Aug 6 at 7:07pm by Ryan
Here’s a cool infographic documenting 10 ways psychology and the science of the mind has been affected by evolutionary thinking. As you can see, many advances have come about as a result of the evolutionary approach, and the while the brain is still very mysterious, we are coming to understand it more and more every day.
Aug 6 at 7:07pm by Ryan
Millions of people all over the world cheered today when the Mars Rover Curiosity made a successful landing.
Mars is hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, and while this is not the first robotic landing on the planet, it represents our continued interest in what is certainly the closest potentially habitable planet. With 10 on-board scientific instruments, Curiosity will collect as much information as possible for scientific investigation and increased knowledge about the red planet.
Curiosity had been traveling away from Earth since November 26 on a journey of about 352 million miles. There is already speculation of a manned mission to Mars within the next two decades.
Apr 17 at 12:12pm by Aileen
This is a spectacular look at the sizes of different things in the Universe. It takes a little while to load but it is highly recommended.
This would make for a great science teaching tool for physics, astromony and general sciences. It puts things into perspective… in a big way.
Feb 13 at 4:04pm by Ryan
Oh, the wonders of science. Here’s a cool look at what we might expect to see in the Hospital of the Future.
The idea of a 3D organ printer is truly fascinating and not too far off from reality given that we’ve just seen the first man with a fully artificial heart as well as the existence of 3D printers. But the idea of artificial wombs is a bit scary. Makes me think of The Matrix movies. However, I’m sure there are millions of women who’d prefer not to put their bodies through the toll that pregnancy takes on them. Others will argue that they are missing out on something fundamentally human. And you have to wonder if the babies born in artificial wombs would have any residual, negative side effects.
Sep 26 at 11:11am by Ryan
As we all know, our society is a scientific one. All of our modern conveniences are the bounty of great scientific advances. But most of us don’t know the scientists who have most shaped our lives. Yesterday someone sent me a list of the twenty most influential scientists alive and I’ll be completely honest… I had only heard of about half of them.
You’d think as someone who follows science news closely I’d know more of these people. But this is just testament to the fact that we don’t know our living scientists as well as we should.
Here’s the list:
1. Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Le
2. Noam Chomsky
3. Richard Dawkins
4. Persi Diaconis
5. Jane Goodall
6. Alan Guth
7. Stephen Hawking
8. Donald Knuth
9. Lynn Margulis
10. Gordon Moore
11. Roger Penrose
12. Allan Sandage
13. Frederick Sanger
14. Charles Townes
15. Craig Venter
16. James Watson
17. Steven Weinberg
18. Andrew Wiles
19. Edward O. Wilson
20. Edward Witten
How many of these scientists have you heard of?
Nov 16 at 5:05pm by Aileen
I hope that readers are as eagerly looking forward to the big Leonid meteor shower show as I am. Planning to schlep a lawn chair to the railroad tracks where there is an unemcumbered view of the east/southeast sky and no light pollution to speak of, settle in with a blanket and toast to the solar system’s fireworks display.
It should be quite the spectacle if predictions are correct. It’s a new moon, so that source of light pollution won’t be an issue. They say we’ll only get 20 to 30 an hour, while Asia gets the really big boomers at 200-300 an hour, but I’m hoping they’ve miscalculated a bit. There should still be a few to see tonight. The Leonids put on their show every year as the planet travels through the remains of the Tempel-Tuttle comet. Our pass-through has the incoming debris originating from the direction of the constellation Leo, hence the name. This year, however, Mars is sitting right between us and the constellation, so it should look like our friendly neighborhood Martians are staging the show!
What I will not be doing is wearing a tin foil helmet to prevent those Martians from manipulating my brain waves. According to MIT research conducted in 2005, the metallic fashion statements actually amplify invasive radio frequencies reserved for use by the government in satellite communications rather than protect wearers from what they are most afraid of.
The abstract of On the Effectiveness of Aluminum Foil Helmets reads:
“Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We speculate that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.”
Oh, well. Before some reader out there comes back with the obvious, yes I do know this is mostly tongue-in-cheek from a few undergrad CompSci geeks with way too much time on their hands. But it’s still pretty funny, so enjoy!
Oct 22 at 5:05pm by Aileen
In the news this month we’ve learned about a neotropical jumping spider discovered by Christopher Meehan of Villanova University in Mexico and Eric Olson of Brandeis in Costa Rica that is the only species of spider observed to subsist on a primarily vegetarian diet. Previously, spiders had not been known to consume any type of solid food, apart from occasional pollen fed to young in a single species of orb-weaver. The new species has been named Bagheera kiplingi.
And on the subject of vegetation, plant biologists at the University of Delaware and McMaster University in Canada conducted a study of more than 3,000 mustard seedlings and discovered that young plants are capable of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen explain why fresh eggs are more difficult to peel than older eggs. Bottom line: let your eggs sit for a few days before trying to make deviled eggs!
Oct 8 at 4:04pm by Aileen
News this week from the rarified realm of science research is both interesting and far-reaching. And no, by far-reaching I’m not talking about discovery that the planet Saturn has a huge, invisible ring nobody noticed before.
