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Science on Google+ has been at 32 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Science on Google+905,979Please join us for a fascinating and timely lecture on Science Denialism in America with Dr.@109540404351828703434, Assistant Professor at @112087710053841939824. This lecture is hosted by the American Chemical Society and streamed online by @105917944266111687812. Feel free to post your questions on the event post. See below for more details. Link to event: http://columbus.sites.acs.org/meetingnotice.htm Title: A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? The Socioeconomic and Geopolitical Consequences of Science Denialism in America Dr. Michael Stamatikos Department of Physics, Department of Astronomy & Center for Cosmology & AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP) The Ohio State University (OSU) at Newark Abstract: We live in an Information Age that is defined by ever increasing computational benchmarks, which further enable discoveries in traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. However, average cell phones with more computing power than all of NASA circa 1969 are bluntly juxtaposed with a rapidly eroding national capacity for accepting unbiased scientific results. Why is the first nation to reach the Moon scientifically regressing towards the Dark Ages? Although there are several contributing factors, Science Denialism is playing a major role in this disturbing national trend. Science Denialism is the irrational denial of otherwise conclusive scientific evidence, solely based upon a perceived conflict with antecedent political, economic and/or religious worldviews, which results in a selective distortion of scientific understanding. The conflation of skepticism with denialism leads to ambiguous inferences regarding the nature of consensus amongst scientists and provides a historical context for the apparent verisimilitude of pseudoscience, which some have attempted to include into academic curricula. In that regard, I’ll give an astrophysicists’ perspective on common topics such as: evolution, climate change, intelligent design and young Earth creationism, which are periodically the subjects of high-profile public “debates”. This national regression is further exacerbated by a STEM educational crisis and rampant scientific illiteracy/innumeracy amongst the electorate and its appointed government officials, which systematically obstructs our ability to formulate and implement evidence-based policies with bipartisan support. The resulting political dissonance resonates in cyber echo chambers and is further amplified in an era of the 24-hour cable news cycle – especially in a presidential election year. But what is science? How is it done? How do we “know” things? Why is it important? How can we combat this internal threat? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. As practitioners of science, we need to help each other understand on all levels, which means enhancing the quality and content of information when communicating our results, their implications and the scientific process, via education and public outreach. Science A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? Science Denialism in America2016-05-13 02:00:0034  
Science on Google+905,979Menstruation and menopause are two fundamental biological processes in every woman's lifetime. However, both these subjects are shrouded with secrecy, and it's often difficult to have open conversations about them because of cultural taboos. But what are the consequences of silence? What are the economic impacts, the social injustices, and the health risks? Why is it so difficult to find consensus on what menopause is, and what its purpose is?  Join us for a @118119263833644252909  and @105917944266111687812  Hangout on air as we speak to author Rose George about these under-reported topics. Rose wrote two fascinating articles for Mosaic about menstruation and menopause, and we will be exploring these subjects in-depth.    This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229. You can tune in on Saturday 23rd January at 3 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event. Rose's articles: http://mosaicscience.com/story/blood-speaks and http://mosaicscience.com/story/menopause Join the conversation using #MosaicHangout    The Science of Menopause and Menstruation2016-01-23 16:00:0031  
Science on Google+905,979We've all read the headlines about the link between processed meat link and cancer. But what exactly is the risk, and should we give up bacon and burgers? Is it really as bad as smoking? What is the underlying mechanism behind the increased risk of developing cancer? Join us for a @105917944266111687812 and @103561559026876981170  Hangout on Air as we speak to Dr Kathryn Bradbury and Professor Owen Sansom about this story.  Kathryn is a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford who studies the links between diet and cancer. Owen is a molecular biologist at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, who is investigating the cell signalling pathways that are activated in colon cancer.  This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and Dr @113335632756591580747  . You can tune in on Friday November 27th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will also be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.Processed Meat and Cancer: What is the risk?2015-11-27 17:00:0092  
Science on Google+905,979What is life? How do we define it? If we met new life - on this planet or the next - can we recognise it? Join us for a @118119263833644252909 and @105917944266111687812 Hangout on air as we speak to Dr @107194786927451871093 about this fascinating topic.  Matthew is a science writer and physicist. His latest feature on Mosaic opens with an intriguing description of how NASA is studying the depths of Lake Pavillion in Canada, in an attempt to understand more about how life on Earth began, and what extraterrestrial life might be like (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/what-life).   This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229. You can tune in on Saturday October 24th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event. More about Lake Pavillion: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/analogs/about_pavilionlake.html Join the conversation using #MosaicHOA  What is Life?2015-10-24 17:00:0028  
Science on Google+905,979What is p53 and why is it described as the 'guardian of the genome'? How is p53 linked to cancer? Join us for a @118119263833644252909 and @105917944266111687812 Hangout on air as we speak to @107061076804157766517 about all things p53! Sue is the author of the popular science book "P53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code" and she recently authored a fascinating article on Mosaic Science about "Brazil's Cancer Curse" (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/brazils-cancer-curse).   This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229. You can tune in on Sunday October 18th at 6 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event. Join the conversation using #MosaicHOA   Sue's book: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/p53-9781472910516/P53: The Guardian of the Genome2015-10-18 19:00:0043  
Science on Google+905,979How do we tackle cancer in kids and teens? What are the differences between children’s cancers and adult’s cancers? What are the big research challenges we face at the moment? Join us for a @103561559026876981170 and @105917944266111687812 Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor @108501846722706395209 and Professor +Richard Gilbertson about childhood cancers. Pam is a Professor of Clinical Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham. She is also the Director of the Cancer research UK Clinical Trials Unit, which is one of the largest cancer trials units in the UK. Her research focuses on the development of new therapies for childhood leukaemias. Richard is a world renowned expert in childhood brain tumours, and is the new director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He has led international efforts that have dramatically advanced our understanding of the biology of several common childhood brain tumours.   This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and Dr @113335632756591580747  You can tune in on Wednesday September 23rd at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.How Do We Tackle Cancer in Kids and Teens?2015-09-23 17:00:0037  
Science on Google+905,979What does the immune system have to do with cancer? What exactly is immunotherapy? Join us for a @103561559026876981170 and @105917944266111687812 Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor @114273956265003439392 and Professor @115153658884769257551 about cancer immunotherapy.  Fran is a Professor of Cancer Biology at Queen Mary University in London and is a fantastic science communicator. Her research focuses on the links between cancer and inflammation. Ben is a Professor of Molecular Immunology at the University of Birmingham and his work focuses on understanding immune receptor recognition.    This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229  and Dr @113335632756591580747 . You can tune in on Friday July 24th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.Cancer Immunotherapy2015-07-24 17:00:00102  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us on July 8th for a @105917944266111687812 HOA with Drs. Kelly Cahill Roberts and @103086257190749457271, Associate Professor of Political Science at @112087710053841939824. We will be discussing dating violence and dating violence prevention programs. Feel free to post your comments on this event post or by using the Q & A app during the event. Fund or learn more about the prevention program here: https://goo.gl/0SEPbt Dating Violence Prevention2015-07-08 22:00:0026  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us on 5/5 for a @105917944266111687812 HOA with Dr.@101190098041697372043, Professor of Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Neuroscience at @116716695368502903076, and founder of Duke's Center for Neuroengineering. Dr. Nicolelis is a pioneer in neuronal population coding (simultaneously recording from hundreds to thousands of neurons), Brain Machine Interface (controlling robotic or avatar limbs with thoughts), neuroprosthetics (prosthetic limbs that directly communicate with sensory and motor cortices), and Brain to Brain Interface (tactile or visual information encoded by rat 1 is decoded by rat 2). Dr. Nicolelis has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, with many of these publications appearing in high impact journals such as _Nature_, _Science_, and _Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences_ (see below for a short list of publications). More recently, Dr. Nicolelis’ research made it possible for a quadriplegic child to use his mind to control a bionic exoskeleton and kickoff the opening game at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar. We will open up the Q & A app so feel free to post your questions on this event post or by using the app during the hangout. *Relevant Links:* Faculty page: http://goo.gl/qs8NfM  Lab page: http://www.nicolelislab.net  2012 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/kxCxT8  2014 Ted Talk: http://goo.gl/23OqmV  Book: http://goo.gl/x7Kg5J  *Relevant Readings (see http://goo.gl/nQadag for a more exhaustive list):* Schwarz D, Lebedev MA, Tate A, Hanson T, Lehew G, Melloy J, Dimitrov D, Nicolelis MAL. Chronic, Wireless Recordings of Large Scale Brain Activity in Freely Moving Rhesus Monkeys. Nat. Methods doi:10.1038/nmeth.2936, 2014. Thomson EE, Carra R, Nicolelis MAL. Perceiving Invisible Light through a Somatosensory Cortical Prosthesis. Nat. Commun.10.1038/ncomms2497, 2013. Ifft P, Shokur S, Li Z, Lebedev MA, Nicolelis MAL. A Brain-Machine Interface Enables Bimanual Arm Movements in Monkeys. Sci. Transl. Med. 5: 210, DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3006159, 2013. Shokur S, O’Doherty J.E., Winans J.A., Bleuler H., Lebedev M.A., Nicolelis M.A.L. Expanding the primate body schema in sensorimotor cortex by virtual touches of an avatar. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 110: 15121-6, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1308459110, 2013. O’Doherty JE, Lebedev MA, Ifft PJ, Zhuang KZ, Shokur S, Bleuler H, Nicolelis MAL. Active tactile exploration enabled by a brain-machine-brain interface. Nature 479: 228-231, 2011. Fuentes R, Petersson P, Siesser WB, Caron MG, Nicolelis MAL. Spinal Cord Stimulation Restores Locomotion in Animal Models of Parkinson’s disease. Science 323: 1578-82, 2009. Pereira A, Ribeiro S, Wiest M, Moore LC, Pantoja J, Lin S-C, Nicolelis MAL. Processing of tactile information by the  hippocampus. PNAS 104: 18286-18291 (Epub) November 2007. Krupa DJ, Wiest, MC, Laubach M, Nicolelis MAL Layer specific somatosensory cortical activation during active tactile discrimination   ScieScience HOAs2015-05-05 21:30:00138  
Science on Google+905,979Dr. Theodore (Ted) P. Pavlic, Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at @116794495783422850685. @111099133387608816869 received his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2010 from The Ohio State University where he learned to combine behavioral ecology and control theory to build algorithms that allow automation to make flexible decisions that are rational with respect to the current environment. Inspiration came from optimal foraging theory and cooperative breeding, and target applications ranged from military to the sustainable built environment. From 2010 to 2012, he worked as a postdoctoral scholar in Computer Science and Engineering studying cyber-physical systems of the future composed of fully autonomous and human driven cars operating in parallel in the cities of the near future. Since 2012, he has worked as a research scientist at Arizona State University in the social-insect laboratory of Stephen Pratt studying the collective decision-making processes of ants and honeybees. Not only have these studies inspired novel stochastic programming techniques for swarm robotics, but these animal models are also providing insights into the information structures that emerged at the origins of life. In August of 2015, he will join the engineering faculty of Arizona State University where he will use a variety of theoretical, computational, and empirical methods to study decision-making and organization across a wide range of artificial and natural systems. Potential graduate students interested in trans-disciplinary explorations of decision making are welcome to contact him to discuss opportunities. *Links* Personal website in desperate need of updating: http://www.tedpavlic.com/ Current host (Stephen Pratt) laboratory for ant work:  http://pratt.lab.asu.edu/ Collaborator (Sara Imari Walker) laboratory for info. theory work: http://emergence.asu.edu/ *Recommended Readings* Sean Wilson, Theodore P. Pavlic, Ganesh P. Kumar, Aurélie Buffin, Stephen C. Pratt, and Spring Berman. Design of ant-inspired stochastic control policies for collective transport by robotic swarms. Swarm Intelligence, 8(4):303–327, December 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11721-014-0100-8 Theodore P. Pavlic, Alyssa M. Adams, Paul C. W. Davies, and Sara Imari Walker. Self-referencing cellular automata: A model of the evolution of information control in biological systems. In: Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Conference on the Synthesis and Simulation of Living Systems (ALIFE 14), pages 522–529, July 31 – August 2, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.7551/978-0-262-32621-6-ch083 Theodore P. Pavlic and Stephen C. Pratt. Superorganismic behavior via human computation. In: Pietro Michelucci, editor, Handbook of Human Computation, pages 911–960. Springer, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-8806-4_74Cognition in Ants, Robots, and Pre-biotic Chemistries2015-04-15 16:15:0055  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us on 4/6 for a Developmental Science HOA with Dr.@116253080293692056641, Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Illinois University and director of the SIU Vision Lab. Matthew Schlesinger received his graduate degree in cognitive development from the University of California at Berkeley in 1995. After spending a year as a visiting lecturer in psychology at Berkeley, Dr. Schlesinger received a Fulbright fellowship to study artificial life models of sensorimotor cognition with Domenico Parisi at the Italian National Research Council in Rome. Dr. Schlesinger continued his postdoctoral work in 1998-2000 with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, studying machine-learning approaches to adaptive motor control.  He is currently involved in three areas of research:  (1) visual attention and spatial working memory in infants, children, and adults, (2) neural network models of early visual processing and oculomotor control, and (3) neural substrates of working memory and spatial-directed attention.  RSVP “yes” if you want to add this event to your calendar. *Relevant Links*: Faculty page: http://goo.gl/JZro2y  Lab page: http://goo.gl/5mxvZA  Developmental Robotics Book: http://goo.gl/NEpoBg  ICDL-EpiRob Conference:  http://goo.gl/KfnvG  *Relevant Readings*: Schlesinger, M., Johnson, S.P., & Amso, D.  (2014).  Prediction-learning in infants as a mechanism for gaze control during object exploration. _Frontiers in Perception Science, 5_, 1-12.  http://goo.gl/ZiXuDo  Schlesinger, M., & McMurray, B. (2012). The past, present, and future of computational models of cognitive development. _Cognitive Development, 27_, 326-348.  http://goo.gl/T8Bgnd  Schlesinger, M., Johnson, S.P., & Amso, D.  (2014).  Learnability of infants’ center-of-gaze sequences predicts their habituation and posthabituation looking time. _In Proceedings of the Fourth Joint IEEE Conference on Development and Learning and on Epigenetic Robotics_ (pp. 267-272). New York: IEEE. http://goo.gl/qEc54GScience HOAs2015-04-06 16:15:0057  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us on 3/4 for a Developmental Science HOA with Dr.@102662655160025117683, Associate Professor of Psychology at @109618943120182321190 and director of the Developmental Language and Cognition Lab. Dr. Wagner studies how children acquire language, and in particular, how they learn about meaning. Her research has looks at various dimensions of meaning, including children's understanding of temporal and event semantics (especially the linguistic category of aspect), and their understanding of social indexical meanings coded in dialect and register. She conducts her studies at her lab on OSU's campus, and also at the Columbus Center of Science and Industry (@108175964516692755798). We will enable the Q & A app prior to the HOA so feel free to posts your questions on the event post or by using the app. RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar. *Relevant Links:* Faculty page: http://goo.gl/la3xYa  Lab page: http://goo.gl/CduTn0  Buckeye Language Network: http://goo.gl/YA6dNW  *Relevant Readings:* Wagner, L., Clopper, C. G., & Pate, J. (2014).  Children’s perception of dialect variation. _Journal of Child Language, 41,_ 1062 – 1084. http://goo.gl/aFFmPc Clopper, C., Rohrbeck, K. L. & Wagner, L. (2013). Perception of talker age by young adults with High-Functioning Autism. _Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43_, 134 - 146. http://goo.gl/oyf8uD  Wagner, L. (2010). Acquisition of Semantics. _Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 1_ (4), 519 - 526. http://goo.gl/8H9rct Science HOAs2015-03-04 16:00:0076  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us on 1/28 for a Developmental Science HOA with Dr. Scott Johnson, Professor of Developmental Psychology at UCLA and director of the UCLA @107338479345069557818. Dr. Johnson research interests include: cognitive development, perceptual development, visual perception, eye movements, attention, computational modeling, neural foundations of vision and cognition, neurophysiological development, and learning mechanisms. On 1/28 we will be discussing: (1) big issues in perceptual and cognitive development, (2) eye trackers, how they work, and how can they give us insight into the developing mind, and (3) Dr. Johnson’s recent research interests and findings. We will open up the Q & A app prior to the Hangout On Air so feel free to post your questions on the event post or by using the app on the day of the HOA. RSVP “yes” to add this event to your calendar. Important Links: Faculty page: http://goo.gl/Fbklji  Lab page: http://goo.gl/xC0LiV  Related Article: http://goo.gl/GHfO8B Image Sources: http://goo.gl/S5NZ1u   http://goo.gl/qRDmKQ   http://goo.gl/sXvoHY Science HOAs2015-01-28 16:15:0066  
Science on Google+905,979Young people are victimized by bullies at an alarming rate and the consequences have tragic effects on teens, parents, schools and communities. We hope you can join us on 12/4 as we chat with @113958503500525282923  about the research on school violence and bullying. Dr. Pescara-Kovach teaches courses in the field of human development as well as graduate level seminars on the causes, consequences, and prevention of school violence. She is co-chair of U.T.’s Anti-Bullying Task Force and author of “School Shootings and Suicides: Why We Must Stop the Bullies.” You can learn more about Dr. Pescara-Kovach's research by clicking on the links below. http://www.utoledo.edu/education/depts/efl/faculty/kovach/index.html  www.preventingbullying.org www.oregoncs.orgwww.oregoncs.org  http://www.utoledo.edu/tlc/bully Developmental Science HOA: Episode 22014-12-04 20:00:0052  
Science on Google+905,979Join us for a @105917944266111687812  Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor @116255230904882614629 and Dr @107413067341871105647 about the recent Ebola outbreak. We will discuss the basics of Ebola, why the epidemic has spread, how it might be curtailed, and debunk some of the myths surrounding this outbreak. Please leave your questions on the Event page. Vincent is a professor of virology at the University of Columbia and is a fantastic science communicator. Tara is an epidemiologist at Kent State University who has written numerous articles debunking some of the myths surrounding Ebola. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229  and Dr @110756968351492254645. You can tune in on *Sunday August 10th at 2.30 PM Pacific, 5.30 PM Eastern*. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.Science HOAs2014-08-10 23:30:00110  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us for _Developmental Science HOA_, a new collaborative Hangout On Air series which is co-hosted by @105917944266111687812 and @101300484336332917485. In the first Developmental Science HOA we will be talking with Dr. @105599496459565727178. @105599496459565727178 is a Professor of Cognitive Science and Human Development at @117506114004660150074 and is the director of the @113073858999174005281. @105599496459565727178 studies the dynamics of infant social interactions and social learning, using experimental behavioral paradigms, ethnographic investigations, physiological studies, and computer simulations. He and his collaborators conducted the first study of real-time interactions between parents and toddlers with high-density EEG and motion capture of both participants. He also studies how children learn and use words, and how they flexibly shift their attention, representations, and inferences. *Important Links* Curriculum Vitae: http://goo.gl/qLtUaC Lab Website: http://goo.gl/AQ78h6 ResearchGate: http://goo.gl/Mj8deH *Relevant Papers* Watch the hands: infants can learn to follow gaze by seeing adults manipulate objects: http://goo.gl/bSMzKy Young children’s fast mapping and generalization of words, facts, and pictograms :http://goo.gl/nhykZF A Unified Account of Gaze Following: http://goo.gl/f14c04 Micro-analysis of infant looking in a naturalistic social setting: insights from biologically based models of attention: http://goo.gl/i0S8uA Visual Prediction in Infancy: What is the Association with Later Vocabulary? :http://goo.gl/I1xUaS Please note that some of the papers are behind a paywall. Manuscripts can be downloaded through the lab pubs page, http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~deak/cdlab/publications.html.Science HOAs2014-08-05 18:00:00104  
Science on Google+905,979The American Arachnological Society Conference is right around the corner and this year’s conference is being hosted by @116139679307670875382 at @112087710053841939824. The conference sponsors a great lineup of speakers (see details below) for their annual public event, “Casual Night with Arachnids”, and @105917944266111687812 will stream these presentations on Google+ in a Hangout On Air. Each talk will be approximately 10 – 12 minutes and there will be time to ask each presenter questions. Google+ members can submit questions using the Q & A app or by posting questions on the event post (http://goo.gl/knJbyX). RSVP “yes” if you want to add this event to your Google calendar. Anyone can view this event live or watch the archived youtube video; however, individuals not using Google+ will have to submit questions to @spiderprofessor on twitter. Please use the hashtag #arachnids14 . *Sharing on other social networks* Please use this link (http://goo.gl/knJbyX) if you want to share this event via email or on other social networks. *Do you live in the Columbus area?* The event is open to the public and will be in the Reese Center at 1209 University Dr, Newark, OH 43055. See more details about the event here: https://u.osu.edu/arachnids/ *List of Presentations*  Times below are in EST. 7:00 – 7:20pm, Doug Gaffin, *Mind-melding a scorpion*. 7:20 – 7:40pm, Cara Shillington, *Male versus wild: Radio-tracking tarantulas*. 7:40 – 8:00pm, Bob Suter, *Messing with time—see the invisible, hear the inaudible*. 8:00 – 8:20pm, George Uetz & Dave Clark, *Avatar 2.0: Digital imaging and (virtual) spider communication*. 8:20 – 8:40pm, Rick Vetter, *Mythconceptions of the brown recluse spider in Ohio*. 8:40 – 9:00pm, Joe Warfel, *Getting together with family: Spiders and their Relatives*. *Abstracts* _Douglas Gaffin, PhD (Department of Biology, University of Oklahoma)_ *Mind-melding a scorpion*. Scorpions are secretive, mysterious, and patient animals. What are they thinking as they wait for hours in their burrows? Although we can’t answer that yet, we can use a trick called electrophysiology to listen in to their nerve cells and to get a sense of what they perceive. It looks like mad science, but I will lead you through the maze of equipment we use, demystifying the process and explaining how easy and useful it actually is. _Cara Shillington, PhD (Department of Biology, Eastern Michigan University)_ *Male versus wild: Radio-tracking tarantulas*. Despite their notoriety and popularity in the pet trade, surprisingly little is known about tarantulas in their natural environment.  Where do they go and what do they do when they’re free of the glassy confines of your home aquarium? I will discuss many aspects of their life history and behavior both in captivity and in the wild.  Compared to most other arthropods, these animals are exceedingly long-lived (surviving 15 years or more in some cases).  Females remain in burrows for much of their lives, but matuScience HOAs2014-06-23 01:00:0077  
Science on Google+905,979Join our latest +Science On Google+ HOA this Sunday the 18th of May at 2.30 pm Pacific time, as we chat with two of our Community members, scientists @113151517166814371827  and Dr @103054542906066129325. They are co-founders of Paleo Quest, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes research and educational projects in Paleontology for the public (http://paleoquest.org). Jason and Aaron also founded SharkFinder, a STEM education program that studies fossil remains of elasmobranch (shark, skates and ray) along the USA Atlantic coastal plain of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. SharkFinder provides kits and learning modules for citizens and classrooms to participate in data collection (http://www.sharkfinder.org/).  Jason and Aaron will talk about their efforts to expand citizen science, with a special focus on how students can be better guided into STEM careers through these hands-on citizen science programs. We will also discuss their upcoming publications that will incorporate data collected by students and the public, as reported by Scientific American (http://goo.gl/4drR1Z). We'll then chat about how we can better support children from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in STEM. This HOA will be hosted by two Moderators from SoG+, Dr @108510686109338749229  and Dr @110756968351492254645. You can join in the discussion by posting your questions on our Google+ Event page or on Twitter @scienceongoogle using #scienceongoogle . The video will be available afterwards on our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts Citizen Science: Getting Students into STEM with Jason Osborne & Dr Aaron Alford2014-05-18 23:30:00107  
Science on Google+905,979Join us for a Science on Google+ HOA as we speak to @103606144980849672198 and Dr @106260309299618873309 about their recently published research on cancer signalling (http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/6/225/225ra28). We will discuss the basics of cancer signalling, explain the link between inflammation and cancer, and how their research identifies a novel role for immune cells in the development of colon cancer. This Pub Talks HOA will be part of a series in which we explain published research in a jargon-free manner that is understandable to the public. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229 and you can tune in on Sunday March 23rd at 2 PM CDT/ 12PM PDT/ 7 PM GMT. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.Pub Talks: Cancer Signalling2014-03-23 20:00:0085  
Science on Google+905,979Can you believe it! The +Science on Google+ community is approaching 200k members! We'll have reached that number by this weekend, so we're going to have a huge community celebration! Join your hosts +Scott Lewis and +Buddhini Samarasinghe as they start the celebration of being the #1 science community and the #10 community in *all of Google+*!!  During our Hangout On Air, you'll get a chance to meet the moderators  who dedicate so much time and energy into making sure that good, high quality science content is showcased in the community.  After we hear from the moderators on *who* they are, we'll have a discussion on what the curator team looks at for community posts to get put on the *Curator's Choice*.  We are all extremely excited to be celebrating with all 200,000 of you! Let's stay curious and find new and better ways to understand this amazing Universe we all live in! #ScienceSunday   #STEM   #ScienceEveryday   #SoGp200k  200,000 member community celebration!2014-01-12 22:00:00184  
Science on Google+905,979Unfortunately the gap between science and society is massive and only growing larger. +SciFund Challenge exists to do something about this problem, by helping to close this gap in three distinct ways. ⚛Training and encouraging researchers in their science outreach activities. ⚛Helping connect the public directly to science and scientists. ⚛Running science crowdfunding drives to help fund research and has just initiated SciFund 4: http://scifundchallenge.org/. Do you want to know about alternatives for raising money for research? What about Crowdfunding? This +Science on Google+ Hangout will discuss crowdfunding for research and features the SciFund Challenge coordinators +Jarrett Byrnes and +Anthony Salvagno as well as SciFund 3 participant, +Alisa Woods. SciFund 3 participant Alisa Woods raised 6K+ to buy analytical software for mass spectrometry and is Crowdfunding again, to support her research on autism protein biomarkers. She will discuss tips for successful Crowdfunding, including setting realistic goals and developing your audience. Her project is available here and as one of the incentives, she's offering consulting and coaching for Science Crowdfunding: http://www.rockethub.com/projects/36715-protein-biomarkers-for-autism-spectrum-disorder#description-tab  Join host +Scott Lewis and learn about Science Crowdfunding and Science Outreach! #ScienceEveryday   #Crowdfunding   #Science   #Research   #SciFundChallenge  Crowdfunding for research and the SciFund Challenge.2014-01-02 21:00:00135  
Science on Google+905,979*Isaac Newton's Birthday is on Christmas* Join us in a Newton-inspired holiday physics hangout with rockstar physicist +Henry Reich of +MinutePhysics and +MinuteEarth  and brilliant ballerina biologist +Carin Bondar of +National Geographic, +Scientific American and host of Wild Sex, a science show about the strange reproductive habits of the animal kingdom. She knows how the world gets physical. +Veritasium  AKA +Derek Muller may pop in.  We hear there may even be more special guests so you should probably go ahead and RSVP yes to join the lively conversation. BYOB. Hosted by +Amy Robinson of +Science on Google+ .Happy Newtonmas Hangout2013-12-19 00:00:00142  
Science on Google+905,979Please join us for a collaborative Hangout On Air with Autism Brainstorm (http://goo.gl/HO5LZL). We will be discussing current research in Autism and Autism Education, as well as the protein biomarkers associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Topics:  1) Lead by Dr. +Stephen Shore:   *Research in Comparative Approaches to Autism Education with special emphasis on the Miller Method®.* Dr. Shore will be joined by Ethan Miller and Amir Naimov for discussion and Q&A. 2) Lead by +John Elder Robison:   *Current research topic(s) being considered by IACC* (The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee  is a Federal advisory committee charged with coordinating all activities concerning autism spectrum disorder within the U.S. 3) Lead by Dr. +Alisa Woods:  *Protein Biomarkers and Autism Spectrum Disorders* *PDF LINKS:* Dr. Stephen Shore Dissertation: Comparative Approaches to Autism Education: http://goo.gl/lnqpxb Dr. Stephen Shore: ICDL The Miller Method: http://goo.gl/X6XQoq John Elder Robison: Scholar in Residence at William And Mary: http://goo.gl/QPxtLH  John Elder Robison: IACC Government Strategic Plan for Autism Research: http://goo.gl/reBc9a Dr. Alisa G Woods: Treating Clients with AS and ASD: http://goo.gl/175424 Dr. Alisa G Woods: Proteomics and Cholesterol in Autism: http://goo.gl/SklhcL *Dr. Stephen Shore:* Diagnosed with "Atypical Development and strong autistic tendencies" and "too sick" for outpatient treatment Dr. Shore was recommended for institutionalization. Nonverbal until four, and with much support from his parents, teachers, wife, and others, Stephen is now a professor at Adelphi University where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism. In addition to working with children and talking about life on the autism spectrum, Stephen presents and consults internationally on adult issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure as discussed in his books Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Ask and Tell: Self-advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum, the critically acclaimed Understanding Autism for Dummies., and the newly released DVD Living along the Autism Spectrum: What it means to have Autism or Asperger Syndrome. President emeritus of the Asperger’s Association of New England and former board member of the Autism Society, Dr. Shore serves in the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association, United States Autism and Asperger Association, and other autism related organizations.  Dr. Shore is on the advisory board of AUTISM BRAINSTORM and is the primary autism education advisor. He frequently participates in Google Hangout events hosted by AUTISM BRAINSTORM. education.adelphi.edu/profile/steven-shore www.autismasperger.net  *John Elder Robison:* Self Advocate, Parent and Author, Mr. John Elder Robison joined the IACC as a public member in 2012. Mr. Robison is an Aspergian who grAutism Brainstorm and Science On Google+ Collaborative Hangout On Air2013-12-10 04:00:0087  
Science on Google+905,979Join mathematicians Dana Ernst , Sara Del Valle , Vincent Knight , Luis Guzman  and Robert Jacobson  as they talk with Amy Robinson  about their favorite math gifs and ideas and what it's like to be a mathematician. How many numbers are there? Do mathematicians see the world differently? And why is the last panel of this xkcd comic funny? http://xkcd.com/804/ +Dana Ernst   is an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ, USA.  +Sara Del Valle   is a mathematical epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM, USA. +Vincent Knight   is a LANCS lecturer at the Cardiff University School of Mathematics in Operational Research in Cardiff, Wales, UK. +Luis Guzman   is a graduate student in mathematics at the University of West Florida in FL, USA. +Robert Jacobson   is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Roger Williams University in RI, USA. Hangout hosted by Science on Google+'s +Amy Robinson Math: from GIFs to xkcd2013-11-22 02:00:0064  
Science on Google+905,979Data blitz is a new hangout (not Hangout On Air), which is hosted by the Science on Google+ Community (http://goo.gl/uhJCN). This monthly hangout will start at 10:00 PM (EDT) on the second Wednesday of each month, and the main goal is to create a platform so researchers can get feedback on their hot off the press research findings and to discuss other issues in research, funding, and publishing. RSVP “yes” if you want an invite for the next Science on Google+ Data Blitz.Science on Google+ Data Blitz2013-11-14 04:00:0019  
Science on Google+905,979Happy Hour is a new hangout (not Hangout On Air), which is hosted by the Science on Google+ Community (http://goo.gl/uhJCN). The monthly hangout will start at 10:00 PM (EDT) on the last Wednesday of each month. Grab a coffee, beer, wine, or cocktail and join us as we discuss recent science findings, our favorite science communities and pages on Google+, and ways to improve the Science on Google+ community. This hangout is open to all of the friendly people in the Science on Google+ community. RSVP “yes” if you want an invite for the next Science on Google+ Happy Hour.Science on Google+ Happy Hour2013-10-31 03:00:0066  
Science on Google+905,979Data blitz is a new hangout (not Hangout On Air), which is hosted by the Science on Google+ Community (http://goo.gl/uhJCN). This monthly hangout will start at 10:00 PM (EDT) on the second Wednesday of each month, and the main goal is to create a platform so researchers can get feedback on their _hot off the press_ research findings and discuss other issues in research, funding, and publishing. There are only two rules. First, to keep things moving, presentations cannot exceed one slide! Second, due to the 10 person limit of hangouts, all individuals who join the hangout will be expected to contribute to the discussion by presenting research or research related issues. RSVP “yes” if you want an invite for the next Science on Google+ Data Blitz.Science on Google+ Data Blitz2013-10-10 04:00:0052  
Science on Google+905,979Happy Hour is a new hangout (not Hangout On Air), which is hosted by the Science on Google+ Community (http://goo.gl/uhJCN). The monthly hangout will start at 10:00 PM (EDT) on the last Wednesday of each month. Grab a cocktail and join us as we discuss recent science findings, our favorite science communities and pages on Google+, and ways to improve the Science on Google+ community. This hangout is open to all of the friendly people in the Science on Google+ community. Be social and stop by and say hi. RSVP “yes” if you want an invite for the next Science on Google+ Happy Hour.Science on Google+ Happy Hour2013-09-26 04:00:0055  
Science on Google+905,979Posterside Hangouts is a new Hangouts On Air, which is hosted by the Science on Google+ Community (http://goo.gl/uhJCN). The main goal of this HOA series is to recreate a poster session-like atmosphere here on G+, so researchers can present their recent findings. Presentations will be grouped by discipline and individual presentations will last approximately 10 – 15 minutes. Do you have a recent conference presentation, manuscript, or book that you would like to share with the Google+ community? Do you want to give your undergraduate or graduate students practice presenting their research? If yes, then let us know by filling out this short form: http://goo.gl/e0KPhE. ================================ *Psychology Talks for Posterside Hangouts #1, Authors (Affiliations)* _When audition dominates vision: Evidence from cross-modal statistical learning_ +Chris Robinson (The Ohio State University at Newark) _Automatic selection of eye tracking variables in visual categorization for adults and infants_ +Samuel Rivera (The Ohio State University at Columbus) _Foreign accent does not influence cognitive judgments_ +Andre L. Souza (Concordia University) and +Art Markman (The University of Texas at Austin) _Positive mood may enhance cognitive flexibility: Evidence from category learning_ +Paul Minda (The University of Western Ontario) and +Ruby Nadler(The University of Western Ontario) _The effects of aging on face perception_ +Allison Sekuler (McMaster University) ================================ *Abstracts and Links* _When audition dominates vision: Evidence from cross-modal statistical learning_ Presenting information to multiple sensory modalities sometimes facilitates and sometimes interferes with processing of this information. Research examining interference effects shows that auditory input often interferes with processing of visual input in young children (i.e., auditory dominance effect), whereas visual input often interferes with auditory processing in adults (i.e., visual dominance effect). The current study used a cross-modal statistical learning task to examine modality dominance in adults. Participants ably learned auditory and visual statistics when auditory and visual sequences were presented unimodally and when auditory and visual sequences were correlated during training. However, increasing task demands resulted in an important asymmetry: Increased task demands attenuated visual statistical learning, while having no effect on auditory statistical learning. These findings are consistent with auditory dominance effects reported in young children and have important implications for our understanding of how sensory modalities interact while learning the structure of cross-modal information. Link to Poster: http://goo.gl/NfoMvg Link to Manuscript: http://goo.gl/VFBVkD  Personal Website: http://goo.gl/glUXv2 _Automatic selection of eye tracking variables in visual categorization for adults and infants_ We present a computational apScience on Google+ Posterside Hangouts #12013-08-13 02:30:0099  
Science on Google+905,979*Be curious. Question assumptions. Explore the world from atoms to astrophysics with Veritasium*. Join +Derek Muller of popular +YouTube Channel Veritasium on a journey to the beautiful, viral side of physics, hosted by Science on Google+ in honor of *YouTube Geek Week* (Aug 4-10). Our +Amy Robinson, +Jason Davison and +Nic Hammond will host, along with +Joe Hanson of +It's Okay To Be Smart and a few members of the community who ask Derek interesting questions on the event page.   The hangout happens on *Wednesday, August 7th at 5 pm US PT / 8 ET*. Derek will share why he creates Veritasium and how it has evolved into one of YouTube’s favorite sources of answers to epic science questions. He’ll also answer your questions so leave them here on the event page. You may be selected to join the hangout live and ask him in person.   Check out *Veritasium* on YouTube at http://veritasium.com   This is the third hangout in a new series that brings science to life through conversations with the world's leading minds. Join +Science on Google+: A Public Database for the latest events.Veritasium: A Science on Google+ Conversation2013-08-08 02:00:00242  
Science on Google+905,979"There's a lot of amazing science out there. Let's go discover it together."  Join Dr. +Joe Hanson  biologist and host of popular YouTube/ +PBS Digital Studios series +It's Okay To Be Smart  + +AAAS  Mass Media Fellow at +WIRED  on a journey to the awesome side of science. This hangout will be hosted by Science on Google+'s +Amy Robinson , +Jason Davison   and +Nic Hammond   . *The hangout happens on Monday, July 22rd at NOON PT/ 3 PM ET.*  Joe will answer your questions and give insights on bringing science to the masses, the power of YouTube, why GIFs are awesome and much more.  _Add your thoughts and questions for Joe on this page. Joe will invite a few insightful fans to join the hangout in person!_ Get to know Dr Joe: check out his blog at http://www.itsokaytobesmart.com/ This is the second hangout in a new series that brings science to life through conversations with the world's leading minds. Subscribe to the Science on Google+ communities for the latest.It's Okay To Be Smart: A Science on Google+ Conversation2013-07-22 21:00:00119  
Science on Google+905,979We will be updating and sharing this General Science Page Circle (see http://goo.gl/9muuE) on Tuesday (10/9) at 9:00 PM (EST). Please add your Science Page to this database (http://goo.gl/WCohT) if you would like to add your page to the circle. Here's the form: http://goo.gl/bfqHa. You do not have to fill out the form if you are already in the database. Here's the link to the updated Science Page circle, http://goo.gl/aGQPB.Science Page Circle2012-10-10 03:00:00133  

