January 2012

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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Fight to be tiniest.

13 January 2012 // 0 Comments

WaPo covers the war between a newly discovered frog and an itsy bitsy fish over which one is the smallest vertebrate: An article Wednesday in the journal PLoS One named Paedophryne amauensis (pee-doh-FRY-nee AM-OW-en-sis) as the world’s smallest animal with a spine. The adult frogs are about three-tenths of an inch long, and a millimeter or so smaller than a carp found on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The frogs are so small that Louisiana State University herpetologist and environmental biologist Christopher Austin had to enlarge close-up photos to describe them. But the males of a species of deep-sea anglerfish are about 2 mm smaller, said University of Washington ichthyologist Theodore Pietsch, who described them in 2006. The males don’t have stomachs and live as parasites on 1.8-inch-long females. … In August 2009, Austin and graduate student Eric Rittmeyer were collecting and recording the mating calls of frogs at night in a tropical forest near […]

Workout in a pill. No, really.

12 January 2012 // 0 Comments

MIT Tech Review is finally announcing part of that unimaginable future we’ve all been waiting for – fat-burning exercise in capsule form: Researchers have discovered a natural hormone that acts like exercise on muscle tissue—burning calories, improving insulin processing, and perhaps boosting strength. The scientists hope it could eventually be used as a treatment for obesity, diabetes, and, potentially, neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy. In a paper published online today by the journal Nature, the scientists, led by Bruce Spiegelman at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, showed that the hormone occurs naturally in both mice and humans. It pushes cells to transform from white fat—globules that serve as reservoirs for excess calories—into brown fat, which generates heat. Because the hormone is present in both mice and humans, Spiegelman speculates that it may have served as an evolutionary defense against cold by triggering shivering.

A yellow viper with horns over its eyes.

11 January 2012 // 0 Comments

Not a fever dream. Not a Discovery photoshop. No, it’s a newly discovered snake named Matilda: Matilda, technically known as Atheris matildae, was named after the daughter of Tim Davenport, who is the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s Director of Tanzania and also co-authored a paper about the snake, published recently in the journal Zootaxa. … No one seems to really know why snakes like this have horns, although there’s been a lot of speculation. The horns could help to protect the eyes, or they might be used in visual displays, with maybe the best-horned snake getting his or her preferred mate. Perhaps they serve a variety of functions. Davenport and his team aren’t too concerned with that issue now, though. They are instead concerned that this new species could be of interest to illegal pet collectors. Large, vivid photos of the secret habitat at the link.

Really dark matter.

10 January 2012 // 0 Comments

The fun thing, New Scientist seems to be saying, about dark matter right now is that it’s really dark. Like, really, really not a glimmer of light at all: Yet any hopes that the nature of the stuff would be quickly revealed by these first detections have been utterly dashed. The trouble is that dark matter appears to be different things to different detectors. It appears heavier in one detector than another; it appears more ready to interact in one experiment than another. In the most extreme case, it shows up in one instrument but not in another – even when both are made of identical material and are sitting virtually next door in the same underground lab. “The present situation is pretty confusing,” admits Juan Collar of the University of Chicago, who is head of the CoGeNT dark matter experiment, based in the Soudan Underground Laboratory in Minnesota. It is seeing something – hundreds […]

Science Art: Braunfische oder Balenen (Plate 98), Johann Saur (after Lakas Schan), Fischbuch, das ist, aussführliche Beschreibung und lebendige…, 1598

8 January 2012 // 0 Comments

A medieval hunt for the “brownfish, or baleen.” Centuries before we got our light and energy by burning petroleum, we got it from whales. This illustration comes from a series of books considered “the basis of modern zoology,” despite having mermaids and the Beast of Revelation among the squid and whale-hunters.

The first church of file-sharing: Kopimism.

