the whole world burns

Archive for category 'science'

Scott and Scurvy


Fascinating essay on the "second coming" of scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency, which we're usually taught was "cured" in the British navy in mid-18th century by requiring sailors to drink lime juice daily (hence "limeys"). In reality, it was lemon juice, and the later shift to limes from the West Indies was only one of the blunders, against a milieu of inaccurate scientific and medical assumptions, that caused the simple cure to be lost.

Catalyst - The Top Australian Scientific Achievements


Gotta vote for grandad! Can't win against "eradicated smallpox" or "won a Nobel prize for penicillin antibiotics", though.

Philosophy as an experimental science


[A] restive contingent of our tribe is convinced that it can shed light on traditional philosophical problems by going out and gathering information about what people actually think and say about our thought experiments. [...]

It always irritated me in philosophy discussions when someone would seriously make an argument that something was "intuitively" true or false. There are already some interesting results:

Recently, a team of philosophers led by Machery came up with situations that had the same form as Kripke's and presented them to two groups of undergraduates — one in New Jersey and another in Hong Kong. The Americans, it turned out, were significantly more likely to give the responses that Kripke took to be obvious; the Chinese students had intuitions that were consonant with the older theory of reference.

"The stuff of dreams": strange substances

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Magnetic fluids, liquids that turn solid when hit, materials that get thicker when stretched...

Ghosts, Vampires and Zombies: Cinema Fiction vs. Physics Reality (pdf)

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Why ghosts violate the laws of physics, vampire populations grow too fast, and zombies are really victims of puffer-fish poison...

Humpback whalesong has definable syntax

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Researchers have now mathematically confirmed that whales have their own syntax that uses sound units to build phrases that can be combined to form songs that last for hours.

Life imitates Star Trek IV?

What makes Cupid's arrows stick?

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To think, they say science isn't romantic...

There is a legend, followed up by Shakespeare, that Cupid had two types of arrow: one gave rise to long-lasting, committed, so-called virtuous love, the other to lust. The arrows that led to lasting love were gold, which would have needed careful sharpening to penetrate and stay embedded. ...

The biochemical results suggest that a leaden arrow falls out between 12 and 24 months after Cupid has struck. The hormonal changes and increase in NGF disappear and levels return to normal.

Luckily for those hit by a golden arrow, the second stage of attachment is tipped with oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone” associated with female orgasms, delivery and lactation. This stays at a higher level so long as the second stage of partnership lasts.

the science of Hollywood pseudoscience


When an episode of "Deep Space Nine" involved a comet, Bormanis was tapped for a crash course in the related astrophysics, such as a comet's size and speed. At times, writers simply write the word TECH in the script and then hand it off to Bormanis to fill in the blank.

Zombie Dogs

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A fine example of awful, sensationalist journalism, but still:

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

Extracting Video from Cat Brains

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As he mentions in the K5 article, it has interesting ramifications for philosophies of mind which value private experience.

Nasal spray makes you more trusting


I had an idea for a science fiction story like this last year, with a door-to-door salesman character who sprayed himself with trust chemicals and pheremones every morning. Let's hope it doesn't come true.

Light Speed!


Light Speed! is an OpenGL-based program developed to illustrate the effects of special relativity on the appearance of moving objects. When an object accelerates to more than a few million meters per second, it begins to appear warped and discolored in strange and unusual ways, and as it approaches the speed of light (299,792,458 m/s) the effects become more and more bizarre. In addition, the manner in which the object is distorted varies drastically with the viewpoint from which it is observed.

Technovelgy: Science Fiction Technology


Great database of invented SF science and technology. Cavorite, the ansible, the stillsuit...

Small things, links and miscellany, sparkling with light. Sam's tumblelog.