China bans mentions of newly discovered species of beetle from social media

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The Rhyzodiastes (Temoana) xii is a newly classified species of beetle, indigenous to China's Hainan Island, whose name is a tribute to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Read the rest

2016's Illusion of the Year will make you cover your screen with fingerprints

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The winners in this year's Illusion of the Year contest (previously) are all cool, but it took me a minute to figure out what was going on with the grand prize winner, Mathew T. Harrison and Gideon P. Caplovitz's "Motion Integration Unleashed: New Tricks for an Old Dog." Read the rest

This Twinkie is 40 years old and it looks good enough to eat

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At Blue Hill, Maine's George Stevens Academy, there lies a Twinkie that was the subject of teacher Roger Bennatti's 1976 science lesson on chemical preservatives and shelf life. Now the immortal snack cake sits in a glass case on the desk of the school's Dean of Students Libby Rosemeier who was a student in the class when the experiment began.

“It’s really funny that we’re this wonderful coastal community in Maine, and we have this school of 325 kids that is a gem and we’re doing great things and kids are going to great colleges, and the thing people know about us is this 40-year-old Twinkie,” Rosemeier told ABC News.

Hostess did not respond to ABC News's request for a comment on the miracle of the everlasting golden spongecake with creamy filling.

(via Weird Universe) Read the rest

One man's incredible plan for humanity to migrate into space

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In the early 1970s, Princeton University physicist Gerard O’Neill became a space activist touting plans to build human colonies in outer space. He argued that humans could escape (while helping alleviate) the environmental damage we are causing on Earth by migrating to space habitats housed in cylinders that would be suspended 250,000 miles from Earth at LaGrange Point 5, a spot where the gravitational forces enable objects to just hang there. O'Neill's ideas, while controversial, were mostly sound from a scientific and engineering perspective.

After the New York Times published a front page article about O'Neill, he became a media sensation and quickly developed a very vocal following of space geeks, (some) environmentalists, heads, and future-minded scientists. NASA even jumped in, supporting studies based on O'Neill's research and commissioning the incredible illustrations seen here. O'Neill's specific concepts influenced countless science fiction books and movies and were the seed of bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary's plan for humanity's future, SMI2LE (Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, Life Extension.)

His book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space is still in-print and captures the wonder and sense of possibility that permeated our culture after the first moon landing and into the 1970s. It's my hope that today's myriad private efforts to make space accessible will re-ignite that desire in everyone to explore and experience what lies beyond our home planet.

The fantastic podcast 99% Invisible told O'Neill's story in an episode titled "Home on Lagrange":

Read the rest

Scientist uses magic (and psychology) to implant thoughts and read minds

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In a new scientific study, McGill University researcher Jay Olson combined stage magic with psychology to make people think that an fMRI machine (actually a fake) could read their minds and implant thoughts in their heads. Essentially, Olson and his colleagues used "mentalist" gimmicks to do the ESP and "thought insertion" but convinced the subjects that it was real neuroscience at work. The research could someday help psychologists study and understand why some individuals with mental health problems think they are being controlled by external forces. Vaughan "Mind Hacks" Bell blogged about Olson's research for the British Psychological Society. From Vaughan's post:

(The subjects) reported a range of anomalous effects when they thought numbers were being "inserted" into their minds: A number “popped in” my head, reported one participant. Others described “a voice … dragging me from the number that already exists in my mind”, feeling “some kind of force”, feeling “drawn” to a number, or the sensation of their brain getting “stuck” on one number. All a striking testament to the power of suggestion.

A common finding in psychology is that people can be unaware of what influences their choices. In other words, people can feel control without having it. Here, by using the combined powers of stage magic and a sciency-sounding back story, Olson and his fellow researchers showed the opposite – that people can have control without feeling it.

"Using a cocktail of magic and fMRI, psychologists implanted thoughts in people's minds" (BPS)

"Simulated thought insertion: Influencing the sense of agency using deception and magic" (Consciousness and Cognition)

Illustration by Rob Beschizza Read the rest

Experimental video of Radiolab's Jad Abumrad talking about the "Function of Music"

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Radiolab's Jad Abumrad riffs on "The Function of Music" in this spectacular cut-up video by Mac Premo.

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Video: the literal shrinking dollar

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Dip your dollar into liquid anhydrous ammonia, dry it, and repeat. The surface tension of the boiling and evaporating ammonia shrinks the bill. Caveat: It could prove difficult to use a mini-dollar and mutilating a bill may even be illegal.

