What we're talking about Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Exoplanet Extravaganza

“It isn’t only the beauty of the night sky that thrills me. It’s the sense I have that some of those points of light are the home stars of beings not so different from us, daily cares and all. who look across space with wonder, just as we do.” -Frank Drake What is it that…

As more and more exoplanets (at first) and earth-like exoplanets (eventually) have been discovered, the way thy are described to us has become increasingly sophisticated. Below are embeds of diverse video descriptions that have been very quickly developed and distributed given the freshness of this latest scientific discovery. Note that the practice of very clearly…

Exoplanet hunters have discovered a cache of rocky planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1 only forty light-years away. Compared to our sun, TRAPPIST-1 is tiny, and all its planets orbit closer than Mercury orbits Sol. But three of them are still in the Goldilocks zone that could be just right for life, and all seven planets could theoretically hold liquid water. While Ethan Siegel introduces the neighboring star system with spectacular illustrations from NASA and ESO, Greg Laden says that the practice of saying these images are artistic interpretations "has largely fallen by the wayside." Instead, scientific outreach has turned to storytelling in order to capture public interest.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Similar to humans, muscle growth in fish is increased with exercise. Unlike humans, however, teleost fish are able to continue growing in length as well as weight throughout their lives. This type of meat, I mean muscle, growth happens in two ways: 1) muscle cells get bigger and 2) new muscle cells form. Researchers at the University of Barcelona in…

Apparently, flamboyant cuttlefish are born looking snazzy.

Biologist and author Bill Schutt has a new book out: Cannibalism: A perfectly natural history. He and I talked about cannibalism on Ikonokast: Click here to check it out! It is was a fun interview, and Bill’s book is excellent. See also: You Come From Cannibals Among Cannibals Cannibal, Native, Indigenous On Cannibalism and Jameson…

Physical Science

“When a star goes supernova, the explosion emits enough light to overshadow an entire solar system, even a galaxy. Such explosions can set off the creation of new stars.” -Todd Nelsen In February of 1987, the first light from a supernova some 168,000 light years away was observed on Earth. It became the closest supernova…

“I didn’t even know there were stars to look at to not see. If you don’t know that they’re there, you don’t know that you’re missing them.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson, on light pollution As with pretty much every week that goes by, we’ve had a slew of fantastic stories here at Starts With A Bang! There have…

“The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons.” -Edwin Hubble As you look to greater and greater distances, you’re looking back in time in the Universe. But thanks to dark energy, what we can see and access today isn’t always going to be accessible. As galaxies grow more distant with the accelerated expansion…

Environment

Similar to humans, muscle growth in fish is increased with exercise. Unlike humans, however, teleost fish are able to continue growing in length as well as weight throughout their lives. This type of meat, I mean muscle, growth happens in two ways: 1) muscle cells get bigger and 2) new muscle cells form. Researchers at the University of Barcelona in…

Or, as John Abraham puts it in the Graun, Just who are these 300 ‘scientists’ telling Trump to burn the climate? It appears that long-term union man Lindzen has been organising again, buoyed perhaps by the prospect of some kind of reward from the Trump admistration. It seems rather notable to me, however, that none…

Earlier this month, news broke of a study that found potentially health-harming chemicals in a variety of fast food packaging. Upon hearing such news, the natural inclination is to worry that you’re ingesting those chemicals along with your burger and fries. Study researcher Graham Peaslee says that’s certainly a risk. But perhaps the greater risk, he says, happens after that hamburger wrapper ends up in landfill and the chemicals seep into our environment and water.

Humanities

Similar to humans, muscle growth in fish is increased with exercise. Unlike humans, however, teleost fish are able to continue growing in length as well as weight throughout their lives. This type of meat, I mean muscle, growth happens in two ways: 1) muscle cells get bigger and 2) new muscle cells form. Researchers at the University of Barcelona in…

Navy shipbuilders get lucrative contracts despite worker safety violations; Baltimore airport executive cited in worker retaliation case; thousands of California workers have potentially harmful blood lead levels; and immigrant workers lose their jobs after joining national protests.

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand…

Education

Similar to humans, muscle growth in fish is increased with exercise. Unlike humans, however, teleost fish are able to continue growing in length as well as weight throughout their lives. This type of meat, I mean muscle, growth happens in two ways: 1) muscle cells get bigger and 2) new muscle cells form. Researchers at the University of Barcelona in…

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand…

Pitcher plants are a known enemy of insects, but perhaps beneficial for people suffering from celiac disease. Chemist Dr. David Schriemer at the University of Calgary was studying the pitcher plant Nepenthes x ventrata (shown above) in his search for an enzyme similar to pepsin for use in his experiments. Pitcher plants secrete digestive fluids with a pH similar…

Politics

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), joined by 26 of his colleagues, has introduced the Scientific Integrity Act (S 338), which would require agencies that conduct or fund scientific research to develop and enforce scientific integrity policies.

