In a press release roundly denounced by the interwebs, the usually respectable American Chemical Society writes that “advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs — monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans — may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe.”
Um what? While our BS detectors just started blinking bright red, this press release is really a perverse kind of genius. When was the last time the science media lit up with a very technical paper on the origins of homochirality? (Before we get back to “advanced” dinosaurs, chirality refers to molecules that can exist in left- and right-handed forms; some organic molecules like DNA and proteins tend to be made of molecules only in one form. Why is that? This is an interesting question. It also has nothing to do with dinosaurs.)
Now the press release writer didn’t exactly pull the dinosaur reference out of nowhere, but the author of the paper did. After suggesting that early meteorites may have seeded a pre-life earth with chiral amino acids, Dr. Robert Breslow ends this paper with this flight of fancy:
An implication from this work is that elsewhere in the universe there could be life forms based on D amino acids and L sugars, depending on the chirality of circular polarized light in that sector of the universe or whatever other process operated to favor the L α‐methyl amino acids in the meteorites that have landed on Earth. Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth. We would be better off not meeting them.
There are oodles of instruments and websites out there to help you make funky sounds, but for some reason, artist/performer/DJ/composer Daito Manabe feels the need to torture his friends instead. He uses a combination of electric shock pads and muscle electricity sensors to both conduct a drum show and contort his friend’s facial expressions.
When the drummer touches the drum he sets up myoeletcric currents in his fingers. The sensors attached to his fingers pick up this charge and use it to beat a virtual drum machine.
The shock pads on the drum’s face respond to the specific sounds of the drum, giving him a shock in specific places and causing his facial contraction and crazy expressions. This half of the video was performed by Manabe himself in an earlier video.
For the definition of mistake, look no further than the Oxford English Dictionary. A physics professor from Australia’s Queensland University of Technology discovered that the go-to source has carried a mistake for nearly a century: an error in the definition of the word “siphon.”
The dictionary erroneously stated that a siphon’s ability to move liquids from one location to another is due to atmospheric pressure. In fact, it’s really thanks to the force of gravity, according to an article in Physorg.com:
“Senior lecturer [Stephen Hughes]… discovered the error after viewing an enormous siphon in South Australia, which was transferring the equivalent of 4000 Olympic swimming pools from the Murray River system into depleted Lake Bonney”…
“It is gravity that moves the fluid in a siphon, with the water in the longer downward arm pulling the water up the shorter arm,” he said.”
Conveniently, when the team in charge of revising the Oxford English Dictionary received Hughes’ email pointing out the error, they were working on words starting with the letter “R:”
“I thought, ‘oh good, just in time’, because S is next,” Dr Hughes said.
The de facto dictionary-of-record is planning to make the change, but its editors shouldn’t feel too bad: Hughes said he couldn’t find a single dictionary that defined the word correctly.
Image: flickr / jovike
We here at DISCOVER have managed to score 9 Blu-ray DVD copies of the recent Warner Bros production of Sherlock Holmes. (Let’s just say they fell off a truck.) Anybody out there want ‘em? We’re going to post a tweet in mere moments about the giveaway; the first 9 people to comment here or retweet our message will find themselves the lucky—and fast—winners. Here’s the official description of this Holmes re-boot:
The action-adventure mystery “Sherlock Holmes” is helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie. Robert Downey Jr. brings the legendary detective to life, and Jude Law stars as Holmes’ trusted colleague, Watson. Revealing fighting skills as lethal as his legendary intellect, Holmes will battle as never before to bring down a new nemesis and unravel a deadly plot that could destroy the country.
Buy it on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, DVD and For Download 3/30
Sherlock Holmes © 2009 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
Besides the slew of large universities, there’s also a contingent of plucky high school teams competing here at the Eco-marathon. Though for some the first morning has been a struggle.
Tiny Durand High School from Wisconsin boasts the only ethanol vehicle in the field. But it wasn’t the engine that kept them from completing the course. With another car on the right, Durand’s driver got too close to the inside curb on turn one and clipped it, then the other car, leaving both of them stuck.
