September 2007

Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

Click to embiggen

This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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Is Alzheimer’s really type-3 diabetes?

28 September 2007 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg reports on a Northwestern University research team that’s found evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease to brain insulin: They have shown that a toxic protein found in the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s removes insulin receptors from nerve cells, rendering those neurons insulin resistant. (The protein, known to attack memory-forming synapses, is called an ADDL for “amyloid ß-derived diffusible ligand.”) With other research showing that levels of brain insulin and its related receptors are lower in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the Northwestern study sheds light on the emerging idea of Alzheimer’s being a “type 3” diabetes. … In the brain, insulin and insulin receptors are vital to learning and memory. When insulin binds to a receptor at a synapse, it turns on a mechanism necessary for nerve cells to survive and memories to form. That Alzheimer’s disease may in part be caused by insulin resistance in the brain has scientists asking how that process gets initiated.

Common flame redardant could be killing cats.

27 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reports on a veterinarian, Janice A. Dye, who might have found the cause of feline hyperthyroidism, an epidemic that’s been afflicting cats for nearly three decades. It’s dust from chemicals found in our homes… and in canned cat food: Dye, a toxicologist, began by hypothesizing that prolonged contact with certain polyurethane foams and components of carpet padding, furniture and mattresses would pose the greatest hazard for developing FH. In addition, the researchers suspected that diet might be another risk factor for developing FH. To see if a link existed, they analyzed PBDE content in several cat food brands. Their analysis found that PBDE content of canned fish/seafood flavors, such as salmon and whitefish, was higher than dry or non-seafood canned items. Based on the analysis, they estimate that diets based on canned food could have PBDE levels 12 times as high as dry-food diets. The researchers indicate that pet cats might be receiving […]

I don’t *feel* sexy….

26 September 2007 // 0 Comments

A study from the University of Guelph finds that men often feel “coerced” into sex because we’re subject to the myth of the massive libido. In other words, social constructions do have a measurable effect on behavior, and it cuts across both genders: A study of 518 university students found that 38.8% of men and 47.9% of women reported being pressured into a range of sexual activity, from kissing and cuddling to intercourse and oral sex. But the most surprising finding was the link between popularized notions of the male libido and the susceptibility of both genders to pressure, said Cailey Hartwick, the lead author of the study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. The existence of traditional stereotypes may cause men to engage in sexual activity rather than feel guilty about refusing it. Meanwhile, adherence to such stereotypes by women may fuel the belief “that resistance may be somewhat futile against a […]

The Cradle of Man… in the Republic of Georgia?

25 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Physical anthropologists with Washington University of St. Louis have looked over some pretty old bones from a site near Tblisis and found humans were in Europe a lot earlier than we thought… a lot closer to Lucy than to the Neanderthals: The fossils, dated to 1.8 million years old, show some modern aspects of lower limb morphology, such as long legs and an arched foot, but retain some primitive aspects of morphology in the shoulder and foot. The species had a small stature and brain size more similar to earlier species found in Africa.

Antioxidants: And now the bad news.

24 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Antioxidants are good for you! They help prevent cell damage and heart disease! Except when they don’t, as researchers at the University of Utah discovered. They were studying a gene called alpha-B crystallin, which can mutate and cause oversupply of one particular antioxidant: Glutathione, one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants, is regulated at multiple steps principally by the G6PD enzyme. To establish the connection between reduced glutathione and heart failure, Benjamin mated mutant alpha B-Crystallin mice that carried too much G6PD with mice that had far lower levels. The resulting offspring had normal levels of reduced glutathione and did not develop heart failure. “Lowering the level of reduced glutathione dramatically changed the survival of these mice,” Benjamin said. “Basically, we prevented them from getting heart failure.”