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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 60

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2015-10-27 12:02:22 (60 comments; 62 reshares; 162 +1s; )Open 

Red meat and cancer risk

The news is awash with stories about how red and processed meats have been classified as carcinogens in the same category as tobacco. But what exactly does this mean? Let's unpick this a little bit before throwing out the bacon with the bathwater. 

There have been several excellent bits of writing that explain what this means - the first is by Ed Yong (http://goo.gl/br9OU7) and the second by CRUK* (http://goo.gl/ELDzCI). These are well-worth a read if you want to learn more. 

Basically, the key bit of information to remember is that this is not a risk assessment, it is a hazard identification. A great analogy (stolen from the CRUK article above) is to think of banana skins - they definitely can cause accidents, but in practice it doesn't happen very often, and isn't as severe as being in a car accident. But under the hazardi... more »

Most reshares: 180

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2015-10-30 21:20:55 (21 comments; 180 reshares; 353 +1s; )Open 

Ostracod Fireworks

When an ostracod is swallowed, it emits a burst of light, making the cardinal fish spit it out.

"They've been called fish fireworks, and their glowing displays are like nighttime light shows on the water. Ostracods are a very old species of crustacean with a trait called bioluminescence. That's a fancy way of saying they light up, like fireflies. But unlike fireflies, ostracods have extracellular bioluminescence. They shoot light out of their bodies and into the water. The behavior is part mating ritual, part defense mechanism.

There are ostracods in every world ocean that are luminescent, but only in the Carribbean do you find these ones that have these complex patterns, and it's probably related to the closing of the Panama Isthmus about 3 million years ago. It could startle their predators visually, or it could actually bring in... more »

Most plusones: 353

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2015-10-30 21:20:55 (21 comments; 180 reshares; 353 +1s; )Open 

Ostracod Fireworks

When an ostracod is swallowed, it emits a burst of light, making the cardinal fish spit it out.

"They've been called fish fireworks, and their glowing displays are like nighttime light shows on the water. Ostracods are a very old species of crustacean with a trait called bioluminescence. That's a fancy way of saying they light up, like fireflies. But unlike fireflies, ostracods have extracellular bioluminescence. They shoot light out of their bodies and into the water. The behavior is part mating ritual, part defense mechanism.

There are ostracods in every world ocean that are luminescent, but only in the Carribbean do you find these ones that have these complex patterns, and it's probably related to the closing of the Panama Isthmus about 3 million years ago. It could startle their predators visually, or it could actually bring in... more »

Latest 50 posts

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2017-04-27 21:18:27 (0 comments; 3 reshares; 26 +1s; )Open 

Very interesting article by +Neha Jain  on the use of natural anti-microbal "cocktails" by ants.

To test if ants enhance the antimicrobial properties of resin, Chapuisat and his team enclosed worker ants with resin and nest materials, such as twigs and small stones, for two weeks. They found that resin that had been in contact with the ants provided greater protection against the fungus Metarhizium brunneum—which can be deadly—than resin kept away from ants.

Please read the full article on the link on +GotScience.org .

Very interesting article by +Neha Jain  on the use of natural anti-microbal "cocktails" by ants.

To test if ants enhance the antimicrobial properties of resin, Chapuisat and his team enclosed worker ants with resin and nest materials, such as twigs and small stones, for two weeks. They found that resin that had been in contact with the ants provided greater protection against the fungus Metarhizium brunneum—which can be deadly—than resin kept away from ants.

Please read the full article on the link on +GotScience.org .___

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2017-04-27 21:17:49 (1 comments; 4 reshares; 14 +1s; )Open 

On any given day, about 90,000 kilograms of dust and small rocks hit the Earth. What happens when something larger is on a collision course with Earth?

Asteroid Hunters by Carrie Nugent was quite an enjoyable read. It's short, informative, and quite relevant as the recent fly-by of "2014 JO25", an asteroid with a diameter of 650 meters demonstrated.

If you've ever been interested in how scientists really detect potential planet (or hemisphere) killer, or how they might deflect them then this is an excellent book to start with.

read more on +GotScience.org  (includes link to a TED Talk on the subject).

On any given day, about 90,000 kilograms of dust and small rocks hit the Earth. What happens when something larger is on a collision course with Earth?

Asteroid Hunters by Carrie Nugent was quite an enjoyable read. It's short, informative, and quite relevant as the recent fly-by of "2014 JO25", an asteroid with a diameter of 650 meters demonstrated.

If you've ever been interested in how scientists really detect potential planet (or hemisphere) killer, or how they might deflect them then this is an excellent book to start with.

read more on +GotScience.org  (includes link to a TED Talk on the subject).___

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2017-04-25 09:10:56 (5 comments; 3 reshares; 32 +1s; )Open 

Have you seen this article claiming, "Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations."? The paper behind this claim has some inconsistencies with established research. First, the authors are not experts in the field of archaeology nor astronomy. Second, the researchers base their interpretations on the works of discredited authors. Third, there is no evidence of the population decline they claim. Read more from +Jeff Baker, who argues: "This is a poorly researched paper that should not be getting the attention it is currently receiving."

