Breaking science news and multimedia, heavy on astronomy and physics (and heavy on citing) New vids, pics, articles, and the occasional research post for

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Brain Bloggers survey

Through the Looking Glass is conducting research on "Brain Bloggers."  Step one is a basic survey.  The following provides some insight into me as a writer, as well as the history and current state of this blog.  Thanks to all of you for your readership and support.  Because of you, I can be proud of my efforts. 
They are inviting us to post the survey on our blogs, so here it goes!

Blog URL:

What do you blog about?
    Physics and Astronomy, with spatterings of other breaking news in science

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre if science blogging? (e.g. neuroscience, bad science, ex-sbling)
    As a contributor to, my technical articles on physics and astronomy receive a lot of traffic
If so, what does that community give you?
    Positive responses have made me feel even more welcome and inspired me to continue writing.

Are you paid to blog?
    My blog mildly promotes my music career via mp3 downloads through various online outlets.  Corresponding sales generate some income.

What do you do professionally (other than blog)?
   Currently unemployed.

How long have you been blogging at this site?
   Since mid Sept. 2010

Have/ do you blogged elsewhere? When? Where?

Would you describe yourself as a scientist, or as a member of the scientific community? Do you have any formal/ informal training in science? (if so, what area?)
    I am an amateur scientist, science-themed musician, and amateur science journalist.

Do you have any formal training in journalism, science communication, or similar?
   I have an associates degree in science.

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?)

Can you remember why you started blogging?
   I look up a large amount of science news online daily, and finally chose to share what fascinates me most.

What keeps you blogging?
  The steady increase in traffic, as well as positive comments expressing enjoyment and respect for my content.

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How?
   My traffic began in mid Sept. with 3-4 hits a day, and now has 150-400 hits a day. has generated a lot of traffic, implying an intelligent readership.  Additionally, ads I had for a while on my site were not clicked on, which is indicative of the demeanor of my readership.  I removed the ads and left only links to my music for sale online.

What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog?
  I don't get a lot of comments, but when I do, I respond always.  It's a very personal interaction and is normally intelligent banter.

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?
   Advantage-  The ability to change topics or style of writing on a whim is very liberating.  Frivolous and silly content, as well as jokes, can be used when and if I want to, without repercussions.   
  Disadvantage- Income difference inherent to independence

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)
  Yes.  My blog's name is easy to remember, and the vast majority of those I have told have checked into my blog and given me positive feedback.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?
   A good question not asked would be: How often do you post on your blog.  Answer: an average of 6 out of 7 days a week.

-Dj Busby

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Monday, December 27, 2010

Theory of Mind is being challenged

[Edit: 12-29-2010 Neurotic Physiology Explained this experiment in much greater detail than what I had found previously.  Click Here for his insightful article.]

 Article on PhysOrg today about Theory of Mind.   Some time ago, I learned about Theory of Mind via the Vignette embedded below, which is quite well done.  Apparently new papers are being released claiming that theory of mind is displayed in the behavior of children under three years old.  This effect was previously thought to not be possible due to the developmental stages of children. 

The description of the experiment, to quote PhysOrg, quoting AAAS:
   "The experiments involved showing the test subject a series of animated videos in which a ball first rolls behind a small wall, and then either stays there, rolls out of view, or rolls away and comes back.
A cartoon character observes different intervals of this process. At the end of each video, the researchers measured how long it took the test subjects to detect the ball. (For the babies, the researchers inferred this based on how long it took the infants to look away from the screen.)
Both the adults’ and infants’ reaction times were faster when the cartoon character’s “belief” about the ball’s location matched the ball’s actual whereabouts. This was the case even when the cartoon character had left the screen by the end of the video.""

Here's the abstract from the actual Paper by Ágnes Melinda Kovács, Ernő Téglás, and Ansgar Denis Endress
"Human social interactions crucially depend on the ability to represent other agents’ beliefs even when these contradict our own beliefs, leading to the potentially complex problem of simultaneously holding two conflicting representations in mind. Here, we show that adults and 7-month-olds automatically encode others’ beliefs, and that, surprisingly, others’ beliefs have similar effects as the participants’ own beliefs. In a visual object detection task, participants’ beliefs and the beliefs of an agent (whose beliefs were irrelevant to performing the task) both modulated adults’ reaction times and infants’ looking times. Moreover, the agent’s beliefs influenced participants’ behavior even after the agent had left the scene, suggesting that participants computed the agent’s beliefs online and sustained them, possibly for future predictions about the agent’s behavior. Hence, the mere presence of an agent automatically triggers powerful processes of belief computation that may be part of a “social sense” crucial to human societies."

