Lorne Michaels broke the news yesterday that when the new season of Saturday Night Live starts this weekend, it will be Jay Pharoah playing President Obama rather than Fred Armisen, who has played POTUS since 2008. Pharoah, currently a featured player (though that may change), has been honing his Obama impression for a while now, and it's good. Very good. But Michaels had reservations about throwing a brand new cast member into such a prominent role. Those reservations are gone, and now, we will get to watch Jay Pharoah's amazing Obama impression on actual television and not just YouTube.
(Actually, he'd done it on television, when he appeared on Letterman in December 2010. But you know what I mean.) Read the rest
When somebody says that a new species has been discovered, it's easy to get the impression that this is an animal nobody has ever seen before. But that's usually not exactly what scientists mean.
Take the lesula (or Cercopithecus lomamiensis), an African monkey whose "discovery" is making headlines this week. While it does seem to be true that this particular species hasn't been previously named and documented in the scientific literature, the scientists who wrote about the lesula were not the first people to encounter one. What's more, lesula do not represent a species totally removed from animals we already knew about. Here's Mongabay's Jeremy Hance:
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"There are monkeys out there between the three rivers that no one recognizes. They are not in our field guides," Terese Hart wrote tantalizingly in a blog post in 2008. "We've sent photos to the most renown of African Primatologists. Result: a lot of raised eyebrows. And the more we find out the higher our eyebrows go."
One of these monkeys was the lesula (Cercopithecus lomamiensis). John Hart first came across the new species in June 2007 when he and a field team were shown a captive baby lesula, kept as a pet by the local school director's daughter in the remote village of Opala. The next step was locating the species in the wild.
...the lesula is apart of the Cercopithecini family, which are commonly referred to as guenons. It's most similar to the owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni), which is also found in the region.
Pyrex is supposed to be tough stuff, capable of withstanding extreme temperature changes, like a trip from the freezer to the oven. And that was true with old Pyrex, made from thermal-stress resistant borosilicate glass. But starting in 1994, Corning began licensing the name Pyrex to other manufacturers, which, today, make Pyrex brand cookware with a different chemical formulation—soda lime silicate glass. A report in the Bulletin of the American Ceramic Society says the new glass doesn't have the heat-protection powers of the old stuff. So why use it? Apparently, the manufacturers say soda lime silicate glass provides better protection against breaking when dropped. The report didn't test that, but this could just be an example of chemical trade-offs. Listen to Scientific American's podcast
about this news. Or read the full report
. (Via Christopher Mims) Read the rest
Ben Mendelsohn sez, "Dredging - the mechanized transport of underwater sediments - is one of the most elemental of the infrastructural support systems that underlie modern societies. Through dredging, we act as geologic agents - moving earth in what amounts to a new geologic cycle. This video introduces dredging, its landscapes, and some of the fascinating technologies that we use to manage it. It was produced in support of DredgeFest NYC, a symposium on the human acceleration of sediments, to be held in New York City on September 28-29."
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When it comes to powers, he's no Superman. And he lacks Batman's popularity. But at the Southern Fried Science blog, perennial also-ran superhero Aquaman is at least able to inspire some fascinating discussion of science.
Marine biologist Andrew Thaler is on his second post about the science of Aquaman. Besides being just fascination information about the ocean and the creatures that live there, the posts also build a pretty good case for why we—the comic-book reading public—should care about Aquaman in the first place.
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If Superman existed to show us how high the human spirit could fly, and Batman to show us the darkness within even our most noble, Aquaman is here to show us the world that triumphs in our absence. The ocean is not ours, and no matter how great our technology, we will never master it as we have mastered land, but Aquaman has. Through this lonely ocean wanderer, we can experience a world that we can never truly command.