When I first saw this article in my stream, I was skeptical of the findings. The first thing I noticed was that the primary author is in an engineering department. Martin Sweatman is apparently a chemical engineer. There is nothing about his biography with the University of Edinburgh to suggest he has the background to discuss either astronomical theories or archaeological theories.

https://www.eng.ed.ac.uk/about/people/dr-martin-sweatman

His co-author on the paper is a bioengineer who has done research into Parkinson’s Disease. Again, his biography doesn’t suggest he has any expertise in astronomy or archaeology.

https://www.eng.ed.ac.uk/about/people/mr-dimitrios-tsikritsis

In the Telegraph article, they acknowledge that some of their interpretations of the images at Gobekli Tepe were originally made by Graham Hancock. Among Hancock’s other arguments are that Antarctica is Plato’s Atlantis. The civilization Plato described is, according to Hancock, buried under the ice sheet. Hancock claims that Antarctica was originally located in the mid-Atlantic, but, galloping plate tectonics shifted the location of the continent to the South Pole, in less than a generation.

Looking at the article (which you can read here: http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/33194700/MAA_TEMPLATE_Decoding_Gobekli_Tepe_final.pdf ), they start out citing Clube and Napier for the astronomy portion of their paper. I had never heard of these two astronomers nor their Neo-Catastrophist theories, so I googled them. I came upon this critique of their theories:

http://contrarybooks.com/clube.php

Basically, it is a crap theory that doesn’t fit with any established astronomical model. Oh, and Clube and Napier cite Velikovsky, like Hancock he is a pseudo-scientist/charlatan.

After discussing Clube and Napier, Sweatman and Tsikritsis mention the Washington Scablands as evidence of rapid melting of the glaciers. The Scablands were created by a series of large scale floods involved with the release of water from the Pleistocene Lake Missoula. Geologists estimate these floods occurred between 18,000 and 13,000 years ago.

The carvings at Gobekli Tepe are thought to date to ca. 9,000 BCE, or 2,000 years after the beginning of the Younger Dryas (which Sweatman and Tsikritsis argue was caused by fragments of a comet hitting North America).

They further argue that the animals depicted on the pillars are similar to constellations that, according to a computer model, would have been visible in the sky ca. 11,000 BC. This is an extreme leap of logic. We have no way of knowing what constellations the inhabitants of that time period would have seen in the night sky. That people 2,000 years later would still use the same names is a stretch. Without a written language, which wasn’t developed for another 6,000 years, it is unlikely that the same names would have remained as the “constellations” changed shape.

These two authors also claim that there was a catastrophic population decline associated with the Younger Dryas. There is, to my knowledge, no evidence for such an event. Even in North America, the possibility of a large scale population decline is disputed.

This is a poorly researched paper that should not be getting the attention it is currently receiving.
___Have you seen this article claiming, "Ancient stone carvings confirm how comet struck Earth in 10,950BC, sparking the rise of civilisations."? The paper behind this claim has some inconsistencies with established research. First, the authors are not experts in the field of archaeology nor astronomy. Second, the researchers base their interpretations on the works of discredited authors. Third, there is no evidence of the population decline they claim. Read more from +Jeff Baker, who argues: "This is a poorly researched paper that should not be getting the attention it is currently receiving."

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2016-12-29 04:23:13 (4 comments; 6 reshares; 86 +1s; )Open 

Tribute to Astrophysicist Vera Rubin, the "Mother" of Dark Matter
Astrophysicist Professor Vera Rubin, National Medal of Science awardee who confirmed the existence of dark matter, died on 25 December 2016.

Dark matter is "the invisible material that makes up more than 90% of the mass of the universe." Rubin's pioneering work progressed from 1965 to the late 1970s. Her webpage describes the beginning of this discovery:

"By the late 1970s, after Rubin and her colleagues had observed dozens of spirals, it was clear that something other than the visible mass was responsible for the stars’ motions. Analysis showed that each spiral galaxy is embedded in a spheroidal distribution of dark matter — a “halo.” The matter is not luminous, it extends beyond the optical galaxy, and it contains 5 to 10 times as much mass as the luminous galaxy. Thestars&#... more »

And in the continuing march of the Angel of Death, I am sad to report that Vera Rubin died today at the age of 88. Rubin was most famous as the discoverer of dark matter: the invisible and still-mysterious substance which makes up 85% of the mass of the universe.

Dark matter had been hypothesized back in the 1930's, but it wasn't until the 1970's that it was finally observed. Rubin was studying distant galaxies when she noticed that the rotation speed of their outer edges didn't jibe with the speed they should have based on the amount of visible matter.

You can tell how fast something is moving relative to you using the Doppler effect: the same thing that makes a siren sound higher-pitched as it moves towards you and lower-pitched as it moves away. It works because sound looks like a sine wave of rising and dropping pressure, and pitch corresponds to the time between successive peaks. When the source is moving towards you, the first peak emitted by the siren is already moving towards you at the speed of sound, but the second peak will get there sooner than expected, because it had the benefit of moving towards you at the siren's speed for one more period and then being sent off at the speed of sound. This means that if you know the original pitch of the siren, you can even figure out how fast it's moving based on the pitch you hear.

The same trick works with light, only now instead of pitch, it's color that depends on the time between peaks; things appear bluer when they approach, and redder when they recede. Since starlight contains a lot of easily measured standard lights in it - colors like those that Hydrogen and Helium emit when heated, and which have a very distinct pattern when viewed through a prism - we can measure the speed of distant stars and galaxies. And by comparing the speed of the left and right edges of a galaxy, you can tell how fast it's spinning.

But we've known how to calculate the orbits of stars since Kepler, and from the amount of light a galaxy emits, we can make a pretty good guess at how heavy it is. From that, you would conclude that the stars at the outside of a galaxy should be moving more slowly than the ones at its center, in a nicely predictable way.

But that's not what Rubin saw! Instead, she discovered that the stars at the outside were moving at the same speed as the ones at the center - something only possible if there was some extra, invisible mass pulling them.

What Rubin discovered was that there is an invisible halo of "dark matter" surrounding each galaxy, nearly ten times as massive as the galaxy itself. It's "dark" in the plainly literal sense: unlike stars, it's not actively on fire and glowing.

In the decades since, dark matter has become a core area of study in astrophysics. Using the same techniques and ever-more-sophisticated telescopes, including dedicated satellite observatories, we've mapped the presence and motion of dark matter in greater detail, and discovered that it's far more mysterious than we first suspected. For example, we know it's not made up of ordinary atomic or molecular stuff, because its dynamics is all wrong; neither is it made up of massive neutrinos or any other kind of matter we understand.

(There's also dark energy, an even more widespread and invisible field, discovered a few decades later. Unlike dark matter, which attracts things by gravity, dark energy seems to provide a universe-spanning, diffuse, but very distinctly measurable repulsive force. It's even less understood than dark matter; most scientists suspect that if we understood these things well, we'd know a lot more about the nature of the universe)

Rubin therefore sits in the pantheon of the great astronomers of the 20th century. Alas, her death means she will not get the Nobel Prize that many have been arguing she deserves for a very long time: the prize cannot (by the terms of its founding grant) be awarded posthumously. But she remains one of the most important researchers in the field, and her work will continue to have a profound impact on our understanding of Nature for generations to come.___Tribute to Astrophysicist Vera Rubin, the "Mother" of Dark Matter
Astrophysicist Professor Vera Rubin, National Medal of Science awardee who confirmed the existence of dark matter, died on 25 December 2016.

Dark matter is "the invisible material that makes up more than 90% of the mass of the universe." Rubin's pioneering work progressed from 1965 to the late 1970s. Her webpage describes the beginning of this discovery:

"By the late 1970s, after Rubin and her colleagues had observed dozens of spirals, it was clear that something other than the visible mass was responsible for the stars’ motions. Analysis showed that each spiral galaxy is embedded in a spheroidal distribution of dark matter — a “halo.” The matter is not luminous, it extends beyond the optical galaxy, and it contains 5 to 10 times as much mass as the luminous galaxy. The stars' response to the gravitational attraction of the matter produces the high velocities. As a result of Rubin's groundbreaking work, it has become apparent that more than 90% of the universe is composed of dark matter."

Rubin's research remained prolific until the early 2000s, as she continued to study various models for the composition of the dark halos. Among her most recent publications was an examination of the rotation curves of spiral galaxies.

Until her retirement, Rubin worked at the Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C. She was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1993. She was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and in 1996, she received the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, the first woman to do so 168 years after Caroline Hershel (1828).

Neta Bahcall of Princeton University describes Rubin's scientific significance: “A pioneering astronomer, the ‘mother' of flat rotation curves and dark-matter, a champion of women in science, a mentor and role model to generations of astronomers.”

Carnegie Science describes Rubin's scientific impact extends far beyond her pioneering research: "She was an ardent feminist, advocating for women observers at the Palomar Observatory, women at the Cosmos Club, Princeton, and she even advised the Pope to have more women on his committee."

See +Yonatan Zunger's tribute to Professor Rubin in the linked post.

Learn more
Read some background on Rubin from Carnegie Science: https://carnegiescience.edu/news/vera-rubin-who-confirmed-%E2%80%9Cdark-matter%E2%80%9D-dies

See Rubin's biography and publications: https://home.dtm.ciw.edu/users/rubin/ #stemwomen #astrophysics #astronomy

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2016-12-20 20:08:22 (0 comments; 15 reshares; 57 +1s; )Open 

Community Service Announcement
About a month ago, several members of our Community shared an important but disturbing article on Medium revealing that we had an abuser in our midst. You can read the original and continually updated post here:

https://medium.com/@SLabusehelp/scott-lewis-what-lies-beneath-77648aa65ec4#.2dzsazm7f

As the story gained traction and readership, more and more people - many of them friends, colleagues, and associates of our Science on Google+ community - came forward with their own contributions and acknowledgments of abuse: psychological manipulation, financial malfeasance amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, emotional abuse, sexual assault. The damage has been wide-ranging and traumatic.

Situations like this are shocking to anyone of good conscience, and this case strikes particularly close to home: the perpetrator, Scott Lewis,... more »

Community Service Announcement
About a month ago, several members of our Community shared an important but disturbing article on Medium revealing that we had an abuser in our midst. You can read the original and continually updated post here:

https://medium.com/@SLabusehelp/scott-lewis-what-lies-beneath-77648aa65ec4#.2dzsazm7f

As the story gained traction and readership, more and more people - many of them friends, colleagues, and associates of our Science on Google+ community - came forward with their own contributions and acknowledgments of abuse: psychological manipulation, financial malfeasance amounting to tens of thousands of dollars, emotional abuse, sexual assault. The damage has been wide-ranging and traumatic.

Situations like this are shocking to anyone of good conscience, and this case strikes particularly close to home: the perpetrator, Scott Lewis, was formerly a moderator in this community. We were not aware of his abusive behavior during his brief tenure as a moderator, and his profile has been removed from our Member list. We at Science on Google+ absolutely reject and oppose his deplorable, harmful actions. We are aware that Scott used his position as a moderator of our community to leverage other science outreach opportunities with various organisations such as Hubble Space Telescope and the Space Telescope Science Institute. In an effort to prevent him from continuing to leverage our name, we issue this unequivocal statement denouncing his behavior.

Scott exploited our trust and his position of modest influence to take advantage of community members - you, the heart of this community; members of the moderation team; and others directly or indirectly associated with Science on Google+ - for his own personal and nefarious gain. In this circumstance as in our daily science and science communication, we feel a strong obligation to:

- Disclosure
- Clarity, Transparency, and Openness
- and Support

As such, while being respectful of the privacy of the victims of this exploitation, we offer this post to ensure that everyone is aware of these events and we offer these resources to help any victims who have not yet come forward:

A. Because of the expanding scope of this situation, the volunteers who published the original article also launched an informal and private support network for victims. If you feel the need, if you have been victimized or can add your voice to the existing chorus of supporters, please visit the link at the top of this post and message the good folks who brought us awareness.

B. Please feel free to post in the Guidelines/Feedback to Mods section of our community, but NOTE THAT WE ARE NOT ABLE TO OFFER CONFIDENTIALITY IF YOU POST IN SCIENCE ON GOOGLE+.

C. Feel free to direct message any of the community moderators, but know that we are not professional counselors and will likely refer you to resources better equipped to provide assistance (some are linked in the original Medium article). We would also like to direct your attention to a well constructed guide that +A.V. Flox recently put together regarding abuse and intervention. You can view the guide by clicking on the following link:

https://medium.com/@SLabusehelp/your-friend-has-been-abused-what-do-you-do-5938e8f9de47#.jmgx9q919

If you number among the victims, know that you did not bring this upon yourself and that you are not alone. We are, as always, here to help in whatever capacity we are able. You are why we built and maintain this community, and we very much want it to be a friendly, safe, and educational place to visit. We value you tremendously.___

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2016-11-27 18:37:43 (0 comments; 7 reshares; 54 +1s; )Open 

Fond memories
Do you know the difference between semantic and episodic memory? If not read on.

Remember, it's #FidoFriday.
Fugazza et al, recently published work demonstrating that dogs have episodic-like memory. What's episodic memory? It's your personal recollection of an event, but not to be confused with autobiographical memory. Semantic memory is recollection of facts, e.g., knowing the capital of Iowa. To distinguish between episodic memory and autobiographical memory, remember autobiographical memory includes semantic memory, e.g., the names of the places in your memories.

In this study, dogs were trained to mimic the trainer when the trainer gave the command "do it". It's called Do as I Do training. To get at episodic memory, the dogs were then trained to lie down after watching the owner do a task, like touch an umbrella or jump over a chair. Then the dogs were surprised by being asked, "do it". They had to remember what was done 1 minute earlier and 1 hour earlier. As with many of us, the dogs did much better at the shorter delay of 1 minute.

You can read more about memory types here:
Episodic Memory: Definition and Examples
http://www.livescience.com/43682-episodic-memory.html

The full article is here:
Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(16)31142-3___Fond memories
Do you know the difference between semantic and episodic memory? If not read on.

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2016-11-27 18:34:01 (0 comments; 5 reshares; 39 +1s; )Open 

The importance of Peer Review
+Brian Koberlein explains a bit about EM drive and the importance of peer review.

Jury Of One's Peers

The reactionless thruster known as the EM Drive has stirred heated debate over the past few years. If successful it could provide a new and powerful method to take our spacecraft to the stars, but it has faced harsh criticism because the drive seems to violate the most fundamental laws of physics. One of the biggest criticisms has been that the work wasn’t submitted for peer review, and until that happens it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Well, this week that milestone was reached with a peer-reviewed paper. The EM Drive has officially passed peer review.

It’s important to note that passing peer review means that experts have found the methodology of the experiments reasonable. It doesn’t guarantee that the results are valid, as we’ve seen with other peer-reviewed research such as BICEP2. But this milestone shouldn’t be downplayed either. With this new paper we now have a clear overview of the experimental setup and its results. This is a big step toward determining whether the effect is real or an odd set of secondary effects. That said, what does the research actually say?

The basic idea of the EMDrive is an asymmetrical cavity where microwaves are bounced around inside. Since the microwaves are trapped inside the cavity, there is no propellent or emitted electromagnetic radiation to push the device in a particular direction, standard physics says there should be no thrust on the device. And yet, for reasons even the researchers can’t explain, the EM Drive does appear to experience thrust when activated. The main criticism has focused on the fact that this device heats up when operated, and this could warm the surrounding air, producing a small thrust. In this new work the device was tested in a near vacuum, eliminating a major criticism.

What the researchers found was that the device appears to produce a thrust of 1.2 ± 0.1 millinewtons per kilowatt of power in a vacuum, which is similar to the thrust seen in air. By comparison, ion drives can provide a much larger 60 millinewtons per kilowatt. But ion drives require fuel, which adds mass and limits range. A functioning EM drive would only require electric power, which could be generated by solar panels. An optimized engine would also likely be even more efficient, which could bring it into the thrust range of an ion drive.

While all of this is interesting and exciting, there are still reasons to be skeptical. As the authors point out, even this latest vacuum test doesn’t eliminate all the sources of error. Things such as thermal expansion of the device could account for the results, for example. Now that the paper is officially out, other possible error sources are likely to be raised. There’s also the fact that there’s no clear indication of how such a drive can work. While the lack of theoretical explanation isn’t a deal breaker (if it works, it works), it remains a big puzzle to be solved. The fact remains that experiments that seem to violate fundamental physics are almost always wrong in the end.

I’ve been pretty critical of this experiment from the get go, and I remain highly skeptical. However, even as a skeptic I have to admit the work is valid research. This is how science is done if you want to get it right. Do experiments, submit them to peer review, get feedback, and reevaluate. For their next trick the researchers would like to try the experiment in space. I admit that’s an experiment I’d like to see.

Paper: Harold White, et al. Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum. Journal of Propulsion and Power. DOI: 10.2514/1.B36120 (2016)

___The importance of Peer Review
+Brian Koberlein explains a bit about EM drive and the importance of peer review.

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2016-10-09 17:04:59 (5 comments; 5 reshares; 52 +1s; )Open 

From pheromones to telling time with smell, here's a little science for #ScienceSunday

Time for some smelly science
Fresh Air's Terry Gross interviews Alexandra Horowitz to discuss her new book, Being a Dog. One of the fascinating capabilities that Alexandra mentions in the interview is that dogs can tell time via smell. We know dogs have a tremendously more sensitive sense of smell compared to us. It makes sense that dogs can use smell to tell time, if you think of time in a different way. For example, they can smell just traces of something left behind by another animal. Therefore they know that a faint smell is from the past. They also can detect faint smells in the air, perhaps around the corner. Therefore, they can smell the future. The way Alexandra describes a more traditional sense of time is pretty interesting. As the air heats up in your house, you can imagine air currents change. The smell of the room should change to. Remember we are visual creatures but dogs are more olfactory. Imagine 3D smell instead of sight. It makes sense that the scent profile of a room would change depending on the time a day and therefore a clue to what time it is. It's very much how we can use shadows to guess if it's midday or evening.

Alexandra mentioned the vomernasal organ, sometimes called the Jacobson's organ and I'm guessing a lot of people have never heard of it. The vomernasal organ (VNO) is the peripheral sensory organ in the olfactory system that involves chemoreception. Pheromones are often mentioned in the definition of VNO but in some non-mammalian species, such as snakes, VNO might be used to track prey using chemoreception. Therefore focusing just on pheromones is not broad enough of a definition. There is some debate as to whether or not humans have a VNO. It seems clear that it exists in the embryonic stage. The debate seems to be whether or not it is functional as adults. The article by Meredith (linked below) focuses not on whether it exists but what its function could be.

The other interesting thing from the Meredith article is the section about pheromones, where he talks about the definition and its use in scientific discourse. So first, the definition.

What is a pheromone and is it a well-defined, scientifically useful concept? The term pheromone was coined to describe a chemical substance which carries a message about the physiological or behavioral state of an insect to members of its own species, resulting in ‘a specific reaction, for example a definite behaviour or a developmental process’ (Karlson and Luscher, 1959).

He goes on to discuss how communication by pheromones needs to be mutually beneficial for sender and receiver. That benefit, is in an evolutionary sense.

The term pheromone is not going to disappear so long as it holds the public fascination. Its use for a class of chemicals that communicate information seems reasonable, but the definition is important if the term is to be useful in scientific discourse. Too rigid a definition can make its applicability to real situations so limited that it is useless. We know that even archetypal insect pheromones are not unique chemicals used by single species, as supposed in some definitions [see discussions in Beauchamp et al. and Albone (Beauchamp et al., 1976; Albone, 1984)]. Similarly, too broad a definition devalues the term and also makes it useless.

Getting back to the interview with Alexandra and dogs' incredible sense of smell, there are some great illustrations in the PBS, NOVA article below. An eye opening estimate of how much more sensitive dogs' sense of smell compared to ours is something like 10,000 to 100,000 times ours.

In Alexandra's previous book, Inside of a Dog, she writes that while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools worth.

Hopefully you have a sense of dogs' great sense of smell now.

Human Vomeronasal Organ Function: A Critical Review of Best and Worst Cases
Michael Meredith
Chem. Senses (2001) 26 (4): 433-445.
http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/4/433.full

Dogs' Dazzling Sense of Smell
On NOVA
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/dogs-sense-of-smell.html

#ScienceSunday___From pheromones to telling time with smell, here's a little science for #ScienceSunday

2016-05-13 00:30:04 (0 comments; 2 reshares; 42 +1s; )Open 

Added photos to A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? Science Denialism in America.

Added photos to A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? Science Denialism in America.___

2016-05-09 15:16:04 (22 comments; 21 reshares; 54 +1s; )Open 

Please join us for a fascinating and timely lecture on Science Denialism in America with Dr.+Michael Stamatikos, Assistant Professor at +OhioStateNewark. This lecture is hosted by the American Chemical Society and streamed online by +Science on Google+. Feel free to post your questions on the event post. See below for more details.

Link to event: http://columbus.sites.acs.org/meetingnotice.htm

Title: A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? The Socioeconomic and Geopolitical Consequences of Science Denialism in America

Dr. Michael Stamatikos
Department of Physics, Department of Astronomy &
Center for Cosmology & AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP)
The Ohio State University (OSU) at Newark

Abstract: We live in an Information Age that is defined by ever increasing computational benchmarks, which further enable discoveries in traditional STEM (Science,... more »

Please join us for a fascinating and timely lecture on Science Denialism in America with Dr.+Michael Stamatikos, Assistant Professor at +OhioStateNewark. This lecture is hosted by the American Chemical Society and streamed online by +Science on Google+. Feel free to post your questions on the event post. See below for more details.