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Black Holes, Accretion Disks, Rearranging the Timeline, Oh My!

Recent results of a 7 year experiment at the University of Tel Aviv provide a detailed analysis of the accretion disks of supermassive black holes found at the center of galaxies.  The results provide evidence that differs from current consensus in respect to the timeline and growth of supermassive black holes.

There's an inherent difficulty in studying black holes.  A lesser known aspect of these singularities, accretion disks, are one of the major ways we can study them.  As a black hole gobbles up matter, we can observe a spraying of gas they generate and spit out, as if they've bitten off more than they can chew.  These "accretion disks" (artist's impression below) are viewed in the X-ray spectrum, and are exactly what the scientists at the University of Tel Aviv were studying so carefully.  Combining this information with the models and simulators for the formations of the associated galaxies allowed them to generate a wealth of new inferred information.   (click to embiggen)
Image Credit: NASA / ESA

This spraying of gas is an intriguing phenomenon, so I'll quote Wikipedia's Article on accretion disks here:
   "An accretion disc is a structure (often a circumstellar disk) formed by diffuse material in orbital motion around a central body. The central body is typically a young star, a protostar, a white dwarf, a neutron star, or a black hole. Gravity causes material in the disc to spiral inward towards the central body. Gravitational forces compress the material causing the emission of electromagnetic radiation. The frequency range of that radiation depends on the central object. Accretion discs of young stars and protostars radiate in the infrared; those around neutron stars and black holes in the x-ray part of the spectrum."

The study at the University of Tel Aviv was focused on pinpointing the age and history of growth of black holes of different sizes.  They conclude that the oldest black holes we see, products of some of the first stars in the universe, are the smallest black holes now, yet are growing at the fastest rate.  Breaking conventional models, they measured the epoch of the fastest rate of supermassive black hole growth to have occurred when the universe was at an age of 1.2 billion years old, as opposed to 2-4 billion years old as currently widely accepted.

As of right now, these reports are before the actual paper has been released.  Soon it will appear in the prestigious Astrophysical Journal.

Sources: Article on PhysOrg to American Friends of Tel Aviv University to Source Article.
Prof. Hagai Hetzer, Benny Trakhtenbrot, Prof. Ohad Shemmer, Prof. Paulina Lira (2010). When the Black Hole Was Born Astrophysical Journal 
(This is a preprint citation of as yet unpublished article, to be released in the next issue of Astrophysical Journal.  Info taken from article "When the Black Hole Was Born" .  There will be a possibility for renaming upon publication.)

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Science Pictures and Videos in the News: Dec. 27, 2010

Portal To the Universe led me to this newly released picture of the Eastern Veil Nebula.

Image Credit: D. López (IAC)

On Universe Today, "Cassini Takes Images of Growing Storm on Saturn"

Image Credit:NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Discovery News has an Article today on solar powered pants.  The fabric actually has solar cells that will charge an electronic device in your pocket!  A measly 920$, chump change, right?

Image Credit: Screen grab from Silvr Lining

NASA's Image of the Day, a mosaic image of three nebulae of the Orion Molecular Cloud  (click for huge wallpaper size)

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day, One Million Galaxies: (click for big wallpaper size)

Image Credit: 2MASS, T. H. Jarrett, J. Carpenter, & R. Hurt


Today's Article on Science Not Fiction: "Would Death Be Easier If You Know You’ve Been Cloned?"

And finally, an informative and though provoking lecture on the value of peer review in science.  Mixture of lighthearted approaches and somber approaches make for a well rounded, meaningful video.  Found via which points to 3 Quarks Daily

Ben Goldacre Talks Bad Science from PopTech on Vimeo.

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Science Pictures and Videos in the News: Dec. 26, 2010

It's the holidays, and metaphorical head of the media nods, nods, and dozes.  Now the 26th, people are starting to boot up their computers again.

