Boing Boing 

Anti-vaxxer ordered to pay EUR100K to winner of "measles aren't real" bet


Stefan Lanka, a "vaccination skeptic" who claims that measles are a psychosomatic condition brought on by "traumatic separations," publicly challenged people to prove that measles was caused by a virus.

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This Book is a Planetarium (really!)


Master paper artist Kelli Anderson has a forthcoming title called This Book is a Planetarium that literally converts into a planetarium, as well as a smartphone amplifier, and many other paper contraptions.

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Book Preview: The Boy Who Played with Fusion

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This June, Harcourt releases The Boy Who Played with Fusion: Extreme Science, Extreme Parenting, and How to Make a Star. Written by journalist Tom Clynes, the book got its start as a 2012 Popular Science story of the same name. I've been reading an early galley and love the way Clynes weaves tales of a precocious youngster, his wise parents, and his baffled teachers. It’s an inside look at raising a typical, angsty teen, except one who gives Ted talks on the weekends and hangs with world-class physicists.

Taylor hadn’t realized that his biggest challenge, by far, would be to create a workable vacuum. He needed enough negative pressure to create an almost empty space for his subatomic particles to travel. If any gas or air molecules were left inside the tube, the high-energy particles would collide with them and lose energy. “Imagine a freeway in Los Angeles and you want to go 100 miles an hour,” Taylor explains. “If you try that at rush hour you’re going to hit other cars. But in the middle of the night it’s wide open and you can go fast.”

To pump out the tube, Taylor used a refrigerator compressor and wired it to run backward. Then, Taylor loaded the deuterium gas he’d generated. “I was so excited,” he says. “Me and Tom got the Van de Graaff up to 200,000 volts, and with the Model-T arc we tried to get plasma going.”

But even though they used higher-tech fasteners than Lawrence did in the 1930s, they had trouble creating enough vacuum to get a sustained plasma field, and a clear enough path to accelerate particles to any measurable degree. They tweaked the fasteners and tried all sorts of sealant—silicon rubber, epoxy, “and a few other things,” says Taylor. “We were using techniques from the sixties and seventies, and we modernized them, but with our expertise and materials we could only go so far. Most of it worked. But not the big picture.”

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Siberian Crater Watch: More giant holes found

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Following news reports last summer of Arctic craters, a February 23 report in the Siberian Times documents several more depressions as shown in photos and satellite images.

Scientists believe the craters are caused by global warming, as underground methane is allowed to escape through warming permafrost. However, even though the craters look ominously like the inverse of Devils Tower, according to a reassuring Washington Post article, the methane from such formations is nowhere near enough to impact the atmosphere.

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"Why you shouldn’t freak out about those mysterious Siberian craters" [Washington Post]

Mezmerizing slo-mo of young praying mantises in action

A University of Cambridge zoologist analyzed almost 400 videos of juvenile mantises jumping onto a pole for a March 5 study in the journal Current Biology. Malcolm Burrows concluded that the bugs spin their bodies to help them land on target.

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The actual video from the study is soundless, but for my money, the footage from New Scientist (that linked above) benefits from its Blue Danube soundtrack. The music lends the sequences an air of a very classy insect pole dance.

"Watch a praying mantis perform acrobatic jumps" [New Scientist]

Interactive tour of nuclear arsenals since WWII

Explore how many nukes there are in the world, and where they are, courtesy of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' interactive Nuclear Notebook -- a useful way to discover whether some friendly superpower has stashed nukes in your harbour.

Creative science journal, including the science of Wookiees


Dave Ng writes, "The Science Creative Quarterly is pleased to release its first volume of both a print offering of collected works, AND the much vaulted Annals of Praetachoral Mechanics."

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First-ever photo of light behaving as a wave and particle


Nicholas writes, "Since Einstein's day, scientists have been trying to directly observe the wave- and particle- aspects of light at the same time. Now, scientists at a Swiss lab have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of this dual behavior."

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Kids send Maker projects to space

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If the whole Potter franchise didn't already seem to give UK kids special powers, now this: primary and secondary schoolers can enter a contest by April 5 to program a Raspberry Pi for the International Space Station. Astronauts will upload kids' software to the newest credit-card-sized $35 computer for projects. That happens in November.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to think of a way to pass as a high school kid and also use the gyroscope, magnetometer, temperature probe, and infrared cameras on the Pi to do something cool 300 miles over the planet.

Seminal fluid praised in study

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Feb 2015 paper published by North Carolina State and Cornell biologists finds seminal fluid to be way more than just a medium for sperm. It helps create an important "post-copulatory" environment because of "plasma proteins [that] play critical roles in modulating female reproductive physiology." The paper -- "On a Matter of Seminal Importance" -- earns bonus points for awesome graphics and puns.

The dystopian future of quantified babies

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A group of design students from a Swedish university published an insightful academic paper last year spoofing all the baby health trackers now pitched to parents. The trackers measure things like a baby's breathing rate, heart rate, and sleep, and are made by startups including Mimo Baby, Owlet, Sproutling, and Monbaby.

Is this fear mongering for new moms? Or will these devices actually offer valuable data on infants? I think it's too early to tell. But the paper does a good job of critiquing the design pitfalls of the user experience. It argues such devices could needlessly raise anxiety and remove intuition from parenting.

There's a cool hand-drawn storyboard of a new mom deciding not to go the park with Johnny after she binges on biometric data:

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Also, a good rendering of an epidemiological map overlay that would show all the kids in your neighborhood suffering from excessive booger:

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The science of vaccine denial

The only real scientific mystery about vaccines is why so many people buy into the deadly pseudoscience of vaccine denial and put their kids -- and yours -- at risk of catching ancient, vanquished, deadly diseases.

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Don't argue about vaccination with Rob Schneider if you value your sanity

California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez made the mistake of returning actor Rob Schneider's deranged anti-vaxx phonecalls and lived to tell the tale: "That is 20 minutes of my life I'll never get back arguing that vaccines don't cause autism with Deuce Bigalow, male gigolo."

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

David K Randall's Dreamland is a review of the best scientific thinking that illuminates and important subject: namely, why do we spend a third of our lives paralyzed, eyes closed, having vivid hallucinations?Read the rest

Cognition, categories and oppression


Our minds naturally group things in culturally specific categories -- for Americans, robins are more "bird" than albatrosses -- and we're better at categorizing more prototypical items than outliers -- but what does this mean when we group humans in categories like "real Americans"?

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Police interrogation techniques generate false memories of committing crimes


Psychologists terminated a study that showed the ease of implanting false memories of committing terrible, violent crimes in the recent past in their subjects -- the experiment was terminated because some subjects couldn't be convinced that they hadn't committed the crime after they were told the truth.

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Turd transplant leads to rapid weight-gain and obesity


A woman whose c.difficile infection was treated with a fecal transplant from her overweight daughter experienced rapid and dramatic weight gain as soon as her daughter's microbial nation took hold in her gut.

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