Latest Blog Posts


How to Balance Transparency with Academic Freedom?

By Keith Kloor | February 27, 2015 10:54 am

A succession of stories in recent weeks involving scientists and open records requests have anguished many who cherish two ideals: academic freedom and transparency.

I imagine that journalists have also been grappling with a tension between those two ideals. (I know I have.) More on that in a minute. First a recap.

Two weeks ago, I reported in Science magazine that an anti-GMO group had filed a flurry of freedom of information requests, “asking administrators to turn over any corresponde …

Lovesick Cyborg

How to Grab a Drink Without Leaving Virtual Reality

By Jeremy Hsu | February 27, 2015 10:45 am

How do you physically grab a drink while wearing an Oculus Rift headset that has you immersed in virtual reality? Figuring out how to navigate smoothly between the physical and virtual worlds could greatly improve virtual reality experiences as VR headsets become more widespread in both entertainment and workplaces. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign decided to test out several possible scenarios that would allow people to see just enough of the physical wor …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts, Uncategorized


What Color Is This Dress? Science Answers

By Lisa Raffensperger | February 27, 2015 10:28 am

It’s Friday on the Internet, and we’re all abuzz with the latest meme – but, happily, for once it’s a meme with some fascinating science behind it.

The question at hand, if you haven’t been asked it already, is what color is this dress, below? The results are remarkably divided. An informal Buzzfeed poll indicates that about 75 percent of people perceive it to be white and gold.

But, as the video above explains, other people see it as black and blue – which are indeed its …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, top posts


'Antifreeze' Protein, Borrowed From Ticks, Could Battle Frostbite

By Carl Engelking | February 27, 2015 9:44 am

If you live in a cold climate, some days any exposed skin is at risk of frostbite. But if we had antifreeze coursing through our veins, we’d be resistant to winter’s bite.

And that’s not as crazy as it sounds. Scientists have recently demonstrated that mice, genetically engineered to produce an antifreeze protein, are better able to fight off frostbite. Although other animals have this survival skill, it’s the first time it’s been replicated in a mammal.
Biological Thermostats
I …

MORE ABOUT: animals, genes & health

The Crux

Google's Artificial Intelligence Masters Classic Atari Video Games

By Toby Walsh, NICTA | February 26, 2015 5:04 pm

Think you’re good at classic arcade games such as Space Invaders, Breakout and Pong? Think again.

In a groundbreaking paper published yesterday in Nature, a team of researchers led by DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis reported developing a deep neural network that was able to learn to play such games at an expert level.

What makes this achievement all the more impressive is that the program was not given any background knowledge about the games. It just had access to the score and t …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: computers


Quiz: Test Your Einstein IQ

By Carl Engelking | February 26, 2015 2:09 pm

[slickquiz id=1]

Artwork of a bee making the tough choice between targets, designed by Nicole Milligan and Ray Crundwell.

Science Sushi

What Brian Williams and bumblebees have in common

By Christie Wilcox | February 26, 2015 11:00 am

Journalists are held to the highest standards of accuracy, which is why so many seemed shellshocked to learn that Brian Williams, beloved NBC Nightly News anchor, lied about his experiences in the Iraq war. In his most recent accounts, Williams claimed to have been in a helicopter shot down by enemy fire — a claim that was vocally disputed by veterans who were with Williams at the time. Williams has since admitted that he got the story wrong, but what’s most intriguing about his apology  …

Credit: New America Foundation

Lovesick Cyborg

The Next Generation of US Cyber Warriors

By Jeremy Hsu | February 25, 2015 11:37 pm

Zane Markel has never known a world without the promise and perils of the Internet. The young native of Bismarck, North Dakota represents one of the first midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy who will commission directly into the Navy’s information warfare community after graduation. That honor makes him part of the newest generation of U.S. cyber warriors at a time when computer-driven systems have become both the strength and Achilles’ heel of modern military forces.

The path to  …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts, Uncategorized


Just Based on DNA, Scientists Can Construct an Image of Your Face

By Carl Engelking | February 25, 2015 2:02 pm

Putting pencil to paper has been the tried-and-true method to illustrate the faces of wanted criminals, but new technology is changing this traditional approach. DNA, rather than an artist’s skill, is an emerging tool to recreate the face behind a crime.

The new forensic technique is called DNA phenotyping. It relies on DNA, found for instance in a drop of blood, to create a simulated face based upon genetic markers. Although the science still has room to grow, start-up companies in the U …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: genes & health

The Crux

Pluto a Planet Again? It May Happen This Year

By David A. Weintraub, Vanderbilt University | February 25, 2015 12:22 pm

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, and NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive there on March 6.

Pluto is the largest object in the Kuiper belt, and NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will arrive there on July 15.

These two events will make 2015 an exciting year for solar system exploration and discovery. But there is much more to this story than mere science. I expect 2015 will be the year when general consensus, built upon our new knowledge of these two objects, will return P …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: solar system

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