May 2010

Science Art: Ecphora gardnerae, by J.C. McConnell

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A shellfish that was around when megalodons swam and the first crows flew.

It was drawn by J.C. McConnell, a doctor who officially worked as a clerk for the Army Medical Museum, and gained a reputation for his shells, especially prehistoric ones.

If you’re going to be known for anything, I guess, why not that?

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SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

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Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Anderson & Reed make dog music.

31 May 2010 // 0 Comments

Fixing the BBC’s headline here (and wife??) while celebrating a new, high frequency project by Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, dog musicians: US rock star Lou Reed and his artist wife Laurie Anderson are to stage a “high-frequency concert” for canines in Australia. Music for Dogs, to be held outside the Sydney Opera House, is billed as “an inter-species social gathering on a scale never seen before in Australia”. The bizarre recital in June will be largely inaudible to the human ear. The couple said they have experience making music for at least one dog – their rat terrier, Lollabelle. “She likes things with a lot of smoothness but with beats in them,” Ms Anderson told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Science Art: Lunar eclipse March 2007

30 May 2010 // 1 Comment

Click to embiggen vastly A montage of photos taken from the USS Boxer (LHD 4) while the ship was on maneuvers in the Persian Gulf. The earth’s shadow stood between the sun and the moon as the sailors looked up. U.S. Navy photo Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Joshua Valcarcel, photo found among the “Featured Images” on Wikimedia Commons.

Blue light smells like bananas.

28 May 2010 // 0 Comments

That’s how Science Daily says life is like for fruit flies who’ve had their smell gene connected to the light gene: Normally animals avoid light. However, blue light simulates in genetically modified larvae the smell of an odorant, e.g., banana, marzipan or glue — odors which are all present in rotting fruit and attractive to fruit fly larvae. The team of scientists from Bochum and Göttingen, working under the auspices of Prof. Klemens Störtkuhl, hopes to gain insight into the processing of the neural network. … These successfully employed methods are now also being used in model systems i.e. mice in other laboratories…. Yeah. Mice. Smell the light.

Testosterone, the fact-checking hormone.

27 May 2010 // 0 Comments

BBC reports on what appears to be (oversimplifying here) a hormonal link between skepticism and aggression: To test the impact of testosterone on trust, the study authors from Utrecht University and the University of Cape Town, gave 24 young women with an average age of 20 years a dose of the hormone or a placebo. They then asked them to look at photographs of unfamiliar faces and rate them according to the trustworthiness of the faces shown. Researchers found that those women who rated the faces as most trustworthy after the placebo – the high-trusting women – scored the photographs an average 10 points lower after taking testosterone. However, women who showed little trustworthiness in the faces when given the placebo showed no changed in their ratings after receiving testosterone. So much for those plans to increase the libidos of my unsuspecting victims with testosterone mickeys. Even if it worked, they won’t be unsuspecting for […]

Look! It’s a… Hey-a WHAT-ee?

26 May 2010 // 0 Comments

UPenn paleontologists have named a whole new kind of dinosaur: The dinosaur, whose name translates to mean “grinding-mouth, wrinkle-eye,” was most likely an herbivore that ate the ferns and conifer trees found as fossils in the same rock layer…. Jeyawati is a close relative of the duck-billed hadrosaurs, which were abundant across the Northern Hemisphere for much of the Late Cretaceous Epoch, between 80 and 65 million years ago. Jeyawati retains some primitive features of the teeth and jaws that preclude it from being a fully-fledged hadrosaur. Jeyawati, pronounced “HEY-a-WHAT-ee,” is derived from two words in the language of the Zuni people, a Native American tribe located around the Zuni River in western New Mexico. The name is a reference to the sophisticated chewing mechanism evolved by the herbivorous lineage to which Jeyawati belongs. The second part of the name, rugoculus, comes from the Latin words ruga and oculus and means “wrinkle eye,” describing a […]

Zeppelin ready to take wing. Or, uh, airbag.

24 May 2010 // 0 Comments

The Christian Science Monitor (a surprisingly good source for tech news) is carrying a report on the newest advances in old flying technology – the world’s largest inflatable vehicle is prepared to launch: The 235-foot (72 m) long airship, known as the Bullet 580, has a top speed of 80 mph (129 km/h) and can serve as a high-flying sentinel that stays aloft for long periods of time. Getting the new sky behemoth inflated required six hours inside Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, Ala. “Our airships are radically different designs that move beyond the performance limitations of traditional blimps or zeppelins by combining advanced technology with simple construction and the ability to fuel with algae, protecting our environment,” said Michael Lawson, chairman and CEO of E-Green Technologies. The airship is designed to carry payloads of up to 2,000 pounds (907 kg) at altitudes of 20,000 feet (6,096 m). Any cargo aboard the airship would sit within […]

SONG: Golden Record

23 May 2010 // 1 Comment

SONG: “Golden Record” [Download] . (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Partially based on “Have aliens hijacked Voyager 2 spacecraft”, Daily Telegraph, 12 May 10, as used in the post I**AM**V-GER***, and partially based on “Barnard’s Star” by Kate Horowitz. ABSTRACT: I felt a sort of relief writing this one, because I wasn’t trying to *do* anything – no experiments with delay, no pastiches of Steve Miller, no cleverness, just a melody that came to me over a simple chord progression. OK, so the percussion is kinda experimental, and there are some lyrics where I was trying to be a little clever, maybe. But still. It’s hard to read about the Voyager probe – and Ann Druyan’s brainwaves-in-love donation to the golden record – and not want there to be a song about it. If aliens did take over Voyager and beam a message back to Earth, I think it’d probably […]


21 May 2010 // 0 Comments

BBC (among other outlets) has gotten all excited over the world’s first artificial life form: The team was led by Dr Craig Venter of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland and California. He and his colleagues had previously made a synthetic bacterial genome, and transplanted the genome of one bacterium into another. Now, the scientists have put both methods together, to create what they call a “synthetic cell”, although only its genome is truly synthetic. Dr Venter likened the advance to making new software for the cell. The researchers copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used “synthesis machines” to chemically construct a copy. Dr Venter told BBC News: “We’ve now been able to take our synthetic chromosome and transplant it into a recipient cell – a different organism. “As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species […]

Monkeys pay for porn.

