November 2010

Science Art: Giant Animals: Modern and Extinct (detail), by Mary McLain

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These are prehistoric animals compared to their modern relatives and, for scale, a human. A human who’s interested in what they’re like… except when…

Look out! HELL PIG!

There are plenty more of the majestic giants (and some terrifying ones) at NPR’s Skunk Bear tumblog.

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Science Art: Jupiter's Rings by LORRI, 2007.

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The New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped this photo of Jupiter’s ring system on February 24, 2007, from a distance of 7.1 million kilometers (4.4 million miles).

This processed image shows a narrow ring, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) wide, with a fainter sheet of material inside it. The faint glow extending in from the ring is likely caused by fine dust that diffuses in toward Jupiter. This is the outer tip of the “halo,” a cloud of dust …

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SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, as used in the post as used in the post “Windbots to explore Jupiter – the bumpier the ride, the better..”

ABSTRACT: The planet Jupiter is 35 light-minutes from Earth (give or take a couple of minutes depending on where in its orbit the planet is).

So a robot floating in the turbulent winds of Jupiter would take that long to send a mes…

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Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan


Three names for one little fish. And those are just the beginning.

I found this one on the Scientific Illustration tumblog, which quoted Wikipedia on the doree (etc.):

John Dory, St Pierre or Peter’s Fish, refers to fish of the genus Zeus, especially Zeus faber, of widespread distribution. It is an edible benthic coastal marine fish with a laterally compressed olive-yellow body which has a large dark spot, and long spines on the dorsal fin. The dark spot is used to flash an ‘evil ey…

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Science Art: Her Majesty's Cochins; Imported in 1843, published 1904.

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These are ostensibly Cochin chickens, or forerunners of what we’d call Cochins today. They’re a breed with a *lot* of character, and are uniquely suited, temperamentally, for being “pet” chickens moreso than egg factories or walking meat supplies. Despite the name (after a part of India), they’re originally from China.

This picture is from The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans, all varieties, their origin; peculiarities of shape and color; egg production; their ma…

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Science Art: Soaking Up the Rays of a Sun-Like Star, by NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle, 2015.

452b_artistconcept_beautyshotClick to embiggen

This is an artist’s impression of a planet just discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission that’s gotten the folks at SETI all excited.

It’s the most Earth-like planet yet discovered. Kepler 452b sits in the “Goldilocks” zone around its star, not too hot and not too cold, and is about the same size (or is a little larger) and made of something like the same stuff as the planet we’re sitting around on right now. It takes 365 days to orbit around its sun, too. NASA’s calling it ou…

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Too clean, too sensitive.

30 November 2010 // 0 Comments brings us yet another report on the problems with cleanliness: The modern trend for using antibacterial soaps is actually harming young people by making them more prone to developing allergies. It seems teenagers are becoming over-exposed to a compound called triclosan, widely used in household products such as soaps, toothpaste, pens and nappy bags. Food cans, toothbrushes and garbage bags are also generally high in bisphenol A. To keep them well-sealed and antiseptic, of course.

Saturn’s friendly moon.

29 November 2010 // 0 Comments

Pack up your things! Discover reports that the Cassini Saturn probe has found an oxygen atmosphere around Rhea: Other atmospheres known to exist throughout the solar system, like that of Titan as well as Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede, were discovered and studied from afar. Rhea’s, however, is so thin that this direct pass through it was the only way to be sure it was there. The astronomers believe the same process that creates the atmospheres of Europa and Ganymede is also at work on Rhea: Charged particles strike the ice on the surface, breaking it apart and freeing molecules to feed the moon’s thin envelope. … “All this suggests these kinds of exospheres may be very common,” said Dr. [Ben] Teolis. “There are different moons at Saturn and at Uranus, for example, which should be massive enough to hold an atmosphere. And, presumably, this kind of thing is duplicated billions of times throughout the […]

SONG: Beyond the Ends of the Earth

23 November 2010 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Beyond the Ends of the Earth” [Download] . (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “100 Year Starship: Nasa’s plan to colonise galaxy”, The First Post, 27 October 10, as used in the post One-way ticket out. ABSTRACT: Mmm. November. Lonely month. Traditional month. Minor key waltz month. Going out of our heads month. Looking at the sky and wondering month. Reverb guitar month. Never returning month. Never coming back.

Squid can fly.

22 November 2010 // 0 Comments

I am not making that up. has the photographic evidence of flying squid: “From our observations it seemed like squid engaged in behaviors to prolong their flight,” she said. “One of our co-authors saw them actually flapping their fins. Some people have seen them jetting water while in flight. We felt that ‘flight’ is more appropriate because it implies something active.” But unfortunately such eyewitness accounts were all that the scientific community had to go on. Soon, however, that would change. Extra points: the proof was obtained from the deck of a cruise ship. [via Yaldabaoth]

Science Art: Merman (Vir marinus episcopi specie), 1696

21 November 2010 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen I’ll just quote the Wikimedia Commons text on this one. It tells a better story than I could. A relatively benign merman complete with scales caught in the Baltic Sea in 1531, according to Johann Zahn’s sources. In: Specula physico- mathematico-historica notabilium ac mirabilium sciendorum by Johann Zahn. published 1696 at Augsburg, Germany. Library Call Number Q155 .Z33 1696. The caption reads: “Vir marinus episcopi specie An: 1531 captus im mari Baltico.” Image ID: libr0081, Treasures of the NOAA Library Collection Photographer: Archival Photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration (NOAA), United States of America Secondary source: Just in case it’s not clear, what this actually was, in all likelihood, was what happens when old sea gods meet a cartilaginous fish body. That sea bishop – he’s lower than a stingray’s belly.

