If Earth Had Rings
First off, they would be really pretty to look at. They would also dominate the sky in both night and day at exactly the same place as they would never rise nor set. And at night you would see the Earth’s shadow swing across the rings, like in the 4th photo here.
However, life would be very different on Earth if this were the case. Nocturnal animals would have a hard time being nocturnal, as the light reflecting from the rings would illuminate the night.
Because we are closer to the Sun than Saturn is, the rings would be more rocky than ice, making them less bright but still pretty bright. In fact, you would see far less stars at night (living anywhere other than the equator or the arctic circle) because of the light pollution and not to mention ruin most meteor showers because of that.
During the day the rings would block sunlight in certain regions of the planet creating wild weather cycles and effecting plant life as well. So basically, they would be definitely pretty to look at but they would also make a whole lot of things screwy.
Illustrations by Ron Miller // io9
— Click the photos for captions
Right now, the US Congress is sneaking in a new law that gives them big brother spy powers over the entire web — and they’re hoping the world won’t notice. We helped stop their Net attack last time, let’s do it again.
Over 100 Members of Congress are backing a bill (CISPA) that would give private companies and the US government the right to spy on any of us at any time for as long as they want without a warrant. This is the third time the US Congress has tried to attack our Internet freedom. But we helped beat SOPA, and PIPA — and now we can beat this new Big Brother law.
Our global outcry has played a leading role in protecting the Internet from governments eager to monitor and control what we do online. Let’s stand together once again — and beat this law for good. Sign the petition then forward to everyone who uses the Internet! [Click]
Get this known. Reblog.
I think we are forgetting the greatest of them all
WHEN THE HELL IS IT MY TURN.
OMG. LOOK AT COOKIE.
You forgot one
woops almost forgot
I literally said “oh my god” outloud at the Jensen one
I LOST IT AT ROMNEY
I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR ROMNEY
Feel like you need to make serious distinctions within the language of science? Maybe brush up on a few key concepts of the subject? Perhaps you feel an article is using word tactics to get people to believe in something false. Scientific American (originally on LiveScience) has a great article highlighting 7 misused science words that are sure to put things into perspective for the public:
The general public so widely misuses the words hypothesis, theory and law that scientists should stop using these terms, writes physicist Rhett Allain of Southeastern Louisiana University, in a blog post on Wired Science.
“I don’t think at this point it’s worth saving those words,” Allain told LiveScience.
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for something that can actually be tested. But “if you just ask anyone what a hypothesis is, they just immediately say ‘educated guess,’” Allain said.
2. Just a theory?
Climate-change deniers and creationists have deployed the word “theory” to cast doubt on climate change and evolution.
“It’s as though it weren’t true because it’s just a theory,” Allain said.
That’s despite the fact that an overwhelming amount of evidence supports both human-caused climate change and Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Part of the problem is that the word “theory” means something very different in lay language than it does in science: A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been substantiated through repeated experiments or testing. But to the average Jane or Joe, a theory is just an idea that lives in someone’s head, rather than an explanation rooted in experiment and testing.
However, theory isn’t the only science phrase that causes trouble. Even Allain’s preferred term to replace hypothesis, theory and law — “model” — has its troubles. The word not only refers to toy cars and runway walkers, but also means different things in different scientific fields. A climate model is very different from a mathematical model, for instance.
“Scientists in different fields use these terms differently from each other,” John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote in an email to LiveScience. “I don’t think that ‘model’ improves matters. It has an appearance of solidity in physics right now mainly because of the Standard Model. By contrast, in genetics and evolution, ‘models’ are used very differently.” (The Standard Model is the dominant theory governing particle physics.)
When people don’t accept human-caused climate change, the media often describes those individuals as “climate skeptics.” But that may give them too much credit, Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in an email.
“Simply denying mainstream science based on flimsy, invalid and too-often agenda-driven critiques of science is not skepticism at all. It is contrarianism … or denial,” Mann told LiveScience.
Instead, true skeptics are open to scientific evidence and are willing to evenly assess it.
“All scientists should be skeptics. True skepticism is, as [Carl] Sagan described it, the ‘self-correcting machinery’ of science,” Mann said.
5. Nature vs. nurture
The phrase “nature versus nurture” also gives scientists a headache, because it radically simplifies a very complicated process, said Dan Kruger, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan.
“This is something that modern evolutionists cringe at,” Kruger told LiveScience.
Genes may influence human beings, but so, too, do epigenetic changes. These modifications alter which genes get turned on, and are both heritable and easily influenced by the environment. The environment that shapes human behavior can be anything from the chemicals a fetus is exposed to in the womb to the block a person grew up on to the type of food they ate as a child, Kruger said. All these factors interact in a messy, unpredictable way.
Another word that sets scientists’ teeth on edge is “significant.”
“That’s a huge weasel word. Does it mean statistically significant, or does it mean important?” said Michael O’Brien, the dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Missouri.
In statistics, something is significant if a difference is unlikely to be due to random chance. But that may not translate into a meaningful difference, in, say, headache symptoms or IQ.
