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Current Topic: Science

Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything
Topic: Science 4:22 pm EDT, Aug 30, 2008

The new theory reported today in New Scientist has been laid out in an online paper entitled "An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything" by Lisi, who completed his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1999 at the University of California, San Diego.

Hmm... E8 the answer to everything? Sounds like the plot to The Last Mimzy.

Surfer dude stuns physicists with theory of everything

Greenland's glaciers losing ice at faster rate
Topic: Science 10:18 pm EST, Feb 19, 2006

Satellite observations indicate that Greenland's glaciers have been dumping ice into the Atlantic Ocean at a rate that's doubled over the past five years, researchers reported here on Thursday. The findings add yet another factor to the long-running debate over the effect of climate change on the world's ice sheets and sea levels.

Some of you have heard me reference this phenomenon a few times lately. There was an episode of NOVA Science Now on PBS which highlighted these findings and how the melted water is actually pushing the glacier up and away from the polar cap, exacerbating the melting.

Greenland's glaciers losing ice at faster rate

Dance Dance DNA Revolution on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Topic: Science 11:52 am EST, Jan 31, 2006

This is the awesomest thing ever.

At the scripps aquarium near San Diego, they devote half the space to teaching kids about science. In a wing devoted to explaining gene expression they had some stuff about DNA and the coolest thing was this video game that taught you about building blocks of life, then proceeded to a real DDR game where you have to step to the DNA parts being shown on screen.

The best part was when one of the 20 amino acids were built, it would say the name. So you'd see A T T G C and so on... and then it would shout "Cysteine!"

Kick ass!

Dance Dance DNA Revolution on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

So what do you have to do to find happiness?
Topic: Science 10:21 am EDT, Oct  4, 2005

As a psychology graduate working in animal- behaviour labs, Seligman discovered "learned helplessness" and became a big name. Dogs who experience electric shocks that they cannot avoid by their actions simply give up trying. They will passively endure later shocks that they could easily escape. Seligman went on to apply this to humans, with "learned helplessness" as a model for depression. People who feel battered by unsolvable problems learn to be helpless; they become passive, slower to learn, anxious and sad. This idea revolutionised behavioural psychology and therapy by suggesting the need to challenge depressed people's beliefs and thought patterns, not just their behaviour.

Now Seligman is famous again, this time for creating the field of positive psychology. In 1997 the professor was seeking a theme for his presidency of the American Psychological Association. The idea came while gardening with his daughter Nikki. She was throwing weeds around and he was shouting. She reminded him that she used to be a whiner but had stopped on her fifth birthday. "And if I can stop whining, you can stop being a grouch."

Seligman describes this as an "epiphany". He vowed to change his own outlook, but more importantly recognised a strength — social intelligence — in his daughter that could be nurtured to help her withstand the vicissitudes of life. Looking back on "learned helplessness", he reflected that one in three subjects — rats, dogs or people — never became "helpless", no matter how many shocks or problems beset them.

"What is it about some people that imparts buffering strength, making them invulnerable to helplessness?" Seligman asked himself — and now he's made it his mission to find out.

Excellent article on controlling your own reality.

So what do you have to do to find happiness?

Underestimating their own beauty, humans fall victims to glossy magazine covers
Topic: Science 5:33 pm EDT, Aug 16, 2005

It is noteworthy that a combination of features as depicted on these morphed photographs is impossible to find in any of living people. A human face can be wrinkless if only it is a digitalized picture. There are no perfect eyebrows, eyes or lips either. One may thus conclude that the woman on this picture is an absolutely unnatural, albeit a beautiful individual. Natural beauty cannot compete with digital perfection: the latter always wins, although it does not exist in reality. The top five of the computer pageant was made of only digital pictures. Furthermore, 79 percent of original male faces and 70 percent of original female faces were described as "not pretty" or even "ugly."

This is interesting not only from the child-adult combo (I think humans are programmed to think that babies are beautiful otherwise you'd have very little impulse to take care of them), but also the social consequence of this instinctual "feature". If we continue to develop a society where images and media is bombarded into our conscience with unreasonable or impossible physical specimens, what impact will that have on mating, psychology, and productive society?

