July 22, 2008

Graffiti for Butterflies

Subtitled "Directing monarch butterflies to urban food sources along migratory routes in North America", this is science that works.

Very cool.

Posted by: Ted at 08:23 PM | category: SciTech
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April 19, 2008

Comeback

Apparently, this "fragile" planet we live on is a tad more resilient than folks like to admit.

The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini today was proof of the atoll's resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances if the reef was left undisturbed and there were healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.'' But Ms Richards said the research also revealed a disturbingly high level of loss of coral species from the atoll. "Compared with a famous study made before the atomic tests were carried out, the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s. "At least 28 of these species losses appear to be genuine local extinctions probably due to the 23 bombs that were exploded there from 1946-58, or the resulting radioactivity, increased nutrient levels and smothering from fine sediments.''

I'm not surprised. I've maintained for years that mankind's biggest contribution to the universe was our ego. If we all disappeared today, nobody would even know we'd existed in a few tens of thousands of years. Mother Earth would simply continue on, and gradually absorb our minor cosmetic modifications. We may even manage to alter her evolution slightly, but to think that we're more than a self-important experiment in a global-sized petri dish is pure hubris.

We do need to be aware of and take care of our environment, but it's more because of the "all our eggs are in one basket" situation the human race is still in. Mankind isn't a visitor here, we are part of Earth. As much as the atmosphere and the oceans and the various ecosystems, we are an integral part of her.

Thanks to Wizbang for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 08:45 AM | category: SciTech
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March 21, 2008

There's Old, and then there's *OLD*

In the White Mountains of California you'll find the oldest living things on planet Earth. Bristlecone Pine trees have survived there for thousands of years, including "Methuselah", which is over 4,670 years old! These trees were saplings when the pyramids in Egypt were being built. They were mature trees during the time of Christ, and they still live.

You can learn more about Bristlecone Pines by following the links here and here and there are some cool photos here.

Posted by: Ted at 10:28 AM | category: SciTech
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February 26, 2008

Correctly Titled

That is, if you're a theoretical physicist.

An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything

Here's the description:

All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.

You can download the paper in .pdf format. If you do, feel free to come back and explain it here in the comments.

I'm betting on 42.

Posted by: Ted at 11:25 AM | category: SciTech
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February 19, 2008

Sony Wins This Time

Toshiba has announced that it is abandoning it's HD-DVD format, which means that Blue-Ray has become the standard for hi def DVD. This comes as no surprise after most major movie studios adopted Blue-Ray as the release format of choice.

Posted by: Ted at 06:06 AM | category: SciTech
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September 28, 2007

Sweet Dreams

I swear, having a naturally curious mind can be a curse sometimes...

Spiders freak me out, as long time readers know. Today while googling around semi-randomly, I learned the following:

Jumping spiders, the largest spider family, with some 5,000 species described so far, have six to eight eyes and unusually good vision. They don't hunt with webs but sneak to within a few centimeters of their quarry and then pounce. It's "very catlike," says Nelson. The strike takes less than 0.04 second. Some of the jumpers specialize in hunting ants or even the dangerous challenge of bagging other spiders.

Notice the word in bold above: Some.

The jumping spider of East Africa doesn't have the mouthparts to get vertebrate blood directly, says Ximena J. Nelson of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. But it often catches female mosquitoes bloated with a recent blood meal.

Now, laboratory tests show that this spider (Evarcha culicivora) actually prefers the engorged mosquitoes to other prey such as midges.

Here's a clue: You and I are vertebrates. These eagle-eyed, cat-quick, eight legged paooki from hell prefer blood!!!!! Our blood!!!!! And as for that "doesn't have the mouthparts..." bit. Does it creep anyone else out that they didn't say "mouth" or "lips" or "teeth"? Spiders have "mouthparts". *shudder* And you know damn well that evolution is working to correct that little deficiency, because with mouthparts that can open our veins directly, they can eliminate the middleman and we'll have even more mosquitoes buzzing around contributing to mankind's collective anemia.

Spiders eat midges. Spiders eat midgets. It's not that far a climb up the ol' evolutionary ladder. Nature is a Mother.

