December 2008

Science Art: Pluto as seen by New Horizons

Click to embiggen

A photo of that icy, cold, faraway, beautiful neighbor, just snapped by NASA.

Found in the New Horizons Image Gallery.

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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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Future: 2008 Energy Breakthroughs

31 December 2008 // 0 Comments

The Memebox FutureBlogger rings in the New Year with the top 10 energy breakthroughs from 2008: There is still a lot we do not know about the basics of energy systems dealing with photons, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, enzymes and metals. Our current first phase efforts to design nanoscale materials used in energy production, conversion and storage are certain to yield systems that will change how we live in the world in the decades ahead. Remember, only a century ago, coal and wood were king, magical ‘electric’ light intimidated the general public, only a few could see the potential of oil, rockets and nuclear science were beyond our imagination, and the vision of a tens of millions of ‘horseless carriages’ reshaping the urban landscape was a ridiculous proposition. So what seemingly novel ideas could shape the next century? The list runs from hydrinos (very small) to planetary fusion (very big). There are a few surprising things […]

Cell Phone Blood Scanner

25 December 2008 // 0 Comments

Bet your iPhone can’t do this…. UCLA scientists have found a way to rig an ordinary cell phone, an LED, a light filter and some wiring together, Wired reports, into a cheap and easy blood scanner that can detect HIV and malaria, among other diseases: UCLA researcher Dr. Aydogan Ozcan images thousands of blood cells instantly by placing them on an off-the-shelf camera sensor and lighting them with a filtered-light source (coherent light, for you science buffs). The filtered light exposes distinctive qualities of the cells, which are then interpreted by Ozcan’s custom software. Found [via].

Future By Colani.

24 December 2008 // 0 Comments

Here, something pretty for your Yule: How Luigi Colani designed the future. A Colani-designed semi-trailer. From steam trains to flying boats. Spacecraft like ginger flowers and orange peels. You can see more of Colani’s biodesign on his Swiss web site (warning: the main page launches a flurry of pop-ups) or the German one, or just read about him here or here. from “Whenever we talk about biodesign we should simply bear in mind just how amazingly superior a spider’s web is to any load-bearing structure man has made – and then derive from this insight that we should look to the superiority of nature for the solutions. If we want to tackle a new task in the studio, then it’s best to go outside first and look at what millenia-old answers there may already be to the problem.”

SONG: Isopods In My Aquarium.

23 December 2008 // 2 Comments

SONG: “Isopods In My Aquarium” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: “Antarctica Has More Species than Galapagos”, LiveScience, 2 Dec 2008, as used in the post “Life On Ice.” ABSTRACT: I remain amazed at how many different things thrive deep under the ice. There are no polychaetes and isopods in my aquarium today The bryozoans and the isopods are probably happier that way. Given more time to work on this song, I’d simply layer on more vocal tracks. Many more.

Smart Soldiers Die First.

21 December 2008 // 0 Comments

Sounds grim, but New Scientist says it’s true. The more intelligent soldiers were the most likely to die in combat: The unprecedented demands of the second world war – fought more with brains than with brawn compared with previous wars – might account for the skew, says Ian Deary, a psychologist at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. Dozens of other studies have shown that smart people normally live longer than their less intelligent peers. “We wonder whether more skilled men were required at the front line, as warfare became more technical,” Dear says. His team’s study melds records from Scottish army units with results of national tests performed by all 11-year-olds in 1932. The tests assessed verbal reasoning, mathematics and spatial skills. “No other country has ever done such a whole-population test of the mental ability of its population,” Deary says. It may be that higher IQs translated to better speaking ability […]

Electric Plonk.

19 December 2008 // 0 Comments

New Scientist gives us a recipe for converting cheap wine to the good stuff: It is backed by a decade of research, the results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal and the end product has passed the ultimate test- blind tasting by a panel of wine experts. No fewer than five wineries have now invested in the technology. The secret this time is an electric field. Pass an undrinkable, raw red wine between a set of high-voltage electrodes and it becomes pleasantly quaffable. “Using an electric field to accelerate ageing is a feasible way to shorten maturation times and improve the quality of young wine,” says Hervé Alexandre, professor of oenology at the University of Burgundy, close to some of France’s finest vineyards. … During ageing, wine becomes less acid as the ethanol reacts with organic acids to produce a plethora of the fragrant compounds known as esters. Unpleasant components precipitate out and the […]

Flying Lasers.

