social ills that can only be solved together and only by collective action.

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

The Rational Choices of Crack Addicts

> "They didn't fit the caricature of the drug addict who can't stop once he gets a taste," Dr. Hart said. "When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions."


At some point we will have to come to terms with the fact that addiction, poverty and violence are related social ills that can only be solved together and only by collective action.

NYT: Welcome to the Age of Denial

NYT: Welcome to the Age of Denial

Today, however, it is politically effective, and socially acceptable, to deny scientific fact. Narrowly defined, "creationism" was a minor current in American thinking for much of the 20th century. But in the years since I was a student, a well-funded effort has skillfully rebranded that ideology as "creation science" and pushed it into classrooms across the country. Though transparently unscientific, denying evolution has become a litmus test for some conservative politicians, even at the highest levels.

Meanwhile, climate deniers, taking pages from the creationists' PR playbook, have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago. And anti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.

This is the age of truthiness. We have an industry that promotes truthiness and employes people to provide fact-like quotes to balance out arguments.

Scientific American: Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

Scientific American: Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

the DoE concludes at least 500 gigawatts of electric capacity could be harvested from such EGS systems. Even better, hot rocks underlie every part of the country and the rest of the world. Australia’s first enhanced geothermal system, spicily named Habanero, began producing power in May, and Europe has brought three such power plants online.

That is a little under 1/3 of US production. It could mean that the US could be on 2/3 renewable sources in a generation if the political will to promote the policy existed.

Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharply due to health care and education improvements?

Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharply due to health care and education improvements?

experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease. A half-dozen previous studies had hinted that the rate was falling, but they had flaws that led some to doubt the conclusions.

Decapitated worms regrow their heads with old memories intact

Decapitated worms regrow their heads with old memories intact

biologists Tal Shomrat and Michael Levin got to thinking: What would happen to a flatworm that was trained on a specific task, and then had its head chopped off? Would its memory of the learned behavior also regenerate? Conveniently, it takes less than 14 days for the flatworm to regenerate its new brain, which is the maximum length of time for its long-term memory to persist.

Amazing. So how much is stored outside the brain?

Why I wish my daughter had been vaccinated

Why I wish my daughter had been vaccinated

until she caught pertussis - which turns out to mean whooping cough. Which turns out to mean months of pain. It is a highly contagious disease that comes in stages, but that horrible, hacking cough that kept her up all night went on for so many weeks that she was prescribed an inhaler. She was past her first birthday, so unlikely to die of it, like newborns can, but it’s disgusting to watch your child needlessly suffer like that. My parents had to come to help us, and then we grownups all succumbed to the revolting condition too. Of course, having wanted to avoid filling her body with chemicals, I ended up giving her all the medicines I could find.

This is just sad. Convinced of grand conspiracies and alternative health, she keep her child unvaccinated and that results in months of suffering and pain.

The answer to "is science the new religion?" is obviously yes, so long as you redefine religion...

The answer to "is science the new religion?" is obviously yes, so long as you redefine religion...

The answer to "is science the new religion?" is obviously yes, so long as you redefine religion as "a self-correcting, evidence based system of exploring the universe which attempts to unearth the least wrong laws and theories that can explain what exists or might exist whilst accepting that room must always be left for doubt and further enquiry".

For the first time, scientists have grown the embryos of an extinct species

For the first time, scientists have grown the embryos of an extinct species

Scientists extracted DNA from a frozen frog specimen, and employed somatic-cell nuclear transfer, the same process used to clone still-living animals. The team took eggs from the distantly related great barred frog, deactivated that frog’s DNA with UV light, and inserted the gastric-brooding frog’s DNA into the eggs. The cells inside the eggs began dividing, becoming blastulas. The embryos died after a few days, long before developing into tadpoles, but DNA tests confirmed that they were gastric-brooding frog embryos, and Archer says they have high hopes for seeing this frog up and hopping soon.

Jurassic park?

First a baby, now 14 adults "functionally cured" of HIV

First a baby, now 14 adults "functionally cured" of HIV

using a similar technique, it appears that 14 adults have likewise been successfully treated for the disease. The trick, say the scientists, is to tackle the infection early.

It’s important to note that the patients still have the HIV infection. Also, they’re not “supercontrollers” (the <1% of people who are naturally resistant to HIV). But their bodies are able to keep it in check - and without the assistance of medication.

Amazing. Looking forward to seeing more on this.

Coffee Fungus Outbreak Resumes

Coffee Fungus Outbreak Resumes

Caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, coffee rust generally does not kill plants, but the Institute of Coffee of Costa Rica estimates that the latest outbreak may halve the 2013-14 harvest in the worst affected areas of the nation.

Free sci-fi comedy idea. A coffee fungus that decaffeinates coffee spreads world wide causing a distopia where everyone is always groggy.

Are Butterflies Two Different Animals in One? The Death And Resurrection Theory : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR

Are Butterflies Two Different Animals in One? The Death And Resurrection Theory : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR

What he’s saying is, while a moth appears to be one animal, with a wormy start and a flying finish, it’s actually two animals - two in one! We start with a baby caterpillar that lives a full life and then dies, dissolves. There’s a pause. Then a new animal, the moth, springs to life, from the same cells, reincarnated.

Climate Change Deniers Write Another Fact-Free Op-Ed

Climate Change Deniers Write Another Fact-Free Op-Ed

The letter itself is based on a single claim. So let's be clear: If that claim is wrong, so is the rest of the letter. Guess what? That claim is wrong. So blatantly wrong, in fact, it's hard to imagine anyone could write it with a straight face. It says: "The U.K. Met Office recently released data showing that there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years." This is simply, completely, and utterly false.

Worth a read.

Revealed - the capitalist network that runs the world - New Scientist

Revealed - the capitalist network that runs the world - New Scientist

The idea that a few bankers control a large chunk of the global economy might not seem like news to New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement and protesters elsewhere (see photo). But the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations

Take this with a grain of salt. Being connected may not be the same as being in control. And I am not sure what assumptions they made and how true they may be. But the study is an interesting one and might give rise to more.

Lies You've Been Told About the Pacific Garbage Patch

Lies You've Been Told About the Pacific Garbage Patch

In reality, Goldstein said, most pieces of garbage in the Pacific are “about the size of your pinkie fingernail.” Though she and her team have found some larger pieces of plastic, like buoys and tires, most are microscopic. What’s alarming about them isn’t their size, but the sheer amount of plastic. To figure out how much there really is, she and her team have trawled the surface of the ocean in random locations over a 2736 square km region in the gyre. Once a day, they drag a very fine, specialized net behind the boat. On one such sampling trip, she and her team found plastic pieces in 117 out of 119 random samples.

Worth a read. Clears up some misconceptions about the island of plastic in the Pacific.

First gene therapy successful against aging-associated decline Mouse lifespan extended up to 24 percent with a single treatment

First gene therapy successful against aging-associated decline: Mouse lifespan extended up to 24 percent with a single treatment

The gene therapy consisted of treating the animals with a DNA-modified virus. the viral genes having been replaced by those of the telomerase enzyme, with a key role in aging. Telomerase repairs the extreme ends or tips of chromosomes, known as telomeres, and in doing so slows the cell's and therefore the body's biological clock. When the animal is infected, the virus acts as a vehicle depositing the telomerase gene in the cells.

Amazing.

Seattle Attorney Andrew Basiago Claims U.S. Sent Him On Time Travels

Seattle Attorney Andrew Basiago Claims U.S. Sent Him On Time Travels

Seattle attorney Andrew Basiago has been publicly claiming that from the time he was 7 to when he was 12, he participated in “Project Pegasus,” a secret U.S. government program that he says worked on teleportation and time travel under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Whenever I heard about magical technologies they claim came from Tesla’s lost notebooks, I cringe.

Turing's work on computability

Turing's work on computability led to an even deeper question, according to Hodges: "Does computation with discrete symbols give a complete account of the physical world?" In other words, is the world computable? Can a machine, in principle, rise not just to the intellectual capabilities of human beings, but supersede those capabilities? Can a computer know everything?
Will Computers Ever Know Everything? | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

Calculations by Tetsuya Hara and his colleagues at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan show that a surprisingly large amount of life-bearing material ended up not on the Moon and Mars, as might be expected, but the Jovian moon Europa and the Saturnian moon Enceladus also received tons of life-bearing rock from earth. Even more amazingly, calculations suggest that most Earth ejecta ended up in interstellar space and some has probably already arrived at Earth-like exoplanets orbiting other stars. Hara estimates that about a thousand Earth-rocks from this event would have made the trip to Gliese 581, a red dwarf some 20 light years away that is thought to have a super-Earth orbiting at the edge of the habitable zone,

Calculations by Tetsuya Hara and his colleagues at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan show that a surprisingly large amount of life-bearing material ended up not on the Moon and Mars, as might be expected, but the Jovian moon Europa and the Saturnian moon Enceladus also received tons of life-bearing rock from earth. Even more amazingly, calculations suggest that most Earth ejecta ended up in interstellar space and some has probably already arrived at Earth-like exoplanets orbiting other stars. Hara estimates that about a thousand Earth-rocks from this event would have made the trip to Gliese 581, a red dwarf some 20 light years away that is thought to have a super-Earth orbiting at the edge of the habitable zone,
Scientists Study Trajectories of Life-Bearing Earth Meteorites - Slashdot

A paper published in the journal Science in August 1981 made several projections regarding future climate change and anthropogenic global warming based on manmade CO2 emissions. As it turns out, the authors' projections have proven to be rather accurate - and their future is now our present.

