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In space, everyone can drink your pee

Coming soon to space: A urine recycling system that turns pee into both water AND the electricity necessary to power the water purification system. Maggie 9

Celebrate World Homeopathy Awareness Week with homeopathyawarenessweek.org

It's World Homeopathy Awareness Week, so the Good Thinking Society (a nonprofit devoted to promoting rational thought) has put up a new site at homeopathyawarenessweek.org in which you will be made aware of a bunch of facts that homeopathy advocates are often slow to mention -- like adults and children who've died because they were treated with homeopathic sugar-pills, the tragic foolishness of Homeopaths Without Borders, who are memorably described as "well-meaning folk [who fly] into places of crisis in the developing world carrying suitcases full of homeopathic tablets that contain nothing but sugar. It is not so much Médecins Sans Frontières as Médecins Sans Medicine."

The more aware you are of homeopathy -- that is, the more you learn about all the ways in which homeopathy has been examined by independent, neutral researchers who've tested its claims and found them baseless -- the less there is to like about it. From ineffective homeopathy "vaccine alternatives" that leave your children -- and the children around them -- vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses that have been brought back from the brink of extinction by vaccine denial to the tragic story of Penelope Dingle, who suffered a horrific and lingering death due to treatable bowel-cancer because she followed her husband's homeopathic advice, being aware of homeopathy is a very good thing.

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Two possible explanations of mysterious earthquake lights

Centuries of humans have reported strange lights moving along the ground before an earthquake strikes. Now, two different teams of scientists have two competing theories that could explain where those lights come from and how they're made. Maggie 6

Fish don't need no stinking eyes

Meet the Mexican blind cavefish, which has no eyes, and instead echolocates through the power of fishface. Maggie 9

Watch freaky oarfish frolic in the Sea of Cortez

Oarfish are freaky sea dragons. You might remember them from the beaching incidents last fall, when two oarfish turned up on the coast of California within a week. That's a big deal, because the fish usually live far down in the ocean — at depths up to 3000 feet. It's relatively rare to catch them at a depth where humans have easy access. In this video, you can see tourists with a Shedd Aquarium travel program interacting with a couple of 15-feet-long oarfish in the Sea of Cortez. Definitely stick around to about 1:40 in the video, where you get some stunning underwater close ups of the oarfish.

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A biologist trying to go to Mars

Biologist Chris Patil is one of the 1058 people chosen (from more than 200,000 initial applicants) to participate in the second round of Mars One astronaut selection. That is, to say, he is one of 1058 people who are angling for a chance to go to Mars and never come back. He's keeping a blog about the experience and you can read it. Maggie 16

The side-effects of surviving HIV

There are side-effects to being an HIV controller — a person whose body naturally suppresses the virus without medication. They have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more ... all linked to an over-active immune system. Now, researchers think they may have a solution that can keep those patients more healthy. Maggie 2

Hearing lips and seeing voices

This video explains the weirdness of the McGurk effect, a perceptual illusion demonstrating that understanding speech is not just about what we hear, but also what we see. You can learn more about the McGurk effect at Yale's Haskins Laboratories dedicated to the science of the spoken and written wordl. (via Imaginary Foundation)

Violinists can't tell a Stradivarius from a modern violin

Ever wonder if Stradivarius violins are really better than other violins, or if the name just makes them seem better? A recent study blindfolded professional violinists and found that they couldn't tell the difference between violins constructed by 18th-century Italians and those made by modern manufacturers. The results back up the results of a similar study conducted in 2010. Maggie 21

The geology of Westeros

This Stanford project imagines 500 million years of planetary evolution on the planet of Game of Thrones, using a combination of book details and the principles of Earth-based geologic physics. Also dragons and White Walkers. Maggie 3

Scientists begin studying annual bee death rates in a really substantive way

For the first time, the European Union began closely monitoring the deaths of bees during the course of a year. The results have been somewhat encouraging, with death rates lower than expected in 2012-2013. Maggie 2

$5 programmable chemistry set inspired by music box

Stanford bioengineer Manu Prakash and his colleagues devised a $5 "chemistry set" that can be programmed to mix various reactants by punching holes in a paper tape and feeding it through the handheld device. Prakash says he was inspired by a hand-cranked music box. This latest device for what Prakash calls "frugal science" is on the heels of his amazing 50-cent folding microscope that I blogged previously.

"Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries" (SCOPE)

An ad for radium-laced cooking utensils

Here's to your health! I liked scientist and blogger Danielle Lee's take on this ad, others like it, and the history that they represent.

They teach us about how we as a society respond — eagerly — with the prospect of a new innovation, any, especially if it solves a problem. Today we know that Radium is dangerous. So why were these sold to the public before it was thoroughly vetted first? Well, it was vetted - to the best of science's ability then. And as a result of the new info & mistake discovered hindsight, we change course. But let's be clear - SCIENCE isn't the reason for this ad or marketing this product as the best thing ever. That's ECONOMICS. Often, the beef people have with innovation is due to the marketing and politics surrounding how society (we) will use them. The discovery itself isn't usually problematic. Just things to keep in mind as we continue to debate next steps in navigating life on this shrinking planet.

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Where do tectonic plates come from?

Well, kids, you see, when one chunk of Earth's crust loves another very much, they slam together and one chunk is forced underneath of the other. A new study suggests that this process of subduction is sufficient to explain the formation of the tectonic plates we know today. Maggie 5

Doubleclicks celebrate the paperback of Scatter, Adapt, and Remember with a new song

The paperback edition of Annalee Newitz's excellent Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction comes out today, and to celebrate, Annalee has commissioned a song about the book from nerd rockers the Doubleclicks. It's terrific.

Here's my original review from the hardcover's publication last May:

Scatter's premise is that the human race will face extinction-grade crises in the future, and that we can learn how to survive them by examining the strategies of species that successfully weathered previous extinction events, and cultures and tribes of humans that have managed to survive their own near-annihilation.

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