Wood burns in a stove as Pascal Prokop drives his totally baller 1990 Volvo 240 station wagon during cold winter weather on a road near the town of Mettmenstetten, some 25 kilometres south of Zurich, on February 9, 2012. Prokob built in the stove by himself and got an operating permit by the Swiss technical inspection authority. As I publish this blog post, it is 15ºF in the town where he lives and drives.
Pros: S'mores while driving are possible. Cons: the stove occupies the spot where one's significant other might be seated. Oh, and, you know: fire?
Meanwhile, it's still flooding in Thailand. And, after three months of this, the Thai people have been forced to get creative.
Thai Flood Hacks is a Tumblr that feels like a pean to human ingenuity. Here, you will find boats made out of old water bottles. Homemade jet skis. Raised walkways built from shopping carts. Guys just out walking around on stilts. It's amazing. Thai Happy Mutants have pulled off some awe-inspiring instant solutions that allow them to get on with their lives in the middle of an infrastructure-crippling natural disaster.
Over the next two months, you can fund scientific research through Rockethub.
The SciFund challenge runs from November 1 through December 15. Essentially, it's an experiment by a group of scientists who think that they might be able to use crowdfunding to fuel their research. Forty-nine different projects, in a wide variety of disciplines, have signed on to the challenge.
You can browse the projects, decide which ones you'd like to help support, and make a donation. As a bonus, many of the projects are offering nice little gifts for crowdfunders. For instance, if you donate $75 to help researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst study the biology and physics of duck sex, you'll earn a pass code to access a regularly updated research blog, a collection of duck postcards, a "Duck Force!" mug, and a USB flash drive loaded with videos of explosive duck ejaculations that the scientists filmed for their research. (Naturally, this is one of the projects that have currently raised the most money.)
Not interested in duck sex? You're a rarity on the Internet, but there are plenty of other options. There are studies on depression, urban butterflies, cellulosic biofuels, and the mathematics of direct democracy.
Check out all 49 projects. And pledge your support to science!
One artfully torn dress from Goodwill, white face paint, and some of that hairspray-style hair dye to color my hands and feet = A weekend of explaining what a "wight" is to people who have never read Game of Thrones. (Sadly, the cheap blue contact lenses I picked up at a gas station wouldn't go into my eyes successfully.)
What did you dress up as this year?
- Open thread: your DIY Hallowe'en costumes?
- DIY Hallowe'en: The Grayscales
- DIY Hallowe'en: Minecraft Creeper
- DIY Hallowe'en: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and alleged source Bradley Manning
- DIY Hallowe'en Costumes: Ghost Rider Johnny Angel
- Impaled Zombie Skateboarder DIY Halloween Costume - Boing Boing
Reddit poster mdrabz is a middle school science teacher who just got a $5500 state grant to set up a lab for his 7th and 8th grade students in the Mississippi Delta. How do you choose what to buy with that money? Mdrabz turned to the Internet for suggestions.
Answers range from the inevitable Breaking Bad jokes (which begin, amusingly, with advice to "Cook meth, obtain more currency") to some really great suggestions for basic necessities of a science lab, ideas for actual experiments, and other posters waxing eloquent about the lab experiments they loved when they were in school. It's inspirational, and some great advice for anyone looking to get young minds hooked on science.
I can't wait to find out what mdrabz actually puts together. My memories of science in school are inevitably tied up with my memories of hands-on projects: From the basic electric circuits my 4th/5th grade teacher had us build, to rocket cars in middle school, to fetal pig dissections in high school. Even the hands-on work I HATED (*cough*CAD module*cough*) has a bigger place in my memory than half the stuff we only read about.
With that in mind, I'd throw out a suggestion to spend some of that money on art materials that the kids could use for building models and dioramas. I understood chemistry better when I had to connect marshmallows and toothpicks to build molecules, I remember the parts of a cell better because of the dioramas we made. For my money, you get a hell of a lot of bang for the buck out of giving kids access to a way to learn the material that's a bit more visceral than books and video.
Thanks for the tip-off, Dean!
Thanks for the tip-off, Dean!
I love Gary Schwitzer, a former journalism professor at the University of Minnesota and a key advocate for better health and medical reporting at HealthNewsReview.org. Schwitzer has a quick list of the most common mistakes reporters make when writing about medical science, and I think it's something that everybody should take a look at.