SONG: An Awful Lot of Empty

23 September 2007 // 0 Comments

SONG: “An Awful Lot of Empty” [Download] (To download: right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. I’m the guy responsible for this questionable corner of the internet. SOURCE: “Colossal void may spell trouble for cosmology”, New Scientist Space Blog, 29 August 2007, as mentioned in the post “There’s a hole…”. ABSTRACT: This article was about the recent discovery of a vast void in the middle of the universe and its implications for the fractal view of cosmology – the idea that similar structures are repeated on small and large scales in the universe. Really, what the scientists were saying (as far as I could tell) was that matter tends to accumulate in clusters, but I took a little artistic license with the idea of nucleus-emptiness-shell, since you see that same structure in human bodies, living cells, ringed planets, solar systems and atoms. As you might be able to tell from the sleepiness of the vocals in […]

The Bacterial Kinkmobile.

22 September 2007 // 0 Comments

New Scientist reports on a new way to propel nanomachines – using wiggly little germs as propulsion (or models for propulsion) because they’re kinky: The motion of Spiroplasma swimming through fluid by sending kinks down its body has been described perfectly by a new computer model by physicists in Germany. They believe their results could be important for one day designing micromachines that might be used for microscale manufacturing or for medical procedures. “Our results could provide fresh ideas for developing artificial micromachines that work efficiently on the nano- and micro-scales,” Roland Netz of the Technical University Munich told New Scientist.

Suffocated by bees!

21 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Snakes, as we know too well, come in two varieties: the venomous kind, which stick you full of poison, and the constricting kind, which smother you to death. (Both kinds, naturally, are quite beautiful.) But now New Scientist has revealed that bees come in both varieties, too – they can sting in self-defense, but they also will suffocate attackers: Cyprian honeybees will swarm together around a threatening hornet, forming a tightly-packed ball that kills the would-be-invader, but exactly how this happened was unknown. Now – by a process of elimination – a study suggests that the honeybees kill by depriving their enemy of oxygen. Either that or they’re using the awesome power of their hive-mind.

Nine tiny galaxies.

20 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reports on astronomers making an atypically cute discovery. The Hubble Space Telescope has isolated nine new galaxies – the smallest galaxies ever observed: …[T]he nine compact galaxies discovered by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes are 100 to 1,000 times smaller than the Milky Way galaxy. “These are among the lowest mass galaxies ever directly observed in the early universe,” said Nor Pirzkal of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. I bet they’re even cuddlier up close.

How do you say “moon” in Japanese?

18 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Because they’re going there, reports Nature. Not in person (not right away, anyway), but with the launch of a new satellite system: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is calling it the biggest lunar mission since NASA’s Apollo programme. The JPY 32 billion (US$279 million) satellite, called the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), will survey the Moon’s mineralogy, topology and gravity gradients. By October 9, SELENE will release a small signal-boosting satellite, and by the 12th, a larger lunar orbiter will be sending back surveys of the lunar surface and the moon’s gravity field. NASA has an orbiter going up next year.

Honey keeps your brain young.

17 September 2007 // 0 Comments

That’s what those feisty young upstarts New Scientist are trying to tell us – that replacing sugar with honey will keep us bright, sharp and relaxed into our golden years: Honey-fed rats spent almost twice as much time in the open sections of an assessment maze than sucrose-fed rats, suggesting they were less anxious. They were also were more likely to enter novel sections of a Y-shaped maze, suggesting they knew where they had been previously and had better spatial memory. So let’s all take it easy with a spoonful on toast, shall we?

Science Art: Albinus & Wandelaar

16 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani by anatomist Bernard Albinus and illustrator Jan Wandelaar, 1747. Apparently, the rhino’s name was Clara, and she was quite the science illustration celebrity at the time. More on Albinus and Wandelaar here and here, and more on Clara here. from the Street Anatomy blog.

Joint Dark Energy Probe: Why are we falling apart?

15 September 2007 // 0 Comments

Dark energy is the mysterious force that keeps the universe from imploding – or, some say, is pushing us all farther and farther apart. Other than that, we don’t know a thing about it. But, Nature reports, we soon will: The panel gives top marks to a Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) to probe dark energy, a mysterious force that is pushing the Universe apart. “JDEM will significantly advance both dark energy and general astrophysical research,” the report reads. In addition, the panel says, its billion-dollar price tag, to be split roughly equally with the US Department of Energy, makes it one of the cheaper options. The panel recommends starting the JDEM mission, for which the technologies are largely established, as early as 2009.

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