Cool Links

The round wheel was invented because, you know, hauling stuff from place to place on circular things made travel a lot smoother. Imagine putting a wagon on triangles, you would be bouncing and jolting the whole time. And, really, that's the only thing I can't do with triangles. Circles are smooooth.

We know round wheels work, so why would anyone do what that oft-used cliché says you should not do and reinvent the wheel?

Because that's math, it doesn't have to be real. Math is a language so mathematicians can travel through time and make me invisible too - just like science fiction writers can. That doesn't mean they will.
There's no question that if someone asks me what is the best way to make coffee, I am going to tell them with my Chemex. All of the expensive machines in the world can't match this elegant feat of simple engineering.

But I am not a coffee snob. Well, sort of not. When Keurig was still just a leased restaurant machine, they had no home version for their single-cup pods, I bought one from a restaurant sale. It was pretty expensive then but today you can get a home machine for around $150. So I was being a little coffee snobbish avant-garde in buying the machine in the first place but now I am the anti-snob, because single cup machines are gauche and a single cup brew from a pod is what I drink in the morning.
Monsanto has given up trying to introduce modern food science to Europe and that has been a windfall for legacy methods of genetic modification.

Now, BASF and DuPont are eating into continental market share using mutagenesis, which mimics the sun’s irradiation of plants, to create herbicide-resistant crops. It's obviously nothing new, before activists discovered worries about precise genetic modification they expressed no concern at all about the older mutagenesis techniques that produced thousands of varieties of lettuce, oats, rice, and other crops.
Modern science is comprised of cold, objective, Spock-like, reason-based, data-driven searchers in a quest for the truths about natural laws.

Ha ha ha.

In reality, science overall is much like it has always been. It is composed of some charlatans chasing the latest popular tripe, some who are in it for the money, some who are terrible and some who are great. Just like any other job. But a modern mythology has been carefully crafted and if you are competing for taxpayer money, it helps to promote the belief that your way is more ethical, noble and pure than science done by the private sector.

It makes for a tidy narrative. And a completely fake one.
The British Library, videogame festival GameCity and software company Crytek, recently launched the “Off The Map” competition, where participants would have to turn historic maps and engravings into a 3D environment using Crytek's CRYENGINE software.

Contestants could elect to depict Stonehenge, the Pyramids at Giza, or the Tower of London.

Six second-year students from De Montfort University in Leicester went one better - instead of just the Tower of London before 1666, they rendered shops and stalls, sooty back alleys and wharves, gallows and church cemeteries, London Bridge and Pudding Lane, where the fire originated. Even the sunlight has an aspect of historical grime to it. 
In its short existence, No Child Left Behind, which was voted into existence in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, accomplished a lot. Girls and boys achieved parity in math for the first time in history, test scores for minorities went up across the board - but it had to die.

It mostly had to die because a Republican had signed it and President Obama, the successor to President Bush, dutifully honored the national teacher's unions once he realized how national politics works. Prior to a looming reelection he had been endorsed both merit pay and No Child Left Behind.

Its successor, because teachers said they do not like 'teaching to the test', are Common Core standards.  And they are taking education from flawed to worse.
Producing research that is accessible, highly-cited, globally visible and impactful is no easy task. Aside from being quality research, it requires multiple other skill sets and competition is fierce.

There are over 3 million research articles written each year and even with pay-to-publish and 'light review' open access journals, only half will show up in international journals.
Know how many scientists got started wondering about nature by blasting ants with a magnifying glass?

Quite a few, actually. While most scientists and engineers don't necessarily like Sid in "Toy Story", they confess to being a lot like him, Frankenstein-ing together toys and hooking things up to firecrackers and such.

With that in mind, The Backyard Brains company has created an app intended to get children to be interested in neuroscience. And I bet it works. But it is controversial, at least among the demographic that makes everything controversial.
Growing custom-made, functioning organs will be regenerative medicine's defining moment and it will happen in 2014, predicts Real Clear Science's Alex Berezow.

But will it be adult stem cells (it needs some work still, as I noted in articles a few times here) or Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (ummm, banned by the Obama administration)?

Alex has the answers in The Wired World In 2014, on newsstands everywhere, or Zinio or iTunes.

The United Nation's geographically chosen panel of climate experts, the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC), is moving fast to correct errors in its first of four sections of its new report, heading off the public relations disaster of the last report, where it was only revealed by critics that the document contained 'grey literature', including an off-hand claim in a magazine, and was in part written by environmental activists.
The 104th Carnival of Math (1101000 in binary - see how clever they are??) is in full swing, with 40 entries. 