Hurt so good.

19 November 2010 // 0 Comments

Yes. Well. New Scientist’s never-so-aptly-named “Short Sharp Science” blog revels in the discovery that the female orgasm is neurologically linked to pain: To get his results, Komisaruf somehow persuaded nine women to stimulate themselves to orgasm while having their brains scanned in a functional MRI machine. Taking snapshots of activity throughout the event allowed Komisaruf and his colleagues to create a 3D video of the spread of activity around the brain during an orgasm. Although the work has clear applications for the treatment of sexual dysfunction, there could be other avenues to explore. Komisaruf says his study showed activation in numerous areas previously thought to be inactive during orgasm, such as parts of the frontal cortex, providing more information about neural connectivity. His team also saw activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula. This was surprising, since these areas are more commonly involved in the processing of pain. “The fact that these areas […]

Inject stem cells into damaged brain. Wait.

18 November 2010 // 0 Comments

That’s a rough outline of what The Telegraph says scientists are doing in what could wind up being a dramatic medical breakthrough: The study, Pilot Investigation of Stem Cells in Stroke (PISCES), is the first of its kind in the world. It will test whether implanting stem cells can treat damaged areas of the brain and improve quality of life for victims of ischaemic stroke, the most common form of the condition, which is caused by a blockage of blood flow in the brain. Be very interesting to see what happens after the “wait” phase is over… in two years.

Reading names, forgetting faces.

17 November 2010 // 0 Comments

Forget your eyes. New Scientist (have I seen them somewhere before?) says all that reading is bad for your memory: The scans firstly confirmed which regions of the brain are associated with reading: as expected, the visual word form area, which is known to enable people to link sounds with written symbols, became active during reading, demonstrating that it plays an important role. Unsurprisingly, those who were better readers had more activation in this area when they were reading compared with the others. And when volunteers listened to spoken sentences, all their brains showed similar responses in the visual word form area. … But when the researchers showed participants pictures of faces, the visual word form area of those who could read was much less active than that of participants who could not read. So, the researchers speculate, learning to read competes with face recognition ability – in this part of the brain at least. […]

Sleights of Mind

16 November 2010 // 0 Comments

This is more of a “heads up” than highlighting any particular discovery, but Medical News Today has a review of a fascinating collaboration between neuroscientists and stage magicians: “We have spent the last few years traveling the world, meeting magicians, researching their art, and collaborating with them on our study of the brain,” says Dr. Martinez-Conde, director of the Laboratory of Visual Neuroscience. “Magicians do cognitive science experiments for audiences all night long and they may be even more effective than we scientists are in the lab.” Drs. Macknik and Martinez-Conde accepted faculty appointments at Barrow in 2004 and their research into vision and cognition is now a focal point at Barrow, the largest neurosurgical facility in the United States. “We are on a fascinating journey about the neural underpinning of magic and the brain,” says Dr. Macknik, director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology. “If we fully understand how magicians hack our brains, we […]

Mutant mosquitoes fight “breakbone fever.”

15 November 2010 // 0 Comments

The Miami Herald reports on a new front line in a genetic war against insect-borne disease: Researchers at Oxitec Limited, an Oxford-based company, created sterile male mosquitoes by manipulating the insects’ DNA. Scientists in the Cayman Islands released 3 million mutant male mosquitoes to mate with wild female mosquitoes of the same species. That meant they wouldn’t be able to produce any offspring, which would lower the population. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and spread diseases. From May to October, scientists released batches of genetically mutated male mosquitoes in cages three times a week in a 40-acre (16-hectare) area. By August, mosquito numbers in that region dropped by 80 percent compared with a neighboring area where no sterile male mosquitoes were released. Luke Alphey, Oxitec’s chief scientific officer, said with such a small area, it would have been very difficult to detect a drop in dengue cases. But their modeling estimates suggested an 80 percent […]

Science Art: Arsinoitherium, by Heinrich Harder

14 November 2010 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen slightly This big fellow is Arsinoitherium, a prehistoric swamp monster related to elephants and hyraxes. Those horns were once believed to be hollow – possibly used for making big, booming noises of one sort or another – but now seem to be thought to do basically what rhinos’ horns do – defend the rhino. Unlike rhinos, these creatures’ horns are made of bone. They lived in northern Africa around 30 million years ago, when most of what’s now the Sahara was then a mangrove marsh. Not having access (as far as we know) to a time machine, Heinrich Harder did the best he could with the few skeletons that were available around 1920, when he painted the noble beasts for a series of collector cards. Found on’s Heinrich Harder pages.

Bubbles in the Milky Way

12 November 2010 // 0 Comments

NASA astronomers have found the equivalent of a lost continent in space – a pair of colossal radioactive bubbles rising from the galaxy: NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way — a finding likened in terms of scale to the discovery of a new continent on Earth. The feature, which spans 50,000 light-years, may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy. “What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.” At more than 100 degrees across, the structure spans more than half of the sky, from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus. It may be millions of years […]

Hawking Q&A

10 November 2010 // 0 Comments

Time has a vox-pop interview with professional smartypants Stephen Hawking: Does it feel like a huge responsibility to have people expecting you to have all the answers to life’s mysteries? —Susan Leslie, BOSTON I certainly don’t have the answers to all life’s problems. While physics and mathematics may tell us how the universe began, they are not much use in predicting human behavior because there are far too many equations to solve. I’m no better than anyone else at understanding what makes people tick, particularly women.

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