Cool Links

I don't watch reality performance shows because the few I have seen in America are rather predictable, people dancing or doing weird stuff and whatnot.

But today, via Google Plus, I got a chance to see Kseniya Simonova do sand art and animation on "Ukraine's Got Talent".  The story she tells, in real time, using nothing but sand as her medium and then animating it...it's too ridiculously talented to describe.    You don't have 8 minutes to kill, nor do I, but it is maybe the best 8 minutes you will spend today.

Ads for drugs today are kind of silly. Ads for erectile dysfunction, for example, are weird geological changes happening in real time that end up with a couple sitting in bathtubs in a forest somewhere, instead of being about what men really care about...

Other products have 5 seconds of benefit followed by paragraphs of disclaimers about side effects ending with “see our ad in GOLF magazine”.  Golf magazine must be read solely by really, really ill people. 

It wasn’t always like that. Ads used to be ridiculous exaggerations and downright funny.

See the details here.
On the Internet, and certainly in science blogging, it may seem like biologists are more interested in culture wars with the religious fringe than talking about evolution.

The Institute of Human Origins (IHO) and its Becoming Human outreach site instead conducts, interprets and publicizes scientific research and the sponsorship of scholarly interaction to advance scientific understanding of our origins and its contemporary relevance, which means it is a place people can get smarter.   That's always good.

Here's a screenshot on bipedalism but it's full of good stuff for people of all ages so give it a look:
On August 6th 1991, Tim Berners-Lee, posted a summary of the World Wide Web concept in the alt.hypertext newsgroup.  It was a message that laid the groundwork for a new technology that revolutionized commerce and communication.   You might also want to blame the WWW for spam but, no, the first spam message was in 1978 when Gary Thuerk,  a marketing guy for Digital Equipment Corporation, annoyed 400 of the 2600 people on ARPAnet with an ALL CAPS message promoting a DEC seminar.
Wherever you are – anywhere in the world – on August 5th, contribute to science by taking a photo of a blank white piece of paper, outside in the sun, between 4:00 and 7:00 pm local time.

Your photo will used to measure how much of the sun’s energy is reflected back from the Earth -- our planet's "albedo." It's one way scientists can monitor how much energy – and heat – is being absorbed by our planet.

Read more at ScienceForCitizens.net

Here is what you need to do:

On August 5, 2011, take a photo between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm local time.
Put a white piece of paper on a flat surface. The white paper should fill 1/4 to 1/2 of the total view.
The DNA profile of serial killer Ted Bundy will be uploaded to a national database today, good news for future episodes of "CSI" on television - and maybe some actual CSI people in the field.
What is the world coming to when a man can't even split atoms in his own kitchen any more?   

Richard Handl said he has always been attracted to physics and chemistry and so he decided to do a little citizen science.  It was no secret, he even kept a blog about it.  In it, he described how he managed a minor meltdown at home but there were no dangerous radiation levels.

When he figured he might be doing something illegal - Sweden is progressive and tolerant but they are not the ACLU - he wrote the Sweden's Radiation Authority and they replied to the lovable scamp by sending the police.   What did they find?  Radium, americium and uranium so they arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.
Scientists have discovered a fossilized skull of a tree-climbing ape dating back about 20 million years while looking for fossils in the remnants of an extinct volcano in Karamoja, a semi-arid region in Uganda's northeastern corner.

Preliminary studies determined the tree-climbing herbivore was roughly 10-years-old when it died. Uganda's junior minister for tourism, wildlife and heritage said the skull was a remote cousin of the Hominidea Fossil Ape.

A drought has left the OC Fisher Reservoir in San Angelo State Park of West Texas almost empty, except for stagnant, dead fish that have made the water a deep red.


Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries--San Angelo, and it's a lot more red now.
A piece of debris from NASA's space shuttle Columbia has been discovered in Texas, eight years after the 2003 disaster that destroyed the spacecraft and killed its seven-astronaut crew during re-entry.

The debris is a round aluminum power reactant storage and distribution tank from Columbia and was discovered in an exposed area of Lake Nacogdoches, in Nacogdoches, Texas, about 160 miles northeast of Houston.