Link to event: http://columbus.sites.acs.org/meetingnotice.htm

Title: A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? The Socioeconomic and Geopolitical Consequences of Science Denialism in America

Dr. Michael Stamatikos
Department of Physics, Department of Astronomy &
Center for Cosmology & AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP)
The Ohio State University (OSU) at Newark

Abstract: We live in an Information Age that is defined by ever increasing computational benchmarks, which further enable discoveries in traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. However, average cell phones with more computing power than all of NASA circa 1969 are bluntly juxtaposed with a rapidly eroding national capacity for accepting unbiased scientific results. Why is the first nation to reach the Moon scientifically regressing towards the Dark Ages? Although there are several contributing factors, Science Denialism is playing a major role in this disturbing national trend. Science Denialism is the irrational denial of otherwise conclusive scientific evidence, solely based upon a perceived conflict with antecedent political, economic and/or religious worldviews, which results in a selective distortion of scientific understanding. The conflation of skepticism with denialism leads to ambiguous inferences regarding the nature of consensus amongst scientists and provides a historical context for the apparent verisimilitude of pseudoscience, which some have attempted to include into academic curricula. In that regard, I’ll give an astrophysicists’ perspective on common topics such as: evolution, climate change, intelligent design and young Earth creationism, which are periodically the subjects of high-profile public “debates”. This national regression is further exacerbated by a STEM educational crisis and rampant scientific illiteracy/innumeracy amongst the electorate and its appointed government officials, which systematically obstructs our ability to formulate and implement evidence-based policies with bipartisan support. The resulting political dissonance resonates in cyber echo chambers and is further amplified in an era of the 24-hour cable news cycle – especially in a presidential election year. But what is science? How is it done? How do we “know” things? Why is it important? How can we combat this internal threat? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. As practitioners of science, we need to help each other understand on all levels, which means enhancing the quality and content of information when communicating our results, their implications and the scientific process, via education and public outreach. Science is not an absolute collection of facts to be memorized, but rather it can be thought of as the art of asking the right question(s) - this distinction is paramount. The scientific method allows for a statistical analysis of different models, whose selective predictions are confronted with independent observations, thus allowing for an evolving empirical understanding of Nature. Critical thinking and analytical reasoning are ubiquitous problem solving skills that are also crucial characteristics of an educated citizenry, which is essential to a thriving democracy and national security. Most importantly, we’ll need to collaborate with science advocates embedded within the insular communities that harbor each particular strand of Science Denialism. If left unchecked, Science Denialism threatens to cripple our long term national economy, short-change future generations of crucial self-investments in our education system and impede our ability to compete as a world leader in STEM research.___

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2016-03-27 17:26:34 (56 comments; 70 reshares; 241 +1s; )Open 

Something to chew on along with your Easter chocolate.

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-scientific-method-is-not-myth.html

How are the scientific method, free market, and natural selection related?
Read +Sabine Hossenfelder's blog post to find out. I particularly like this paragraph:

In science, the most relevant restriction is that we can’t just randomly generate hypotheses because we wouldn’t be able to test and evaluate them all. This is why science heavily relies on education standards, peer review, and requires new hypotheses to tightly fit into existing knowledge. We also need guidelines for good scientific conduct, reproducibility, and a mechanism to give credits to scientists with successful ideas. Take away any of that and the system wouldn’t work.

I write to try to undo the hype in a new scientific findings where a newspaper has lathered on too much hype. I also moderate the Science on Google+ community. So I often get comments about how we should question everything, that science is about challenging everything. If you don't question everything, e.g., evolution, climate change, etc. then you aren't doing science. Sadly, these comments often come from climate change deniers, believers in pseudoscience or conspiracies.  So I often have to explain that skepticism is fine, however, when you have an extraordinary claim, you need extraordinary evidence. I've written about that before.

Skepticism doesn't equal question all things
https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Scienceongoogleplus/posts/dTJssSxdALH

I'm not sure many people truly understand the scientific method and IFLS doesn't help with catchy GIFs with no science or attribution.

Science is not about certainty. Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking, at the present level of knowledge. Science is extremely reliable; it's not certain. In fact, not only it's not certain, but it's the lack of certainty that grounds it. Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure, but because they are the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques, and they are the most credible because they were put on the table for everybody's criticism. [...]
http://goo.gl/0e7p7

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/neotsn/4947989561

#ScienceSunday  

h/t +Filippo Salustri ___Something to chew on along with your Easter chocolate.

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-scientific-method-is-not-myth.html

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2016-02-13 20:55:23 (5 comments; 15 reshares; 101 +1s; )Open 

Excellent coverage of the highlights of chemistry over more than five millennia.

An Enjoyable Walk Through Chemistry History

Do you know who is the first chemist whose name is recorded on an official document? Do you know what role chemistry played in the development of the Pantheon in Rome about 2000 years ago? Have you heard of a person named Geber? If so, do you know what are his contributions to chemistry? Do you know what role adhesive tape played in the development of graphene?

Sterling Publishing Company in New York, a subsidiary of Barnes and Noble, publishes the Sterling Milestones series, which includes The Math Book, The Physics Book, The Psychology Book, The Physics Book, and more. The most recent addition to this series is The Chemistry Book by Derek B. Lowe. Dr. Lowe is an organic and medicinal chemist who has worked for several major pharmaceutical companies. He is also one of the pioneer science bloggers, writing the wildly popular blog In the Pipeline, now hosted by the publishers of Science.

The subtitle of Lowe's book is "From Gunpowder to Graphene, 250 Milestones in the History of Chemistry." In this book, he celebrates important accomplishments in chemistry, moving chronologically from circa 500,000 BCE when the Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) formed, with its truly stunning, massive gypsum crystals. From there, the book jumps to 3300 BCE and the Bronze Age, and then moves forward to the present day, hitting the highlights of chemistry along the way.

I'm sure that some people might object that he included certain events and excluded others, but I won't quibble. The book provides excellent coverage of the highlights of chemistry over more than five millennia, and Lowe takes care to show how early concepts influenced later developments and later developments related back to earlier concepts. He maintains a focus on the science, but he provides interesting insights into the people, personalities, and disputes in the sciences as he moves through time.

Here are a few examples from the book of interesting points about chemistry.

• The first chemist whose name we know is Tapputi, a palace overseer and perfume maker. She is mentioned on a Babylonian text from 1200 BCE, and in the text she is described doing things quite familiar to working chemists, such as distillation and filtration (page 22).

• Although Rome did not have a strong science culture during its existence as Republic, and then Empire, one area in which it excelled was making concrete. Analytical chemists have recently figured out the recipe that the ancient Romans used for making concrete, and it turns out that in several respects it is superior to Portland cement, developed in nineteenth century England. The Pantheon, the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world was built by the ancient Romans about the year 126 CE, and it still stands today as a testament to how good Rome's concrete technology was (page 34).

• Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān, known to Western scientists and historians as Geber, lived in modern-day Iraq from about 721 CE to about 815 CE. Among other subjects, ibn Hayyān studied alchemy, but in many ways, he was a prototype for alchemists and, much later, laboratory chemists who followed in the centuries after his death. A dedicated researcher, ibn Hayyān insisted that practical laboratory work was necessary to obtain competence in alchemy. He kept notes of his experiments and wrote numerous detailed manuscripts about his work, attracting many followers. His followers also wrote numerous manuscripts about alchemy, attributing them to Geber (ibn Hayyān). These false Geber manuscripts are written in an elaborate style that is particularly difficult to decipher. Lowe informs us that the word gibberish (commonly defined as "talk in no known or understandable language" and also, "overly technical and obscure language") comes from the difficulty historians and others have had in translating and understanding these writings by Geber's followers (page 40). Lowe's discussion of the origins of the word "gibberish" is only one of a few theories of the word's etymology, and it is not the most widely held theory. Moreover, a few people assert that the word has become a racist code word, the use of which should be avoided.

• Graphene was a form of carbon that long had been thought to exist but remained undiscovered until 2004 when Andre Konstantin Geim and Konstantin Novoselov produced it by applying adhesive tape to graphite and peeling it off, leaving graphene layers stuck to the tape. Although I have known this story for years, I remain surprised that it took so long for anyone to figure out how to obtain graphene by such a simple technique (page 492).

Lowe covers the discovery of elements, the gradual conversion of alchemy into modern chemistry, the development of the ideal gas laws, and numerous other topics of great interest to chemists. He doesn't focus solely on great events, but he touches also on smaller events that are of great importance to practicing bench chemists, including the development of separatory funnels (page 140), the Erlenmeyer flask (page 152), structural formula (page 154), the Dean-Stark Trap (page 266), and the rotary evaporator (page 362). I find it hard to imagine doing good quality modern chemistry without these devices!

Chromatography and spectrometry are extensively covered in the book, as these are vital techniques for analyzing chemical compounds and deducing the structure of what has been synthesized or isolated from an extract. These are tools that I use daily, and it is interesting to learn the back-story of how these things developed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in chemistry. If you know a young person who is interested in chemistry, this book may be a great gift for him or her, a gift that will stimulate the mind and help develop an appreciation for how far we have come and where we are going in chemistry, the central science.

REFERENCE:
Derek B. Lowe. The Chemistry Book. From Gunpowder to Graphene, 250 Milestones in the History of Chemistry (part of the Sterling Milestones series). New York: Sterling Publishing, 2016, 528 pages.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-chemistry-book-derek-b-lowe/1121130424 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24612698-the-chemistry-book 


SUGGESTED:
Derek B. Lowe Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Lowe_(chemist) 

In the Pipeline blog by Derek Lowe
http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/

Some In the Pipeline blog posts are also featured on the Chemistry World website, run by the Royal Society of Chemistry in England.

See, http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/ and search for Derek Lowe by name. The search will return the featured blog posts he has written.

Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān
Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/biography/Abu-Musa-Jabir-ibn-Hayyan 
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabir_ibn_Hayyan 

There are quite a few websites that have pages dedicated to Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān. Some are well done; others are much less well done. If I could go back in time and meet a famous scientist, he would be on my list of people to meet.

History of the word "gibberish"
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=gibberish
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibberish
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/gibberish
http://blog.oup.com/2008/12/gibberish/___Excellent coverage of the highlights of chemistry over more than five millennia.

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2016-02-13 20:54:07 (16 comments; 9 reshares; 95 +1s; )Open 

Some of the science—and the poetry—of LIGO’s gravitational wave announcement.

The Poetry of LIGO’s Gravitational Waves

Yesterday the LIGO scientific collaboration announced that they had detected the gravitational waves from the in-spiral and merger of two black holes, shown in figure 1. It would not be an overstatement to say that this result has changed science forever. As a gravitational physicist, it is hard for me to put into words how scientifically important and emotionally powerful this moment is for me and for everyone in my field. But I’m going to try. This is my attempt to capture some of the science—and the poetry—of LIGO’s gravitational wave announcement.

To read this post in blog form, see here: http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2016/02/12/ligo-gravitational-wave-source/

The Source

About 1.3 billion years ago and as many light years away, two spinning black holes, each about thirty times the mass of the sun (one a bit bigger, one a bit smaller) ended their lives as separate entities. These two monsters had probably lived out many separate lives together: first as a binary system of two massive stars and most recently as two black holes orbiting each other. Somewhere in between, each one probably briefly outshone the entire galaxy as a core-collapse supernova.

But nothing lasts forever. Einstein tells us that mass distorts spacetime, warping distance and duration. And an accelerating mass (like a black hole in an orbit) releases some of its energy in ripples of this distortion. And so, over the billions of years of their shared lives, our black holes lost energy to these gravitational waves and their orbit decayed. They slowly, inevitably, spiralled towards each other.

As the partners approached, their orbit sped up and their slow, stately waltz gradually transitioned into a frantic tarantella toward coalescence. Eventually the partners came within about 500 kilometres of each other (about the distance from Paris to Frankfurt!). By this time, they were orbiting each other about thirty-five times per second!

The black holes spiralled towards each other at roughly the same rate about five more times before they suddenly plunged together, spinning around their shared centre of mass 250 times per second. But this stage didn’t last that long. Before even one second had passed, the black holes’ event horizons overlapped, and they merged into a single rapidly rotating object. This new single black hole oscillated wildly as it settled down into its final configuration, emitting gravitational waves all the while.

In-spiral. Merger. Ringdown. After (possibly) millions of years in a slowly decaying orbit, the final plunge took less than a fifth of a second. In those last moments, gravitational waves carried away 1.8x10^(47) Joules. That’s three times the energy contained in our Sun. Three suns, released as ripples in spacetime.

This is a computer simulation of the in-spiral and merger of two black holes much like the ones I described, produced by my friends and collaborators in the Simulating Extreme Spacetimes collaboration:
https://youtu.be/I_88S8DWbcU

(Note my calculations of distances are based on extremely rough Newtonian approximations. They are not very accurate. Maybe not even by an order of magnitude. But at these scales, it's not super important.)

Gravitational Waves

But what of the gravitational waves emitted by our ill-fated dance partners? These ripples in distance, in the very fabric of space and time, travel outwards from their source at the speed of light. Space is large and empty and it is mostly a lonely journey. Perhaps they pass through a cloud of gas and dust. Perhaps they don’t. If they do, the distortions of distance move the gas. Some gas particles move apart, some together. The gravitational waves might move a ring of gas particles, as shown in figure 2.

The effect is small; if the gas cloud were a few kilometres in width, the gas particles would move a distance less than one one-thousandth of the width of a proton. But they would move. And if they moved enough (they don’t) they would make a sound—the sound of the merging black holes:
https://youtu.be/QyDcTbR-kEA

Detection

Eventually, after about 1.3 billion years, on September 14th, 2015, the gravitational waves reached Earth. They were too weak to make a sound, but we could detect them. A gravitational wave is a distortion in distance, one that travels. So we can measure this distortion with a very precise ruler. And light is one of the best possible rulers.

Actually, we used two gigantic, perpendicular light-rulers, each several kilometres long. As a gravitational wave passed the rulers, it shrank distance in one direction and grew it in the other. The scientists who use these light-rulers call this discrepancy a “strain.” The paired light-rulers themselves are called “interferometers.”

We’ve built several interferometers to detect gravitational waves. There’s one in Livingston, Louisiana (https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/LA), which is shown in figure 3, and one in Hanford, Washington (https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/WA). There’s another in Sarstedt, Germany (http://www.geo600.org/) and another in Cascina, Italy (https://www.ego-gw.it/public/about/whatIs.aspx). One, destined for India, is in storage (http://gw-indigo.org/tiki-index.php?page=LIGO-India). And another is under construction underground in Kamioka, Japan (http://gwcenter.icrr.u-tokyo.ac.jp/en/).

On that fateful day, only the detectors in Livingston and Hanford were active. (Some of the others aren’t even sensitive enough for their intended purpose. When people first started building gravity-wave detectors, it wasn’t clear how far away the sources would be.) The waves hit Livingston first, at exactly 3:50:45 AM local time. About seven-thousandths of a second later, they reached Hanford and distorted the light-ruler there, too. And a fifth of a second after that, they were gone. The sound of the black holes had passed us by and continued its journey into the void.

But they did not pass without a trace. No, the Livingston and Hanford detectors recorded their passage, shown beautifully in figure 4. The 1.3 billion-year-old waveform passed through our world and changed us forever.

Learning from the Waves

We already knew gravitational waves exist. That measurement took 30 years and won the Nobel prize (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1993/press.html). And we had a pretty good idea of what they should look like. But the only way to confirm that they looked like we expected was to observe them. So the first thing the LIGO team did was to use sophisticated statistical techniques, without any assumption about the final waveform, to extract the true wave from the noisy signal shown in figure 4.

They then compared that waveform to the wave predicted by general relativity. The two agree spectacularly. Score one for Einstein! Of course, there are possible modifications of general relativity such that a black hole in-spiral wouldn’t look any different. So only time, and more gravitational waves, will tell if those modifications are wrong. But for now, this result is a triumph of relativity.

Independently, the LIGO team matched the raw data to a “template bank” of possible gravitational waves, each generated for a different configuration of the black holes—different masses, different rotation rates, different orientations, et cetera. Eventually, they found a match. (Actually they found several, all of which were very similar.) And, fantastically, this match agreed perfectly with the wave extracted using the statistical technique. The extracted waveforms from the two detectors, calculated in both ways, are shown in figure 5.

As a huge bonus, matching the waveform in this way told the LIGO team the masses and rotation rates of the initial black holes and the final black hole that they became.

From the ripples in spacetime, they had extracted astrophysics!

Two Detections

I want to emphasize that one reason we can be so confident in the LIGO detection is that it happened twice, once for each detector. Both detectors are extremely sensitive—they could easily see an earthquake or a car driving down the highway and misinterpret it as a gravitational wave. But the gravitational wave was seen at both detectors, and the odds of them both getting exactly the same false positive are extremely low.

What We’ve Learned

In this one detection, we’ve learned a tremendous amount…some of it very definitive, some of it not. But at the very least, we now know the following:

1. Gravitational waves look very much like we expected.

2. Black holes definitively exist. No other two objects in the universe could have been so close before colliding. Of course, we had pretty good evidence that black holes existed before now (see: https://briankoberlein.com/2015/08/16/do-black-holes-really-exist/).

3. Binary black hole systems definitely exist. A few years ago, it was not obvious that these systems formed. To get a pair of black holes orbiting each other, you need a pair of supernovae. And that could easily destroy the orbit.

What We Stand to Learn

For most of the history of astronomy, humans relied on their unaided eyes to look at the stars. In the early 1600s, telescopes were invented and the universe opened up. Suddenly the twinkle of stars and planets resolved into gas giants and moons, clusters and nebulae and galaxies. In the 1930s, we discovered a new kind of telescope: the radio telescope. Once again, we saw space in literally a whole new light. Suddenly objects we thought we understood looked very different. And wild new things appeared, like radio pulsars. Every advance in telescope technology sparked a huge leap in our understanding of the universe. We could, essentially, see a whole new side of the universe.

This is just as big. Now we can hear the universe. We’re going to learn so, so much.

Related Reading

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about general relativity and gravitational waves, you may be interested in my series on #howgrworks :

1. In Galileo Almost Discovered General Relativity, I explain the motivating idea behind general relativity and how Galileo almost figured it out.

http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/07/26/galileo-almost-discovered-general-relativity/

2. In General Relativity Is the Dynamics of Distance, I explain how simple arguments can tell us that gravity stretches or shrinks space and time.

http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/08/03/general-relativity-is-the-dynamics-of-distance/

3. In General Relativity Is the Curvature of Spacetime, I describe how the distortion of distance and duration from gravity translates into curvature, and how this bends the path of light (and other stuff).

http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/08/15/general-relativity-is-the-curvature-of-spacetime/

4. In Distance Ripples, I explain how gravitational waves work.

http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/08/23/distance-ripples-how-gravitational-waves-work/

5. In Our Local Spacetime, I present a visualization of the curvature of spacetime near Earth.

http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/09/06/our-local-spacetime/

6. In Classical Tests of General Relativity, I explain a little history.

7. In the Geodetic Effect, I talk about how we can use gyroscopes to directly measure the curvature of spacetime.

Further Reading

Here are some nice lay resources on the recent LIGO discovery. (Thanks to +Johnathan Chung  for finding some of these.)

1. This is LIGO’s online press release. It contains, for example, a number of fantastic videos.

https://www.ligo.caltech.edu/detection

2. In this video, Brian Green explains the take-home message.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s06_jRK939I

3. This is a great explanation of gravitational waves by quantum gravity physicist +Sabine Hossenfelder

http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2016/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about.html

4. This is the lay article about the discovery by the American Physical Society:

http://www.nature.com/news/einstein-s-gravitational-waves-found-at-last-1.19361

5. +Yonatan Zunger wrote up this nice explanation:

https://plus.google.com/+YonatanZunger/posts/DUp4TPcrFfJ

6. This is a nice article by +Brian Koberlein  on the existence of black holes.

https://briankoberlein.com/2015/08/16/do-black-holes-really-exist/

7. This is the press release for the Nobel prize awarded for the indirect discovery of gravitational waves:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1993/press.html

8. This Nature article talks about several questions we can answer with gravitational waves:

http://www.nature.com/news/gravitational-waves-6-cosmic-questions-they-can-tackle-1.19337

Scholarly Reading

For the very brave, here are my academic sources.

1. This is the LIGO detection paper. Already peer reviewed. Kudos to the LIGO collaboration for going through peer-review before announcing their result!

https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.061102

2. This is the LIGO paper describing how they extracted the mass and spin of the black holes.

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500218/public

3. This paper describes the LIGO team’s investigation of whether or not the December detection could have been a mistake. (Obviously, they concluded it was real, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog post…)

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500238/public

4. This paper describes the LIGO team’s model-agnostic approach to measuring the wave. This is how they know they’re not falling victim to wishful thinking.

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500229/public

5. This technical paper describes how the LIGO team estimated their noise and error

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500248/public

6. This paper discusses how we’ve tested general relativity with this observation.

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500213/public

7. This is an assessment of the rates of black hole binary mergers in the universe based on the measurements LIGO has made so far.

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500217/public

8. This is a related paper on what that means for detectors.

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500222/public

9. This paper is a search for neutrinos from the black hole merger that LIGO observed. (None were found.)

https://dcc.ligo.org/LIGO-P1500271/public

10. This is the population model for binary black holes which may be wrong.

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/523620/meta

#howgrworks #physics #science #ScienceEveryDay #gravitationalwaves #astronomy #astrophysics___Some of the science—and the poetry—of LIGO’s gravitational wave announcement.

2016-01-23 14:56:33 (6 comments; 5 reshares; 43 +1s; )Open 

Just getting set up, and we will be starting imminently - hope you can join us!

Menstruation and menopause are two fundamental biological processes in every woman's lifetime. However, both these subjects are shrouded with secrecy, and it's often difficult to have open conversations about them because of cultural taboos. But what are the consequences of silence? What are the economic impacts, the social injustices, and the health risks? Why is it so difficult to find consensus on what menopause is, and what its purpose is? 

Join us for a +Mosaic  and +Science on Google+  Hangout on air as we speak to author Rose George about these under-reported topics. Rose wrote two fascinating articles for Mosaic about menstruation and menopause, and we will be exploring these subjects in-depth. 
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday 23rd January at 3 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

Rose's articles: http://mosaicscience.com/story/blood-speaks and http://mosaicscience.com/story/menopause

Join the conversation using #MosaicHangout    ___Just getting set up, and we will be starting imminently - hope you can join us!

