How It Works …. The Computer (Ladybird books, 1978)

I found a copy of one of my favorite childhood books about computers. And now you can enjoy it too!

Space stinks

TIL: Astronauts fart a lot, because weightlessness hampers your ability to burp and, thus, any gas that builds up in your digestive system has to come out the other way. Read the rest

Man vs. duck (or a bunch of little horses)

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? President Obama refused to address this pressing question. But science has the answer. (Via Tim Maly and kottke) Read the rest

Long dinosaur is long

Diplodocus is a sauropod — one of those dinosaurs whose shape you probably associate with the name "brontosaurus". Except that Diplodocus was long. Really long. At an average length of 90 feet, it's longest dinosaur ever found. Also: It might have had spines up and down its neck. Check out this LiveScience piece by Kim Ann Zimmermann for more fun Diplodocus facts. Read the rest

Wow, ocean

TIL: The Great Barrier Reef is nearly the size of Montana. (Via Marilyn Terrell) Read the rest

Enter the world of the xenopus

Every now and then, I get a glorious reminder of just how much the Internet has enriched my life. Fifteen years ago, if I had arrived at a conference center—as I did yesterday for my stint in the Marine Biological Laboratory Science Journalism Fellowship program—and seen a sign in the lobby announcing the presence of a "Xenopus Workshop" I could have, eventually, found out that a Xenopus was a frog frequently used as a model animal in medical research.

Thanks to the Internet, though, I was able to learn the following things in a remarkably short period of time:

Xenopus Fact: Xenopuses (Xenopodes? Xenopi? Freshman Latin was a really long time ago, you guys) were used in one of the earliest reliable pregnancy tests. That's because exposure even a tiny amount of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin will cause a female Xenopus to lay eggs. Inject a female Xenopus with urine from a human female and, if the Xenopus lays eggs, it means the female human is knocked up.

Xenopus Fact: You know how some lizards can grow a new tail if you cut the old one off? Xenopuses can do that with the lenses of their eyes.

Xenopus Fact: Because Xenopuses are so widely used in laboratories, there's a whole industry of suppliers of Xenopuses and Xenopus accessories. Case in point, the "Xenopus enrichment tube" in the photo above—apparently, they like to have something to hide out in. Also, you can buy synthetic slime to replace your Xenopus' natural protective coating that is often lost through frequent handling. Read the rest

Destruction by numbers

In nine years of filming, the show Myth Busters has burned through 33,500 yards of duct tape. (Via Katherine Nelson) Read the rest

Cocktail party science: Day 3 at AAAS 2012 (+ our short video interviews with science writers!)

Last week, Maggie went to the largest science conference in the Western Hemisphere for four days of wall-to-wall awesomeness. Every day, she learned amazing things, watching scientists from all over the world talk about their work. Check the bottom of each post to find links to earlier posts in this series!

One of my favorite parts of the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference happens at the end of each day, after the panel discussions are over and the convention floor has been locked down. That's when the parties start.

Now, obviously, everybody likes parties. But these are better than most. The AAAS parties are where a delightful mixture of scientists, journalists, academic journal editors, and university public relations officers gather to compare notes, talk shop, and tell each other about the awesome science they learned during the day.

I already mentioned how hard it is to decide which panels to see and which lectures to attend. At any given time there will be three-to-five different things you'd like to watch, all happening simultaneously. During the day, you're forced to choose. But at night, the parties are where you get the chance to learn about all the things you didn't get to see for yourself. You arrive, are handed a glass of wine, and all your friends run up to find out what you learned that day. It is a wonderful, nerd-tastic experience, and I want to share it with you.

On Sunday, February 19th, I took a small video recorder to a AAAS wine and cheese party. Read the rest

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": Urine facts

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.

Tom Ruginis took this photo in a men's restroom at the Science Museum Oklahoma. I spent an inordinate amount of time at this museum as a preteen, back when it was called the Omniplex (it shares a complex with an air and space museum, botanical gardens, a photography museum, and for some reason I was never able to fully understand ... a gymnastics hall of fame).

In case you can't read the sign, it says, "During your lifetime, you will make approximately 10,000 gallons of urine." Read the rest

The best set of infographics ever

At Bloomberg Business Week, Vali Chandrasekaran makes me incredibly happy by creating a series of six infographics demonstrating the ridiculous connections you can make when you start confusing correlation and causation. Did a conspiracy of baby Avas cause the U.S. housing market to implode? Was Michele Bachmann's candidacy doomed by the end of Staten Island Cakes? Are scientists raising the global average temperature in order to increase their own research funding? Find out here! Read the rest