2/28/2008 5:35:47 PM
Although they’re usually hidden beneath white lab coats and pocket protectors, science geeks get body art, too. The blog Carl Zimmer's Science Tattoo Emporium chronicles some of the coolest, dorkiest, and most obscure science tattoos on the net.
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review.)
Image by Richard.
2/28/2008 4:29:39 PM
The blog Developing Intelligence recently sifted through a bevy of studies to confirm that coffee is not only good for your brain, it’s also best with sugar. Additional findings include that 200 mg per hour is an optimal intake, which sounds suspiciously like an IV dose. Anyone for drip coffee?
Image by Morten Båtbukt, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/27/2008 2:24:59 PM
One more awkward, in-person conversation can now be avoided, thanks to the internet: the one that starts, “Honey, I’m sorry. We have an STD.” InSpot.org lets users send an anonymous message to former partners telling them that they might have an STD, so they should get tested. At that point, unlucky recipients can get tested at their own discretion. Even though the site can’t promise the message is legit, it’s better to be safe than sterile.
, licensed under
2/22/2008 5:56:22 PM
If you want to experience the chill of meeting a psychopath’s icy gaze, just start making more eye contact. An article in Damn Interesting reports that roughly one out of every 100 men (and one in every 300 women) meets the clinical criteria needed to be classified as psychopathic. The writer acknowledges the tenuous science behind diagnoses of psychopathic tendencies, but points out that, at least according to the most widely used psychological testing methods, psychopaths are often indistinguishable from law-abiding “normal” people.
Image by Emily Walker, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/22/2008 3:20:12 PM
In the latest incarnation of the highly offensive Facebook/MySpace-divide hypothesis, an article in TechCrunch reports on data suggesting that wealthy people tend to use Google for their Internet search engine while poor people tend to use Yahoo.
2/22/2008 2:20:54 PM
From a physics standpoint, time travel is entirely possible, according to an article in Cosmos Magazine. All you need is a really fast space ship and knowledge of Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. Financially, however, it’s still totally unviable.
Theoretically, if a person were to orbit the Earth at 161,556 miles per second for one full year, during the same time, two years would have passed on Earth. * That would mean the person would have traveled a year into the future. The problem is that to travel that fast for that long would require about 30 trillion gigajoules (GJ) of kinetic energy. At over $9 per GJ, the bill would total around $27 trillion. So for Back to the Future to become a reality, Marty McFly would have to be a very rich man.
Image by Valerie Everett, licensed under Creative Commons.
Correction: The speed was originally identified in miles per hour. It has been corrected to read miles per second.
2/22/2008 11:21:29 AM
One of most expansive science news sources around, the New Scientist, is up for sale, the International Herald Tribune reports. The weekly magazine has been covering every aspect of the scientific community since the 1950s. Now their parent company, Reed Elsevier, has decided to unload all of their publications, including Variety and Publisher’s Weekly. Anybody got a few extra million dollars lying around?
2/20/2008 1:07:07 PM
Like all science fairs, you could tell which projects had parental help and which ones didn’t at the 2008 Home School Science Fair. The blue-ribbon winning project on dinosaurs and people roaming the earth together, with the color photos and the perfectly cut lettering, probably had parental help. The one explaining how a broken motor disproves Darwin's theory of evolution, with the roughly cut pieces of paper and the penciled in chicken scratches, probably did not.
Every diorama in the Home School Science Fair, which took place inside a shopping mall in Roseville, Minnesota, had a biblical quote attached to it. A young woman whose project involved teaching her dog how to run circles between her legs decorated the words: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) in pink lace fabric. This quote got to the crux of the science fair, in my opinion: parental commandment. These parents pulled their children out of school, away from their peers, and said, “Now prove that Darwin was wrong.”
The projects all used classic high school science language: Start with a hypothesis, move on to testing, and then draw a conclusion. The problem was that much of the science was backwards. In good science, you start with a piece of evidence and try to find a truth. With creationist science, you start with a truth (the Bible), and try to find the evidence.
