Amusing News Aliquots
Mar06

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. What you really need is this street-legal Batmobile. Only $1 million. [Short List] Secret to living a long life? Good food and good sleep, says world’s oldest woman. Secret to happiness? Sheesh, what more do you want from her? [NBC News] New app’s technology seeks to dramatically increase people’s reading speeds. No mention on how app plans to prevent people from skipping article entirely and scrolling to the tl;dr section. [33rd Square] Turns out your taste buds can be tricked by juicy adjectives, familiar memories, and pleasing colors. Maybe we are in the matrix after all. [Popular Science] Researchers find that caffeine dependence can lead to emotional problems. It’s distressing news, but thankfully the Newscripts gang always keeps a cup of joe at our sides to calm us down during moments like these. [Seattle Pi] Study finds that a community in California experienced a decline in childhood obesity after it built a casino. The finding is leading many to believe that the casino’s all-you-can-eat buffet must not be that good. [Reuters] A 13-year-old in England has become the youngest person in the world to ever build a nuclear fusion reactor. So stop holding your kid back, and start letting him play with nuclear technology already! [Daily Mail] We like to see science tackling tough problems: Researchers develop tricks to get rid of that song that’s been stuck in your head. [Seriously,...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Feb14

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week's science news, lovingly compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. It’s Valentine’s Day! What’s that – shut up?! Don’t worry, feeling lonely could be good for you and the survival of your genes. [Daily Mail] It’s probably too late to get one of these boxes of anatomy chocolates for your sweetie, but they’re so cool we thought we’d make note of them anyway. [Visual Anatomy Ltd] For your Valentine’s pleasure: A dozen romance-related research papers. [Seriously, Science?] Construction workers in Seattle accidentally discovered a mammoth tusk during a digging operation. Workers said they were disappointed they didn’t discover the rest of the mammoth, as they would have been sure to compliment the mammal on its long legs. [Seattle Pi] In other unearthed bones news, King Richard III’s remains that were found under a parking lot last year will be DNA sequenced. [Boing Boing] Forget about tattoos and piercings. The best body modification by far has to be getting a magnet implanted in your fingertip. [Gizmodo] Resource-strapped city bees are using cheap plastic waste to build their hives. It’s yet more proof that urban real estate costs are too damn high. [ScienceDaily] If your cat bites the hand that feeds it, take that hand to a hospital right away. Dog people everywhere say, I told you so. [USA Today] Finally, a chance to put to good use the knowledge gleaned from all those investigative news pieces on how to operate a black light in a hotel room: The hunt is on in Virginia for $250 worth of missing bull semen....

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Flame Challenge 2014
Jan31

Flame Challenge 2014

A love of chemistry burns deep in the heart of Robert E. Buntrock. So much so, the American Chemical Society emeritus member will be fanning the flame of his love for the central science in the 2014 Flame Challenge. This annual challenge, which is entering its third year of sponsorship by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (CCS) at Stony Brook University, SUNY, and the second year of sponsorship by ACS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, asks scientists to answer a seemingly simple scientific question in such a way that an 11-year-old can understand. This year’s question is “What is color?” “Color is very important to me,” Buntrock says. “It helped attract me to chemistry.” So composing his essay shouldn’t be too difficult. The twist: He’s having his grandson’s fifth-grade class prejudge his entry. “My draft has exactly 300 words. We’ll see how much survives my critics,” he says. Patrick Allen, who teaches Buntrock’s grandson Brody at Asa C. Adams Elementary School, in Orono, Maine, has signed up his fifth-grade class to judge Flame Challenge entries, so they will be practicing, too, when Buntrock visits them next week with his entry. The annual competition began in 2012 when Alan Alda posed the question “What is a flame?” to scientists around the world because when he was 11-years-old he asked the question to his science teacher and wasn’t satisfied with the technical answer he received. The challenge question for the past two years has been decided by 11-year-olds across the world. This year, more than 800 questions were submitted by students. Scientists can answer the question either in written form (no more than 300 words) or in visual or video format (less than 6 minutes), and entries are due by March 1. In developing his entry, Buntrock has an extensive scientific background from which to draw. He is a semiretired chemist who does chemical information consulting and book reviews under the company name Buntrock Associates. He graduated with a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1962, and he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Princeton University in 1967. Before starting his company, Buntrock worked in industry for nearly 30 years at Air Products & Chemicals and Amoco Corp. A successful researcher, he holds three patents and has almost 200 publications. With such an accomplished science career, Buntrock can’t wait to join in the Flame Challenge excitement. “I may have so much fun,” he says, “that I’ll enter again” next...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Jan16