“Natural” is another bugaboo for scientists. The term has become synonymous with being virtuous, healthy or good. But not everything artificial is unhealthy, and not everything that’s natural is good for you.
“Uranium is natural, and if you inject enough of it, you’re going to die,” Kruger said.
Natural’s sibling “organic” also has a problematic meaning, he said. While organic simply means “carbon-based” to scientists, the term is now used to describe pesticide-free peaches and high-end cotton sheets, as well.
A new Tumblr site has arisen to call out the robots who have made mistakes. Called “Shaming Robots” it started innocently with an image posted of the engineering model of the Curiosity rover blaming the engineering Opportunity rover for messing up JPL’s Mars Yard. Submit your own if you have a robot you’d like to shame. You can also follow on Twitter at the hashtag #robotshaming.
More Coffee, Less Bang?
A good friend of mine visits the Starbucks near his office at least 3 times a day. He says he can’t work any other way. There’s something alluring to the thought that if you need more energy, you can just gulp down a coffee and, like Popeye after spinach, you become a better version of yourself. But do you really gain from drinking coffee, or is the effect all in your mind?
According to a new study from the University of Bristol, regular caffeine consumers may not receive any benefit in performance. Worse still, they may depend on their favorite beverage just to function at the baseline level of non-consumers. The lackluster effects of caffeine may come as a surprise, but that may be the bitter truth in your cup.
Psychologist Peter Rogers, who has studied the effects of caffeine for nearly 20 years, led this study. Rogers recruited 157 low drinkers of caffeine (less than 40 mg caffeine per day) and 212 high drinkers (more than 40 mg caffeine per day). The low drinkers averaged 10 mg of caffeine per day and the high drinkers averaged 235 mg per day, which is about 2 cups of coffee.
Participants weren’t allowed to drink caffeine between 7pm the night prior to the study and 9:30am the following morning, when they arrived at the laboratory. Participants were excluded if they had a high concentration of caffeine—more than 2 mg— in their saliva the morning of testing.
Rogers tested memory, motor function, and reaction time. He also had participants rate their level of sleepiness and mental alertness. Rogers tested reaction time by asking participants to focus on the center of a computer screen, where either an ‘A’ or ‘B’ would flash. They tried to correctly identify whether they saw an ‘A’ or ‘B’ as quickly as possible. Distracters, such as shapes (stars, squares) or letters (A or B), also appeared next to the target letter to increase the error rate.
The first test occurred at 10:30, not long after the participants arrived and before they consumed any caffeine. Low caffeine consumers were significantly better at identifying A’s and B’s. The high caffeine consumers made nearly 2 more errors on average during the task compared to the low caffeine drinkers. Caffeine withdrawal impaired their vigilance in the morning.
Participants took two pills during the day, first at 11:15am and again at 12:45pm. Half the participants received a placebo and the other half received caffeine (100 mg in the first pill, 150 mg in the second). There were four groups, high caffeine consumers who received placebo or caffeine and low caffeine consumers who received placebo or caffeine.
The second session occurred 45 minutes after the first dose. The third and fourth session occurred 60 and 135 minutes after the second dose.
Overall, the high caffeine consumers who received placebo performed worst on nearly all measures of performance. Caffeine withdrawal significantly impaired their performance. Their performance only got worse as the day wore on. The longer they went without caffeine, the more errors they made.
In contrast, the low caffeine consumers who didn’t get placebo performed equally well across the day. Further, low caffeine consumers performed about equally well if they received placebo or caffeine in most respects. The clear advantage for the group that received caffeine was that they had a higher tapping speed if they received caffeine. Low caffeine consumers who received caffeine responded more quickly in the tasks and they reported feeling less sleepy, but they did not make any fewer errors when identifying A and B.
Based on these results, it appears that high caffeine consumers receive no benefit from caffeine, and their improved performance relative to the first session only represents a return to baseline. Caffeine only brought them back up to the baseline level where low caffeine consumers begin.
The one universal benefit of caffeine was that both high and low caffeine consumers were able to press the space bar faster if they were given caffeine. This enhanced speed may result because caffeine decreases muscle fatigue. A number of triathlete magazines have recommended drinking caffeine before a race and, based on the results of this study, there may be good reason to do so.
Low caffeine consumers may benefit from a brief increase in caffeine consumption to overcome sleepiness. This could come in handy when driving long distances. If they continue to consume caffeine, however, the benefit will wear off and they will become dependent on caffeine to return to their previous baseline level.
The authors concluded, “high consumers treated with caffeine displayed almost the same levels of mental alertness and sleepiness as [low] consumers treated with placebo. This is fully consistent with withdrawal reversal and indicates nearly complete tolerance to these effects of caffeine.”
My friend who drinks three cups a day may not be getting the benefit he thinks from coffee, but like all things in life, there are other reasons for the things we do. He met his girlfriend at a coffee shop and one reason they hit it off was because they kept running into each other at the Starbuck’s where they worked. That’s something you just don’t get from a glass of water.
