May 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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So the anarchists are killing scientists now…

30 May 2012 // 0 Comments

I’m getting this from Nature, although New Scientist has also been covering it. A group called “the Olga Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation International Revolutionary Front” is waging war – with guns and bombs – against nuclear researchers and nanotechnologists: The Olga Cell, named after an imprisoned Greek anarchist, is part of the Informal Anarchist Federation, which, in April 2011, claimed responsibility for sending a parcel bomb that exploded at the offices of the Swiss nuclear lobby group, Swissnuclear, in Olten. A letter found in the remains of the bomb demanded the release of three individuals who had been detained for plotting an attack on IBM’s flagship nanotechnology facility in Zurich earlier that year. In a situation report published this month, the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service explicitly linked the federation to the IBM attack. The Informal Anarchist Federation argues that technology, and indeed civilization, is responsible for the world’s ills, and that scientists are […]

Cannabis pills not effective against MS.

29 May 2012 // 0 Comments

BBC breaks some not-terribly-encouraging news from the stoner desk. Neuromedical researchers have found marijuana-based meds don’t slow the progress multiple sclerosis: Lead researcher, Professor John Zajicek, will present the preliminary results of the Cupid (Cannabinoid Use in Progressive Inflammatory brain Disease) trial to the Association of British Neurologists in Brighton later. Prof Zajicek said he was “disappointed” the overall effect was not better. “There’s lots of evidence cannabis has a symptomatic effect – it makes people’s pain, muscle stiffness and spasms better,” he said. “But what we were doing in this trial was to see if we could slow down the course of the disease. “There are very, very few treatments for any neuro-degenerative disease, whether it’s Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or progressive multiple sclerosis and we were very much hoping cannabinoid might slow down the progression of the disease as opposed to just ameliorating people’s symptoms. “I’m very disappointed – not for me – but for […]

Science Art: Plate II, Mitchill’s Fishes of New-York, by Alexander Anderson, 1815.

27 May 2012 // 2 Comments

Alexander Anderson, medical doctor and illustrator, is remembered as America’s first wood engraver. He helped Samuel Mitchill explain what that was wriggling on the end of the line to all New York’s anglers a couple of centuries ago. This plate comes from Digital Gallery of the New York Public Library. Any designers reading this would do well to explore the other images in the Alexander Anderson gallery – there’s a wealth of early 19th century lettering, scrollwork, text decorations and intricate twisty bits in there. That any illustration with a description that begins “1. Rorstrated Dory…” should be in a book deemed rare is unspeakably sad.

Pesticides make bees… picky.

25 May 2012 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg finds something weird about the nicotine-based pesticides that seem to be making trouble for bees. Neonicotinoids make them picky eaters: The UC San Diego biologists focused their study on a specific neonicotinoid known as “imidacloprid,” which has been banned for use in certain crops in some European countries and is being increasingly scrutinized in the United States. “In 2006, it was the sixth most commonly used pesticide in California and is sold for agricultural and home garden use,” said James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who headed the research project with graduate student Daren Eiri, the first author of the study. “It is known to affect bee learning and memory.” The two biologists found in their experiments that honey bees treated with a small, single dose of imidacloprid, comparable to what they would receive in nectar, became “picky eaters.” “In other words, the bees preferred to only feed on sweeter […]

MIT: Facebook is about to kill the Internet. (Seriously?)

24 May 2012 // 0 Comments

MIT’s Technology Review is not a publication ordinarily given to hyperbole. So it’s a little distracting when their web desk declares that Facebook is heading for an implosion that will take internet business as we know it down with it: The daily and stubborn reality for everybody building businesses on the strength of Web advertising is that the value of digital ads decreases every quarter, a consequence of their simultaneous ineffectiveness and efficiency. … On the one hand, Facebook is mired in the same relentless downward pressure of falling per-user revenues as the rest of Web-based media. The company makes a pitiful and shrinking $5 per customer per year, which puts it somewhat ahead of the Huffington Post and somewhat behind the New York Times’ digital business. (Here’s the heartbreaking truth about the difference between new media and old: even in the New York Times’ declining traditional business, a subscriber is still worth more than […]

Putty fixes bones like chair legs.

23 May 2012 // 0 Comments

The health desk at The Atlantic might be looking a little bit like a wood shop, thanks to their reporting on the medical marvels of bone putty: Researchers at the University of Georgia Regenerative Bioscience Center in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense are developing a new “fracture putty” with the aim of significantly shortening the healing time of bone fractures in humans. … The research team is using adult stem cells to produce proteins involved in bone healing and generation. They incorporate these proteins into a gel…. Rats with broken bones were up and walking in two weeks. They expect much the same from humans.

Turning pollution into gold.