Underestimating their own beauty, humans fall victims to glossy magazine covers

BBC - h2g2 - The Origins and Common Usage of British Swear-words
Topic: Science 11:49 am EDT, Aug  6, 2005

Please Note:This entry discusses the etymology and application of a selection of words that, to varying degrees, can be considered vulgar or offensive. As a necessity, this entails the use of said words, and it is strongly advised that, should you find such words distressing or inappropriate, you do not read on beyond this point.For the rest of you, there now follows an informative and hopefully educational entry on a potentially controversial topic - bad language...

BBC - h2g2 - The Origins and Common Usage of British Swear-words

NOVA scienceNOW
Topic: Science 11:34 pm EDT, Jul 26, 2005

This week's episode of scienceNOW is probably the best yet. Hydrogen fuel cells. Supercomputing art projects. And proof of global warming!

NOVA scienceNOW

The ethanol subsidy is worse than you can imagine.
Topic: Science 4:04 pm EDT, Jul 19, 2005

The greens, hawks, and farmers helped convince the Senate to add an ethanol provision to the energy bill—now awaiting action by a House-Senate conference committee—that would require refiners to more than double their use of ethanol to 8 billion gallons per year by 2012. The provision is the latest installment of the ethanol subsidy, a handout that has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars during the last three decades, with little to show for it. It also shovels yet more federal cash on the single most subsidized crop in America, corn.

I'm pretty certain that the anti-ethanol article that I meme'd here is being generated as a salvo targeting these groups and probably aiming squarely at ADM, the nation's largest corn producer. I'm all for battling it out from a market perspective, but with so much at stake, is it really worthwhile to battle ideologies?

Of course, it really gets thick when you see this:

The two scientists calculated all the fuel inputs for ethanol production—from the diesel fuel for the tractor planting the corn, to the fertilizer put in the field, to the energy needed at the processing plant—and found that ethanol is a net energy-loser. According to their calculations, ethanol contains about 76,000 BTUs per gallon, but producing that ethanol from corn takes about 98,000 BTUs. For comparison, a gallon of gasoline contains about 116,000 BTUs per gallon. But making that gallon of gas—from drilling the well, to transportation, through refining—requires around 22,000 BTUs.

Now don't make me whip out my economist hat and tear that to pieces. There's no fucking way that gasoline is nearly 1/5 the energy cost to produce than ethanol. Not unless you are not factoring in things like economies of scale, depreciation, and existing plant.

The ethanol subsidy is worse than you can imagine.

Study Says Ethanol Not Worth the Energy
Topic: Science 1:11 pm EDT, Jul 18, 2005

Farmers, businesses and state officials are investing millions of dollars in ethanol and biofuel plants as renewable energy sources, but a new study says the alternative fuels burn more energy than they produce.

Idiots. ALL energy processing will yield less than what it takes to produce. That's called physics. The points are:

1) Is the source sustainable, renewable, or non-destructive to the environment?
2) Is the yield sufficiently high enough to make it worthwhile, GIVEN #1 above is true.

Petroleum has been proven time and time again to be massively inefficient as a source of energy. It takes trillions invested to get it out of the ground, transport it, process it, distribute it, and then consume it. All the while, it is unsustainable, contributes mightily to the destruction of our environment, and is the second leading source of instability in the world (only to fundamentalist religion). Even if it was 2x more 'efficient' than other techniques, it would still SUCK ASS because of these attributes.

I predict the transition to renewable sources of energy will be mired in spin, FUD, and political stonewalling the likes of which we haven't seen even in the movie/music industry. Meanwhile, people, plants, and animals will suffer and die all in the name of circumventing progress.

Study Says Ethanol Not Worth the Energy

125th Anniversary Issue: Science Online Special Feature
Topic: Science 2:49 pm EDT, Jul  5, 2005

A special, free news feature in Science explores 125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century; accompanying the feature are several online extras including a reader's forum on the big questions.

Which ones are YOU going to help answer???

125th Anniversary Issue: Science Online Special Feature

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