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

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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 d…

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Poverty shrinks kids’ brains.

8 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature measures the price of poverty, and the effect it has on children. A bi-coastal study has found that poverty shrinks kids’ brains from birth: …A team led by neuroscientists Kimberly Noble from Columbia University in New York City and Elizabeth Sowell from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, California… imaged the brains of 1,099 children, adolescents and young adults in several US cities. Because people with lower incomes in the United States are more likely to be from minority ethnic groups, the team mapped each child’s genetic ancestry and then adjusted the calculations so that the effects of poverty would not be skewed by the small differences in brain structure between ethnic groups. The brains of children from the lowest income bracket — less than US$25,000 — had up to 6% less surface area than did those of children from families making more than US$150,000, the researchers found. In children from the poorest families, income disparities […]

Humor boosts the bottom line. (Call it “funny business.”)

9 April 2015 // 0 Comments

Scientific American examines what’s so wise about cracking up at meetings: …Lehmann-Willenbrock and Allen explored whether humor in the workplace might also help a corporation boost its bottom line. In a longitudinal investigation of team efficiency and productivity, they evaluated humor patterns in the regular team meetings of two industrial organizations in Germany, and then examined short-term and long-term outcomes. To assess humor patterns, Lehmann-Willenbrock and Allen first videotaped 54 different team meetings, each roughly forty-five minutes long, that collectively involved over 350 employees. If you find work meetings to be arduous and dull, you would not want to be on this research team, for the investigators then watched all of those meeting tapes and coded the team interactions. They were particularly interested in positive humor patterns, that is, upbeat, funny remarks followed by laughter. They intentionally did not include negative humor (sarcasm, put-downs) or failed humor (e.g., a joke followed by silence). After coding […]

Deutsche Bank says solar has already won.

9 March 2015 // 0 Comments

RenewEconomy follows the money in alternative energy, and focuses on a Deutsche Bank report that finds ever-cheaper batteries will make existing solar power tech way more workable: But by 2030, the solar market will increase 10-fold, as more than 100 million customers are added, and solar’s share of the electricity market jumps to 10 per cent. By 2050, it suggests, solar’s share will be 30 per cent of the market, and developing markets will see the greatest growth. “Over the next 5-10 years, we expect new business models to generate a significant amount of economic and shareholder value,” the analysts write in the report. Within three years, the economics of solar will take over from policy drivers (subsidies). Their predictions are underpinned by several observations. The first is that solar is at grid parity in more than half of all countries, and within two years will be at parity in around 80 per cent of […]

Solar power beats coal, in (Australian) dollars and cents.

9 July 2014 // 0 Comments

The Guardian has more on the power-station throwdown in which solar power is winning the race: Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day. For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar. “Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output. That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime.

Driverless cars: an economic problem.

21 May 2014 // 0 Comments

Another one for the unintended consequences file? From Slashdot (not normally a research reporting resource, but bear with us) we hear a note of concern sounded about Google cars cutting significantly into local revenues by avoiding traffic tickets: Approximately 41 million people receive speeding tickets in the U.S. every year, paying out more than $6.2 billion per year, according to statistics from the U.S. Highway Patrol published at That translates to an estimated $300,000 in speeding ticket revenue per U.S. police officer every year. State and local governments often lean on this source of income when they hit financial trouble. A study released in 2009 examined data over a 13-year period in North Carolina, finding a ‘statistically significant correlation between a drop in local government revenue one year, and more traffic tickets the next year,’ Popular Science reported. Partially, the problem is that if a driverless car gets a ticket, it’s hard to tell […]

Specific numbers make negotiations more favorable. For you. Not the other guy.

5 June 2013 // 0 Comments

Doesn’t matter who you are or what you want, University Herald explains. The negotiator who asks for the specific number gets the upper hand: Research conducted by [Columbia Business School] Professors Malia Mason and Daniel Ames and doctoral students Alice Lee and Elizabeth Wiley finds that asking for a specific and precise dollar amount versus a rounded-off dollar amount can give you the upper hand during any negotiation over a quantity. … The research, forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, looks at the two-way flow of communication between 1,254 fictitious negotiators. The negotiators were placed in everyday scenarios such as buying jewelry or negotiating the sale of a used car. Some people were asked to make an opening offer using a rounded-off dollar amount, while other people were asked to use a precise dollar amount; let’s say for example $5,000 vs. $5,015. The results showed that overall, people making an offer using a […]

One bank account makes saving easier.

18 April 2013 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that holds “out of sight, out of mind” as a savings strategy. Instead, we save better by keeping our eggs in one basket: [University of Kansas School of Business assistant professor Promothesh] Chatterjee’s research utilized four separate studies totaling 566 participants. All four studies presented participants the opportunity to earn money across tasks and spend it on different products. The four studies collectively indicated a higher rate of saving among individuals who maintain one account versus those who have multiple accounts. The results will appear in the May 2013 edition of the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. According to Chatterjee, his findings can be explained by two often-cited theories of behavior – “motivated reasoning” and “fuzzy-trace theory.” Motivated reasoning implies that individuals find spending more enjoyable than saving and are motivated to search for reasons to justify spending. In such situations, vagueness enables them […]

Real money. Virtual currency. Hard rules.

