Last 24 Hours

Friday Cephalopod: Legal precedent

By carrying that coconut, octopuses of this sort made a change in their legal status necessary. The extent of octopus intelligence is debated, at least among vertebrates, but there is evidence of pretty complex behavior, including possible tool use. See, e.g., J.K. Finn, T. Tregenza, and M.D. Norman, “Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus,”…

I was proctoring an exam yesterday in two different sections of the same class, so I had a lot of quite time. Which means I wrote not one but two new posts for Forbes… The first continues a loose series of posts about the exotic physics behind everyday objects (something I’m toying with as a…

Antivaccine activism endangers children. Of that there is no longer any doubt. As vaccination rates fall, the risk of outbreaks of dangerous vaccine-preventable infectious diseases among children rise. In the wake of the Disneyland measles outbreak earlier this year, several states introduced measures to restrict nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine requirements. The record in passing…

Human released greenhouse gas pollution changes the climatic system through a variety of mechanisms. Trade winds and jet streams change their patterns of movement, and the distribution of moisture in the air changes, with precipitation either lacking more than usual or being more abundant than usual. The patterns of movement of major air masses and…

I consider myself a fairly technically adept person, even at the advanced age of 52. But yesterday I was listening to an album on my laptop using iTunes — something I actually fairly rarely do, as I mostly only use iTunes on shuffle on my phone — and after I tried to figure out how…

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” –H. P. Lovecraft When it comes to risk assessment, there’s one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It’s why so many of us are…

A large portion of the glacial mass in Antarctic, previously thought to be relatively stable, is now understood to be destablizing. This is new research just out in Science. The abstract is pretty clear: Growing evidence has demonstrated the importance of ice shelf buttressing on the inland grounded ice, especially if it is resting on…

State Of Emergency in California

Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the Santa Barbara oil spill. Phyllis Grifman, associate director of the USC Sea Grant Program, is quoted i a a University of Southern California press release as saying, “Nothing worked – they found out about this because people camping nearby or living nearby smelled it.…

Recent pieces address the American Chemistry Council and flame retardants; the avian flu that’s hitting Midwestern poultry farms; what the next labor fight will tackle; and more.

Elsevier has released a new scholarly article sharing policy which is definitely more disappointing than really any cause for cheer. Basically the crux is that the only place that authors are allowed to have the final publication version of an article in a non-open access Elsevier publication is on the Elsevier website itself. Of course,…

Breaking Boards

One of the highlights of teaching introductory mechanics is always the “karate board” lab, which I start off by punching through a wooden board. That gets the class’s attention, and then we have them hang weights on boards and measure the deflection in response to a known force. This confirms that the board behaves like…

Why is FOX News Anti-American?

It is a fiction that the right wing, and the Republican party, and their primary philosophical guru (Rush Limbaugh) and mouthpiece (FOX News) are more American, more security-savvy, and more patriotic than Liberals, Progressives, and Democrats. This fiction is part of a common bully tactic you already know about because you were either bothered by…

Shamelessly stolen from Brian at Eli’s (this is about plagiarism, after all) is the Ed Wegman, Yasmin Said, Milt Johns Sue John Mashey For $2 Million as reported by JM. Brian’s My one semi-serious comment is that this is the quality of the opposition. We ought to be kicking their butt. is worth a ponder.…

The risk of hot and cold weather

A new paper is just out in The Lancet that examines the mortality risk of high and low ambient temperatures. The basic idea is that if it is either to hot or too cold, mortality may increase, possibly with the weather being a factor to augment the effects of other health problems, or as a…

Epigenetics. As I’ve described before, to alternative medicine practitioners, epigenetics seems to mean something akin to what the word “quantum” means: Magic. I’ve covered, for example, the woo-filled stylings of Deepak Chopra invoking things like “quantum consciousness,” and seemingly for quite a few years the best way to slap a patina of “sciencey”-sounding credibility on…