March 2012 Archives

Which Hogwarts House Animal Would Win in a Fight?

With all the recent fuss about the Hunger Games series, I think it's important to not forget about the best children's book series of all time. Harry Potter fandom will keep burning strong long after the Hunger Games hype has fizzled out.However, since...

College Learning: The Student is Responsible

About a year ago, readers across the United States were treated to headlines going something like this: "College Students Not Learning Much."The headlines were prompted by a study of 2,300 undergraduates, which found that a full 45% of those students showed...

What's Wrong with String Theory?

String theory postulates that we live in a universe of 11-dimensions. Up/down, left/right, forward/backward, time, and... well... seven more dimensions that are curled up and impossible to see. All of the smallest particles that we can see are not actually...

Get Inspired by a MythBuster

You could say that Adam Savage has made a career out of blowing stuff up. His innocent and enthusiastic embrace of explosions stood out when he worked as a special effects engineer/consultant on such vaunted films as The Matrix: Reloaded, Star Wars, and...

Big Telescopes May Enable Grand Discoveries

The wind blew across the mountainous Chilean plain and rustled the hearty flora littering the arid landscape. Above, a vast canvas of sky encircled the horizon. Not a single cloud besmirched its perfect blue hue. Suddenly, an explosion thundered in the...

The Genetic Benefits of Female Promiscuity

It is widely known that animals are not very discreet when it comes to sexuality. Whether visiting the zoo, watching the Discovery Channel, or strolling through the park, parents have to be ready with a tactful answers to their kids' curious questions.Some...

How to Get Out of Sticky Situations

If you've come to this blog post looking for a scientifically proven method of getting out of figuratively sticky situations, I'm afraid Newton doesn't have an answer for you. As far as I know, there's no systematic magic bullet for convincing your mom that...

Why Werner Herzog Films Are So Mind-Boggling

"For nearly seven hours while shooting Wheel of Time, Werner Herzog emitted a frequency astrophysicists first mistook for signals originating from a mass of potentially intelligent light waves, delivering a message that the universe had finally stopped...

The Standard Model Part III: Beyond the SM

In the first two posts in this series, I discussed the "periodic table" of particle physics and what the Standard Model of particle physics explains. Now, we tackle: What is wrong with the Standard Model (SM)? Two things:We haven't actually seen the Higgs...

A Good Scientist Flip-Flops. You Should, Too.

Flip-flopper.The mere mention of the word can cloud a politician in a mist of doubt and uncertainty. When the murmurings grow torrential, the storm of aspersions can singlehandedly muddle the reputation of any leader. In most respects, the term "flip-flopper"...

A Helping Flipper: Why Do Dolphins Save Humans?

In Douglas Adams' acclaimed science fiction novel, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, dolphins (yes, dolphins) do mankind a great favor when, just before the Earth is demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass, they create a replica of the Earth and...

Let's Get Personal: Using First Person in Scientific Writing

Photo via Business InsiderAuthors have essentially three points of view from which to write: first person, second person, or third person.While there are pros and cons to each voice, the third person is traditionally thought to be best for scientific writing....

Kiss the Irish for their Potatoes

Saturday is St. Patrick's Day. Doubtless, most revelers will celebrate Irish culture by wearing green and drinking alcohol in excess, but don't forget, there's another reason to kiss Irishmen and women on Saturday besides that they gave us an excuse to engage...

Microwave Experiments for You to (Not) Try at Home

In 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer, an engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, was experimenting with a new high-voltage, microwave-producing technology called a "magnetron tube." One day in the lab, he felt a strange warmth in his pants pocket. Glancing down at his...

The Standard Model Part II: What It Explains

In part I of this series, we toured the "particle zoo" -- the "periodic table" of particle physics. Now, let's ask, what can you actually do with all these strange animals? The Standard Model (SM) was built by patching together several different...

How March Madness Affects Your Health and Sanity

The tickets are punched. The brackets are set. The teams are ready. March Madness tips off this week, and the ensuing ruckus will be nigh on inescapable for anyone even remotely interested in sports. However, a word of warning to those who would fully embrace...

Repetition: The Key to Spreading Lies

We'd all like to believe that facts trump falsehoods, but unfortunately this is often not the case. Misinformation is easy to believe, and even easier to spread. An untruth can be repeated into reality by simply bombarding the public via advertisements, news,...

Why the Metric System Doesn't Measure Up

Over one hundred and fifty years ago, the U.S. signed the Treaty of the Meter in order to recognize unified control over the metric system. In the eighties, Congress passed two bills in an effort to convert U.S. trade and commerce to the metric system. One...

Turning Trash into Fuel. Thank You, Doc Brown!

It's well known that science fiction can inspire advancements in science and technology. Author Douglas Adams seemingly portended the universal translator well before Google started working on it, and his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy molded into reality...

Sharks Are Far More Fascinating than Terrifying

Worldwide deaths from shark attacks hit a two-decade high in 2011. An unnerving statistic like this seemingly vindicates our worst fears about sharks. So exactly how many humans did these "monsters of the deep" kill last year? A hundred? Two hundred?Nope....

The Standard Model Part I: The Periodic Table of Physics

Gluon? Quark? Neutrino? Is this an alien language? Despite being Greek to us, these are the names of the building blocks of all the matter that we can see and touch. Air, water, plastic, oil, mother of pearl, even gummy worms are all made out of the 92...

The Most Astounding Fact in the Universe

Neil deGrasse Tyson is highly regarded for his proficiency in astronomy and astrophysics, but even more so for his unbelievable ability to educate and inspire. Recently, Tyson has been featured on a variety of media outlets to talk about his newly released...

Five Reasons Why Snakes Are Freaking Scary

Photo by Norbert Rosing/National Geographic Stock Admit it. You're terrified of snakes. Well guess what--it's perfectly natural!Some scientists also noticed that a lot of people are afraid of snakes, and they wondered if humans have a built-in fear of the...

How to Make the Mundane Seem Fascinating

I won't bore you with a long introduction when simply reading the title will suffice. How to make the seemingly mundane less boring:In Video Games...For many, the daily and weekly grind can occasionally seem humdrum. Eat, work, sleep, eat, repeat. Yet to...

Is Stem Cell Therapy a Snake-Oil Remedy?

Would you receive a medical treatment that is not proven to work? A lot of people already do. It's called alternative medicine, and it is an approximately $34 billion industry in the United States. Irrational hatred of "Big Pharma" and a desire for "natural"...

Where Are All the Baby Dinosaurs?

Infant dinosaurs are little bundles of joy. They can kindle the same "oohs" and "awws" induced by mammalian neonates and -- as a bonus -- young dinosaurs often lack the ability to tear you limb from limb, unlike their adult counterparts.Over the years we've...