2 April 2013 // 0 Comments

New Scientist adds up the arguments over bitcoins, the computer-generated form of money. We’re now seeing plans to regulate the imaginary currency: Virtual currencies are to be regulated by the US Treasury after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) moved to clarify their status under anti-money-laundering laws. The move comes as Bitcoins doubled in value in just a few weeks to hit a record high of more than $70 each, possibly fuelled by the banking crisis in Cyprus and the rest of Europe. … Bitcoin “miners”, who run software to create Bitcoins, might also have to register if they sell the newly minted currency for its real equivalent. Interesting to see how the currency survives this.

If you were an MIT math student, you’d fix the lottery too.

10 August 2012 // 0 Comments

Boston Globe blows the lid off an M.I.T. syndicate that appears to have made a cool $8 million fixing the lottery: [Massachusetts Inspector General Gregory W.] Sullivan’s report details the way a handful of math and science wizards, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology undergraduates looking for an interesting school project, turned Cash WinFall into a nearly fulltime business, spending $40 million on tickets over a seven-year period and winning an estimated $48 million. And lottery officials were happy about the huge sales to these sophisticated gamblers, bending and breaking lottery rules to allow them to buy hundreds of thousands of the $2 tickets, Sullivan found. If anything, lottery officials were envious, with one supervisor asking in an e-mail: “How do I become part of the club when I retire?” The scheme revolved around using large numbers of ticket sales to trigger a period in which the odds of winning big increased. At least, as far […]

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 […]

SONG: “Inside the Box”

14 April 2012 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Inside the Box.” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “CEOs and the Candle Problem”, Nature, “A Mad Hemorrhage” blog, 2 Apr 2012, as used in the post “About those CEO bonuses: How financial incentives make us less creative.”. ABSTRACT: This song was a response to Mike Phirman’s SongFu prompt, “Write a song about your last day at work. Any style you choose.” So, it seemed like a natural fit to apply that idea to the implications of the Candle Problem. Although this song is, strictly speaking, not autobiographical (for one thing, my office doesn’t have regular time-wasting meetings like most corps I hear about), I do work in the print media. You might have heard about that industry lately. And I kind of figured most people seeing that prompt would zig into “Take this job and shove it!” territory, so it seemed like the thing to do […]

About those CEO bonuses: How financial incentives make us less creative.

9 April 2012 // 1 Comment

Nature blogger Graham Morehead isn’t looking over any new research with this post, which makes it all the more remarkable. Since the early 1960s, we’ve known that offering money as a reward makes us worse at solving problems: Knowing what was going to happen didn’t help. His new division became just as crisis-soaked and hectic as the last one. Then the layoffs started… During a five-year period, the number of employees at Company X grew sixfold, but R&D was cut by half or two-thirds, depending on whom you ask. The decision to cut R&D was so absurdly short-sighted it bordered on comical. … The company was so focused on small things like tax-deals that it had lost perspective on long term development. It was as if Company X were wearing blinders. This is exactly what research predicts. …[Karl] Duncker provided subjects with a candle, some matches, and a box of tacks. He told each subject […]

The 147 corporations that run everything.

21 October 2011 // 0 Comments

New Scientist looks at where and how business happens – and reveals that out of 37 million global companies, it’s only a very few who call the shots: the study, by a trio of complex systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, is the first to go beyond ideology to empirically identify such a network of power. It combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations (TNCs). “Reality is so complex, we must move away from dogma, whether it’s conspiracy theories or free-market,” says James Glattfelder. “Our analysis is reality-based.” … From Orbis 2007, a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide, they pulled out all 43,060 TNCs and the share ownerships linking them. Then they constructed a model of which companies controlled others through shareholding networks, coupled with each company’s operating revenues, to map the structure […]

Cleaning the world’s plate.

2 August 2011 // 0 Comments

A new U.N. report (over at Scientific American) shows we’re actually wasting 300 million Hummer H2s’ weight of food every year: What is more interesting is how the food is wasted around the world: Food losses in industrialized countries are as high as in developing countries, but in developing countries more than 40% of the food losses occur at post harvest and processing levels, while in industrialized countries, more than 40% of the food losses occur at retail and consumer levels. Food waste at consumer level in industrialized countries (222 million ton) is almost as high as the total net food production in sub- Saharan Africa (230 million ton). I nearly dropped my sandwich reading that. But is it really a surprise to many of us? Take a trip to the grocery store and one will find aisles upon aisles of fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and other processed foodstuffs. Food that isn’t taken home is […]

One scary reason why the poor stay poor.

9 June 2011 // 0 Comments

The New Republic looks at the science of choice… and the mental costs of not being able to afford much: In the 1990s, social psychologists developed a theory of “depletable” self-control. The idea was that an individual’s capacity for exerting willpower was finite—that exerting willpower in one area makes us less able to exert it in other areas. In 1998, researchers at Case Western Reserve University published some of the young movement’s first returns. Roy Baumeister, Ellen Bratslavsky, Mark Muraven, and Dianne Tice set up a simple experiment. They had food-deprived subjects sit at a table with two types of food on it: cookies and chocolates; and radishes. Some of the subjects were instructed to eat radishes and resist the sweets, and afterwards all were put to work on unsolvable geometric puzzles. Resisting the sweets, independent of mood, made participants give up more than twice as quickly on the geometric puzzles. Resisting temptation, the researchers […]

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