...Aquaman is, for all intents and purposes, a marine mammal. And, with the exception of a healthy mane in later incarnations, he is effectively hairless. As a human, we would expect his internal body temperature to hover around 99°F, or about 37°C. Even at its warmest points, the surface temperature of the ocean around the equator is only about 80°F/27°C. At the poles ocean temperature can actually drop a few degrees below freezing. In the deep sea, ambient temperature levels out around 2 – 4°C. The ocean is cold, and water is a much better thermal conductor than air.
Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark
Sazae-San, by Machiko Hasegawa
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This image, made using a laser mapping technology called LIDAR, was taken on September 17, 2001. It shows a 3-D model of the rubble left behind in lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Minnesota Public Radio's Paul Tosto has a really interesting peek into the way mapping techniques like LIDAR were used to help rescuers and clean-up crew understand the extent of the damage, look for survivors, and rehabilitate the area around the disaster zone.
The Library of Congress work also includes data from a a thermal sensor flown at 5,000 feet over Ground Zero that provided images to track underground fires that burned for weeks at the site.
It's worth remembering that Google Earth didn't exist back then. The ancient science of cartography has been reborn with the technology of the last decade. Let's hope it's not called on again to map destruction.
See more at the MPR News Cut blog
Via Peter Aldhous Read the rest
Pictured: Your great-grandchildren?
As a redheaded science journalist, I hear this "fact" a lot. Reality is, though, we aren't going anywhere. Yes, as Cara Santa Maria points out at Huffington Post, redheads represent only about 1% of the world's population. And this hair color is related to a recessive gene. Both your parents have to have a copy in order for you to be a redhead, so a redheaded person can have non-redheaded babies. But that's not the same thing as going extinct. Because here's our little secret: We redheads are stealthily infiltrating the rest of humanity. Only 1% of humans are redheads, but 4% of humans carry a copy of the gene that makes redheads. You could be a carrier and not even know it. So could your spouse. Two redheads are unlikely to make a brunette, but two brunettes can make a redhead. Good luck wiping us out. *Insert evil laughter here*
You can learn more about this at Cara Santa Maria's Talk Nerdy To Me vidcast, but I'll add a little piece of anecdata, too. My parents are both brunettes. So were their parents. I am largely an anomaly on both sides of my family. In fact, besides my brother and I, the only other redhead in my Mom's entire family (that anyone remembers) was her grandfather. And yet still, we rise.
How Stuff Works also has a great debunking of the redhead extinction myth
Some more info on how redheads are in yer genome, gingerin' yer descendants from the Stanford University Tech Museum
Image: Four shades of Red, part II, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from e3000's photostream Read the rest
Eric sez, "The Singularity Summit 2012, exploring 'Minds and Machines' and 'Emerging Technologies and Science' will be taking place October 13 - 14 at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco. The Singularity Summit is the premier event on cutting-edge technologies including robotics, regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfacing and more.
Join some of the most brilliant minds in the world for discussions on the most revolutionary technological advancements on the horizon. Speakers include inventor, entrepreneur and author Ray Kurzweil, Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, professor and author Steven Pinker, professor and author Temple Grandin, science fiction author Vernor Vinge, and many more."
The Singularity Summit | October 13-14, San Francisco
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By this point in your lives, most of you are by no doubt aware of the massive slaughter of buffalo that happened in the United States in the late 19th century. Across the plains, thousands of buffalo were killed every week during a brief period where the hides of these animals could fetch upwards of $10 a pop. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator only goes back to 1913, so it's hard for me to say what that's worth today. But we know from the context that even when the value of buffalo hides dropped to $1 each, the business of killing and skinning buffalo was still considered a damned fine living.)
You might think that the business ended there, with dead, skinned buffalo left to rot on the prairie. And you're sort of right. But, in a story at Bloomberg News, Tim Heffernan explains that, a few years later, those dead buffalo created another boom and bust industry—the bone collection business.