22 May 2012 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg gets me all het up over this modern-day alchemist who’s figured out how to transmute greenhouse gases into useful materials… and energy: Making carbon-based products from CO2 is nothing new, but carbon dioxide molecules are so stable that those reactions usually take up a lot of energy. If that energy were to come from fossil fuels, over time the chemical reactions would ultimately result in more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere—defeating the purpose of a process that could otherwise help mitigate climate change. Professor Yun Hang Hu’s research team developed a heat-releasing reaction between carbon dioxide and Li3N that forms two chemicals: amorphous carbon nitride (C3N4), a semiconductor; and lithium cyanamide (Li2CN2), a precursor to fertilizers. “The reaction converts CO2 to a solid material,” said Hu. “That would be good even if it weren’t useful, but it is.”

When bad science happens…

21 May 2012 // 0 Comments

…bad consequences follow. Forbes traces the problems with the most authoritative “we can cure the gay out of you” study: [Dr. Robert L.] Spitzer now looks back with regret and critically dismantles his work, but the truth is that his study wasn’t credible from the beginning. It only assumed a veneer of credibility because it was stamped with the imprimatur of his profession. … In his recantation of the study, he says that it contained at least two fatal flaws: the self reports from those he surveyed were not verifiable, and he didn’t include a control group of men and women who didn’t undergo the therapy for comparison. Self reports are notoriously unreliable…. … For many years before his paper on reparative therapy, Spitzer had conducted studies that evaluated the efficacy of self-reporting as a tool to assess a variety of personality disorders and depression. He was a noted expert on the development of diagnostic […]

Science Art: Paillettes de glace eclairées par les rayons du soleil observées en ballon, by M. Albert Tissandier

21 May 2012 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen When you’re a pioneering aviator, it pays to have a brother who’s an illustrator. From the Tissandier collection in the Library of Congress, a dream of the sky from the past. In 1875, Gaston Tissandier flew higher than anyone had ever gone. Two of his companions died from the altitude and he went deaf. And a few years later, with the help of a Siemens motor, he piloted the first electric-powered flight.

Doctor, make me forever young.

18 May 2012 // 0 Comments

Science Daily reaches out its withered hands to hold up the promise of a viral cure for aging: Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), led by its director María Blasco, have demonstrated that the mouse lifespan can be extended by the application in adult life of a single treatment acting directly on the animal’s genes. … Mice treated at the age of one lived longer by 24% on average, and those treated at the age of two, by 13%. The therapy, furthermore, produced an appreciable improvement in the animals’ health, delaying the onset of age-­?related diseases — like osteoporosis and insulin resistance — and achieving improved readings on aging indicators like neuromuscular coordination. The gene therapy consisted of treating the animals with a DNA-­modified virus, the viral genes having been replaced by those of the telomerase enzyme, with a key role in aging. Telomerase repairs the extreme ends or tips of chromosomes, […]

I can honestly conceive of nothing less pleasant than this.

17 May 2012 // 0 Comments

Discover launches a thousand new phobia cases with their expose (and I cannot do better than their headline here) Hidden Epidemic: Tapeworms in the Brain: A blob in the brain is not the image most people have when someone mentions tapeworms. These parasitic worms are best known in their adult stage, when they live in people’s intestines and their ribbon-shaped bodies can grow as long as 21 feet. But that’s just one stage in the animal’s life cycle. Before they become adults, tapeworms spend time as larvae in large cysts. And those cysts can end up in people’s brains, causing a disease known as neurocysticercosis. “Nobody knows exactly how many people there are with it in the United States,” says [Theodore] Nash, who is the chief of the Gastrointestinal Parasites Section at NIH. His best estimate is 1,500 to 2,000. Worldwide, the numbers are vastly higher, though estimates on a global scale are even harder […]

According to Public Enemy, I should now be very afraid…

16 May 2012 // 0 Comments

National Geographic unveils Kepler’s latest discovery – a really black planet: Orbiting only about three million miles out from its star, the Jupiter-size gas giant planet, dubbed TrES-2b, is heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius). Yet the apparently inky world appears to reflect almost none of the starlight that shines on it, according to a new study. “Being less reflective than coal or even the blackest acrylic paint—this makes it by far the darkest planet ever discovered,” lead study author David Kipping said. “If we could see it up close it would look like a near-black ball of gas, with a slight glowing red tinge to it—a true exotic amongst exoplanets,” added Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

We only ever glimpse things in flashes….

15 May 2012 // 0 Comments

Medical Xpress takes a closer look at the hazy, flickering way we really perceive the world: The [University of Glasgow] researchers studied a prominent brain rhythm associated with visual cortex functioning that cycles at a rate of 10 times per second (10Hz). They used a ‘simple trick’ to affect the oscillations of this rhythm which involved presenting a brief sound to ‘reset’ the oscillation. Testing subsequent visual perception, by using transcranial magnetic stimulation of the visual cortex, revealed a cyclic pattern at the very rapid rate of brain oscillations, in time with the underlying brainwaves. Prof Thut said: “Rhythmicity therefore is indeed omnipresent not only in brain activity but also brain function. For perception, this means that despite experiencing the world as a continuum, we do not sample our world continuously but in discrete snapshots determined by the cycles of brain rhythms.” Flickering in and out like blinking lights.

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