Indian space program workers celebrate Mars orbit


(photographer unknown): India's Mangalyaan satellite attained Martian orbit on Wednesday; at $74m, it's "staggeringly cheap" for an orbiter.

Martian spacecraft staffers at Indian space control, September 2014

Bodies are weird


A great Reddit thread asks "What's something you're pretty sure only your body does, but have been too embarrassed to ask," and comes up with some genuinely great responses.

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Build your own working tabletop V8 engine


The Haynes Build Your Own V8 Engine ($65.62) sounds fantastic -- the lengthy selection of positive reviews confirm the manufacturer's claim that a "talented 10 year old" could assemble it, and it can be disassembled and reassembled, which makes it great for classrooms, camps and studios. (via Red Ferret)

Tour the solar system by walking around a huge, dilapidated building


Becky writes, "Shrinking Space productions have transformed the vast and dilapidated market building at Circus St in Brighton, UK into an audiosphere representing the entire solar system."

When you enter "Mind's Eye" you are given headphones and a ready-tuned hand-held radio. Then, as you drift around the building, you are pulled into the orbit of the various interviews being broadcast in different parts of it, each featuring a scientist or space explorer whose knowledge of the planet or star they are describing often represents a lifetime's work. The effect is bewitching, like floating through space itself, with only the occasional transmission back to earth for company. I went to see it last Saturday and loved it."

Mind’s Eye: Tour the solar system at home and in Brighton, courtesy of Little Atoms and Shrinking Space

(Thanks, Becky!)

Rubbery, crawling robot can traverse snow, fire

Harvard's Michael Tolley created the 65cm long, soft, pneumatic robot whose operating parameters allow it to run over -9'C terrain or walk through naked flames (for 20 seconds, at least).

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Oxytocin: "the biological basis for the golden rule"

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Here's the transcript at Medium of a deeply fascinating Aspen Ideas lecture by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, author of The Moral Molecule, about the chemical reason why the vast majority of us feel good helping others. Those who don't? Psychopaths, mostly.

Do animals cry?

Maria Konnikova on the appearance and the authenticity of emotion in the animal kingdom–and how we can use science to explore it.

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Short film: the Magic of Consciousness

Ed writes, "Here's an ambitious short film I made for the Royal Institution with evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey -- it explores the problems in understanding human consciousness particularly in explaining how its seemingly magical qualities arise from the physical matter of the brain."

Averaging thousands of images into one

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UC Berkeley researchers demonstrated software that averages thousands of similar photo to create a single representative image, like this wedding shot. Users can also refine and weight specific features within the source pool of photos to refine the average image.

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Walking for 5 min/hour prevents negative health effects of sitting


In "Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function," forthcoming in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers from IU Bloomington report on a study that holds out hope for anyone worried about the health effects of prolonged sitting.

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Madeline Ashby's Hieroglyph story: "By the Time We Get To Arizona"


The Hieroglyph anthology was created by Neal Stephenson, challenging sf writers to imagine futures where ambitious technological projects improved the human condition.

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National Geographic's first wildlife photos

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The July 1906 issue of National Geographic featured the magazine's first wildlife photos, night shots by George Shiras III. Two of the National Geographic Society board members were infuriated, arguing that the magazine was becoming a "picture book."

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New wind-tunnel tests find surprising gains in cycling efficiency from leg-shaving

A 1987 wind-tunnel trial established that leg-shaving was basically useless, used a miniature leg-model with hair glued to it for its control; when the experiment was re-run this year with a human leg, the savings were a whopping seven percent.

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Behind the scenes look at Canada's Harper government gagging scientists

Dave writes, "A request to interview a government scientist about his discoveries on 'Rock Snot' (algae) results in hundreds of e-mails, discussions of allowed talking points and, in the end, no approval for interview. Why? Perhaps because the source of the rock snot might be climate change?"

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How caffeine evolved

At the New York Times, Carl Zimmer examines new research on the genomics of the Coffea canephora plant and the evolution of caffeine:

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