20 May 2010 // 0 Comments

Nature says it’s true: Rhesus monkeys will trade items of value – in this case, juice – in return for sexy monkey booty shots: The researchers gave captive male rhesus macaques two options: a drink of cherry juice, or a different-sized shot of juice and the chance to look at one of a range of pictures of their troop members for just over half a second. By varying the amounts of juice, the team worked out how much the monkeys valued each image. “Monkeys are basically juice experts; they’re very sensitive to the differences,” says team member Robert Deaner. Monkeys would take a juice cut to look at powerful males’ faces or the perineum of a female, Deaner and his colleagues report in Current Biology. But to persuade the monkeys to stare at subordinate males, the researchers had to bribe them with larger drinks. …[T]he juice-to-picture exchange rate was highest for images of female rears. […]

Computers get the joke.

19 May 2010 // 0 Comments

PopSci releases the terrifying news that computers can decode our humor now. We can’t tell jokes over their little silicon heads any more – they’ve got an algorithm to detect sarcasm: SASI, a Semi-supervised Algorithm for Sarcasm Identification, can recognize sarcastic sentences in product reviews online with pretty astounding 77 percent precision. To create such an algorithm, the team scanned 66,000 product reviews, with three different human annotators tagging sentences for sarcasm. The team then identified certain sarcastic patterns that emerged in the reviews and created a classification algorithm that puts each statement into a sarcastic class. The algorithms were then trained on that seed set of 80 sentences from the collection of reviews. These annotated sentences helped the algorithm learn what sorts of words and patterns distinguish sarcastic remarks – those that mean the opposite of what they literally convey, or that convey a sentiment inconsistent with the literal reading. They then turned […]

Bat sex: Dirty enough to make trouble.

18 May 2010 // 0 Comments

New Scientist uncorks a biological scandal involving research into the naughty things bats do after dark: University College Cork in Ireland is coming under international pressure to lift a punishment meted out to one of its academics. Dylan Evans, a psychologist at the university’s school of medicine, has been saddled with a two-year period of intensive monitoring and counselling after discussing a scientific paper with a colleague. The title of the paper? “Fellatio in fruit bats prolongs copulation time“. … It seems there was more to the grievance between Evans and the complainant than the fellatio paper incident, but an independent investigation found that Evans was not guilty of sexual harassment. The investigation stated that it was reasonable for the colleague to have been offended and that showing the paper was a joke with a sexual innuendo, but that it was not Evans’ intention to cause offence. The university’s president, Michael Murphy, nevertheless imposed a […]

Aw, the widdew scientist want to tawk aww gwown up!

17 May 2010 // 0 Comments

Yep. Science Daily says it’s a good idea to talk to children using grown-up language: Academic language is characterised by difficult, abstract words and complex sentence structures. The language often contains a lot of clauses and conjunctions and due to the methods of argument and analysis it has a scientific appearance. … Henrichs demonstrated that children are already confronted with academic language in the nursery school. … An essential aspect is how parents approach their children during conversations. If children are given the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to conversations, they often use characteristics of academic language proficiency naturally. In addition to this, the knowledge of academic language depends on the extent to which parents read to their children, tell them stories and hold conversations about interesting subjects.

Science Art: Barnard’s Star, by Kate Horowitz.

16 May 2010 // 1 Comment

after Ann Druyan I send for you my heartbeat, the rhythms of my latest dream. You are just now finding the frozen clicks of muscles, cooling like just-parked cars. Through endless fields of fire and dust, we send whale song, one noisy kiss. Every other romance is nothingness now, every whale a great cage of bone and blue air. But fast to you, bright Ophiuchus, one whispered love is dancing. More about the Voyager Golden Record here. Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan’s widow, tells her love story here. From Things Written Down, found [via].

10 limbs for hugging!

14 May 2010 // 0 Comments

The Christian Science Monitor (reprinting LiveScience) has published the greatest science headline I think I’ve ever read: School-bus sized squid actually quite friendly, study finds. The colossal squid, with its half-ton mass and razor-sharp tentacle hooks, seems pretty fierce. But new research suggests that the school-bus sized cephalopods are actually pretty mellow. Not only that, but the story’s pretty interesting. I mean, we already knew smaller cephalopods (like the octopus) are pretty brainy animals. But the colossal squid has got it all figured out: This new view of the colossal squid comes from data analysis made by marine biologists Rui Rosa, of the University of Lisboa, Portugal, and Brad Seibel, of the University of Rhode Island[, who] looked at the relationship between metabolism (how the body’s cells turn food into energy) and body size for smaller squids in the same family and used the information to predict the metabolism of the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni). […]


13 May 2010 // 1 Comment

That’s what Sydney’s Daily Telegraph wants me to hear when they tell me about a strange malfunction affecting the Voyager 2 space probe: But now the spacecraft is sending back what sounds like an answer: Signals in an unknown data format! The best scientific minds have so far not been able to decipher the strange information – is it a secret message? Alien expert Hartwig Hausdorf said:”It seems almost as if someone had reprogrammed or hijacked the probe – thus perhaps we do not yet know the whole truth.” Thank you, Mr. Hausdorf.

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