A paper published in the journal Science in August 1981 made several projections regarding future climate change and anthropogenic global warming based on manmade CO2 emissions. As it turns out, the authors’ projections have proven to be rather accurate - and their future is now our present.
1981 climate change predictions were eerily accurate

If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, we would be the laughing stock of aliens in the galaxy, for having a large brain and a space program, yet we met the same fate as that pea-brained, space program-less dinosaurs that came before us. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, we would be the laughing stock of aliens in the galaxy, for having a large brain and a space program, yet we met the same fate as that pea-brained, space program-less dinosaurs that came before us. - Neil deGrasse Tyson
We Can Survive Killer Asteroids - But It Won’t Be Easy | Wired Science | Wired.com

Fridge makers were required to do what they claimed was impossible: Create a refrigerator that does not kill children. They put their best minds to the task, because they had to, and came up with an incredible invention called a "magnet." Turns out if you line the door with magnets, the door stays closed and dumb little kids can get out if they need to. Go fig. By the way, no child in the United States has died from suffocating in a fridge designed after the Refrigerator Safety Act was passed. Not bad for impossible.

Fridge makers were required to do what they claimed was impossible: Create a refrigerator that does not kill children. They put their best minds to the task, because they had to, and came up with an incredible invention called a "magnet." Turns out if you line the door with magnets, the door stays closed and dumb little kids can get out if they need to. Go fig. By the way, no child in the United States has died from suffocating in a fridge designed after the Refrigerator Safety Act was passed. Not bad for impossible.
No Innovation Until We Run Out of Energy | Underwire | Wired.com

They roam by night, picking cornstalks clean, making off with apple crops. They have almost no natural predators, but they have razor-sharp tusks and a seemingly bottomless appetite for plants and animals. Their population can triple in one year.

They roam by night, picking cornstalks clean, making off with apple crops. They have almost no natural predators, but they have razor-sharp tusks and a seemingly bottomless appetite for plants and animals. Their population can triple in one year.
Feral Pigs Plaguing Upstate New York - NYTimes.com

How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper

How German Solar Has Made All German Electricity Cheaper

The Fraunhofer Institute found that - as a result of the Merit Order ranking system - solar power had reduced the price of electricity on the EPEX exchange by 10 percent on the average, with reductions peaking at up to 40 percent in the early afternoon when the most solar power is generated.

Its amazing how public policy can work when it isn’t subverted by zealots and shills chanting Drill Baby Drill.

ScienceNOW: Findings suggest that privilege promotes dishonesty

ScienceNOW: Findings suggest that privilege promotes dishonesty

To see whether dishonesty varies with social class, psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues devised a series of tests, working with groups of 100 to 200 Berkeley undergraduates or adults recruited online. Subjects completed a standard gauge of their social status, placing an X on one of 10 rungs of a ladder representing their income, education, and how much respect their jobs might command compared with other Americans. The team’s findings suggest that privilege promotes dishonesty. For example, upper-class subjects were more likely to cheat.

Freakanomics’ bagel story reports the same findings. There was more theft of bagels at the wealthier client sites and more theft on executive floors.

It's a rare glimpse behind the wall of a key climate denial organisation," Kert Davies, director of research for Greenpeace, said in a telephone interview. "It's more than just a gotcha to have these documents. It shows there is a co-ordinated effort to have an alternative reality on the climate science in order to have an impact on the policy.

It’s a rare glimpse behind the wall of a key climate denial organisation," Kert Davies, director of research for Greenpeace, said in a telephone interview. "It’s more than just a gotcha to have these documents. It shows there is a co-ordinated effort to have an alternative reality on the climate science in order to have an impact on the policy.
Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science | Environment | guardian.co.uk


One of the most technically difficult parts of Brant’s job however is dealing with space cats.

Zoologger: Unique life form is half plant, half animal

Zoologger: Unique life form is half plant, half animal

These hybrids play merry hell with our attempts to classify organisms into neat groups. “The division between plants and animals is collapsing completely,” Moestrup says. Instead, many microorganisms may be animal and plant at once, or switch between the two, like M. rubrum. The new M. chamaeleon breaks yet another barrier. It is halfway between a pure animal and a hybrid.

I'm trying to make it as absurd and useless as possible," Mr. Herscher said of the contraption, which will turn off the lights behind him when he leaves the room. It is the first in a series he calls Ecomachines, which will perform simple, energy-saving tasks in elaborately wasteful ways.

I'm trying to make it as absurd and useless as possible," Mr. Herscher said of the contraption, which will turn off the lights behind him when he leaves the room. It is the first in a series he calls Ecomachines, which will perform simple, energy-saving tasks in elaborately wasteful ways.
Man Embraces Useless Machines, and Absurdity Ensues - NYTimes.com

ghost researcher John Kachuba, in his book "Ghosthunters" (2007, New Page Books), writes, "Einstein proved that all the energy of the universe is constant and that it can neither be created nor destroyed. ... So what happens to that energy when we die? If it cannot be destroyed, it must then, according to Dr. Einstein, be transformed into another form of energy. What is that new energy? ... Could we call that new creation a ghost?

ghost researcher John Kachuba, in his book “Ghosthunters” (2007, New Page Books), writes, “Einstein proved that all the energy of the universe is constant and that it can neither be created nor destroyed. … So what happens to that energy when we die? If it cannot be destroyed, it must then, according to Dr. Einstein, be transformed into another form of energy. What is that new energy? … Could we call that new creation a ghost?

Do Einstein’s Laws Prove Ghosts Exist? - Yahoo! News

Click on the link for the point by point debunking of that claim.

Are You a Moral Relativist? Take This Test to Find Out: Scientific American

Are You a Moral Relativist? Take This Test to Find Out: Scientific American
Philosophical leanings might seem impossible to pin town with exacting word problems. But recent work by Geoffrey Goodwin and John Darley shows that it might be possible to employ a simple mental puzzle to assess a person’s perspective on moral questions.

Turns out I’m a Moral Relativist.

Can Science and Faith Exist Together?

Accepting the Bible as God's literal truth doesn't mean that we discount science. It does mean that we interpret scientific evidence from the biblical viewpoint. We evaluate the same evidence as evolutionists, but they interpret it from their viewpoint. Evidence isn't labeled with dates and facts; we arrive at conclusions about the unobservable past based on our pre-existing beliefs. This exercise also involves reason.

From Can Science and Faith Exist Together? - NYTimes.com

Confirmation bias turned into pseudo-science.

How alternative medicine failed Steve Jobs

During a routine abdominal scan, doctors had discovered a tumor growing in his pancreas. While a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is often tantamount to a swiftly executed death sentence, a biopsy revealed that Jobs had a rare - and treatable - form of the disease. If the tumor were surgically removed, Jobs’ prognosis would be promising: The vast majority of those who underwent the operation survived at least ten years.

Yet to the horror of the tiny circle of intimates in whom he’d confided, Jobs was considering not having the surgery at all. A Buddhist and vegetarian, the Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) CEO was skeptical of mainstream medicine. Jobs decided to employ alternative methods to treat his pancreatic cancer, hoping to avoid the operation through a special diet - a course of action that hasn’t been disclosed until now.


From How alternative medicine failed Steve Jobs

Full article is worth a read. I’m not blaming Jobs. He was diagnosed with cancer and I can not fault anyone for seeking a path that brings them comfort and clarity. But Alternative Medicine is usually only as good as placebo. And when alternative medicine is show to work it is usually just referred to as medicine.


What you’re looking at is an “artificial leaf,” unveiled yesterday by a team of researchers at MIT. On either side of this leaf are specially-designed catalysts that, with the help of a little sunlight, allow it to convert the water that its submerged in into hydrogen and oxygen.

From io9

Scientists have trained monkeys to meditate with marshmallows. This is a gift from both the comedy and the alliteration gods, but it's also a valuable medical technique. Every day monkeys show us new abilities and talents. Sometimes it's stockpiling rocks to make arsenals, (as demonstrated by a macaque in captivity). Recently, it has been becoming one with the universe and achieving a new state of peace and satisfaction...but only if there are marshmallows in it for them.

Scientists have trained monkeys to meditate with marshmallows. This is a gift from both the comedy and the alliteration gods, but it’s also a valuable medical technique. Every day monkeys show us new abilities and talents. Sometimes it’s stockpiling rocks to make arsenals, (as demonstrated by a macaque in captivity). Recently, it has been becoming one with the universe and achieving a new state of peace and satisfaction…but only if there are marshmallows in it for them.
Marmosets can meditate (and are immune to the placebo effect)

Teco is different from his bonobo peers in ways that resemble autism in young children. He could not cling to his mother or nurse the way healthy young apes do instinctively, mimicking the aversion to physical contact seen in children with autism. Teco also tends to fixate on shiny objects and avoids eye contact, and he has trouble coordinating his four limbs. A genetic analysis of bonobos, already under way, may shed light on Teco's condition and offer new perspectives on autism's genetic roots in humans

Teco is different from his bonobo peers in ways that resemble autism in young children. He could not cling to his mother or nurse the way healthy young apes do instinctively, mimicking the aversion to physical contact seen in children with autism. Teco also tends to fixate on shiny objects and avoids eye contact, and he has trouble coordinating his four limbs. A genetic analysis of bonobos, already under way, may shed light on Teco's condition and offer new perspectives on autism's genetic roots in humans
Autism in Another Ape: Scientific American

Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of the last 150 years. They've all but eradicated deadly diseases like smallpox, polio, and measles from most of the world. The same vaccines that allowed civilization to flourish in the twentieth century, however, have become a political hot button in the twenty-first. What changed? It's possible that a whole generation grew up without witnessing firsthand the horrors of deadly contagious disease on children, and so they never understood the value of vaccination. Let's take a refresher course and look at what vaccines are, how they work, and several myths surrounding their use.

Vaccines are one of the greatest inventions of the last 150 years. They’ve all but eradicated deadly diseases like smallpox, polio, and measles from most of the world. The same vaccines that allowed civilization to flourish in the twentieth century, however, have become a political hot button in the twenty-first. What changed? It’s possible that a whole generation grew up without witnessing firsthand the horrors of deadly contagious disease on children, and so they never understood the value of vaccination. Let’s take a refresher course and look at what vaccines are, how they work, and several myths surrounding their use.
How vaccines saved the world

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? ... No other human institution comes close.

Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy. Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? ... No other human institution comes close.
—Carl Sagan (via ageofreason)

Mind-Altering Bugs

In recent years, researchers have become increasingly interested in how gut bacteria might influence the brain and behavior, says John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland. So far, most of the work has focused on how pathogenic bugs influence the brain by releasing toxins or stimulating the immune system, Cryan says. One recent study suggested that even benign bacteria can alter the brain and behavior, but until now there has been very little work in this area, Cryan says.

From Mind-Altering Bugs

Amazing.

Tweets for 2011-09-01

  1. pathogenic bugs influence the brain by releasing toxins or stimulating the immune system #Science http://t.co/I4mByTe
  2. "The National Flood Insurance Program Reextension Act of 2010 was sponsored by a bipartisan group, it…" http://t.co/9r3MwOY
  3. Bush Says Dwindling Surplus Will Halt Government Growth #NYT 2001 http://t.co/G0XffzK
  4. sdenaro: RT @badbanana: Can’t a man curl up in the fetal position behind a copy machine without everyone assuming something is wrong?
  5. sdenaro: RT @BorowitzReport: The American institutions al-Qaeda tried to destroy 10 years ago are the same ones the Tea Party is working on now.
  6. sdenaro: RT @badbanana: An eleventh foot has washed up on the shores of British Columbia. Canadian authorities can’t explain it because they use …
  7. sdenaro: RT @ezraklein: Obama shouldn’t speak to Congress at all. He should speak to an audience of the unemployed, then take their questions.

Krugman: Republicans Against Science

Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, "manipulating data" to create a fake threat. In his book "Fed Up," he dismissed climate science as a "contrived phony mess that is falling apart."

I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.


From Republicans Against Science

This is normal practice for pseudo intellectual flat-earthers and creation-science folk. When science isn’t on their side, they pick at the way the science is being done. Never mind that the same techniques are being used elsewhere without controversy.

Buddhist Meditation Promotes Rational Thinking

But a new study suggests that people who regularly practice Buddhist meditation actually process these common social situations differently - and the researchers have the brain scans to prove it.

Ulrich Kirk and collaborators at Baylor Medical College in Houston had 40 control subjects and 26 longtime meditators participate in a well-known experiment called the Ultimatum Game. It goes like this:

One person has a sum of money to split with another person. If the other person accepts the offer, they both walk away with cash in their pocket, but if he or she rejects the offer as too chintzy - which happens surprisingly often - neither receives anything.

The rational course is to accept any offer that is proposed, because getting something is better than nothing at all, but the Ultimatum Game suggests that for many people, emotion trumps reason. Being treated fairly is more important than coming out ahead financially.

Kirk's subjects had $20 to split among themselves. When the offers were wildly asymmetrical (keeping $19 for oneself, while offering only $1), 72 percent of the controls refused the money, meaning both parties left empty-handed. But when the meditators played, only 46 percent rejected such blatantly unfair offers. More than half were willing to take whatever they were offered.


From Study: Buddhist Meditation Promotes Rational Thinking - Miller-McCune

Mysticism makes people more rational. I can think of nothing more counter-intuitive.

Has anyone noticed that the people who confuse weather and climate are really quiet during record heat waves? Every cold snap gets them all a flutter, sarcastically asking where the global warming is. Where are they now? Y U NO SAY ITZ HOT?

Did Michael Jackson artificially lighten his skin?

I’ve heard the same old rumors (as I’m sure many others have) since the early 1990’s, some insisting Jackson had his skin somehow lightened, either chemically or medically. Others explain that he had a skin condition known as vitiligo, which turns skin lighter through depigmentation. People counter that argument by saying there has never been a documented case of vitiligo causing depigmentation as widespread as Jackson’s. I’ve yet to see either argument backed by compelling data, and to the best of my knowledge, this debate continues informally to this day, along with whether or not Elvis is still alive and whether or not Paul McCartney is an impostor.

From Skeptics - Stack Exchange

More about vitilgo than I ever wanted to know.

Fat Substitutes May Make You Fatter

Rats that consumed a mix of full-fat chips and chips with olestra wound up eating more and got fatter than rats that noshed on regular chips alone.

Their bodies were apparently getting mixed messages. A mouthful of fat is usually a signal that calories are coming, and the body reacts by getting ready to burn fuel. But olestra, which tastes like fat, carries no calories at all. So the body soon learns to stand down in the face of fat. All fat. Even real fat.

From Scientific American

This sounds similar to the effect of diet soda on insulin production.

Ten Serious Medical Problems With Cutesy Names

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

This is a neurological syndrome that affects perception. People can feel like they’re giants, or have giant body parts, moving through a tiny world. They can also feel like they’ve shrunk down to a miniature version of themselves. Sounds a bit like a fun trip, but having a view of reality that is completely off-kilter is a dangerous thing when it comes to walking downstairs or gauging how long a fall is. This syndrome most often comes on at night. Pleasant dreams


From io9


One pill make you smaller?

What is a tree's maximum possible height?

Trees might go on growing forever if it wasn’t for gravity. The higher up trees grow, the more energy is needed to transport water from the root system to its leaves or needles up top. That means the leaves or needles will get smaller and smaller, until the amount of energy they can gain from photosynthesis is outweighed by the energy expended in order to haul up water in the first place. At that point, there’s no point for the tree to keep growing, and it stops.

So what, precisely, is the upper limit for the world’s biggest trees? According to biologists at Northern Arizona University, this cutoff point is somewhere between 400 and 426 feet - perhaps nearly fifty feet taller than any tree currently in existence,


From io9

Interesting.

People Argue Just to Win, Scholars Assert

Now some researchers are suggesting that reason evolved for a completely different purpose: to win arguments. Rationality, by this yardstick (and irrationality too, but we'll get to that) is nothing more or less than a servant of the hard-wired compulsion to triumph in the debating arena. According to this view, bias, lack of logic and other supposed flaws that pollute the stream of reason are instead social adaptations that enable one group to persuade (and defeat) another. Certitude works, however sharply it may depart from the truth.

From NYTimes

Interesting.

Geometry skills are innate, Amazon tribe study suggests

Researchers examined how the Mundurucu think about lines, points and angles, comparing the results with equivalent tests on French and US schoolchildren.

The Mundurucu showed comparable understanding, and even outperformed the students on tasks that asked about forms on spherical surfaces.

The ideas are profoundly ingrained in formal education, but what remains a matter of debate is whether the capacity, or intuition, for geometry is present in all peoples regardless of their language or level of education.

"Mundurucu is a language with only approximative numbers," Dr Pica told BBC News.

"You don’t have a lot of geometrical terms like square or triangle or anything like that, and no way of saying two lines are parallel… it looks like the language does not have this concept."

The Mundurucu people’s responses to the questions were roughly as accurate as those of the French and US respondents; they seemed to have an intuition about lines and geometric shapes without formal education or even the relevant words.

From BBC News

Do you not need a concept of math to have mathematical concepts? I’m curious if the test might be performed in a similar way against other cultures with mathematical terms.

A silent jetpack would be like swimming in air, but it is likely beyond the physics of thrust

In “Too Hard for Science?” I interview scientists about ideas they would love to explore that they don’t think could be investigated. For instance, they might involve machines beyond the realm of possibility, such as particle accelerators as big as the sun, or they might be completely unethical, such as lethal experiments involving people. This feature aims to look at the impossible dreams, the seemingly intractable problems in science. However, the question mark at the end of “Too Hard for Science?” suggests that nothing might be impossible.

From Dean Kamen - Defying Gravity

An exploration of what science can and can not do.

Protozoa Could Be Controlling Your Brain

Common sense and volumes of psychological and neuroscientific research reveal, however, that we are less free than we think we are. Our genes, our upbringing and our environment influence our behaviors in ways that often escape conscious control. Understanding this influence, the advertisement industry spent approximately half a trillion dollars worldwide in 2010 to shape the buying decisions of consumers….Yet nothing approaches the perfidy of the one-celled organism Toxoplasma gondii , one of the most widespread of all parasitic protozoa. It takes over the brain of its host and makes it do things, even actions that will cause it to die, in the service of this nasty hitchhiker. It sounds like a cheesy Hollywood horror flick, except that it is for real.

From Protozoa Could Be Controlling Your Brain

Interesting.

80% Improvement In Solar Cell Efficiency

An anonymous reader writes “Chemistry researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory say they’ve improved the efficiency of typical solar cells by a whopping 80% by creating a 3-D nanocone-based solar cell platform. The technology tackles the problem of poor transport of charges generated by solar photons. These charges - ‘negative electrons and positive holes’ - typically become trapped by defects in bulk materials and degrade performance. ‘We designed the three-dimensional structure to provide an intrinsic electric field distribution that promotes efficient charge transport and high efficiency in converting energy from sunlight into electricity.’ Bottom line, they say, is they’ve boosted the light-to-power conversion efficiency of photovoltaics by 80 percent.”

From Slashdot

Autism epidemic challenged by UK research

…more and more research hints that some if not all of the increase in autism may be due to changes in how, and how often, the disorder is diagnosed. Kids who used to be classified as mentally retarded or just plain eccentric, for instance, might now get an autism-spectrum label instead.

"That simply means more people are coming forth and being recognized," Brugha told Reuters Health.

The researchers used data from the third national Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, which was carried out in the UK in 2007.


From Autism epidemic challenged by UK research | Reuters

So now they’ll claim that vaccines cause mis-diagnoses.

Scientists have trained a computer program, called DEviaNT, to identify good "That's what she said" jokes:

Automating this process means identifying sentences that contain potential euphemisms and follow a particular structure - a “hard natural language understanding problem”, say the researchers. … They then evaluated nouns, adjectives and verbs with a “sexiness” function to determine whether a sentence is a potential TWSS. Examples of nouns with a high sexiness function are “rod” and “meat”, while raunchy adjectives are “hot” and “wet”.

