Category Archive 'Science'
14 Jun 2019

Why Does the US Use Farenheit Instead of Celsius?

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Norman Rockwell, 15 Below.

Short answer as to why Americans use Fahrenheit – it's people who want to know the temperature.Fahrenheit is how hot…

Posted by ScienceBlogs on Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Short answer as to why Americans use Fahrenheit – it’s people who want to know the temperature.

Fahrenheit is how hot it feels to humans.
Celsius is how hot it feels to water.
Kelvin is how hot it feels to atoms.

We’re all atoms, we’re all primarily water, but we are human.

03 May 2019

Why Anthropogenic Climate Change Cannot Possibly Be “Settled Science”

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In Science, for a theory to be believed, in must make a new prediction –different from those made by previous theories– for an experiment not yet done. For the experiment to be meaningful, we must be able to get an answer that disagrees with that prediction. When that is the case, we say that a theory is falsifiable –vulnerable to being shown false. The theory also has to be confirmable; it must be possible to verify a new prediction that only this theory makes. Only when a theory has been tested and the results agree with the theory do we advance the theory to the ranks of true theories.

Lee Smolin

27 Feb 2019

Maybe the Modern World Is Not as Progressive As It Thinks It Is

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Boston, 1904.

Ol’ Remus points out that Progress has not been progressing in the modern era nearly as much as a lot of people think.

There has been a noticeable lull in theoretical physics for a long while now. Quantum physics today, for example, amounts to experiments and commentary on a theory formulated in the 1920s, a resounding theoretical and technological success but getting long in the tooth. Physicists have been mining it like the Comstock Lode for almost a century, with diminishing returns.

    Consider how little is really new. Television, the “modern marvel” that came of age in mid-twentieth century, depended crucially on the cathode ray tube, a device from the closing years of the eighteen hundreds, just another piece of lab equipment used by Victorian era nuclear researchers. Television was a parallel development of the electronic oscilloscope, first examples of which date to 1897.

    A NASA engineer estimated that all the technology needed to launch a satellite was in place by the 1920s. The Hubble telescope’s central feature is a reflecting telescope invented in the mid-1600s. Einstein’s theory of special relativity was published in 1905, general relativity came ten years later. The LIGO gravity wave detector is built around a Michelson interferometer, invented in 1887. Electromagnetic particle accelerators were well developed in the 1920s, a concept still in use. The circular cyclotron was invented in 1930 , it’s the basis of the CERN Large Hadron Collider. And on and on.

    Science has gone quiescent, and technology is getting drowsy. Consider. The first jet aircraft flew in 1939. Both the F-86 and MiG-15 of Korean War fame first flew in 1947. The Boeing 707 entered service in 1958, sixty one years ago, and it’s the dominant pattern for jet airliners to this day.

    Semiautomatic rifles were marketed to civilians in 1903. Mexico issued standard 7×57 semi auto rifles to the infantry in 1910. France issued the 8×50 RSC , another successful semi auto, in 1917. The AR-15 goes back to 1956. The .45 ACP round goes back to 1910, the 9×19 mm to 1902. The first electronic infrared detector-display was invented in 1929 for the British air defense system.

    Electronic analog computers were in use in 1939, some aboard US submarines. By 1941 they were programmable. The first digital electronic programmable computer was delivered to Bletchley Park in early 1944. The first transistor appeared in 1947. The marriage was as inevitable as in a 1940s two-hanky movie.

    Oldsmobile began selling automobiles in 1897. Electric cars, also first mass marketed in the US in 1897 , were common until the electric starter replaced hand cranking for gasoline powered cars in 1912 and decisively captured the women’s market. GE built its first diesel-electric locomotives in 1918. By the 1930s “diesels” were in general use as yard switchers, were replacing steam in passenger service and in main line heavy freight service beginning in 1939 .

    Telephones were in common use by the 1890s . Radio, in its “wireless telegraphy” form, was patented in 1896. AM radio was first demonstrated in 1906, by the 1920s it was a commercial success. Hollywood first screened color and sound-on-film movies commercially in the early 1920s. The first color television was demonstrated in 1928, the first all electronic color television in 1940. Even the current gee-whiz technological darling, the laser, was first demonstrated in 1960.

