Connor Johnson started by donating his allowance to the cause. Then he decided to do more.
If you took to heart the recent cover story in The Economist, “How Science Goes Wrong,” you might be tempted throw your hands up and stop reading about scientific research entirely. The piece describes how scientists often fail to reproduce some of the most frequently cited findings in their fields, calling their conclusions into question. Science writers have also come under fire recently, most notably Malcolm Gladwell, who according to critics in the The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and Slate, among others, cherry-picks research to fit his thesis and hangs major arguments on poorly replicated studies in his latest book, David and Goliath.
Weeks spent looking into the eyes of a loved one cause the brain to release nurturing hormones. In putting another before you, everything becomes more satisfying. Life can have meaning anew or at last.
When that person is a baby, though, it can also be boring. Though the parental bulbs pulsate, the higher cortices of the brain begin to whither and erode, under-stimulated in the absence of worldly adult conversation and pursuits. Baby does not enjoy museums. Baby does not get your jokes.
It’s not his fault. His intellect is like that of a sentient grapefruit. But that doesn’t mean your brain needs to go undernourished. You can feed on him as he feeds on you.
Read more. [Image: AlexeyLosevich/Shutterstock]
We live in an age of space-image abundance. Sure, NASA may not be able to continue running its existing missions, but, guys, we have more space photos and videos than we know what to do with.
Well, actually, we do know what to do with them: love them, unreservedly. In a fast-moving world, on a fast-moving Internet, space rises up above the snark, the cynicism, and the inanities. They are little oases of sincerity amid it all.
But how do you sell space in a headline?
Read more. [Image: NASA/Rebecca J. Rosen]
In the fall of 1997, a massive, unmanned rocket—one of the largest ever—took off on American soil, bound to Venus. It swung around that planet, entering deep-space so it could take advantage of the sun’s gravitational pull. Then it took a tour of the solar system, passing Venus again, Earth, and, a day before the new millennium began, Jupiter.
It kept flying and flying—until, on the first of July, 2004, its payload arrived in the orbit of Saturn.
And there the Cassini probe remains, taking observations, collecting data. Launched over a decade and a half ago, the spacecraft still works. It continues its mission of advancing science and informing us of our planetary neighborhood.
Except … except. If sequestration of the U.S. federal budget continues into 2014, NASA’s budget will lose hundreds of millions in funding. Today, according to early reports, agency leaders suggested to their employees that those cuts would come from the planetary sciences division. NASA might have to terminate the Cassini mission while it is still scientifically productive.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
There is a picture I have in my mind that captures an important facet of childhood. Its caption reads: “Small Human With Marble In Nose.” We trot this image out at family gatherings—there is surely a relative on hand who was once such a Small Human—to illustrate the pleasant idea that children, at their most endearing and most exasperating, are explorers/inventors/geniuses in miniature. By this school of thought, jamming a small object up one’s nose is just a foray into The Scientific Method gone a bit awry.
But imagine this picture as a cartoon. Get rid of baby Einstein’s precocious smile, add in a runny nostril (the unobstructed one), and rewrite the caption: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST?
Ready your knowing smirk, because here comes a scientific gem that’s sure to enliven even the dullest of holiday parties.
By analyzing the MRIs of 949 people aged 8 to 22, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that male brains have more connections within each hemisphere, while female brains are more interconnected between hemispheres.
Yes, take that, Mike from IT! It, like, so explains why you just dropped the eggnog while attempting to make flirty conversation with Janet from Accounting.
Just kidding; we still have no idea why men or women do anything in particular. But the study, released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is interesting because it is one of the first to discover differences in the brain’s structural connectivity in a large sample size of people from a variety of age groups.
You ever see a bird clutching onto a branch high in a tree and wonder, “What happens if it falls asleep? How could it hold on?”
The avian talon works through a “pulley system of tendons,” according to the animal morphology blog Ars Anatomica, and it can lock into place.
"The bird’s foot closes and grasps automatically as the ankle and knee joints are bent," we read. "This grasp cannot be released until the limb is straightened again."
So, instead of expending precious energy holding the muscles tight—as you would if you were hanging onto a branch with your fists/arms—the system simply physically locks in place.
Read more. [Image: Ars Anatomica]
It is an extra big Thanksgiving for turkeys this year.
Mark it down: in 2013, the average weight for American produced turkey crossed 30 pounds for the first time. At least based on the January to October numbers for this year, we’re talking about an average weight of 30.47 pounds.
That’s a remarkable increase in average size. Go back a little further, like I did in 2008, and you see that we didn’t hit 15 pounds until the 1930s. In 1960, the average weight of a turkey was just 16.83 pounds. Even in 1985, it was only 20 pounds, and we didn’t hit 25 pounds until 1999.
And we owe it all to artificial insemination.
Read more. [Image: USDA]
You know what’s less awesome, though? The food. Sure, you can do a lot of things to space food to make it less space-food-y: You can spice it and sweeten it and try to make it simulate, as much as possible, its Earth-bound counterparts. Ultimately, though, the foodstuffs you’re consuming are still desiccated/rehydrated/irradiated/thermostabilized. Which is all compounded by the fact that your taste buds are sort of shot by the whole microgravity thing, anyway.
But it’s Thanksgiving! And we celebrate Thanksgiving with our feasting! So how will the six people currently living on the International Space Station, among them two Americans, give their thanks—not so much for the food as with it? Here, per NASA, are the dishes that will grace the only Thanksgiving table whose crazy tablescape is space.
Read more. [Image: NASA]