January 2013 Archives

Antiviral Drug Triggers Cell to Eat Itself

A chief weapon cells possess against infection is the ability to commit suicide. Obviously, suicide kills the cell, but it usually kills the invading microbe, as well. Thus, in multicellular organisms, individual cells "take one for the team" -- ending their...

Is Scientific Genius Extinct?

"Is scientific genius extinct?" That's the intriguing question posed by psychologist Dean Keith Simonton in Wednesday's publication of Nature.It's a sweeping inquiry to be sure -- one open to dispute -- but if there's one person qualified to answer it, it...

Intraterrestrials: How Deep Does Life Go?

As Star Trek has diligently engrained into our minds, space is the final frontier. But beneath our feet is another frontier that's equally unexplored. Humanity dwells upon Earth's surface, atop the largest, most diverse layer cake this side of the solar...

Sense of Humor Reveals Who You Truly Are

If you asked some of your single friends what they're looking for in a potential mate, you'd probably elicit a bunch of bashful smiles and receive scores of different answers. You might hear, for example, "tall," "wealthy," "nice," "good-looking,"...

Shock Block: Preventing Deaths in the ICU

We're all going to die, but some ways are more preferable than others. For instance, a woman in Washington State is suspected of smothering her boyfriend to death with her breasts. Me? I'd prefer that an anvil fall on my head (a la Wile E. Coyote) after my...

Cooties at Epidemic Rates: What You Need to Know!

Newton Blog takes a serious look... at cooties."I'm sorry, Mrs. Peabody. I've never seen a child this infected; I'm not sure there's anything that I can do.""But doctor, you must do something!""Well, there is one thing your child can do. But it's drastic, and...

How to Dip Your Hand in Liquid Nitrogen

Sure, if you want to... but only if you're comfortable with the possibility of losing a hand if you mess up.Here's what happens to a basketball when you freeze it in liquid nitrogen:Maybe you've seen someone violently shatter a rose, a racquetball, or a...

Do People Ever Fall Down Earthquake Chasms? Yeah, When the Earth Swallows Cows.

In the early morning of April 18th, 1906, residents of San Francisco were shaken from their slumbers. Also shaken were their belongings, which tumbled from tables and shelves, and their homes, many of which were flattened. The Great San Francisco Earthquake...

I Don't Understand Quantum Mechanics, and That's Okay

Imagine a world where objects can be in two different places at the same time and cats are locked in sealed containers with flasks of poison and objects that spew radiation.In this counter intuitive fairyland, your intuition is false. It's a world whose...

Immunological Wisdom from 'The Three Stooges'

Fans of The Three Stooges may remember the episode in which Curly asks Moe what he wants to eat. Moe responds, "Four pieces of burnt toast and a rotten egg." Why did he say this? Because Moe had a "tapeworm and it's good enough for him." Little did Moe know...

Why You Should (Almost) Never Clean Your Ears

Put down that Q-tip! You shouldn't stick any object smaller than your elbow into the ear, doctors say.For decades, cotton swabs have been fixtures in the average American's medicine cabinet. Take a couple out, a quick dab in one ear, a quick dab in the...

Study Linking Pot with Reduced IQ up in Smoke?

Last year a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) touted a possible link between adolescent marijuana use and a later decline in cognitive abilities. Analyzing a longitudinal cohort study of 1,037 individuals from...

Do Animals Tell Stories?

A litany of stories is told within the human mind each day. In a form of "mental time travel," we consciously reconstruct past events to help instruct our present actions. For example, you might recall that Aunt Margie's garlic potatoes, served at your...

Disease, Biodiversity & the Wealth of Nations

One of the foundational books of modern economics is An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Smith elaborates on topics ranging from currency to division of labor, and also discusses the oft quoted concept of the...

Batman's Return Predicted in Weather Forecast?

A good friend of mine works as a meteorologist over at Weather Nation. On Monday, he tweeted the above still-shot from the Rapid Precision Mesoscale (RPM) weather forecasting model. As you can see, the forecast called for five to ten inches of rainfall along...

Why is Stephen Hawking so Famous?

How much do you know about Stephen Hawking? How about David Gross, Jacob Bekenstein, Fred Hoyle, Kip Thorne, Yakov Zel'dovich, John Wheeler, or Roger Penrose? All of these physicists are as accomplished in similar work as Stephen Hawking, and some of them...

How to Make a Raging Elephant Bull 'Shoot Blanks'

The chase is on.A helicopter flies low over South Africa's Kruger National Park, descending onto a herd of elephants rustling through the savannah. On the chopper, a man perches, wielding a dart gun. His weaponry resembles a sniper rifle. The gun is locked...

Admitting You're Wrong Is Hard to Do

They say that breaking up is hard to do, but what's infinitely harder is to admit when you're wrong. When somebody publicly issues a heartfelt mea culpa, many people wrongly celebrate with an "I told you so" dance. However, that's not the proper response....

The Military Is Pushing the Bounds... of Food Science

Tremendous breakthroughs are often born out of military pursuits. In the past, military research has directly or indirectly led to technological innovations like the microwave oven, nuclear power, and the Internet.You can also add M&M's to that list --...