Allotropy: Why Winter Spells Trouble for the Tin Man
Posted in Insane

Tin is a commonplace metal that’s used industrially in a thousand different ways. From the solder that holds your computer’s motherboard together to the PVC plumbing under your sink, tin compounds are everywhere. This phenomenon, known as “tin pest”, is certainly not due a biological organism, but is widely mistaken for an oxidation reaction. Instead, tin pest happens thanks to something called allotropy—the metal’s atomic lattice can take on multiple different shapes, depending on the temperature it’s kept at. At room temperature, tin exists in its “beta” form.

How to Fortify Your (and Your Kids’) Screen Time with a Dose of Physics
Posted in Interesting

Physics Toolbox Play consists of seven gamified tasks that introduce learners to sensors, basic physicsprinciples, data representations, and careers that make use of sensors. Children can observe the air pressure decrease as they go up a flight of stairs or climb a hill, and increase as they go back down. Since 2017, over one million users have downloaded Physics Toolbox Play. However, one of the best places to do science is home, especially in the presence of families.Completing the Physics Toolbox Play tasks takes around 30-45 minutes for most family groups. Completing the tasks with Physics Toolbox Play takes only a short period of time, but any spark of interest in physics can last a lifetime!

Fighting Ice With...Ice?
Posted in Cool

This series of images (click to enlarge) shows an aluminum sample with elevated grooves after 0, 1, 2, and 3 hours in a supersaturated environment. You can see that the ice is contained to the elevated grooves and grows upward over time. However, the ice stripes disrupted the usual behavior. There, the ice stripes grew upward, away from the surface. For example, we’d need a method for patterning ice stripes on a large object.

Art and the Elegant Universe
Posted in Insane

Using science and art together not only energized my studio practice, but it also changed the way I see our universe. I want to figure out a way to have the least amount of distance between the viewer and the art. I want to figure out a way to have the least amount of distance between the viewer and the art. My goal is to lure in science phobic people with handsome art, then blow their minds with cool science. My goal is to lure in science phobic people with handsome art, then blow their minds with cool science.

What Everyone Gets Wrong About Newton's Apple
Posted in Interesting

Image Credit: APS Physics(Click to enlarge)A passage from a manuscript written by one of Newton's contemporaries, recording the version of the apple tree story as Newton tells it: \"...therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple.\" Image Credit: The Royal Society, Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life by Sir William StukeleyIf you can decipher that kind of handwriting, you can read the full text free online at the link above! It's not the apple bit that I have a problem with; that's an important part of the story, and even historically accurate! In a flash of insight, he realizes that there must be some force pulling the apple toward the earth. The man himself is recorded as saying that his \"eureka\" moment really did come after seeing an apple fall from a tree.

Scientists Search for Rudolph's Red Nose, and other great stories.
Posted in Strange

Green light (530nm) is readily absorbed by both oxygenated and deoxygenated blood but bounces (scatters) off of the surrounding tissue. Shining green light inside the nose of reindeer and humans, the researchers were able to take detailed videos of the nasal circulatory system, tracking the rate of blood flow through individual blood vessels.The researchers wrote their own image analysis software that can determine the density of blood vessels and track velocity of red blood cells through the dense network of blood vessels.Despite the tongue-in-cheek premise of this study, researchers have not previously used this imaging technique to study nasal circulation. The team found that humans and reindeer noses both feature hairpin-shaped blood vessels and similar capillary networks. Most pertinent to their aim, they found that the density of blood vessels in reindeer noses is 25% greater than the density in human noses, leading to a rosy tint. \"These factors explain why the nose of Rudolph, the lead flying reindeer employed by Santa Claus to pull his sleigh, is red and well adapted to carrying out his duties in extreme temperatures,\" the authors conclude in their paper.The annual BMJ holiday issue is a great read-- check out other great findings from the holiday issues including: whether 27 is actually the dangerous age for musicians, how fast you have to walk to beat Grim Reaper , and the dreamed-of expose on tooth fairy malpractice.