Autism: inside the brain bank
World Autism Day is on 2 April and new funding is in place to research the causes of the condition. But the programme now desperately needs tissue donors.
A severe shortage of brains is hampering potentially groundbreaking research into the causes and nature of autism. Although funding from the charity Autistica is in place for the research, it is extremely difficult to get people to donate their brains after death. And while many are happy to sign up to the national organ donation registry, the separate process of committing to brain donation has encountered resistance. The UK Brain Bank for Autism has appealed for brains for four years, but so far only 22 have been donated, slowing down the pace of research at a time when there is growing interest in a condition affecting as many as one in 100 people.
“It is a matter of regret that we can’t do it faster,” says Professor Margaret Esiri, director of the initiative. She is optimistic that a clearer understanding of what happens to the brains of people with autism will lead to a faster development of interventions that could improve the quality of life of those affected by the condition. “This is a very positive thing to do, to help future generations. Those families who have done it have appreciated the opportunity. It gave some meaning to the awful experience of losing someone they loved,” Esiri says. “We also need as many people as possible who don’t have autism to consider donating because we need control tissue. People don’t realise that a normal brain can really be valuable for research.”
Donations for research purposes are not included in the NHS organ donation programme, which exists solely to organise transplants to keep people alive, and the Oxford-based brain bank has struggled to inform people about the scheme. This is partly because of cultural taboos around death, and a reluctance of medical staff and carers to approach the topic. “It is not a very easy conversation to have because it involves looking towards a death of a child, for example, when all the efforts on the part of the medical profession are looking to the future of the child, not their death,” says Esiri. “The brain is so much the essence of who someone is; the idea of giving away the person themselves is difficult.”
While appeals for donations from people with dementia for another research project at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford have been productive, finding families willing to support donation for autism research has been problematic. “Caring for people with dementia is a tremendous strain, so relatives are desperate that there should be a way to make it easier,” says Esiri. “Autism is not always seen as something that would ideally be eradicated, in the same way as other diseases.”
There is also hostility from some autism organisations to any research that could lead towards an in utero test for autism, which might lead to abortions, or any talk of a cure. “There is resistance to brain research in autism from the neurodiversity movement – who see autism as something which should be valued and celebrated,” says Brenda Nally, the organisation’s outreach worker, who meets all prospective donors. A “cure autism now” agenda in the US has “created a lot of antipathy and has led people to assume that the purposes of this research are eradication or a cure for autism”, she says. However, the aim of the brain bank is not to find a cure, but to improve understanding of the condition. “We may perhaps be able to offer amelioration of some aspects of autism, for example severe social anxiety,” Esiri says.
The developing brain is altered in autism but scientists do not yet know why or how. DNA research on blood samples has found some variant genes in autistic patients, particularly those known to be important in the development of connections between brain nerve cells. Analysis of the brain would allow greater understanding of whether this has a structural or chemical effect. Eventually, if for example it was discovered that there was a shortage of some kind of growth factor that might enable nerve cells to develop, scientists might be able to find a molecule that would mimic its effect and give it in tablet form.
Nicholas Riall, a historian and archaeologist who has autism and has also been diagnosed with incurable cancer, has pledged his brain to the project. “I talked to my wife after the diagnosis about trying to find something positive to come out of it,” he says. He isn’t hoping for a cure but wants to help promote better understanding. “I would be fascinated to find out what triggers it,” he says.
“What makes me think in ways that are radically different to other people? Why does my brain tick a different way to the norm? It would probably have been helpful to me to have had an earlier diagnosis of my autism,” he says. His condition wasn’t formally diagnosed until he was in his 50s, and the failure to recognise it in him as a child caused real unhappiness.
“I have a see-saw intelligence. I am hopeless at maths but very bright in arts subjects. It was the bane of my life at school. In the 50s and 60s, if you didn’t perform well, they beat you; I would get beaten a lot because I couldn’t do maths and science. They thought they could beat it into you. I cannot learn a piece of text; I simply cannot do it, so I couldn’t learn poetry by heart. As a little autistic boy, it made school absolutely hell,” he says.
Esiri is hopeful that once people know about the work of her team, more individuals with autism will join the registry, or their families will sign up on their behalf. She hopes their relatives may also want to donate their brains, as well as people with no family connection to the condition. “If we could get 20 to 30 brains a year, that would be fantastic. A lot more could be done,” Esiri says. “There is a vast amount that needs to be learned.”A brain sample at John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford. Photograph: Martin Godwin
Tesla Orchestra plays Zelda theme song
“Taking something where there’s chords and multiple melodies, you’ve got to pick and choose which ones you use for the coils,” Lewis said. “We pick out the main melody and usually the bass line or harmony line from the existing track and plug them into a standard MIDI track and send that information to the coils and then play the backing track along with it.”
The coils themselves were built by the Tesla Orchestra, which hails from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The machines are designed to emit bolts of electricity that match the notes on a keyboard. - Wired.com