Watch starfish flee an icy finger of death

This clip from the BBC's Frozen Planet is one of the most amazing things you will ever see.

"Brinicle" is a clever portmanteau for an icy finger of death that forms naturally in the very cold seawater one finds around Earth's poles. A crust of sea ice can form on top of this water, and that's the first step to making a brinicle. Here's how polar oceanographer Mark Brandon explained the process in an article on the BBC website:

In winter, the air temperature above the sea ice can be below -20C, whereas the sea water is only about -1.9C. Heat flows from the warmer sea up to the very cold air, forming new ice from the bottom. The salt in this newly formed ice is concentrated and pushed into the brine channels. And because it is very cold and salty, it is denser than the water beneath.

The result is the brine sinks in a descending plume. But as this extremely cold brine leaves the sea ice, it freezes the relatively fresh seawater it comes in contact with. This forms a fragile tube of ice around the descending plume, which grows into what has been called a brinicle.

Check out that BBC website link for more information on how the Frozen Planet videographers captured this footage. That's also where you should go to watch the video when this YouTube version is inevitably taken down.

Thank you, Brittany. Truly freaking amazing.

Video Link

Observation tube under the Antarctic sea ice Music video set beneath the Antarctic sea ice Research Diving in Antarctica Read the rest

Teenagers: Enter YouTube Space Lab competition by December 14

Scientific American and YouTube are offering teenagers a chance to participate in real science. It works like this: Think up a question that can only be tested via an experiment performed in space. Make a video about your idea and submit it to the contest by December 14.

The two best ideas will actually be tested in space. That's right. If you win this, an experiment you designed will be performed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. And you'll get some cool stuff—like a zero-G flight on board the "Vomit Comet" now, and, when you turn 18, actual cosmonaut training in Russia. Yeah. For real.

Oh, and Stephen-freaking-Hawking will be one of the judges.

This whole thing is a little insane.

If you're between the ages of 14 and 18, and you live on Earth, you can enter. Do it. Seriously. There are grown-ups who want to live vicariously through you.

For inspiration, here are some sample entries. Read the rest

Observation tube under the Antarctic sea ice

One more incredibly cool video from research diver, musician, and filmmaker Henry Kaiser. Henry says:

"Since support workers in town cannot make their usual recreational trips out onto the sea ice, the powers-that-be at McMurdo Station installed the OB TUBE within walking distance of town.

Anyone can climb down the ladder and watch us divers at work under the ice. The snow was bulldozed off of the sea ice around the observation tube, creating a very light environment; which seems to have attracted an enormous population of larval and juvenile ice fish that form great clouds around the tube."

Suddenly, I wish I were washing dishes in Antarctica.

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Lab-grown meat gets closer to reality

You see that whitish stuff in the petri dish? That, my dears, is lab-grown meat. Meat made without all the physical, environmental, and ethical mess that goes along with raising actual animals for food.

The little tabs on either end of each piece of meat are Velcro, used to stretch and "exercise" the muscle cells that make up this lab meat. (Some earlier attempts at growing meat in the lab failed because, without exercise, muscle tissue isn't something that's particularly palatable.) It's white because there's no blood running through it. And, to create food, you'd have to combine this single layer of muscle tissue with thousands of other layers of muscle and lab-grown fat.

Dutch biologist Mark Post, the man behind the meat, thinks that he can build the world's first lab-grown burger within a year for a cost of $345,000.

You can read the full story in an article by Reuters' Kate Kelland

Image: Francois Lenoir / Reuters

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Royal Society opens archive, kills productivity

60,000 peer-reviewed papers, including the first peer-reviewed scientific research journal in the world, are now available free online. The Royal Society has opened its historical archives to the public. Among the cool stuff you'll find here: Issac Newton's first published research paper and Ben Franklin's write-up about that famous kite experiment. Good luck getting anything accomplished today. Or ever again. Read the rest

HOW TO: Make silver ink that conducts electricity

This custom silver ink, developed by materials researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, allows you to draw working circuits out on paper. It's extremely cool, and the video shows you step-by-step how they make it. Bonus: This ink provides an actual reason to use cursive.

Video Link (Via Aaron Rowe) Read the rest

Montage of awesome cephalopod camouflage clips

Roger Hanlon is a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. He studies cephalopods—octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. Specifically, he studies the way these animals change their skin color and texture to match with their surroundings.

I've talked about his research before on BoingBoing Video and showed you some truly astounding footage he shot of a bunch of kelp that suddenly turns out to be a disguised octopus.

In this video segment from NPR's Science Friday, you can see more of Hanlon's videos of camouflaged cephalopods. There's also some great up-close footage of chromatophores—the special cells that allow cephalopods to change their color and shape.

Thanks to Andrea James for sending this over!

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Space Oddity, David Bowie (1969)

[Video Link] Read the rest

Meet Diana Nyad, arguably the world's most badass ocean swimmer, age 61.

A New York Times profile on 61-year-old open water swimmer Diana Nyad, who is also a commentator at local Los Angeles radio station KCRW. Any day now...

