July 2011

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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Science Art: Bulbi olfattorii, by Camillio Golgi, 1875

31 July 2011 // 0 Comments

From the mustachioed microscope-gazer who gave us the method (for staining specimens), the receptor (inside our tendons) and the bodies (inside our cells) comes a hypnotic look inside a dog’s nose. As cited on Scientific Illustration (where I found this): “This 1875 drawing of a dog’s olfactory bulb by Camillo Golgi is but one of the many astonishing architectures that were revealed by a staining method that bears his name. Its application to the study of nervous tissue marks the beginning of modern neuroscience.” — Carl Schoonover, Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century

The math of the madness of crowds.

29 July 2011 // 1 Comment

Ten percent. That’s all it takes to start a mob or to sell a coup d’etat. ScienceBlog digs up the numbers we need to make a change. Once 10 percent accept a thing as a rock-solid fact, the rest of the population follows – ready or not: “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.” As an example, the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt appear to exhibit a similar process, according to Szymanski. “In those countries, dictators who were in power for decades were suddenly overthrown in just a few weeks.” The […]

“Trojan asteroid”? More like puppy dog….

28 July 2011 // 0 Comments

The IBT (and a bunch of other news outlets) are making this discovery – an asteroid that’s been orbiting Earth – are making it sound like a deadly trick. When really the little hunk of rock has just following us around for thousands of years and seeing if we notice it: Trojan asteroids share orbits with other planets in our Solar System to include Neptune, Mars and Jupiter. Two of Saturn’s moons share orbits with Trojans, according to NASA. Scientists have long predicted that Earth has Trojans, but they were hard to find because they are small and from Earth’s point of view, they appear near the sun. “These asteroids dwell mostly in the daylight, making them very hard to see,” said Martin Connors of Athabasca University in Canada, lead author of a new paper on the discovery. “But we finally found one, because the object has an unusual orbit that takes it farther away […]

The human problem: long life and shrinking brains.

27 July 2011 // 0 Comments

BBC News uncovers a strange complex of problems that humans have and chimps don’t. We get old. On the one hand, we live a long time. And on the other, our brains shrink: Anthropologist Chet Sherwood from George Washington University in Washington DC, who led the study, thinks that humans live longer to “pay for” their larger-brained children. Humans live relatively long compared to other great apes. The majority of this extended life is post-menopausal, while chimps are reproductively viable right up to their death. A human brain is three times the size of chimpanzee’s. And it is not such a stretch, Dr Sherwood suggests, to conclude that grandparents’ extended lives are in an evolutionary sense there to relieve mothers from being solely responsible for raising their big-brained, energetically costly infants. “I say this right now, as my seven year old daughter is being looked after by my mother,” he told BBC News. “Because neurons […]

Doctor dolphin

26 July 2011 // 0 Comments

Georgetown University researchers want to know why – and how – dolphins are so good at healing themselves: A dolphin’s ability to heal quickly from a shark bite with apparent indifference to pain, resistance to infection, hemorrhage protection, and near-restoration of normal body contour might provide insights for the care of human injuries, says Michael Zasloff, M.D., Ph.D. For a “Letter” published today in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Zasloff, an adjunct professor at GUMC and former Dean of Research, interviewed dolphin handlers and marine biologists from around the world, and reviewed the limited literature available about dolphin healing to offer some new observations about what he calls the “remarkable” and “mysterious” ability of dolphins to heal. “Much about the dolphin’s healing process remains unreported and poorly documented,” says Zasloff. “How does the dolphin not bleed to death after a shark bite? How is it that dolphins appear not to suffer significant pain? What prevents […]

Fame more than kindness.

25 July 2011 // 0 Comments

A sad fact from Science Daily – kids’ TV shows are teaching them that it’s better to be famous than it is to be kind: On a list of 16 values, fame jumped from the 15th spot, where it was in both 1987 and 1997, to the first spot in 2007. From 1997 to 2007, benevolence (being kind and helping others) fell from second to 13th, and tradition dropped from fourth to 15th. The study assessed the values of characters in popular television shows in each decade from 1967 to 2007, with two shows per decade evaluated, including “Andy Griffith” and “The Lucy Show” in 1967, “Laverne & Shirley” and “Happy Days” in 1977, and “American Idol” and “Hannah Montana” in 2007. “I was shocked, especially by the dramatic changes in the last 10 years,” said Yalda T. Uhls, a UCLA doctoral student in developmental psychology and the lead author of the study. “I thought […]

Song delay

23 July 2011 // 0 Comments

What, it’s the 23rd and there’s no song? Yes, it’s true. I’m moving (yet again) and have been unable to record between the packing and unpacking. Expect one shortly. And a penitential cover. And, perhaps, some news that might make the wait worthwhile.

Tea’s secrets revealed – by kid detectives.

