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]
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Bethany Halford.
Dear Scientists, a 7-year-old Australian girl named Sophie would like a dragon. Can we get on this, please? [Jezebel]
Prius owner turns his car into a generator during a power outage, now doubly smug. [UPI]
Not to be outdone, developers create portable battery that can charge a smartphone and jump start a car. [Popular Science]
Dolphins ingest pufferfish toxin and get so totally high, dude. [io9]
It was only a matter of time: Chemists publish an analysis of the chemistry in “Breaking Bad.” [Annals of Improbable Research]
Lion Whisperer brings along a GoPro camera so everyone can see what it looks like to hug a lion … from the safety and comfort of our own homes. [Huffington Post]
Beach worms could one day mend a broken heart. No, not your loneliness–like, seal up an actual tear in your heart muscles. [NPR]
Attention chemists skilled at assembling words or creating pictures: Only a few weeks left to get your entry ready for Chemistry World’s Science Communication Competition. [Chemistry World]
At the end of 2013, two researchers in the U.K. published a report suggesting a reason why good typically triumphs over evil in the realm of sci-fi/fantasy: vitamin D. Virtuous characters typically get a lot of sunlight, and villainous ones keep to the shadows, where ultraviolet light can’t help their skin produce the “sunshine vitamin,” the scientists argue. They back up their claim by evaluating characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” (the second installation of which is still kicking butt in theaters).
Although we admire these nerdy researchers’ efforts, we in the Newscripts gang were skeptical. So we once again turned to our resident Tolkien expert, Ty Finocchiaro. The following are his thoughts on the vitamin D-evil connection. He’s not buying it:
To think that a few hours of sunlight and a proper breakfast meant the difference between the Dark Lord Sauron’s victory and defeat at the close of the 3rd age is fairly preposterous. But that’s just what a curious paper entitled “The Hobbit – An Unexpected Deficiency” by Joseph and Nicholas Hopkinson hints at. While the article is a fine initial effort, I’d like to take a bit of time to point out a few inconsistencies and oddities in its methods and results as well as shed a bit of light on further discussion topics.
The study chose to concentrate on dietary vitamin D intake along with average sun exposure levels of the main races and a few dramatis personae from ”The Hobbit.” Seven were picked to represent the side of Good and four the side of Evil (see Table 1). The authors assigned a “Vitamin D Score” from 0 to 4 for each race or character.
Right off the bat I take issue with a few glaring omissions on the side of Evil. For one thing, where are the Wargs? The canine beasts are a huge part of “The Hobbit.” They hunt lead dwarf Thorin and the rest of his company after their time beneath the Misty Mountains and are a major player in the Battle of Five Armies. To leave them out of the study is quite suspect. They do not fear sunlight like the bulk of Evil’s minions nor live in total darkness. As such they will provide a noticable boost to Evil’s Vitamin D average.
On the other side of the coin, I’d be remiss not to add the Giant Spiders of Mirkwood to the Evil roster. They are quite numerous in the region and would likely have been present in some form when the White Council came for the Necromancer in Dol Guldor. These creatures detest light however, so they’ll drag the score down a bit. But, fair’s fair. This new list is a better representation of the Evil forces found in The Hobbit. Now it’s time to adjust some of the numbers that I believe to be inaccurate (see Table 2).
Good’s Vitamin D scores were pretty spot-on and only minor adjustments are needed. Dwarves are a bit more tied to their underground environs than the numbers suggest. There’s a reason not many people have ever seen a dwarf female. Dwarves prefer to remain with good solid stone above their heads and inhabit the twilight realms of mountain depths for most of their lives. So they dropped from a score of 3 to a 2.
Eagles were set at a score of 3. I bumped this up to a 4 as they pretty much live in the clouds and can range for miles to find the best meal possible.
Evil needed some serious retooling because I felt the numbers were more than a bit skewed. As mentioned earlier, giant spiders get no sun. However they definitely have deep stores of food strung up in their tangled webs. They eat just fine, so I went with a score of 1. Wargs can travel long distances to get a decent meal much like the eagles and are tolerant of life under the sun. I score them at 3.
Now for a large oversight. Smaug scoring a zero? Really? C’mon. The dragon very likely hibernates for long periods of time to conserve energy and has no aversion to light. Smaug is essentially the ultimate predator in an area with no equal among his kind during this Age. So he eats what he wishes and goes where he likes – whenever he desires. Smaug does not want for anything except perhaps some decent conversation. Solid score of 3. Continue reading →
Silly samplings from this week’s science news.
