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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Viral science – things that spread fast.

10 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature skips past the blue-and-black dress to ask: Have you seen the one about viral scholarship?: In a paper due to appear in Management Science, Sharad Goel and his collaborators propose a mathematical definition of virality that quantifies the extent to which a concept is spreading between friends as opposed to via popular news outlets. Nature asked Goel, a computational social scientist at Stanford University in California, how his work applies to #TheDress. … What does ‘viral’ mean? When people say viral they can mean a lot of different things. It’s often a synonym for popular. People will say, “Look at this viral video”, when really it was something released by Taylor Swift or something like that. Something that’s a little bit closer to what I think of as viral, is something that’s not being promoted by a celebrity and that you wouldn’t ordinarily think is going to become very popular. Closer still — and […]

1 in 25 Death Row inmates don’t belong there.

30 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Or so says a new analysis published in Nature. That’s 4% of condemned people who would be exonerated given enough time: Few convictions result in an exoneration, most of those convicted never manage to prove their innocence and many cases do not have their final outcomes recorded, so data are not available to researchers. Innocent people also frequently plead guilty in the hope of reducing their sentence, effectively eliminating themselves from any analysis. Therefore, quantifying exonerations is the only way to get a glimpse of the extent of wrongful convictions, says lead author Samuel Gross, a criminologist at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. Gross and his colleagues analysed the rate of exonerations among prisoners on death row, whose outcomes are carefully tracked by the US Bureau of Justice Statistics in Washington DC. In a previous report, the researchers found that less than 0.1% of prison sentences are death sentences, yet capital […]

Kids these days… so *sober*.

10 April 2014 // 0 Comments

ABC (the Australian network) muses on the next generation… wondering why the kids are avoiding alcohol nowadays: The findings of a survey of more than 2,500 young people published today in the medical journal Addiction shows half of Australian teens do not drink. Between 2001 and 2010 the number of teens aged 14 to 17 abstaining from alcohol rose from 33 per cent to more than 50 per cent, the research shows. The study looked at 1,477 teens in 2001 and 1,075 teens in 2010. Study author Dr Michael Livingston from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre spoke with the ABC today and says the trend away from drinking alcohol is widespread and it also reflects similar studies both in Australia and overseas. “It’s really happening across the whole youth culture,” he said. … “These kids are drinking less; they’re not taking drugs.” Yeah, just in case you were wondering. They’re straight. Go figure.

Fear of crowds – it might not be so irrational.

16 July 2012 // 0 Comments

The Atlantic reveals the fluid dynamics of deadly mob disasters that shows how crowds can be so blindly powerful: “It happens like magic,” says Dirk Helbing, a professor in Zurich, Switzerland, who studies sociology and crowd modeling. “People don’t have to think about it, you don’t need to have legal regulations or policemen to organize the crowd. It just happens, like this invisible hand like what Adam Smith described.” … “At very low density, when everybody can move freely, [crowd dynamics are] like a gas,” he says. “When the density goes up, then eventually peoples’ movements are constrained, and it becomes more like a fluid. And then at very high densities, when people are squeezed in between other bodies, it’s more like a granular material.” Like sand, or rice, or small pebbles. Helbing and co-author Pratik Mukerji brought this perspective to an in-depth study of the 2010 Love Parade techno music festival in Duisburg, Germany. […]

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 […]

Facebook more efficient than IQ tests at determining employability. (Yeah, HR will be reading your updates.)

13 March 2012 // 0 Comments

Forbes takes us one step closer to the Facebook-dominated society with a Northern Illinois University study that finds a quick social media review works better than standard employment surveys: But there’s another good reason for checking out a candidate’s Facebook page before inviting them in for an interview: it may be a fairly accurate reflection of how good they’ll be at the job. That’s the conclusion in a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology last month. The researchers hired HR types to rate hundreds of college students’ Facebook pages according to how employable they seemed. “We asked them to form impressions of a candidate based solely on their Facebook page,” says one of the study author’s, Don Kluemper, of Northern Illinois University. This involved looking at what was publicly available on those pages (photos, status updates, and conversations with friends) and then assigning each person a score for a number of qualities […]

And now, a word from Neil deGrasse Tyson…

14 November 2011 // 0 Comments

“Only when creative people take ownership of cosmic discovery will society accept science as the cultural activity that it is.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson answering the question, “What is your opinion of the Symphony of Science videos?”

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 […]

The professional prophet of Intel.

