Tag Archives | Science

‘Alien Megastructure’ Mystery May Soon Be Solved

Artist's illustration of NASA's Kepler space telescope, which observed that the star KIC 8462852 dimmed dramatically numerous times between 2009 and 2013.  Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle

Artist’s illustration of NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which observed that the star KIC 8462852 dimmed dramatically numerous times between 2009 and 2013.
Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle

Astronomers say the mystery of the “alien megastructure” surrounding the star, KIC 8462852, may soon be solved.

KIC 8462852’s brightness has dimmed several times over the past few years, “dropping in brightness by up to 22 percent.” Could an alien megastructure be the cause?

Well astronomers are prepared for the next dimming.

Mike Wall via Space.com:

“As long as one of those events occurs again, we should be able to catch it in the act, and then we’ll definitely be able to figure out what we’re seeing,” said Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University.

“The simplest measurements we can take — just looking in different wavelengths [of light] — should rule out, or suggest, alien megastructures right away,” Wright told Space.com.

Read more here.… Read the rest

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Louder Monkeys Have Smaller Balls

Mexican Black Howler Monkey - El Pilar, Belize
According to a new study, the louder the howler monkey, the smaller his testes.

Science rules!

Becky Ferreira via Motherboard:

But in a beautiful twist of expectations, scientists have now found that the louder the monkey’s calls, the smaller the monkey’s balls. A team based out of Cambridge University came to this conclusion by comparing the size of dozens of monkeys’ testes with the hyoid bones located in their voice boxes, which revealed a negative correlation between decibel levels and testicular endowment. The results are published today in the journal Current Biology.

“We found that males with larger hyoids, who can make lower-pitch vocalizations, have smaller testes and live in single-male groups with a harem of a few females,” anthropologist Leslie Knapp, a senior author of the study, said in a statement. “Males with smaller hyoids live in multimale groups and have larger testes.”

According to the team, this is the first evidence that there is a trade-off between vocal investment and sperm production, and it helps to explain why howler monkeys develop contrasting social structures.

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From science fiction to reality — sonic tractor beam invented

The research team has created three-dimensional acoustic fields with shapes such as fingers, twisters and cages. These acoustic fields are the first acoustic holograms that can exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them.

The research team has created three-dimensional acoustic fields with shapes such as fingers, twisters and cages. These acoustic fields are the first acoustic holograms that can exert forces on particles to levitate and manipulate them.
Image courtesy of Asier Marzo, Bruce Drinkwater and Sriram Subramanian © 2015

University of Sussex via EurekAlert:

A team of researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Sussex in collaboration with Ultrahaptics have built the world’s first sonic tractor beam that can lift and move objects using sound waves.

Tractor beams are mysterious rays that can grab and lift objects. The concept has been used by science-fiction writers, and programmes like Star Trek, but has since come to fascinate scientists and engineers. Researchers have now built a working tractor beam that uses high-amplitude sound waves to generate an acoustic hologram which can pick up and move small objects.

The technique, published in Nature Communications, could be developed for a wide range of applications, for example a sonic production line could transport delicate objects and assemble them, all without physical contact.

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Fukushima: the First Cancers Emerge


Oliver Tickell writes at CounterPunch:

The Japanese government has made its first admission that a worker at the Fukushima nuclear plant developed cancer as a following decontamination work after the 2011 disaster.

The man worked at the damaged plant for over a year, during which he was exposed to 19.8 millisieverts of radiation, four times the Japanese exposure limit. He is suffering from leukemia.

The former Fukushima manager Masao Yoshida also contracted cancer of the oesophagus after the disaster and died in 2013 – but the owner and operator of the nuclear plant, Tepco, refused to accept responsibility, insisting that the cancer developed too quickly.

Three other Fukushima workers have also contracted cancer but have yet to have their cases assessed.

The Fukushima nudear disaster followed the tsunami of 11 March 2011. Three out of four reactors on the site melted down, clouds of deadly radiation were released following a hydrogen explosion, and the nuclear fuel appears to have melted through the steel reactor vessels and sunk into, or through, the concrete foundations.

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Martin Wittfooth’s Offering

Martin Wittfooth "Mothers Milk" 2015

Martin Wittfooth “Mothers Milk” 2015

Martin Wittfooth’s Offering

In Wittfooth’s allegorical narratives, animals roam a dystopian world void of human life with the remnants of industrialized society in a state of devastation. Fires rage and oceans surge but despite the destruction, his creatures radiate and evoke a sentiment of oneness. Where they exist life flourishes and the animals in this sense are the life-givers.

