The universe has no "up"


New research from University College London suggests that the universe is indeed "isotropic," the same in all directions. Cosmologists Daniela Saadeh and Andrew Pontzen analyzed cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation left over from the Big Bang for any patterns that would indicate "a special direction in space." Read the rest

Explore other star systems' habitable zones -- and our own billions of years hence


The Circumstellar Habitable Zone Simulator provides detailed views of six star systems known to have exoplanets. You can change the stars' mass and the planetary distances and fool around with Goldilocks' breakfast, but it's the timeline control that's scary: drag it right to fly through the billions of years, watching the habitable zone head out of town as the star goes nova then contract to nothing. Read the rest

Clean old records with wood glue


Ghettofunk13 demonstrates the old vinyl-lover's trick of deep-cleaning your wax pancakes by spreading the grooves with Titebond II wood glue, waiting for it to dry, and then peeling off the glue-skin and taking all the gunk with it (presumably there is some way of actually playing the music from the intact glue-skin, given sufficiently advanced apparatus). Read the rest

Bill Nye: What if all the ice melted on Earth?


It would not be cool. At all. (AsapSCIENCE)

Read the rest

Recreating Our Galaxy in a Supercomputer

Simulated view of our Milky Way galaxy, seen from a nearly face-on angle. This image was created by simulating the formation of our galaxy using a supercomputer, which, in this case, consisted of 2,000 computers linked together.(Hopkins Research Group/Caltech)

Astronomers at Caltech have created the most detailed computer simulation yet of how our Milky Way galaxy was formed, from inception billions of years ago as a loose collection of matter to its modern state as a massive, spiral disk of stars.

Read the rest

Images from Saturn Cassini probe reveal Titan's dunes and frigid landscape in new detail


“Frigid alien landscapes” are coming to light in new radar images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

Read the rest

Brain's "reward system" also tied to sleep-wake states

According to Stanford University researchers, a primary circuit in the brain's reward involving the chemical "feel-good" chemical dopamine, is also essential for controlling our sleep-wake cycles.

“Insomnia, a multibillion-dollar market for pharmaceutical companies, has traditionally been treated with drugs such as benzodiazepines that nonspecifically shut down the entire brain," says psychiatry and behavior science professor Luis de Lecea "Now we see the possibility of developing therapies that, by narrowly targeting this newly identified circuit, could induce much higher-quality sleep.”

From Stanford:

It makes intuitive sense that the reward system, which motivates goal-directed behaviors such as fleeing from predators or looking for food, and our sleep-wake cycle would coordinate with one another at some point. You can’t seek food in your sleep, unless you’re an adept sleepwalker. Conversely, getting out of bed is a lot easier when you’re excited about the day ahead of you...

The reward system’s circuitry is similar in all vertebrates, from fish, frogs and falcons to fishermen and fashion models. A chemical called dopamine plays a crucial role in firing up this circuitry.

Neuroscientists know that a particular brain structure, the ventral tegmental area, or VTA, is the origin of numerous dopamine-secreting nerve fibers that run in discrete tracts to many different parts of the brain. A plurality of these fibers go to the nucleus accumbens, a forebrain structure particularly implicated in generating feelings of pleasure in anticipation of, or response to, obtaining a desired objective.

“Since many reward-circuit-activating drugs such as amphetamines that work by stimulating dopamine secretion also keep users awake, it’s natural to ask if dopamine plays a key role in the sleep-wake cycle as well as in reward,” Eban-Rothschild said.

Read the rest

The spores of club moss have magical powers

Lycopodium powder, made from dry spores of clubmoss plants, is used by magicians and special effects artists as flash powder (aka "dragon's breath"), as a lubricant on latex gloves and condoms, and of course to do the impressive science experiments seen in the video above.