Before I arrived at the science fair, I planned to engage some of the children and parents. I wanted to ask them about creationism and education. Once I got there, however, I was overcome with a sense of pity for the children. They stood around the suburban mall, in the prime of the most awkward years of their life, being forced to preach blather. I didn’t want to exploit them for a cheap laugh while their parents and the company Answers in Genesis (whose literature was scattered throughout the event) were so clearly exploiting them to proselytize. The children’s gangly limbs and bad acne reminded me how vulnerable I was at their age and how easily someone could have brainwashed me.
I overheard one parent saying, “One thing is for sure, a lot of learning has gone on this week.” I would change that statement a bit: I’d say a lot of indoctrinating went on that week. Hopefully, a good college professor, and a few years of therapy, will help these children turn all that “learning” around.
2/18/2008 5:08:03 PM
Philosophers. Sort of.
Why? Because they haven’t equipped us with the kind of thinking that would help us wrap our minds around the problem and devise a way to stop it. That is to say, they haven't taught us how to change the way we live in the world.
To do that, we’d need a wholly different kind of academic inquiry, writes Nicholas Maxwell, author of the recently revised From Knowledge to Wisdom, in the latest issue of Philosophy Now (subscription required):
Global warming is the outcome of the way we live, and in order to arrest it we need to change the way we live... Having a kind of academic inquiry that gave intellectual priority to articulating, and working out how to tackle, problems of living, would have helped enormously with alerting the public to the problem of global warming, and to what needs to be done in response to it.
But we have not had, and still do not have, academic inquiry of this type—devoted to helping humanity learn how to tackle its problems in increasingly rationally cooperative ways. Instead we have science—this long tradition of inquiry devoted to improving knowledge and technological know-how.
Take that, science.
In fact, Maxwell isn’t railing against science per se, but rather “science without wisdom.” And this wisdom comes from a sense of purpose: Knowledge should not be an end in itself, but rather a means toward resolving a problem.
So what would this living-oriented academic inquiry look like? Maxwell elaborates in a short piece for the New Statesman:
Academic inquiry as a whole would become a kind of people’s civil service, doing openly for the public what actual civil services are supposed to do in secret for governments. Academia would actively seek to educate, rather than simply study, the public.
2/14/2008 5:16:11 PM
I’ve been spending far too much time lately on the website Big Think. The site has a mass of videos with smart people ruminating on important questions. Politicos like Ted Kennedy and Dennis Ross mull over questions of education and foreign affairs, while Deepak Chopra and Steven Pinker ponder the meaning of humanity’s existence. It’s is a marvel of modern communication, like a YouTube for smart people.
One of my favorite bloggers, Jason Kottke, considers what this mass of communication means to the people in the video you can see below.
2/14/2008 4:09:59 PM
You may know how you feel about the presidential candidates, but what does your brain think? The Implicit Association Test from Harvard University is designed to uncover people’s hidden political biases. Test takers are asked to associate photographs of candidates with words like positive words like “Love” and “Happy” or negative words like “Hate” or “Angry.” In theory, the better your associations are with a candidate, the faster you’ll be able to associate that candidate with the positive words.
To take the test click here.
There was one big surprise in my results: The test said that I have more positive associations with John McCain than I do with Hilary Clinton, although Barack Obama trumps them all. Of course, that’s not me talking. It’s my brain.
2/14/2008 9:51:15 AM
The Australian government’s recent apology to the Aboriginal people for historic wrongs could benefit people’s health, Rachel Nowak reports for the New Scientist. The Aboriginal people currently struggle with high rates of alcoholism, depression, and other physical and mental health issues. Prime Minister Paul Rudd’s apology for forced “assimilation” programs that ended in 1970 has been called “tremendously significant in mental health respects,” by medical policy researcher Marlene Kong. “It will help the healing process, and that in turn will contribute to physical well-being.”
Native Americans in the United States struggle with some of the same issues of substance abuse and depression, yet “the United States has no general program of reparations for Native Americans and no prospects for adopting one,” David C. Williams writes for Cultural Survival Quarterly. Williams believes that Americans’ aversion to guilt is holding up the reparations processes, no matter what the potential benefits could be.