"Amazing WISE Telescope images reveal runaway stars and cosmic jellyfish" The Flaming Star Nebula, Today's Article on IO9 features this stunning image:

Image Credit: NASA

"Small Beetles Massacre The Rockies' Whitebark Pines" Article on NPR

Image Credit: W. W. Macfarlane

Today an Article on Universe Today shows a really neat picture pointing out the similarities of our eclipsed moon and Mars.

To quote their caption for the picture: Lunar Eclipse photos of the Red Moon taken near Princeton, NJ on an exquisitely clear night with a 250 mm lens and 1 sec exposure. Credit: Ken Kremer. Bottom Left: Red Mars from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA. Right: Red Mars through a telescope in 2010 from The Plantation in Florida (not to scale). Credit: Ernie Rossi

Today on Earth Snapshot, "Kožuf Mountain on Greece-Macedonia Border and Other Nearby Ranges"

Image Credit: Chelys srl

Cheating a bit with "breaking" news here, yesterday the 25th: "Indian Rocket Explodes After Christmas Day Lift-Off" Article on Discovery News

Image Credit: State-run Indian Space Research Organizations' (ISRO) satellite GSAT-5P rocket explodes in mid-air shortly after its launch in Sriharikota, India, Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010 (Associated Press) | PhysOrg has an Article today, "Failed rocket launch threatens India's space ambitions" on the potential aftermath.

"Find out what particles are hiding in the air all around you with this awesome map" Article on Gizmodo

Image Credit: NASA map by Robert Simmon, based on MODIS data from NASA Earth Observations

Coolest of all, today's Post on World of Weird Things features a BBC clip with an inside peak on NASA's rocket testing site in Mississippi. Absolutely captivating, extremely interesting.  They actually create pure water vapor cloud in the sky with a rocket!

Image Credit: BBC

Here's BBC's Explanation on the evolving story of the concentric circles thought to be found in the Cosmic Backround Radiation.  Verdict is, there's no verdict yet.  Furthermore, doubt is huge on the topic.  You might be more familiar with titles like "Black Holes Collided Before the Big Bang" or "Evidence of Big Bangs Before Ours" (typical examples, not word for word)   It's responsible of them to release this article, especially since they covered the issue when it broke.
To quote the last bit of the article:
"As far as the experts are concerned, incorrect work will either be corrected via Arxiv comments, the standard review process, or more slowly over many years and many papers, or will simply go unnoticed and forgotten.  But as far as the public is concerned, in a situation like [this one] the publicity may happen too fast to get out the news that there were big "  --Dr. Zibin quoted in BBC Article linked above

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Search For Hidden Dimensions

"Brian Greene: The Search For Hidden Dimensions" Absolutely fascinating!  Toward the end he explains the worth of learning when the theory in question might not turn out to be fact.  He says that studying itself still pays off.  Interesting!

Video Credit: RFD Productions

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Saturday, December 18, 2010

News Today of Amelia Earhart is a TRICK!!

Amelia Earhart's bones are being analyzed, and news outlets are abuzz!  This is just some of a ton of evidence we all we have already had for a long, long time.  Amelia Earhart's "mystery" is hardly a mystery at all. 

This has been covered before.  A lot. The titles and first paragraphs of articles involving this seem to trend toward the misleading, and may make people infer that these same remains were a recent discovery, over and over.

Misleading news titles abound.  ABC News's Article Title today: "Found Bones May Solve Ameila Earhart Mystery" Video Article on ABC News, only slightly better, due to an interview.

As if we have never found the site of her crash before?  HA!

Feeding the buzz of popularity, this mystery has been propagated for some time.

Dec 2, 1998, NPR's Article's title, "Bones, Shoes May Have Been Amelia Earhart's," Misleading title in regard to timeline.  First paragraph within is misleading in regard to timeline.  And this was 1998.

Lets go back to freakin' 1940

TIGHAR, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, has pretty much handled this "mystery," but that doesn't prevent a hubbub.  Their research on her started in 1988 and continues to now.  Check them out in more depth if you're interested in the research.  Refer to bottom of post for further reading by TIGHAR team member, Ric Gillespie.

