Misc

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Category archives for Misc

Out of the Earth, Out of the Blue

Greg Laden reports on a hominid fossil “recovered from the seabed near Taiwan” which reveals new levels of dental diversity among proto-humans and may qualify as a new species. Greg says the specimen known as Penghu “is yet another indicator that multiple different hominids lived on the Earth at the same time after the rise…

Physics vs. Fishy Footballs

When it was reported that many of the footballs in the AFC Championship game were inflated below the required minimum pressure, the triumphant New England Patriots were accused of cheating. Looking for an explanation, Chad Orzel whipped out some footballs, a freezer, and the Ideal Gas Law to do some delving. Physically, air pressure depends…

Chance Cancer Mutations

This new year, researchers concluded that 2/3 of the difference in cancer risk between different parts of the body can be attributed to the number of stem cell divisions those parts undergo. More cell divisions reflect a higher risk as errors that occur naturally during the DNA replication process can contribute to the development of cancer. In…

More Than One Right Answer

On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle examines the fascinating parallels between hummingbird and insect flight. He and/or she writes: “The researchers placed nontoxic paint on the wing of a ruby-throated hummingbird at 9 different spots then videotaped the animal flying at 1,000 frames per second with 4 cameras simultaneously.” Despite being far removed from insects on…

Supernova Flashes and Silver Linings

New research from the Weizmann Institute of Science reveals that “cells in our brain form little hexagonal grids that keep us oriented, map-like, in our surroundings.” Weizmann’s resident blogger describes this finding as “a pyrotechnic flash of insight that changes how we understand the brain to work.” Game developers delight; this discovery shows “that you…

Corny Science (It’s Good for You)

Modern science stands on the shoulders of giants, as well as average humans, dwarves and elves, ancient civilizations, and all the bones of the dead—forgotten and otherwise. But sometimes you have to start a new branch of science from scratch. On Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel continues his count-up to Dec. 25, the birthday of Sir…

Genetic Drifters

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers criticizes the stubborn obfuscations of Michael Behe, who refuses to yield his illogical calculations. Behe says (rightly) that a certain mutation necessary for drug resistance in the malaria parasite has about a 1 in 1020 chance of occurring. But the mutation is also detected in 96% of malaria patients who respond…

On Aardvarchaeology, Martin Rundkvist compiles his best November tweets into one riotous and insightful document. First up: “This chocolate praline contains something that looks and smells like shampoo. Apparently it’s flavoured with elderflower extract.” Elderberry has been used for medicinal purposes worldwide for thousands of years, but maybe the praline makers should use the delicious…

Freedom Fighters vs. Weak Positions

On Aardvarchaeology, Martin Rundkvist tells the story of a 14-year old Swedish Muslim girl who also happens to be very good at karate. Recently this young woman was disqualified from a tournament because she wears a veil and the rules state “that the umpire needs to be able to watch for damage to each contestant’s…

Isaac Newton’s Holiday Countup

On Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel counts up toward the birthday of that most holy of men: Sir Isaac Newton. Each day Orzel will (hopefully) unveil a new gem that didn’t make it into his exciting new book. On Day 1, Chad wrote about the apocryphal moment of inspiration—in a bathtub—that led the Greek polymath Archimedes…