Dire Wolves Were Not Really Wolves, New Genetic Clues Reveal
Posted in Insane

It had long been assumed that dire wolves made themselves at home in North America before gray wolves followed them across the Bering Land Bridge from Eurasia. For decades, paleontologists have remarked on how similar the bones of dire wolves and gray wolves are. Dire wolves, it now appeared, had evolved in the Americas and had no close kinship with the gray wolves from Eurasia; the last time gray wolves and dire wolves shared a common ancestor was about 5.7 million years ago. Perri, Mitchell and their colleagues found no DNA evidence of interbreeding between dire wolves and gray wolves or coyotes. Dire wolves were genetically isolated from other canids, Mitchell notes, so “hybridization couldn’t provide a way out” because dire wolves were probably unable to produce viable offspring with the recently arrived wolves from Eurasia.

Holiday Instability
Posted in Best

The reason Christmas trees topple so easily is because their base is so small. Anything making small contact with the ground relative to its size is going to be fairly unstable. It only has to be pushed past its edge of contact with the ground before it starts to tip over. Likewise, an object will tip over more slowly when it's center of mass is further away from the pivot point. That means the menorah, with the higher center of mass, will be easiest to control and easiest to juggle.

Mysterious Heat Spikes inside Cells Are Probed with Tiny Diamonds
Posted in Strange

The dispersal of that heat sets an overall body temperature, with different types of cells contributing to varying degrees. Because the fluid in cells is water-based, scientists have generally assumed it carries heat much like water does. Instead heat dissipates in cells about five times more slowly—a speed more akin to the way it dissipates in oil. Until now “nobody knew this basic property of living cells,” Suzuki says. The heat conductivity identified in the new work can explain smaller heat spikes of a couple of degrees F, though not the massive heat surge in mitochondria, Suzuki says.

Biden Names Top Geneticist Eric Lander as Science Adviser
Posted in Strange

US president-elect Joe Biden has chosen decorated geneticist Eric Lander as presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Many scientists have long called for the OSTP director to be raised to a cabinet-level position. When Biden named Lander to his team on 15 January, he also announced a number of other respected scientists to key positions in his administration. One major question is what parts of science policy Lander and his office will be responsible for. The outgoing OSTP director, meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, wasn’t appointed by President Donald Trump until more than a year and a half into his administration.

How Elvis Got Americans to Accept the Polio Vaccine
Posted in Strange

But despite the literally crippling effects of the virus and the promising results of the vaccination, many Americans simply weren’t getting vaccinated. What did prove successful was Elvis getting the vaccine in front of millions. Why might this be the case, and are there lessons that can be applied to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine? Elvis’s public act contained three crucial ingredients inherent to many of the most effective behavioral change campaigns: social influence, social norms and vivid examples. If only Elvis were still alive to harness social influence, social norms and vivid examples.

Vaccines Need Not Completely Stop COVID Transmission to Curb the Pandemic
Posted in Cool

According to Dawn Bowdish, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine at McMaster University, this so-called sterilizing immunity was a key factor in eliminating smallpox. “The [smallpox] vaccination caused sterilizing immunity, meaning that you don’t carry any of the virus. Sterilizing immunity may have been a lofty goal for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, though not necessary to curb disease. The oral polio vaccine (OPV) generates localized intestinal immunity, preventing infection and protecting against disease and transmission. But ample precedent points to vaccines driving successful containment of infectious diseases even when they do not provide perfectly sterilizing immunity.

The Timeless Journey of the Möbius Strip
Posted in Best

If you were to trace both “sides” of a Möbius strip, you would never have to lift your finger. The figurative and narrative implications of the Möbius strip are rich: when you try to go forward, you ring sideways, when you try to circle in, you find yourself outside. The continuum of crossing a Möbius strip is emblematic of how we experience time in a nonlinear way. ‘Time passes.’ ‘That’s how it goes,’ Aureliano admitted, ‘but not so much.’”The unorientable quality of the Möbius strip is perhaps its most distinctive. The Möbius band is used in hardware and popular imagery, but the mathematical and scientific fascination with the Möbius strip has also endured for over a century.

Unrivaled View of Brilliant ‘Planetary Nebula’ NGC 2899
Posted in Strange

A star at the center of this tie-dye apparition is collapsing, a process scientists have watched and measured for decades. In 2020 astronomers overcame the 3,000 to 6,500 light-years separating us from this celestial beauty, named NGC 2899, for the clearest picture of it yet. Though the phenomenon is called a planetary nebula, the term is a misnomer. In the image of NGC 2899, oxygen (blue) is surrounded by hydrogen (pink). Discovered in 1835 by English astronomer John Herschel in the constellation Vela, NGC 2899 looks like a butterfly because it is made of two stars.