In 1940 her bones were found, as well as many tantalizing artifacts. The first I ever first heard of this was on, which provides an awesome, irreverent History of the information we have gathered since her death.  But is far far far from a reputable source!  However, their information, with a bit of digging, adds up. It's funny, so I'll quote their hilarity:

"Remarkably, we've pretty much had the Earhart mystery solved ever since partial remains were found on an island... in 1940. That's right, 70 years ago. Only four years after she vanished.
  To be fair, half of the bones were carried away by giant crabs, and the rest have since been lost because nobody thought it was important or even curious that a skeleton should turn up on an island just southeast of where Amelia freaking Earhart was going. Neither did it strike a chord that the remains turned out to be those of a white woman with Earhart's measurements, or that they were found alongside a pocket knife, a broken cosmetics jar, a piece of glass from an airplane windshield and the same exact type of navigational system Earhart had been using. It's inconclusive, dammit!"
As you can see, they reference a Discovery News Article, corroborating their case.

A bit of digging:
Hosted on, an Article, written by one of the researchers on the TIGHAR team, has a section concisely mentioning TIGHAR's analysis of the situation, documented in the late 80's, and published soon after in multiple books.  Quoting

"In the late 1980s, a tiny non-profit group in Wilmington, Delaware—The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery or TIGHAR (pronounced “tiger”)—entered the fray. Organized by the dynamic husband-wife team of Ric Gillespie and Pat Thrasher, who continue to oversee its operations today, one of TIGHAR’s purposes is to apply scientific techniques to investigating aviation historical mysteries."  

Part of, the Ameliapedia gives a super-quick breakdown of TIGHAR and Amelia Earhart.  

AP was misleading about the ol' Amelia Earhart "breaking news" story.
Via Google's AP feed, I quote:
"NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The three bone fragments turned up on a deserted South Pacific island that lay along the course Amelia Earhart was following when she vanished. Nearby were several tantalizing artifacts: some old makeup, some glass bottles and shells that had been cut open."

The AP article here has been auto-injected into many news streams, including Yahoo News and Fox News. 

Further down in AP's article, they redeem themselves slightly, via a quote on the sensationalism of the topic:
"You only have to say you have a bone that may be human and may be linked to Earhart and people get excited. But it is true that, if they can get DNA, and if they can match it to Amelia Earhart's DNA, that's pretty good."
Too bad most people don't read down that far in articles.  Sigh.

So I'm here to rain on everyone's parade, and to remind you all that the media wants to sell advertising!  


For further reading on TIGHAR's work, team member Ric Gillespie's book 
Finding Amelia: The True Story of the Earhart Disappearance

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Friday, December 17, 2010

Under Pressure!

(Right now imagine Billy Joel's song "Pressure" playing while you read this) 

College students are deep into finals right now, and the pressure has been building.  Talk abounds on loss of sleep and giddiness under stress.

(Crossfade the music into "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie)
In honor of our students handling this round of academic chaos, take a break, watch this informative and entertaining video! by Sixty Symbols:
Symbol: Pa (Pascal) | Video Title: Vacuum Cannon

The Pascal, 1 neuton per square meter, is the SI measurement of pressure.  However on a scale of 1 to steam out of your ears, my student friends are approaching tea kettle status.  Good luck guys! It's almost over!!

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Science Pics and Vids for Dec 17th, 2010

Dec. 21st is going to be winter solstice, and lunar eclipse to boot.  It's always a happy day for me, since it marks the point of the year in which the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  Article on PhysOrg

Image Credit: Jim Fakatselis

Furthermore, there's a diagram of the visibility of the eclipse:

Image Credit: F. Espenak, NASA/GSFC

Lights in the Dark Posted a beautiful Cassini picture yesterday, edited to show detail, of Saturn's moon, Enceladus:

Image Credit: NASA / JPL / SSI. Edited by J. Major.

"Astronomers have found the first conclusive evidence for a dramatic surge in star birth in a newly discovered population of massive galaxies in the early Universe."  Here's an artist rendition of SPIRE "hot starburst" galaxies  Article on Universe Today

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Satellites are going into orbit with the purpose of tracking the oceans magnetism.  Pretty cool picture, I must say!  I'll be interested to see the results of the observations as they roll on in.  Article on BBC

Image Credit: BBC I guess.  They don't state credit, and TinEye is showing 0 results. 

