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Entries tagged: Science!

Science! SCIENCE! Sciiii-ennnnnce!

The Magical Chain Fountain

Jason Kottke:

When you pick up one end of a rod, he said, two things happen. One end goes up, and the other end goes down, or tries to. But if the downward force is stopped by the pile of chain beneath it, there is a kind of kickback, and the rod, or link, is pushed upward. That is what makes the chain rise.

God Speed, Columbia

Lee Hutchinson with the untold hypothetical rescue mission that could have saved Columbia:

During the writing of its report, the CAIB had the same question, so it asked NASA to develop a theoretical repair and rescue plan for Columbia “based on the premise that the wing damage events during launch were recognized early during the mission.” The result was an absolutely remarkable set of documents, which appear at the end of the report as Appendix D.13. They carry the low-key title “STS-107 In-Flight Options Assessment,” but the scenario they outline would have pushed NASA to its absolute limits as it mounted the most dramatic space mission of all time.

Bigger Than Picasso

Corey S. Powell and Laurie Gwen Shapiro tell the story of the only extra-terrestrial art exhibit in the known world, “Fallen Astronaut” located on the Moon:

One crisp March morning in 1969, artist Paul van Hoeydonck was visiting his Manhattan gallery when he stumbled into the middle of a startling conversation. Louise Tolliver Deutschman, the gallery’s director, was making an energetic pitch to Dick Waddell, the owner. “Why don’t we put a sculpture of Paul’s on the moon,” she insisted. Before Waddell could reply, van Hoeydonck inserted himself into the exchange: “Are you completely nuts? How would we even do it?”

Earth and Moon

It’s 2013, and we’ve finally captured a video of the Moon’s rotation around the Earth (courtesy of the Juno spacecraft).

Whose Fish?

Celebrate Thanksgiving with a little brain puzzlery:

This brainteaser, reportedly written by Einstein is difficult and Einstein said that 98% of the people in the world could not figure it out. Which percentage are you in?

There are five houses in a row in different colors. In each house lives a person with a different nationality. The five owners drink a different drink, smoke a different brand of cigar and keep a different pet, one of which is a Walleye Pike.

Not to brag, but I solved it pretty quickly. I’d say 10-20 minutes but I didn’t think to time myself.

Riding Lawnmower Speed Records

Randall Munroe, from his latest What If?:

In 2010, Bobby Cleveland set a world record for the top speed in a riding lawnmower, hitting 96 mph. This record was set as part of a rivalry with the British lawnmower driver Don Wales.


The Final Ride of Shuttle Endeavour

A beautiful time-lapse of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final mission from Florida to LA. How one could watch and not tear up at the shuttle program’s end is beyond me.

Human Tolerance to Wind Blasts

In 1946, the United States military strapped a man to a seat and put him in a 457 MPH wind tunnel…

Drop Tower

In Germany there stands a 475-foot tower just for dropping things. Geoff Manaugh for Gizmodo:

Intent on learning more about the “behavior of the upside-down swimming catfish at high-quality microgravity,” as they write in their later paper, Anken and Hilbig realized that, because the species is already known for swimming upside-down and successfully functioning in a state of spatial disorientation, it made an excellent candidate for the drop tower.

The Lake That Petrifies

Rowan Hooper for New Scientist:

According to Dante, the Styx is not just a river but a vast, deathly swamp filling the entire fifth circle of hell. Perhaps the staff of New Scientist will see it when our time comes but, until then, Lake Natron in northern Tanzania does a pretty good job of illustrating Dante’s vision.

The Life and Death of Buran, the USSR’s Space Shuttle

Amy Shira Teitel for Ars Technica:

Just before dawn on the morning of November 15, 1988, the mood at Baikonur, the Soviet Union’s launch site, was tense and businesslike. It was a cold morning marked by low cloud cover, a persistent drizzle, and warnings of gale force winds. It was a terrible day for a launch.

Fascinating story.

In 1961, the US Almost Obliterated North Carolina

Nathan Olivarez-Giles for The Verge:

In North Carolina, the two atomic bombs were released after a B-52 airplane carrying the payload went into a tailspin during a routine test flight — one of the bombs eventually landed in a tree, and the other in a meadow, The Guardian says. The document says the bombs should have detonated — parachutes were deployed and triggers were armed, but one low-voltage switch failed to activate as it should have, preventing what would have been devastating and widespread damage.

What the hell.

The Parbuckling of the Costa Concordia

The 19-hour process of raising the wrecked cruise ship Costa Concordia has been condensed less than a minute for your viewing pleasure.

Resurrecting Dinosaurs Will Remain a Jurassic Park Dream

Michael Parker for Ars Technica:

The process of fossilization, whether in rock or amber, chemically changes the makeup of the organism it preserves. Over time, with heat and pressure, the remains are transformed, and they no longer contain the organic material that might harbor DNA.

Words cannot express…

Naturally Occurring Gears

Adi Robertson for The Verge:

Gears are a potent symbol of human industry, a sign of mechanical wonder or a cold assembly line. If you had to pick something to stand against the natural world, they’d be a pretty likely pick — except that as it turns out, insects discovered them first. In a paper published today in Science, Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton of the University of Cambridge reveal that the plant-hopping Issus coleoptratus leaps with the aid of a pair of tiny, one-way gears, the first functional ones ever found on an animal.

Why Your Supermarket Only Sells Five Kinds of Apples

The answer is more interesting than you’d think.

“44 years ago today, a human being first stood on the Moon. No one in their wildest dreams then would have imagined the space program of 2013.”