9 November 2011 // 0 Comments

Scientific American interviews Brian David Johnson, Intel’s “future caster,” who combines science fiction with software and hardware design to predict what’s happening next: How can science fiction influence real-world research and development? There’s a great symbiotic history between science fiction and science fact—fiction informs fact. I go out and I do a lot of lectures on AI [artificial intelligence] and robotics, and I talk about inspiration and how we can use science fiction to play around with these ideas and every time people come to me, pull me aside and say, “You do know the reason why I got into robotics was C3PO, right?” I’ve become a confessor to some people. I just take their hand and say, “You are not alone. It’s okay.” And it’s true, science fiction inspires people to what they could do. It captures their imagination, which is incredibly important for developing better technology. Such as, I’m going to write this […]

Women are getting sexier… on the page.

31 August 2011 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg reveals a one-sided increase in sexual imagery. Men are as manly now as in years past, but women are getting more “pornified” than ever: Erin Hatton, PhD, and Mary Nell Trautner, PhD, assistant professors in the UB Department of Sociology, are the authors of “Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone,” which examines the covers of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 to 2009 to measure changes in the sexualization of men and women in popular media over time. The study will be published in the September issue of the journal Sexuality & Culture and is available at “We chose Rolling Stone,” explains Hatton, “because it is a well-established, pop-culture media outlet. It is not explicitly about sex or relationships; foremost it is about music. But it also covers politics, film, television and current events, and so offers a useful window into how women and men […]

Food riots in five…four…three…

29 August 2011 // 0 Comments

We’ve got until August 2013. All of us. Technology Review is teaching us how we can count down to the food riots: … Marco Lagi and buddies at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, say they’ve found a single factor that seems to trigger riots around the world. This single factor is the price of food. Lagi and co say that when it rises above a certain threshold, social unrest sweeps the planet. … But what’s interesting about this analysis is that Lagi and co say that high food prices don’t necessarily trigger riots themselves, they simply create the conditions in which social unrest can flourish. “These observations are consistent with a hypothesis that high global food prices are a precipitating condition for social unrest,” say Lagi and co. In other words, high food prices lead to a kind of tipping point when almost anything can trigger a riot, like a lighted match […]

The Twitter trenches

3 August 2011 // 0 Comments

Time reveals more of the Pentagon’s social media warfare research: The new Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program was submitted under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an arm of the Department of Defense. The goal is to “develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base” to help the agency keep abreast with communication technologies, namely Twitter. … The program’s plan is fourfold: 1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation. 2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social mediasites and communities. 3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns. 4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations. It makes sense: Twitter’s gotten a lot of shine as a tool for mass mobilization, none more famous than during the Arab Spring. With over 200 million tweets […]

The math of the madness of crowds.

29 July 2011 // 1 Comment

Ten percent. That’s all it takes to start a mob or to sell a coup d’etat. ScienceBlog digs up the numbers we need to make a change. Once 10 percent accept a thing as a rock-solid fact, the rest of the population follows – ready or not: “When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority,” said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.” As an example, the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt appear to exhibit a similar process, according to Szymanski. “In those countries, dictators who were in power for decades were suddenly overthrown in just a few weeks.” The […]

Rule #34 – and what it says about us.

3 June 2011 // 0 Comments

Time asks probing questions of the the researchers who studied all the porn on the internet: Why did you decide to analyze online porn searches? I’m a computational neuroscientist. I view the mind as software. Most computational neuroscientists study higher functions like memory, language and vision. We wanted to apply the same techniques to a lower part of the brain, the sexual part. So is “Rule 34” true — that if you can imagine it, there’s porn of it? When we first started, Rule 34 was almost a guiding idea. The Internet has every kind of imaginable porn; searches are going to reflect immense diversity. We quickly realized that [the data] didn’t really support that. Even though you can find an instance of any kind of porn you can imagine, people search for and spend money and time on 20 sexual interests, which account for 80% of all porn. The top five are youth, gays, […]

Teen motherhood: Evolutionary strategy.

27 July 2010 // 0 Comments

There’s a whole shovel-load of politics wrapped up in this New Scientist report on the evolutionary effects of poverty on human reproduction: There is no reason to view the poor as stupid or in any way different from anyone else, says Daniel Nettle of the University of Newcastle in the UK. All of us are simply human beings, making the best of the hand life has dealt us. If we understand this, it won’t just change the way we view the lives of the poorest in society, it will also show how misguided many current efforts to tackle society’s problems are – and it will suggest better solutions. Evolutionary theory predicts that if you are a mammal growing up in a harsh, unpredictable environment where you are susceptible to disease and might die young, then you should follow a “fast” reproductive strategy – grow up quickly, and have offspring early and close together so you […]

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