Archive for March, 2008

Taking Particle Physics to Court

By Lizzie Buchen | March 29, 2008 12:19 pm

In a few months, the Large Hadron Collider will begin creating the most energetic collisions ever seen on Earth, hoping to tackle fundamental questions about our universe—but not everyone is ready to party. Fears that physics at the LHC will lead to the catastrophic destruction of our planet are being rehashed, and this time, the fear pushers are taking their case to federal court.

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“Just Say No” to… Free Wi-Fi?

By Lizzie Buchen | March 26, 2008 3:04 pm

When cafés place signs that boast “Free Wi-Fi” in their windows, they usually intend to lure patrons in—not drive them away. But in response to Sonic.net’s offer to provide free Wi-Fi to the small town of Sebastopol, California, its residents whipped out their tinfoil hats and rejected the offer due to “potential risks to the health of our community” (although they thanked Sonic for the “very nice gesture”).

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Asexual, Tough-as-Hulk Animals Withstand Hulk-Level Radiation

By Lizzie Buchen | March 25, 2008 5:23 pm

The microscopic bdelloid rotifer—best known as an all-females species that hasn’t had sex for 100 million years—has thwarted the attempts of Eugene Gladyshev and Matthew Meselson to mutate their genes with blasts of gamma radiation. Although the radiation shattered their genomes—it was a far higher dose than had ever been tolerated by an animal to date—the plucky, resourceful gals sewed their chromosomes back together and not only survived the blasts but continued to reproduce.

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Washing Pollution Away with Golden Showers

By Lizzie Buchen | March 25, 2008 4:51 pm

The Friends-inspired rumor that urine can relieve a jellyfish sting provided more comedic value than useful first-aid advice, but there are actually many practical applications for that yellow waste product. Ancient Egyptians and Aztecs rubbed urine on their skin to treat cuts and burns, while the Romans used it as a bleaching agent for cleaning clothes and teeth. And now, it may help fight global warming.

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The Unusual Story of a Pregnant, Bearded Man

By Lizzie Buchen | March 21, 2008 5:31 pm

Over the past century, the shackles of gender conformity have been getting looser and looser. More girls are becoming engineers and CEOs; more boys are becoming nurses and stay-at-home dads; a woman is a serious U.S. presidential candidate. And now men can become pregnant. Read More

City of Brotherly Love Woos Shad With Stairway to Harem

By Lizzie Buchen | March 21, 2008 3:54 pm

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The annual migration of the American shad just got a helping hand from Philadelphia, the city that sees the unsung, bony fish as a symbol of hope for its formerly polluted waterways.

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MORE ABOUT: ecosystems, pollution

What’s the Most Surprising Thing You Know?

By Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor) | March 20, 2008 2:55 pm

20 Things You Didn’t Know About… is consistently one of the most popular items on discovermagazine.com. Next week Discover is releasing 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Everything, the book based on the column; the book comprises 20 original 20 Things… columns, much like the ones in the magazine (which also run on the site) but longer and more comprehensive.

As popular as the column is, every time we publish one we get a lot of feedback that we messed up in some way and/or another—we snubbed one fact, included something that everyone knows, etc. (Sometimes the criticism gets downright malevolent.) Now that we’re expanding the 20 Things… concept to the highbrow world of books, we want to make amends for any of our previous errors. We want to know—on the record, for all of the Internets to see—what we missed over. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: 20 things

If You’re Reading This Blog Post, You Might Be Mentally Ill

By Lizzie Buchen | March 20, 2008 10:53 am

internet.jpgArticles about Internet addictions have been popping up (online) for a while now—along with advertisements for 12-step recovery programs—but the “disease” at first seemed tongue-in-cheek (and, actually, it was). Then, like so many mental illnesses these days, it became over-hyped. The would-be condition didn’t even make it into the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV)—the Bible of the mental health world—which includes everything from narcissism to 14 types of anxiety disorders.

But now Oregon Health Sciences University Psychiatrist Jerald Block wants to make sure Internet addiction gets some recognition. In an editorial in the March edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, he argues that it should be included in the next edition of the DSM, due out in 2012, and laid out the standards of this deadly (no, really) new affliction. If you meet the following criteria, you too might be addicted to the internet: Read More

A Scientific Defense of Beer

By Lizzie Buchen | March 19, 2008 10:45 am

As a former bench scientist who sips a beer on occasion, I was intrigued by an article that ran in The New York Times science section yesterday about the inverse relationship between a scientist’s success and the amount of beer he or she consumes. Dr. Tomás Grim, an ornithologist from Palacký University in the Czech Republic, surveyed the beer-consumption habits of 18 Czech scientists in 2002 and 34 in 2006 (some of whom were the same as those surveyed before), and found that the more beer a scientist drinks, the fewer papers she publishes, and the lower the quality of those papers. In short, less successful scientists drink beer. Read More

MORE ABOUT: alcohol, beer, scientists

‘Six Degrees’ Just Won’t Die

By Jennifer Barone | March 19, 2008 9:43 am

Another study–this one analyzing the largest social network ever–has found that people are connected by about 6 degrees of separation. Here, the sample consisted of 240 million people on Mircrosoft’s instant messaging service. And lo, when scientists finished with them, the “average path length” among the IMers was 6.6.

Nature News’ story on the study (login required for full access) finds this to be “spookily close” to Stanley Milgram’s original small-world study in the 1960s that started the whole six-degrees mania. But as DISCOVER wrote in February, Milgram’s experiment wasn’t replicated, suffered from an abysmally low response rate, and looked at people on mailing lists who were probably of similar socioeconomic status and thus more likely to share connections. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized
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