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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Ice Volcanoes of Pluto!

10 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports that the New Horizons probe has snapped photos of cratered mountains that bear the hallmarks of volcanoes that erupt with ice, rather than lava: The images show two mountains that are roughly circular in shape, with deep depressions at their centres. One of the peaks, Wright Mons, is 3–5 kilometres high, whereas the other, Piccard Mons, is up to 6 kilometres high. They resemble icy volcanoes, known as cryovolcanoes, on Neptune’s moon Triton and other frozen worlds. Flowing ice, rather than hot lava, fuels cryovolcanoes. “We’re not yet ready to announce we have found volcanic constructs at Pluto, but these sure look suspicious, and we’re looking at them very closely,” says Jeff Moore, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, who heads the New Horizons geology team. Moore spoke on 9 November at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. … If […]

Global warming might make the fish jump.

9 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature World News reports on a little mangrove-estuary dwelling fish that adapts to warmer waters by jumping into the air to cool down: In humid heat in tropical mangroves, tiny rivulus fish actually jump out of the water in order to cool off, says a new study from the University of Guelph. The researchers said that the fish, Kryptolebias marmoratus, lowered their body temperatures by chilling themselves in the air. Also, later, when they were more accustomed to the heat after having experienced higher temperatures for a week, they coped better with warm water, according to a release. Before that happens, though, jumping is important to the fish in leaving behind rising temperatures for a bit, said Pat Wright, lead author on the study and integrative biology professor at University of Guelph, in the release. “If the fish are prevented from jumping out of the water, they would die. … In warming water, fish hurled […]

It’s a little reading robot for the whole wide internet.

5 November 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist looks at the AI that’s been assigned the unenviable task of reading every scientific paper online and finding the important ones: Semantic Scholar, which launches today from the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), can automatically read, digest and categorise findings from the estimated 2 million scientific papers published each year. Up to half of these papers are never read by more than three people. The system aims to identify previously overlooked connections and information. “Our vision is of a scientist’s apprentice, giving researchers a very powerful way to analyse what’s going on in their field,” says Oren Etzioni, director of AI2. “If you’re a medical researcher, you could ask ‘what’s the latest on these drug interactions?’ Or even a query in natural language like, ‘what are papers saying about middle-aged women with diabetes and this particular drug?’” The system works by crawling the web for publicly available scientific papers, then scanning […]

DIY Internet: How Orca Island, WA, became their own provider.

4 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Ars Technica has an inspirational story of some folks who decided they could do a better job than their “professional” ISP: Around that time, CenturyLink service went out for 10 days, a problem caused by a severed underwater fiber cable. Outages lasting a day or two were also common, [Chris] Sutton said. Faced with a local ISP that couldn’t provide modern broadband, Orcas Island residents designed their own network and built it themselves. The nonprofit Doe Bay Internet Users Association (DBIUA), founded by Sutton, Brems, and a few friends, now provide Internet service to a portion of the island. It’s a wireless network with radios installed on trees and houses in the Doe Bay portion of Orcas Island. Those radios get signals from radios on top of a water tower, which in turn receive a signal from a microwave tower across the water in Mount Vernon, Washington. “I think people were leery whether we could […]

Super-healthy tomatoes showcase genetic meddling’s sunny side.

3 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American celebrates a bumper crop of super-healthy tomatoes, thanks to genetic modification: A single tomato of the new variety contains the same amount of resveratrol as 50 bottles of red wine, or the same amount of genistein (a compound found in soy beans that is thought to have health benefits) as 2.5kg of tofu. As tomato plants grow quickly and produce a lot of fruit, farming this new variety could be a way to produce these nutrients in industrial quantities much more cheaply than synthesising them chemically, or extracting small amounts from other plant sources. The variety was made by introducing a gene from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana—called AtMYB12—into the tomato genome. The gene codes for a transcription factor that binds to the promoter regions of genes encoding various metabolic enzymes. ‘In Arabidopsis [the] MYB12 [transcription factor] regulates the production of flavonols … which are important in UV protection and signalling,’ says Cathie […]

Everything you know about low-fat dieting is wrong.

2 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reveals that low-fat diets don’t really help you lose weight: An analysis of 53 weight-loss studies that included more than 68,000 people has concluded that, despite their popularity, low-fat diets are no more effective than higher-fat diets for long-term weight loss. And overall, neither type of diet works particularly well. A year after their diets started, participants in the 53 studies were, on average, only about 5 kilograms (11 pounds) lighter. “That’s not that impressive,” says Kevin Hall, a physiologist at the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland. “All of these prescriptions for dieting seem to be relatively ineffective in the long term.” The study, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, runs counter to decades’ worth of medical advice and adds to a growing consensus that the widespread push for low-fat diets was misguided. … No matter what the diet, the key to weight loss is […]

Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

1 November 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen. Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910. I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens. These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile. He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es distinta”) is the idol with the wide-open arms. Waving hello, perhaps? Welcoming you with a hug? Raising arms in a salute? Or warning you away? A small, mysterious figure.