18 December 2008 // 0 Comments

We’re one step closer to living in a Flash Gordon serial, New Scientist reports, as engineers prepare to unleash a brilliant barrage of airborne death with fleets of flying lasers: Although the Airborne Laser (ABL) was fired from a stationary plane at a target on the ground just a few metres away, the test marked a milestone for the weapon, developed by aerospace firms Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The laser was 12 years in the making and cost $4.3 billion, putting it vastly over budget. The US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) calls it the answer to “rogue states” or terror groups who equip themselves with intercontinental ballistic missiles, such as Scuds. Yet the ABL may soon be used to shoot down a much wider range of devices – including aircraft – and is just one of a number of laser weapons now being readied for military use. The idea behind the ABL programme […]

A 2,000-Year-Old Brain

17 December 2008 // 0 Comments

Archaeologists found a surprise inside the severed skull of a man who lived in Britain before the Romans came. As PhysOrg reports, it had Britain’s oldest pickled brain inside: The old brain is unlikely to yield new neurological insights because human brains aren’t thought to have changed much over the past 2,000 years, according to Chris Gosden, a professor of archaeology at Oxford University unconnected with the find. He confirmed it was the oldest brain found in Britain. He noted that far older preserved brains, thought to be approximately 8,000 years old, were found in 1986 when dozens of intact human skulls were uncovered buried in a peat bog in Windover Farms in Florida. “It’s a real freak of preservation to have a brain and nothing else,” Gosden said. “The fact that there’s any brain there at all is quite amazing.” They only realized the brain was in there when the person cleaning the skull […]

Herpes and Alzheimer’s

16 December 2008 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reveals the role the plucky, pesky herpes virus plays in the dreadful progress of Alzheimer’s disease – and how a cold sore cure might also beat back brain damage: Professor Ruth Itzhaki and her team at the University’s Faculty of Life Sciences have investigated the role of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) in AD, publishing their very recent, highly significant findings in the Journal of Pathology. Most people are infected with this virus, which then remains life-long in the peripheral nervous system, and in 20-40% of those infected it causes cold sores. Evidence of a viral role in AD would point to the use of antiviral agents to stop progression of the disease. The team discovered that the HSV1 DNA is located very specifically in amyloid plaques: 90% of plaques in Alzheimer’s disease sufferers’ brains contain HSV1 DNA, and most of the viral DNA is located within amyloid plaques. The team had […]

Mutant Amish Superhearts.

15 December 2008 // 0 Comments

Yes, maybe these simple farm folk *do* have better hearts than the rest of us. That’s what the BBC seems to be saying about new research that finds the Amish are genetically protected from heart disease: They found a mutation in the APOC3 gene, which encodes a protein – apoC-III – that inhibits the breakdown of triglycerides. As part of the study, participants drank a high-fat milkshake and were monitored for the next six hours. Individuals with the mutation produced half the normal amount of apoC-III and had the lowest blood triglyceride levels – seemingly because they could break down more fat. They also had relatively low levels of artery-hardening – a sign of cardiovascular disease. … Study leader Dr Toni Pollin, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said: “Our findings suggest that having a lifelong deficiency of apoC-III helps to protect people from developing cardiovascular disease. “The discovery […]

Life On Ice.

12 December 2008 // 1 Comment

Antarctica, LiveScience reveals, isn’t the wasteland it appears. In fact, it has more species than the Galapagos Islands: A team of 23 scientists from five research institutes, including team members from the British Antarctic Survey, undertook the first comprehensive inventory of sea and land animals around the South Orkney Islands, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. … The inventory turned up sea urchins, free-swimming worms, crustaceans and mollusks, mites and birds, including five new species (of bryozoans, more commonly known as sea moss, and isopods, the marine equivalents of wood-lice) to science. …The team concluded there are more than 1,224 species in total at this Antarctic locale. Of these, nearly a third were new to the area, such as three octopuses, four snails, five sea urchins, and one sea star, to name a few. Isopods!

Dolphin Tools.

11 December 2008 // 1 Comment

Science News reports on new findings that our intelligent neighbors to the sea have finally been spotted using tools: These dolphins dive to the bottom of deep channels and poke their sponge-covered beaks into the sandy ocean floor to flush out small fish that dwell there, says a team led by biologist Janet Mann of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Foragers then drop their sponges, gobble up available fish and retrieve the implements for another sweep, the scientists report online December 10 in PLoS ONE. Dolphins hold the sponge with the bottom of their beaks and can sweep away much more sand than they could otherwise. Mann’s team documented this behavior among 41 bottlenose dolphins, most of them female, out of a population of several thousand that inhabits Australia’s Shark Bay.

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