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2016-01-22 19:33:31 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 41 +1s; )Open 

Do you have a science related degree and/or are working in a science related field? We would love to hear about your research. Comment on this post (https://goo.gl/QRB5hU) and let us know what you’re working on!

Science on Google+ Meet and Greet
We would like to take this opportunity to meet some of the people/pages in this community, and to introduce you to the new +Science on Google+ moderators. Do you have a science related degree and/or are working in a science related field? Comment below and tell us briefly about your research. Also don’t forget to introduce yourselves to the new +Science on Google+ moderators - Thanks for all of your hard work, +Carissa Braun,  +Jonah Miller, and +Johnathan Chung.

Image source: http://goo.gl/m2AI7l ___Do you have a science related degree and/or are working in a science related field? We would love to hear about your research. Comment on this post (https://goo.gl/QRB5hU) and let us know what you’re working on!

2016-01-18 21:27:24 (9 comments; 24 reshares; 32 +1s; )Open 

Menstruation and menopause are two fundamental biological processes in every woman's lifetime. However, both these subjects are shrouded with secrecy, and it's often difficult to have open conversations about them because of cultural taboos. But what are the consequences of silence? What are the economic impacts, the social injustices, and the health risks? Why is it so difficult to find consensus on what menopause is, and what its purpose is? 

Join us for a +Mosaic  and +Science on Google+  Hangout on air as we speak to author Rose George about these under-reported topics. Rose wrote two fascinating articles for Mosaic about menstruation and menopause, and we will be exploring these subjects in-depth. 
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday 23rd January at 3 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTubechan... more »

Menstruation and menopause are two fundamental biological processes in every woman's lifetime. However, both these subjects are shrouded with secrecy, and it's often difficult to have open conversations about them because of cultural taboos. But what are the consequences of silence? What are the economic impacts, the social injustices, and the health risks? Why is it so difficult to find consensus on what menopause is, and what its purpose is? 

Join us for a +Mosaic  and +Science on Google+  Hangout on air as we speak to author Rose George about these under-reported topics. Rose wrote two fascinating articles for Mosaic about menstruation and menopause, and we will be exploring these subjects in-depth. 
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday 23rd January at 3 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

Rose's articles: http://mosaicscience.com/story/blood-speaks and http://mosaicscience.com/story/menopause

Join the conversation using #MosaicHangout    ___

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2016-01-18 01:18:04 (15 comments; 42 reshares; 137 +1s; )Open 

Science involves a question. Technology involves a problem.

Science vs. Technology: What's the Difference?

On a recent +Science on Google+ post that highlighted advances in technology, a discussion arose on what is science and why it is different from technology. +Jonah Miller emphasized that the distinction between the two was blurry, but "most scientists draw the line at falsifiability. In other words, if you are investigating an idea that you can prove false, then you might be doing science. This idea was first put forward by Karl Popper. Here's a basic introduction for you:
https://explorable.com/falsifiability

Now, is falsifiability all it takes to do science? Most modern scientists would say no.  Science also involves a system of checks to make sure that you're not fooling yourself (and you are very easy to fool). This includes things like the peer-review system, keeping careful records, and an emphasis on reproducibility. And by this heuristic, when you build something, like a phone app, with the goal of selling or giving that app away, you're probably not doing science."

The image makes the point: Science involves a question. Technology involves a problem. "It may sound like semantics, but projects following each method start at a different point and with different assumptions. Starting with a question suggests that a project will be constructed as a way to find an answer by performing a test or experiment. Starting with a problem, on the other hand, sets an engineering design project up to find a solution—the development of something that can address the needs of the problem."

Image source: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/2013/09/understanding-the-engineering-design-process.php

+Science on Google+ post: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AndreaFerrante31december2099blog/posts/LmdTJ37CKue___Science involves a question. Technology involves a problem.

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2015-12-15 00:41:14 (2 comments; 5 reshares; 59 +1s; )Open 

Debunking the preposterous premise that navigation is mediated by testosterone.

#ScienceMediaHype Women, testosterone and navigation
As usual, science hyperbole would like us to believe that men are "hardwired" to perform better than women at technical tasks. In this article by Science Alert, the heading tells us women navigate better when given testosterone: "Women can navigate better when given testosterone, study finds" The article itself keeps up this facade. Reading the study, however, we find that nothing of the sort is true.

Fifty-three women were recruited on the basis of being on the oral contraceptive pill and not having significant experience in gaming. Why did the latter matter? Because this experiment uses computer games to simulate navigation. The study does not actually test navigation in real life conditions. That's usually okay - experiments try to construct experiences in a controlled environment. But when those conditions are created to exclude women with certain skill sets that immediately tells us that what is being measured is not biological processes, but rather experience - a social experience.

Women who game - the fastest growing group of gamers - are excellent at navigation of simulated environments, proving, in fact, that women are more than capable in picking up navigation skills with practice... you know, same as men do. (Studies that try to link technical skills with biology as this study does, to suit a contrived evolutionary psychology hypothesis, fail to account for social experience. This study is no different.)

Women who game, whose existence disproves the flawed biological argument put forward by the researchers, can't be included in such a study as they immediately disprove the preposterous premise that navigation is mediated by testosterone.

Back to the study: the women were asked to come off the pill a week before the experiments (the pill has elevated levels of estrogen which would counteract with the additional hormones provided in the study). A few of the women were later disqualified from the study due to experiencing nausea during navigation tasks (resulting from the additional testosterone) as well as due to not competing the tasks correctly (AKA human - not biological - error).

Twenty-one women were given a small dosage of testosterone, another 21 women were not. Both groups completed a series of tasks. In some tasks both groups performed slightly differently, in many they preformed the same. Notably, the women on testosterone did not navigate better. Instead, in some tasks where the two groups differed, the key observation was that there was a slightly different level of activity recorded via fMRI, a machine which in this case measures brain activity but does not specifically tell us why that activity differs.

Given the machine can't give us this explanation, the researchers asked the women to explain why they made the navigation choices they did. When we ask people to describe their experiences and choices, are we measuring biology? Nope. We are measuring social processes.

The researchers did not actually prove that women on testosterone navigate better than those who do not have extra testosterone. It is equally noteworthy that the researchers did not measure what happens to men when they're given an extra dose of testosterone. If they had, the likelihood that a similar shift in brain activity may be recorded during some tasks would be worth commenting on, in so far as increasing hormones can impact brain activity of anyone. And yet still, if they had sampled men with and without additional testosterone, the fMRI would not give the researchers the answers they sought, as they would still rely on questionnaires to figure out why men make the decisions they make.

Men's answers, like the women in this study, would reveal social patterns about decision making that reflect cultural narratives. That is, when some groups of White women who don't play online games are asked to describe why they make certain choices about navigation, they would reflect back socio-cultural reasons which would differ from White men, and which differ again from White women who do game, and which would differ from Indigenous Australian women who live in remote regions, and so on. Our social experiences shape our decision-making and our exposure to certain types of navigation has an impact on our skills.

This study has not proven what is being reported. It simply shows that brain activity can be affected by increased testosterone, without leading to demonstrable changes in navigation skills. That's not the story being reported on here.

Finally, as with all science media hyperbole, sampling matters: 21 women from undisclosed ethnic groups (the omission tells us they very likely they were White women) do not represent all women. We already know that psychology and cognitive sciences extrapolate on findings from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies to make universal statements that simply are not true (http://goo.gl/H8rlHb).

In the end, this study only tells us we should remain wary of poorly designed research and even more cautious about incomplete science "journalism." In the words of psychologist Jane Hu, "Writers, we need to stay vigilant and look beyond the easy gender narratives. Readers deserve better." 

Read more
The study: http://goo.gl/1w79k5
The media report: http://goo.gl/BmrXWt
Image and further discussion on inaccurate reporting of social science research on gender and biology, see my blog post: http://goo.gl/v3fsED

#socialcience   #psychology   #sociology  ___Debunking the preposterous premise that navigation is mediated by testosterone.

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2015-12-11 16:53:03 (3 comments; 7 reshares; 50 +1s; )Open 

California Basin Model

This is a six day simulation of the California Basin using the coupled HydroGeoSphere and Weather Research and Forecasting models. 

Integrated Hydrosystem Modeling of the California Basin

The Western United States is facing one of the worst droughts on record. Climate change projections predict warmer temperatures, higher evapotranspiration rates, and no foreseeable increase in precipitation. California, in particular, has supplemented their decreased surface water supplies by mining deep groundwater. However, this supply of groundwater is limited, especially with reduced recharge. These combined factors place California’s water-demanding society at dire risk. 

In an effort to quantify California’s risks, we present a fully integrated water cycle model that captures the dynamics of the subsurface, land surface, and atmospheric domains over the entire California basin. Our water cycle model combines HydroGeoSphere (HGS), a 3-D control-volume finite element model that accommodates variably-saturated subsurface and surface water flow with evapotranspiration processes to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, a 3-D finite difference nonhydrostatic mesoscale atmospheric simulator. The two-way coupling within our model, referred to as HGS-WRF, tightly integrates the water cycling processes by passing precipitation and potential evapotranspiration data from WRF to HGS, while exchanging actual evapotranspiration and soil saturation data from HGS to WRF. Furthermore, HGS-WRF implements a flexible coupling method that allows each model to use a unique mesh while maintaining mass conservation within and between domains. Our simulation replicated field measured evapotranspiration fluxes and showed a strong correlation between the soil saturation (depth to groundwater table) and latent heat fluxes. Altogether, the HGS-WRF California basin model is currently the most complete water resource simulation framework as it combines groundwater, surface water, the unsaturated zone, and the atmosphere into one coupled system.

The simulation below illustrates the coupled model running for a six day time period. The first plot, Log Depth, is the surface water elevations over the entire basin in log base 10 units (so a value of -2 is actually 1 cm). The next plot illustrates Precipitation shown as meters per second. The third plot Evapotranspiration is the amount of water coming out of the surface and subsurface as evaporation and from plants (transpiration). The last plot is the change in soil moisture from the initial condition, these values are negative values because the soil is drying with time. 

I am presenting this research at the American Geophysical Union Tuesday, 15 December 2015 in San Francisco. Hope to see you there!___California Basin Model

This is a six day simulation of the California Basin using the coupled HydroGeoSphere and Weather Research and Forecasting models. 

2015-11-27 15:24:34 (5 comments; 1 reshares; 33 +1s; )Open 

Live in 30 mins - come join us as we talk about the links between processed meat and cancer, and how diet can affect cancer risk. 

We've all read the headlines about the link between processed meat link and cancer. But what exactly is the risk, and should we give up bacon and burgers? Is it really as bad as smoking? What is the underlying mechanism behind the increased risk of developing cancer? Join us for a +Science on Google+ and +Cancer Research UK  Hangout on Air as we speak to Dr Kathryn Bradbury and Professor Owen Sansom about this story. 

Kathryn is a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford who studies the links between diet and cancer. Owen is a molecular biologist at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, who is investigating the cell signalling pathways that are activated in colon cancer. 

This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Kat Arney  . You can tune in on Friday November 27th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will also be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.___Live in 30 mins - come join us as we talk about the links between processed meat and cancer, and how diet can affect cancer risk. 

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2015-11-25 11:57:35 (9 comments; 11 reshares; 56 +1s; )Open 

The Eternal Itch: Dante's Eighth Circle of Hell

Onchocerciasis or River Blindness is caused by a parasite endemic to Africa that is transferred to a person by the bite of a blackfly. The parasite matures in the host within a year, and then reproduces up to a thousand tiny worms per day.

When untreated, those microfilarial worms invade the skin and travel throughout the body. That results in extreme, extensive, and persistent itching, along with subcutaneous bumps and eventual blindness after they burrow into the eyes.

The parasite has infected up to 25 million people (almost all in Africa), and suicide due to the debilitating itch is unfortunately not uncommon.

There are many reports of people in Africa who never get relief despite deep and intense scratching. In the worst cases, individuals have resorted to heating machetes over a fire and using... more »

The Eternal Itch: Dante's Eighth Circle of Hell

Onchocerciasis or River Blindness is caused by a parasite endemic to Africa that is transferred to a person by the bite of a blackfly. The parasite matures in the host within a year, and then reproduces up to a thousand tiny worms per day.

When untreated, those microfilarial worms invade the skin and travel throughout the body. That results in extreme, extensive, and persistent itching, along with subcutaneous bumps and eventual blindness after they burrow into the eyes.

The parasite has infected up to 25 million people (almost all in Africa), and suicide due to the debilitating itch is unfortunately not uncommon.

There are many reports of people in Africa who never get relief despite deep and intense scratching. In the worst cases, individuals have resorted to heating machetes over a fire and using the hot blades to "numb" or skin their backs out of desperation. Some have used broken shards of ceramic pots to try to gouge the worms out to no avail, and others have dumped boiling hot water on themselves in an attempt to feel "better" -- anything to make the itching stop.

Two of this year's Nobel Prize winners in Medicine, Drs. Omura (Japan) and Campbell (USA) were recognized for their discovery of a drug used to treat River Blindness. More:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/press.html

Source: +Johnathan Chung responds to a question in the +Science on Google+ community. The best comments or answers to questions will be posted as part of our  #Askascientist  series. Do you have science questions for us? Use the Science Outreach category to ask the science community. ___

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2015-11-24 12:09:56 (40 comments; 16 reshares; 94 +1s; )Open 

How fast is the universe expanding?

A galaxy cluster one megaparsec away from us is probably moving away from us at about 70 km/s. That's Hubble's law:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble's_law

The basic idea is that new empty space is being created at a (roughly) constant rate throughout the universe. Therefore, the further away an object is from us, the more empty space is being created between it and us, because there's more space. And so it appears to be moving faster.

That means stuff forty-five billion lightyears from us appears to be moving away from us at the speed of light. But that's an illusion. It's not really moving.

Think about somebody baking raisin bread in the oven. As the bread bakes, it expands. The raisins don't move, but they appear to get further away from each other.

That's why... more »

How fast is the universe expanding?

A galaxy cluster one megaparsec away from us is probably moving away from us at about 70 km/s. That's Hubble's law:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble's_law

The basic idea is that new empty space is being created at a (roughly) constant rate throughout the universe. Therefore, the further away an object is from us, the more empty space is being created between it and us, because there's more space. And so it appears to be moving faster.

That means stuff forty-five billion lightyears from us appears to be moving away from us at the speed of light. But that's an illusion. It's not really moving.

Think about somebody baking raisin bread in the oven. As the bread bakes, it expands. The raisins don't move, but they appear to get further away from each other.

That's why it can look like things are going away from us faster than light, when they're really not.

(The rate of creation of empty space used to be considered constant, but we believe it's changing. We don't know what's causing that change.,... but we've given it the name dark energy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy)

If you want a more complete description, including some about the history of Hubble and his law, you could read this article I wrote a while back.
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2013/03/24/receding-horizons-dark-energy-and-the-expanding-universe/

Source: +Jonah Miller  responds to a question in the +Science on Google+ community. The best answers to questions will be posted as part of our  #Askascientist  series. Do you have science questions for us? Use the Science Outreach category to ask the science community. 

Image:  http://www.mhhe.com/physsci/astronomy/fix/student/chapter23/23f26.html ___

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2015-11-22 00:50:36 (5 comments; 20 reshares; 115 +1s; )Open 

You've probably seen the Mandelbrot set before, but you may never have seen how it evolves from one iteration to the next.

Today in Mathematics History: Happy Birthday, Benoit Mandelbrot

Benoit B. Mandelbrot  (20 November 1924 – 14 October 2010) was a Polish-born, French and American scientist-mathematician. He has been most widely recognized and honored for his discoveries in the field of fractal geometry.

Science writer Arthur C. Clarke credits fractals as being "one of the most astonishing discoveries in the entire history of mathematics".

Studying complex dynamics in the 1970s, Benoit Mandelbrot had a key insight about a particular set of mathematical objects: that these self-similar structures with infinitely repeating complexities were not just curiosities, as they'd been considered since the turn of the century, but were in fact a key to explaining non-smooth objects and complex data sets -- which make up, let's face it, quite a lot of the world. Mandelbrot coined the term "fractal" to describe these objects, and set about sharing his insight with the world.

The Mandelbrot set (expressed as z² + c) was named in Mandelbrot's honor by Adrien Douady and John H. Hubbard. Its boundary can be magnified infinitely and yet remain magnificently complicated, and its elegant shape made it a poster child for the popular understanding of fractals. Led by Mandelbrot's enthusiastic work, fractal math has brought new insight to the study of pretty much everything, from the behavior of stocks to the distribution of stars in the universe.

Read more>>
https://www.ted.com/speakers/benoit_mandelbrot

Animation explanation: this beautiful Mandelbrot Set has been developed in R Programming Language.
Read more at source>> 
http://www.r-bloggers.com/mandelbrot-set-evolved/

Further reading

Mandelbrot biography in Mac Tutor archive>>
http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/Biographies/Mandelbrot.html

For Italian speakers a my article about fractal geometry>>
http://www.tutto-scienze.org/2012/11/dai-neuroni-alluniverso-la-geometria.html

#history_of_mathematics #benoit_mandelbrot #fractals___You've probably seen the Mandelbrot set before, but you may never have seen how it evolves from one iteration to the next.

2015-11-20 18:47:57 (11 comments; 9 reshares; 24 +1s; )Open 

We've all read the headlines about the link between processed meat link and cancer. But what exactly is the risk, and should we give up bacon and burgers? Is it really as bad as smoking? What is the underlying mechanism behind the increased risk of developing cancer? Join us for a +Science on Google+ and +Cancer Research UK  Hangout on Air as we speak to Dr Kathryn Bradbury and Professor Owen Sansom about this story. 

Kathryn is a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford who studies the links between diet and cancer. Owen is a molecular biologist at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, who is investigating the cell signalling pathways that are activated in colon cancer. 

This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Kat Arney  . You can tune in on Friday November 27th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will also be available for viewingon ou... more »

We've all read the headlines about the link between processed meat link and cancer. But what exactly is the risk, and should we give up bacon and burgers? Is it really as bad as smoking? What is the underlying mechanism behind the increased risk of developing cancer? Join us for a +Science on Google+ and +Cancer Research UK  Hangout on Air as we speak to Dr Kathryn Bradbury and Professor Owen Sansom about this story. 

Kathryn is a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford who studies the links between diet and cancer. Owen is a molecular biologist at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, who is investigating the cell signalling pathways that are activated in colon cancer. 

This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Kat Arney  . You can tune in on Friday November 27th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will also be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.___

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2015-11-18 00:20:21 (11 comments; 32 reshares; 217 +1s; )Open 

The Elephant Alarm for Humans : African elephants have a signal for humans. And it spells trouble. Studies show that elephants react quickly to human voices, becoming more vigilant and running away from the source of human sounds. But we already knew Elephants had a vocabulary. ....

Study shows how elephants react : Researchers from Oxford University carried out a series of audio experiments in which recordings of the voices of the Samburu, a local tribe from North Kenya, were played to resting elephants. The elephants quickly reacted, becoming more vigilant and running away from the sound whilst emitting a distinctive low rumble. When the team, having recorded this rumble, played it back to a group of elephants they reacted in a similar way to the sound of the Samburu voices; running away and becoming very vigilant, perhaps searching for the potentially lethal threat of human... more »

The Elephant Alarm for Humans : African elephants have a signal for humans. And it spells trouble. Studies show that elephants react quickly to human voices, becoming more vigilant and running away from the source of human sounds. But we already knew Elephants had a vocabulary. ....

Study shows how elephants react : Researchers from Oxford University carried out a series of audio experiments in which recordings of the voices of the Samburu, a local tribe from North Kenya, were played to resting elephants. The elephants quickly reacted, becoming more vigilant and running away from the sound whilst emitting a distinctive low rumble. When the team, having recorded this rumble, played it back to a group of elephants they reacted in a similar way to the sound of the Samburu voices; running away and becoming very vigilant, perhaps searching for the potentially lethal threat of human hunters.

Is it language? : Lucy explains: 'Interestingly, the acoustic analysis done by Joseph Soltis at his Disney laboratory showed that the difference between the ''bee alarm rumble'' and the ''human alarm rumble'' is the same as a vowel-change in human language, which can change the meaning of words (think of ''boo'' and ''bee''). Elephants use similar vowel-like changes in their rumbles to differentiate the type of threat they experience, and so give specific warnings to other elephants who can decipher the sounds.'

References and Sources

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140316133750.htm

Paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0089403

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/6291/20140308/elephants-alert-group-to-human-presence-with-unique-alarm-call-video.htm

http://www.wired.com/2012/11/south-korean-talking-elephant/

#elephants  ___

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2015-11-14 15:38:40 (9 comments; 70 reshares; 197 +1s; )Open 

Human intelligence, then, cannot be traced to a single organ, no matter how large; it emerged from a serendipitous confluence of adaptations throughout the body. Despite our ongoing obsession with the size of our noggins, the fact is that our intelligence has always been so much bigger than our brain.

Quanta Discusses Recent Brain Research

Many of you already read Quanta but this is another excellent article that I thought deserved a summary share, How Humans Evolved Supersized Brains. The article delves into the ongoing puzzle as to why and how human brains came to be so big and powerful; why over less than 3 million years they quadrupled in size from 350g to 1,300g, when primates took 60 million years to reach 350g brains in the first place. 

Some points of interest:

➤ New techniques to dissolve brains and extract and count cell nuclei give much more accurate cell counts for brains and, for example, show that larger brains do not always have more neurons and neuronal distribution is often different. The human brain has more neurons in the cerebral cortex than any other animal. 

➤ While an elephant has a brain 2.5 times as large as a human (2.8kg vs 1.2kg), the cerebral cortex of the human brain has 3 times as many neurons (16.3 billion vs 5.6 billion). This is the first time I’ve come across this fact. 

