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: Jupiter’s Rings by LORRI, 2007.

24 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen. 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 that extends down to Jupiter’s cloud tops. The dust will glow much brighter in pictures taken after New Horizons passes to the far side of Jupiter and looks back at the rings, which will then be sunlit from behind. More at NASA’s Solar System Exploration page. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

SONG: Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)

24 August 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Thirty-Five Minutes (from Earth)”. [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE:Based on “NASA Windbots Could Explore Gas Giant Jupiter”, Sky News, 24 July 2015, 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 message here. Something like a sailor, a long way from home, or a balloonist who can’t land. Took a while to record this one – don’t know why. Got out my guitar amp, which I haven’t done in ages. Also took the mic outside to record an old washtub, and a plastic barrel being converted into a rain barrel, and an antique copper pitcher sitting on a copper plate. Nothing like using yard stuff for […]

Hope. Hope from frogs. They might just survive.

21 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports that, in the face of extinction, frogs have a way to adapt to pesticides – a little: Several species of frogs can quickly switch on genetic resistance to a group of commonly used pesticides. In one case, wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) were able to deploy such defences in just one generation after exposure to contaminated environments, scientists reported last week at a conference of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Maryland. This is the first-known example of a vertebrate species developing pesticide resistance through a process called phenotypic plasticity, in which the expression of some genes changes in response to environmental pressure. It does not involve changes to the genes themselves, which often take many generations to evolve. … In 2013, [Rick] Relyea [of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] and his team discovered that L. sylvaticus frogs living near agricultural land in northwest Pennsylvania were resistant to the pesticide carbaryl. Laboratory tests revealed […]

Sea monster found off Sweden – and archaeologists are thrilled.

20 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Denmark’s The Local shares the excitement of discovering a 400-year-old dragon – a figurehead from a Danish ship – that has been hidden in the sea since the 1500s: The wooden face, which resembles a monster or a large grinning dog, had been lying on a seabed off the southern Swedish town of Ronneby for more than five centuries. It is thought to have broken off from the Gribhunden ship, commissioned by King Hans, who ruled Denmark from 1481 to 1513. The ship sunk after a fire. … Marcus Sandekejer from Blekinge museum, which is set to put the discovery on display later this month, told The Local on Wednesday: “This figurehead is probably the only one left from a 15th century ship in the world.” He said it was a “fantastic feeling” watching expert archaeologists lift the creature out of the water. “520 years under water….and in such a great condition!” The museum is […]

Whistled language is right-brained.

19 August 2015 // 0 Comments

German researchers, as disclosed in Science Daily, have found a singularly creative language – a form of whistled Turkish that, unlike any other language on Earth, is not processed only on the left side of the brain: “We are unbelievably lucky that such a language indeed exists,” says Onur Güntürkün of Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany. “It is a true experiment of nature.” Whistled Turkish is exactly what it sounds like: Turkish that has been adapted into a series of whistles. This method of communicating was popular in the old days, before the advent of telephones, in small villages in Turkey as a means for long-distance communication. In comparison to spoken Turkish, whistled Turkish carries much farther. While whistled-Turkish speakers use “normal” Turkish at close range, they switch to the whistled form when at a distance of, say, 50 to 90 meters away. … Whistled Turkish isn’t a distinct language from Turkish, Güntürkün explains. It is […]

City grime “breathes out” pollution

18 August 2015 // 0 Comments

BBC reveals a dirty secret about our sooty cities – the grunge doesn’t trap air pollution – it creates it: In rooftop experiments in Germany, the researchers tracked the content of grime in both sunshine and shade. They say sunlit grime releases nitrogen in two forms: the toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2), plus nitrous acid – a key driver of smog formation. The findings, presented at a conference of the American Chemical Society in Boston, were welcomed by pollution experts – and may explain a “missing” source of smog-producing gas in the skies of London. … On a tower above the city they set up two large shelves filled with beads of window glass. Both sets of beads received the same air flow – and got thoroughly grimy – but only one was in the sun.

Life on Mars, and not too long ago.

18 August 2015 // 0 Comments

The Denver Post‘s (ahem) “nerd blog” has some interesting things to say about the planet next door – which, University of Colorado researchers believe, might have been alive more recently than we thought: An 18-square-mile chloride salt deposit is thought to have once been a lake bed with water that had only 8 percent the salinity of earth’s oceans, and may have been home to life. The dried up pond — “one of the last instances of a sizable lake on Mars,” according to the study’s lead researcher — was digitally mapped by a team from CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, along with researchers from two other universities. The study was published earlier this month in the journal Geology. … The salt deposits share some similarities with Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, according to the release from CU. An advantage of such deposits is that the salt can contain fossilized microbial life. “It can […]

Science Art: Doree, Zeus, Faber by Edward Donovan

16 August 2015 // 0 Comments

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 eye’ if danger approaches. Its large eyes at the front of the head provide it with binocular vision and depth perception, which are important for predators. The John Dory’s eye spot on the side of its body also confuses prey, which are scooped up in its big mouth.

Tapping the power of DNA electronics: recharge the battery by touching it.