This pickup truck carved from ice is one cool ride. [Daily Mail]
What’s the difference between smelling like jet fuel and smelling like new jet fuel? One carbon, apparently. Check out this table of organic compounds and their smells to see what compounds attract sperm and what compounds smell like a combination of goat and citrus. [James Kennedy/Monash University]
Scientists in Japan make small objects levitate and dance (with video!). What I really want to see though, is this technology transferred to the dance floor. [io9]
Fluorescent pigs? Could make for an interesting “Babe” sequel. [Stuff]
For Britain to get a high speed railway, 6,000 goats will have to die. Baa, say the goats, to obscure vellum laws. [Annals of Improbable Research]
And because it’s winter and snowing where I am, here is Derek Lowe’s cold weather chicken noodle soup—with grated hardboiled eggs! [In the Pipeline]
Although it’s our mission at Chemical & Engineering News to describe in words the wonders of chemistry, sometimes words just don’t do justice to the dynamics of a particular reaction or funky new material. Sometimes our prose just doesn’t capture a scientist’s excitement for research (or the time he spent playing the theme song to Super Mario Bros. with a chromatography column in the lab).
It’s those times when we turn to video.
Following are some of the Newscripts gang’s favorite clips of 2013. They’ve been collected from our blog and from our YouTube channel. Some we even homed in on and plucked from the roiling sea of inappropriate pop stars, prancercisers, and talkative foxes on the Interwebz last year.
And we did it all for you, dear readers. So pour something delicious into that mug that looks like a beaker, kick back next to your science fireplace … and enjoy!
Number 10: Alright, so this video isn’t technically chemistry—that’s why we’re ranking it last. But when a theoretical physicist uses the melody to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to sing about string theory, we’re gonna take note. Did we mention the Einstein sock puppet?
Number 9: Unless you lived under a rock in 2013, you probably heard about a little show called “Breaking Bad.” In this clip, Donna Nelson, science advisor to the show and chemistry professor, discusses some memorable chemical moments from the series. (Alright, alright, we admit this video made the countdown not only because it’s awesome but also because we like hearing Nelson talk about C&EN.)
Number 8: Last year, the folks across the pond at the Periodic Table of Videos filmed a number of chemical reactions with a high-speed camera to learn more about reaction dynamics. This video, about a reaction called “the barking dog,” is their most recent—and one of our faves. It’s got historic footage of explosives lecturer Colonel BD Shaw and current footage of Martyn “The Professor” Poliakoff. Need we say more?
Number 7: Yo, yo, yo! These dope 7th graders made a hot “rap battle” video last year that details the historic tensions between Rosalind Franklin and the notorious DNA duo, Watson & Crick. Word … to their mothers, for having such creative kids.
Number 6: You couldn’t open your news feed in 2013 without finding at least 10 concurrent stories about 3-D printing. One stood out for us, though: Researchers at the University of Oxford printed eye-popping, foldable structures out of liquid droplets. Continue reading →
As Chemistry World reminded us this year, the holidays aren’t really the holidays unless you’re basking in the glow of a chemistree. Lucky for us, Newscripts has two this holiday season! The chemistree to the left was built at Caltech by Douglas L. Smith, a legacy content producer at the school, who shared his picture with Newscripts. The image certainly warmed our hearts: Chemical Christmas trees are a tradition here at Newscripts.
And on the right is a Christmas tree made up of C&EN covers. The decoration comes courtesy of our magazine’s printer, Brown Printing.
Newscripts is about to open the gifts underneath our C&EN tree, but before we do, we want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year! Thanks for a great 2013.
If you’re one of those folks who A) doesn’t have a fireplace, B) enjoys staring into the hypnotic, but fake, flames of a faux version on your TV screen during the holidays, or C) doesn’t feel like watching “A Christmas Story” on repeat this Christmas Day–Boy, does the Newscripts gang have some solutions for you.
We give you the “Science Fireplace.”
This is an hour-long animation revealing the mystery behind those tantalizing flames. It’s all chemical folks. (But please don’t tell the chemophobics. They might get twitchy and demand a recall on Yankee Candles and Duralogs.)
But maybe you prefer something a little more action-packed?
The gurus at the Periodic Table of Videos have just the thing for you. Let’s just say this 30-minute clip contains a Bunsen burner, a log, some powders, sprays, colored flames, and slo-mo footage. Man, we love science.
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.
