What Everyone Gets Wrong About Newton's Apple
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Image Credit: APS Physics(Click to enlarge)A passage from a manuscript written by one of Newton's contemporaries, recording the version of the apple tree story as Newton tells it: \"...therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple.\" Image Credit: The Royal Society, Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton's Life by Sir William StukeleyIf you can decipher that kind of handwriting, you can read the full text free online at the link above! It's not the apple bit that I have a problem with; that's an important part of the story, and even historically accurate! In a flash of insight, he realizes that there must be some force pulling the apple toward the earth. The man himself is recorded as saying that his \"eureka\" moment really did come after seeing an apple fall from a tree.

Fighting Ice With...Ice?
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This series of images (click to enlarge) shows an aluminum sample with elevated grooves after 0, 1, 2, and 3 hours in a supersaturated environment. You can see that the ice is contained to the elevated grooves and grows upward over time. However, the ice stripes disrupted the usual behavior. There, the ice stripes grew upward, away from the surface. For example, we’d need a method for patterning ice stripes on a large object.

Holiday Instability
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The reason Christmas trees topple so easily is because their base is so small. Anything making small contact with the ground relative to its size is going to be fairly unstable. It only has to be pushed past its edge of contact with the ground before it starts to tip over. Likewise, an object will tip over more slowly when it's center of mass is further away from the pivot point. That means the menorah, with the higher center of mass, will be easiest to control and easiest to juggle.

Art and the Elegant Universe
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Using science and art together not only energized my studio practice, but it also changed the way I see our universe. I want to figure out a way to have the least amount of distance between the viewer and the art. I want to figure out a way to have the least amount of distance between the viewer and the art. My goal is to lure in science phobic people with handsome art, then blow their minds with cool science. My goal is to lure in science phobic people with handsome art, then blow their minds with cool science.

Biden Names Top Geneticist Eric Lander as Science Adviser
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US president-elect Joe Biden has chosen decorated geneticist Eric Lander as presidential science adviser and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Many scientists have long called for the OSTP director to be raised to a cabinet-level position. When Biden named Lander to his team on 15 January, he also announced a number of other respected scientists to key positions in his administration. One major question is what parts of science policy Lander and his office will be responsible for. The outgoing OSTP director, meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier, wasn’t appointed by President Donald Trump until more than a year and a half into his administration.

How the Suburbs Could Help Save Biodiversity
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This past summer saw at least tens of thousands of migrating birds drop dead from the sky over the Southwest. Too many of the exotic plants sold in nurseries are essentially inedible to most native animals. Yes, you’re saving water over planting thirsty ornamentals or a lawn, but drought-tolerant exotic plants can become invasive disasters when they escape our yards. Even in drier areas, like the American West, the selection of attractive native plants to choose from is vast. For those disenchanted with dry landscaping, using underappreciated and lush water-loving native plants to make your garden a real-life oasis could lifesaving to wildlife.

The Timeless Journey of the Möbius Strip
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If you were to trace both “sides” of a Möbius strip, you would never have to lift your finger. The figurative and narrative implications of the Möbius strip are rich: when you try to go forward, you ring sideways, when you try to circle in, you find yourself outside. The continuum of crossing a Möbius strip is emblematic of how we experience time in a nonlinear way. ‘Time passes.’ ‘That’s how it goes,’ Aureliano admitted, ‘but not so much.’”The unorientable quality of the Möbius strip is perhaps its most distinctive. The Möbius band is used in hardware and popular imagery, but the mathematical and scientific fascination with the Möbius strip has also endured for over a century.

The ‘Shared Psychosis’ of Donald Trump and His Loyalists
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The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building last week, incited by President Donald Trump, serves as the grimmest moment in one of the darkest chapters in the nation’s history. One such person is Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist and president of the World Mental Health Coalition. Expert on the psychology of Donald Trump and his supporters says their behavior can be explained by a “narcissistic symbiosis” and “shared psychosis.” Tayfun Coskun Getty ImagesDo you think Trump is truly exhibiting delusional or psychotic behavior? And (3) fixing the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to poor collective mental health in the first place. And the situation with Trump supporters is very similar.

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Shaped Our Language in 2020
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The pandemic has transformed lives and livelihoods. He says a lot of the words that came up fresh to many people in 2020 had existed in scholarly literature for decades. “So, for example, ‘contact tracing’ is attested from 1910—been in use for well over a century. But it took on new life during the pandemic. At a recent virtual meeting, they voted on the 2020 Word of the Year.

Laziness May Have Doomed This Human Ancestor
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\" \" Homo erectus specimen at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins ( CC By-SA 2.0 The reconstructed skull of aspecimen at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. About 20 human species have roamed this planet over the past 7 million years or so, and all but one — here's looking at you! As a species, Homo erectus might have gone extinct because it simply couldn't get its act together. According to Shipton, the sheer laziness of Homo erectus can be observed in the manner in which they made their tools.

The Misunderstood Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
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\" \" A mule-drawn wagon carrying the casket of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is followed by dignitaries and thousands of people as it moves en route to Morehouse College, Atlanta for his memorial service on April 9, 1968. \"The same criticisms made against Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement today were trotted out against Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks 60 years ago. But Clayborne Carson, history professor at Stanford University and founding director of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, points out that King didn't retire after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Of course, Americans have every reason to venerate Martin Luther King and to celebrate his accomplishments. Learn more about the civil rights movement in \"The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle\" by Clayborne Carson (editor).