Posted by: Ted at 04:51 PM | category: SciTech
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August 11, 2007

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

This weekend is a treat for skywatchers and amateur astronomers. The annual Perseid meteor shower should be beautiful because it arrives while a new moon is in the sky. As many as 60 meteors per hour may be visible, with larger ones leaving a streak across the night sky as they burn up in our atmosphere.

As a bonus, the planet Mars will be visible as a bright red dot in the sky to the northeast.

Unlike most astronomical events, meteor watching is done best without telescope or binoculars. Get comfortable, pick out a patch of black sky away from light pollution, and watch patiently. The closer towards dawn, the more meteors you might see. The peak number should be Sunday night into Monday morning, but they'll be visible for several nights afterwards too.

Every August at this time the Perseid shower occurs. Named for the constellation Perseus - because that's where the meteors appear to come from - their real origin is the comet Swift-Tuttle. When Earth crosses the path of the comet, debris from the comet's passing enters our atmosphere and gives us a light show.

This was cross-posted at The Dangerous and Daring Blog for Boys and Girls.

Posted by: Ted at 02:03 PM | category: SciTech
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July 31, 2007

Light Racers

This announcement came in the email today, from the Spaceward Foundation:

The Spaceward Foundation opened registration today for the 2007 Great Light Racer Championship.

The Light Racers Championship, a space technology competition, challenges kids, young adults and grown ups to design, build, and race beam-powered lunar rovers that could help NASA get to the ice deposits located in the permanently shadowed craters of the lunar poles.

Total prize purse this year is $10,000.


For the Light Racers, teams build and remotely control vehicles that capture a beam of light (from a spotlight) and convert that energy into power to navigate a course. There are both hard-surface road courses, for speed, and an off-road course with obstacles. There are no batteries or fuel carried, all power is supplied by the lightbeam. More details are here.

This is the same foundation that sponsors the Space Elevator Games, which is its own special brand of coolness.

Posted by: Ted at 05:54 AM | category: SciTech
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July 06, 2007

World's Most Expensive Calimari

There's only one of these, so far.

What appears to be a half-squid, half-octopus specimen found off Keahole Point on the Big Island remains unidentified today and could possibly be a new species, said local biologists.

The specimen was found caught in a filter in one of Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority's deep-sea water pipelines last week. The pipeline, which runs 3,000 feet deep, sucks up cold, deep-sea water for the tenants of the natural energy lab.

"When we first saw it, I was really delighted because it was new and alive," said Jan War, operations manager at NELHA. "I've never seen anything like that."

3,000 feet! Pitch black at that depth.

War, who termed the specimen "octosquid" for the way it looked, said it was about a foot long, with white suction cups, eight tentacles and an octopus head with a squidlike mantle.

The octosquid was pulled to the surface, along with three rattail fish and half a dozen satellite jellyfish, and stayed alive for three days.

Tough little sucker too, to manage three days after undergoing a pressure change such as that. Follow that link for a picture of the odd little beastie. It's a beautiful bright ruby red.

Posted by: Ted at 11:08 AM | category: SciTech
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June 27, 2007

Every Time We Think We've Got It Figured Out...

You remember what you learned about RNA, right? They're basically molecular dump trucks, running back and forth and collecting the building blocks needed to create proteins in the human body.

That may be a more apt description than we thought, because suddenly scientists are discovering that the "dump trucks" may be just a small percentage of the entire RNA "fleet".

Time to rethink what we thought we knew about DNA and evolution.

What is being proposed is the inheritance of characteristics acquired during an individual's lifetime, rather than as the result of chance mutations. This was first suggested by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, before Charles Darwin's idea of natural selection swept the board. However, even Darwin did not reject the idea that Lamarckian inheritance had some part to play, and it did not disappear as a serious idea until 20th-century genetic experiments failed to find evidence for it.

They're seeing hints pointing to that evidence now. This isn't an alternative to evolution, it's the idea that our bodies tweak the DNA that we pass along according to experiences that occur during our lifetime.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 11:45 AM | category: Links
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June 17, 2007

You Learn Something Every Day

For instance:

The vervet monkey has a vivid blue scrotum which pales when the animal falls in social rank.

But knowing that is mere trivia. The inquisitive mind wants to know why?

Follow that link and be enlightened. Heh.

Posted by: Ted at 08:31 AM | category: SciTech
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March 14, 2007

What?!? No Artificial Phlegm? Believe Me, I Even Checked Google.

