Jason & Farah, cognitive science postdocs at Washington University, write, "We humans have always used our surroundings to extend our memory. But is the technology of today enhancing human memory, or replacing it? Help us do the research! We plan to gather survey data and run Internet-based psychology experiments to find out:
How are people currently using technology for memory purposes?
How well do people understand the technology and their reliance on it?
Are there ways to improve the interplay between technology and human memory?"
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Richard Wiseman is the professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the UK's University of Hertfordshire. He's the author of several books, including Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There, was about the psychology of so-called supernatural experiences. His previous book, 59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute, draws from the psychology of persuasion to present a series of (oft-counterintuitive) techniques and life hacks to improve memory, negotiate better, reduce stress, etc. It's a self-help book based on entertaining and fascinating scientific research. Above is one of many videos from Wiseman's fun "In 59 Seconds" YouTube channel.
59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute (Amazon)
Glenn Fleishman writes, "A responsible dealer of the radioactive element radium, a substance once pushed widely as a quack cure, tried to keep the genie in the bottle. Theresa Everline explains that in the first half of the 20th century, Frank Hartman, known as the Radium Hound, kept track of accidents and incompetence in handling radium. His diaries reveal that radium lingers in forgotten places."
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The Exosuit allows humans to move like scuba divers at depths that would make scuba wildly impractical
. It's got all the benefits of a small submarine, but with more flexibility and freedom of movement. — Maggie
is a site that collects science career origin stories, including the tale of a man who started college at age 40, a woman whose CV includes both scientific publications and video game experience, and a woman who went to work at the Large Hadron Collider. — Maggie
This is Narcissus assoanus, a common flower found in France, Spain, and Portugal, and one of many snicker-worthy taxonomic names included on a list put together by journalist Joe Rojas-Burke.
Image: Wikimedia user Ghislain118, used via CC
When a tree falls in a forest, it becomes an ecosystem — a source of food and habitation for a diverse array of animals. The same thing is true when a tree falls into the ocean. Or when a wooden boat sinks. Bits of wood that reach the deep sea floor become colonized with all kinds of life. Now, Craig McClain, one of the intrepid minds behind the excellent blog Deep Sea News, is studying those communities, using them to learn more about food webs, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration. And you can help.
McClain and his team have been intentionally dropping pieces of wood into the ocean, and then going back later to collect those wood falls and study the things that have grown on them. One of the ways they do that is by documenting the stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur present in the animals. Different combinations and concentrations of isotopes can tell you a lot about what different animals are eating — who is predator, who is prey, and the role the wood fall plays in those relationships. They need help paying for that stable isotope analysis. For the next nine days, you can donate toward their research at Experiment.com.
Scallops are pretty much the best. Definitely one of my all-time top favorite foods. Unfortunately, besides being delicious, scallops are also heavily impacted by ocean acidification
. As much as 40% of the carbon dioxide emissions humans produce end up absorbed by the oceans, which raises the acidity of those waters, which is bad for animals like scallops. A Vancouver seafood company recently lost 10 million scallops
— three years' worth of scallop seedlings — to rising ocean acidity. — Maggie
David Weinberger's 2012 book Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room was one of the smartest, most thought-provoking reads I had the pleasure of being buffeted by in 2012. I'm delighted to learn that it's out in paperback this month. Here's my original review from 2012:
David Weinberger is one of the Internet's clearest and cleverest thinkers, an understated and deceptively calm philosopher who builds his arguments like a bricklayer builds a wall, one fact at a time. In books like Everything is Miscellaneous and Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, he erects solid edifices with no gaps between the bricks, inviting conclusions that are often difficult to reconcile with your pre-existing prejudices, but which are even harder to deny.
Too Big to Know, Weinberger's latest book-length argument, is another of these surprising brick walls. Weinberger presents us with a long, fascinating account of how knowledge itself changes in the age of the Internet -- what it means to know something when there are millions and billions of "things" at your fingertips, when everyone who might disagree with you can find and rebut your assertions, and when the ability to be heard isn't tightly bound to your credentials or public reputation for expertise.
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Cambridge science historian Simon Schaffer researched the history of quack science's most iconic device, the perpetual motion machine. Cabinet magazine's Christopher Turner recently interviewed Schaffer about one famed demonstration from 1721, and the, er, perpetual attraction of such devices to this day.
Spin Doctors: An Interview with Simon Schaffer (Cabinet)
And here's the abstract for Schaffer's scholarly paper (behind a paywall): "The show that never ends: perpetual motion in the early eighteenth century"
Over at National Geographic, theoretical physicist Laurence Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing, gives his quick take on flying cars, space travel, and pessimism:
I'm not very hopeful that humanity can act en masse to address what are now truly global problems that require a new way of thinking. As Einstein said when nuclear weapons were created: "Everything's changed save the way we think."
I think we need to change the way we think to address these global problems. Will it happen? Maybe kicking and screaming. My friend, the writer Cormac McCarthy, told me once: "I'm a pessimist, but that's no reason to be gloomy." In a sense, that's my attitude.
"Sci-Fi Is Cool (Flying Cars! Life on Mars!)—But Real Science is Cooler"
It seems obvious that people would pay more for celebrity memorabilia from, say, JFK or Marilyn Monroe, if they think the star actually touched the item at some point. But did you know that people apparently will pay less for the item if it was owned by a nasty person like Bernie Madoff? This strange phenomenon appeared in a new study from Yale University psychologists who looked at auction prices for memorabilia tied of those three famous folks. And it got even stranger once the researchers told study participants that the items were professionally "sterilized," removing the celebrity's "essence."
Science Explores Our Magical Belief in the Power of Celebrity (Smithsonian)
Above, a relevant scene from Richard Linklater's Slacker (1991).
My last year of journalism school, just weeks before graduation, one of my classmates came down with meningitis. Andy Marso nearly died
. He lost all but one finger and all of his toes. Today, he's a reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal
and he just published a memoir about surviving an infection that is both relatively rare and relatively devastating to the people it does affect. — Maggie
These images were taken yesterday at around 7:25 pm EST by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, a satellite pointed at the Sun. What you're looking at are the first moments of a massive solar flare — an explosive force more powerful than all the firepower humans have created, combined. The different colors in the image are from the shots being filtered for different wavelengths of light.
While solar flares, in general, release mindbogglingly huge amounts of energy, this one was large and powerful even in relation to its brethren. The most intense solar flares are classified as "X" flares. Then, scientists add a number after the X to tell you how powerful the flare was. These images show the beginning of an X4.9 flare — big enough to make even the people who study massive solar eruptions sit up and go, "WOAH."
Heavy storms on the coast of Wales stripped away the sand on the beaches of Cardigan Bay, revealing the stumps of an ancient forest that stopped growing 4,500 years ago
. Also revealed: A sort of proto-boardwalk, built by the inhabitants of the lost forest as rising sea levels began to drown it. — Maggie