➤ While the human brain as about 86 billion neurons, 69 billion are in the cerebellum and only 16 billion are in the cerebral cortex for high-order intelligence and reasoning. To me this suggests a sort of computational overhang with regard to developing neuromorphic AI: you won’t need hardware that can replicate 86 billion neurons, but only 20% of that - so ~2.5 doublings or ~5 years earlier than expected. 

➤ Human brain makes up 2% of body mass but consumes 20% of total energy, whereas a chimpanzee requires only half that. 
Analysis of cellular glucose-importing genes in the brain and muscle reveals that such genes are 3.2 times more active in human brains compared to chimp brains, but 1.6 times more active in chimp muscles compared to human muscles, and identically active in the respective livers. Human regulatory sequences for these genes show signs of accelerated evolution. Accounting for size and weight, chimp muscles are about twice as strong as humans. 

➤ Key regulatory sequences active in brain development were taken from humans and chimps and introduced into mice: mice with the human version developed brains 12% larger and had cells that divide and multiply in 9 hours instead of 12. 

Goldilocks Factors for Human Intelligence

The development of human intelligence appears dependent on a fortuitous confluence of many different factors:

➤ Development of bipedalism to free up hands for tool-making, at the expense of slower movement compared to predators. 

➤ Development fire-building and hunting to source easier-to-digest and higher-quality foods due to energy allocation away from gut and muscles.

➤ Development of extreme manual dexterity. 

➤ Development of vocal tract capable of complex communication at the expense of choking hazards. 

➤ Development of extremely dense and dangerously energy hungry neural cortex at the expense of muscle power.  

➤ Development of extreme sociality to facilitate large, stable groups of individuals, requiring a long childhood and retention of play and curiosity with age, at the expense of more than a decade of youthful defenselessness. 

➤ I think the general process of neoteny, the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood is important here in general to facilitate a great many of these factors. 

➤ A complex environment nonetheless conducive to the survival of such a physically weak animal is also important. 

When considering the development of intelligence not only on Earth, but also elsewhere in the Universe, these are all important factors that should feed into and influence the Drake Equation and Fermi Paradox. There are a lot of subtle factors that were required to be present in just the right way at just the right time for human intelligence to begin to emerge and develop; a lot of luck seems to have been involved. Primate brains were quite content to remain at 350g for 60 million years, not to mention the dinosaur brains before them that were content to remain smaller for a much longer period of time. I hope as we learn more about these different factors we gain a clearer idea of how astronomically improbable the development of our intelligence was and so a greater degree of confidence that the Great Filter is behind us. 

Main article here: https://www.quantamagazine.org/20151110-evolution-of-big-brains/ 

#brain   #intelligence   #evolution___Human intelligence, then, cannot be traced to a single organ, no matter how large; it emerged from a serendipitous confluence of adaptations throughout the body. Despite our ongoing obsession with the size of our noggins, the fact is that our intelligence has always been so much bigger than our brain.

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2015-11-12 12:22:37 (6 comments; 12 reshares; 76 +1s; )Open 

The Incredible Shrinking Atom: The trick is to take the electron in a hydrogen atom and replace it with a muon.  This is a particle 207 times heavier than an electron, but otherwise very similar.  Unfortunately a muon has a half-life of just 2 microseconds: then it decays into an electron and some other crud.  

Miniature atoms

In The Incredible Shrinking Man, a guy exposed to radiation becomes smaller and smaller.   Eventually he realizes he'll shrink forever - even down to subatomic size.  Of course that's impossible.  But guess what: we can now make miniature atoms!

In fact we can make atoms almost like hydrogen, but 1/186 times as big across.  Unfortunately they only last 2 microseconds.  But that's still long enough for them to form molecules, and for us to do chemical experiments with them.  Chemists have gotten really good at this stuff.

The trick is to take the electron in a hydrogen atom and replace it with a muon.  This is a particle 207 times heavier than an electron, but otherwise very similar.  Unfortunately a muon has a half-life of just 2 microseconds: then it decays into an electron and some other crud.  

Why is an ordinary hydrogen atom the size it is, anyway?  It's the uncertainty principle.  The atom is making its energy as small as possible while remaining consistent with the uncertainty principle.  

A hydrogen atom is made of an electron and a proton.  If it were bigger, its potential energy would increase, because the electron would be further from the proton.  So, the atom "wants to be small".  And without quantum mechanics to save it, it would collapse down to a point: The Incredible Shrinking Atom.

But if the atom were smaller, you'd know the position of its particles more precisely - so the uncertainty principle says you'd know their momentum less precisely.  They'd be wiggling around more wildly and unpredictably  So the kinetic energy would, on average, be higher.  

So there's a tradeoff!  Too big means lots of potential energy.  Too small means lots of kinetic energy.  Somewhere in the middle is the best - and you can use this to actually calculate how big a hydrogen atom is!   

But what if you could change the mass of the electron?  This would change the calculation.  It turns out that making electrons heavier would make atoms smaller!  

While we can't make electrons heavier, we can do the next best thing: use muons.

Muonic hydrogen is a muon orbiting a proton.  It's like an atom, but much smaller than usual, so it does weirdly different things when it meets an ordinary atom.  It's a whole new exotic playground for chemists.  

And, you can do nuclear fusion more easily if you start with smaller atoms!  It's called muon-catalyzed fusion, and people have really done it.  The only problem is that it takes a whole lot of energy to make muons, and they don't last long.  So, it's not practical - it doesn't pay off.  At least not yet.  Maybe we just need a few more brilliant ideas:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muon-catalyzed_fusion

By the way: a while ago I talked about making a version of hydrogen where we keep the electron and replace the proton by a positively charged antimuon.  That's called muonium.  Muonium is lighter than ordinary hydrogen but almost the same size, just a tiny bit bigger.  It's chemically almost the same as hydrogen, except that it decays in 2 microseconds.  

With muonic hydrogen it's the reverse: it's a lot smaller, but it's just a bit heavier.  It's chemically very different from ordinary hydrogen.

Finally, for the übernerds:

If you do the calculation, you can show that the radius of a hydrogen-like atom is proportional to

mM/(m+M)

where m is the mass of the lighter particle and M is the mass of the heavier one.  If we say an electron has mass 1, then a muon has mass 207 and a proton has mass 1836.  You can use this formula to see that muonic hydrogen has a radius 1/186 as big as ordinary hydrogen, while muonium has a radius 1.004 times as big.  ___The Incredible Shrinking Atom: The trick is to take the electron in a hydrogen atom and replace it with a muon.  This is a particle 207 times heavier than an electron, but otherwise very similar.  Unfortunately a muon has a half-life of just 2 microseconds: then it decays into an electron and some other crud.  

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2015-11-06 23:15:20 (18 comments; 18 reshares; 49 +1s; )Open 

The authors talk about the increased availability of opioid painkillers, and the increased use of heroin within this group, as a possible contributing factor, but it seems hard to ignore the ties between this rise and the collapse of the prospective economic futures of people in this group.

You may have seen this story circulating around the press: non-Hispanic whites in the US, aged 45-54, are dying at an alarming rate. I'm sad to say that, after going through the original research fairly carefully, they appear to have done a good job – the results are real, and telling.

First of all, a link: The research itself is available online at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112.full.pdf?with-ds=yes . It's a very readable paper, and if you're comfortable with the scientific literature, I encourage you to read it. The Washington Post article (linked below) is probably the best general-public summary so far.

Second, let me summarize what the research did and found. They looked at records of mortality and morbidity (M&M for short; morbidity in this case means medical conditions which significantly affect one's ability to function in daily life) from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which study these things carefully, and dug into the statistics. What they found is that for all groups in the developed world, M&M has been steadily decreasing – with one notable exception.

Note that this doesn't mean that all groups have good M&M rates: for example, the rate for black, non-Hispanic adults in the US is much worse than the rate for white, non-Hispanic adults, but that rate in 2013 is much better (almost 50% better!) than it was in 1998. Improvements have been happening across the board.

The one marked exception was white, non-Hispanic adults with less than a Bachelor's degree. For this group, three particular sources of death have been surging since 1998: suicide, drug and alcohol poisoning, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. This surge has affected all age groups, and appears to affect men and women equally; but it affects people with less than a high school diploma the most, people with a high school diploma or some college significantly, and people with a college degree or more very little.

For people aged 45-54 in particular, this surge has been so high as to completely counter all other improvements in mortality. The graph below shows the annual death rate for various groups for that age range.

The scale of this effect is tremendous, corresponding to roughly half a million excess deaths during this 15-year period. That's on the same scale as the US death toll from the AIDS epidemic, which claimed 650,000 lives from 1981 to 2015. And like with epidemic diseases, for every one person who dies, many more are sickened and their lives are impaired.

And given what appears to be a very rigorous analysis of the data, I think we have to accept that this result is real. 

The authors talk about the increased availability of opioid painkillers, and the increased use of heroin within this group, as a possible contributing factor, but it seems hard to ignore the ties between this rise and the collapse of the prospective economic futures of people in this group.

If I had to look at this for unexpected patterns besides the blindingly obvious, a few things strike me:

* Its limitation to the non-Hispanic white population is interesting, because most things that go horribly wrong will also hit the black and Hispanic population as well. The one notable exception is when things are already bad for those populations and don't get any worse.

Interestingly, that exception appears to apply to the recent economic downturn. I recently wrote a post about the effects of redlining and economic policy on people's wealth (https://plus.google.com/+YonatanZunger/posts/Miuiu1caf3D), and one of the interesting things which showed up in the main data graph which drove that post (which that particular article didn't spend too much time on) was how the Great Recession of 2007 had a huge effect on the net wealth of the white population, but very little on the Hispanic and black population. In no small part, that's because the economic policies of previous decades left those populations with so little wealth (and so little housing wealth, in particular) that they had little left to lose in that recession. 

In fact, this sort of effect would synchronize well with the results of this new paper, since non-Hispanic white Americans with less than a college degree were (by all metrics) the ones most affected by the recent economic troubles: entire job sectors which this group dominated prior to this period, such as manufacturing, have essentially crashed and seem unlikely ever to recover, at least to the extent of providing quasi-middle-class existences to anyone.

* The gender balance of the effect was somewhat surprising to me. I would have guessed that a process like this would affect men more than women, as they are more likely to occupy the position of "breadwinner." However, the effects of an economic crash will hit all of a family, and the male/female breadwinner ratio has been declining for decades, so apparently this is not a statistically significant difference.

* The extreme specificity of the causes of death which triggered this rise surprised me. I would expect that any rise in causes of death would be fairly broad, if nothing else because of the fraction of suicides misclassified as accidents or other causes of death. Apparently, this was not the case.

* Poisoning – that is, accidental or "intent undetermined" deaths from overdoses of alcohol, prescription, and illegal drugs – has surpassed lung cancer as a cause of death in this 45-54 group, and suicide is likely to do so within the next two or three years.

* Other things that you may expect to correlate with this shift in death rates, such as obesity, don't. While people with a BMI over 30 have higher rates of all of the various morbidity and mortality types, they have seen the same rates of change as the greater population, and the change in rates of obesity itself contributed only a small amount to total health rate changes.

* Other countries in this study had similar economic problems, but none of them showed the same shift in M&M rates. The paper notes that these countries use different methods for retirement: defined-benefit pension plans, as opposed to the US, which has shifted largely to defined-contribution plans, which are much more vulnerable to stock market risk. While I think there isn't enough data to strongly link these two (there are, after all, quite a few other differences between the countries), the reasons for these differences definitely bear further investigation.


So I don't have any strong public policy recommendations here, except one: there is a real, severe, and lethal public health crisis spreading over the country, and we need to treat it as one. Further study is definitely needed to identify not simply the root cause, but the factors which make this so much more lethal for one group than for others. And we need to be ready to act seriously in order to stanch the bleeding.___The authors talk about the increased availability of opioid painkillers, and the increased use of heroin within this group, as a possible contributing factor, but it seems hard to ignore the ties between this rise and the collapse of the prospective economic futures of people in this group.

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2015-11-06 02:05:29 (51 comments; 31 reshares; 144 +1s; )Open 

Order is essential in the definition of multiplication because not all forms of multiplication are commutative, such as matrix multiplication. This is why it is taught as a separate property.

Why Was 5 x 3 = 5 + 5 + 5 Marked Wrong?

It seems absurd at first glance: we all know that 5 x 3 is equal to 3 x 5, which is 15. But check out the formal definition of multiplication:

The multiplication of two whole numbers, when thinking of multiplication as repeated addition, is equivalent to adding as many copies of one of them (multiplicand, written second) as the value of the other one (multiplier, written first).

In other words, 5 x 3 = 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3

Why should this matter? It matters because the term equal is not the same as equivalent. Although 5 x 3 is equal to 5 + 5 + 5 it is not equivalent to 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3. Suppose you were buying chocolates for your sweethearts on Valentine's Day. You would have 3 boxes of 5 chocolates each in one case, and 5 boxes of 3 chocolates in the other case. What you choose to buy depends on how many sweethearts you are trying to impress, right? 

Perhaps more importantly, the difference is also a fundamental concept in computer science. 

Notice that the second problem is marked incorrect as well. That's because keeping rows and columns straight in matrix multiplication is important. As explained in the link below: "Order is essential in the definition of multiplication because not all forms of multiplication are commutative, such as matrix multiplication. This is why it is taught as a separate property."

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the teacher or not?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplication

https://medium.com/i-math/why-5-x-3-5-5-5-was-marked-wrong-b34607a5b74c___Order is essential in the definition of multiplication because not all forms of multiplication are commutative, such as matrix multiplication. This is why it is taught as a separate property.

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2015-11-04 23:39:10 (5 comments; 14 reshares; 60 +1s; )Open 

What would happen if you dropped a billion grains of sand on top of each other and let them cascade into a stable pattern following a simple mathematical rule? Find out more below. (The answer is in the picture.)

The sandpile model with a billion grains of sand

This picture by Wesley Pegden shows an example of a stable configuration in the abelian sandpile model on a square lattice. This consists of a rectangular square array of a large number of pixels. Each pixel has one of four possible colours (blue, cyan, yellow and maroon) corresponding to the numbers 0, 1, 2 and 3 respectively. These numbers should be thought of as representing stacks of tokens, often called chips, which in this case might be grains of sand.

Despite its intricate fractal structure, this picture is generated by a simple iterative process, as follows. If a vertex of the grid (i.e., one of pixels) holds at least 4 chips, it is allowed to fire, meaning that it transfers one chip to each of its neighbours to the north, south, east and west. The boundary of the grid can be thought of as the edge of a cliff, meaning that any chips that cross the boundary will fall off and be lost. If no vertices can fire in a particular chip configuration, then the configuration is called stable. For example, the configuration in the picture is stable, because no pixel holds 4 or more chips.

One of the key theorems about this particular sandpile model is that any chip configuration will become stable after firing various vertices a finite number of times. More surprisingly, the ultimate stable configuration obtained does not depend on the order in which the vertices were fired. The irrelevance of the order in which the vertices are fired is why the model is called “abelian”.

If we start with 2^{30} chips, all placed on the same pixel, and we then perform firings repeatedly until a stable configuration is reached, the resulting stable configuration is the one shown in the picture. (The number 2^{30} is just over a billion.) It is clear from the symmetrical nature of the firing rules that the resulting picture will be symmetric under rotation by a right angle or mirror-reflection, but the fractal-like structures are much more surprising.

Relevant links

Wesley Pegden is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Carnegie Mellon University. His home page includes an interactive zoomable version of this image: http://www.math.cmu.edu/~wes/sand.html
The page also allows you to generate corresponding images on other lattices, including a triangular lattice with six colours, and a hexagonal lattice with three colours. You can also change the number of chips, like Dr Evil from Austin Powers. (One billion chips. No, one million chips.)

The article The Amazing, Autotuning Sandpile by Jordan Ellenberg appeared in Nautilus in April 2015: http://nautil.us/issue/23/dominoes/the-amazing-autotuning-sandpile
The article discusses this picture, and also includes some details from it, including a close-up of the centre.

I have posted about the sandpile model before, here: https://plus.google.com/101584889282878921052/posts/QezmLcTCTMJ
The other post includes more technical details, and describes how to construct a group out of certain sandpiles. A surprising feature of this is that the identity element of the group has a very complicated appearance.

David Perkinson is a Professor of Mathematics at Reed College. He has a gallery of images relating to abelian sandpiles: http://people.reed.edu/~davidp/sand/gallery/gallery.html

(Found via Cliff Pickover (@pickover) on Twitter.)

#mathematics #scienceeveryday___What would happen if you dropped a billion grains of sand on top of each other and let them cascade into a stable pattern following a simple mathematical rule? Find out more below. (The answer is in the picture.)

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2015-11-03 21:52:32 (34 comments; 59 reshares; 312 +1s; )Open 

The center of a black hole is not so much a place as  a moment in time. It is literally as inescapable as tomorrow.

Falling into a black hole with a flashlight.

It's a common misconception that, because an observer falling into a black hole appears to stop, time stops for that observer. That's not really true.

Think of it this way. The event horizon is the point where light cannot escape the black hole, right? Well, suppose I jump into a black hole carrying a flashlight and you watch. As I get closer to the event horizon, the light rays from my flash light will have a harder and harder time getting away from the black hole to your eyes.

Eventually, they won't be able to get to your eyes at all... after I pass the event horizon. But, the instant before I fall in, the light rays will take a huge, but finite time to reach you. 

The effect is that, for the age of the universe, you will see the light rays I emitted just before I passed the event horizon. And I will appear to have stopped.

Past the event horizon

Although to outside observers, I appear to have stopped. I may not actually notice anything strange as I pass the event horizon (depending on the size of the black hole). I will eventually be torn apart by tidal forces, but for a large black hole, these are weak near the event horizon.

From my perspective, I'm just travelling through space, and I experience time somewhat normally. This is the difference between proper time and coordinate time. Proper time is the time experience by a person. Coordinate time is just a label.

However, one strange thing will happen to me inside the black hole... and that is that the singularity, the center of the black hole, is irrevocably in my future. The center of a black hole is not so much a place as  a moment in time. It is literally as inescapable as tomorrow.

This post was inspired by a question on the +Science on Google+ community by +Dustin Thurston . Original post here:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/100608294723698772664/posts/iTKKMR5HPVb

Image is a simulation of gravitational of the milky way by a black hole. (Said black hole does not exist.) The creator, Ute Krauss, has a 
lot of great relativity visualizations. You can find them here:
http://www.spacetimetravel.org/expeditionsl/expeditionsl.html

Source: The description I just gave can be found in most general relativity textbooks. For a free treatment, I recommend Sean Carroll's lecture notes, published online:
http://preposterousuniverse.com/grnotes/

#physics   #astrophysics   #science  ___The center of a black hole is not so much a place as  a moment in time. It is literally as inescapable as tomorrow.

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2015-11-02 11:52:52 (1 comments; 15 reshares; 66 +1s; )Open 

Finally, as noted in the press release (see the first link in this post), the researchers have not patented their technology as they want to make it freely available to everyone who needs access to the improved varieties of cassava.

Engineering Cassava to Combat Vitamin B6 Deficiency


Press release: https://www.ethz.ch/en/news-and-events/eth-news/news/2015/10/cure-for-vitamin-b6-deficiency.html (free)

Original research note: http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n10/full/nbt.3318.html (paywall)


Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient for humans. It is required for numerous biochemical processes in the human body, and deficiency in this vitamin is associated with numerous pathological conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, various neurological diseases, and nodding syndrome (NS), which is a childhood condition found rather commonly in eastern Africa in areas where vitamin B6 deficiency is endemic. (1,2)

A recent publication in Nature Biotechnology by a multinational group of scientists has found a possible way to solve vitamin B6 deficiency through genetic engineering of cassava. Cassava, also called Brazilian arrowroot, manioc, tapioca, and yuca (not the same as the unrelated plant known as yucca) is a New World plant that has become an important dietary staple throughout the tropical and subtropical world (3). Cassava is as important to African farmers as rice is to Asian farmers or as wheat and potatoes are to European farmers (4, citing a personal communication). Various researchers have suggested for some time that genetic engineering of cassava could be used to ameliorate malnutrition and dietary deficiencies (2, 4-7). The paper in Nature Biotechnology reports the successful engineering of cassava to produce vitamin B6 (1).

The enzymes PDX1 and PDX2 are needed to synthesize vitamin B6 in plants. Genes encoding PDX1 and PDX2 were taken from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana (8) and modified to put them under control of one of two promoters. One promoter (CaMV35S) allowed PDX1 and PDX2 to be expressed throughout the entire cassava plant, while the other promoter (Patatin) enhanced expression of the two genes in the cassava roots. Engineered cassava plants from each group, named 35S and PAT (based on the promoter that was used), were then grown from tissue culture in a greenhouse. Evaluation of the resulting plants showed no significant morphological differences but did show a large increase for vitamin B6 expressed in the plants' leaves and roots (35S) or in the roots (PAT). The amount of vitamin B6 expressed in the transgenic leaves was increased from 3.9-fold to 48.2-fold over wild-type cassava, while the amount of vitamin B6 expressed in transgenic roots increased 1.9- to 5.8-fold over wild type cassava. Evaluation in a test field in Shanghai, China, showed that the genetically engineered plants were stable when grown in wild-type conditions.

One significant difference between engineered and wild-type cassava did emerge in the study. Using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the research group established that the vitamin B6 that accumulated in the engineered cassava plants' leaves and roots was mostly in the unphosphorylated form. Only the phosphorylated esters of vitamin B6 are active in the body, but the unphosphorylated forms of vitamin B6 are more stable to storage and to heating. Cassava is typically boiled before eating to remove toxic compounds known as cyanogens, and quite a bit (15%, up to 75%) of the vitamin B6 in cassava can be lost due to boiling (9, see also 1, at page 1031). Thus, having a cassava plant with enhanced vitamin B6 production means that more vitamin B6 will be available to the eater after the plant is cooked.