Outrage at Donald Trump has coalesced around several political loci, including women’s rights, immigration, environmentalism, and scientific endeavor at large. As Trump threatens to roll back regulations and de-fund universities, Mark Hoofnagle points out that science has always been political, increasingly so in an age when politicians control huge sums of money devoted to basic…

Last night, I went to an event, apparently organized by an indivisible group, in Plymouth Mass. Plymouth is in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, and is represented by Congressman Erik Paulsen. Paulsen took over, years ago, from a “reasonable Republican” that even Democrats in CD03 remember fondly. But Paulsen has quietly and without fanfare served as…

Medicine

Cranks love ’em: Cash “challenges” demanding that skeptics and scientists “prove” the scientific consensus. Of course, these challenges are always rigged.

Earlier this month, news broke of a study that found potentially health-harming chemicals in a variety of fast food packaging. Upon hearing such news, the natural inclination is to worry that you’re ingesting those chemicals along with your burger and fries. Study researcher Graham Peaslee says that’s certainly a risk. But perhaps the greater risk, he says, happens after that hamburger wrapper ends up in landfill and the chemicals seep into our environment and water.

Case and Deaton’s analysis of increasing mortality rates among white middle-age Americans made a connection to economic phenomena, but their analysis didn’t discuss specific pathways that might lead from one to the other. A group of doctoral students at UMass Lowell’s Work Environment Program set out to explore those causal pathways.

Brain & Behavior

As I was looking through the scientific literature the other day, I came across an article published in 1973, “The Evolutionary Advantages of Being Stupid.” With a title like that, how could I not read it? In this article Dr. Eugene D. Robin discussed how larger and more complex brains are associated with greater intelligence, which…

Happy Valentine’s Day! Inotocin is the insect form of the so-called “love” hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, as you may know, is responsible for inducing labor in pregnant women. A recent study published in Scientific Reports describes the work of a team of researchers that created a synthetic version of inotocin which could bind to both oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in human tissues.…

The story begins in 1999 when Leonie, a zebra shark (aka a leopard shark in Australia), was captured from the wild. In 2006 she was transferred to Reef HQ Aquarium in Queensland, Australia where she met her mate. By 2008, she had started laying eggs and the pair had multiple litters of offspring through sexual reproduction. After her…

Technology

This is much better than the one you’ve already seen.

Drones are so early 20th century: That doesn’t actually look too hard to make. The only tricky part is how to attach it to the monkey.

Your objective is to learn Python programming. Everybody has to learn Python. You are looking for a book that will make that easier for you. One possibility, one that I’ll recommend for most people in this situation, is Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming. To cut to the chase, there are two…

Information Science

My library’s Hackfest was yesterday so I’m feeling kind of burnt out today. Today’s linked post cheers me immensely, in a side-eye, gallows humour kind of way. This recent Retraction Watch post is funny and you should read the whole thing: Got “significosis?” Here are the five diseases of academic publishing. Significosis Neophilia Theorrhea Arigorium…

US president Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, is a terrible idea for many different reasons and has been widely condemned. Banning people due to their refugee status, religion or national origin has no place in a civilized society. while it has been overturned in…

Why music ownership matters Forgetting What I’ve Heard: Why I Miss Buying Music Henry Rollins: Will I Be Able to Finish Listening to All My Records Before I Die? Beyond Jazz’s Boys Club The Forgotten Architects of Jazz — And the New York Women Bringing Them Back Beyond the boys club: Striving for diversity and…

Jobs

Case and Deaton’s analysis of increasing mortality rates among white middle-age Americans made a connection to economic phenomena, but their analysis didn’t discuss specific pathways that might lead from one to the other. A group of doctoral students at UMass Lowell’s Work Environment Program set out to explore those causal pathways.

Navy shipbuilders get lucrative contracts despite worker safety violations; Baltimore airport executive cited in worker retaliation case; thousands of California workers have potentially harmful blood lead levels; and immigrant workers lose their jobs after joining national protests.

Fewer economic opportunities may be exposing black and Hispanic workers to an increased risk of workplace injury, according to a new study.