Even with the formal apology, experts quoted by the New Scientist recognize that Australia has a long way to go toward closing the health gap between Aboriginal people and the rest of the country. A 17-year differential in life expectancy currently exists between some Aboriginal communities and Australia as a whole. The government has pledged to close that rift within a generation, but experts agree that greater resources are needed to address the problem.
Photo by Douglas Kastle, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/13/2008 5:31:02 PM
When people claim to have an acute “gaydar,” they may not be referring simply to their intuition. Long accepted as a fact in pop-culture lore, the ability to perceive homosexuality in others could be scientific. The Jan.-Feb. issue of Psychology Today (not available online) reports on a study by the Monell Chemical Senses Center where volunteers sniffed the armpits of sweaty T-shirts and rated how attracted they were to the scent. Lesbians were most attracted to the scent of other lesbians, gay men to the scent of other gay men, and straight people to the scent of straight people of the opposite sex. “This kind of scent-based gaydar enables gays to pinpoint potential partners instantaneously,” writes Psychology Today of the study. In the same vein, an article from Science Daily reported that homosexuals can be identified by gender-incongruent body types and walking styles. However, the way these ideas of gaydar differ from “straightdar,” if such a term existed, remains unclear.
(Thanks, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide)
2/13/2008 1:44:46 PM
The letter “s” is getting expensive, according to a recent story in the New Zealand Herald. The British travel company www.cruise.co.uk recently purchased the domain name “cruises.co.uk” from a German travel company for 1.3 million U.S. dollars. The reason is because “cruises” (with the “s”) is more frequently searched on Google than “cruise.”
2/12/2008 3:41:39 PM
The technology company Fermiscan is betting that women would rather give up a hair sample than go in for a mammogram. According to an article in IEEE Spectrum, Fermiscan has been working on technology that tests hair samples for breast cancer using a multimillion-dollar particle accelerator. Supposedly, this would make traditional X-ray mammograms obsolete.
The problem is that few scientists think the scans are really accurate. Independent research groups have failed to reproduce the intended scan results. Still, many remain optimistic. “I wish [Fermiscan] really well,” medical-imaging expert Keith Rogers said, “because it would be bloody wonderful if it worked.”
2/12/2008 3:05:26 PM
For me, getting work done with an IM program open is like mini-golfing against a guy with an air horn. The distraction is impossible to ignore. A recent study in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, however, has found that IM does not adversely affect overall work levels. In the study, IM users “report being interrupted less frequently than non-users, and they engage in more frequent computer-mediated communication than non-users, including both work-related and personal communication.” Maybe that’s because IM haters like me, have long since turned their IM programs off.
2/11/2008 2:01:07 PM
Digital cameras aren’t just light receptors, like the film from more traditional cameras. They’re handheld computers, interpreting light messages and forming them into something that looks like an image. Digital photo technology so far has been focused on creating a realistic rendering of what’s in front of the camera. In the future, Bryan Haynes writes for the American Scientist, digital cameras could interpret and even change the recorded reality. Haynes envisions cameras that could “render images in the style of watercolors or pen-and-ink drawings,” shift points of view, or use light reflections to see around walls.
(Thanks, 3 Quarks Daily)
2/5/2008 10:30:14 AM
From the people who brought you the Creation Museum, the newest, peer-reviewed, creationist research journal has just gone live. It’s called Answers Research Journal, published by the organization Answers in Genesis. So far the journal has tackled some tough questions, including: How do germs fit into the story of Adam and Eve?
For a different take on the birth of the universe, LiveScience has a list of the top ten creation myths. The question posed is: Did Norse bulls create the earth, or was it the work of Chinese cosmic eggs?
2/4/2008 2:00:20 PM
Relax. Now. All that stress Americans carry around could be lethal. Chronic stress can lead to heart disease, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, adult-onset diabetes, and even cancer according to Eric Wargo in Observer, the magazine of the Association for Psychological Science. To make matters worse, stress appears to be cumulative. The more stress you feel, the more susceptible you are to stress. Wargo writes, “Think of it this way: Too much stress and you forget not to be stressed out.”