"In physics experiments and demonstrations, lycopodium powder is used to make sound waves in air visible for observation and measurement, and to make a pattern of electrostatic charge visible," according to Wikipedia. "The powder is also highly hydrophobic; if the surface of a cup of water is coated with lycopodium powder, a finger or other object inserted straight into the cup will come out dusted with the powder but remain perfectly dry."

You can purchase an inexpensive supply from Amazon: Lycopodium Powder

Read the rest

Before Breitbart, before Trump, Bannon bullied people in Biosphere 2

Steve Bannon, head of  Breitbart News, was named to the new position of campaign chief executive officer. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Breitbart chief and Trump campaign CEO's sexist bullying was evident in the early days of Biosphere 2 in Arizona, then a quasi “space colonization” and environmental research project.

Stephen K. Bannon, who recently took a leave from running to become Donald Trump’s chief campaign executive, once bullied women in the historic environmental research project known as Biosphere 2.

He called a female science researcher who wrote a report about safety concerns a “deluded” “bimbo,” and threatened to “ram it down her (expletive) throat.” He also threatened to “kick her ass.”

Read the rest

Do Your Part! Illegally Download Scientific Papers


Jesse Singal requested this shoop, and I delivered. After all, who's downloading pirated papers? Everyone. (I've uploaded this to Redbubble if you'd like a poster—of course, you can just as well pirate it.) Read the rest

Hydraulic press vs. carbon fiber yields interesting results


Hydraulic Press Channel shows why carbon fiber and variants like carbon nanotubes have so many uses: depending on the configuration, they can hold up against the hydraulic press. Read the rest

They're making a Twits ale from Roald Dahl's body-yeast

050 056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1176

Roald Dahl spent the last of his days in a special armchair that he modded to help him with back pain from a WWII injury; now, in honour of the Dinner at the Twits interactive theatre events, the craft 40FT Brewery has swabbed some yeast from Dahl's chair and cultured it to brew Mr. Twit's Odious Ale, which will be served at the event. Read the rest

Test for Damp Ground at Mars' Seasonal Streaks Finds None, Reports NASA JPL

A Mars science news update from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California.

Read the rest

Rare red sprites dancing in the skies, above thunderstorms


Graduate student Jason Ahrns captured a stunning image of red sprites over Nebraska while aboard a plane chartered by the National Center for Atmospheric Research. And behold Scott McPartland's rare video of the phenomenon in May. Read the rest

You didn't find a meteorite

Randy L. Korotev from the Washington U in St Louis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences presents this handy flowchart (based on this one by Deborah Guedes) for deflating your excitement at having found rock that may be a meteorite but almost certainly isn't. Today's XKCD offers a handy abridgment if you find this one excessive. Read the rest

Watch an object levitating atop another levitating object


YouTuber Latheman666 takes maglev to the next level by adding nine neodymium magnet cubes to a levitating magnet and then floating a pyrolytic graphite disc about 1mm above the neodymium. Hypnotic! Read the rest

Ominous music in shark videos makes people more negative about the fish

A new study suggests that the ominous background music often heard in shark documentaries correlates with viewers' fearful and negative opinions of sharks. (For the source of this musical cliche, see the 1975 trailer for Jaws above.) From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers paper in the scientific journal PLOS One:

Using three experiments, we show that participants rated sharks more negatively and less positively after viewing a 60-second video clip of swimming sharks set to ominous background music, compared to participants who watched the same video clip set to uplifting background music, or silence. This finding was not an artifact of soundtrack alone because attitudes toward sharks did not differ among participants assigned to audio-only control treatments. This is the first study to demonstrate empirically that the connotative attributes of background music accompanying shark footage affect viewers’ attitudes toward sharks. Given that nature documentaries are often regarded as objective and authoritative sources of information, it is critical that documentary filmmakers and viewers are aware of how the soundtrack can affect the interpretation of the educational content.

"The Effect of Background Music in Shark Documentaries on Viewers' Perceptions of Sharks" (PLOS One via Dangerous Minds)

Read the rest

More posts