Combine your favorite pastimes of gardening and shooting with Flowershell—a 12-gauge shotgun shell loaded with seeds. Lest you think this is a new invention from the Swedes, a Missouri man patented the idea in 1976. [Improbable Research]
Study finds that a region’s birth rates may be directly proportional to the success of local sports teams. Further proof that there’s nothing more romantic than watching a man receive a Gatorade bath. [ScienceDaily]
What were the baddies of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit” really missing? Vitamin D, obviously. [AFP]
Ni hao, kitty. New evidence suggests cats were domesticated in China 5,000 years ago. [USA Today]
Researchers find that moderate drinking may improve immune system responsiveness. So step up your game, you minimal drinkers! [Mother Jones]
Worried that you might turn into your worrywart mother? Turns out it’s epigenetic. [The Atlantic]
Great, just what we need—worms engineered to live five times longer than normal. Can probably still squish them though … [iO9]
Some people are self-conscious about their cankles. This Chinese man had his hand surgically attached to his ankle—and it wasn’t just for kicks … okay, okay. No more puns. We promise. [Huffington Post]
Policeman rescues dog after it eats a pot brownie. Might we suggest a name for the dog? Bud-dy. Wait! Where are you going!? Come back! [Oregon Live]
There’s still one week to get a budding chemist in your life a present they’ll never forget: A real chemistry set that skips cheap plastic equipment and instead features actual glassware and chemicals that can be used in real experiments. Donate to this Kickstarter campaign, and you could be the proud owner of a personalized periodic table in .jpg format ($7.00 donation); a CD-ROM that contains chemicals safety information, three books in .pdf format, and some other bonus features ($20); a kit that will start 10 fires with the enclosed chemicals and spit ($45); a set of 65 chemicals, 56 of which were listed in the 1926 edition of “Chemistry for Boys” from the classic Gilbert chemistry set ($175); or a glassware and equipment set ($225). If your budget is big enough, you could support the campaign by purchasing a fully equipped home lab: the Master Chemistry Set, including “Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments” by Robert B. Thompson ($550), or a hand-crafted Heirloom chemistry set ($900, sold out) designed by John Farrell Kuhns who owns the Parkville, Mo.-based science shop H.M.S. Beagle and is the sponsor of the Kickstarter campaign. H.M.S. Beagle is the largest science store in the midwestern U.S.
John’s initial goal was to raise $30,000, and when this blog post hit the interwebs, pledges totaled $130,450 from 440 backers.
Nine years ago, store owners John and his wife, Carol, opened the doors of H.M.S. Beagle so kids today could experience “real” science. Inspired to become a chemist by the gift of a Gilbert chemistry set that he received for Christmas in 1959, John was disappointed that chemistry sets are few and far between on store shelves now-a-days. The store provides kids (and adults) the ability to explore real science by offering professional-quality lab supplies and equipment, as well as classes, demonstrations, and workshops.
When working with chemicals, safety is always a concern. A CD-ROM with the material safety data sheet (MSDS) is included with all chemicals purchased. “As far as I know,” John says, “we’re the only ones putting QR codes directly on the chemical labels.” A quick scan of the code with a cell phone, and the MSDS appears on your smartphone. And any chemical available at H.M.S. Beagle has an MSDS available on the store’s website. Additionally, John tells Newscripts, “for some of the especially dangerous chemicals, we do put first aid information and warnings on the labels.” And if safety is still a concern, “In the cases where the sets are intended for use with young children,” John says, “we will substitute less dangerous chemicals that will be chemically equivalent for the given experiment.”
H.M.S. Beagle also sponsors a kids science club, for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. There are more than 1,000 members of the club, and kids meet on Saturdays. The most recent meeting hosted students in kindergarten through third grade, and after a presentation about insects, participants constructed fantasy insects, described the habitats in which they would be found, and created two-part scientific names for their insect. “We don’t do hands-on chemistry with the kids club,” John says. “I am hoping to raise enough money to change that by purchasing and installing eyewash and drench shower stations.”
John has been a member of the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN, since the 1960s when he was the president of the student affiliate at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where he assisted in the editing and publishing of the department’s first lab manual for chemistry students.
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: Continue reading →
From The CENtral Science Blogs
- Mar 7th, 2014By Rachel Pepling
- Mar 6th, 2014By Bethany Halford
- Mar 7th, 2014By Melody Bomgardner
- Jan 25th, 2014By David Kroll
- Feb 28th, 2014By Alex Tullo
- Feb 28th, 2014By Sarah Everts
- Feb 27th, 2014By Jyllian Kemsley
- Jan 26th, 2014By Rick Mullin