She will swim about 60 hours in the churning sea, 103 miles across the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West. Every hour and a half, she will stop to tread water for a few minutes as she swallows a liquid mixture of predigested protein and eats an occasional bit of banana or dollop of peanut butter. She will most likely hallucinate and endure the stings of countless jellyfish. Along the way, sea salt will swell her tongue to cartoonish proportions and rub her skin raw.

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DJ KITTENS (video)

Three kittens, two turntables and a microphone. Catboy Slim! [Video Link, thanks Karl Stevens!] Read the rest

The Majesty of the Great Sword

[Video link]

Thanks Brian! Read the rest

Watch these kids play Star Wars on a giant touch screen

It's probably the level of concentration required, but these kids do not look nearly as excited about what they are doing as I think they should.

For the last two years, University of Illinois at Chicago graduate student Arthur Nishimoto has been working on this incredible-looking video game based around a multi-touch interface. According to the YouTube page, the game:

... explores how a real-time interactive strategy game that would typically rely on complex keyboard commands and mouse interactions be transferred into a multi-user, multi-touch environment. Originally designed for use with TacTile, a 52-inch multi-touch LCD tabletop display, "Fleet Commander" game play has been ported to EVL's 20-foot wide multi-touch LCD wall, Cyber-Commons. "Fleet Commander" uses Processing, an open source programming language.

There's more about the game's development at Nishimoto's website. Also: In before the Orson Scott Card jokes!

Video Link

Via and Carl Wirth Read the rest

How To: Make Polaroid Film

Joel Johnson and Bill Barol have blogged here before about The Impossible Project, a group of Dutch Polaroid enthusiasts who bought an old Polaroid factory and recreated the company's instant film manufacturing process. General consensus: It's an impressive undertaking, but also kind of unnecessary and expensive.

Today, we're going to focus on the impressive part, with this video showing the manufacturing process that creates Impossible Project instant film. It's 5 minutes long, but the joy you'll get from watching it rivals those old Sesame Street crayon manufacturing videos, so it's totally worth it. Conclusion: The Impossible Project may not be necessary, but it sure is a lot of fun to watch.

Video Link

Via Gizmodo, with a tip of the hat to Gideon VanRiette. Read the rest

Giant schools of swarming squid surround fishing photographer

Photographer Jon Schwartz [blog] writes in:

"I was kayaking in La Jolla last week and saw a red frothing ball of squid on the surface. I jumped in with my underwater camera and had an incredible, surreal encounter with the huge swarm of squid."

Jon shares photographs from that encounter with Boing Boing, below, and he has a blog post with details here.

Read the rest

The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments, available online

You've long heard it spoken of in hushed whispers. Not just a book of kids' chemistry experiments, but THE book of kids' chemistry experiments. Supposedly, according to utterly unsubstantiated rumor, the experiments contained therein are so dangerous that the book has been banned by the government and removed from America's libraries.

Granted, this is a book that encourages young people to play around with things like hydrogen sulfide. But even on a quick read-though, The Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments is far less giddily homicidal than its reputation would have you believe. (For instance, children are warned, in bold red letters, to only play with said hydrogen sulfide outdoors, and to not breathe in the fumes. Also, judging by illustrations, the book seems to be clearly aimed at young teenagers or 'tweens. And it appears to support adult supervision in some circumstances. Yes, even the legendary Golden Book of Chemistry Experiments does not seem to advocate setting a bunch of 7-year-olds loose with toxic, flammable gas.)

Mark has posted about this book before, as has guest blogger Bill Gurstelle. Unfortunately, while it may not be formally banned, The Golden Book is out of print and rather difficult to obtain. Fortunately, there is the Internet. Last week, Cliff Pickover pointed me towards a full scan of this classic tome of DIY science ready to be downloaded from Scribd. Enjoy!

NOTE: A couple of people have pointed out that there is a paywall of sorts here, at least for downloads. Read the rest


The world's first biological laser—made from a human cell engineered to fluoresce green. Read the rest

Musical Tesla coils

Here are a pair of Tesla coils playing Girl Talk's "This is the Remix." It is beautiful, and awesome. How does it work? I asked Ian Charnas, one of the brains behind the Open Spark Project, a group that paired musicians—and their original compositions—with the musical Tesla coils. Truly a match made in heaven.

It turns out, you can make music out of anything that makes noise, just by turning it on and off very rapidly.

If you record a noise of you tapping your fingers on your laptop keyboard, and then speed it up so you hear 440 taps per second, you'll hear A4, the A above middle C on the standard keyboard. Likewise with the tesla coils, we make a giant spark and then turn it on and off at the right audio frequency for the note we want to play.

This is accomplished by a series of circuits and microchips we designed, which convert a standard MIDI signal (coming from a MIDI keyboard or from the MIDI output on our laptop) to the fiber-optic signal that the tesla coil requires. Why fiber optic? Because we don't want a copper wire connecting our keyboardist to the thing that makes a million volts ;-)

Oh, and musicians, they're going to do another round of these videos sometime in the future. If you want a heads up the next time The Open Spark Project is looking for musical submissions, head over to their website and ask to "receive updates." Read the rest