Finally, the authors examined the bioavailability of the vitamin B6 produced by the genetically engineered plants and found that the vitamin B6 produced by the transgenic cassava was highly available to be absorbed by the consumer of the cassava. Indeed, the authors noted that "[u]sing bioavailable 'vitamin B6 equivalents', we calculated that the vitamin B6 recommended dietary allowance for an adult person (1.3 mg/day) would be reached with 51 g of boiled 35S-5 leaves or 505 g (~1.7 lb) of boiled PAT-12 storage roots" (1, at page 1031).

This paper shows that cassava, an important dietary staple, can be genetically engineered to produce more vitamin B6. The increased amounts of vitamin B6 will help alleviate nutritional deficiencies in Africa, improving the health and well-being of people who depend on cassava as a key component of their diet. Further, other modifications to cassava are possible to further improve the nutritional quality of this important plant. Finally, as noted in the press release (see the first link in this post), the researchers have not patented their technology as they want to make it freely available to everyone who needs access to the improved varieties of cassava. The groups involved in this research are now working with African scientists to try and introduce this modified cassava to African farmers.

References

(1) Kuan-Te Li, et al. Increased bioavailable vitamin B6 in field-grown transgenic cassava for dietary sufficiency. Nature Biotechnology 33, 1029–1032 (2015), doi:10.1038/nbt.3318. http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n10/full/nbt.3318.html (paywall)

(2) Ian S. Blagbrough, Soad A.L. Bayoumi, Michael G. Rowan, and John R. Beeching. Cassava: An appraisal of its phytochemistry and its biotechnological prospects. Phytochemistry 71, 1940–1951 (2010), doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2010.09.001
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Beeching/publication/47414175_Cassava_An_appraisal_of_its_phytochemistry_and_its_biotechnological_prospects/links/0deec51e6b709e22ca000000.pdf 

(3) Cassava. (2015, October 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:23, November 1, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cassava&oldid=687860962

(4) Montagnac, J. A., Davis, C. R. and Tanumihardjo, S. A. Nutritional Value of Cassava for Use as a Staple Food and Recent Advances for Improvement. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 8, 181–194 (2009). doi: 10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00077.x. #openaccess paper available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00077.x/full 

5. Martina Newell McGloughlin. Modifying agricultural crops for improved nutrition. New Biotechnology 27(5), 494-504 (November 2010). Available at http://www.academyofsciences.va/content/dam/accademia/pdf/sv113/sv113-newell.pdf 

6. Teresa B. Fitzpatrick, et al. Vitamin Deficiencies in Humans: Can Plant Science Help? The Plant Cell, 24, 395–414 (February 2012). #openaccess available at http://www.plantcell.org/content/24/2/395.long 

7. Hervé Vanderschuren, et al. Strategies for vitamin B6 biofortification of plants. Front Plant Sci. 4, 143 (May 2013). Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3659326/ 

8. Arabidopsis thaliana. (2015, October 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:42, November 1, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Arabidopsis_thaliana&oldid=687786836

9. A.Paula Cardoso, et al. Processing of cassava roots to remove cyanogens. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 18(5), 451-460 (August 2005). Available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157504000705 and at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Julie_Cliff/publication/222394748_Processing_of_cassava_roots_to_remove_cyanogens/links/09e415057672503c23000000.pdf___Finally, as noted in the press release (see the first link in this post), the researchers have not patented their technology as they want to make it freely available to everyone who needs access to the improved varieties of cassava.

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2015-11-01 19:34:15 (3 comments; 5 reshares; 72 +1s; )Open 

A healthy ocean supports a healthy ocean economy – and a healthy human population.  In the author’s own words “The Oceans Act and subsequent strategy thus incorporated some of the best available practices, supported by science (both natural science and social science)”.  So what went wrong?

Oh Canada – what about your ocean?

This is a big post.  It’s about big things.  Important things too.  It deals with Canada - a big country.  Actually by area, it is the second largest country in the world.  It also has a lot of ocean under its jurisdiction.  Take a look at the website of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a Federal government body, and you will see statements like this:

“The Government of Canada is working to ensure the future health of Canada's oceans and ocean resources by increasing understanding and protection of our oceans; supporting sustainable economic opportunities; and demonstrating international leadership in oceans management”

Sounds good doesn’t it.  The Canadian Federal Government (which has just changed as of yesterday – see bottom of the post) have a number of Acts in place to govern the bit of the ocean they have claimed as theirs.  Great stuff!  Except maybe, as demonstrated in a recently published paper, authored by 19 Canadian scientists including lead-author Megan Bailey (Dalhousie University),  " over the past decade decision-making at the federal level appears to have undermined the government's own mandates for the sustainable management of Canada's oceans "

The scientists focus on three key Federal Acts – the Oceans Act, brought into force in 1997, the Fisheries Act which started in 1868 but has undergone a number of revisions since, and the Species at Risk Act (SARA) which was introduced in 2002.

The Oceans Act – A global leader in ocean management
When Canada’s Oceans Act came in, it was heralded as a model.  It sought to bring in an integrated management framework in which ecosystem based management and marine protected areas were high on the list of priorities.  A healthy ocean supports a healthy ocean economy – and a healthy human population.  In the author’s own words “The Oceans Act and subsequent strategy thus incorporated some of the best available practices, supported by science (both natural science and social science)” .  So what went wrong?

In a word… implementation. 

The paper highlights several points.  For example, in 2005 the Auditor General of Canada issued a report stating that “Fisheries and Oceans Canada has fallen far short of meeting commitments and targets for implementing key aspects of the Oceans Act” .  In 2012, a follow-up evaluation of the Integrated Ocean Management Program indicated the situation had not improved, with science, engagement of stakeholders, designation of marine protected areas, protected of marine ecosystems, and integrated ocean management planning needing much more work from Federal government. “Canada’s marine biodiversity remains at risk” the Auditor General’s report read… “By extension, the prosperity of many coastal communities in Canada with marine-based economies also remain threatened” 

The Fisheries Act
As the name suggests, the Fisheries Act is the primary piece of legislation through with fisheries in Canadian waters are managed by the Federal government.  I am sure that many of you are aware of the collapse of the cod fisheries in the northwest Atlantic, but the paper highlights something much more recent.  Habitat protection – or more accurately the lack of it.  In particular the paper picks up on one change brought into force in 2013.  The Act used to read “No person shall carry on any work or undertaking that results in the harmful alteration, disruption, or of destruction of fish habitat”.   Now the Act reads “No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity that results in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery” .  Spot the difference?  Why is this a problem?  The paper highlights a number of reasons – here is a quick overview:

- Only fish with a current value to a fishery is offered protection.  Other fish are excluded (even though they may have a fishery value in the future).
- Protection for fish in remote locations where there are no fisheries is now non-existent.
- Harm has to be proven not disproven.  This is a move away from the precautionary approach.  It is more difficult to prove harm than prove you aren’t doing harm, especially as government research focuses on a small number of fished species in the Atlantic and Pacific.  Arctic regions are largely ignored.
- Species must be shown to have current value to a fishery.  For species taken directly by fishers, this is possible but what about ‘fish that supports such a fishery’?  Now we are talking about having knowledge of the ecosystem, and food-web ecology.  We have some, but not much…and remember research only focuses on a few species – and we are losing historical information.

Species At Risk Act (SARA)
If you are an individual of a species at risk in Canada and you are lucky enough to be listed under SARA you will get two protections, straight off the bat.  You and the rest of your species cannot be killed or collected.  Your “residence” also receives protection – damage or destruction of it is forbidden.  The department looking after you (in the case of marine species that’s Fisheries and Oceans Canada) are charged with developing legal measures to ensure your protection, and develop an action plan and a recovery strategy.  That is if you get listed.  If you are a commercially important marine species, then you might find that the Federal government is not so willing to have you under SARA, despite scientific evidence being collected and your application recommended by an independent body (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada - COSEWIC).  Some 39 marine species have put forward for listing by COSEWIC.  Just 5 have been accepted.  According to Federal government, the Fisheries Act takes care of marine species well enough so they don’t need to be under SARA.  Unfortunately as the paper highlights, this isn’t the case.  Reassessments of marine species by COSEWIC show that may are not recovering as they should.

This is not mentioned in the paper but I think it is somewhat… amusing (insert sarcastic face here).  The Grey Whale ( Eschrichtius robustus) population in the Atlantic has SARA protection.  Lucky whale! Except that humans sort of (by which I mean actually) killed the Atlantic population off a few hundred years ago.  Don’t worry though – a recovery strategy was looked at by Fisheries and Oceans, but alas they concluded that recovery was not feasible.  

No science here please, we’re the Canadian Government
The trouble for Canada's ocean waters doesn't just end there.  The scientists also note what is popularly known as the muzzling of government scientists – where scientists cannot speak freely to the public, is just part of the problem.  Funding cuts, closing of libraries, and destruction of archived material, they argue, are limiting the capacity of government scientists to conduct science.  How bad is the situation?  Here are some stats on what the (until very recently) previous government have been up to:
- 7 out of 11 Fisheries and Oceans Canada libraries have  been closed in the past 10 years
- A third of the library collections (including unique documents) have been ‘culled’
- 35% of funding for biodiversity programs has been cut
- 42% of funding for pollution management/mitigation programs (terrestrial and marine) has been cut
- C$100 million is due to be cut from Fisheries and Oceans Canada over the next 3 years
- Press releases issued by Federal science departments have declined by 58% 

These concerns have been echoed by others.  Some now ex-government scientists have been quite vocal about the muzzling of scientists in particular – like Steve Campana, who was until recently a biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada  (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/steve-campana-canadian-biologist-disgusted-with-government-muzzling-1.3078587). Others have taken more general views of data loss in Canada.  In September, writer Anne Kingston wrote about “Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data” (http://t.co/56ilRNHmQs).  

Open Access Paper
The paper was published in the open access journal Marine Policy.  The authors have paid for the paper to be open access, so why not have a read of it yourself http://t.co/rz4kkHT2ly

* UPDATE:  I wrote this post last week but didn’t get a chance to put it online.  On Monday Canada went through their elections and the Conservative Government, who implemented all these changes went out and the Liberals came in.  The Liberals have already made some pledges to do better for the ocean (https://www.liberal.ca/trudeau-announces-plan-to-protect-canadas-oceans/) but of course we will have to wait and see what happens.  Public support for the oceans will be crucial if the new government is to act.


The Image A gray whale and her calf migrate north along the California coast on their way to summer feeding grounds in the Arctic.  Unlike their SARA protected relatives that used to live in the Atlantic, grey whales can still be found in the Pacific.  Credit NOAA/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 
#science #sciencesunday #marinescience #marineconservation #Canada  ___A healthy ocean supports a healthy ocean economy – and a healthy human population.  In the author’s own words “The Oceans Act and subsequent strategy thus incorporated some of the best available practices, supported by science (both natural science and social science)”.  So what went wrong?

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2015-11-01 16:45:34 (7 comments; 14 reshares; 68 +1s; )Open 

So in my mind the axis is caused both by imperfect experiments and analysis and by the human need to find patterns in everything.

The CMB Axis of Evil and the Nature of Randomness

This Halloween, +Nature News & Comment  released an article titled Zombie Physics: 6 Baffling Results that Just Won’t Die. It’s a fun article describing several mysteries in physics whose solution sits in a sort of limbo.

For fun, I figured, I’d explain some of these mysteries, and give my opinion about possible solutions. I'll tag them under #ZombiePhysics .  First, I’m going to discuss the CMB Axis of Evil, a strange pattern in the leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

(Those of you who wish to read my post in blog form can do so here: http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/10/31/the-cmb-axis-of-evil-and-the-nature-of-randomness/)

A Much-Too-Short Summary of Cosmic Inflation and the CMB

About 13.8 billion years ago, the universe was extremely hot, so hot that matter couldn’t form at all… it was just a chaotic soup of charged particles. Hot things (and accelerating charges) glow. And this hot soup was glowing incredibly brightly. As time passed, the universe expanded and cooled, but this glow remained, bathing all of time and space in light.

(The reason for why the universe was so hot in the first place depends on whether cosmic inflation is true. Either it’s because the Big Bang just happened or it’s because, after cosmic inflation, a particle called the inflaton dumped all of its energy into creating hot matter.)

Even today, the glow remains, filling the universe. As the universe expanded, the glow dimmed and its light changed colors (due to gravitational redshift, see: http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2013/03/24/receding-horizons-dark-energy-and-the-expanding-universe/), until it became microwaves instead of visible or ultraviolet light. This ubiquitous glow is called the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB [1] for short, and if you turn an old analogue TV to an unused channel, some of the static you hear is CMB radiation picked up by your TV antenna [2].

Since its discovery, the CMB has been one of our most powerful probes of cosmology. It lets us accurately measure how fast the universe is expanding [3], the relative amounts of normal stuff vs dark energy and dark matter [4], how the density of matter fluctuated in the early universe [5], how the Earth is moving relative to the expansion of the universe [6], and much more.

Some parts of the early universe were more dense and some were less, and this translates to slight, random variation in the color of light in the CMB. And in turn, we can translate this into a temperature. The temperature of the CMB is incredibly consistent across the sky. It’s an almost perfect 2.725 Kelvin. However, there are tiny fluctuations relative to this mean, and these reflect the dynamics of the early universe. Figure 2 shows a map of these fluctuations and I describe how this map is attained in my post on BICEP2: http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/02/01/bicep2-result-just-dust-thats-okay/

The CMB Axis of Evil

It’s very hard to see in figure 2, but with a little massaging, we can see that many of the fluctuations in the CMB align along a single axis, called the axis of evil, as shown in figure 1. (Formally, the quadrupole and octopole moments of the fluctuations align.) At first glance, is quite strange, because we believe that the fluctuations in the density of the early universe should be randomly distributed in a particular way… and this is exactly the way they are distributed on smaller scales. The mottled look of figure 2 is exactly due to this particular random behaviour of the fluctuations in the CMB.

So what’s going on? There are a couple of possibilities. I’ll go over them and add my opinion (and the scientific consensus or lack thereof).

Errors in Foreground and Modelling

Perhaps the most boring explanation is that we made a mistake when creating the CMB maps like figure 1 and figure 2. As the story of BICEP2 [7] shows, making those maps is very hard. To create them, we have to account for all the other sources of microwave radiation in the universe and carefully remove them from our measurements.

Over time, we’ve gotten incredibly good at this…so good that we can extract all sorts of information about the early universe from the CMB. But that doesn’t mean we’re always right. There could be extra dust in the solar system [8]. Or a confluence of the gravitational pull of distant galaxies on the light of the CMB (called the integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect) could magnify a normal random fluctuation so that it appears significant [9].

(I am really oversimplifying the integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect here. But that’s a story for another time.)

I think errors in foreground modelling could easily account for the axis of evil.

The Universe is a Doughnut or a Sphere

Imagine an ant living on the surface of a doughnut. The ant is so small that the doughnut appears flat to it. As the ant travels forward, it will eventually return to where it started, no matter what direction it travelled. From our perspective, of course, this is because a doughnut wraps around. But to the ant, this would be quite mysterious! Figure 3 shows the doughnut from both our perspective and the ant’s perspective. This is very similar to how if you travel East on the Earth, you eventually return to your starting place.

What if our universe was like the doughnut, but in three dimensions? So if you start going in a direction, say towards Andromeda, and keep going for as long as possible, billions of light years, you would eventually get back to where you started (ignoring of course that the universe is expanding and thus the distance you would have to travel would increase faster than you could travel it).

What if, perhaps we see the same things on both sides of the axis of evil because they are literally the same things and the universe has wrapped around on itself? In the original paper discussing the axis of evil [10], the authors discuss this very possibility. It’s a nice idea, but it can actually be tested by trying to match images of stars and galaxies (and fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background) on opposite sides of the sky to see if they look the same. The results, however, are not favourable. So no one takes this idea very seriously… even though it’s very clever.

Cosmic Variance

This one takes a bit of explanation. So bear with me. First, let’s talk about something called a posteriori statistics.

A Posterioiri Statistics

Imagine a teacher breaks her students into two groups. She tells one group to flip a coin ten times and record the result as a sequence of heads or tails. The group might record, for example,

HHHHTTTTHT

which would correspond to a string of four tails, then a string of four heads, then one head, and one tail. She tells the other group of students to make up ten coin flips, but try to do so in a way that looks random. The two collections the students return are:

THTTHTHHTT

and

TTHHHHTHTH

And, masterfully, the teacher immediately picks out the truly random sequence.  Which one is it? How does she do it? The second sequence, TTHHHHTHTH, which looks very structured, is the random one.

The human mind is very good at picking out patterns, and attributes a cause to every pattern it sees. But random numbers, very naturally, randomly in fact, appear to make patterns, even though the pattern doesn’t mean anything. It’s just random noise. The teacher takes advantage of this. She knows her students will avoid creating a sequence that looks too structured, because they don’t think random numbers look like that. But random numbers can easily look like that.

Of course, the probability that precisely the second sequence would emerge is less than one percent. But the emergence of some sequence that looks vaguely like the second sequence is vastly more likely.  You can think of this like finding a cool looking cloud, or Jesus in your morning toast. You see the cool looking cloud and you think “Wow! A cloud that looks like an airplane! What are the odds?” But you should be thinking “Wow! A cloud that looks like an airplane! The odds of me finding a cloud that looks like something interesting are quite high because there are a lot of clouds and a lot of things I think are interesting.”

This sort of thinking is called a posteriori statistics. And in general, it causes mistaken analysis.

The CMB Axis of Evil

So what does this have to do with the CMB? Well, people who study the CMB are well aware of the danger of a posteriori statistics, so they try to avoid thinking in this way. One way to avoid this sort of thinking is to make many many measurements. If you have a huge number of sequences of coin flips, on average, the randomness (or lack thereof) will become manifest.

And this is indeed what we do for most of the cosmic microwave background. The fluctuations on small scales, which give figures 1 and 2 their mottled texture, are numerous and we can do many statistics on them by looking at different areas of the sky.

But the axis of evil is different. It covers almost the whole sky. And we only have one sky to make measurements of! So it’s not possible to do good statistics. The fact that we have only one universe to measure, which we believe emerged from random processes, and that we can’t do statistics on a whole ensemble of universes is called cosmic variance.

And cosmic variance interferes with our ability to avoid a posteriori statistics. It lets us fool ourselves into believing that the way our universe turned out is special, when there may in fact be a multitude of equally probable ways our universe could have been. And it is entirely possible that the axis of evil is one such “fluke.”

It is possible, in principle, to reduce the effects of cosmic variance. If we could move to another position in the universe, we would be able to see a different portion of the CMB (because the light that could have reached us since the CMB was created would come from a different place in the universe). In 1997, Kamionkowski and Loeb [11] suggested using the emissions of distant dust to extrapolate what the CMB looks like to that dust. In principle, it would be possible, but very very hard, to use this trick to test whether or not the axis of evil comes from cosmic variance.

As you may have guessed from the amount of time I devoted to the explanation, I find cosmic variance to be a very compelling cause of the axis of evil.

The Most Likely Story, In My Opinion

So… what do I think is the cause of the axis of evil? The following is my opinion and not rigorous science. But it went something like this. Due to random fluctuations in the way the universe could have been, something that looks like the axis of evil formed in the CMB, but much less significant. This would be the cosmic variance explanation. To this day, the “axis of evil” remains statistically insignificant. But, because our models of cosmic microwave sources and filters look like in the universe and in our solar system are flawed, and because we don’t take the integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect into account, the axis of evil appears much bigger to us than it actually is.

So in my mind the axis is caused both by imperfect experiments and analysis and by the human need to find patterns in everything.

Acknowledgements

I owe a huge thanks to my friend and colleague, Ryan Westernacher-Schneider, who told me this story last spring and compiled a summary and list of references. Ryan basically wrote this blog post. I just paraphrased and summarized his words.

Further Reading

I’m not the first science writer to cover this material. Both +Ethan Siegel  and +Brian Koberlein  have great articles on it. Check them out:

1. This is Brian Koberlein’s article:
https://briankoberlein.com/2014/08/25/anomalous-anomalies/

2. This is Ethan Siegal’s:
https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/ask-ethan-85-hubble-vs-the-big-bang-8b26ef0fdfb6#.lhqhcz4ip

For those of you interested in reading about the axis of evil in more depth. Here are a few resources.