Future work could also see DEviaNT extended to identify other kinds of jokes, say the researchers, writing “The technique of metaphorical mapping may be generalized to identify other types of double entendres and other forms of humor”.

From Puerile Tech by way of New Scientist

GE's Immelt wishes he had soft-pedaled green talk | Reuters

If I had one thing to do over again I would not have talked so much about green,” Immelt said at an event sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Even though I believe in global warming and I believe in the science … it just took on a connotation that was too elitist

From Reuters

It’s a sad day when the CEO of a company has to practically apologize for excepting science because science is too elitist. WTF.

Your Brain on Jazz

Charles Limb, a hearing and ear surgeon at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, studies jazz as a means of understanding what goes on “under the hood” when a musician is improvising. The Q&A in Scientific American ‘s May issues queries Limb about the nature of his work. And this video expands on the insights in the interview through a seminar at Johns Hopkins, “Neural Mechanisms of Musical Improvisation,” that Limb organized with jazz musicians Pat Metheny, Mike Pope and Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.


From Scientific American [Video]

Bill Nye Boo'd In Texas For Saying The Moon Reflects The Sun

Bill Nye, the harmless children’s edu-tainer known as “The Science Guy,” managed to offend a select group of adults in Waco, Texas at a presentation, when he suggested that the moon does not emit light, but instead reflects the light of the sun.

As even most elementary-school graduates know, the moon reflects the light of the sun but produces no light of its own.

But don’t tell that to the good people of Waco, who were “visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence,” according to the Waco Tribune.


From Bill Nye Boo’d In Texas For Saying The Moon Reflects The Sun


The war on science continues.

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing - that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. - Richard Feynman

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing - that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. — Richard Feynman

"What is Science?", presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, in New York City (1966) published in The Physics Teacher Vol. 7, issue 6 (1969)

Richard Feynman - Wikiquote

Motivated Reasoning : The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science

The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience [7] (PDF): Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion (or what researchers often call “affect”). Not only are the two inseparable, but our positive or negative feelings about people, things, and ideas arise much more rapidly than our conscious thoughts, in a matter of milliseconds-fast enough to detect with an EEG device, but long before we’re aware of it. That shouldn’t be surprising: Evolution required us to react very quickly to stimuli in our environment. It’s a “basic human survival skill,” explains political scientist Arthur Lupia [8] of the University of Michigan. We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close. We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.

We apply fight-or-flight reflexes not only to predators, but to data itself.

We’re not driven only by emotions, of course-we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower-and even then, it doesn’t take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.

From The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

Feynman summed this up as his first principal, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

The last three months have seen a measles outbreak in Europe

The World Health Organization believes that the low rate of vaccination in people age ten to nineteen may be responsible for a widespread outbreak of measles in France. In 2010, five thousand cases of measles were reported in France. In the first three months of 2011, 4,937 have been reported. What’s more, outbreaks have been reported in 33 European countries.

From IO9

Sigh. This is only happening because of Andrew Wakefield’s erroneous study.

A working robot controlled by a slime mould, Dalek anyone?

A working robot controlled by a slime mould, and designed and built in ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, will play a starring role in a major BBC4/Discovery Channel feature to be aired in the autumn.

A production team from BBC Scotland spent a whole day in ECS this week, filming with Dr Klaus-Peter Zauner and Dr Soichiro Tsuda, who developed the robot. Its central innovation is that it features a biochip which encapsulates a plasmodial cell of the slime mould Physarum polycephalum which is used to control the robot's movements. An electronic interface enables the slim mould cell to be connected to a computer in order to monitor local mechanical oscillations in the cell and it also provides stimulation for the slime mould with light signals, causing the movement of the robot.


From ECS - What’s inside a Dalek?

Maybe not a good idea to pursue Dalek technology?

The Moore's Law of solar energy

That is changing. Over the last 30 years, researchers have watched as the price of capturing solar energy has dropped exponentially. There’s now frequent talk of a “Moore’s law” in solar energy. In computing, Moore’s law dictates that the number of components that can be placed on a chip doubles every 18 months. More practically speaking, the amount of computing power you can buy for a dollar has roughly doubled every 18 months, for decades. That’s the reason that the phone in your pocket has thousands of times as much memory and ten times as much processing power as a famed Cray 1 supercomputer, while weighing ounces compared to the Cray’s 10,000-pound bulk, fitting in your pocket rather than a large room, and costing tens or hundreds of dollars rather than tens of millions.

If similar dynamics worked in solar power technology, then we would eventually have the solar equivalent of an iPhone - incredibly cheap, mass distributed energy technology that was many times more effective than the giant and centralized technologies it was born from.

From The Moore’s Law of solar energy

And when solar is cheaper, expect the right to demand we increase oil and coal subsidies to save jobs.

The Psychology of Cheating

"Cheating is especially easy to justify when you frame situations to cast yourself as a victim of some kind of unfairness," said Dr. Anjan Chatterjee, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the use of prescription drugs to improve intellectual performance. "Then it becomes a matter of evening the score; you're not cheating, you're restoring fairness."


From The Psychology of Cheating - NYTimes.com


Interesting.

Global Warming Critics Replicate Disputed Climate Change Findings

Gee. Imagine that. That’s supposed to be the test of scientific theory: when the same experiments produce the same results. A team of UC Berkeley physicists and statisticians that set out to challenge the scientific consensus on global ...


From Global Warming Critics Replicate Disputed Climate Change Findings


So they are going to change their minds, right? Those opinions are fact-based not ideological in nature, right?

Frankenstein's creation is not inherently evil. He is endowed with the spark of life, and becomes twisted into a dark and inhuman creature through mistreatment, abandonment, and neglect. The nuclear spark is similarly indifferent. Although it can have terrible consequences, it also offers the ability to power our civilization without warming our planet. The dangers attendant with nuclear power almost certainly pale in comparison with the dangers of global warming. The challenge is to learn to control our discovery, rather than become engulfed by it.

Frankenstein's creation is not inherently evil. He is endowed with the spark of life, and becomes twisted into a dark and inhuman creature through mistreatment, abandonment, and neglect. The nuclear spark is similarly indifferent. Although it can have terrible consequences, it also offers the ability to power our civilization without warming our planet. The dangers attendant with nuclear power almost certainly pale in comparison with the dangers of global warming. The challenge is to learn to control our discovery, rather than become engulfed by it.
Mary Shelley’s Nuclear Power

HFCS Leads To Much More Weight Gain In Rats Than Sugar

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn’t true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said psychology professor Bart Hoebel. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese - every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight."


From The Consumerist

An artificial leaf and a gallon of water could generate enough energy to power your house for a day

New research out of MIT has created an artificial leaf that’s not only cheap to build, but resilient too. The leaf is like a thinner version of a playing card in size. When placed in water in sunlight, it uses the new, inexpensive catalysts to convert the liquid into hydrogen and oxygen - and each of the gasses is emitted from a different side of the leaf - which can then be used as a power source. Using the leaf, a gallon of water can be used to generate enough power to fuel a house for a day. Currently the device functions at 10 times the efficiency of photosynthesis, but the researchers are sure they can improve it further.


From IO9

Amazing.

How Free Is Your Will?

As we go about our daily lives, we constantly make choices to act in certain ways. We all believe we exercise free will in such actions - we decide what to do and when to do it. Free will, however, becomes more complicated when you try to think how it can arise from brain activity.

Do we control our neurons or do they control us? If everything we do starts in the brain, what kind of neural activity would reflect free choice? And how would you feel about your free will if we were to tell you that neuroscientists can look at your brain activity, and tell that you are about to make a decision to move - and that they could do this a whole second and a half before you yourself became aware of your own choice?


From How Free Is Your Will?


Free will is a non-sequitor.

Galileo Was Wrong?

Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, Volume I, The Scientific Case for Geocentrism, is a detailed and comprehensive treatise that demonstrates from the available scientific evidence that heliocentrism (the concept that the Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the sun) is an unproven theory; and that geocentrism (the view that the Earth is in the center of the universe and does not move by either rotation or revolution) is not only supported by the scientific evidence but is admitted to be a logical and viable cosmological position by many of the world’s top scientists, including Albert Einstein, Ernst Mach, Edwin Hubble, Fred Hoyle and many more.


From Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, Volume I, The Scientific Case for Geocentrism (9780977964055): Robert A. Sungenis, Ph.D. and Robert J. Bennett, Ph.D.: Books


They expect us to believe the earth is round? Feh!

Chernobyl Opens For Tourism

Chernobyl is approaching its 25th anniversary. And, believe it or not, the area is open for tourism.

Just last week Scientific American contributor Charles Choi visited. He was accompanied by physicist Vadim Chumack of the Research Center for Radiation Medicine at the Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine.

From Chernobyl Opens For Tourism: Scientific American Podcast

So what isotopes have a greater than 25 year half life and would still be in high concentrations?

Lawrence Krauss Reflects on the Life and Work of Richard Feynman

the real catalyst that made Feynman a public figure arose by accident, in this case a tragic accident: the explosion shortly after liftoff of the Challenger space shuttle, which was carrying the first "civilian," a public school teacher who was scheduled to teach some classes from space. During the investigation that ensued, Feynman was asked to join the NASA investigatory panel, and in an uncharacteristic moment (he studiously avoided committees and anything else that kept him away from his work), he agreed.

Feynman pursued the task in his own, equally uncharacteristic way. Rather than study reports and focus on bureaucratic proposals for the future, Feynman talked directly to the engineers and scientists at NASA, and in a famous moment during the televised hearings, he performed an experiment, putting a small rubber O-ring in a glass of ice water and thus demonstrating that the O-rings used to seal the rocket could fail under temperatures as cold as those on the day of the ill-fated launch.


From From One Physicist to Another: Lawrence Krauss Reflects on the Life and Work of Richard Feynman: Scientific American

Triumph of the flat-earth Republicans

It is possible to understand how people might disagree that climate change is a threat to public health (we’ll all just start farming wheat in Siberia or northern Canada) or that humans are the main cause of rising temperatures (sunspots! natural variation!). But I still find it confounding that 31 Republicans are willing to deny, flat-out, that temperatures are rising, period.


