Category Archives: science!

Nonmelodic laser bats

This has been out a little while, but I just got around to watching it, and HOLY CRAP MY FAVORITE MUSIC THING EVER.

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So, A) I'm in love with that girl.  Seriously.  If you know her, please deliver her fondly this piece of my ear.

B) I've studied music a ton, especially in the context of piano, and experimentality in the context of literature, and holy shit yes all of these things.  This makes me want to do SO MUCH.  (And wish that I had the skillz to turn them into videos, but I guess we can't all be so blessed.)



Things best pondered at 4am: Why do we sleep?

This is what I get for surfing at four a.m. apparently:  A really nice, long, juicy article about why we sleep!  It tackles some new research and proposes a sort-of-new conclusion, too.  Good read!  It's always nice to be reminded why sleep is important, as I think keeping this in mind can only help our efforts to do it more efficiently.

And science wins (at least) twice today!  Check out this amazing picture of a detail of the Helix Nebula:

There's why we call them "The Heavens", eh?  ;)

Feynman and the eighth-of-an-inch black hole

In my stumblings today, I wound up watching this Nova episode on Richard Feynman:


Now, this is partly notable because I'd been pretty sure there wasn't much on Feynman that I hadn't seen or read already. I'm a huge…well, not fan; I don't think there can be a Feynman "fan" since if you know anything about the man, you know he wouldn't have wanted them…but he's one of my favorite modern figures, and a person (or story of a person I guess, since I was just a child when he died) that I've always fervently, grinningly, intensely identified with.

"Why" is an interesting question — I think it's for the same reason that I gravitate towards the other people I do, as well — and why a great many of them are scientists. I would say that it's because they prove that "Interestedness" (a certain breed of Curiosity characterized by openness, acceptance, and enthusiasm for the process of discovery) is a type of reasoning, not at all incompatible with hard logical reasoning — it sits, I think, underneath it, and gives it a totally different character; like the difference between painting on canvas and paper and cloth.  Painting logic on Interestedness is so, so different than painting it on, say, that closed-off, goal-oriented type of Curiosity (Industry, I guess we could call it).  Feynman was a genius in the sense of hard logic, but it wasn't his skills with calculations or experimentation that made him famous or that make him such an enduring figure, in my opinion — it's the depth of his devotion to Interestedness.

Interestedness is a "yes" state; it's Curiosity focused on the Path.  As Feynman says in the video, "You have to understand that every plot, even though there's a high chance of failure as far as the ultimate aim was concerned, would always turn out to be a big adventure…"  Industry, in contrast, is seeking to learn things for a purpose — to make a drug, to start a company, to win a prize, or even to do something really beneficial like cure a disease; Industry isn't always *bad*, but it is always goal-focused and so, in my ever-so-humble opinion, can never achieve the astronomical results that thinking like Feynman's can.

Anyway.  Enjoy the Feynman; it's lovely.  <3

NGrammatical Fun

Oooo, if you haven't messed with Google Ngram, you shooooould!  Instant pretty graphs of the occurrence of any words and phrases in tons of books over time?  YES PLEASE!

Here, for example, you can see that the phrase "in the beginning" was used a lot in 1800 and has been in steady decline ever since, while "in the end" has been on the rise during the same time-period; and the phrase "in the middle" has remained steady and qualitatively in-between the other two.  

Have you ever seen anything so squee-worthy??  I'm not sure I have.  I may need to sit down a minute, actually.  Whoo…

(YES, okay, I heard about the Ngram corpus lookup feature of Google Books and immediately headed over and devised a goofy philosophically-meta search for it.  Because that is me, and data that speaks to me gets me hot.)

Don’t panic; that only lowers your immune response further!

Well, either I bit my lip or something in the night (possible), or I have a real honest-to-Pete cold sore coming on.  ::stifles panic::  Now, I know that cold sores are normal — they're expressions of Herpes Simplex 1, which something like 80% of the population carries and is one of the viruses associated with the common cold — but I've only ever had one mild one in my life, and even then it scared the pants off me.  Not sure why, but those things give me the creeeeeeps.

I do have a cure for them, which I used last time and worked fantastically well (gods I love herbalism)…but do I have any slippery elm bark on me?  Um, no, I do not.  So I read about six web-pages full of possible cures, most of which sounded horrendous, and settled on "likely to work and available":  A dose of ibuprofen (swelling), a packet of Emergen-C (immune system boost) and a slice of fresh garlic, which I rubbed on the proto-sore and then ate, to clear my mouth of nasty virus-stuff.  (Garlic, for you uninitiated, is a phenomenal anti-viral, -fungal and -bacterial.  Be careful putting it on your skin though — prolonged exposure will give you chemical burns!  Garlic is such a strong medicine that if you rub some on your foot, you'll taste it shortly thereafter — I've used it to remove warts and skin-tags, all by itself! — so treat it with respect.)

