November 2011 Archives

Physicists Pull Light Out of Empty Hat

By Tom HartsfieldRichard Feynman, a revered physicist, Nobel prize-winner and all-around trouble-maker once said, "Nobody understands quantum mechanics." When the perhaps most brilliant quantum theoretician in the world admits this about his life's work, you...

Could We Have a Future Without Fear or Pain?

Have you ever experienced such sheer terror that you felt frozen and helpless? Have you ever suffered physical pain so excruciating that it felt like your whole world was encapsulated in agony?In those moments, did you wish that you were blind to fear or numb...

'Black Friday' is Unique Opporunity to Shop, Study

On Black Friday, throngs of people gather in stores across the country to partake in uninhibited consumerism, an activity that may reduce many to the most basic levels of human instinct. The same impulses that urged us to gorge on pumpkin pie and stuffing the...

Why Nobody Wins in the Dairy Challenge

For young males, there is usually no better way to prove their 'sophistication' than with unabashed acts of stupidity. The 'dairy challenge' is one of these acts.Loosely defined by Urban Dictionary as "drinking a gallon of milk quickly and trying to hold it...

A Treatise on Doing the Dishes

There are times in life where things just start to pile up. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the kitchen sink. What once was a sparkling basin where water could flow freely can occasionally become cluttered with a hodgepodge of forks, spoons, pots,...

Asteroid Hunters Allow Us to Breathe Easy

The following is a guest post by Tom Hartsfield, a physics graduate student at the University of Texas.Passengers of Spaceship Earth can breathe easier knowing that a space rock the size of an aircraft carrier is now putting nearly 30,000 miles between itself...

With the Help of the Kinsey Institute, Let's Talk About Sex

Sex.This singular act has been the source of so much disharmony that it's almost not worth the trouble. We argue about it's education, about it's depiction, about the age at which it should be legal, and about simply doing it.Society, in general, also treats...

Think Positive! It Just Might Improve the Economy

Americans are pessimistic about the economy -- and that's putting it mildly.A November 11th Gallup poll found that Americans' overall perception of the jobs market is the worst that is has been in a decade. Responding to the question, "...Would you say that...

The 'Sesame Effect'

"The many children and families now benefiting from 'Sesame Street' are participants in one of the most promising experiments in the history of...

Science is at Home on Sesame Street

In life, there are two things that we can truly rely upon: One, that the laws of nature are constant; and two, that Sesame Street will always provide wholesome entertainment.So much for one of those.The laws of nature have recently come under fire from...

Strange Pictures from Science

Over the years, scientists have produced a vast collection of memorable pictures. While many of these images have been enshrined in our memories for their quintessential grandeur, others are remembered for a slightly different reason: They are positively...

The Science of 'Nasty': Nose-picking and Nail-biting

It's gross, it's heinous, and it's morally reprehensible! But enough about Kim Kardashian's divorce. Let's talk about something much more upstanding: nail-biting and nose-picking -- or, for science's sake -- onchyophagia and rhinotillexomania.First off,...

Can Conversation Make a Comeback?

Sunlight streams from the autumn sky. The beams cause the rippling water of Lake Calhoun to glimmer like diamonds. Leaves of amber and scarlet fall from the painted tress and take flight in the wind. Their aerial dance lends a lighthearted touch to this...

Spring Forward, Fall Back: A Brief History

It's that time of the year again: the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST). This Sunday, roughly one-quarter of the world's population will shift their clocks back and wind up with one extra hour of time. For most of us, this practice has now become second...

Fixed Action Patterns and Their Human Manifestations

All animals function - to some degree - on instinct. From the tiniest slug, to the largest elephant, to the brainiest human; we all are inherently inclined to perform certain behaviors. It's simply hard-wired into our brains.The simplest form of instinct is a...

Why Censoring Cuss Words Can Be Way Bleeping Funnier

Can censoring swear words make comedy funnier? %$@# yeah it can!Across the world wide web, forums are alight with the discussion. Though censorship can often be a sensitive subject, a steady stream of people seem to agree that - at least where comedy is...