This image from APEX: inlet shows spectra of the rare molecule D2H+, detected with the APEX telescope in Chile, overlaid onto an infrared image of this region. "Peering into the interior of a dark interstellar cloud with the APEX telescope" Article on PhysOrg

Image Credit:  Compilation: Bérengčre Parise. Background image: Spitzer Space Telescope. NASA/JPL-Caltech/L. Allen (CfA) & D. Padgett (SSC-Cattech). Inlett: D2H+ Spectra (Champ+/APEX)

Here's an impressive video demonstrating how compression is used to cut nanotubes.  Article, "How do you cut a nanotube? Lots of compression"
on Brown University | found via Article on PhysOrg

How nanotubes are cut from Brown PAUR on Vimeo.

Richard Dawkins in biologist mode!  "the whole of human history would occupy a space less than the width of one piano string"  He concisely explains visually, using the keys of a piano, just how long bacteria ruled the earth.  A perspective of the history of life, in just a minute oh three! 

Video Credit: Richard Dawkins via Article on

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Insidious Lack of Objectivity Colors Our Perceptions

Social psychologist Emily Pronin at Princeton University conducted a battery of tests involving “Free Will,” the results of which were recently published. A new Article by InsideScience sports a title about "Free Will," which itself might evoke misled inferences.  Reading it, however, reveals that this has no connection to religion.  This effect is worsened by the visuals PhysOrg covered this issue simultaneously, with essentially the same content, and credits their information from InsideScience. Both of the articles use a woman with a crystal ball as the representative image for their content. This is misleading, and completely unnecessary in my opinion.
On to the research!!
 To quote:
"According to her research, we tend to view our own judgment as sound but the judgment of others as irrational; recognize the biases in others but not ourselves; and see ourselves as more individualistic and others as more conformist."

The studies explained were focused on perceived predictability (and available future options or opportunities) of oneself in in contrast to those around them.  In essence, the research exposes a trend of subjective egocentric thinking and denial.  We color our experiences by the filter of our world view.  It's sad to see that our lack of objectivity also colors our perception of the personalities and behavior of those we are in contact with.

To quote, the concluded ramifications of the studies are:
“Essentially, people judge others based on what they see. But they judge themselves based on what they think and feel, a difference that often leads to misunderstandings, disagreements and conflicts”

This I find rather depressing.  It's an aspect of human nature that we cannot rightfully be proud of. For the scientific minded, idyllically, objectivity and unwavering logic acts as a mental bedrock. In regard to my personal growth in the past, having been brought up on beliefs I later rejected, I found that conscious effort to stop self-deception in its tracks allowed for a more objective view of the world.

After all, the world is as we see it, but only via the unbiased collective.

The Abstract of the paper, released via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America or PNAS can be viewed here, but I'll quote the abstract:
"Four experiments identify a tendency for people to believe that their own lives are more guided by the tenets of free will than are the lives of their peers. These tenets involve the a priori unpredictability of personal action, the presence of multiple possible paths in a person's future, and the causal power of one's personal desires and intentions in guiding one's actions. In experiment 1, participants viewed their own pasts and futures as less predictable a priori than those of their peers. In experiments 2 and 3, participants thought there were more possible paths (whether good or bad) in their own futures than their peers’ futures. In experiment 4, participants viewed their own future behavior, compared with that of their peers, as uniquely driven by intentions and desires (rather than personality, random features of the situation, or history). Implications for the classic actor–observer bias, for debates about free will, and for perceptions of personal responsibility are discussed."

Pronin, E., & Kugler, M. (2010). People believe they have more free will than others Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1012046108

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Today's Overflow: Breaking Science Links, Dec. 15, 2010

"Submerging your feet in alcohol will not get you drunk" Article on PhysOrg | Come on, Brits, seriously?  All I have to say is, One step for science...

NASA just announced that new crewmembers will soon be aboard the ISS.  Also, they provided some brand new options available for the public to connect with them. and , for twitter news that will be updated by ISS crewmember Coleman, specifically covering Expedition 26/27.  NASA's PR is incredibly good at social media outreach.  Their actions should and will be mimicked.