Weird stuff: Better for your brain and your waistline.

30 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American reveals that the stuff you really weren’t expecting – the “unusual, the jarring, the culturally shocking” – can improve your cognitive ability and curb your urges to overeat: The first two experiments took place during Fourth of July and Labor Day picnics. For the July Fourth party, white plates were randomly mixed into stacks of stars-and-stripes plates. On Labor Day, Halloween-adorned plates were mixed in with patriotic plates. Then guests selected food from a buffet line. The result? On Labor Day, guests put less food on the Halloween-themed than on the patriotic plates. And on the Fourth of July, they put less food on plain white plates than on stars-and-stripes plates. In other parts of this study researchers [James A. Mourey, Ben C. P. Lam and Daphna Oyserman] found that people who have been exposed to culturally-disfluent situations performed better on cognitive reasoning tests and were less likely to succumb to impulse purchases […]

Step aside HIV. Tuberculosis is now the deadliest infectious disease.

28 October 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist reveals that, worldwide, more people died from TB than from AIDS: This year marks the deadline for the Millennium Development Goal of cutting the number of TB cases globally, set in 2000 by the UN. The World Health Organization’s annual report on the disease, out this week, says that goal has been reached. Even so, TB remains a major threat, killing 1.5 million people in 2014. The death toll for HIV was 1.2 million. “TB mortality is falling slowly, but we have had to re-estimate the global situation based on new information we received from crucial countries including Indonesia,” says Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Global TB Programme. At the same time, there has been a reduction in HIV-related deaths, due to increased availability of antiretroviral drugs. “While TB incidence is falling, HIV is coming down more quickly,” Raviglione says. — So it’s good news. Could be better.

Depression could be an immune problem.

27 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Medical XPress examines a link between major depression and immune-system cells in the brain called “microglia”: In a groundbreaking theoretical review paper published in the peer-reviewed journal, Trends in Neurosciences, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem suggest that “progress in the understanding of the biology of depression has been slow,” requiring expanding beyond the “abnormalities in the functioning of neurons.” The contribution of other brain cells—often neglected by researchers—may be more relevant in causing depression, according to psychobiology Prof. Raz Yirmiya, director of the Hebrew University’s Laboratory for PsychoNeuroImmunology, and senior author of the journal’s paper, titled “Depression as a microglial disease.” … In Trends in Neuroscience, the Hebrew University researchers claim that diseased microglia can cause depression and drugs that restore the normal functioning of these cells can be effective as fast-acting anti-depressants. Microglia, which comprise 10% of all brain cells, are the brain’s immune cells. They fight infectious bacteria and viruses in […]

Science Art: A Querschnitt durch die Wurzelspitze…, 1905.

26 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen The translation of “a Querschnitt durch die Wurzelspitze von Equisetum hiemale dicht unterhalb der Scheitelzelle nach Naegeli und Leitgeb,” according to Google, is: A cross-section through the apex of Equisetum hiemale just below the apical cell after Naegeli and Leitgeb. Equisetum hymale is a horsetail, a primitive plant. An apical cell is the one at the tip that keeps growing – the cell that makes the other cells of the stem. Naegeli and Leitgeb were two guys who did a lot of looking through telescopes at tiny bits of plants, figuring out how all the itty bitty parts snapped together. This illustration is from a German study of plant cell biology: Studien über die zellteilung im pflanzenreiche. Ein beitrag zur entwicklungsmechanik vegetabilischer gewebe by Karl Friedrich Georg Giesenhagen.

The meanest, most-quickly-intensifying hurricane in the Western Hemisphere.

24 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground has a lot of superlatives for Hurricane Patricia, the Category 5 storm that leapt up out of nowhere to devastate Puerto Vallarta: Stunning, historic, mind-boggling, and catastrophic: that sums up Hurricane Patricia, which intensified to an incredible-strength Category 5 storm with 200 mph winds overnight. At 2:46 am EDT October 23, 2015 an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft measured a central pressure of 880 mb in Patricia, making it the most intense hurricane ever observed in the Western Hemisphere. The aircraft measured surface winds of 200 mph, which are the highest reliably-measured surface winds on record for a tropical cyclone, anywhere on the Earth. The previous strongest Eastern Pacific hurricane was Hurricane Linda of 1997, with a pressure of 902 mb (estimated from satellite imagery.) The strongest Atlantic hurricane on record was Hurricane Wilma of 2005, with an 882 mb central pressure. Patricia does not beat the record-lowest pressure […]

No song today.

24 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Laryngitis is a heck of thing, especially when combined with an antibiotic allergy. Music to resume shortly.

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