Columbia shuttle debris Texas
The controversy over human embryonic stem cell research was a policy one more than a science one; with so many diverse scientists there had to be an ethical standard created by society, just like with animal testing and the environment.

Since the introduction of the 2008 Human Fertilisation Embryology Act in the UK, with standards much looser than the US and most of Europe, 155 ‘admixed’ embryos, containing both human and animal genetic material, have been created according to the Daily Mail.
No one cares about progress and society like the New York State Fair. Check out this beast: a quarter-pound of hamburger between slices of a grilled, glazed doughnut. Throw in cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion and you’ve got yourself a 1,500-calorie meal, including the major food groups, for $5.

Big Kahuna Donut Burger - I want one – at ScienceAndSupermodels.com




Just as some flowers use bright colors to attract insect pollinators, other plants may use sound to lure in nectar-eating bats.  One rain-forest vine has a dish-shaped leaf located above a cluster of flowers that appears to help bats find them (and the plant's tasty nectar) by reflecting back the calls the flying mammals send out, new research indicates. 

While there is other evidence that plants use bats' sonar systems to attract them, this is the first time scientists have shown that a plant can produce an "echo beacon" that cuts through sonic clutter of reflected echoes, and that this signal can cut a bat's search time for food in half, according to the researchers, led by Ralph Simon, a research fellow at the University of Ulm in Germany.
Heavy metals emit low-energy electrons when exposed to X-rays at specific energies, researchers  have found, which raises the possibility that implants made of gold or platinum could allow doctors to destroy tumors with low-energy electrons, while exposing healthy tissue to far less radiation than is possible today.
 
A prototype device shows that specific X-ray frequencies can free low-energy electrons from heavy-metal nanoparticles.  The researchers' computer simulations suggest that hitting a single gold or platinum atom with a small dose of X-rays at a narrow range of frequencies produces a flood of more than 20 low-energy electrons.
A NASA satellite has caught a stunning, yet eerie, video of a huge plasma twister rising up from the surface of the sun.  The video, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows a plasma eruption that swirls up like a tornado to a dizzying height of up to 93,206 miles (150,000 kilometers) above the solar surface.

"Its height is roughly between 10 to 12 Earths," solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told SPACE.com.

"Planet of the Apes" for real?

British film-maker James Marsh’s latest work, Project Nim, is about a 1970s experiment started in the heyday of the original "Planet of the Apes" films, a world where simians evolved and took over the planet.   

Nim was a chimp raised as a human child in order to test out the hypothesis that man and his closest relative could learn to talk to each other.    We learned more about human arrogance than simian intelligence, notes the Daily Mail.
P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula fame asks why something obvious wasn't in the Ten Commandments - not molesting the vulnerable, like kids.   Pretty obvious, but that is not why I link to it.  I link to it because I learned there is actually not only a 'Hobo' set of rules but an actual hobo convention every year, which seems to defy the point of being a hobo but it's still interesting and I got a little smarter knowing that.
The crime-is-in-our-genes notion has popped up in the news (again).  100 years ago it was all the rage.   Charles Davenport, founder of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, expressed concerned that immigrants from southeastern Europe were "given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape and sex immorality." Italians, Davenport asserted, were prone to "crimes of personal violence," and "Hebrews" to "offenses against chastity", John Horgan tells us in the Chronicle.
If you leave a job, you likely just leave a job because it does little good to carpet bomb an employer, especially since future employers frown on militant, slightly unbalanced people.

But it's a Whole Foods - even the shoppers are slightly unbalanced so a future employer won't expect much.  If Whole Foods customer statistics were extrapolated out to the population, vaccine herd immunity would evaporate for the entire country.   They are anti-science kooks, but the progressive kind, so most in science tolerate them in a way they don't do for conservatives because, you know, they aren't shopping next to conservatives in a Whole Foods.
Punctuated equilibrium is a model of how evolutionary change happens.  Like how raising taxes can help poor people in economic theory, it is an often-misinterpreted model but means that evolutionary change can take place in short periods of time - huge jumps associated with speciation events.

It basically was created by paleontologists Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould to account for why there are sometimes no transitional fossils for drastic changes in a species, and the reasons are the small population size, the rapid pace of change, and their isolated location - plus, fossilization is tricky business and requires a lot of things to go right.