Discover Blogs: 80 Beats Reports the background behind the hype of a story, "Man Cured of Aids," floating around the internet right now.  It turns out this is an old story, not breaking news by any means.  A recent journal published a status update, that's all.  It's awesome, no doubt, but it's not breaking, like some outlets would have you think.

"Positive Mood Allows Human Brain to Think More Creatively" Article on ScienceDaily

"'Aha' Effect: New Hypothesis Seeks to Explain the Pleasures of Insight" Article on ScienceDaily

"Atomic Weights of 10 Elements on Periodic Table About to Make an Historic Change" Article on ScienceDaily


PhysOrg has an update on the controversy and aftermath behind the "Arsenic Bacteria" story.  Hidden in the explanation is this gem I didn't know.
To quote,
  "The journal's editors have "received about 20 technical comments and letters responding to the article," the magazine said in a statement sent to AFP on Tuesday."

Symmetry Mag, whose tweets are some of THE best in my opinion, tweeted a link to a NY Times article released today, covering inconclusive controversy of the "Cyclic Universe" story, aka the "Many Big Bangs" story, aka the "Rings in CMB" story.  End result?  Evidence isn't solid, don't make a big deal of anything yet, guys!  Sheesh!  And kudos to NY Times for their correction at the bottom of their article.

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Celebrating my 100th Post!

Woohoo!  You heard right, it's my 100th post since I started up this blog in mid September, 2010.  For me, it's incredible; as of right now there have been 4,812 views in total.  Things started out with 3 or 4 hits a day at the beginning.  Although still modest in the larger scheme, I'm thrilled that my passion and efforts have translated into something I can be very proud of!

Thank you, all of you, for your support and readership!

"Be humble, for you are made of earth,
Be noble, for you are made of stars."    
--Serbian Proverb

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Monday, December 13, 2010

Today's Overflow: Breaking Science News and Follow Ups, Dec 13, 2010

Wow, an Anti-Aging breakthrough right after the article on Discover Blogs: Discoblog: "Aging Kazakhstan President Asks His Scientists to Find Fountain of Youth" What good timing!

Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 253602 (2010): Optical orbital angular momentum from the curl of polarization

Article on Phys. Rev. Lett.
An aspect of angular momentum other than quantum spin. I'd love to hear more about this when it hits the news.  I'm specifically interested in the impact observation of this angular momentum will have vs. spin's angular momentum, in relation to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principal and non-locality. Phys Rev. Lett. Articles are normally digested and spat out in layman's terms a few days after they appear in the the website I provided with the link above.

We believe experts who confirm our beliefs

Article on PhysOrg
Depressing, but it's true. It's a sad thing that what sticks in our mind is not necessarily objectively important.

Quantum Dollars use Uncertainty to Create Certainty | Science Not Fiction | Discover Magazine

Quantum cryptography is secure... except when it's not

Article on Ars Technica


A new Article on PhysOrg describes the new convergent evolution of a baterium and Toxoplasma gondii.  If you haven't read my article on Toxoplasmosis, (caused by said parasite) check out "Half the World's Population is Infected by Cats!

Is the universe is cyclic, do multiple universes exist, and was our big bang not the only one?  Furthermore, was ours not the the first big bang?  Scientist Sarah Kavassalis over at The Language of Bad Physics explains a problem right now.  Conflicting papers of this specific topic are being released rapidly, sporting different conclutions.  The topic in question has huge ramifications on the scientific community.  The Physics arXiv Blog covered the subject today in this Post.  He seems to be convinced that one side is definitely correct. More significantly, Symmetry Magazine tweeted a link to this Article in Nature, expressing the lack of evidence in place at the moment.  

Check out my coverage on this story before it evolved, when it was first breaking news.

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Breaking News Science Pics And Vids: Dec. 13, 2010

Today's Article on Lights in the Sky shows a beautiful view of dust devil tracks on the Martian landscape.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

There's a new image just released on Cassini's Website. Shadows on Saturn, with it's moon, Rhea in view, as seen from the Cassini Spacecraft.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Discovery News has a very cool Article, "Stars Caught in Fiery Merger" featuring a very cool pic today.