— Maciej Cegłowski

The Science that Uncovered J.K. Rowling’s Literary Hocus Pocus

Ben Zimmer for Speakeasy:

In pursuing the Rowling bombshell, freelance writer Cal Flyn, who worked with Times arts editor Richard Brooks on the story, contacted two academics who have developed software specifically to examine questions of authorship: Peter Millican, who teaches philosophy and computing at Oxford University, and Patrick Juola, a computer science professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Flyn provided them with machine-readable texts of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” along with Rowling’s previous novel, “The Casual Vacancy,” and novels by three British women who specialize in crime fiction: Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, and Val McDermid.

Their software, which uses “forensic stylometry”, led The Sunday Times to question Ms. Rowling about it which led to her confession.

Forensic stylometry. You win, internet.

The Human-Powered Helicopter

A Canadian engineering team has won the 33-year old Sikorsky prize for creating the world’s first entirely human-powered helicopter (don’t worry, there’s a video).

Apollo Mission Site Could Become National Park

Dann Berg:

The landing site of NASA’s Apollo missions may be transformed into a popular tourist destination, if a new bill in Congress is ratified. Two democratic congresswomen are seeking to designate a national park on the moon, protecting abandoned Apollo artifacts, such as the landing gear, roving hardware, and the famous footprints.


Mashing the Myth of the Magical Immortal McDonald’s Burger

J. Kenji López-Alt:

Thus far, I haven’t located a single source that treats this McDonald’s hamburger phenomenon in this fashion. Instead, most rely on speculation, specious reasoning, and downright obtuseness to arrive at the conclusion that a McDonald’s burger “is a chemical food[, with] absolutely no nutrition.”

As I said before, that kind of conclusion is both sensationalistic and specious, and has no place in any of the respectable academic circles which A Hamburger Today would like to consider itself an upstanding member of.

The Order of Operations Is Wrong

“But distribution!”


A ‘Space Oddity’ in Space

Commander Chris Hadfield filmed the first music video shot in space, to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

Americans Won’t Return to the Moon this Lifetime

Charles Bolden for Examiner:

While [NASA Administrator Charles Bolden] suggested that NASA might be willing to be a junior partner in another country’s return to the moon program, he rejected the idea that NASA would be the lead in such an effort. There would be no return to the moon program in his lifetime, Bolden stated.

At first, that sounds sad. But:

…if the next administration were to change course back to the moon, “—it means we are probably, in our lifetime, in the lifetime of everybody sitting in this room, we are probably never again going to see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere. We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.”

Exactly. We have to pick a course and stick with it. NASA’s had far to many course changes, and all that results in is stagnation. We went to the Moon, and it was a massive success. Let’s look forward, not back.

It Is Called the Differential

An clear and simply demonstration of how the differential works in an automobile.

How Far Is It to Mars?

Really, really, really far.

Lego Paper Airplane Folding Machine


Science Discovers Largest Prime Yet

Jacob Aron for New Scientist:

The largest known prime number has just shot up to 257,885,161 - 1, breaking a four-year dry spell in the search for new, ever-larger primes.

Two things: has someone been paid for the past four years to wait for that computer to produce another prime? Where do I apply?

Nate Silver Picks the Super Bowl

Nate Silver for The New York Times:

The reasons that exceptional defenses fare so much better in the Super Bowl are still somewhat murky, but this factor bodes well for this year’s 49ers, whose defense belongs in the elite group, according to S.R.S. (it ranks 17th among Super Bowl teams). The Ravens, despite all the hype surrounding Ray Lewis, allowed a rather pedestrian 21.5 points per game this year. The 49ers also have the better offense, according to S.R.S., so there isn’t much to recommend the Ravens…

For context, this is the guy who predicted the 2012 Presidential Election accurately for all fifty states. Then again, he used both his own name and an exclamation point in the title of this piece.

UPDATE: Looks like his self-referentialism and bang-tendencies got the better of him.

Red Bull Stratos: ‘Mission Complete’

Baumgartner reached an estimated speed of 1,342.8 km/hr (Mach 1.24) jumping from the stratosphere, which when certified will make him the first man to break the speed of sound in freefall and set various other records while delivering valuable data for future space exploration.

Felix Baumgartner flew a balloon to 128,100 feet, jumped, and hurtled toward the Earth at 833.9 mi/hr. Amazing stuff. My hat is off to you, Felix.

xkcd’s ‘Color Survey Results’

Randall Munroe, reporting on an extensive color-naming study taken by 200,000+ individuals:

Then I decided to calculate the ‘most masculine’ and ‘most feminine’ colors. I was looking for the color names most disproportionately popular among each group; that is, the names that the most women came up with compared to the fewest men (or vice versa).

Here are the color names most disproportionately popular among women:

  1. Dusty Teal
  2. Blush Pink
  3. Dusty Lavender
  4. Butter Yellow
  5. Dusky Rose

Okay, pretty flowery, certainly. Kind of an incense-bomb-set-off-in-a-Bed-Bath-&-Beyond vibe. Well, let’s take a look at the other list.

Here are the color names most disproportionately popular among men:

  1. Penis
  2. Gay
  3. WTF
  4. Dunno
  5. Baige

I … that’s not my typo in #5—the only actual color in the list really is a misspelling of “beige”. And keep in mind, this is based on the number of unique people who answered the color, not the number of times they typed it. This isn’t just the effect of a couple spammers. In fact, this is after the spamfilter.

This is a little old but too funny not to link to. And there is much, much more.

What If?

From Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd, comes his next project: what if? Wherein he answers reader-submitted hypothetical questions. First up is speed-of-light baseball and SAT-guessing. It is fantastic.

Robot Quadrotors Perform James Bond Theme

Who’s excited for Skyfall?

Riding the Booster

Skywalker Sound-enhanced video from the SRB of the space shuttle. I know what you’re going to say; I know you’ve seen it before. But trust me. Watch it.

It’s amazing how the two rockets fall with such symmetry.