The problem is that there’s so much to be stressed out about. A foundering economy, terrorism, bird flu, peak oil, nuclear war, and a giant volcano under Yellowstone National Park all threaten human existence as we know it. It’s difficult to read the paper and not get stressed out.
“Nothing stresses me out more than someone telling me I need to relax,” Andrew Santella writes for Notre Dame magazine. Santella, who previously tackled the psychology of anger in an article reprinted in Utne Reader, now turns his attention to the chronic stress that may be inherent in the American character. Once dubbed “Americanitis” by psychologist and philosopher William James, chronic stress drives a world-wide industry of yoga studios, behavior tips, and pharmaceutical helpers. Santella writes that “everyone from the National Institutes of Health to the corner yoga studio wants me to do something about all that stress, all that worry, before it kills me.”
, licensed under
2/4/2008 1:13:36 PM
Walking through wooded hills of the University of California, Santa Cruz, I happened upon a student housing area where nearly every residence had a sign near the door that read: “Mayor.”
I was reminded of this democratic display when I attended a talk last month at the University of Minnesota given by Anthony D. Williams, co-author of book Wikinomics. Williams predicted that the future of government will be more collaborative and interactive. In essence, Williams imagines a future where everyone’s a mayor.
The key to this collaborative future, according to Williams, is the coming of age of the Net Generation or “N-Gen.” Williams believes this “first generation of digital natives” is engaged in politics, but they just tend to be bored by traditional one-way, “broadcast” coverage. Williams cites cognitive research suggesting that a lifetime of content creation may have changed the way N-Gen brains are wired. They prefer more reciprocal, participatory formats, like chat rooms and social networking sites, to television or radio.
Just as the past decade witnessed the meteoric rise of social networking sites like MySpace, Williams said to watch out for "MyGovernment," a fully-customizable, collaborative decision-making network. While modern government has been characterized by multiple levels of bureaucracy, mountains of paper and few channels to power, Williams predicts that Gov 2.0 will be characterized simple, cross-departmental entry points and more consumer-minded approachability. Williams also foresees leadership coming from inside and outside the government.
One sign of this coming trend, Williams said, is Scorecard.org, which takes the massive public information on pollution, compiles it by location, and presents it in a format that is online, accessible, and easily searchable by zip code. This kind of project, allowing for greater public access and civic participation, could be the upgrade the U.S. government needs.
2/3/2008 2:26:46 PM
It’s fitting that the word “patent” is only one letter away from the word “patient,” since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is currently so backlogged that it can take up to four years for a patent to be processed. The problem, according to Kiki Namikas writing for California Magazine, is that patent system has been unable to adapt to changing technology. For example, what used to be easily categorized as an “invention” is no longer so straightforward. “Today it is possible to patent business methods, software, genetically modified life forms, education methods, and surgical techniques,” Haas professor of economics Richard Gilbert told California. Trying to navigate this maze of technology, the U.S. patent office continues to fall further behind.
One website is trying to help the system catch up using a community-based approach. WikiPatents allows patent owners, inventors, patent examiners, and anyone else interested to comment and vote on current and pending patents. Using the community’s collaborative efforts, the website is designed to provide “transparency to the patent system—indicating to the public, with greater visibility, the true and proper scope of each patent.”
2/3/2008 2:23:39 PM
I believe that God, once finished creating the heavens and the earth and the fish of the sea, created nature documentarian David Attenborough’s voice to chronicle it all. The veteran BBC nature lover has filmed much of the world in more than twenty series since his start in 1954. In a pleasant-minded ramble, Laurie Taylor of the New Humanist chats with the oft-decorated Brit about the source of his popularity, why some scientists find him too soft, and the reasons why his shows support evolution. You can also watch a clip from the BBC documentary Life in the Freezer, below.
Attenborough: Life in the Freezer: Wandering Albatross
Add to My Profile
| More Videos
2/3/2008 2:19:39 PM
Sound waves may be able to put out fires, according to an article in the Scientific American, but the reason why is still unclear. Scientists think the phenomenon may have something to do with the relationship between pressure caused by sound and temperature. So the next time you light your kitchen on fire, try screaming like a baby.
Image by Collien, licensed under Creative Commons.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!