From Triumph of the flat-earth Republicans


In related news, the GOP is going to cure cancer by voting that it doesn’t exist.

Sperm Whales May Have Names

Subtle variations in sperm-whale calls suggest that individuals announce themselves with discrete personal identifier. To put it another way, they might have names.

The findings are preliminary, based on observations of just three whales, so talk of names is still speculation. But "it's very suggestive," said biologist Luke Rendell of Scotland's University of St. Andrews. "They seem to make that coda in a way that's individually distinctive."


From Sperm Whales May Have Names


To what extent does it mean they are self aware?

Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste

a series of studies has called these stereotypes into question. Among the surprising conclusions: the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant-a by-product from burning coal for electricity-carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.

From Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste

There is a note attached about the calculations but this is tangential to the point. The alternative to atomic power is coal, not wind and solar. You can’t count of the wind to blow and the sun can be blocked by weather. Coal will always burn and will atoms always release heat during fusion.

Monkeys Fattened Up to Study Human Obesity

They also drink a fruit-flavored punch with the fructose equivalent of about a can of soda a day. In all, they might consume about twice as many calories as a normal-weight monkey.

Dr. Grove and researchers at some other centers say the high-fructose corn syrup appears to accelerate the development of obesity and diabetes.

"It wasn't until we added those carbs that we got all those other changes, including those changes in body fat," said Anthony G. Comuzzie, who helped create an obese baboon colony at the Southwest National Primate Research Center in San Antonio.


From Monkeys Fattened Up to Study Human Obesity


HFCS makes monkeys fat too.

In Death Valley, the rocks move when no one's looking

When walking through Racetrack Playa, a dried up lake bed in Death Valley, it’s not unusual to see these moving rocks, with their long tracks stretched out behind them. They’re never moved into any kind of structure, so it’s unlikely that humans are doing - although scientists have not ruled out some kind of prank. The occasional rains in southeastern California can flood the lake beds. Rains can create small rivers that go for miles, so parts of the desert can flood even when there isn’t a cloud in the sky. But rocks don’t float, so how do they manage to move themselves?

From In Death Valley, the rocks move when no one’s looking


The geological version of cattle abductions.

Scientists Invent World's First Anti-Laser

"Two scientists at Yale University have built the laser’s first doppelganger: the anti-laser. While a conventional laser emits a constant beam of light in one direction, the anti-laser simply does the opposite. It takes that same steady light stream and interacts with it in such a way that it absorbs and cancels out the light. And scientists hope the strange creation could help the fight against cancer. A. Douglas Stone, one of the two researchers behind the project, said he came up with the idea for a "nega-laser" when working with equations for a random laser with his partner in crime, Hui Cao. “I figured, if we just somehow illuminated the cavity, and replaced the gain medium with something that tends to absorb light, we could essentially reverse the process,” Stone said. Oh, that makes sense.”

From Scientists Invent World’s First Anti-Laser - Slashdot

I don’t even think this is a common sci-fi technology.

Senator Rand Paul for funding ethanol, not science

The National Science Foundation would lose 62 percent of its budget because Paul argues that private industry and the states, not the federal government, should be paying for research. But there's no evidence that industry wants to foot that bill, and the states are already financially strapped.

From Scientific American Podcast

So Rand Paul budget doesn’t ethanol and farm subsidies but does cut the science budget. Fund ethanol, not science. After all, how could science be more important to American’s future than artificially cheap corn? Because funding the NSF distorts the market for science while subsidizing ethanol is market neutral. After all corn is a infinite resource while human intellect severely limited.

Artificial Hydrogen Tests Quantum Theory

Scientists have created ultra-light and ultra-heavy forms of the element hydrogen, and have investigated their chemical properties.

Donald Fleming, a chemist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and his colleagues generated two artificial analogues of hydrogen: one with a mass a little over one-tenth that of ordinary hydrogen, and one four times heavier than hydrogen.


From Artificial Hydrogen Tests Quantum Theory

2010 Was The Hottest Year Ever

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today announced that "2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record," and 2010 is also "the wettest year on record, in terms of global average precipitation." The year was by far the hottest during a La Nina cycle, during which the equatorial Pacific Ocean is unusually cold.


From 2010 Was The Hottest Year Ever


Coincidences that just keep happening.

Few Students Show Proficiency in Science

On the most recent nationwide science test, about a third of fourth graders and a fifth of high school seniors scored at or above the level the federal Department of Education calls proficient, according to resultsreleased on Tuesday.

Only one or two students out of every 100 displayed the level of science mastery that the department defines as advanced, the government said.


From Few Students Show Proficiency in Science


This is really sad.

New solar fuel machine mimics plant life

A prototype solar device has been unveiled which mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy into fuel.

The machine uses the Sun’s rays and a metal oxide called ceria to break down carbon dioxide or water into fuels which can be stored and transported.

From BBC News

The big problem with Solar and Wind have always been energy storage. This is an interesting breakthrough.

Clever Crows Use Tools in New Way

"There is no species of bird that has been recorded using tools for more than one function," said zoologist Joanna Wimpenny of the University of Sheffield.

That alone is a special behavior, and New Caledonians have refined it, choosing their twigs carefully and even demonstrating what's known as sequential tool use - using twigs to obtain twigs that would allow them to obtain food.

Sequential tool use in particular is considered a possible sign of high-level cognitive powers: understanding causality, analogizing, planning. Whether the birds in fact possess these powers, or happen to be instinctively good at a narrow range of tasks, is inconclusive, but flexible tool use would suggest something more than simple instinct.

From Clever Crows Use Tools in New Way

I think we need to re-think what we may need to rethink what we mean when we say intelligence, thought or mind. Our terminology is influence by philosophical arguments that may be obsolete.

Clever Crows Use Tools in New Way

"There is no species of bird that has been recorded using tools for more than one function," said zoologist Joanna Wimpenny of the University of Sheffield.

That alone is a special behavior, and New Caledonians have refined it, choosing their twigs carefully and even demonstrating what's known as sequential tool use - using twigs to obtain twigs that would allow them to obtain food.

Sequential tool use in particular is considered a possible sign of high-level cognitive powers: understanding causality, analogizing, planning. Whether the birds in fact possess these powers, or happen to be instinctively good at a narrow range of tasks, is inconclusive, but flexible tool use would suggest something more than simple instinct.

From Clever Crows Use Tools in New Way

I think we need to re-think what we may need to rethink what we mean when we say intelligence, thought or mind. Our terminology is influence by philosophical arguments that may be obsolete.

Girl Chimpanzees May Use Sticks as Dolls

In a fashion similar to human girls, some young chimpanzees seem to play with sticks as if they were dolls.

The findings, reported in the Dec. 21 Current Biology, are the first documented evidence of boy and girl primates in the wild playing differently with their toys. Though these patterns' origins will surely be argued, they add to the constellation of behaviors shared by humans with our closest living relative.


From Girl Chimpanzees May Use Sticks as Dolls | Wired Science | Wired.com


They Might Be Giants, Science is real.

Invisibility Rug Hides 'Large' Objects: Scientific American

Baile Zhang and his colleagues have built a calcite carpet-cloak that can shield a steel wedge that is 38 millimetres long and 2 millimetres high from red, green and blue visible light3. The team designed their cloak to work under water. “I think that governments could make a lot of use out of a cloak that can hide objects on the seabed — although I won’t speculate on exactly what they may want to hide,” says team member George Barbastathis, a mechanical engineer also at the SMART Centre.


From Invisibility Rug Hides ‘Large’ Objects: Scientific American


Underwater base?

No Evidence of Time before Big Bang: Scientific American

Our view of the early Universe may be full of mysterious circles — and even triangles — but that doesn’t mean we’re seeing evidence of events that took place before the Big Bang. So says a trio of papers taking aim at a recent claim that concentric rings of uniform temperature within the cosmic microwave background


From No Evidence of Time before Big Bang: Scientific American


Worth a read.

Brain Imaging Studies Show Different Cultures Have Different Brains

Did you know that our brain function is entirely different when we think about our own honesty versus when we think about another's honesty? That's if the "we" is American. For Chinese people their brains look identical when considering either.

These sorts of studies fall into so-called cultural neuroscience; the study how our environment shapes our brain function.

From SciAm

Still leaves the cause-effect problem on the table, but this is pretty interesting. Is it simply language? Or some other aspect of culture?

NASA discovers arsenic-born organisms, search for life gets broader parameters

Researchers in Mono Lake, California have discovered a microorganism (pictured) that uses aresnic instead of phosphorous to thrive and reproduce. The latter, as far as human life is concerned, is a buildng block of life along with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur, integral to DNA and RNA. Arsenic, meanwhile, is generally considered toxic to life as we know it. In other words, NASA’s proven that life can be made with components different than our current assumptions — both locally and beyond the stars.


From Engadget


Amazing news. Wonder what the ID folks will make of this.

Wind Tunnel Tests Reveal Pterosaurs Could Soar for Hours

The ancient pterosaur was a slow flier that coasted on light air currents and could soar for hours. Colin Palmer, a graduate student at the University of Bristol, arrived at this conclusion by employing his expertise as a turbine engineer to carry out first-of-a kind tests on models of pterosaur wings in a wind tunnel.


From Wind Tunnel Tests Reveal Pterosaurs Could Soar for Hours: Scientific American


It’s amazing to think of all they ways flight has evolved.

Pterosaurs were pre-historic pole vaulters

Instead of running, the two researchers think that the pterosaur crouched down, lowered its wings to touch the ground in front of its body, and used it legs to push itself up onto its wing bones. Once it had its weight on its powerful wings, the wings would launch it forward and up into the air. The wings themselves would then lift off the ground, unfurl and fly.


From Pterosaurs were pre-historic pole vaulters


Once again, childhood images of dinosaurs will have to be updated.

