December 2012 Archives

The Moon: Not Green Cheese After All

In 2011, the twin GRAIL space probes were launched to map what the moon is made of. Upon reaching the moon exactly one year ago, they began to carefully map the density of the entire crust of our largest satellite.The mission was a complete success;...

Uvula, Cerumen, & Coccyx: Your Body Is Weird

Your body is a temple, and what are temples usually filled with? Mystic, ancient texts that few people can read or understand. It's the same with your body's myriad muscles, bones and tissues. You've got a boatload of them, and many have strange names and...

An Easy Way to Reduce Traffic Congestion?

The holidays are here, so everybody knows what that means: Last-minute gift-buying, restless children, and sitting in traffic while shuttling back-and-forth between your parents' house and your in-laws'. There isn't much we can do about the first two...

Have a Very Merry Christmas... Insect Infestation!

Hark! The holiday season is upon us!All across the country, it's a time for sharing and caring, harmony and love; a time to lend help to those in need and appreciate your neighbors, family, friends, and fellow citizens.For approximately forty million American...

Are We Living in The Matrix?

Can we know if we are actually living in a computer simulated universe? New physics research gives us some possible clues about how we might tell and how hard it would be to artificially create the world we experience. This work is at the fine border...

How to Avoid Spontaneously Combusting

It's a nagging worry that constantly loiters in the recesses of the mind: "Will today be that day I spontaneously combust?"I'm hard-pressed to think of a worse way to go. One day, you might be walking down the street, suffering from a faint tinge of...

A Universal Sense of Scale

"When I look up at the night sky and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than most of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up -- many people feel small,...

Ebola Decoy Protein Fools Immune Response

Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) lab where Ebola research is conducted. (Photo: Wikipedia)The Ebola virus simultaneously elicits fear and fascination. It causes a horrifying death for its victims, who suffer from a hemorrhagic fever. Even though Ebola is primarily...

Isaac Newton: World Will End in 2060, not 2012

While many Americans likely intend to skip town on Friday, December 21st and head out on a holiday vacation, they might inadvertently find themselves skipping the Earth altogether.In case you haven't heard, a plethora of Doomsday scenarios are portended to...

The Biggest Cash Prize in Science

What's the most lucrative prize a scientist can collect? The Nobel Prize has long been the premier award in all scientific fields. It nets each recipient a share of $1.2 million. The next most prestigious awards, such as the Israeli Wolf...

Why America's Best Scientists Don't Get Funded

John Ioannidis doesn't mind stirring the pot. He is famous in the scientific community for very candidly explaining why scientists are getting many things wrong. He has gone so far as to claim that perhaps 90% of the studies in medical journals are incorrect,...

Why Build a Giant Telescope at the Bottom of the Sea?

If asked out of the blue to picture a telescope, your mind might conjure up an image of a tall, rounded tower crowned with an immense dome, standing sentinel atop a mighty mountain under a clear, night sky teeming with twinkling stars.In all likelihood, you...

Strange Things at the Far Edge of the Solar System

The space probe Voyager 1 has flown through the asteroid belt, past Jupiter and Saturn, past Neptune and Uranus, beyond Pluto, and out to the very edge of the solar system. Along the way it has taken many famous pictures:Saturn and its MoonsNeptune. Notice...

The Wow! Signal: The Best Sign of Alien Intelligence?

For almost half a century, many astronomers have been locked in the enduring Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Sizable telescopes -- astronomers' eyes and ears -- have been trained to the heavens, looking and listening intently for an...

Burning Witches Was Good Business (for the Accusers)

Today, as evidenced by the undying popularity of Harry Potter, it seems incomprehensible that a large majority of Western society would ever look upon witchcraft with anything but sparkling adoration. Yet only four centuries ago, it probably was more common...