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Archives for August, 2011

Unseen Oscillations

On Brookhaven Bits & Bytes, Steve Kettell brings us up to speed on a new research project taking place beneath a mountain in southern China. The object of study is the neutrino, which can “pass through the Earth and through much of the universe without interacting with anything.” Ethan Siegel explains on Starts With a…

How to Engage an Undergrad?

It’s mid-August, and the school year is nigh. On Dynamics of Cats, Steinn SigurĂ°sson provides a blueprint for a successful academic term, and yes, you should take notes. Steinn writes, “Ideally, the primary teaching delivery would be a wise person at the end of a log [...] unfortunately wise people are in desperately short supply.”…

Billions of B-Cells

On We Beasties, Kevin Bonham tells us all his thoughts on GoD—the Generation of Diversity that enables B-cells “to make antibodies that recognize almost any chemical structure that has ever existed or will ever exist.” By recombining three essential pieces of an antibody (with 100, 30, and 6 variants respectively), using enzymes to slice up…

Intestinal Directions

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers reports that the curling and packing of intestines (which in humans grow to over twenty feet long) follows “simple mathematical rules” akin to “the Fibonacci spirals we see in the head of a sunflower or the coils of a nautilus shell.” Researchers successfully recreated the characteristic curves of a chick gut…

Death Dealers

On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess, Dr. Isis reports that drug-maker Lundbeck “will no longer provide Nembutal to prisons in states where lethal injection is legal.” Nembutal is a barbiturate used in conjunction with two other drugs to execute capital offenders, and an alternative to Sodium Pentothal, which since 2010 has been in short…

Cosmic Breathing Room

On Universe, Claire L. Evans looks back on the starry-eyed futurism of the 1970′s, when Gerard O’Neill envisioned “massive colonies of human habitation in space—self-sustaining environments capable of hosting hundreds of thousands of people.” These colonies, housed in spinning cylinders, “would float in space at Lagrangian points, points of stable gravitational equilibrium located along the…

Nearer to the Stars

NASA’s last shuttle mission has flown, and with no administrative fervor to put a human on Mars, what is humanity’s place in space? On Life at the SETI Institute, Dr. Cynthia Phillips says that for scientific exploration of our solar system, “robots don’t need food or water, they can withstand much more damaging radiation, and,…

A is for Average

On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess, Dr. Isis solicits hypotheses for the increase in the number of A’s awarded to students at American universities. In 1960′s, one out of six students got an A (and C used to be the most Common). Now an A is most common, and the number of C’s (and…