Chunk of gallium melts in your hand

A cool addition to my growing cabinet of curiosities.

Sagan, Hawking, and Clarke have a gabfest (1988)


Watch these three guys discuss "God, The Universe and Everything Else," which includes extraterrestrials, creativity, science fiction, education, the Cold War, fractals, and so much more.

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New close-ups from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft show off Pluto's mysterious complexity

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The New Horizons spacecraft sent back new close-up images of Pluto, and they are stunning. Read the rest

Is the Five Second Rule real?


Paul Dawson, a professor of Food Science at Clemson University, investigated the history of the "Five Second Rule" and ran experiments to see how much bacteria actually transfers from the floor onto dropped food. Read the rest

Heathrow security insists that ice is a liquid

Simon Perry froze a can of Diet Coke solid and took it through security at London's Heathrow Airport to see whether he could find a loophole in the "no liquids" rule. Read the rest

New neuroscience-based platform to get to know your mind


My friend Stanford neuroscientist Melina Uncapher and her colleagues are piloting a new public project called mymntr meant to create a "user guide for your brain" through brain tests for self-knowledge, interviews with fascinating creative folks to get a sense of the minds behind the madness, and lots of other cool stuff at the intersection of science and culture. Read the rest

Meet Homo naledi, the distant ancestor you never knew


In South Africa, scientists have unearthed a humanoid species from what appears to be a burial chamber hidden deep inside a system of caves. They discovered 15 partial skeletons, with evidence leading researchers to believe the hominids had enough intelligence to conduct rituals. This is the single largest discovery of its kind ever in Africa, and scientists claim it will change our ideas about our human ancestors. More on the findings in the journal Elife.

BBC News:

The species, which has been named naledi, has been classified in the grouping, or genus, Homo, to which modern humans belong. The researchers who made the find have not been able to find out how long ago these creatures lived - but the scientist who led the team, Prof Lee Berger, told BBC News that he believed they could be among the first of our kind (genus Homo) and could have lived in Africa up to three million years ago.

The team of scientists who discovered the Homo naledi remains pose for a picture

Here's the abstract:

Homo naledi is a previously-unknown species of extinct hominin discovered within the Dinaledi Chamber of the Rising Star cave system, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. This species is characterized by body mass and stature similar to small-bodied human populations but a small endocranial volume similar to australopiths. Cranial morphology of H. naledi is unique, but most similar to early Homo species including Homo erectus, Homo habilis or Homo rudolfensis. While primitive, the dentition is generally small and simple in occlusal morphology.

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Nanotechnology coming of age (finally)?


For more than two decades, nonscientists and engineers have made molecular-scale motor, switches, propellers, ratchets, and even the "nanocar" above that rolls when its metal "road" is heated. But what can we actually do with these things? The journal Nature looks at today's efforts to develop useful applications for molecular machines, from drug delivery systems inside the body to a new kind of high-density molecular memory for computers. Read the rest

Watch: Add butane to a bottle of Coke, get a totally unsafe high-powered bottle rocket


It's always the Russians, beating us in the never-ending arms race of Totally Unsafe Things That Are Fun to Watch. Read the rest

This is how blue the skies were when Beijing banned 2.5 million cars for two weeks


In Beijing, China banned 2.5 million cars from driving for 2 weeks to get this beautiful blue sky for a World War II commemorative parade. As soon as the parade was over, the ban was lifted, and the blue vanished within 24 hours. Read the rest

Traffic noise annoys songbirds to the point of harming them


New research suggests that traffic noise (apart from pollution and general hectic motion) degrades the natural habitat of songbirds, and perhaps other animals. Boise State University biologists created a "phantom road" using speakers to create traffic noise in a natural, roadless songbird habitat. Read the rest

BBC TV host is very excited about this Blue Whale that just showed up

“I can see it now!”

Psychological disorder causes you to hallucinate your doppelgänger


In the book The Man Who Wasn't There, Anil Ananthaswamy explores mysteries of self, including the weirdness of autoscopic phenomena, a kind of hallucination in which you are convinced that you are having an out-of-body experience or face to face with your non-existent twin. Read the rest

New species of Crayfish named after Edward Snowden


Scientists named this newly-identified species of Indonesian crayfish Cherax snowden, after Edward Snowden. Read the rest

Health's unkillable urban legend: "You must drink 8 glasses of water/day"

In 1945, the Food and Nutrition board advised that most people needed 2.5l of water/day, noting that most of this would come from your prepared foods. Read the rest

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