Science Art: Persea: Taft, by Royal Charles Steadman, 1914.

Scientific Illustration of a Taft avocado, from the USDA Pomological Watercolors Click to embiggen

It’s an avocado, an aguacate, also known as an alligator pear in English and a “lawyer pear” in Dutch. This is a Taft variety, an ancestor of the Lula cultivar, and may or may not still be around. In the 1910s, it was a well-known summer variety of the “Guatemalan race” of avocados. There are three races of avocados, did you know? The one you probably find in your grocery, the Hass, is a cross between Guatemalan and Mexican races probably. No one’s really sure because the fi…

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Science Art: Diagram of interferometer and four mirrors mounted on stone floating in mercury..., 1887

Scientific illustration of an interferometer used to disprove the existence of the luminiferous ether in the 19th centuryClick to embiggen

From the Library of Congress, we find a diagram of astrophysics equipment from the 19th century. It’s not a telescope. It’s a device designed to disprove the existence of the luminiferous ether, the stuff that we once thought filled outer space rather than the endless void we now know we’re all suspended in. The idea was that light needed something to travel through, some kind of medium, just like sound needs to travel through air (or water, or solid objects). The interfero…

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SONG: Small

SONG: “Small”

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on Science News, 4 Feb 2021, “A new chameleon species may be the world’s tiniest reptile”, as used in the post “Just discovered: world’s tiniest reptile”.

I managed to write and record this entirely in one day, which pleases me. I was doing other things, too. I knew earlier that I’d do a song about the tiny chameleon, and I knew I’d write the song to be short, as befits the reptile’s size. But I didn’t really know how I’d structu…

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Science Art: Leavitt Bulldog body diagram, 2013

Scientific illustration of the Leavitt bulldog, a healthier breed of English bulldog

As most folks know, today’s English bulldog is an animal that has been, as they say, “overbred.” They have beautiful temperaments as a rule, and can barely breathe, which gives them flatulence, can’t reach their own tails to groom themselves, have absurd wrinkles which get kinda gnarly and require human cleaning regularly, and are otherwise prone to skin conditions and a horrific thing called “cherry eye.” I know this intimately; we have an English bulldog we wouldn’t trade for the world. Sh…

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Science Art: Ingenuity Mars helicopter, by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientific illustration of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Next week, on February 18, this little chopper will touch down on Mars with the Perseverance rover. Then, a little while later, it’ll take off for a few seconds. Then a few more. Then it’ll start whirring around the atmosphere. The Mars Ingenuity helicopter (you can see videos at that link) is designed to test how well a familiar flying machine can maneuver in the thinner atmosphere of Mars (and keep itself going with a solar panel and lithium-ion batteries) during a 30-day flight window. If…

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Science Art: Tackles, 1905.

Scientific illustration of pulleys in block and tackle arrangements, increasing mechanical efficiency. Click to embiggen

Pulleys and rope, arranged to make lifting heavy weights easier. I’ve been messing around with boats lately, lowering a 30-foot mast with a lot of help. Pulleys are an amazing invention.

These are pictured in the Manual of Military Engineering, published in 1905 by the War Office of Great Britain… but I found them over here.

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Ancient germs reborn

10 August 2007 grant b 0

From New Scientist comes a fun story about prehistoric bacteria being brought back to life by meddling scientists: Kay Bidle of Rutgers University in New […]

I Want My UFO

9 August 2007 grant b 0

Moller International, a company that’s been trying to market flying cars for a long while now, has finally made its breakthrough, reports LiveScience: [I]t looks […]

Science Tattoos

8 August 2007 grant b 0

Some researchers wear their subjects of study underneath their sleeves. I quite like the octopus….

Nerdcore soldiers on

8 August 2007 grant b 0

Via the MC Hawking blog comes word of the irresistible, meteoric rise of nerdcore, as declared by the New York Times last Sunday: Many nerdcore […]

Sleep Eaters

7 August 2007 grant b 0

Discover lifts the veil on unusual nocturnal behavior – the phenomenon of sleep eating: Except for the trail of crumbs and gooey messes that confront […]


6 August 2007 grant b 0

New Scientist on the dawn of the Humortron 3000: Now Julia Taylor and Lawrence Mazlack of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio have built a […]

Gimme more sugar! MORE!

4 August 2007 grant b 0

Kevin Beck at ScienceBlogs shares some news published on PLoS by researchers from France’s University of Bordeaux, who found that sweet things can be more […]

Robo-Dog Soldiers

2 August 2007 grant b 0

Well, we knew about robot dogs and we’ve heard about robot soldiers – but unless you were paying close attention, you might not have heard […]

The future is now.

31 July 2007 grant b 0

Via Wired’s Danger Room comes news from the US Army’s Future Combat Systems. They need a new name because we’re already living in the future: […]

The 62-mile-high club

30 July 2007 grant b 0

Discover raises a slippery space question… as if NASA didn’t have enough scandal to deal with lately: When missions lasted no more than a few […]