The works in Offering explore the theme of shamanism and its current revitalization around the world. Wittfooth delves into the notion that the rediscovery of shamanistic practices, such as reaching an altered state of consciousness, is peeling away our egos and materialistic obsessions and encouraging a connection with nature and to each other.

The artist explains, “The great challenges of our time primarily stem from the repression, predetermined delineation of consciousness and the myriad of other ways by which our materialistic culture has lost its connection with the natural world…The reemergence of shamanism appears to be having a great impact on consciousness around the globe by severing individuals’ attachments to the ego-driven, ideology-based, monotheistic modality that has shaped so much of the human enterprise over the past millennia.Read the rest

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The Hijacked Folklore of Jack Parsons

The assumption this article makes is that we all are acquainted with both the professional and personal highlights of the life and times of Jack Whiteside Parsons. If you are not familiar with Jack Parsons I would suggest the myriad of articles written on the infamous rocket scientist before proceeding. Using Disinformation alone will render you plenty of well-written articles that will no doubt, once read in total, give you an idea of who this forgotten hero of 20th century science was all about.

Los Angeles Times publicity photo of John Whiteside "Jack" Parsons during the murder trial of police officer Earl Kynette

Los Angeles Times publicity photo of John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons during the murder trial of police officer Earl Kynette


My purpose here is not to give a blow by blow rendering of Parsons’ personal and professional resume, but rather briefly discuss why the name Jack Parsons isn’t foremost among the marquee scientific minds of the 20th century. Why have Parsons’ accomplishments been largely ignored over the accomplishments of his contemporaries of the time?… Read the rest

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Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science

Whatever your opinion of the Gray Lady, the New York Times has consistently published interesting articles on science. Some of the best have been compiled into The New York Times Book of Science: More than 150 Years of Groundbreaking Scientific Coverage. It’s a great book of the “did you know?” variety and sure to stimulate discussion about how scientific knowledge has developed and changed over the years. One evergreen piece focuses on the relationship between science and religion; Cornelia Dean’s 2005 article “Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science” is excerpted in slightly abridged form below:

At a recent scientific conference at City College of New York, a student in the audience rose to ask the panelists an unexpected question: “Can you be a good scientist and believe in God?”

Scienza e Fede

Reaction from one of the panelists, all Nobel laureates, was quick and sharp.

“No!” declared Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals.… Read the rest

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House of Wax: Anatomical, Pathological, and Ethnographic Waxworks from Castan’s Panopticum, Berlin, 1869-1922

 “Lolita” Wax Figure

“Lolita” Wax Figure


On view:
October 23, 2015 – February 15, 2016
424 Third Ave, in Brooklyn, at the corner of 7th Street.

Curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn of TV’s “Oddities” and staged in conjunction with Alamo Drafthouse with introductory text by Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, Professor of German and Museum Studies at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

House of Wax will exhibit a selection of  waxworks once shown as part of Castan’s Berlin-based Panopticum (1869-1922). The full collection, never before exhibited in the US, will later be installed at the forthcoming Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn.

Panoptica were popular throughout Europe from the 18th through the early 20th century. Like the dime museums and popular anatomical museums of the US, these largely forgotten spaces fall somewhere between aristocratic cabinets of curiosity and today’s ideas of museums.… Read the rest

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The Neuroscience of Bass: New Study Explains Why Bass Instruments Are Fundamental to Music

A Boy and His Bass 1
A little music and neuroscience for your Saturday, courtesy of Josh Jones at Open Culture:

In most popular music, bass players don’t get nearly enough credit—even when the bass provides a song’s essential hook. As Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones joked at his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1995, “thank you to my friends for remembering my phone number.” And yet, writes Tom Barnes at Mic, “there’s scientific proof that bassists are actually one of the most vital members of any band…. It’s time we started treating bassists with the respect they deserve.” Research into the critical importance of low frequency sound explains why bass instruments mostly play rhythm parts and leave the fancy melodic noodling to instruments in the upper range. The phenomenon is not specific to rock, funk, jazz, dance, or hip hop. “Music in diverse cultures is composed this way,” says psychologist Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster University Institute for Music and the Mind, “from classical East Indian music to Gamelan music of Java and Bali, suggesting an innate origin.”

Trainor and her colleagues have recently published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that perceptions of time are much more acute at lower registers, while our ability to distinguish changes in pitch gets much better in the upper ranges, which is why, writes Nature, “saxophonists and lead guitarists often have solos at a squealing register,” and why bassists tend to play fewer notes.

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