Does Hybrid Clone Lizard taste like Chicken?

A lizard long served on the menu in the Mekong Delta has recently caught the attention of scientists when it was noted that all animals in the species appeared identical as well as female. The species appears to be a hybrid of two other species (like a mule or liger). But the curious thing is that this hybrid isn’t sterile - it reproduces asexually.


From Does Hybrid Clone Lizard taste like Chicken?


Interesting. But does it taste like cloned chicken?

Study Shows Some Evidence Of Human Precognitive Powers

That’s not to say that storefront psychics really can read your palm, or that one can see the future simply by thinking hard about it. But Bem’s empirical, straightforward science suggests the brain does have some ability to perceive what’s coming. The science is sound enough that Bem’s paper found a home in the prestigious Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which will publish the piece shortly. It also received a fairly lengthy write-up in Psychology Today.

From Study Shows Some Evidence Of Human Precognitive Powers

My first instinct it to call BS on this. Being good at guessing isn’t precognition. And the ability for the mind to sense patterns that are not there is already well understood.

World's Most Precise Clocks Could Reveal Universe Is a Hologram

"What we're looking for is when the lasers lose step with each other. We're trying to detect the smallest unit in the universe," Hogan said. "This is really great fun, a sort of old-fashioned physics experiment where you don't know what the result will be."

The holographic principle, derived from weirdness theorized to occur at the boundaries of black holes, says reality could be a 3-D projection of a 2-D plane of information. It's much the same way a hologram printed on a credit card creates the illusion of a 3-D object but, as Hogan explained, we can't perceive the 2-D surface.

"We could be living inside that 3-D projection, with the truer vision of it as a 2-D sheet hidden by scale," Hogan said.

From World's Most Precise Clocks Could Reveal Universe Is a Hologram | Wired Science | Wired.com

Mind boggling science at work.

The mystery of collective intelligence

Birds in flocks make turns as a collective. Ants build, supply, and defend their burrows. How does a group make better decisions than any one of its members? Welcome to the hive mind.

From The mystery of collective intelligence

I’ve always been amazed that individuals working as a group can result in different outcomes than what any individual can achieve working on their own. Even in cases where is isn’t clear that the individuals are aware of group dynamics.

Slashdot on The Science of Truthiness

"Researchers at Indiana University have just launched Truthy.indiana.edu, which they humbly declare ‘a sophisticated new Twitter-based research tool that combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive tactics and misinformation leading up to the Nov. 2 elections.’ According to their FAQ, they define ‘truthy’ thus: ‘A truthy meme relies on deceptive tactics to represent misinformation as fact. The Truthy system uses Truthy to refer to activities such as political smear campaigns, astroturfing, and other social pollution.”


From Slashdot Science Story | The Science of Truthiness


Via Slashdot. Finally someone is getting to the bottom of Truthiness.

Climategate debunking is (or should be) major news

By restoring the reputation of the U.N. s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the reports released by a Netherlands environmental agency and a special British investigative panel should do much to dispel the widespread doubt generated by hackers who pinched nasty e-mails from the computers of climate scientists associated with the IPCC.

Or the reports would dispel doubt, if only the mainstream media showed sufficient interest in correcting the record. For what the probers found is that those embarrassing e-mails, considered in context, undermined neither the basic integrity of the scientists who authored them nor their dire conclusions about the potential impact of carbon dioxide pollution.


From "Climategate" debunking is (or should be) major news - Joe Conason - salon.com

This is the next zombie lie that will soldier on for decades to come. In the future, right wing conspiracy nuts enjoying the fruits of the renewable energy economy will be writing revisionist histories about the whole climate change problem being a secret socialist hoax.
Of course having the media correct the record should be the first step. The second should be to call out all the people in the media who were quick to report the false scandal and slow to clarify that they were wrong and that there was no scandal. Lastly, those who insist on reporting this as a zombie lie for the next few decades should be called out as well.

Andrew Wakefield Has Given 4,000 Brits The Measles

The decade-plus long vacctivist scare that followed resulted in vaccination rates dropping significantly in the UK, which is followed by a spike in measles cases. Though I’m sure Wakefield’s supporters will claim these two things are just a coincidence.
Andrew Wakefield Has Given 4,000 Brits The Measles - Daddy Types

Great blog post on the human costs of vaccine hysteria caused by Wakefield’s now discredited research.

The Beauty of Diversity, and Sea Slugs

In the Philippines, Terry Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences prepares for a week of diving to study nudibranchs, or sea slugs.

one of the few places in the western Pacific where you can say that the reefs are in better shape now than they used to be. That is in large measure due to concerted conservation efforts by heroic community leaders and recognition that having abundant marine life attracts the scuba divers who flock here each spring and infuse the local economy.

more than half the species we find here are new species. For a systematic biologist like myself, this is a dream come true. Where else can you find an average of one new species per dive?
From The Beauty of Diversity, and Sea Slugs - Scientist at Work Blog - NYTimes.com

If you read only one article about Sea Slugs, this should be the one.

The Beauty of Diversity, and Sea Slugs

In the Philippines, Terry Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences prepares for a week of diving to study nudibranchs, or sea slugs.

one of the few places in the western Pacific where you can say that the reefs are in better shape now than they used to be. That is in large measure due to concerted conservation efforts by heroic community leaders and recognition that having abundant marine life attracts the scuba divers who flock here each spring and infuse the local economy.

more than half the species we find here are new species. For a systematic biologist like myself, this is a dream come true. Where else can you find an average of one new species per dive?
From The Beauty of Diversity, and Sea Slugs - Scientist at Work Blog - NYTimes.com

If you read only one article about Sea Slugs, this should be the one.

ClimateGate debunked

E-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data but the messages don’t support claims that the science of global warming was faked, according to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press.
The 1,073 e-mails examined by the AP show that scientists harbored private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world they were certain about climate change. However, the exchanges don’t undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
From ClimateGate debunked?

The people on the Global Warming skepticism side are increasingly behaving like Ufologists. Anyone who calls a weather-balloon a weather-balloon is imminently considered part of the conspiracy to hide the truth.

Mediterranean Is Scary Laboratory of Ocean Futures | Wired Science | Wired.com

The predicted effects of climate change are being met in the Mediterranean. The results are more obvious and dramatic, but the drivers are the same all over the world, said Pierre Chevaldonne, a University of the Mediterranean biologist.
From: Mediterranean Is Scary Laboratory of Ocean Futures | Wired Science | Wired.com

If global warming is a hoax, why are the predictions coming true?

British Researcher Steps Down During E-Mail-Leak Inquiry

The head of the British research unit at the center of a controversy over the disclosure of thousands of e-mail messages among climate-change scientists has stepped down pending the outcome of an investigation.
From British Researcher Steps Down During E-Mail-Leak Inquiry - NYTimes.com

While embarrassing, this incident does nothing to change the physics of carbon in the atmosphere. A really good, politics free discussion is at popular mechanics.

National borders become natural borders

the antlion surplus in Israel can be traced back to the fact that the Dorcas gazelle is a protected species there, while across the border in Jordan, it can legally be hunted. Jordanian antlions are thus disadvantaged, with fewer gazelles available to serve “as ‘environmental engineers’ of a sort” and to “break the earth’s dry surface,” enabling antlions to dig their funnels.

National borders become natural borders

Amazing science fact of the day.

First, The Good Autism Treatment News

Even though it’s small, a new autism study from the University of Washington published in Pediatrics is being hailed as a “landmark.” It finds that early diagnosis—as young as 18 mos—and intensive socialization therapy can “vastly improve” key ASD-related symptoms and behaviors. So yeah, Early Start Denver Model!
On the other, more depressing, hand, the Chicago Tribune no doubt ruined quite a few Thanksgiving dinners last week with its blistering, critical report on alternative autism treatments such as chelation, pressure chambers, blood infusions, and on and on. They basically paint a picture of an autism quackery industry that preys on the desperate hopes of parents by conducting dangerous, “uncontrolled experiments on vulnerable children.”
Sounds absolutely horrible, frankly.
From Autism treatment works in kids as young as 18 mos. By way of First, The Good Autism Treatment News

Interesting article.

How to Win an Argument About Vaccines

MYTH 4: Vaccines are no longer necessary, because the diseases are no longer a threat. FACT: The opposite is true. Because of vaccines, diseases that once killed millions are now invisible. But if only a few families stop vaccinating, the illnesses could reemerge in a community. And the diseases are horrible - mumps and Haemophilus influenzae type b cause meningitis, which can lead to deafness, epilepsy, and cognitive impairment. Measles can lead to encephalitis, blindness, and death.
How to Win an Argument About Vaccines | Magazine

This month’s Wired is both brutal and fair to the anti-vaccine crowd.

Unidentified Biological Goo

A gigantic smear of gooey, black biological material is making its way through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow in Northern Alaska. Eyewitnesses say it’s definitely a living entity, though unlike anything they’ve seen before. Closeup shot below.
The blob was first spotted last week, floating in Arctic waters. Big chunks of it - some as much as “12 miles long,” according to the Anchorage Daily News, are drifting through the sea. A helicopter tracked the spread of the goop for 15 miles and saw no end to it. So far, none of unknown substance has touched shore.
From: http://io9.com/5315841/unidentified-biological-goo-15-miles-long-creeps-down-alaskan-coast

Scary stuff. It look like it comes from a David Kronenberg written X-Files script.

MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism

THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.
Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients' data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.
From MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism - Times Online

With a nod to Charles Hope for point this out first.

A must read article. Hopefully, now that this hoax is being exposed, the vaccines are bad meme will start fading away before more kids die of easily preventable diseases.

Jet Man to cross English Channel

Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, aka the Jet Man, is slated to attempt to rocket into the history books by becoming the first person to fly across the English Channel using a single, jet-propelled wing attached to his back

From national geographic "Jet Man" to Set Flight Record Over English Channel

Once again I am reminded of the Wile E. Coyote rule of personal flying machines. Before using a personal flying machine, it is important to ask yourself when in flight, will it look like I am chasing a road-runner? Sadly, the answer to this is yes. He looks like he is chasing a road runner.