Image Credit: ESO

And they strike again, Discovery News with an awesome pic, an artist's impression of a black hole, in another Article today: "The Naked Singularity's New Clothes"

Image Credit: NASA, located via TinEye

Tonight is the peak of the Geminid meteor showers.  I'm considering going out with a friend (a photographer) to try and capture some stills.  Bundle up!  Discovery New Blogs: 80 Beats has an Article about it today, "Grab Your Winter Coat and Catch the Geminid Meteor Shower Tonight"

Image Credit: NASA

And finally, a fascinating way to bypass memorization of the times tables.  Here's a Japanese method of actually sketching out lines and counting intersections in order to compute multiplication.

Video Credit: Posted by 15XG on YouTube| Found via Article on Gizmodo

[Edit:Addition 5:20p EST]
NASA's breaking Article, "NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline" features this striking image:

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Adorable Pygmy Three Toed Sloth

I'm calling it now, this video will become viral on the web!  Labeled as one of the decade's top 10 discovered new species, the Pygmy Three Toed Sloth is absolutely awesome. These gentle and adorable creatures are a wonderful new example of evolution in action around us.  Plus... I just absolutely love sloths.  Video Article on BBC.  "They just chill out!"

[edit 1-15-12] Now thankfully on YouTube, these two amazing segments of Animal Planet's Decade of Discovery:

I'd love to embed it, but I can't seem to find a way to.  This specific video is not on youtube or vimeo; and google isn't helping.  I'm thinking that part of the reason might be that the air date for this clip (as posted on the bottom of the bbc article) is slated to be Dec. 14th.  Please, just click the link and watch it!
[BBC's help section here says that embedding videos on external sites from BBC will only work for UK viewers, unfortunately. Damnit!]

Image Credit and (c): BBC/ laxelsson

Share Spread the Love

Today's Overflow: Breaking Science News Links for Dec. 12, 2010

Light day in science news today.

"the multiverse suffers a huge security breach" Article on Weird Things

There's buzz around the web about a new look at Saturn's Rings.  Scientists are saying the rings might be a remnant of an old moon. Article on ScienceNews

"Scientists identify spontaneously chain-reacting molecule" Article on PhysOrg

Apparently skin, our largest organ, was the first organ to have evolved! Article on IO9

Lights in the Dark posted an amusing picture of the sun recently.  It really does look like a smiley face on the sun!

Image Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA

Share Spread the Love

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dreams of the Ultimate Sandwich: An Anecdotal Trip 'Round the Interwebs

A friend of mine proposed the ultimate sandwich: mammoth steak and space cheese, with bread made from Egyptian grain sealed and preserved.  Indeed this sandwich would be an anthropological celebration!

Lets deconstruct this culinary dream of ours:

Space cheese?!  Well that's in the news and what sparked the conversation.

SpaceX sent a cheese wheel into space on their recent rocket launch of Falcon 9 Flight 2.  (Article on Discover Blogs: Discoblog)
Discover Blogs have a great reputation, and I've seen this story evolve step by step on other news websites regardless.
The container, shrounded in mystery:


This playful fromage homage to the Monty Python Cheese Shop sketch was lighthearted and refreshing.  MMMM I love cheese, but space cheese!?  That has to be the pinnacle of excitement throughout cheese history!

Step 1: success

Now on to the mammoth meat and ancient bread:

My friend explains that he read story a while back about scientists unthawing a mammoth preserved in ice, cooking the ancient meat, and having a good ol' banquet.

At this point I'm skeptical.

How do you confirm/debunk a story using just the internet?  Informally, start with a seach engine of course.

Amazon's Askville site turned up, which gave me some interesting info on the edibility of acient mammoth unthawed.

  "'...the meat that does survive is nearly always revolting. The Science article says that "all the frozen specimens were rotten," and though some firsthand accounts of long-ago mammoth finds have claimed the flesh looked OK, typically it smelled horrifying and only wild scavengers and the locals' dogs would eat it."

Not looking good.

Askville references an article with more specific citations.  Cecil Adams on StraightDope writes a seemingly comprehensive list of references to this piece of palaeontological lore.

He cites an 1872 New York Times article, so I went to the New York Times Archive.

Dead end.  None of my queries turned up anything!

Cecil's second reference is to a 1912 article on the Chicago TribuneLooking this up, a lot of hits for promising articles pop up.