14 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily introduces a new way to recharge your battery – take this flexible, biodegradable device and power it up by touching it: Many people may not realize it, but the movements we often take for granted — such as walking and tapping on our keyboards — release energy that largely dissipates, unused. Several years ago, scientists figured out how to capture some of that energy and convert it into electricity so we might one day use it to power our mobile gadgetry. … The researchers built a nanogenerator using a flexible, biocompatible polymer film made out of polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF. To improve the material’s energy-harvesting ability, they added DNA, which has good electrical properties and is biocompatible and biodegradable. Their device was powered with gentle tapping, and it lit up 22 to 55 light-emitting diodes. — Video at the link. (Kind of unintentionally funny – it’s more “spanking” than “tapping” at this point. […]

The key to octopuses’ uncanny intelligence is in their genes.

13 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature reports that the octopus has, for an invertebrate, a really large genome – including a long sequence of genes that regulates intelligence in “higher” animals: “It’s the first sequenced genome from something like an alien,” jokes neurobiologist Clifton Ragsdale of the University of Chicago in Illinois, who co-led the genetic analysis of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides). … Researchers want to understand how the cephalopods, a class of free-floating molluscs, produced a creature that is clever enough to navigate highly complex mazes and open jars filled with tasty crabs. Surprisingly, the octopus genome turned out to be almost as large as a human’s and to contain a greater number of protein-coding genes — some 33,000, compared with fewer than 25,000 in Homo sapiens. … One of the most remarkable gene groups is the protocadherins, which regulate the development of neurons and the short-range interactions between them. The octopus has 168 of these genes […]

The Lost Colony… found?

12 August 2015 // 0 Comments

New York Times reveals what might be the ultimate fate of the Lost Colony of Roanoke: They call the spot Site X. Down a dusty road winding through soybean fields, the clearing lies between two cypress swamps teeming with venomous snakes. It is a suitably mysterious name for a location that may shed light on an enigma at the heart of America’s founding: the fate of the “lost colonists” who vanished from a sandy outpost on Roanoke Island, about 60 miles east, in the late 16th century. On and off for three years, Mr. [Nicholas] Luccketti and colleagues with the First Colony Foundation have been excavating parts of the hillside, hoping to find traces of the colonists. As if clues in a latter-day treasure hunt, hidden markings on a 16th-century map led them to the spot on the sound’s western shore, which Mr. Luccketti had previously surveyed. Mr. Luccketti, 66, chose his words carefully as […]

Graphene’s tin cousin

10 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature greets a new one-atom-thick material – a super-thin sheet of tin scientists at Shanghai Jiao Tong University are calling “stanene”: Stanene (from the Latin stannum meaning tin, which also gives the element its chemical symbol, Sn), is the latest cousin of graphene, the honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms that has spurred thousands of studies into related 2D materials. Those include sheets of silicene, made from silicon atoms; phosphorene, made from phosphorus; germanene, from germanium; and thin stacks of sheets that combine different kinds of chemical elements…. Many of these sheets are excellent conductors of electricity, but stanene is — in theory — extra-special. At room temperature, electrons should be able to travel along the edges of the mesh without colliding with other electrons and atoms as they do in most materials. This should allow the film to conduct electricity without losing energy as waste heat, according to predictions2 made in 2013 by Shou-Cheng Zhang, […]

Science Art: Experience the Gravity of a Super Earth, NASA/JPL Exoplanet Travel Bureau

9 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen Apparently, since last December at least, NASA has been creating vintage-style travel posters for exoplanets – the planets we’ve been discovering around faraway stars. This one, HD 40307g, is eight times Earth’s mass, and might be either a really large rocky planet (like Earth) or a really small ice giant (like Neptune). Either way, base jumping would definitely be different there. There are quite a few other potential destinations at the Exoplanet Travel Bureau, all of which have their own unique charms.

Emotions help you remember information

7 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily processes a University of Haifa finding about why first impressions are so important – and how *feeling* a thing helps you *know* a thing: Dr. Shlomo Wagner of the Sagol Department of Neurobiology at the University of Haifa, who undertook the study, explains: “It turns out that different emotions cause the brain to work differently and on distinct frequencies.” The main goal of the new study, which was published this February in the science journal eLife, was to identify the electrical activity that takes place in the brain during the formation of social memory. During the course of their work, the researchers — Dr. Wagner and Ph.D. Alex Tendler — discovered the scientific explanation behind the saying “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” … In the first part of the study the researchers examined the electrical activity in the brains of rats during social behavior. They discovered strong […]

Teens and two-year-olds: The ages most vulnerable to trauma.

6 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Quartz opens a window on the two periods of brain development when traumatic events do the most damage: According to Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and senior lecturer at MIT, your “terrible twos” and those turbulent teen years are when the brain’s wiring is most malleable. … “We start to understand speech first, then we start to articulate speech ourselves and that’s a really complex thing that goes on in the brain,” Swart, who conducts ongoing research on the brain and how it affects how we become leaders, told Quartz. “Additionally, children start to walk — so from a physical point of view, that’s also a huge achievement for the brain. Learning and understanding a new language forces your brain to work in new ways, connecting neurons and forming new pathways. This is a mentally taxing process, which is why learning a new language or musical instrument often feels exhausting. With so many important changes happening […]

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