Misc

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Category archives for Misc

Last Week on ResearchBlogging.org

Researchers observed tiny voids forming in silicon used for solar panels; these voids provide physical evidence of the Staebler-Wronski effect, “which reduces the solar cell efficiency by up to 15 percent within the first 1000 hours.” Using an online avatar with a skin color other than your own makes you less racist in real life;…

Spoiler Alert: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie is a nearly perfect piece of entertainment, combining conventional action, absurdist comedy, and a bit of family drama while subverting some narrative clichés. The message of the film changes: from there shall be a hero, to anyone can be a hero, to everyone can be a hero. For exposing both prophecy and villainy as BS, The Lego Movie gets an A+ in the moral-of-the-story department.

As an alternative to biblical creationism, Intelligent Design infers a less obtrusive God to explain life on Earth. This deity doesn’t hurl bolts of lightning, unless it’s with the express purpose of sparking abiogenesis in the primordial soup. On EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse dismisses probabilistic arguments against the likelihood of complex organisms, explaining that even the most…

Recalculating Round Numbers

The price of human genome sequencing has fallen spectacularly since the turn of the century; what then cost $100,000,000 is now promised for only $1000. This race toward zero makes even Moore’s Law look like a snail’s pace, but the $1000 price tag does come with a couple asterisks. For one, providers will need high…

The Dead Planet

Ethan Siegel calls Mars “the obvious first step in our journey to the stars” and “part of our dreams for reaching out into the Universe.” Last year thousands of people applied to join Mars One, a proposed colonization effort slash reality show that plans to put humans on the red planet in 2023. But unless…

Horror Vacui

Aristotle thought that there could be no lasting void in the natural order, that any emptiness would be instantaneously filled. Of course Aristotle was full of batty ideas. But this one came to be rephrased by philosophers and Vulcans alike as “nature abhors a vacuum,” enduring as a powerful metaphor if not a precisely factual…

The Time I Broke My Neck

This is a story with a happy ending, or at least a happy middle, because it isn’t over yet. Right after it began I found myself floating face down in the water, drifting very slowly with the current, trying to stand but hardly able to move my legs. Trying to swim, but unable to move…

Cold, Hard Facts

Coldness can manifest where you least expect it: on a planet rapidly warmed by the combustion of fossil fuel, or in the heart of a star 250 times as massive as our own. On Greg Laden’s Blog, Greg explains that an apparent “recovery” of Arctic sea ice from its historic low in 2012 does not…

Talk Shows vs. The Truth

Katie Couric riled up the internet last week with her uncritical promotion of anti-vaccine viewpoints on her talk show. It was certainly a twist in the professional narrative of a woman who has undergone televised colonoscopy and mammography to promote cancer awareness. That awareness should have been front-and-center in her discussion of HPV vaccines as…

Santa Claus is a Black Gay Vampire

You may be too young to know the truth about Santa Claus, but dear old Saint Nick is not the affable Anglo-Saxon philanthropist he appears to be.  In fact, evidence suggests that he is an unholy creature of the night, an ancient vampire who would suck out your blood if you didn’t placate him with…