In the field of physics, some may have heard of Paul Dirac’s postulated magnetic monopoles – the quantum of the magnetic force, with a single pole instead of two. Dirac postulated that these must exist, and led to his famous ‘strings’ (which eventually led to some current GUT models). But nobody has ever actually ‘seen’ a monopole, so it’s been an open question of whether such beasties exist. Now, an NIST research team believe they’ve found the next best thing, monopoles the size of molecules!
They of course aren’t real monopoles, but apparently behave the same predicted way. Thus these synthetic compounds could allow scientists to do further research in the lab rather than just on paper napkins. They will be testing monopole predictions with these spin ice molecules, such as whether the postulated particles obey Coulomb’s Law. Stay tuned, this could get fascinating quickly!
Next up is a study about the ubiquitous BPA body burdens 93% of us carry around these days. BPA is a common chemical found in some plastics and epoxy resins. A paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives this week from researchers at Simon Fraser University, UNC-CH and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital linked prenatal BPA exposure to unusually aggressive, hyperactive behavior in 2-year old girls.
Neurodevelopmental disorders – ADD, ADHD, the Autism spectrum, etc. – have been most prevalent in young boys, who represent some 80% of the diagnoses. Further research on this environmental contaminant should be watched, as if the connection is solid, we can expect more and more young girls to suffer the same sorts of problems. BPA has also been linked to fertility problems, growth retardation and learning disorders as well as permanent changes to DNA in mice.
Speaking of Autism’s spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders, researchers from MIT and the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital have discovered that a single letter change in DNA may be indicative of Autism. This is known as a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism [SNP], and researchers tied it to chromosomes 5, 6, 20. The gene on chromosome 5 is associated with neuron development and autistic children showed lower expression.
This is just one piece of what researchers expect is a highly complex genetic puzzle, but it might lead to tests that can identify those at risk of producing autistic children, and identifying it in children very early. It also could help lead to specific treatments in the future. Progress is being made at last in dealing with this spectrum as a real medical condition and not just an indicator of lousy parenting skills. Which has been one of the most hurtful urban myths ever propagated by people who had no idea what they were talking about. That some of them were psychologists and physicians is sad, so we can all be thankful that some real answers are coming in.
Sep 15 at 5:05pm by Aileen
Back in February of 2008 the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] conducted research on smallmouth bass in the Potomac River basin, finding that 80-100% of the fish collected from the Shenandoah were intersex. Meaning that males of the species had testicular oocytes [TO], or immature female egg cells in the testes.
The USGS researchers also documented that the highest prevalence of TO came attached to areas with the highest human populations and most intensive farming activity. This type of birth defect is connected to environmental exposures to endocrine disrupters (hormone precursors that affect the endocrine system), which are found in most agricultural pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and in many human/animal drugs. The prevalence of intersex had been at that time documented in other wild fish populations, including spot-tail shiners in the St. Lawrence, white suckers in Colorado, shovelnose sturgeon in the Mississippi, white perch in the Great Lakes, and in several species in the UK, Europe, Africa and Japan.
Intersex associated with endocrine disrupters in wastewater and farm runoff is nothing new, as reproductive anomalies in amphibians has been on the rise especially in farming regions for decades. Now the USGS has published new results of research on intersex in bass in the journal Aquatic Toxicology. They found that a third of all male smallmouth bass and a fifth of all male largemouth bass tested were intersex. The fish came from many different rivers and basins, including the Apalachicola, Colorado, Columbia, Rio Grande, Savannah, Pee Dee and Yukon. The Yukon is the only river basin where researchers found no intersex fish.
The Pee Dee river basin appears to have the biggest problem, though intersex bass are prevalent throughout the agricultural southeast. Relatively high incidence of intersex was also found in the lower Rio Grande basin, the Colorado and Gila in Arizona, and the Colorado basin. Lead author and USGS biologist Jo Ellen Hink suggested that “the widespread occurrence of intersex in fish would be a critical environmental concern.”
Well, duh. Any prognostications on when (or if) EPA and the USDA might get around to being critically concerned about it? Will “Intersex” become the new macho?
Aug 24 at 6:06pm by Aileen
Why do people believe lies after being told the truth?
Sociologists from four major research institutions have published a study in the journal Sociological Inquiry examining how we support our false beliefs. They examined the false belief of many voters during the 2004 general election, which held that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was responsible for the primarily Saudi-conducted attacks on September 11, 2001.
The researchers concluded that the false beliefs were not caused by lies told repeatedly by the Bush Administration and some cable news channels, but by the individuals’ own personal need to justify a war that was already being waged. They named their study “There Must Be a Reason: Osama, Saddam and Inferred Justification,” and claim that their findings offer serious challenge to democracy – in that the people cannot be trusted to discern truth from falsehood.
Now, while it is a trivial observation that people tend to believe what they want to believe, and that they will seek out information sources that support and/or confirm their already-held beliefs, this blogger is not convinced that these sociologists should have so pointedly ignored the fact that it was the Bush-Cheney administration that invented the lies, started the war, and was backed up in that false propaganda effort by the mainstream broadcast and cable news media establishments. Seems like giving political liars and media propagandists a free pass on misleading the public does serious damage to the conclusions of the supposedly scientific study itself.