Coronavirus News Roundup: January 9–January 15
Posted in Best

People “should not really consider themselves protected until after a week or two following dose two,” he adds. The researchers now are studying whether outcomes vary for people on specific types of these drugs, the release states. Experts call this a One Health approach or concept, and they want governments to factor it into policies, Robbins reports. As humans move into more of Earth’s natural environments, more spillovers of animal diseases into humans are expected. “The spillover of animal, or zoonotic, viruses into humans causes some 75% of emerging infectious diseases,” Robbins writes.

Did We Receive a Message from a Planet Orbiting the Nearest Star?
Posted in Insane

This infrared star hosts an Earth-size planet, Proxima b, in its habitable zone, where liquid water could allow the chemistry of life on the planet’s surface. But even without examining the event details, one might wonder whether it is plausible for a radio signal to originate from our nearest star system. Following this argument, the quantitative paper with Amir shows that the chance of a radio signal appearing now from our nearest star is miniscule. There is one caveat to this conclusion, namely if intelligent life on Earth and its nearest star are correlated. Interestingly, Proxima Centauri became our nearest star around the same time when Homo sapiens appeared on Earth.

The ‘Shared Psychosis’ of Donald Trump and His Loyalists
Posted in Cool

The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building last week, incited by President Donald Trump, serves as the grimmest moment in one of the darkest chapters in the nation’s history. One such person is Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist and president of the World Mental Health Coalition. Expert on the psychology of Donald Trump and his supporters says their behavior can be explained by a “narcissistic symbiosis” and “shared psychosis.” Tayfun Coskun Getty ImagesDo you think Trump is truly exhibiting delusional or psychotic behavior? And (3) fixing the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to poor collective mental health in the first place. And the situation with Trump supporters is very similar.

The Science of Spiritual Narcissism
Posted in Insane

Perhaps on the whole, spiritual practices really do help quiet the ego, and spiritual narcissism isn’t that widespread. SELF-CENTRALITY AND SPIRITUALITYIn the past few years, a number of high-quality studies have started to unearth the existence of spiritual narcissism and self-enhancement among spiritual practices that purport to quiet the ego. SPIRITUAL SUPERIORITY AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICESIn a more recent set of studies, Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser conducted an exploration of “spiritual superiority.” They interviewed several psychologists, spiritual trainers and lay people, and asked them to describe people who use spirituality as a self-enhancement tool. Interestingly, their scale of spiritual superiority was more strongly correlated with communal narcissism than self-esteem, providing evidence for the notion of “spiritual narcissism.” Indeed, it’s important to distinguish between healthy self-esteem and narcissism. Increases in healthy self-esteem as a result of spiritual practices may be a good thing, and are not necessarily indicative of spiritual narcissism, which is why it’s good that the researchers were able to tie their measure of spiritual superiority to a specific form of narcissism: communal narcissism.

How the Suburbs Could Help Save Biodiversity
Posted in Strange

This past summer saw at least tens of thousands of migrating birds drop dead from the sky over the Southwest. Too many of the exotic plants sold in nurseries are essentially inedible to most native animals. Yes, you’re saving water over planting thirsty ornamentals or a lawn, but drought-tolerant exotic plants can become invasive disasters when they escape our yards. Even in drier areas, like the American West, the selection of attractive native plants to choose from is vast. For those disenchanted with dry landscaping, using underappreciated and lush water-loving native plants to make your garden a real-life oasis could lifesaving to wildlife.

Climate Deniers Shift Tactics to ‘Inactivism’
Posted in Best

The graph also helped make the researcher a target of attacks by climate change deniers. They have merely changed their tactics, Mann contends in his book The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet. You argue that the climate change deniers are going extinct and being replaced by a new group that you call “the inactivists.” Who are the inactivists? They are trying to convince people that climate change is not the result of their corporate policies but of our own individual actions. Can you give some concrete examples of how the fossil fuel industry has been working to create divisions within the environmental community?

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