The friendship paradox, a flaw in RSA encryption, how combinatronics and Pampers are related, it's all here.

If you, like me, like math and enjoy reading about math, even if you don't always 'get' what they are getting at in some of this, it's worth taking a look. Bonus: 104 is the sum of 8 consecutive even numbers: 6 + 8 + 10 + 12 + 14 + 16 + 18 + 20.

Come Frolic at The 104th Carnival of Math! - Math Frolic
If you are not a celiac, there are numerous reasons not to jump on the gluten-free fad. Gluten-free products are nutrient poor, they're high in sugar, contain preservatives and are made with refined oils. That's not healthier and it's why Lady Gaga got fatter going gluten-free, even though she claimed it was a diet plan.

And if you are celiac, buying gluten-free labels in a store can be dangerous, because they can still have trace amounts of gluten. Like 'organic' food and its dozens of synthetic ingredients and processes allowed, 'gluten-free' does not mean "100%" gluten-free.

5 Reasons To Avoid The Gluten-Free Aisle by Dr. Amy Myers, Mind Body Green
Ask a sociologist, an epidemiologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist or a health guru what causes weight gain and you are going to get answers varying from heteronormative oppression by men to the diet choices of your grandparents and resulting epigenetics to blaming your parents because you swallow a lot of aggression.

Oh. And marketing. That is always to blame. First Lady Michelle Obama did for obesity what Nancy Reagan did for drugs; she basically handed a government subsidy to a bunch of marketing and advertising agencies to solve a problem that she thinks is easily solved if we demonize one segment of culture. But, wait, isn't marketing the problem? Fight fire with fire, people.
In the United States, we have abandoned the experiment of returning to old, successful way of teaching math - No Child Left Behind led to parity for girls and boys for the first time in history but was unpopular with teachers and unions who said we shouldn't be 'teaching to the test'. 

Canada thinks just the opposite; like America in the 1990s, they are watching test scores plummet, and are thinking about abandoning the "concept-based learning" from the early 1900s that America has returned to - but they want to see if there can be a science reason to do so. 
Here's a fun number theory idea for you. 

Say you have a 3x3x3 matrix filled with numbers, including in the very center. So you have 27 numbers in a special 3-dimension configuration. Since there are three axis for such a cube, there are three ways of dividing such a cube into three 3×3 matrices A, B, and C. Once you do that you can get a cubic form by computing

 Datasets are changing the way we approach the world around us. 

10 years ago, you could get by doing terrible numerical models and make rookie statistical errors in understanding data and only 400 people would read it, while even fewer would understand it. Not any more, everyone can now parse data on the Internet so your clever analysis of fMRI images or convenient massaging of results to match your end-oriented beliefs are going to get tripped up pretty quickly.
What do the motion of spinning of a top, computer architecture, and the sugar in your coffee all have in common?

They highlight the beauty of mathematics.

Yann Pineill and Nicolas Lefaucheux created a video where they put equations on the left, the technical diagram in the middle, and then real-life footage of the phenomenon is on the right.

Result: Math makes some incredibly complicated stuff look easy.



H/T Gizmodo
Halloween is just around the corner, but if you live in California, like me, they aren't doing anything fun. They can't even call it Halloween.

So though when you were a kid you might have learned things that excited you about science, like how to make 'slime' using cornstarch and water or, for a little more cost, fog using dry ice and water, that isn't going to happen in 2013.
93 scientists have declared GMO safety a misinformation campaign and deplore the lack of empirical and scientific evidence on which the false claims of “consensus” on safety are being made.

Bring your tinfoil hat.

They say that there is no consensus at all, there are no studies on the health effects of genetically modified food, the ones that exist are terrible, that government and scientific bodies don't really mean it when they endorse the safety of GM foods, that Europe is also lying to the world, and a bunch of other stuff with dozens of footnotes.
'Priming' studies, which suggest that decisions can be influenced by apparently irrelevant actions or events that took place just before the cusp of choice, have been a boom area in psychology over the past decade, though what isn't? fMRI, surveys of college students, claims about epigenetics and just about everything have been used by psychologists fame-whoring mass media for publicity.

Sure, but that is psychology, easily marginalized as soft and wayward, right? 

Not so. Irreproducibility is much more widespread, finds The Economist. It happens in all science and the usual ability of science to self-correct is losing ground.