Moseying on over to Scribal Terror, who I've never heard of, (grumble) covering the topic, quotes the 1920 book "A Journey to the Earth's Interior."

A quick lookup of this publication reveals it to be a pseudo-scientific book about the Earth being hollow! UGH!

I call it quits with a modicum of confidence that unthawed mammoth steak has been tasted, but is quite unpalatable.

At this point, the dream is falling apart!  Will our sandwich hopes be dashed?

I looked into the bread aspect of the sandwich, to no avail:
search terms in google,
"made from" ancient preserved "bake bread" [and]
bake ancient preserved "year old bread" is it possible  [and]
mummification grain preserved bread [and]
mummification grain preserved today

Turns up nothing. is a bust too. DAMNIT!

Now our sandwich dreams are looking downright silly.

When you have a certain fact you're looking up on the internet, confirmation is normally quite straightforward in relatively few steps.  Ideally you want to end up on arXiv or IOP or a .gov or .edu site. 

A pipe dream like our sandwich turns out to be a lot more challenging.

It's just typical.  You start out with a grand scenario, too good to be true.

I'd rather have a bit more info and a slightly better grasp on the subject, than maintain the dream and a twinkle in my eye.  That's just my attitude.

Deja Vu...  I've had this happen to me before.  Hmm, smells familiar.  Not a steak and cheese, that smells like the influence of science to me.

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Share Spread the Love

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Biomimicry: Borrow From Nature! Mother Earth Forgets To Patent

Lately I've noticed a decent amount of technological innovation resulting from biomimicry.  Aeronautics traditionally seems to reap the most benefit from this process, but that field is by no means the only one benefiting.  We often come up with designs inspired by nature, but how often is our end result superior than our inspiration?  Seriously studying the chemicals in a butterfly's wing pigmentation, the physics and fluid dynamics behind insects that walk on water, and the aerodynamic specifics of a peregrine falcon's dive-bomb, our eyes widen in reverence and wonder.  Nature's pretty smart, after all.  The awesome power of millions of years of evolution will most often yield an engineering design more efficient than the product of one of our humble engineers, no matter how many pots of Starbucks coffee are available.

I was first caught up in the wonder of biomimicry (or biomimetics) when I read this story: "Fly Eyes Used For Solar Cells" (July 28th 2010 Article on Discovery News)  Solar power is a prime example of us trying to harness nature, but we stopped short, overlooking some important geometry.  The shape and amount of surface area is the key.  Solar panels in the shape of fly's eyes allow much more light to be captured than the simplistic model of light hitting a flat surface.  The original Penn University article is here if you'd like to read more about their project.  See below for the paper involving the process.

Pulsifer, D., Lakhtakia, A., Martín-Palma, R., & Pantano, C. (2010). Mass fabrication technique for polymeric replicas of arrays of insect corneas Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 5 (3) DOI: 10.1088/1748-3182/5/3/036001

Scientists tend to have a reverence for nature, and rightly so.  Science, at its heart, is the study of nature after all.  Bioevolutionary science in particular can give us some huge benefits and insight.  Millions of years of evolution are the best damned Alpha and Beta phases any project team could ask for.  Dr. Richard Dawkins said, in his recent lecture at Duke University:
  "Survival itself is all it takes to determine the non-random survival of genes that made the desireable characteristic."
So we take the desirable characteristic and we make stuff like this:
The DLR Smartfish, an experimental German airplane,

Bat inspired spy planes [Article,]

 Remote controlled, dragonfly inspired micro air vehicles like this:   [Article,]

And microchip manufacturing utilizing tips from studying teeth and seashells [Article]


Visit the non-profit organization These guys live and breathe this concept.

For further reading:
"You May Soon Be Wearing Chemical Detectors Modeled After Butterfly Wings" Article on CrunchGear

"Seabird's morphing wings inspire design for robots that can both fly and swim" Article on PhysOrg

Flying drones based off of prehistoric flying reptiles. Article on ScienceDaily

"Robots Modeled After Nature" Article on Carnegie Mellon University

"Air force flight control improvements may result from flying insect research" Article on PhysOrg

"Hummingbird Wing: The Future of Flight" Article w/Video on Reuters.  Embedded below

Share Spread the Love

Popular Posts This Month

Follow by Email