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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Apatosaurus could have cracked its tail like a giant whip.

19 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American explores a strange anatomical detail for a very large dinosaur indeed – a whip-like tail that could actually have cracked like a whip: The idea that Apatosaurus might have used its tail like a bullwhip—to scare off predators, communicate or even show off for potential mates—gained traction about 20 years ago. That’s when paleontologist Philip Currie of the University of Alberta teamed with Nathan Myhrvold to create a computer simulation that showed the whip-cracking tail was plausible. …. This week at a meeting of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology, Myhrvold, Currie and Dhileep Sivam, also of Intellectual Ventures, unveiled a quarter-scale physical model of an Apatosaurus tail made from aluminum vertebrae and steel tendons. … A full-size apatosaur whipping its tail in this way could probably have produced a sound loud enough to shatter human eardrums.

Science Art: Gate of Lodore, from the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories.

18 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Behold the West. This is the frontispiece to a scientific report, the Report on the geology of the eastern portion of the Uinta Mountains and a region of country adjacent thereto – with atlas, by John Wesley Powell and Charles Abiathar White. White knew about rocks and fossils; Powell published plenty on Native American languages and myths. The Uintas are, to this day, a high wilderness area that aren’t much like the rest of the Rockies. Very tall. Sculpted by glaciers. Running east-to-west. The highest point in Utah is part of this range. Must’ve made for quite a survey.

Maybe… just maybe… we’re getting as much sleep as we always did.

16 October 2015 // 0 Comments

It sure doesn’t feel like it, but Scientific American has some research to suggest that all these screens and electric lights really aren’t ruining our primal, natural-born sleep schedules… as much as the A/C is: The researchers looked at people living in three hunter-gatherer societies in rural parts of Africa and South America. Investigations showed that these traditional peoples slept slightly less than 6.5 hours a night on average. In comparison, people in industrial societies usually average seven to eight hours per night. “We find that contrary to much conventional wisdom, it is very likely that we do not sleep less than our distant ancestors,” said the study’s senior author, Jerome Siegel, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. However, the researchers also found that insomnia may have been more rare in ancient times than it is now. This finding suggests that looking to the past could lead to new ways of […]

Self-control eats your memory.

15 October 2015 // 0 Comments

The Guardian reveals how exerting the willpower not to eat that next donut actually lowers your ability to remember things clearly: In the lab, self-control – or response inhibition, as neuroscientists call it – is often tested with the ‘Go/ no–go’ procedure. This typically involves showing participants a stream of sensory cues, and to respond to most of them by performing a simple action, such as pressing a button. But a small subset of the cues are slightly different from the rest, and when these appear, they are supposed to withhold their usual response and refrain from pressing the button. The number of times a participant incorrectly presses the button on these “no-go” trials is thus taken as a measure of their self-control. Earlier this year, Yu-Chin Chiu and Tobias Egner of Duke University in North Carolina reported that response inhibition impairs memory encoding. They asked volunteers to perform a ‘Go/ no–go’ task, using photographs […]

China’s space telescope: Two years of watching from the moon.

13 October 2015 // 0 Comments

New Scientist gives us an update on what the Chang’e 3 lander has been seeing for the last two years: The 15-centimetre telescope is mounted on the Chang’e 3 lander, which touched down on the lunar surface in December 2013. Chang’e 3 (pictured above) carried the Yutu rover, which repeatedly struggled to survive the lunar night and ceased working in March this year – but the lander is still going strong. The telescope sees in ultraviolet light, making it particularly suited for observations that aren’t possible here on Earth. “There is no atmosphere on the moon, so unlike Earth, the ultraviolet light from celestial objects can be detected on the moon,” says Jing Wang of the National Astronomical Observatories in Beijing, China, who is in charge of the telescope. And since the moon rotates 27 times more slowly than the Earth, the scope can stay fixed on the same star for a dozen days without […]

Wrong Science. As if the p-hacking wasn’t bad enough…

12 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature tackles the “reproducibility problem” – trying to find out why some WRONG things get published as being RIGHT, but also how exactly scientists get so good at fooling themselves: Reflecting today on how it happened, [statistician Andrew] Gelman traces his error back to the natural fallibility of the human brain: “The results seemed perfectly reasonable,” he says. “Lots of times with these kinds of coding errors you get results that are just ridiculous. So you know something’s got to be wrong and you go back and search until you find the problem. If nothing seems wrong, it’s easier to miss it.” This is the big problem in science that no one is talking about: even an honest person is a master of self-deception. Our brains evolved long ago on the African savannah, where jumping to plausible conclusions about the location of ripe fruit or the presence of a predator was a matter of survival. […]

There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.

