The easy way to season cast iron

I have offered plenty of advice on caring for your cast iron cookware. Stop seasoning it in the house, use your BBQ.

Seasoning this stuff in the oven (my favorite old way,) or on the stove smokes your house up. Just throw the shit on the grill.

Super thinly put a coat of oil on your cast iron piece.

Put the cast iron piece on the grill.

Heat the grill up, let it run until the cast iron piece has stopped smoking.

Turn off grill and let cool down.

Repeat.

I was able to perfectly season a set of cast iron Pie Irons with no problem. Read the rest

Adding pink seaweed to cow feed eliminates their methane emissions

One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane production and "completely knocks out" cows' methane emissions. Read the rest

A deep dive into how parasites hijack our behavior and how we evolved to resist them

On Slate Star Codex (previously), Scott Alexander breaks down Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, Marco Del Giudice's Quarterly Review of Biology paper that examines the measures that parasites take to influence their hosts' behaviors, and the countermeasures that hosts evolve to combat them. Read the rest

NASA is going to Europa

NASA announced today that the agency is moving ahead with a planned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. In this next phase, engineers will complete the final design, construction, and testing of the Europa Clipper spacecraft for a launch as soon as 2023. Why the icy moon Europa? From NASA:

NASA's Europa Clipper mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa to see whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. The mission will carry a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft that will perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon from a long, looping orbit around Jupiter.

The payload of selected science instruments includes cameras and spectrometers to produce high-resolution images of Europa's surface and determine its composition. An ice penetrating radar will determine the thickness of the moon's icy shell and search for subsurface lakes similar to those beneath Antarctica. The mission also will carry a magnetometer to measure strength and direction of the moon's magnetic field, which will allow scientists to determine the depth and salinity of its ocean.

"This is a giant step in our search for oases that could support life in our own celestial backyard," says Europa program scientist Curt Niebur.

That's all well and good, assuming we attempt no landing there.

image: NASA/JPL-Caltech Read the rest

Canada's election watchdog: ads saying climate change is real may break law

The BBC reports that Canada's election watchdog claims that advertisements saying climate change is real may break the law, because it is a political opinion and "issue" advertising is partisan political activity.

Canada has strict regulations on partisan advertising during the election period, whether they be from candidates, parties or third-party organisations. ... Keith Brooks, programme director for advocacy group Environmental Defence, says Elections Canada told him that because one candidate denies that climate change is an issue, any ad urging action on climate change, or calling climate change an emergency, could be considered partisan. ... Mr Cornish says it is "absolutely ludicrous" that charities are barred from advocacy work on climate change during the election just because one of the party's platforms denies it is an issue.

"We're talking here about someone's opinion overruling scientific consensus around the need to adapt to climate change," he said.

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1000fps video reveals the underlying action of a stinging ant's venom injection for the very first time

Ant Lab's Adrian Smith (previously) writes, "No one had ever filmed how ants inject venom when they sting something. I study ants and I make videos, so I went to work on getting that footage. It involved filming something smaller than a human hair moving faster than the blink of an eye. But, I got the footage. In the video I explain what is happening and why I think its cool and an important scientific observation. Plus there's a little ant rodeo scene that people seem to like." Read the rest

Animated comparison of tree sizes

Just for your information, there are some very teeny and some quite enormous trees.

keshitsubo grass, wheat sunflower, Apple tree Rocky Mountain Juniper, Socotra Dragon tree olive, Salix Babylonica Common Hawthorn, Southern Live oak Mediterranean cypress, Stone Pine Limber Pine, Palm tree Baldcypress, Sycamore Araucaria Araucana, Common Oak Brazil Nut, Kauri Eucalyptus, Patagonian cypress Noble fir, Giant Sequoia Coast Douglas fir, Yellow Meranti Sequoia sempervirens

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Find awe in the biology of these incredible leaping maggots

Above is a three-millimeter long maggot launching itself into the air for a distance of up to 36 times its body length. Researchers from Duke University and their colleagues studied how these larvae of gall midges leap between plants with the greatest of ease, even rivaling some jumping insects with legs. Their research could have applications in soft robotics and adhesives. From the Journal of Experimental Biology:

They store elastic energy by forming their body into a loop and pressurizing part of their body to form a transient ‘leg’. They prevent movement during elastic loading by placing two regions covered with microstructures against each other, which likely serve as a newly described adhesive latch. Once the latch releases, the transient ‘leg’ launches the body into the air. These discoveries integrate three vibrant areas in engineering and biology – soft robotics, small, high-acceleration systems, and adhesive systems – and point toward a rich, and as-yet untapped area of biological diversity of worm-like, small, legless jumpers.

(via Scientific American)

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See the Perseids meteor shower through August 24

The Perseid meteor shower peaked last night (8/13) but you'll still be able to spot them streaking across the sky through August 24. The meteors are particles left behind by the comet Swift-Tuttle. From NASA's Perseids page:

How to Observe Perseids

If it’s not cloudy, pick an observing spot away from bright lights, lay on your back, and look up! You don’t need any special equipment to view the Perseids – just your eyes. (Note that telescopes or binoculars are not recommended.) Meteors can generally be seen all over the sky so don’t worry about looking in any particular direction.