    We’ve been cannibalizing the past for six or seven decades, combining this ‘n that, or developing existing stuff to the nth degree and calling it good. Where are the real breakthroughs today? In physics we’re reduced to reading of parallel universes and wormholes and hidden dimensions and “the universe as hologram” on the basis of little more evidence than a competent science fiction writer could conjure from public sources. String theory, the serial Lazarus of theoretical physics, has produced little more than string theorists.

    You’ll notice physics began atrophying right about the time it became Big Science with grants and other government support.

HT: Vanderleun.

12 May 2018

Settled Science

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Kurt Schlichter claims that Science proves that you need a modern semiautomatic, so-called Assault Rifle.

[Y]ou should own, at a minimum, a modern semiautomatic rifle like an AR-15 that is simple to operate, easily accessorized for the individual user, reliable, and rugged. Liberals call these “assault rifles,” though they are not. Insisting that liberals be accurate when describing what they seek to ban is “gunsplaining,” a heinous macroaggression that is right up there with assuming someone’s gender on the Big List O’ Liberal Sins.

If you don’t agree with me, you clearly hate science. Why do liberals hate science so much?

But it is science – the math is clear that chaos is in the cards, and you better be ready.

RTWT

Now, if only Kurt will get to work demonstrating the scientific basis for my need for a side-lever Stephen Grant hammergun…

03 Jan 2018

Human Eye Colors Explained

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Paul Van Slembrouck:

Did you think that blue eyes are blue because they contain blue pigmented cells? Did you think that green eyes are green for the same reason?

Think again.

That colorful circle around your pupil is the iris. The iris is made up of two layers of cells: the front layer is known as the stroma, and the back layer is known as the epithelium.

The epithelium is a layer with a thickness of two cells and containing dark black-brown pigments. The little specks and strings of black you see in the iris? — that’s the epithelium.

The stroma is made up of colorless collagen fibers. The stroma only occasionally contains brown melanin pigmentation. Sometimes the stroma is totally clear, containing no melanin. …

To everyone curious about Elizabeth Taylor’s mythical violet eyes, the short answer is that — as far as I know — she had grey-blue eyes that could be coaxed into appearing violet with the appropriate lighting or makeup and attire.

RTWT

06 Nov 2017

“Hold My Beer!”

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NYT: “Male Mammoths Died in ‘Silly Ways’ More Often Than Females, Study Finds.”

Swallowed by a sinkhole. Washed away by a mudflow. Drowned after falling through thin ice.

These are the fates that many unlucky mammoths suffered in Siberia thousands of years ago. Their well-preserved fossils have provided paleobiologists with insight into their prehistoric lives. Now, after performing a genetic analysis on the remains from the furry victims of natural traps, a team of scientists made a striking discovery: Most were male.

“In many species, males tend to do somewhat stupid things that end up getting them killed in silly ways, and it appears that may have been true for mammoths also,” said Love Dalén, an evolutionary biologist from the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, he and his colleagues analyzed DNA from nearly 100 mammoth bones, teeth and tusks, and found that about two-thirds came from males. They speculate the reason for the skewed sex-ratio may have to do with the risky behavior that young males take after leaving the protection of their mothers to live on their own.

RTWT

09 Sep 2017

Taxonomic Vandalism

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Presumably Naja nigricincta, the Western barred spitting cobra.

Smithsonian reports that there is a problem these days with taxonomic vandalism.

Imagine, if you will, getting bit by an African spitting cobra. These reptiles are bad news for several reasons: First, they spit, shooting a potent cocktail of nerve toxins directly into their victims’ eyes. But they also chomp down, using their fangs to deliver a nasty bite that can lead to respiratory failure, paralysis, and occasionally even death.

Before you go rushing to the hospital in search of antivenin, you’re going to want to look up exactly what kind of snake you’re dealing with. But the results are confusing. According to the official record of species names, governed by the International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), the snake belongs to the genus Spracklandus. What you don’t know is that almost no taxonomists use that name. Instead, most researchers use the unofficial name that pops up in Wikipedia and most scientific journal articles: Afronaja.

This might sound like semantics. But for you, it could mean the difference between life and death. “If you walk in [to the hospital] and say the snake that bit you is called Spracklandus, you might not get the right antivenin,” says Scott Thomson, a herpetologist and taxonomist at Brazil’s Museum of Zoology at the University of São Paulo. After all, “the doctor is not a herpetologist … he’s a medical person trying to save your life.”