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. Finally, a book that explores the proper etiquette for spitting up a hair ball in public: "Pride and Prejudice and Kitties." [Mother Nature Network] More feline news: Looks like U.S. prisons are too posh. After all, cats looking for a comfortable home are now breaking into them. [Glens Falls Post-Star] Think your graduate work was tough? At least you didn't have to attach a camera to an alligator's back. [Seriously, Science?] Study suggests MTV's "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" might be driving down teen pregnancies. Next up, "Teens Who Don't Do Their Homework"? [USA Today] While the Newscripts gang was bundled up and hiding from the polar vortex, this Canadian fellow created a colored ice fort. [BoingBoing] Did we all just assume that the flying V formation gave birds an aerodynamics push? Turns out it was just scientifically shown for the first time. [NPR] Police arrest man for insobriety after his parrot tells police that he is drunk. It's hard not to feel sorry for the man. He thought he had a parrot for a pet, but it turns out his pet was really a rat. [United Press International] In the real-life Japanese version of "Good Will Hunting," the university janitor creates a gorgeous, unsolvable maze in his spare time. [Viralnova] Skip the plug-in night-lights, now you can buy bioluminescent house plants for all your nighttime low-light needs. [Popular Science] When those pesky moral dilemma tests are presented in virtual reality--complete with carnage and screams--turns out people get more emotionally riled, but also more utilitarian. Sorry, best friend. [Time]  ...

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In Print: Balloon Returns Home, Earthshaking Stadium
Dec16

In Print: Balloon Returns Home, Earthshaking Stadium

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in this week’s issue of C&EN. Purdue University's Association of Mechanical & Electrical Technologists (AMET)--a hands-on STEM-oriented student organization that works on everything from robots to Rube Goldberg devices to rockets--expected the weather balloon that it launched on Nov. 16 to return to Purdue's West Lafayette, Ind., campus. As this week's Newscripts column describes, however, the trek back home was anything but predictable. Takeoff of the balloon started easily enough, as this video from the balloon shows: When the balloon reached an altitude of 40,000 feet, however, AMET lost all contact. As a result, the organization didn't know the kinds of spectacular views their balloon was enjoying as it ascended to a height of 95,000 feet above Earth. That ascension is captured in the following videos: Because everything that goes up must come down, the balloon soon plummeted back to Earth: And it wound up in the soybean fields of Joseph Recker, who lives near the town of Kalida in northwestern Ohio, 170 miles from Purdue's campus. The crash landing can be seen at the 16 minute, 10 second, mark of the following video: But that's only the start of the weather balloon's incredible journey. After finding the balloon in his fields, Recker noticed it had a variety of expensive-looking devices on it, including a radiation monitor, GPS unit, pressure sensors, temperature sensors, and accelerometers. Correctly presuming that the balloon's owners would want their expensive device returned to them, Recker tried playing the balloon's video camera for clues about who had launched the device. Unfortunately, Recker didn't have the equipment needed to watch the video at home, so he took the camera to a nearby fertilizer facility. There, Recker was able to play the video, which, at its beginning, had captured a number of students setting up the balloon for launch. Noticing that many of these students were wearing Purdue apparel, Recker put two and two together and contacted the university. “None of us believed that we’d ever see the balloon again," says Dahlon P. Lyles, AMET project manager and a Purdue student researcher. "And so all of us were just amazed that it survived and how much effort the farmer went through to actually find it and get it returned.” Lyles tells Newscripts that, since returning back home, the balloon has been signed by all AMET members and placed in the organization's workroom alongside other burst balloons. And the balloon doesn't just serve as a cool trophy for the organization. The balloon has also provided AMET with...

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Amusing News Aliquots
Dec12

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. It’s delicate work taking these splendid snowflake glamour shots. [chaoticmind] via [io9] Camels are landing jobs during the holiday season. Joe Camel, however, is still smoking silently and waiting for the phone to ring. [Washington Post] What's worse than a robotic telemarketer? A robotic telemarketer that adamantly insists she's a real person. Meet Samantha West. [Time] Who says huffing organic solvents dulls the memory? Check out what Derek Lowe’s readers have to say about reagents they’ll never forget. [In the Pipeline] The next time a coworker asks you how you're doing, don't tell them you're sleepy. Tell them you're suffering from "sleep inertia." Then, when they ask you what that is, lift up your head and say in a haughty voice, "Oh, well, I guess somebody doesn't read the New Yorker!" [New Yorker] “When the picture on their 50-inch box television started flickering, Mike took off the back panel and found the guts throbbing with ants.”  Best to read this piece on Rasberry crazy ants with a can of Raid nearby. [New York Times] NASA scientists say life may have once been present on a Mars lake. No word yet on how much alien waterfront property may have cost. [BBC] Next time you're stumbling out of a bar, take comfort in statistics that show people who drink alcohol regularly (and even too regularly) live longer than teetotalers. Just don't smugly stumble to your car, because stats can't save you from yourself. [Business Insider] Forget bared teeth, growling, and beating of chests--male chameleons get ready for epic showdowns by quickly changing their bodies from bright color to bright color. [NBC...

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