Inside the vaccine-and-autism scare

Eleven studies now show that the MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism (the most recent just came out). Six have shown that thimerosal doesn’t cause autism; three have shown thimerosal doesn’t cause neurological problems. Studies showing the opposite, like Wakefield’s, use flawed methods, have serious conflicts of interest or have been conducted in animals whose results can’t be extrapolated to humans.
From Salon.com Books | Inside the vaccine-and-autism scare

Another must read on the topic.

Debunking an Autism Theory

Ten years ago, a clinical research paper triggered widespread and persistent fears that a combined vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella - the so-called MMR vaccine - causes autism in young children. That theory has been soundly refuted by a variety of other research over the years, and now a new study that tried to replicate the original study has provided further evidence that it was a false alarm.
From Editorial - Debunking an Autism Theory - Editorial - NYTimes.com

Richard Feynman had a great saying “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” I think of that quote whenever I think I might be treating information differently simply because I wish it to be true or wish it to be false.
I’ve tried really hard not to let comments accusing me of child abuse because my son has been getting his vaccinations, effect my opinions on vaccinations or on theories linking it to disease. But at this point, it is getting much harder to respect the beliefs of the anti-vaccine people. The facts are not with them and they are becoming more defensive about their objections the more the facts contradict them.

Weapons-Grade Lasers by the End of '08?

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman is promising the Pentagon that it’ll have weapons-grade electric lasers by the end of 2008. Which means honest-to-goodness energy weapons might actually become a military reality, after decades of fruitless searching.
Weapons-Grade Lasers by the End of ‘08? | Danger Room from Wired.com

No word on if these freken lasers can be mounted onto the backs of trained sharks.

Measles fears prompt MMR campaign

Extra vaccine supplies and funding are being made available. An epidemic of measles - which can be fatal - could potentially affect up to 100,000 young people in England alone. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
Experts say it is perfectly safe, but vaccination rates dipped following controversy about its safety.

Around 95% of the population need to be vaccinated to protect against widespread outbreaks of measles.
The current vaccination rate across England and Wales is around 10 percentage points lower.
Measles fears prompt MMR campaign

It was only a matter of time before the anti-vaccine hysteria resulted in an epidemic. The 95% figure made me think of something. Assuming you are anti-vaccine for some reason; you are making your child dependent on herd immunity. Ergo, the more successful you are in getting people to opt out of vaccinations, the less protected your child is. For the safety of your child, you should be promoting vaccines for everyone else, not trying to convince them to follow your lead.

Five Reasons You Don't Have a Personal Jet Pack Yet

Flying around with your own personal jet engine, strapped to your back, has been one of the hallmarks of futurism for decades. Which sucks, because futuristic stuff is supposed to eventually happen. So why the hell aren’t we all flying to work via rocket power? Because you’re about as aerodynamic as a potato, my friend. Here are five reasons the jet pack just hasn’t happened yet.
From Mad Engineering: Five Reasons You Don’t Have a Personal Jet Pack Yet

No jet packs. No flying cars. And no personal army of fembots. The future is here and it is as boring as the present.

One in Eight High School Biology Teachers Still Teach Creationism

25% said they devoted classroom time to creationism or intelligent design. Of these, about one-half — 12% of all teachers — called creationism a “valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species,” and the same number said that “many reputable scientists view these as valid alternatives to Darwinian theory.”
One in Eight High School Biology Teachers Still Teach Creationism | Wired Science from Wired.com

When I was in 3rd grade I read a book about dinosaurs. I asked my Catholic school teachers “why aren’t the dinosaurs in the bible?” To hear that so many teachers are willing to promote such nonsense is really troubling.

Smarter Isn't Better

Dr. Kawecki and like-minded scientists are trying to figure out why animals learn and why some have evolved to be better at learning than others. One reason for the difference, their research finds, is that being smart can be bad for an animal’s health.
From Lots of Animals Learn, but Smarter Isn’t Better - New York Times

This leads to a question for the ID people. Why would an intelligent designer work against intelligence in their design?

Study Finds Vaccine Preservative Is Not Linked to Risks of Autism

LOS ANGELES (AP) Autism cases in California continued to climb even after a mercury-based vaccine preservative that some people blame for the neurological disorder was removed from routine childhood shots, a study has found.
Researchers from the State Public Health Department found that the autism rate in children rose continuously in the study period from 1995 to 2007. The preservative, thimerosal, has not been used in childhood vaccines since 2001, except for some flu shots.
From Study Finds Vaccine Preservative Is Not Linked to Risks of Autism - New York Times

I see two possible outcomes from this. Either the anti-vaccine people reevaluate their opinions in light of the new evidence or they become true believers and insist that any and all conflicting information must be part of a larger conspiracy to conceal the truth they want to share. I want to start a meme that tinfoil hats cause brain disorders just to screw with the conspiracy theorists.

stem-cell research breakthrough

Stemming the controversy: Scientists announced Tuesday that they’ve discovered a way to cultivate stem cells using skin cells instead of embryos. This could mean that potential cures for everything from Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s might circumvent the morally fraught debate over whether stem-cell research is a handmaid to infanticide, as many critics have claimed.
From Bloggers on the stem-cell research breakthrough. - By Michael Weiss - Slate Magazine

Now that the need for embryos for stem cell research may be obsolete, why is it that I am the only guy with a blog that sees this as a five year set-back for Stem Cell research caused by the President’s allegiance to the Texas Taliban.

Journalist Test Drives The Pain Ray Gun

The Silent Guardian is essentially (even though the creators prefer you not refer to it as such) a ray gun, emitting a focused beam of radiation similar to your microwave tuned to a specific frequency to stimulate human nerve endings.
From Slashdot | Journalist Test Drives The Pain Ray Gun

Ray gun? When the police started using stun guns, it was supposed to lower the number of shootings. Regardless of if that’s true; it lead to a lot of people being stunned or tazered. A ray gun will eventually be in the hands of the police. And I imagine that this will be used to zap crowds of protesters.

U.S. Bee Collapse May Be Due to Alien Virus

An imported virus may be a culprit in the puzzling disappearance of honeybees in the United States, experts say.
Ever since the colony collapse disorder (CCD) epidemic was first reported in 2006, beekeepers across the country have seen adult bees disappear, leaving their honey and pollen behind.
From: U.S. Bee Collapse May Be Due to Alien Virus

Bees…alien virus. Wasn’t that the plot of the X-Files movie? At the very least, it doesn’t look like cell phones are killing bees.

spiderman's fingers

A team of Italian scientists says their latest nanotech discovery is the secret to the wall-scaling Spiderman suit.
From Wired Science - Wired Blogs

Yet more proof that nanotech and biotech are going to make the future really weird.

This leads me to the question I first posed when watching Spiderman the movie. If Spiderman can climb walls because of his spider-like hairs on his fingers and toes; why does he wear gloves and boots? And why don’t people notice that when shaking Peter Parker’s hands?

Fungi Make Biodiesel Efficiently at Room Temperature

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found a much better way to make biodiesel. Their new method could lower the cost and increase the energy efficiency of fuel production.
Instead of mixing the ingredients and heating them for hours, the chemical engineers pass sunflower oil and methanol through a bed of pellets made from fungal spores. An enzyme produced by the fungus does the work — making biodiesel with impressive efficiency.
From Wired

Turning waste into fuel. I’m reminded of the Mr. Fusion gizmo from the Back to the Future time traveling Delorean.

Spontaneous Human Combustion

How could a man catch fire — with no apparent source of a spark or flame — and then burn so completely without igniting anything around him? Dr. Bentley’s case and several hundred others like it have been labeled “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC). Although he and other victims of the phenomenon burned almost completely, their surroundings, and even sometimes their clothes, remained virtually untouched.
From Howstuffworks “How Spontaneous Human Combustion Works”

The theories section is really interesting. Not sure if I accept any of them. The most puzzling aspect is how something can burn without effecting anything around it.

Taming tornadoes to power cities

Michaud has spent the past 40 years studying tornados and hurricanes, and is convinced it’s possible to engineer and control powerful, full-scale whirlwinds and harness their energy to produce emission-free electricity.
Forget wind farms and their intermittent operation: the future of electricity generation could be tornado power on demand.
TheStar.com - Business - Taming tornadoes to power cities

Really interesting. My cynical nature makes me wonder why the army doesn’t have a tornado machine. Screw smart bombs. I want to fight Al Qaeda with tornados.

Astronaut Photography of Earth

Google has rolled out some spectacular new layers for Google Earth. "Astronaut Photography of Earth" is filled with images from the last 40 years of NASA Earth exploration, and "Earth City Lights" has stunning views of our home planet at night, as viewed from space.
From Compiler - Wired Blogs

Really pretty images of Earth from space. Science porn at its best.

octosquid

A unique creature that’s been dubbed an ‘octosquid’ with eight arms and a squid-like mantle, was discovered off Hawaii. The creature, of a previously unknown species, was trapped in the net covering a 3,000 foot-deep intake tube for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. From the article: ‘The octosquid was pulled to the surface, along with three rattail fish and half a dozen satellite jellyfish, and stayed alive for three days. According to War, the lab usually checks its filters once a month, but this time, it put a plankton net in one of the filters and checked it two weeks later.
Slashdot | Half-Squid, Half-Octopus Discovered Off of Hawaii

There has been a lack of odd Cephalopod news this year. This more than makes up for it.

We are meant to be here

What Davies proposes is truly mind-bending. Drawing on the bizarre principles of quantum mechanics, he suggests that human beings — through the sheer act of observation — may have helped shape the laws of physics billions of years ago. What’s more, he says the universe seems to work like a giant computer. Indeed, it’s possible that’s exactly what it is, and we — like Neo in “The Matrix” — might just be living in a simulated virtual world.
We are meant to be here | Salon Books

When scientists start sounding like Philip K Dick, I usually run in the opposite direction. Much of this sounds like a bunch of stoners sitting around pondering the universe. Some interesting ideas. Mostly the type of stuff that can give you a headache if you let it. The most satisfying part of science is the readiness of scientist to answer I don’t know. Or to accept really odd edge cases and possibilities when the facts point that way.

