Science Art: Pluto as seen by New Horizons

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A photo of that icy, cold, faraway, beautiful neighbor, just snapped by NASA.

Found in the New Horizons Image Gallery.

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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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Zookeepers baffled by spooked baboons.

3 August 2013 // 0 Comments

BBC says that’s what’s going on in the Netherlands. The baboons were terrified, but no one knows why; The behaviour started on Monday evening, and only now are the 112 baboons becoming their normal, active selves again, said a biologist at Emmen Zoo. The zoo still has no idea what spooked the hamadryas baboons, but it is a good sign that some are now eating apples, biologist Wijbren Landman said. The zoo last saw such hysteria in 2007. “What frightened them? We don’t know, it’s a mystery. There have been many suggestions – an earthquake, escaped snakes, aliens, thunder,” Mr Landman told BBC News. “The other animals here are OK – they have lemurs, elephants and kangaroos as neighbours, and they show no sign of panic.” Might it be some kind of mass hysteria brought on by captivity? Or maybe they were just messing with the biologists….

SONG: National Primate Home

22 July 2012 // 0 Comments

SONG: “National Primate Home.” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Call for NIH research chimpanzees to be retired”, Nature, 6 July 2012, as used in the post “Chimp retirement plan.”. ABSTRACT: This was written in response to the latest SongFu2012 prompt, from Ken Plume (the fellow who organizes the whole thing):“It’s my birthday this month, so I’m taking this prompt and giving you – Write an upbeat birthday song that never explicitly states it’s a birthday song.”. I have a habit, which I suppose I’m trying to break, of sending friends a video of the They Might Be Giants song “Older” on their birthdays. I love a fugue, and the passage of time… but that’s not terribly upbeat in any sense of the word. So instead, I started with the story about the chimps. A birthday would likely not be celebrated at the NIH hepatitis lab, other than […]

Science Art: Chimpanzee, from Brehm’s Tierleben, 1860s.

15 July 2012 // 0 Comments

Here’s an ape with plenty of character – plenty of, dare I think it, soul. This is not the first image from Brehm’s Tierleben (or “Brehm’s Life of Animals”) to have been featured on these pages. But it may be the one with the most thoughtful quality. This chimpanzee was alive before the Civil War broke out – before the Transcontinental Railway was completed – before the telephone was invented. And yet I can look at this face and think, “I know how you feel. I know what you’re thinking. I’ve thought the same thing, too.” I’m sure Alfred “Pharaoh” Brehm knew what I’m talking about.

Humans: The *sociable* ape?

11 November 2011 // 0 Comments

That’s the idea behind a study by University of Oxford and the University of Auckland researchers in PhysOrg. The scientists found that our ability to live in lots of different social settings is what sets us apart from other primates: The study analysed patterns of social groups among living primates, as well as examining the ‘the root’ of the family tree, in 217 primate species. The researchers then used Bayesian data modelling to reconstruct the most likely explanation for how the grouping behaviour of primates evolved over 74 million years. Their key finding is that the main step change in social behaviour occurred when primates switched from being mainly active at night to being more active during the day. Primates started out as solitary foragers as by night they could survive by moving quietly on their own in the dark. However, once they switched to daytime activity, they could be seen and were more vulnerable […]

Chimpanzee hunters drive endangered monkeys to the brink.

8 June 2011 // 0 Comments

Not people hunting chimpanzees, Scientific American reports, but chimpanzees hunting monkeys: According to a study published May 9 in the American Journal of Primatology, this is the first documented case of a nonhuman primate significantly overhunting another primate species. (The taxonomy of Ugandan red colobus monkeys is in dispute. Some scientists consider them a species, Procolobus tephrosceles, whereas others identify them as a subspecies, P. rufomitratus tephrosceles.) The study examined nearly 33 years of primate census data (covering 1975 to 2007) and found that the endangered Ugandan red colobus monkey population dropped 89 percent during that time, mainly as a result of being hunted by common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).

Need to bother your monkey? Try flying squirrels!

3 August 2010 // 0 Comments

It’s really hard to beat the Christian Science Monitor’s headline on this story…. Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts: “Human evolution occurred alongside primate evolution from a common mammalian ancestor,” [Kenji Onishi, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Osaka University,] told LiveScience. “Therefore, it is important to learn the evolution of primates in understanding the previous steps in human evolution.” … When Japanese giant flying squirrels glided over to a tree in the monkeys’ vicinity, adults and adolescent macaques started hollering at it threateningly, the researchers report. Young macaques screamed and mothers scooped up their infants, while adults and high-ranking males in particular went and physically harassed the offending squirrel. Onishi said other researchers have observed macaques responding in a similarly aggressive manner to birds that prey on the monkeys, such as the golden eagle and mountain hawk eagle. These raptors glide and swoop much like the flying squirrels. Upon closer inspection up […]

Chimp War.