It would make some sense for me to get a cold-sore now…I've been traveling, been around new people and sharing food and stuff with them, and due to being with family for the holidays, not eating or sleeping terribly well either (always a bad idea in the middle of winter!).  Sometimes I lean on my awesome immune system too much; a performance vehicle needs careful care!  I wouldn't be surprised if, due to the stress of the last few weeks, I got a sniffly cold-cold for the first time in almost 2 years (though I would be angry at myself, lol), and I shouldn't be surprised if I get this.  But hoooooooly cow do I hope I can stave it off!  ::shudders::

Hope everybody out there is healthy!!  More useful posting soon; after a long period of just being slammed with daily life (moving right before the holidays was such a great idea) I'm finally thinking and writing more again.  *WHEW*

Peace (even while at war with viruses!  ;)


*thank you to the University of Maryland Medical Center for their clear summaries of herbal remedies!  Nice to have that to link to.



UPDATE:  Everybody who looked at it (including Nurse Mom) said it was a cold sore, and if they're right then I stumbled on an awesome way to kick a cold sore's butt!  All I did besides the aforementioned single dose of vitamins and ibuprofen was to continue to apply and eat fresh garlic.  Whenever it became sore or bothered me, I'd cut the end off a clove of garlic (nice and portable; I took it on the train) and rub it right on there.  When I felt it sting I took the garlic off, and the stinging went away after a minute — and after that, it would stop bothering me.  It stayed the way it was for a day, then faded in a day; today it's pretty much gone and I haven't needed the garlic at all.  Also on the first day I ate a clove of garlic, and the next day I chewed up a few of the end-pieces I was cutting off.  But that seems to have done it — woo!

Need a few seconds of interesting?

I thought this made for a nice quick "Oh!  Huh" kind of moment — not that the points below can't be argued (haha what fun are things that can't be argued, right?) but it is fun to think about in that light.  (Here's the full pdf, which I found on Google in a moment of undirected curiosity.)  And if you're really fascinated, the Google and Wikipedia searches on related topics are fun too.  Happy Saturday!

The Slippery Slope of Science

The Slippery Slope of Reality with Jerry Trumbule Part 1 | Shrink Rap Radio Psychology Interviews.

This is a good podcast — two scientists candidly discussing some of the problems with the scientific method.

It comes down to an argument I've been making since I was a freshman studying logic and mathematics: The systems may be perfect, but they're being *used by people* *in the real world* — introducing a MINIMUM of two layers of imperfection. As long as the method is one invented and used by people (or any emotional entity), and can't be segregated from the biases and imperfections that creep in due to our world and society (i.e. someone has to order the rats from a supplier; someone has to try to get that paper published; etc.), then it's simply not responsible to treat scientific inquiry as perfectly objective.

That's not to say it's bad, or useless–on the contrary, I'm a big fan of scientific method. But the thing I probably like best about it is its willingness to modify itself based on evidence; to grant, in other words, the primacy of reality over its interpretations thereof: pretty much the exact opposite of how religion does it. And I think that in order to preserve this wonderful quality of Science, to keep it from becoming just another close-minded blinders-wearing club of fanatics, it's absolutely critical to keep its flaws and limitations in mind.

Thanks to my good friend Psuke for the link!  (She has all the best podcasts, seriously.  I wish I could get her to just post her favorites here all the time….::hint::hint::  ;)

Fantastic Info: Radiation

Don't miss the awesomely informative graphic at Fun takeaways include:

  • Living within 50 miles of a coal-power plant for a year doses you with almost three times as much radiation as living within 50 miles of a nuclear-power plant for a year;
  • A single mammogram gives 24 times the average total dose someone living within 10 miles of Three Mile Island received;
  • Cell phones emit no ionizing radiation (I knew this, but it's great to see it included); and
  • The worst known one-day dose from the Fukushima region in Japan is about 3.6% of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increase of cancer risk.

So…Panic minus facts equals stupid, but facts plus colors equals pure awesome. I get it now! ;)

Awesome People are Awesome: Einstein

"The purpose of mechanics is to describe how bodies change their position in space with "time".  I should load my conscience with grave sins against the sacred spirit of lucidity were I to formulate the aims of mechanics in this way, without serious reflection and detailed explanations."

(The Special Theory of Relativity, Ch. 3)

ABSOLUTELY, sir, have I felt myself at times in danger of sinning against the sacred spirit of lucidity!  I'll strive to remember that the atonement of such sins is to write the shit down, no matter what others — others in power, too — might say or think about it.  So they're wrong about space, cavalier about time, and stupid to insist that death is scary…they may not like us for it, but we're bound to tell them, or carry those grave sins with us through the whole continuum.

(My whole world is better now that I have the backing of a great man to shore up my belief in a Sacred Spirit of Lucidity!  Whatever you're reading this weekend, I hope it's been as transformative for you.  ;)