1. This is the first paper to discuss the axis of evil. It also discusses the possibility that the universe is a doughnut:
http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0307282

2. This paper coined the term “axis of evil.”
http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0502237

3. This paper discusses the possibility of solar-system dust producing the axis of evil:
http://arxiv.org/abs/0910.1317

4. This paper discusses the integrated Sachs-Wolfe effect and how it enhances the axis of evil:
http://arxiv.org/abs/0909.2495

5. This paper proposes a way of reducing cosmic variance:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.56.4511

6. This is the collected published results by the Planck collaboration, which analyses all aspects of the CMB in great depth:
http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/planck/publications

Inspiration

1. You can read the nature article on zombie physics here:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature.2015.18685

2. I also wrote a post about the Nature article here:
https://plus.google.com/+JonahMiller/posts/fACHMX3gXZ7

Related Reading

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my other posts on cosmology. I wrote a two-part series on the BICEP2 experiment:

1. In the first article, I describe what BICEP2 was claiming to observe:
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2014/03/18/bicep2-primordial-gravity-waves-cosmic-inflation/

2. In the second article, I describe how measurements of the CMB are made and what went wrong with BICEP2:
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/02/01/bicep2-result-just-dust-thats-okay/

I have three-part series on the early universe:

1. In the first article, I describe the evidence for the Big Bang:
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2013/05/12/always-walk-away-from-an-explosion-the-story-of-the-big-bang/

2. In the second article, I describe problems with the Big Bang theory:
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2013/06/09/a-mess-of-cosmic-coincidences-problems-with-big-bang/

3. And in the third article, I describe cosmic inflation and how it fixes the problems we had with the Big Bang:
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2013/06/26/fixing-the-early-universe-cosmic-inflation/

I have a fun article that describes the cosmic microwave background as the surface of an inside-out star:
http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2015/02/14/universe-inside-star/

References
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background
[2] http://www.universetoday.com/25560/the-switch-to-digital-switches-off-big-bang-tv-signal/
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble%27s_law
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter#mediaviewer/File:080998_Universe_Content_240_after_Planck.jpg
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baryon_acoustic_oscillations
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background#CMBR_dipole_anisotropy
[7] http://www.thephysicsmill.com/2014/03/18/bicep2-primordial-gravity-waves-cosmic-inflation/
[8] http://arxiv.org/abs/0910.1317
[9] http://arxiv.org/abs/0909.2495
[10] http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0307282
[11] http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.56.4511


#Science #ScienceSunday #ZombiePhysics   #physics #cosmology #CMB #axisofevil +ScienceSunday ___So in my mind the axis is caused both by imperfect experiments and analysis and by the human need to find patterns in everything.

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2015-10-31 14:13:06 (3 comments; 4 reshares; 29 +1s; )Open 

For universities and colleges, there is no clear right or wrong choice on fossil fuel divestment, despite what activists might insist. Each institution must weigh and consider its own unique constituencies and the strategies by which it can make the biggest difference on climate change.

MIT and Fossil Fuel Corporations:  Engagement or Pandering?

Calls to divest from Fossil Fuel stocks are simplistic, because simply closing ones eyes, ears and nose to these corporate entities does nothing to reduce their power, and does nothing to leverage University knowledge and other assets to further change.  On the other hand, alliances with Fossil Fuel corporations, which are not done with an honest openness and true exchange on the part of both sides, are simply, in my opinion, greed pandering to big money.

I think that the key questions to ask come from this Guardian article:

"“MIT seeks to convene key players with the goal of helping drive significant progress for the world. There is a great deal to do and we are eager to get started.” "

"Its plan calls for eight new “low-carbon energy centers” that will work with companies to develop technologies focusing on solar energy, nuclear fusion, energy storage and other initiatives. Each center will seek about $8m in annual funding over five years, totaling more than $300m. "

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/21/mit-climate-change-plan-will-not-divest-fossil-fuels

Who are the "key players" that MIT will partnership with, and by so doing, use their knowledge base to promote?  By seeking substantial funding for these centers, to whom will MIT be beholden?

In my opinion, the answers to these questions will serve to shape, in substantial measure, how US energy policy proceeds.  Which, I sadly believe, will mean that the trajectory may be more in the direction of greatest available funding than best available science.

It seems to me that this deserves deeper discussion as to what constitutes engagement.  This needs to be a two way partnership.  And when talking about corporations, it needs to be recognized that these institutions are financial in nature, and it is largely money that does the talking.

In the first place, universities are all about the expansion and transfer of knowledge.  Fossil fuel companies, on the other hand, are now known not only to have hidden knowledge which they had collected regarding climate change, but also to have deliberately acted to mislead the public to form false conclusions. Conclusions that aided in these corporations to continuing business as usual, to the serious detriment of the planet.  Step one for a knowledge institution would be to join in demands for full release of these climate studies, and for prosecution of the executives involved who may have made or caused their corporations to take actions to make false statements to the public.

Furthermore, large endowment Universities have funds that actually economically position themselves comparable to hedge funds operators.  Monies in a similar situation, such as the California Retirement Fund, CalPers, has acted, at least at times, with the knowledge that how they chose to invest,or not to invest, has great influence on societal outcomes.

Here, as I see it, MIT seems unwilling to risk its own wealth as leverage to further change, but rather is acting as essentially a junior partner (money wise) to even greater wealth, in an effort to collect even more wealth for themselves.  

Of course we want to promote research into breakthrough energy technologies.  But these need to be truly innovative, and not tied to propping up the very corporations that have brought us to this potentially disastrous climate brink.   New technology is needed, but to be used effectively, it also needs to be placed in new hands.

The problem for academic research institutions is lack of adequate funding.  Universities need more funding such as that through established institutions, such as the National Science Foundation, that are peer reviewed and not fraught with corporate conflict of interest.

Corporations, by keeping much of their wealth offshore, deplete our Federal coffers.  At the same time they have long relied on US government research for much of the basic research underlying the scientific and technological foundations of their industry.  The basic research into hydraulic fracturing, which was done by the United States Geological Survey is a case in point.

If MIT wants to be an innovative Climate Change leader, they need to ensure that they are acting in partnership with others who are themselves acting in good faith.

https://theconversation.com/mit-rejects-fossil-fuel-divestment-but-is-still-a-leader-on-climate-change-49629___For universities and colleges, there is no clear right or wrong choice on fossil fuel divestment, despite what activists might insist. Each institution must weigh and consider its own unique constituencies and the strategies by which it can make the biggest difference on climate change.

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2015-10-30 21:20:55 (21 comments; 180 reshares; 353 +1s; )Open 

Ostracod Fireworks

When an ostracod is swallowed, it emits a burst of light, making the cardinal fish spit it out.

"They've been called fish fireworks, and their glowing displays are like nighttime light shows on the water. Ostracods are a very old species of crustacean with a trait called bioluminescence. That's a fancy way of saying they light up, like fireflies. But unlike fireflies, ostracods have extracellular bioluminescence. They shoot light out of their bodies and into the water. The behavior is part mating ritual, part defense mechanism.

There are ostracods in every world ocean that are luminescent, but only in the Carribbean do you find these ones that have these complex patterns, and it's probably related to the closing of the Panama Isthmus about 3 million years ago. It could startle their predators visually, or it could actually bring in... more »

Ostracod Fireworks

When an ostracod is swallowed, it emits a burst of light, making the cardinal fish spit it out.

"They've been called fish fireworks, and their glowing displays are like nighttime light shows on the water. Ostracods are a very old species of crustacean with a trait called bioluminescence. That's a fancy way of saying they light up, like fireflies. But unlike fireflies, ostracods have extracellular bioluminescence. They shoot light out of their bodies and into the water. The behavior is part mating ritual, part defense mechanism.

There are ostracods in every world ocean that are luminescent, but only in the Carribbean do you find these ones that have these complex patterns, and it's probably related to the closing of the Panama Isthmus about 3 million years ago. It could startle their predators visually, or it could actually bring in the predator of their attacker, which is called the burglar alarm effect.

In this gif the tiny ostracod is almost eaten by the much larger fish, but the cardinal fish spits the ostracod out once the ostracod begins to emit light. Exactly why this causes the cardinal fish to spit the ostracods isn't known, but there are theories."

✪ Source:
http://kcur.org/post/tiny-glow-dark-crustaceans-gain-notoriety-ku-biologist#stream/0

✪ Watch the BBC short clip here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/28838200

✪ And some info about Crustaceans:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crustacean

✪✪✪ HT: +Magnus Fahlén  Thanks! ✪✪✪___

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2015-10-30 11:31:25 (0 comments; 3 reshares; 34 +1s; )Open 

Plants are not adapted to fire per se, but to specific fire regimes, and thus some adaptations may provide persistence to some fire regimes but not to all. That is, species that exhibit traits that are adaptive under a particular fire regime can be threatened when that regime changes.

Plants adapted to fire: hot!

From :  +Fire Ecology 

"This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a few examples of common species for illustrative purpose. You can find a description of these adaptations and further examples elsewhere [1, 2, 3, 4]. It is also important to note that plants are not adapted to fire per se, but to specific fire regimes, and thus some adaptations may provide persistence to some fire regimes but not to all [1]. That is, species that exhibit traits that are adaptive under a particular fire regime can be threatened when that regime changes.

-Serotiny (canopy seed storage): Pinus halepensis, Pinus pinaster, with variability in serotiny driven by different fire regimes [5, 6]

-Fire-stimulated germination: There are examples of heat-stimulated germination, like many Cistaceae (e.g., Cistus, Fumana [7, 8]) and many Fabaceae (e.g., Ulex parviflorus, Anthyllis cytisoides [7, 8]), as well as examples of smoke-stimulated germination like many Lamiaceae (e.g., Rosmarinus officinalis, Lavandula latifolia [7]) or Coris monspeliensis (Primulaceae [7]). There are also examples of species with smoke-stimulated seedling growth (Lavandula latifolia [7])

-Resprouting from lignotubers: Arbutus unedo, Phillyrea angustifolia, many Erica species (e.g., E. multiflora, E. arborea, E. scoparia, E. australis) [4]

-Epicormic resprouting: Quercus suber [9, 10], Pinus canariensis [4]
Fire-stimulated flowering: Some monocots like species of Asphodelus, Iris, Narcissus [11, 12]

-Enhanced flammability: Ulex parviflorus shows variability of flammability driven by different fire regimes [13] and under genetic control [14]. Many Lamiaceae species have volatile organic compounds that enhance flammability (e.g., Rosmarinus officinalis [16]).

-Thick bark and self-pruning (in understory fires): Pinus nigra [3,15]"

References and links to pdf's in the link below


http://jgpausas.blogs.uv.es/2015/09/07/fire-adaptations-in-mediterranean-basin-plants/___Plants are not adapted to fire per se, but to specific fire regimes, and thus some adaptations may provide persistence to some fire regimes but not to all. That is, species that exhibit traits that are adaptive under a particular fire regime can be threatened when that regime changes.

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2015-10-29 21:15:33 (14 comments; 62 reshares; 155 +1s; )Open 

Basically, figs have managed to turn wasps into part of their biology, and can be considered to be part-animal, part-plant. 

In the category of "really weird things I did not know:" apparently figs and certain wasps have co-evolved into a sort of single organism, with the wasps acting as highly mobile sex organs. It's basically what happens if you take "insects pollinating flowers" to its logical conclusion.

Essentially, a female wasp shows up at a fig, pollen in tow and laden with egs, enters the fig, spreads the pollen around, lays her eggs, and dies. Some of the fig's ovaries are now fertilized by pollen; they develop seeds. Others have wasp eggs; they form a shell around the eggs. Male wasps hatch first; they have no wings, but instead travel around the inside of the fig, fertilize the females (still in their eggs), cut escape hatches for them, and then die. Next the male flowers mature and produce pollen. Next, the female wasps hatch, already fertilized; they get covered in pollen, and fly out, in search of another fig. The wasps which die in the fig get digested by it and turned into more fig.

Which is to say, the wasp's entire life cycle is basically loading up on the parts to make more wasps and more figs, and then finding a fig. 

There are a few variations on this, summarized in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fig_wasp . But basically, figs have managed to turn wasps into part of their biology, and can be considered to be part-animal, part-plant. Others instead would say that the figs are eating the wasps, which I suppose is also true, but that really understates the complexity of this relationship.

Apparently this is also enough for some people to consider figs not to be vegan. (cf http://www.organicauthority.com/health/figs-are-they-vegan.html , although to make it clear I am not endorsing any of the, well, anything on this site; it's just an example of what arguments around the kosher vegan status of the fig look like)

Mostly, this gives me an urge for figs. 

Via @silentkpants on Twitter.___Basically, figs have managed to turn wasps into part of their biology, and can be considered to be part-animal, part-plant. 

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2015-10-27 12:02:22 (60 comments; 62 reshares; 162 +1s; )Open 

So should you stop eating red and processed meat? The answer is all about the dreaded, boring M word - moderation.

Red meat and cancer risk

The news is awash with stories about how red and processed meats have been classified as carcinogens in the same category as tobacco. But what exactly does this mean? Let's unpick this a little bit before throwing out the bacon with the bathwater. 

There have been several excellent bits of writing that explain what this means - the first is by Ed Yong (http://goo.gl/br9OU7) and the second by CRUK* (http://goo.gl/ELDzCI). These are well-worth a read if you want to learn more. 

Basically, the key bit of information to remember is that this is not a risk assessment, it is a hazard identification. A great analogy (stolen from the CRUK article above) is to think of banana skins - they definitely can cause accidents, but in practice it doesn't happen very often, and isn't as severe as being in a car accident. But under the hazard identification approach, banana skins and cars would be in the same category because they both definitely cause accidents. The severity of the accident is not discussed, and that's where we tend to get lost with the breathless press releases on this topic. 

So should you stop eating red and processed meat? The answer is all about the dreaded, boring M word - moderation. If you're always eating red and processed meat, over years and years, then that's probably not good for you. But meat in moderation (i.e. not too much and not too often) is still okay, and is definitely not as bad as smoking is. The thing with diet and disease is that reality is often rather boring; there are no miracle diets or magical juice cleansers that will give you eternal youth. There are no superfoods that offset the damage of binge-drinking every weekend. That's just not how our bodies work. 

What you can do to prevent cancer is eat plenty of fruit and veg with lots of fibre while cutting back on things like alcohol, salt, red and processed meats. And definitely avoid sunburns and smoking. 

*In the interest of full disclosure, I work at the charity CRUK as a science communicator. 

#ScienceEveryday  ___So should you stop eating red and processed meat? The answer is all about the dreaded, boring M word - moderation.

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2015-10-25 16:49:21 (8 comments; 34 reshares; 156 +1s; )Open 

We're seeing the planets that are easy to see, not necessarily the 'typical' ones.

A smaller solar system

Kepler-11 is a star 2000 light-years away that's very similar to our sun.  It has at least 6 planets.  But this solar system is small.   All the planets would fit inside the orbit of Venus - and all but one fit inside the orbit of Mercury!

We used to think gas giants like Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune could only exist far from their host star.  But that's when we just knew one solar system - our own.  Now we know that there's a huge variety.  Many  have hot Jupiters or hot Neptunes - gas giants close to the star.  We think they formed farther away and migrated in toward their stars when they got tired of the cold winters.

But beware: the easiest planets to detect are big ones close to the star!  We're seeing the planets that are easy to see, not necessarily the 'typical' ones.  There are probably lots of smaller planets we haven't seen yet.

Kepler-11 got its name because it's the 11th star where the Kepler spacecraft saw planets.  Even better, they were found in 2011.  Its planets have boring names: they're called b, c, d, e, and f in order of increasing distance from their star.  But they're pretty interesting.   They have masses between those of Earth and Neptune. Their densities are all lower than Earth, so they're probably not rocky worlds.     Planets d, e and f probably have a hydrogen atmosphere.  Planets b and c seem to contain lots of ice.

Puzzle: how can you have a planet with lots of ice closer to a sun-like star than Venus is to the Sun?

#astronomy #exoplanets  ___We're seeing the planets that are easy to see, not necessarily the 'typical' ones.

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2015-10-24 16:07:39 (3 comments; 3 reshares; 29 +1s; )Open 

___

2015-10-23 13:42:35 (0 comments; 6 reshares; 8 +1s; )Open 

What is life? How do we define it? If we met new life - on this planet or the next - can we recognise it? Join us for a +Mosaic and +Science on Google+ Hangout on air as we speak to Dr +Matthew Francis about this fascinating topic. 

Matthew is a science writer and physicist. His latest feature on Mosaic opens with an intriguing description of how NASA is studying the depths of Lake Pavillion in Canada, in an attempt to understand more about how life on Earth began, and what extraterrestrial life might be like (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/what-life).
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday October 24th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

More about Lake Pavillion:http:/... more »

What is life? How do we define it? If we met new life - on this planet or the next - can we recognise it? Join us for a +Mosaic and +Science on Google+ Hangout on air as we speak to Dr +Matthew Francis about this fascinating topic. 

Matthew is a science writer and physicist. His latest feature on Mosaic opens with an intriguing description of how NASA is studying the depths of Lake Pavillion in Canada, in an attempt to understand more about how life on Earth began, and what extraterrestrial life might be like (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/what-life).
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday October 24th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

More about Lake Pavillion: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/analogs/about_pavilionlake.html

Join the conversation using #MosaicHOA  ___

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2015-10-19 08:18:50 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 30 +1s; )Open 

___

2015-10-18 16:45:01 (4 comments; 1 reshares; 29 +1s; )Open 

We're live in 15 mins, hope you can join us!

What is p53 and why is it described as the 'guardian of the genome'? How is p53 linked to cancer? Join us for a +Mosaic and +Science on Google+ Hangout on air as we speak to +Sue Armstrong about all things p53!

Sue is the author of the popular science book "P53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code" and she recently authored a fascinating article on Mosaic Science about "Brazil's Cancer Curse" (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/brazils-cancer-curse).
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Sunday October 18th at 6 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

Join the conversation using #MosaicHOA  
Sue's book: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/p53-9781472910516/___We're live in 15 mins, hope you can join us!

2015-10-16 11:59:28 (6 comments; 7 reshares; 13 +1s; )Open 

What is p53 and why is it described as the 'guardian of the genome'? How is p53 linked to cancer? Join us for a +Mosaic and +Science on Google+ Hangout on air as we speak to +Sue Armstrong about all things p53!

Sue is the author of the popular science book "P53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code" and she recently authored a fascinating article on Mosaic Science about "Brazil's Cancer Curse" (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/brazils-cancer-curse).
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Sunday October 18th at 6 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

Join the conversation using #MosaicHOA  
Sue's book: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/p53-9781472910516/

What is p53 and why is it described as the 'guardian of the genome'? How is p53 linked to cancer? Join us for a +Mosaic and +Science on Google+ Hangout on air as we speak to +Sue Armstrong about all things p53!

Sue is the author of the popular science book "P53: The Gene that Cracked the Cancer Code" and she recently authored a fascinating article on Mosaic Science about "Brazil's Cancer Curse" (read more at http://mosaicscience.com/story/brazils-cancer-curse).
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Sunday October 18th at 6 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.

Join the conversation using #MosaicHOA  
Sue's book: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/p53-9781472910516/___

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2015-09-23 16:32:40 (2 comments; 4 reshares; 24 +1s; )Open 

___

2015-09-23 14:23:59 (5 comments; 3 reshares; 17 +1s; )Open 

Starting in 30 mins time...Hope you can join us as we chat to two childhood cancer specialists on how we're tackling cancer in kids and teens!

How do we tackle cancer in kids and teens? What are the differences between children’s cancers and adult’s cancers? What are the big research challenges we face at the moment? Join us for a +Cancer Research UK and +Science on Google+ Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor +Pamela Kearns and Professor +Richard Gilbertson about childhood cancers.

Pam is a Professor of Clinical Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham. She is also the Director of the Cancer research UK Clinical Trials Unit, which is one of the largest cancer trials units in the UK. Her research focuses on the development of new therapies for childhood leukaemias. Richard is a world renowned expert in childhood brain tumours, and is the new director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He has led international efforts that have dramatically advanced our understanding of the biology of several common childhood brain tumours.
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Kat Arney  You can tune in on Wednesday September 23rd at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.___Starting in 30 mins time...Hope you can join us as we chat to two childhood cancer specialists on how we're tackling cancer in kids and teens!

2015-08-28 20:54:16 (10 comments; 13 reshares; 31 +1s; )Open 

How do we tackle cancer in kids and teens? What are the differences between children’s cancers and adult’s cancers? What are the big research challenges we face at the moment? Join us for a +Cancer Research UK and +Science on Google+ Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor +Pamela Kearns and Professor +Richard Gilbertson about childhood cancers.

Pam is a Professor of Clinical Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham. She is also the Director of the Cancer research UK Clinical Trials Unit, which is one of the largest cancer trials units in the UK. Her research focuses on the development of new therapies for childhood leukaemias. Richard is a world renowned expert in childhood brain tumours, and is the new director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He has led international efforts that have dramatically advanced our understanding of the biology of several commonchildh... more »

How do we tackle cancer in kids and teens? What are the differences between children’s cancers and adult’s cancers? What are the big research challenges we face at the moment? Join us for a +Cancer Research UK and +Science on Google+ Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor +Pamela Kearns and Professor +Richard Gilbertson about childhood cancers.

Pam is a Professor of Clinical Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham. She is also the Director of the Cancer research UK Clinical Trials Unit, which is one of the largest cancer trials units in the UK. Her research focuses on the development of new therapies for childhood leukaemias. Richard is a world renowned expert in childhood brain tumours, and is the new director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He has led international efforts that have dramatically advanced our understanding of the biology of several common childhood brain tumours.
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Kat Arney  You can tune in on Wednesday September 23rd at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.___

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2015-08-03 19:47:03 (24 comments; 7 reshares; 44 +1s; )Open 

President Obama's Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. 

Climate Change

President Obama just released a new plan called the Clean Power Plan. The plans goal is: sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

In his speech, Obama said he has committed the United States to leading the world on this challenge. 

Please watch the video below that he released today and check out the action plan on the White House website:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change___President Obama's Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. 

2015-07-24 14:56:42 (1 comments; 7 reshares; 25 +1s; )Open 

We are live in 5 mins! Join us as we chat to +Ben Willcox and +Frances Balkwill about cancer immunotherapy.

What does the immune system have to do with cancer? What exactly is immunotherapy? Join us for a +Cancer Research UK and +Science on Google+ Hangout on Air as we speak to Professor +Frances Balkwill and Professor +Ben Willcox about cancer immunotherapy. 

Fran is a Professor of Cancer Biology at Queen Mary University in London and is a fantastic science communicator. Her research focuses on the links between cancer and inflammation. Ben is a Professor of Molecular Immunology at the University of Birmingham and his work focuses on understanding immune receptor recognition. 
 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe  and Dr +Kat Arney . You can tune in on Friday July 24th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/ScienceHangouts) after the event.___We are live in 5 mins! Join us as we chat to +Ben Willcox and +Frances Balkwill about cancer immunotherapy.

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