29 June 2010 // 0 Comments

Science Daily spoils the myth of the peaceful forest apes that live idyllic lives with no concept of ownership. Apparently, the brutes fight long wars over land rights: During a decade of study, the researchers witnessed 18 fatal attacks and found signs of three others perpetrated by members of a large community of about 150 chimps at Ngogo, Kibale National Park. Then in the summer of 2009, the Ngogo chimpanzees began to use the area where two-thirds of these events occurred, expanding their territory by 22 percent. They traveled, socialized and fed on their favorite fruits in the new region. “When they started to move into this area, it didn’t take much time to realize that they had killed a lot of other chimpanzees there,” Mitani said. “Our observations help to resolve long-standing questions about the function of lethal intergroup aggression in chimpanzees.” Graphic descriptions of war crimes at the link.

Monkeys pay for porn.

20 May 2010 // 0 Comments

Nature says it’s true: Rhesus monkeys will trade items of value – in this case, juice – in return for sexy monkey booty shots: The researchers gave captive male rhesus macaques two options: a drink of cherry juice, or a different-sized shot of juice and the chance to look at one of a range of pictures of their troop members for just over half a second. By varying the amounts of juice, the team worked out how much the monkeys valued each image. “Monkeys are basically juice experts; they’re very sensitive to the differences,” says team member Robert Deaner. Monkeys would take a juice cut to look at powerful males’ faces or the perineum of a female, Deaner and his colleagues report in Current Biology. But to persuade the monkeys to stare at subordinate males, the researchers had to bribe them with larger drinks. …[T]he juice-to-picture exchange rate was highest for images of female rears. […]

Monkey talk.

9 December 2009 // 0 Comments

And, Wired says, we’re just about able to understand their vocabulary… and their grammar: Lemasson’s team previously described the monkeys’ use of calls with specific meanings in a paper published in November. It detailed the monkeys’ basic sound structures and their uses: “Hok” for eagle, “krak” for leopard, “krak-oo” for general disturbance, “hok-oo” and “wak-oo” for general disturbance in forest canopies. A sixth call, “boom,” was used in non-predatory contexts, such as when calling a group together for travel or arguing with neighboring groups. Impressive as that was, however, it was still relatively one-dimensional, not much different from verbalizations heard in many animal species, from other non-human primates to songbirds. The team’s latest findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describe something far more complicated: syntax, or principles of word sequence and sentence structure. Though some researchers have ascribed syntax to animals, it’s never been formally demonstrated — until now.

Monkey music.

14 August 2009 // 0 Comments

OK, not monkeys, but apes, New Scientist says, have been caught making musical instruments: The orang-utan’s music, if you can call it that, is actually an alarm call known as a “kiss squeak”. “When you’re walking the forest and you meet an orang-utan that not habituated to humans, they’ll start giving kiss squeaks and breaking branches,” says Madeleine Hardus, a primatologist at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who documented the practice among wild apes in Indonesian Borneo. She contends that orang-utans use leaves to make kiss squeaks to deceive predators, such as leopards, snakes and tigers, as to their actual size – a deeper call indicating a larger animal. Leaf-enhanced kiss-squeak musician videos are at the link.

Laughing apes.

4 June 2009 // 0 Comments

The AP is laughing it up over sensitive research into what makes apes laugh: To investigate that, Marina Davila Ross of the University of Portsmouth in England and colleagues carried out a detailed analysis of the sounds evoked by tickling three human babies and 21 orangutans, gorillas, chimps and bonobos. After measuring 11 traits in the sound from each species, they mapped out how these sounds appeared to be related to each other. The result looked like a family tree. Significantly, that tree matched the way the species themselves are related, the scientists reported online Thursday in the journal Current Biology. You can read the article summary here, including the phrase: “the current work examined the acoustics of tickle-induced vocalizations.”

Outchimped… with affection.

3 February 2009 // 0 Comments

The Monkey Wire (no, really) is jumping with news of a study that shows chimpanzee babies are smarter than humans: Daily Express Professor Kim Bard, of the Centre for the Study of Emotion at the University of Portsmouth, studied the care records of 46 baby chimps at risk of death through neglect by their mothers. A group of 17 given “responsive care” had human carers looking after them 20 hours a week. They tended to their physical and emotional needs, grooming, feeding and interacting with them. Professor Bard then looked at a second group of 29 given standard care catering only for physical needs. She compared the results with standard measurements of the intellectual development of human babies aged nine months. Chimps given responsive care scored 110, the average human baby at nine months 100 and chimps given only basic care 91. … She also found that babies in Romanian orphanages performed even worse than […]