Cheap Magnets Could Keep Sharks Out of Fishing Nets
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Countless sharks, sea turtles, seals, dolphins, rays and fish of all descriptions needlessly die before they can be thrown back overboard. Philippe Colombi/Getty ImagesWe kill 100 million sharks every year. We found that traps with magnets had roughly 30 percent less likelihood of catching sharks and rays compared to traps without. Win-wins are great, but we've got a long way to go before we make a dent in that 100 million sharks per year. The magnets seem to work well for traps, but magnets don't work on longlines — the lines are fitted with metal hooks, so the magnets tangle the gear.

Who Decides What Goes on Postage Stamps?
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\" The Mister Rogers stamp from the U.S. Postal Service. Postal Service. Ever wonder who decides what appears on our postage stamps? \"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood\" was on the air from 1968 to 2001.

December’s Total Solar Eclipse as Seen from Space
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On December 14, 2020, a camera onboard a satellite recorded something that looked like a brown blob streaking across South America. Individuals on the ground witnessed something more striking: a total solar eclipse, or a daytime blackout triggered by the moon blocking the sun and throwing its shadow on Earth. Though total solar eclipses happen relatively frequently—about once every 18 months—seeing them is lucky. In about 600 million years, total eclipses will stop. The temporary nature of these alignments makes all their recordings valuable, even when the perspective makes what feels like a boundary-breaking moment—shocking darkness in the middle of the day—seem small.

Some Ecological Damage from Trump’s Rushed Border Wall Could Be Repaired
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Hours after his inauguration last Wednesday, incoming president Joe Biden issued an executive order calling for a “pause” to border wall construction within seven days. Most of the newest work is on remote, rugged federal lands that previous administrations bypassed for fence construction. What Restoration Might CostWith fence construction halted, CBP and the Army Corp of Engineers, which jointly oversee fence construction, could end up turning right around to deconstruct projects now in progress. “Trump’s border wall has been hugely destructive to the environment, to wildlife, to habitat connectivity.”Now Biden needs to act quickly, Nicol says. “That scar will always be there.”*Editor’s Note (1/25/21): This sentence was edited after posting to clarify the use of environmental review waivers for border fence construction.

How We Can Deal with 'Pandemic Fatigue'
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Public health experts term this phenomenon “pandemic fatigue” and cite it as a contributor to the increase in incidence rates being witnessed here and in Europe. Understanding pandemic fatigue is challenging because it is not one phenomenon and likely stems from several causes. However, pandemic fatigue also occurs for people who are ostensibly on board with societal attempts to control spread of the virus. Despite its name, pandemic fatigue in these cases is not really about exhaustion or tiredness or depleting a mental resource. One fundamental facet of pandemic fatigue is motivational in nature and is related to the demands life during a pandemic places on our systems for cognitive control and the mental effort costs this incurs.

The Second-Generation COVID Vaccines Are Coming
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Now, a year after the pandemic first erupted, three COVID vaccines have been given emergency authorization by either the U.S. or U.K., as well as other countries. But impressive as they are, these vaccines alone will likely not be sufficient to end the pandemic, experts say. Luckily, there are hundreds of other COVID vaccines under development—including many with new mechanisms of action—that could prove to be effective and cheaper and easier to distribute. And mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer’s and Moderna’s—touted by many as the future of vaccinology—have never previously been brought to market. But instead of injecting the entire spike protein, they have homed in on the virus’s “Achilles’ heel”: the receptor binding domain (RBD), the portion of the spike protein that directly fuses with human cells.

Forever Chemicals Are Widespread in U.S. Drinking Water
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“We're also being exposed to many more PFASs via the drinking water,” Wang says. Higgins notes that people are also exposed to the compounds in substances besides drinking water, such as household products and food. “Aggressively addressing PFAS in drinking water continues to be an active and ongoing priority for the EPA,” an EPA spokesperson wrote to Scientific American. “The agency has taken significant steps to monitor for PFAS in drinking water and is following the process provided under the Safe Drinking Water Act to address these chemicals.”Technologies to remove PFASs from drinking water exist on both household and municipal levels. Some states have instituted or proposed limits on PFASs in drinking water, but experts say federal action is needed to tackle such a widespread problem.

New Ruling Cracks Down on Emotional Support Animals on Planes
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Richard Atrero de Guzman/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesIn a long-awaited ruling, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on Dec. 2, 2020, that \"carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.\" This ruling came after a skyrocketing number of pets flying as service and \"emotional support animals\" (ESAs) — up 150 percent between 2015 and 2017, according to Delta — had prompted the airline and others to enact more stringent requirements for on-board animals. \"The research on the positive impact that emotional support animals have on people who are struggling with mental illness is pretty plentiful,\" says psychologist Tanisha Ranger, who works mainly with veterans. Many passengers looking to avoid this fee had started to classify their pets as emotional support animals. And when untrained animals attack innocent bystanders, it further creates stigma for those who actually need service animals.\"

Where do Meteor Showers come from?
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-Henry Wadsworth LongfellowOnce a year, in mid-August, the Perseid Meteor Shower comes to town. If you're going to see just one meteor shower a year, make it this one. Because the Perseid Meteor Shower is in town! These \"shooting stars\" are what meteors are, and the Earth passing through these dusty trails are when meteor showers occur. That's where meteor showers come from; now get out there and enjoy it!

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