My Top Posts of 2012
Personally, 2012 has been a pretty incredible year. I’ve traveled all over the country - and the continent! - and had some pretty great adventures with some pretty great people. Unfortunately, that’s meant I had to take a bit of a break from blogging. Still, the tumblrsphere has been fair to me this year, and it’s been a blast being able to share my passion with such an enthusiastic following. I appreciate your friendship, loyalty, and most of all, your love for science!
I hope you’ve all had a great year. Peace out 2012!
- Amazing plans for an underground park in NYC
- The mesmerizing harlequin shrimp
- Breaking dinosaur news!
- The Möbius bagel
- NASA probe allows for visualizing solar storms
- Awesome ads for the Vancouver Science Center
- Bridging the gap between math and art
- Two posts about Felix Bumgartner and the Red Bull Stratos
- A gynandromorph cardinal
- Pi in the sky
Since I’m in a generous mood, here are some honorable mentions:
7:20 pm |
December 31 2012
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Check out this time lapse message from the ISS
If you’re in the holiday spirit, be sure to crank up the volume and hit the full screen button for this amazing time lapse video taken by the crew of the International Space Station.
Happy holidays, everyone!
3:20 pm |
December 25 2012
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How do plants grow in outer space?
Scientists have long argued that the Earth’s gravity was critical to a plant’s ability to position and develop its roots. Without the downward cues of gravity, it’s thought, the behavior of the roots would be unpredictable. Scientists aboard the International Space Station decided to test this notion on a recent trip in space. They took two Arabidopsis plants, one on the ground and one in space, and imaged the root growth every 6 hours for 15 days. While the spacebound plants grew slower, their root behavior was highly similar. That means gravity might not have much or any impact on how plants grow. The findings leave other factors, like perhaps moisture or light avoidance, as the main candidates for root growth determinants.
2:00 pm |
December 24 2012
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The retirement of a veteran NASA satellite
The Landsat 5 satellite was launched with an expected lifetime of 3 years. 29 years, 150,000 orbits, and 2.5 million pictures later, the satellite will finally end its service to the USGS due to a faulty gyroscope. Throughout its tenure, it has captured some iconic images, which Wired has showcased. Above are two highlights: the top image is the stunning Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar, and the bottom image shows the trail of destruction in the wake of a tornado that hit southwestern Massachusetts.
12:01 pm |
December 24 2012
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Anonymous asked: is it weird that I really want to eat one of those caterpillars?
I know where you’re coming from, but I would be satisfied with a simple poke.
3:21 am |
December 24 2012
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Cargo Cults and Creationists
Cargo cults are one of my favorite anthropological phenomena. They arose on tiny isolated Pacific Islands during World War II, when the Japanese and American militaries used the islands as landing strips and supply caches. All of a sudden, the islanders, who had been using primitive tools and technology, were confronted with an industrial culture and military. The islanders were given food and trinkets which seemed to magically appear from the sky as ‘cargo.’ Given their previous total isolation, they had no way of comprehending the situation. Many islanders believed the visitors and the goods were gifts from their gods. As suddenly as the foreigners appeared, however, they disappeared when the war was over, and the islanders were left without the excitement - and more importantly, without the foreign riches. Thinking they had fallen out of favor with the gods, the islanders decided to mimic exactly the foreigners, who were clearly blessed by the gods, in hopes of bringing the cargo back. And so they did - they took up marching, with sticks instead of guns, and they built elaborate replicas of things like planes and radios - not with metal and silicon, but with materials from the island. They believed that these material objects and demonstrations were the source of American power - missing, of course, the true sources of American wealth.
So what’s the relevance? I was reminded of cargo cults this week when I read about a controversy surrounding a leading creationist organization, the Discovery Institute (DI). They released a video criticizing population genetics, narrated by their developmental biologist standing in front of her lab. Or so we’re led to believe. In fact, the ‘scientist’ was standing in front of a green screen, and the lab was a stock image from Shutterstock. The fraud was pointed out by a number of science bloggers, and the defiant DI responded by releasing an actual picture of Ann Gauger in her lab, complete with a petri dish, some parafilm, reagent bottles, and even a small hood.
They’re completely missing the point. The real joke wasn’t that the creationists used a green screen when they had an ‘actual lab’ (although that’s pretty funny in its own right). The joke is that the DI thought showing off a fancy lab was going to grant them scientific legitimacy. It might have impressed some science-illiterate yokels, but it’s not fooling a single academic. The pictures of squirt bottles and jars in a lab are the equivalent of the cargo cult’s palm frond version of a fighter jet. This controversy shows the creationists want to look like scientists in lieue of acting like scientists. Doing science doesn’t mean having expensive or flashy equipment; you can do science with just a curtain and your hands. So clearly science is not the sum of your lab stockroom. To do real science, the DI would need to collect evidence and then proceed to a hypothesis to explain the pattern, instead of starting with a belief and then seeking the evidence to prove it; conduct actual research, instead of putting forward untestable predictions; and address all relevant evidence, instead of only picking out facts they can distort to support their worldview.
For some reason, though, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more cargo cult science than journal articles coming from the DI in the future.
11:14 pm |
December 21 2012
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Is NASA’s new spacesuit a ripoff of Buzz Lightyear?
The astronaut fashion industry was in an uproar this week about NASA’s announcement of a new prototype spacesuit. Why the commotion? I think you can see for yourself - it seems to be an elaborate homage to the star of Toy Story. This is not, however, the first instance of NASA mirroring the styles of Hollywood; check out Wired’s gallery of how fact has mimicked fiction in spacesuit design.
4:51 pm |
December 21 2012
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The giant star Zeta Ophiuchi is having a “shocking” effect on the surrounding dust clouds in this infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Stellar winds flowing out from this fast-moving star are making ripples in the dust as it approaches, creating a bow shock seen as glowing gossamer threads, which, for this star, are only seen in infrared light.
4:46 pm |
December 21 2012
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