Fungi Feast on Radiation

Like plants that grow toward the sun, dark fungi, blackened by the skin pigment melanin, gravitate toward radiation in contaminated soil. Scientists have observed the organism’s somewhere between plants and animal’s blackening the land around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine in the years since its 1986 meltdown.
From Scientific American

I find this equally amazing and creepy. Life is really strange. And fungi are some of the freakiest forms of life out there.

Climate change: A guide for the perplexed

Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.

So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.
From Climate change: A guide for the perplexed - earth - 16 May 2007 - New Scientist Environment

A fair and well written collection of point by point counter arguments to most of the anti-global warming talking points that are going around.

Solar Flashlight

a Sudanese refugee, announced that his wife had just given birth, and the boy would be honored with the visitor’ s name. After several awkward translation attempts of “ Mark Bent,” it was settled. “ Mar,” he said, will grow up hearing stories of his namesake, the man who handed out flashlights powered by the sun.
Since August 2005, when visits to an Eritrean village prompted him to research global access to artificial light, Mr. Bent, 49, a former foreign service officer and Houston oilman, has spent $250,000 to develop and manufacture a solar-powered flashlight.
His invention gives up to seven hours of light on a daily solar recharge and can last nearly three years between replacements of three AA batteries costing 80 cents.
From New York Times

Great article on the transformative effects of technology.

The Solar Powered Amish

What community has the highest per-capita use of solar energy in Ohio? None other than the Amish. It might sound strange to people who think of the Amish as 19th century holdovers, but that’s an oversimplification. Instead, after considering the impact to their values and way of life, Amish communities decide communally whether to adopt new technologies.
From Wired Science

I would think that the Amish might be interested in bio-fuels as they are likely to have lots of agriculture waste that just might be ethanol or biodeisel feed stock.

Inca Bridges

Conquistadors from Spain came, they saw and they were astonished. They had never seen anything in Europe like the bridges of Peru. Chroniclers wrote that the Spanish soldiers stood in awe and fear before the spans of braided fiber cables suspended across deep gorges in the Andes, narrow walkways sagging and swaying and looking so frail.
From New York Times

Great article on Inca bridges.

Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons

As with any great mystery, a number of theories have been posed, and many seem to researchers to be more science fiction than science. People have blamed genetically modified crops, cellular phone towers and high-voltage transmission lines for the disappearances. Or was it a secret plot by Russia or Osama bin Laden to bring down American agriculture? Or, as some blogs have asserted, the rapture of the bees, in which God recalled them to heaven? Researchers have heard it all.
Honeybees - Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons - New York Times

I just want to go on record that I don’t think it is cell phones. I’d rank the likely culprits as a new pesticide or some change in GMO crops. Oh, and the people who think heaven is full of bees are silly.

Go Birding With Craigslist's Craig Newmark

The webcam is a remote-controlled bird-watching cam, and it can be manipulated by thousands of virtual bird watchers simultaneously.

Players vie for spots on the top watchers’ list by photographing and classifying the most birds. They snap stills of avian targets from the video stream, and the shots are dumped into a database for classification.
The camera processes user requests for pans and zooms in real-time. An algorithm calculates the best focal point to satisfy requests from the most users (now capped at 20 due to bandwidth constraints).
From Go Birding With Craigslist’s Craig Newmark -

Wow, finally a way to make bird watching more isolated, solitary and creepy. That’s progress. Seriously though, this is a really interesting use of online virtual communities. Its similar to the communal use of spare CPU cycles to crunch numbers or search for ETs.

Human Semi-Identical Twins ('Chimera') Discovered for First Time

Researchers have discovered a pair of twins who are identical through their mother’s side, but share only half their genes on their father’s side.
From Human Semi-Identical Twins (‘Chimera’) Discovered for First Time: BLOG: SciAm Observations

Not sure why this wasn’t a bigger human interest story. Possibly because it might be a bit hard for the layman to grasp; therefore hard for the media to report in a way that would appeal broadly enough for the human interest story cycle. I’m pretty amazed that this was even possible.

Lawnhenge

There is clever. There is very clever. And then there is Lawnhenge. I’ve never seen better use of a teater-totter and buckets for large scale masonry construction.

Snap Circuits Electronic Educational Kits

The Snap Circuits Electronic Educational Kits reminds me of the old Radio Shack Science Fair kits.

I loved those old Radio Shack kits. My uncle bought me one every Christmas. I have many fond memories of burning my fingers with a soldering iron, adjusting the little snap-springs and searching for the tiny bits of electronic debris that would trail from room to room. Oh, and I build a radio that used a coat hanger as an antenna and my radiator for ground. Sadly, radio shack at the mall doesn’t seem to carry these kits any more.

Darwin at the Zoo

Our own species has been talking, volubly and passionately, for at least 50,000 years, and it’s a fair guess that arguments about right and wrong were prominent in our conversation pretty much from the beginning. We started writing things down 5,000 years ago, and some of our first texts were codes of ethics. Our innumerable volumes of scripture and law, our Departments of Justice, High Courts, Low Courts, and Courts of Common Pleas are unique in the living world. But did we human beings invent our feeling for justice, or is it part of the package of primal emotions that we inherited from our ancestors? In other words: Did morality evolve?
From Scientific American

This is a really fascinating area. Now that we know we aren’t alone in tool-making, counting, abstract thinking and other trademarks of humanity, what is left after ethics? What makes us human? Is it all down to faith and reason?

The Believer

The intelligent design argument presumes that these complicated, multi-component systems — the most widely described one is the bacterial flagellum, a little outboard motor that allows bacteria to zip around in a liquid solution — that you couldn’t get there unless you could simultaneously evolve about 30 different proteins. And until you had all 30 together, you would gain no advantage. The problem is it makes an assumption that’s turning out to be wrong. All of those multi-component machines, including the flagellum, do not come forth out of nothingness. They come forth very gradually by the recruitment of one component that does one fairly modest thing. And then another component that was doing something else gets recruited in and causes a slightly different kind of function. And over the course of long periods of time, one can in fact come up with very plausible models to develop these molecular machines solely through the process of evolution as Darwin envisaged it. So intelligent design is already showing serious cracks. It is not subject to actual scientific testing.
From Salon.com

A really great discription of what is wrong with Intelligent Design; and why Evolution is no threat to religion. The kicker is that it is written by a evangelical Christian. It is also a reminder why I am Agnostic rather than an Atheist.

But the best way to see the difference between science and theologically biased pseudo science is by looking at the field of predicting the apocalypse.

Although Lindsey did not claim to know the dates of future events with any certainty, in one passage he suggested that Matthew 24:32-34 indicated that Jesus’ return would be within “one generation” of the rebirth of the state of Israel, and asserted that “in the Bible” one generation is forty years. Some readers took this as an indication that the Tribulation or the Rapture would occur no later than 1988.
The Late, Great Planet Earth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For thousands of years, tens of thousands of scholars have read the bible with the sincere belief that by careful study and analysis, then can predict the end of the world. The track record for predictions using this methodology is currently 0.00%.

On the other hand, evolutionists have studied the fossil record looking for clues. They make predictions on the type of species, the ages, the characteristics and the locations of the fossils they expect to find. Every time they are right, their track record improves. And every time they are wrong, they study why they were wrong and then their track record also improves. That is the self correcting nature of science. and while science is never 100%, no one can seriously argue that biblical analysis is even close.

the tip of the freakberg

On a projection screen at Stanford Law School, an auditorium full of nerds stared at a picture of a guy who’d done himself up like a cat-not with makeup, but with tattoos and surgery. The guy’s whiskers were implanted. His nose had been converted to a cat nose. His teeth had been filed into the shape of cat teeth. His head has been flattened, and he was looking for a doctor to implant a tail. And that’s just the tip of the freakberg.
From Cyborgs, self-mutilators, and the future of our race. By William Saletan

Not sure I agree with the term freakberg. But this really seems odd. Why would a doctor do something like this? This isn’t like Lasik or even something more radical like sexual reassignment. The result of a cat-person’s surgery isn’t a human with better eyesight or alternate plumbing. It is a person that isn’t quite human anymore. One would think that a doctor would stick to the principal of first doing no harm.

software tracks mood swings of blogosphere

About 250,000 new LiveJournal posts are created every day and roughly 150,000 of these include a label for one of hundreds of different moods. Moodviews keeps track of these labels and generates a graph, revealing emotions shifts across all LiveJournal blogs over time.
From New Scientist

Interesting use of statistics.

why do cats purr?

Scientists have demonstrated that cats produce the purr through intermittent signaling of the laryngeal and diaphragmatic muscles. Cats purr during both inhalation and exhalation with a consistent pattern and frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz. Various investigators have shown that sound frequencies in this range can improve bone density and promote healing.
From Scientific American.com: Ask the Experts

The obvious follow up question should be, how did the researchers get the cats to co-operate for the length of the study?

how to spot a baby conservative

Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative.
From How to spot a baby conservative

While the study is kind of funny, the science behind it looks like crap. A 7% variance might be strong in the soft sciences, but it still should be looked at with heavy skepticism. Second, terms like rigid seem really difficult to quantify in any meaningful way. I am not willing to waver on my disapproval on the use of torture. Does that make me rigid or principled?

inherit the wind bags

I wonder if the Intelligent Design trial in Harrisburg, will be even half as good as the movie. I’m thinking that if the Dover school board just watched that movie, they wouldn’t need a damn trial in the first place.

With that said, it looks like these neo-creationist are looking to redefine science to include all kinds of tautological acrobatics.

Note to the ID folks: Making things look like science doesn’t make it science.