Monday, July 20, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Now the squids have come north: swarming divers and yanking, hitting, grabbing and tasting them with their tentacles. No one's been hurt seriously yet, though. Still, many divers have been scared ashore - others excited - by the stories of these menacing monsters of the deep. Probably the squids didn't wash ashore chasing divers, rather, the squid were chasing fishier prey moving to shallow waters and got caught in the surf.
Why they have come north in the first place is unknown, but oceanographer Nigella Hillgarth thinks that the Humboldts may have established a year-round poulation outside California. Possibly due to changing enviromental conditions, maybe it's the climate changing, the squid's food lacking or their predators declining.
Some has valiantly tried to throw these watery invaders back in the sea. Alas, their attempts has been to no avail. Is this the prelude to an invasion by the Deep Ones? How do we staunch this incursion before Cthulhu awakens? "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh C'thulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!"
Friday, July 17, 2009
It was thought that the sandfish paddled through the sand with its legs. To find out, researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology watched "burrowing" sandfishes in a bead-filled glass container with a high-speed X-ray imaging system. Physicist and lead reasearcher Daniel Goldman tells LiveScience:
"When started above the surface, the animals dive into the sand within half a second. Once below the surface, they no longer use their limbs for propulsion - instead, they move forward by propagating a traveling wave down their bodies like a snake"
I don't think that's exactly how Scrooge does it, though, so researchers has plenty of work left to do.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
(Note: hookworm infection does not cause vampirism!)
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thinking that it was probably a way for the spider to camouflage itself the spiderologists compared how often Cyclosa spiders (of the confusa species) were attacked with decorated webs and with undecorated webs. Decorations-as-camouflage was not an unreasonable hypothesis, camouflage is a common trick to not get eaten and the decorations were similarly colored to the spiders. Nevertheless they were wrong. Decorated webs were attacked by predatory wasps more often than the undecorated ones. The spiderologists figured that the conspicous webs still provided some kind of advantage to the spiders, like how some lizards sports an eye-catching tail that they drop to distract attacking predators.
To test this, the spiderologists went to Orchid Island off the coast of Taiwan to study another Cyclosa spider, the C. mulmeinensis. This spider assemble detritus into life-like decoys of itself, a habit that seems unique to this specific species. The decoys has the same size, color and general shape as the spiders themselves and to attacking wasps, at least, the decoys appear near-identical to real spiders.
When a spider's web was not fitted with the active anti-predator device, wasps always went straight for the spider. With decoy spiders more often avoided becoming wasp food, outweighing the cost of attracting the predators in the first place. The same goes for non-decoy-building spiders. And they don't even have to sacrifice a limb like the lizards do! Tricksters, indeed.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
The muriqui of the north feed on leaves. Leaves are ubiquitous in rainforests and so the group can stay together in one place. When there's time for mating the males patiently take turns knowing the females aren't going anywhere. In the south, however, where the attack took place, the muriqui instead eat fruit. Since fruit is not as readily available as leaves, females sometimes leave the group in search for the fruit. This leaves the males without females to mate with for long periods of time. Periods of time during which they build up their sexual frustration.
The male muriqui tend to form strong bonds with their siblings and relatives; they form the animal-equivalent of gangs. Sex-crazed aggression then causes these gangs to take out their frustrations on weaker individuals.
Maybe they should consider going gay.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The japanese research institution RIKEN has built a wheelchair that reads the wheelchaired person's brainwaves using new brain-wave analysing technology. This new technology allows the wheelchair to be controlled with just a 125 millisecond delay, as opposed to conventional mind-readers that takes several seconds to react.
There are plans in the works for use of this technology in other fields too, like medicine and nursing care management. There's a host of future science fiction-y mind-control gadgetry that could use this technology. Personally, I imagine a future where you don't have to pain-stakingly, physically do things like driving a car. Instead you tell the car-or-whatever - with your mind - to take you where you wan't to go and then it does.
A study of the remains revaled that they turned to cannibalism to feed themselves and not as part of a ritual, that they ate their rivals after killing them, mostly children and adolecents.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
New Scientist reports that great white sharks hunting startegies are similar to that of human serial killers. This is another blow to the shark community, who already struggles with a reputation for blood-frenzied violence.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Basic question: What is science? The word comes from the Latin "scientia", meaning "knowledge". But science is more than a body of knowledge. Science is something you do and, at heart, doing science means testing ideas. The rest is just bookkeeping. Ask Zombie Feynman.
In reality, of course, science is done with more rigor than the Mythbusters do it. Doing good science requires intelligence, imagination and creativity. Scientists need to make careful observations, come up with good ideas and design crucial experiments. This is an ongoing process that develops increasingly more useful, accurate and comprehensive scientific theories.
"But doesn't scientists need to interpret evidence", you're wondering, "with brains known to be unreliable? What about observer bias?"
Science is not done by lone mad scientists, secluded from the world in their underground lairs. Science is a social enterprise. They cooperate and compete with other people. Also, a scientist's work is scrutinized in the peer-review process and experiments are repeated by other scientists. All to minimize the risk the something went wrong. It's not perfect, science is certainly not the Ultimate Quest for Absolute Truth, but it has this going for it: It works.
"Still", you persist, "what if the world is just one big illusion? Then it doesn't matter how many scientists agree".
Well, that's irrelevant. Science still works within the system; the underlying metaphysics of that system doesn't matter, as long as it's consistent. The fact that matter is mostly empty space doesn't it less real, does it? Would you be less of a person, with thoughts and feelings, if you foung out you were living in the Matrix? If it looks like reality and behaves like reality, it's reality.
Consistency is the one assumption that science make. Consistency is important because today's experiment would be meaningless if tomorrow's physics were different. The consistency can be due to fixed natural laws, particularly lazy gods or just careful programming of the matrix, the nature of reality doesn't actually matter. Luckily, the consistency of reality is a hypothesis that can be tested like any other hypothesis. And every day the natural laws stay the same.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Humanity is a young species, a newborn as counted on a geological timescale. It was not long ago when we lived in little huts of wood and clay, and when the bow and arrow were the height of our technology. And science brought us out to space, allowed us to split the atom and showed how we are related to all life on the planet. Today we have vast towers of steel and glass, and the height of technology changes from day to day.
I have little doubt that it will be science that saves humanity when disaster strikes, whether it is the climate changing, an asteroid hurtling towards earth, or madness-inducing eldritch abominations invading.
Science is important and wonderful and I love it. It is my intent with this blog to show just how important and wonderful it is, and to inspire other people to love science as much as I.