9 October 2015 // 0 Comments

NASA’s Deep Horizons has found traces of good ol’ H2O on that dwarf planet at the fringe of the solar system: In a second significant finding, New Horizons has detected numerous small, exposed regions of water ice on Pluto. The discovery was made from data collected by the Ralph spectral composition mapper on New Horizons. “Large expanses of Pluto don’t show exposed water ice,” said science team member Jason Cook, of SwRI, “because it’s apparently masked by other, more volatile ices across most of the planet. Understanding why water appears exactly where it does, and not in other places, is a challenge that we are digging into.” A curious aspect of the detection is that the areas showing the most obvious water ice spectral signatures correspond to areas that are bright red in recently released color images. “I’m surprised that this water ice is so red,” says Silvia Protopapa, a science team member from the […]

The third kind of lie: science vs. p-hacking.

8 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Fusion goes beyond the three kinds of lies (“Lies, damned lies, and statistics,” according to… someone) and into the awful implications of trusting the data as it lies, lies, lies to us: In many fields of research right now, scientists collect data until they see a pattern that appears statistically significant, and then they use that tightly selected data to publish a paper. Critics have come to call this p-hacking, and the practice uses a quiver of little methodological tricks that can inflate the statistical significance of a finding. As enumerated by one research group, the tricks can include: “conducting analyses midway through experiments to decide whether to continue collecting data,” “recording many response variables and deciding which to report postanalysis,” “deciding whether to include or drop outliers postanalyses,” “excluding, combining, or splitting treatment groups postanalysis,” “including or excluding covariates postanalysis,” “and stopping data exploration if an analysis yields a significant p-value.” Add it all […]

Spacesuits made… sexy?

7 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Slate (not The Onion) dishes on the Victoria’s Secret designer looking at the next generation of form-fitting spacesuits: Perhaps nobody understands the intersection of aesthetics, function, and price better than Ted Southern, the co-founder of Final Frontier Design, a Brooklyn, New York–based company whose mission is to design and manufacture the next generation of space-safety garments for NASA and commercial outfits. Southern comes from a different background than most NASA folks—he built the angel wings for the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows and has constructed inflatable costumes for Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson ONE show in Las Vegas. This makes him something of an outlier in an industry that has always been dominated by multinational aerospace companies, but he thinks that his unique background gives Final Frontier Design an advantage. “In costuming you’re working with the human body a lot so you have a very bodycentric way of thinking about assemblies,” said Southern. “The closer you […]

Cahokian human sacrifices picked local victims.

6 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Western Digs reveals the latest discovery from the metropolis of middle America – where they practiced human sacrifice with their own citizens: But one of the many mysteries lingering among the city’s ruins, just outside modern-day St. Louis, is a burial mound excavated in the 1960s and found to contain more than 270 bodies — almost all of them young women killed as victims of human sacrifice. … For decades, the prevailing theory has been that its victims were forcibly brought to Cahokia from regions under the city’s control, and sacrificed as offerings to its rulers, its dead, or its deities. “The initial interpretation of the burials of young women suggested they represented ‘tribute’ from outlying communities,” [Dr. Phil] Slater[, an anthropologist at the Illinois State Archaeological Survey] said. “Our analysis provide[s] … evidence that suggests the young women may have come from within the region, if not from Cahokia itself.” What’s more, the research […]

Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering

4 October 2015 // 0 Comments

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 playing cards from 1702. The whole engineering deck (and the other one) is viewable in the NY Public Library Digital Collections.

If our diets alone are making us obese, why are vervet monkeys and mice overweight too?

2 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Aeon asks some interesting questions about what’s really making us fatter – and why: As Richard L Atkinson, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin and editor of the International Journal of Obesity, put it in 2005: ‘The previous belief of many lay people and health professionals that obesity is simply the result of a lack of willpower and an inability to discipline eating habits is no longer defensible.’ Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and […]

Mealworms can eat our plastic trash.

1 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Alert (citing Environmental Science & Technology) shows us a new way to think about chucking out all that delicious “non-biodegradable” garbage: Researchers led by Stanford University in US and Beihang University in China found that the mealworm – the larval form of the darkling beetle – can safely subsist on a diet of Styrofoam and other kinds of polystyrene, with bacteria in the worm’s gut biodegrading the plastic as part of its digestive process. … “Our findings have opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem,” co-author Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford, said in a statement. In the study, 100 mealworms ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam each day, converting about half into carbon dioxide and the other excreting the bulk of the rest as biodegraded droppings. They remained healthy on the plastic diet, and their droppings appeared […]

“They ate better than we did.” Scans reveal Pompeii victims’ health.

30 September 2015 // 0 Comments looks at the petrified remains of Ancient Roman volcano victims: A recently launched project that is performing CAT scans on the remains of Pompeii victims contained within plaster casts has revealed that good health was widespread among people of the ancient city. “For sure, they ate better than we did,” orthodontist Elisa Vanacore said during a press conference in Pompeii on Tuesday, after analyzing some of the initial results. “They have really good teeth – they ate a diet that contained few sugars, and was high in fruit and vegetables,” she added…. The archaeological superintendent of Pompeii, Massimo Osanna, was quick to underscore the importance of the interdisciplinary project, which will see archaeologists working alongside computer engineers, radiologists and orthodontists. … Unfortunately, the machine only allows casts of a 70cm diameter to enter – so parts of the more portly residents of Pompeii will remain a mystery – although their heads and chests will […]

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