Why does this bit of journalism inside-baseball matter to you? Simple. If you know how journalists are most likely to screw up, you'll be less likely to be led astray by those mistakes. And that matters a lot, especially when it comes to health science, where people are likely to make important decisions based partly on what they read in the media.
Absolute versus relative risk/benefit data
Many stories use relative risk reduction or benefit estimates without providing the absolute data. So, in other words, a drug is said to reduce the risk of hip fracture by 50% (relative risk reduction), without ever explaining that it’s a reduction from 2 fractures in 100 untreated women down to 1 fracture in 100 treated women. Yes, that’s 50%, but in order to understand the true scope of the potential benefit, people need to know that it’s only a 1% absolute risk reduction (and that all the other 99 who didn’t benefit still had to pay and still ran the risk of side effects).
Association does not equal causation
A second key observation is that journalists often fail to explain the inherent limitations in observational studies – especially that they can not establish cause and effect. They can point to a strong statistical association but they can’t prove that A causes B, or that if you do A you’ll be protected from B. But over and over we see news stories suggesting causal links. They use active verbs in inaccurately suggesting established benefits.
How we discuss screening tests
The third recurring problem I see in health news stories involves screening tests. ... “Screening,” I believe, should only be used to refer to looking for problems in people who don’t have signs or symptoms or a family history. So it’s like going into Yankee Stadium filled with 50,000 people about whom you know very little and looking for disease in all of them. ... I have heard women with breast cancer argue, for example, that mammograms saved their lives because they were found to have cancer just as their mothers did. I think that using “screening” in this context distorts the discussion because such a woman was obviously at higher risk because of her family history. She’s not just one of the 50,000 in the general population in the stadium. There were special reasons to look more closely in her. There may not be reasons to look more closely in the 49,999 others.
This gorgeous photo of a statue in England called The Angel of the North was taken by Justin Quinnell, over the course of three months, using a pinhole camera made out of a beer can. Yes, the parabola is the path of the Sun, with the highest peak being June 21. New Scientist has more information on how Quinnell made this photo. (Via Roger Highfield)
My old employers, mental_floss magazine, have a new editor and some cool new stories out in their September/October issue. One is about a kid who built a nuclear reactor at age 14. No, not that kid. Meet Taylor Wilson, a kid who shares some hobbies with the more-famous "Radioactive Boy Scout" David Hahn, but with, apparently so far, less tragic results. (It helps that Wilson, unlike Hahn, discussed his plans with adults who helped set him up with the right safety environment to build his reactor in.) Another difference: Wilson's interests lie with fusion, not fission.
By the time Wilson stumbled across Fusor.net, 30 hobbyists worldwide had managed to produce the reaction; Wilson was determined to become the thirty-first. He started amassing the necessary components, such as a high-voltage power supply (used to run neon signs), a reaction chamber where fusion takes place (typically a hollow stainless steel sphere, like a flagpole ornament), and a vacuum pump to remove air particles from the chamber (often necessary for testing space equipment).
Wilson also funneled money collected from Christmases and birthdays toward buying radioactive items, many of which, to his surprise, were available around town. Smoke detectors, he learned, contain small amounts of a radio-active element called americium, while camping lanterns contain thorium. In antique stores, he found pottery called Fiestaware that was painted with an orange uranium glaze. Wilson trolled websites such as eBay for an array of nuclear paraphernalia, from radon sniffers to nuclear fuel pellets, and came to own more than 30 Geiger counters of varying strengths and abilities. Most of Wilson’s radioactive acquisitions weren’t dangerous, given their small quantities. But a few—vials of powdered radium, for example—could be fatal if mishandled, which is why he’s never opened them. (Although he’s been tempted.)
There's a longer preview of the story online. The rest is in the new print issue.
OK, this should make up for the intestinal worm.
In this video, you'll learn how to use an ultraviolet LED to kickstart a chemical reaction capable of sending a cork flying halfway across a lecture hall. It's a hazardous science demonstration! Hooray!
Quick note: The sound quality gets a little sketchy at times. If you click on the CC option in the lower-right corner of the player window you'll be able to read the English subtitles.