Did you know that they make synthetic saliva? My wife Liz recently started using it on her doctor's recommendation because one of her new medications just sucks the moisture out of her mouth.

Saliva is a vital component of such everyday processes as tasting, swallowing, speech and digestion, and its absence is what leads to dry mouth. A reduction in salivary flow can occur for a number of reasons, but medication use is a key contributor.

I love that "duh" statement above about [saliva's] absence is what leads to dry mouth. Even so, it makes sense to have developed synthetic saliva.

Of course, in our family we call it "pseudo-drool" or just "fake spit".

(mental note: brownie-flavored saliva for dopers...niche market but has potential)

Posted by: Ted at 05:14 AM | category: SciTech
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February 27, 2007

Cool New DooDad

Over at QandO, I learned about this nifty little add-on for us Firefox users called CoolIris. Simple to use, when you hover over a link, a small icon appears next to it, move the cursor over the icon and a preview window appears that shows what's at the other end of that link. Move your mouse away from the window and it automatically closes again. It does much more, but that's the foundation of the app. I've found it easy to get used to, fairly customizable and unobtrusive. Check it out.

Posted by: Ted at 05:15 AM | category: SciTech
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December 21, 2006

I Question The Timing

A verified virgin birth happening around this time of the year? Oy!

And a little child lizard shall lead them.

As reptiles have been known to do, a female Komodo Dragon who was lacking male companionship has self-fertilized several eggs and will be a mommy soon. This is the second zoo-kept Komodo who has done that recently, but there's an interesting twist this time. The first Komodo self-fertilized and then later managed a regular mating which resulted in offspring when a male was made available. In nature, self-fertilizing females have been unable to produce young the traditional way, it's been kind of an either/or situation.

This is the exact plot device exploited in Jurassic Park, and goes to show that Mother Nature is strange and wonderous, and she's always at her best.

Posted by: Ted at 05:43 AM | category: SciTech
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December 15, 2006

Please Be True

My uncle died much too young from diabetes. My mom lost her leg to complications from diabetes. Now Canadian researches have cured diabetes in the laboratory.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

The development of synthetic insulin was a huge breakthrough, but it pales in comparison to this. Test results from human trials are expected in a year.

Too late for Uncle Art and my mom, but incredibly exciting news nonetheless.

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 09:05 PM | category: SciTech
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December 01, 2006

Practical Science

How to Calculate Pi by Throwing Frozen Hot Dogs. Really.

Thanks to my co-worker Alan for sending me the link. He says that when he saw it, he immediately thought of me.

Posted by: Ted at 05:29 AM | category: SciTech
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October 26, 2006

It's all in the name

From Dustbury:

And if you thought HD in radio meant the same thing as HD in television, think again:
"Quite honestly, it doesn't stand for anything," said Peter Ferrera, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. "The concept was somewhat of a steal from HD television, where viewers know it means better quality."

There you have it. "HD" stands for "Hype, Dummy!"

Posted by: Ted at 08:42 PM | category: SciTech
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October 24, 2006

Shattered Delusions

You've all seen the "face" on Mars. You may have heard about the recent debunking, where higher resolution photographs showed that it was, indeed, a natural physical feature. You probably didn't hear about the barking mad conspiracy theorists who're convinced that NASA is satan and they want to hide the evidence of extraterrestrial life (ignoring the fact that finding ET would mean a huge expansion of space exploration funding).

So, here's a nifty 3D animation from ESA (European Space Agency) showing the "face" and what it really looks like from various angles.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 05:28 PM | category: SciTech
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September 29, 2006

Old friends with new information

That's "old friend" as in, I've known Taz for a long time, not that Taz is old.

Looking at a new cell phone? This lady knows her stuff, and gives a thorough review of the LG Chocolate, the hottest thing on the market since the Razor's debut.

She also does a quickie comparison of several recently released cell phone models.

Posted by: Ted at 08:17 PM | category: SciTech
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September 21, 2006

*gulp*

I'm going to show just the last line of this link-filled post over at Jawa Report, about a massive supernova detected in February. Go. Read.

...had GRB 060218 happened in our galaxy, life on Earth would have ended Feb. 18.

I feel very very small and very very vulnerable.


Posted by: Ted at 04:58 AM | category: SciTech
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