• Bad news for…humanity: We judge our leaders on how they look, not on how well they lead.
• Jailbreak! When an octopus executes the great escape.
• Ever wonder who’s driving your subway train? It could very well be a computer.
• And hey, herbs are science: The pot revolution hits Japan.
While the $787 billion stimulus bill has not been without controversy, it has also achieved a rare accomplishment: creating something on which most scientists agree. The new bill will distribute a lot of money, so much so that many of the recipients in the science community are overjoyed—even if they aren’t necessarily prepared to handle it.
The extent to which some offices will be overwhelmed is exemplified by this reporting in The New York Times:
Utah expects that its state energy office will receive $40 million for energy efficiency, renewable energy and related programs—123 times the size of the office’s current budget, said Jason Berry, who manages the four-person unit. He is about to go on a hiring spree.
Equally thrilled with their soon-to-be windfalls, scientists have made some prize comments in the media this week about their good fortunes. Here are a few of our favorites:
“It’s like they finally got to the other side of the desert and it’s pouring rain,” Seth Kaplan, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation. (The New York Times)
“We’re kind of like the dog that caught the car…[though] if we don’t [distribute the money] well, the technical term is: we are toast,” Ernest Moniz, a M.I.T. physicist who served as undersecretary of energy for President Bill Clinton. (Nature News)
Tactile arousal threshold of sleeping king penguins in a breeding colony.
Crocodiles will do just about anything to get home. A few years ago, three crocodiles were air-lifted hundreds of miles away from their habitat, and shocked everyone when they returned—a massive feat, considering crocs walk at a nail-biting speed of 10 miles per week.
Now that urban life is basically sitting on prime crocodile territory in Miami and the Florida Keys, the gator state is facing a problem: The current method of removing a crocodile from someone’s backyard canal and releasing it into the wild just isn’t enough, since they keep coming back. So the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions is experimenting with new methods of croc-removal…such as strapping magnets to each side of a crocodile’s head.
The logic is that the magnets will disorient the animal so much that it will stay lost in the wild. But will it really work?
UPDATED (see below).
Thank goodness we have mathematics to solve the world’s most pressing dilemmas, such as “What’s the speed of light?” and “How do I make the world’s tastiest pancakes?” Dr. Ruth Fairclough, a mathematics professor at Wolverhampton University, set out to solve the latter problem, and has now unveiled her formula for the perfect pancake—coincidentally, just in time for International Pancake Day.
So what’s the secret to the choicest possible breakfast? With L representing the number of lumps in the batter, C the consistency, T the temperature, and a host of other variables, she calculated that perfect pancakes need only follow this simple equation:
100 – [10L - 7F + C(k - C) + T(m - T)]/(S – E).
The closer to 100 the result is, the better the pancake. The temperature of the pan (m), the consistency (C), and how long the batter sits (S) before cooking—to allow for absorption of the milk by the flour—are among the most crucial factors in making successful pancakes. The size of the pan is also important—too big and the pancakes will be hard to flip, of course.