While observing this month, not all of the meteors you’ll see belong to the Perseid meteor shower. Some are sporadic background meteors. And some are from other weaker showers also active right now, including the Alpha Capricornids, the Southern Delta Aquariids, and the Kappa Cygnids. How can you tell if you’ve seen a Perseid? If you see a meteor try to trace it backwards. If you end up in the constellation Perseus, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a Perseid. If finding constellations isn’t your forte, then note that Perseids are some of the fastest meteors you’ll see!

Pro tip: Remember to let your eyes become adjusted to the dark (it takes about 30 minutes) – you’ll see more meteors that way. Try to stay off of your phone too, as looking at devices with bright screens will negatively affect your night vision and hence reduce the number of meteors you see!

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Staring at seagulls may deter them from stealing your food, research says

Researchers at the University of Exeter say pesky seagulls at holiday vacation spots tend to be deterred somewhat from stealing your food when you just stare at them. Yep, maintaining hostile eye contact with a gull may deter them from snarfing your french fries. Read the rest

Artificial tongue's nanoscale "tastebuds" can sort real whisky from counterfeits more than 99% of the time

In Whisky tasting using a bimetallic nanoplasmonic tongue (Nanoscale/Royal Society of Chemistry), a team from U Glasgow's School of Engineering describe their work on an "artificial tongue" lined with "tastebuds" that sense "plasmonic resonance" (the absorption of light by liquids) to produced highly detailed accounts of the profiles of Scotch whiskys, which can be used to determine whether a given whisky is counterfeit. Read the rest

Monkeys can discern the order of items in a list, a skill that may help them manage their social lives

Many non-human animals, from apes to rats to crows, appear to be able to keep track of the order of items in a list. Read the rest

How the Apollo 11 rocket was projected onto the Washington Monument

Earlier this month, I was in Washington DC during the Smithsonian's festivities around the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first human moon landing. As you likely saw, UK-based creative studio 59 Productions and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum collaborated on an astonishing audiovisual experience centered around a lifesize Saturn V rocket projected onto the Washington Monument. Read the rest

NASA fed moonrocks to cockroaches and injected moon dust into mice

When the Apollo 11 crew brought home a big stash of moon rocks in 1969, NASA scientists immediately kicked off a series of carefully-planned tests to ensure that even tiny amounts of lunar dust wouldn't be bad news for Earth's biosphere. "We had to prove that we weren't going to contaminate not only human beings, but we weren't going to contaminate fish and birds and animals and plants and you name it," said Charles Berry, who was in charge of medical operations for the Apollo missions. From Space.com:

First, NASA chose the species it would use. In addition to the mice, the agency and its partners also selected other representative species: Japanese quail to represent birds, a couple of nondescript fish, brown shrimp and oysters for shellfish, German cockroaches and houseflies for creepy-crawlies, and more....

Then, the agency tapped into its precious cache of 49 lbs. (22 kilograms) of newly delivered lunar material. Scientists ground everything to dust, half of which they baked to sterilize and half of which they left as it was. The prescription varied a little with animal type: mice and quail got the lunar sample as an injection, insects had the sample mixed into their food and aquatic animals had the moon dust added to the water they lived in.

NASA watched the menagerie for a month in case anything seemed to suffer from the lunar exposure. The German cockroaches that were fed moon dust — true to the insects' reputation — thrived despite the exotic diet.

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Check out this massive dinosaur femur just found in France

This week, French paleontologists unearthed a two-meter long dinosaur femur in southwestern France. From Reuters:

The... femur at the Angeac-Charente site is thought to have belonged to a sauropod, herbivorous dinosaurs with long necks and tails which were widespread in the late Jurassic era, over 140 million years ago.

“This is a major discovery,” Ronan Allain, a paleontologist at the National History Museum of Paris told Reuters. “I was especially amazed by the state of preservation of that femur.”

“These are animals that probably weighed 40 to 50 tonnes.”

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Scite: a tool to find out if a scientific paper has been supported or contradicted since its publication

The Scite project has a corpus of millions of scientific articles that it has analyzed with deep learning tools to determine whether any given paper has been supported or contradicted by subsequent publications; you can check Scite via the website, or install a browser plugin version (Firefox, Chrome). (Thanks, Josh!) Read the rest

Solar sail test successful so far!

Yesterday, a satellite smaller than a shoebox unfurled a solar sail making it the first spacecraft to orbit the Earth powered by sunlight. LightSail2 is a project of the Planetary Society, a fantastic nonprofit organization co-founded by astronomer and science educator Carl Sagan. From the New York Times:

For centuries, it was only a dream: traveling through space propelled by the sun’s photons. It was first imagined in the 1600s by Johannes Kepler, the German astronomer who described the laws of the planets’ orbits. In 1964, Arthur C. Clarke moved it into the realm of science fiction in “Sunjammer,” a short story. Carl Sagan, the cosmologist, believed it could be more than a speculative fantasy, and in the 1970s began promoting the building of solar sails for space exploration.

After 10 years of planning and over 40,000 private donations worth $7 million, that idea took flight on Tuesday, as LightSail 2, a spacecraft built for the Planetary Society, co-founded by Mr. Sagan, began what its creators hope will be a year of sailing around Earth.

“This is still one of the most feasible pathways to have real interstellar space travel in the future,” said Sasha Sagan, a writer as well as the daughter of the astronomer.

If it succeeds in its mission, it will contribute to overcoming one of the greatest limitations on the outer bounds of space travel — that the power that steers spacecraft, usually hydrazine fuel, eventually runs out.

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