(Applied Science via Weird Universe)

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Apps help women bypass states' barriers to contraception

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In many states in America, legislatures have erected punitive, vindictive barriers for women seeking contraception, requiring them to get prescriptions for safe, widely taken medications. Read the rest

Science-inspired lamps: Large Hadron Collider and James Webb Space Telescope

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Designer Art Donovan writes, "I'm always looking for new and unique inspiration for my lighting commissions and the latest, cutting edge scientific devices offer a boatload of great design inspiration. From the cool, new 'James Webb Space Telescope' to the myriad of complex details in the L.H.P.C. at Cern- it's a cornucopia of rich imagery." Read the rest

White House issues report on President Obama's impact on science and tech

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In 2009, President Obama pledged to "restore science to its rightful place." He said, "We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science."

Today, the White House released an Impact Report listing 100 things that Obama has made happen with the support of many people across research, policy, education, and, yes, maker culture. Here's the full Impact Report. A few examples from the list:

• Prioritized and encouraged broad participation in STEM education. The President’s Educate to Innovate campaign, launched in November 2009, has resulted in more than $1 billion in private investment to improve K-12 STEM education. The Nation is on track to meet the President’s January 2011 State of the Union goal to put 100,000 additional excellent STEM teachers in America’s classrooms by 2021. The President has helped showcase to students—including through events such as the White House Science Fair—that science, math, engineering, and computer programming are deeply compelling subjects that can help solve problems locally and globally.

• Fostered a nation of makers. The President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire; highlighted the growing importance of additive manufacturing by being the first President to be 3D scanned for his Presidential bust; and led a call to action resulting in commitments to create more than 1,000 maker spaces around the country.

Read the rest

Space botanists are beneficiaries of Canada's legal weed boom

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It's hard to fund space exploration research -- the commercial applications are speculative and far-off -- but there's never been a better time to study super-efficient, closed-loop botany of the sort that will someday accompany human interplanetary missions, thanks to the need to develop better grow-ops for the burgeoning legal weed market in Canada. Read the rest

World's largest telescope in jeopardy

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Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory is the world's largest radio telescope. Arecibo is an icon of science. It's where scientists proved the existence of neutron stars was proven, discovered the first binary pulsar, made the first direct image of an asteroid, made the first discovery of extrasolar planets, and of course transmitted the Arecibo Message, an attempt to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. And right now, the Arecibo Observatory is facing demolition due to budget cuts. Nadia Drake attended meetings this month in Puerto Rico to where scientists, staff, students, and the National Science Foundation discussed the telescope's fate and why it needs to be saved. From Natalie's wondrous "No Place Like Home" blog at National Geographic:

Science isn’t the only concern at Arecibo. In fact, the majority of people at the meetings discussed the role the observatory plays in inspiring and training Puerto Rican students, some 20,000 of whom visit the site every year.

Though it’s hard to quantify, the value of inspiration and education is not insignificant, especially considering how underrepresented Hispanic students are in the sciences.

As evidence, several students involved in the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy spoke about how important their time at the observatory was, and how this pre-college program gave them hands-on research experience that continues to affect their lives.

“I can say that AOSA has had a great impact on my life,” said Adriana Lopez, a 14-year-old space academy alum. “Always, in my life, I’ve been fascinated with space, and it has led me to join several camps, but none of them have affected me like AOSA.

Read the rest

CO2 in Antarctica reaches 400 PPM for first time in 4 million years

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Earth's most remote continent finally caught up with its more populated counterparts. “Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, setting a new high year after year,” writes Brian Kahn at Climate Central. “There’s a notable new entry to the record books. The last station on Earth without a 400 parts per million (ppm) reading has reached it.”

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'Jupiter: Into the Unknown', a NASA Juno Mission Trailer

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“Get some popcorn. This July 4, we're going to Jupiter.”

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft will brave Jupiter’s fireworks this 4th of July for Science

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On July 4, NASA plans to fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers) of Jupiter's cloud tops. It's part of the JUNO mission, and Boing Boing plans to cover the big event live from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory——so, watch this space, because we are fascinated by all things space.

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A quarter-century on, WHO drops claim that coffee is a carcinogen

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The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer reviewed 1,000+ papers investigating the link between coffee and cancer and concluded that the WHO's 1991 classification of coffee as a carcinogen was mistaken. Read the rest

Cryogenic freezing improves coffee extraction

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A new study in Nature by University of Bath chemist Christopher Hendon and colleagues from various universities and coffee shops finds that cryogenic freezing of coffee beans prior to grinding them produces a more uniform grind that allows for optimal extraction. Read the rest

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