I read an interesting article on Mental Floss about a pair of kids who seem likely to be apart of our next generation of scientists. Back in 2001, a then seven-year old Bill Martin went on a school field trip and learned about a phenomena during the American Civil War where some soldiers after a battle, who waited days in the cold and mud, reported that their wounds glowed faintly in the dark. It was noted that the soldiers who exhibited this glowing had a higher survival rate than others who didn’t, and it was named Angel’s Glow.
Some hundred and forty years later, the child of a microbiologist, asked the question if perhaps it was glowing bacteria. Together with his friend Jon Curtis, they did research, and experiments, and won the 2001 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
What were their results? The answer, as it is with anything to do with real science, is that it is complicated. The glowing was due to bacteria, however the bacteria in question lived inside the stomach of parasitic worms. The two had a semi-symbiotic relationship where the worm would burrow itself into an insect and puke out the bacteria. The bacteria would then kill and break down the insect as well as any other microorganisms. The worm would then eat the remains of the insect, as well as the bacteria, where the bacteria would then continue to grow in the worm’s stomach.
However the bacteria and worm in question are normally killed by a human’s internal body heat, which ruled them out as a possibility, until the kids hypothesized that the soldiers, after spending days in the cold and mud, actually had hypothermia which would lower core body temperature enough to allow these worms to survive, and once the humans were well, would be cleared by the human immune system.
So the ultimate result was that a combination of hypothermia, parasitic worms, and glowing bacteria saved many soldiers lives.
Want more details? Click here to read the source article.
There have been some amazing scientific findings regarding stress and the human body.
Perhaps old news for some but this caught my eye and I felt like commenting on it.
Popular Science, the website/magazine, is turning off comments on their website’s articles citing that comment sections no longer support their goal of fostering discussion and debate about emerging science and technology. How is that? How can having the ability to comment on an article somehow making discussion worse? Well blame the trolls.
The article cites a study which show that readers who read civil comments after an article are unfazed in their opinion of the article, however readers who reads negative or uncivil comments have their opinions polarized, that is they grow a strong opinion, one way or the other, about the article and its content.
“Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.”
This is what I call the theater effect. If you watch a film in a theater with a bunch of friends and then discuss it afterwards, it is often the case that if at least one person disliked the film then the entire group will generally come to a negative consensus about the film, even if there is at least one person who vehemently liked the film. And in many cases, if such a person existed within the group, their opinion would not have been so overwhelmingly positive without the negative to spur it.
Popular Science points out that this gives a lot of power to relatively small amount of people, who can effectively interfere with the opinions of people on new ideas, new science, and new technology, by attacking the technology with baseless lies and irrational arguments. Combine this with the current state of social upheaval in regards to science and education and you get a rather stinky concoction.
“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to “debate” on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”
And there is the meat of the argument. Popular media and the internet has made it easy for people to talk but not everybody is informed and some even actively attempting to sabotage discussion. These types of people can and are taken as rational debaters in debates that shouldn’t even exist, and Popular Science feels that their comments section only aggravates the situation, which I can completely understand. It makes me sad, of course but perhaps it is a step in the right direction. Now readers can form their own opinions of a given article without immediate influence, and can discuss it elsewhere.
A small city in Colorado is raising money for a campaign that will decide if their community moves to a renewable resource model of energy generation, or continues to use the traditional coal-burning resources provided by the sole energy company in the area. See the video below about the steps they’ve already taken.
You have likely heard of the Mantis Shrimp. If you have not, it is perhaps one of the sea’s most special creatures. So special that The Oatmeal devoted and entire rambling comic to how awesomely special it is, which I must share with you.
Ever wonder what happens when you wring out a wet wash cloth in space? Neither did I but the answer was still fun to watch!
I stumbled upon these videos thanks to CGP Grey who hosts wonderful and interesting videos about society in general. I highly suggest watching them.
The following two videos tackle the question of how trees “drink” water. We all know from grade school that trees drink water through their roots. What you might not know is that, thanks to physics, there is a limit to how far water can be sucked upwards through a tube, thanks to gravity and pressure, which is about 10 meters, or around 32 feet. If you’re curious about the science of this limitation, there is a video here by the same guy. The math is explained at the end.
However that is all just background. Over the following two videos, Veritasium is going to take you through the scientific process of discovering how trees drink water, and how trees over thirty two feet manage to get water all the way to their top most leaves. It is well worth watching:
“That awkward moment when you realize a an energy drink has a better space program than your nation.”
Nevermind how egotistical that statement sounds to the majority of the world who doesn’t even have the capability of a space program thanks to local weather conditions and other environmental conditions such as latitude and elevation, the sad part is that such an awkward moment doesn’t exist even for the United States.
Why? Because of several reasons, as enumerated by Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy in one of his articles.
1. While extraordinary and recording breaking Felix Baumgartner’s skydive was, he did not jump from space. He was only about half way to the designated point that people agree is exiting the earth’s atmosphere and entering low orbit.
2. NASA is still doing amazing space exploration, and will continue to do so as long as it has a budget, regardless of its capability to send a person into space. Thanks to technology such as satellites and robotic rovers, we’re exploring our solar system faster than we ever have before, in an incredibly safe manner. We’re collecting the data we need for true human space travel. NASA isn’t half-assed when it comes to this stuff.
3. We’ve been unable to send people into space in the past. After the Apollo missions, there was a nine-year gap in which NASA did not have a space vehicle capable of sending people into space. In comparison, we’re expecting SpaceX and various other companies to being contracting human spaceflight to NASA within the next five years.
4. The shuttle retiring is not a bad thing. Yes most of you may have grown up with the NASA space shuttle program. But you do realize there were other programs before it? And there will be other programs after it. The shuttle program, while immensely successful in helping us build the international space station and fixing Hubble, and doing multitudes of scientific studies in space, outlived its estimated timeline for several years. Those shuttles needed to retire. We pushed them further on an increasingly smaller budget than we really should have. It is time for something new.
Phil Plait makes this points far more eloquently and with more inherent knowledge than I, but I felt like needing to share these things. I understand that a majority of people aren’t interested in space anymore. It makes me sad, considering how close we are to so many great breakthroughs.
A video parodying “Sexy and We Know It” referring to the amazing feat of engineering and science NASA made by landing Curiosity on Mars. Also hilarious.
So you may have heard that the Triceratops no longer exists. That is both true and false. You won’t go finding a dinosaur if you go looking for one, except for maybe in museums. Unfortunately even if go to a museum and find a dinosaur, you might not actually be finding a dinosaur. Let Jack Horner, dinosaur bone cutter, explain:
So basically we had a bunch of bad science back in the dinosaur gathering age. People who collected dinosaur bones for museums weren’t looking hard enough, and found different dinosaurs everywhere they looked, rather than determining that the dinosaurs they were looking at were actually different, or just juvenile versions of ones already discovered.
The good news is that, despite what the news may have told you, the triceratops still exists. It is its older, more adult form, Torosaurus, which no longer exists, since it was found after the more juvenile triceratops. Suddenly all those cartoons with dinosaurs wearing shades doesn’t seem so crazy anymore, huh?