22 July 2011 // 0 Comments

New York Times recognizes the work of some teenage sleuths in finding what’s really in that fancy herbal tea: Catherine C. Gamble, a senior who will be attending Harvard this fall; Rohan Kirpekar, who will be attending Columbia University; and Grace Young, a rising sophomore, used DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting, to test 70 tea products and 60 herbal products to see what was in them. Four percent of the 70 tea products they tested and 35 percent of the herbal products had unlisted ingredients, including white goosefoot, a weed; Taiwanese cheesewood, an ornamental tree; and, most often, chamomile and plants closely resembling parsley. “It is significant that consumers know what they are buying,” Ms. Gamble said. The three students are part of what seems to be a growing tradition at Trinity: teaming up with scientists at the Rockefeller University to use new DNA testing to examine popular items. … This year the […]

One letter can decide an election.

21 July 2011 // 0 Comments

Getting people to turn out to vote can be a real chore. But, PhysOrg reveals, it gets a little easier if you talk about “voters” instead of “votes”: To see if his hunch, that people would respond better to the opportunity to be called a voter, rather than simply asking them to vote, could improve voter turnout, [social psychologist Christopher Bryan and his colleagues at Stanford University] first sent out surveys to just 38 people prior to the 2008 presidential election. Half the group got a survey asking if it was important to vote, the other half got surveys asking if it was important to be a voter. 87.5 responded yes to the second question while only 55.6 did so with the first. Feeling he was on to something, Bryan then set his sights higher, for his next experiment, he and his team sent surveys to 133 registered voters in California one day before the […]

Orbiting Vesta

20 July 2011 // 0 Comments

NASA’s not landing on the moon – it’s not even firing off Space Shuttles any more – but it IS taking a long, close look at one of the biggest asteroids out there: “We are beginning the study of arguably the oldest extant primordial surface in the solar system,” the mission’s principal investigator, Christopher Russell from the University of California, Los Angeles, said in the statement. NASA said that after the orbital capture, Dawn sent an initial close-up image taken for navigation purposes. Before the Dawn mission, images of Vesta were obtained by ground- and space-based telescopes but did not show much surface detail. Vesta, 330 miles in diameter, is the second-most massive object in the asteroid belt and is believed to be the source of many meteorites that fall to Earth. Dawn will continue to approach Vesta over the next three weeks, search for possible moons and make more navigation images. It begins gathering […]

Oupa Neanderthal

19 July 2011 // 0 Comments

University of Montreal researchers have determined that if you’ve got European ancestors, congratulations – you’re part Neanderthal: Neanderthals, whose ancestors left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago, evolved in what is now mainly France, Spain, Germany and Russia, and are thought to have lived until about 30,000 years ago. Meanwhile, early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. The question on everyone’s mind has always been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer is yes, the two lived in close association. “In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that previous results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts,” adds Dr. [Damian] Labuda. Dr. Labuda and his team almost a decade ago had identified a piece of DNA (called a haplotype) in […]

Sounds curvy.

18 July 2011 // 1 Comment

The word “bouba” sounds curvier than the word “kiki” no matter what language you’re used to hearing, New Scientist explains. That odd phenomenon unravels the assumption that words are arbitrary labels and points toward the idea that the sounds we make are directly linked to our experiences: The turning point came in 2001, when Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard, both then at the University of California, San Diego, published their investigations into a condition known as synaesthesia, in which people seem to blend sensory experiences, including certain sounds and certain images (Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol 8, p 3). As many as 1 in 20 people have this condition, but Ramachandran suspected that cross-sensory connections are in fact a feature of the human brain, so that in practice we all experience synaesthesia at least to a limited extent. … Using similar shapes to those in the original experiment, but changing the names of the […]

Science Art: Museum Drawings from Last Friday by bells.

16 July 2011 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen From the tumblog bequietyellingcat: museum drawings from last friday. fun fact: the dire wolf was native only to the americas, especially california. so now i’m pretending westeros is south america and ‘winter is coming’ is a reference to the shifting supercontinent cycle of climate change. wait. ignore me. I’m having fun identifying which skull is whose. I see the wolf and an alligator. Is that a caiman in the back? A water buffalo down below? [via Scientific Illustration]

Kennedy Space Center’s next job.

14 July 2011 // 0 Comments

There was a lot of apprehension in Central Florida when the Space Shuttle was retired. They’re big vehicles with big missions that require lots and lots of support staff (read: jobs). So it’s encouraging that, now that the STS missions are over, Sen. Ben Nelson has announced that something else will be going on at the Kennedy Space Center: Specifically, NASA decided to house management of a big part of the operation of the International Space Station (ISS) near Kennedy Space Center. In doing so it selected a nonprofit to manage all the research related to the space station national laboratory. “This is a big deal,” Nelson said. “It’s going to bring money, jobs and industry to diversify an area hard-hit by retirement of the shuttle program.” The cooperative agreement initially will have a value of up to $15 million per year, he said. NASA is expected to announce this afternoon it has selected the […]

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