For Durand coach Bill Rieger, it was a heartbreaker. “I want to cry right now,” he said, because the team was so close to putting results on the board. Once the car completes 10 laps, race officials make the official mileage measurements. But Durand’s #50 car completed only 7, and there are no pro-rated measurements. The 50 car is custom-built, so it won’t be an easy fix to get it ready for the later trial runs. “We need to find a bike shop and see if we can bend our spindles back,” Rieger says.
Hope isn’t lost: the students from Grand Rapids High School in Minnesota tell DISCOVER that despite the competition, the teams help each other out. Still, the high school students want badly to succeed, and especially out-do the college teams. Grand Rapids took 7th overall last year. This year started slower for them, as their morning session run made only a single lap. But they’re still hopeful, saying the new gasoline engine this year could achieve 700 miles per gallon.
Note: The initial post suggests that Durand was at fault in the accident, when in fact the car on the right in the above image, belonging to Northern Arizona University, saw a brake lock up that caused the two-car collision. It wasn’t our intention to besmirch the driving talents of Durand High. And Northern Arizona, in a show of true Eco-marathon sportsmanship, offered Durand’s crew cookies as a peace offering. In the end, both teams completed successful runs, with NAU posting 761 MPG.
You’ve probably seen a Rube Goldberg machine in a science museum sometime, and watched with amusement while balls rolled down tracks or balloons inflated, triggering other mechanical events in a complicated chain reaction. But we guarantee you’ve never seen a Rube Goldberg machine quite like this.
When the rock band OK Go, justly famous for its treadmill dancing video, decided to make a new music video for its song “This Too Shall Pass,” the rockers tapped the artsy engineers at Syyn Labs to do something really special. The result was this 4-minute Rube Goldberg machine that plays part of the song, synchronizes with the beat, and involves the band members getting very messy. It runs the length of a two-story warehouse, and the action was filmed in a single shot. With no further ado, we give you: The mother of all Rube Goldberg machines.
Update: Check out the newest OK Go video, which warps time in many amusing ways. It also features a charismatic goose.
Discoblog: Snow Day Special: Warbling Scientists on the Newest Symphony of Science
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: I Still Think Listening to Country Music Is Degrading
Discoblog: Sounds of the Universe: Making Music From the Supernova Cassiopeia A
Discoblog: Quirky Musicians + Clever iPhone Apps = the MoPho Orchestra
Video: OK Go / Synn Labs
For the last five years, Oscar the cat has been sniffing out death. Literally.
The cat lives at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation in Providence, Rhode Island, a facility that cares for people with severe dementia.
Back in 2007, geriatrician and Brown University professor David Dosa wrote a perspective in The New England Journal of Medicine claiming that Oscar is the cuddlier, feline equivalent of the Grim Reaper. According to Dosa, his mere presence at the bedside of severely ill patients is viewed by doctors and nurses alike as an almost absolute indicator of impending death.
Now Oscar is back in the news, as Dosa has just published a book expanding on the story.
The Telegraph reports:
Discoblog readers: We need your help.
If you’ve been reading the DISCOVER blogs this week, you might have caught 80beats’ coverage of the study out suggesting the ultra-tough shell of a deep-sea snail could inspire the next generation of body armor. For reasons that could only be described as “dropping the ball,” we didn’t include the illustration provided by the National Science Foundation. It’s not every day that you get to see a samurai attacking a giant snail, though he probably should’ve brought his Hattori Hanzō sword rather than this spear.
Samurai vs. Snail:
Not to be outdone, the Nature study we covered today, arguing Madagascar’s mammals arrived there via flotilla, came with its own illustration. In it, the happy lemur wins the boat race to the island while the sad hippos and lions, too fat to ride, stay on the mainland.
The Great Animal Boat Race:
More awesomely bizarre? Please, help us decide:
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80beats: Could a Deep Sea Snail’s Shell Inspire Next-Gen Body Armor?
80beats: Study: Madagascar’s Weird Mammals Got There On Rafts
Images: NSF; Luci Betti Nash
“The internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes,” former Republican Senator Ted Stevens explained back in 2006.
And now, thanks to that series of tubes, you can watch a bear give birth. We don’t know what Stevens would make of this, but here comes the bear-cam.
The BBC reports that for the very first time, a webcam has been placed inside the den belonging to a pregnant wild black bear named Lily, and the “bear-cam” will stream live images to the web as she gives birth.