6 January 2012 // 0 Comments

The Swedes *really* like their torrents. They revere them. It’s not just entertainment any more – file-sharing is a religion. Literally. BBC News: The Church of Kopimism claims that “kopyacting” – sharing information through copying – is akin to a religious service. The “spiritual leader” of the church said recognition was a “large step”. Torrent Freak: While copyright holders are often quick to label file-sharers as pirates, there is a large group of people who actually consider copying to be a sacred act. Philosophy student Isak Gerson is such a religious file-sharer, and in an attempt to protect his unique belief system he founded The Missionary Church of Kopimism in 2010. In the hope that they could help prevent persecution for their beliefs, the Church then filed a request to be officially accepted by the authorities. After two failed attempts, where the Church was asked to formalize its way of praying or meditation, the authorities […]

Wearing the senior citizen suit.

6 January 2012 // 0 Comments

That’s what designers will be doing to make stores and furniture and *everything else* comfortable for aging Baby Boomer consumers. Discover looks at the way MIT is putting young people in a senior citizen’s shoes: By 2030, 20% of the American population will be over the age of 65, and if you think these folks are going to willingly weather a world designed by and for hyperactive 26-year-old yoga enthusiasts, well, you’ve got another think coming. By putting on this suit, architects, store designers, and other professionals preoccupied with how people interact with the physical world can get a sense of what old age is like, and design accordingly. And what does old age feel like? According the folks at MIT’s Age Lab, where the suit was developed, like having giant rubber bands keeping your limbs from fully extending, braces that make your arms stiff, a helmet that makes your spine curve uncomfortably, and glasses […]

More wolves, more trees.

5 January 2012 // 0 Comments

File this Washington Post story under “unintended consequences,” maybe. Researchers in Yellowstone Park are noting that as wolf populations are rebounding, the number of trees is growing too: The return of gray wolves has dramatically altered the landscape in portions of Yellowstone National Park, as new trees take root in areas where the predators have curbed the size of foraging elk herds, according to scientists in a new study. Stands of aspen, willow and cottonwood are expanding in areas where for decades dense elk populations prevented new growth, said study author William Ripple from Oregon State University. … Wolves have spin-off benefits, too, the researchers said: As trees grow taller, the stands provide more habitat for yellow warblers and other songbirds and more food for beavers, which in turn construct ponds that attract fish, reptiles and amphibians. The phenomenon has been described as a “landscape of fear” in which a predator’s pursuit of prey has […]

Electricity vs. depression.

4 January 2012 // 0 Comments

Medical Xpress seems quite excited over the prospect of using “deep brain stimulation” to cure depression: The study was led by Helen S. Mayberg, MD, professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, with co-investigators Paul E. Holtzheimer, MD, lead psychiatrist and now associate professor and director of the Mood Disorders Service, Dartmouth Medical School, and neurosurgeon Robert E. Gross, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology at Emory. … DBS uses high-frequency electrical stimulation targeted to a predefined area of the brain specific to the particular neuropsychiatric disorder. Here, each study participant was implanted with two thin wire electrodes, one on each side of the brain. The other end of each wire was connected under the skin of the patient’s neck to a pulse generator implanted in the chest – similar to a pacemaker – that directs the electrical current. … […]

A closer look at fish feet.

2 January 2012 // 0 Comments

Oh, tetrapod. How Science Daily says you’ve changed. The first walkers, they’re saying, may have had more to do with floods than droughts: University of Oregon scientist Gregory J. Retallack, professor of geological sciences, says that his discoveries at numerous sites in Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania suggests that “such a plucky hypothetical ancestor of ours probably could not have survived the overwhelming odds of perishing in a trek to another shrinking pond.” … “Remains of drying ponds and desert soils also are known and are littered with fossil fish, but none of our distant ancestors. Judging from where their fossils were found, transitional forms between fish and amphibians lived in wooded floodplains. Our distant ancestors were not so much foolhardy, as opportunistic, taking advantage of floodplains and lakes choked with roots and logs for the first time in geological history.” Limbs proved handy for negotiating woody obstacles, and flexible necks allowed for feeding in […]

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