February 2013 Archives

Massage Lessons from Kinky Spider Sex

Soon it will be that time of the year again; time for the male golden orb-weaver spider to get frisky. However, for this gent, mating is a dangerous proposition. The female he wants to woo is ten times his size, not to mention just as likely to make a meal...

Amber: Nature's Finest Camera Is Far Better Than a Photo

I used to think that insects and spiders caught up in a tree's syrupy, seeping resin millions of years ago must have been absolutely inept at survival. How, with reflexes that regularly trump flyswatter-wielding humans, could they not avoid such a slow,...

Mad Scientists of the Modern Age: Lynn Margulis

During the first week of October 2012, we ran a series of blog posts called "Mad Scientists of the Modern Age," in which we featured Jack Parsons, Vladimir Demikhov, Nikola Tesla, Josef Mengele and Barry Marshall. But we were just scratching the surface. In...

A Timeless 'Fish Tale' Laid to Rest: A Whale Shark Could Fit You in Its Mouth, But It Couldn't Eat You

The bubbles around me clear and as I regain my visibility my first thought is how wide is the mouth coming for me. Five feet? Six Feet?  Will my whole body fit in there?  As the whale shark closes the distance between us mouth first, I'm focused...

The End of the Universe

Fire and IceSome say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.From what I've tasted of desireI hold with those who favor fire.But if it had to perish twice,I think I know enough of hateTo say that for destruction iceIs also greatAnd would suffice.-Robert...

Apollo 12 Was Struck by Lightning During Launch

NASA's Apollo program was an electrifying accomplishment in America's history, an effort that truly catapulted our country into a shimmering, new era. There was a time, however, where the Apollo program was literally -- not just figuratively --...

RealClearScience at the Movies: 'Die Hard 5'

For the first time ever, I was invited to a movie pre-screening. One of my friends who invited me also has been relentlessly lobbying for a series called, "RealClearScience at the Movies," where (as you have probably guessed), we analyze the good and bad...

Is Testosterone Deadly?

In terms of life expectancy, guys definitely get the short end of the stick. According to the United Nations, men outlive women in only six of the world's 198 countries. On average, women live longer by about 4.4 years. But the longevity gap isn't solely...

Three Plus One Geometries of the Universe

Back in 8th grade, I hated math. Everyone hated math. Maybe the kid who kept their calculator (or slide rule, for you vintage readers) in a case didn't hate math. That kid probably became an engineer. Or a physicist. (Confession: I was later the kid with the...

Gelada Baboons Are Sly Adulterers

Swinging from branch to branch, sifting through the dense, lush foliage of the Amazonian rainforest, a young, subordinate male capuchin monkey stumbles upon a veritable gold mine. It's a cache of figs, all looking tantalizingly sweet and succulent. He picks...

When a Village Started Laughing... and Couldn't Stop

By most accounts, it all started with a harmless joke...In 1962, at a little boarding school in the tiny village of Katasha, in what is now Tanzania, a small group of children started doing what kids often do: they began laughing.The laughter was jovial at...

We Are Animals Living in a Microbial World

"Living in a material world,And I am a material girl."--"Material Girl" by MadonnaThat song would have been much better if the word "material" was replaced by "microbial." Let me explain.Animal evolution traditionally has been viewed as the result of...

Seeing Earth from Space: How True Awe Changes You

One day in the 1970's, philosopher and space writer Frank White was flying cross-country. Watching majestic mountains, bright cityscapes, and snaking rivers stream past, he was struck with an idea:"I was looking out the window, and... the thought came to me:...

Space Sex and Space Porn

What is it like to have sex in space? Nobody knows. (Well, unless NASA has been conducting juicy secret experiments that they haven't told us about. We'll get to that.) Venturing further into the great unknown has fascinated many of us,...

Spiders, and Their Amazing Hydraulic Legs and Genitalia

A big, hairy spider skitters across the floor of your room; its eight, long, rangy legs moving almost robotically. It stops. Horrified, you picture its fangs clicking together, and its many eyes jerkily twitching to and fro. Suddenly, the spider scuttles...

Is Alcohol a Performance-Enhancing Drug?

August 30th, 1904, 2:30 p.m., St. Louis, Missouri: The time and place for the marathon race of the Third Olympiad.   The day was sweltering, with temperatures rising past ninety degrees. The 34 runners weren't breathing the air that day; they were...