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:

Read the rest

Laniakea: scientists' name for our cosmic home

Scientists have now mapped superculusters -- dense regions of multiple galaxies -- across space and have named our own supercluster Laniakea, Hawaiian for "immeasurable heaven." (Nature)

Why astronauts fall

If you’ve ever watched this video, you might wonder whether an astronaut’s suit is too ungainly to be graceful, or alternatively, if astronauts might just lack coordination.

Read the rest

The ineffable joy of transforming boring scientific explanations into exciting comics

Cartooning entomologist Jay Hosler‘s forthcoming young adult graphic novel Last of the Sandwalkers masterfully combines storytelling with science; in this essay, he explains how beautifully comics play into the public understanding of science — and why that understanding is a matter of urgency for all of us.

Read the rest

Half the remains of slain Vikings in England are female

In Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD, published in 2011 in Early Medieval Europe 19/3, Medievalists from the University of Western Australia survey the remains of fallen Vikings found in eastern England that had been assumed to be male, partly because some were buried with sword and shield.

Read the rest

What will it take to get us back to the Moon?

It took 40 years for us to get back to the surface of the Moon. The adventures of China’s late Jade Rabbit rover ended an absence that would have been unthinkable to families clustered around their TV sets in the 1960s, watching the incredible achievements of the Apollo Program. Where did we get off track? Jekan Thanga from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, explains the science and politics behind Cory Doctorow’s new novella, “The Man Who Sold the Moon.”

Read the rest

Large study of low-carb eating finds weight-loss, muscle-gain, better cholesterol


The NIH-funded Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-Fat Diets: A Randomized Trial, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine reports on an unusually large and diverse study of the impact of low-carb eating and finds huge benefits relative to low-fat diets.

Read the rest

XKCD's What If: "Dear Abby for Mad Scientists" in book form

The book-length version of Randall “XKCD” Munroe’s brilliant What-If? column — which features scientifically rigorous, utterly absurd answers to ridiculous hypotheticals — has been on the bestseller lists since it was announced in March. Today, it hits shelves and: It. Is. A. <blink>Triumph</blink>.

Read the rest

Solved: Mystery of Death Valley's "Sailing Stones"

xMovingRocks_0.jpg.pagespeed.ic._QqJ8YH-PF

Scientists have now solved, through observation, the mystery of the "Sailing Stones" that travel across Death Valley's dry lakes.

Read the rest

Respected medical journal changes hands, starts publishing junk science for hire


Experimental & Clinical Cardiology published for 17 years out of Oshawa, ON, but is now owned by shadowy figures in Switzerland, whose payments are processed through Turks and Caicos, and they'll publish anything under the journal's banner, provided it's accompanied by a payment of $1200.

Read the rest

Habits for living a more rational life


From the Center for Applied Rationality, a "Checklist of Rationality Habits" intended to help you spot when you're tricking yourself. One of my favorites is the next-to-last: "I try not to treat myself as if I have magic free will; I try to set up influences (habits, situations, etc.) on the way I behave, not just rely on my will to make it so."

Read the rest

Whale vaginas are amazing


Mammal penises, including those of cetaceans, are pretty easy to find, while vaginas are more difficult to examine; historically, accounts of animal reproduction have emphasized the features of penises and theories of sperm competition, but a burgeoning scientific emphasis on whale vaginas is revealing structures and strategies that are amazing and wonderful.

Read the rest

Canadian government caught secretly smearing scientist who published research on tar-sands


The Harper petro-Tory government's money comes from the people who got rich from the tar-sands, the dirtiest oil on the planet, and they've done everything they could to suppress science critical of Alberta crude; finally a scientist who wasn't under their thumb published his work and they started maneuvering behind the scenes to discredit him.

Read the rest

Breathtaking aurora snapshot from the Space Station

wisemaaaa

Astronaut Reid Wiseman tweets from the International Space Station: "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this. 10 minutes ago on the #ISS #aurora." Another shot below.

Read the rest

Is it OK to pee in the ocean?

Yes.