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Animal bones were useful things in the 19th century. Dried and charred, they produced a substance called bone black. When coarsely crushed, it could filter impurities out of sugar-cane juice, leaving a clear liquid that evaporated to produce pure white sugar -- a lucrative industry. Bone black also made a useful pigment for paints, dyes and cosmetics, and acted as a dry lubricant for iron and steel forgings.
... And so the homesteaders gathered the buffalo bones. It was easy work: Children could do it. Carted to town, a ton of bones fetched a few dollars.
America said goodbye today to Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on another world beyond Earth. "The powerful of Washington, the pioneers of space, and the everyday public crowded into the Washington National Cathedral for a public interfaith memorial for the very private astronaut," reports the AP. Armstrong died last month in Ohio at age 82. He walked on the moon in July 1969.
"He's now slipped the bounds of Earth once again, but what a legacy he left," former Treasury Secretary John Snow said at the services this morning at the National Cathedral. Here, his fellow Apollo 11 crew member Michael Collins remembers him.
Thumbnail: L-R, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Annie Glenn, astronaut and former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, and singer Diana Krall, during the opening processional. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) Read the rest
Bassam Tariq of 30 Days Ramadan points us to a series of images making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and the like today. The snapshots are ostensibly reactions to the recent violence related to a weird, anti-Islam YouTube trailer for a film produced by a mysterious character with a shady past.
The whole story behind that video and the attacks linked to it is perplexing, and the more that comes to light, the more it feels like a strange disinfo job. But I have no idea by whom, and to what end.
More images here. I don't know who shot them, and am unable to verify that they are what they appear to be as I post.
More: Boing Boing news archive for "Innocence of Muslims." Read the rest
Ned Sublette shares word of a new Afropop Worldwide radio series premiering this month, and continuing in four episodes through November: HIP DEEP ANGOLA, "an unprecedented exploration of the history and contemporary reality of this southern African nation -- a story told in music."
Angola is not an easy place to report from even now, but until recently, it was almost impossible. From 1961 to 2002, it was at war on its own territory, emerging with little in the way of infrastructure. Now, fueled by oil revenues, it’s undergoing a massive national construction project unlike anything else in the world. Produced by HIP DEEP co-founder Ned Sublette, who traveled to Angola in July, and featuring commentary by leading musicians and distinguished scholars, HIP DEEP ANGOLA will air on public radio stations around the country via Public Radio International.
The first episode goes up today and will be available at afropop.org
. It will air on WNYE 91.5 FM in New York Saturday at 11 p.m. and Monday at noon. You can also hear it (right now) at SoundCloud
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A team of computer scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK created a supercomputer out of 64 Raspberry Pi matchbox Linux-on-a-chip computers and Lego. The team included six year old James Cox, the son of project lead Professor Simon Cox, "who provided specialist support on Lego and system testing."
Here's a PDF with instructions for making your own Raspberry Pi/Lego supercomputer.
Professor Cox comments: “As soon as we were able to source sufficient Raspberry Pi computers we wanted to see if it was possible to link them together into a supercomputer. We installed and built all of the necessary software on the Pi starting from a standard Debian Wheezy system image and we have published a guide so you can build your own supercomputer.”
The racking was built using Lego with a design developed by Simon and James, who has also been testing the Raspberry Pi by programming it using free computer programming software Python and Scratch over the summer. The machine, named “Iridis-Pi” after the University’s Iridis supercomputer, runs off a single 13 Amp mains socket and uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet. The whole system cost under £2,500 (excluding switches) and has a total of 64 processors and 1Tb of memory (16Gb SD cards for each Raspberry Pi). Professor Cox uses the free plug-in ‘Python Tools for Visual Studio’ to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.
Professor Cox adds: “The first test we ran – well obviously we calculated Pi on the Raspberry Pi using MPI, which is a well-known first test for any new supercomputer.”
Engineers Build Supercomputer Using Raspberry Pi, Lego [Parity News]
Southampton engineers a Raspberry Pi Supercomputer [Press release]
(Images: Simon J Cox 2012)
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