In fact, Spracklandus is the center of a heated debate within the world of taxonomy—one that could help determine the future of an entire scientific field. And Raymond Hoser, the Australian researcher who gave Spracklandus its official name, is one of the forefront figures in that debate.

By the numbers, Hoser is a taxonomy maven. Between 2000 and 2012 alone, Hoser named three-quarters of all new genera and subgenera of snakes; overall, he’s named over 800 taxa, including dozens of snakes and lizards. But prominent taxonomists and other herpetologists—including several interviewed for this piece—say that those numbers are misleading.

According to them, Hoser isn’t a prolific scientist at all. What he’s really mastered is a very specific kind of scientific “crime”: taxonomic vandalism.

RTWT

25 Aug 2017

Cause of Hunley’s Crew’s Death Established By Duke Researchers

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Daily Mail:

The first combat submarine to sink an enemy ship also instantly killed its own eight-man crew with the powerful explosive torpedo it carried, new research has found.

The HL Hunley fought for the confederacy in the US civil war and was sunk near North Charleston, South Carolina, in 1864.

Speculation about the crew’s deaths has included suffocation and drowning, but a new study claims that a shockwave created by their own weapon was to blame.

Researchers from Duke University in North Carolina set blasts near a scale model of the vessel to calculate their impact.

They also shot authentic weapons at historically accurate iron plates.

They used this data to work out the mathematics behind human respiration and the transmission of blast energy.

Ms Rachel Lance, one of the researchers on the study, says the crew died instantly from the force of the explosion travelling through the soft tissues of their bodies, especially their lungs and brains.

Ms Lance calculates the likelihood of immediately fatal lung trauma to be at least 85 per cent for each member of the Hunley crew.

She believes the crippled sub then drifted out on a falling tide and slowly took on water before sinking.

‘This is the characteristic trauma of blast victims, they call it “blast lung”, said Ms Lance.

‘You have an instant fatality that leaves no marks on the skeletal remains.

RTWT

15 Jul 2017

Everything You Were Told Was True Might Be Wrong

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Take Easter Island. For a long time now, we’ve been told the resident culture’s decline constitutes a cautionary tale about environmental destruction via human excess.

A new study paints a completely different picture. New Atlas:

When Europeans first landed on Easter Island in the 18th century, they found a barren landscape. The story goes that to raise the huge stone heads, called moai, the Rapa Nui people felled most of the island’s trees to use as rollers, burning the rest for fuel and warmth. The negative effects of a treeless island cascaded down, destroying their previous prosperity and leaving the tribes fighting over resources.

“The traditional story is that over time the people of Rapa Nui used up their resources and started to run out of food,” says Carl Lipo, co-author of the study. “One of the resources that they supposedly used up was trees that were growing on the island. Those trees provided canoes and, as a result of the lack of canoes, they could no longer fish. So they started to rely more and more on land food. As they relied on land food, productivity went down because of soil erosion, which led to crop failures … painting the picture of this sort of catastrophe. That’s the traditional narrative.”

To get a better understanding of what the people of Easter Island were eating and how, a team from Binghamton University analyzed human, animal and plant remains dating as far back as 1400 CE. Analyzing the carbon and nitrogen isotopes of the collagen in bones can reveal the diet of ancient people, and these were compared with isotope analyses of the ancient and modern plant and marine samples to get an idea of where their food was coming from.

The results showed that about half of the proteins the Rapa Nui people were consuming came from marine sources, which means they were fishing more consistently for a longer period than they were given credit for. At the same time, the food they were cultivating on land was more productive than previously thought, with the environmental analyses showing an understanding of how to improve poor soil fertility.

“We found that there’s a fairly significant marine diet, over time, throughout history and that people were eating marine resources, and it wasn’t as though they only had food from terrestrial resources,” says Lipo. “We also learned that what they did get from terrestrial resources came from very modified soils, that they were enriching the soils in order to grow the crops. That supports the argument we’ve made in our previous work, that these people came up with an ingenious strategy in enriching the soils by adding bedrock to the surface and inside the soil to create, essentially, fertilizer to support their populations, and that forest loss really isn’t a catastrophe as previously described.”

Although the story of the Rapa Nui’s self-destruction serves as a good fable to teach environmental awareness and responsibility, the Binghamton team concludes that it’s not that simple. The history of Easter Island is more nuanced, and the ancient people shouldn’t be written off as reckless and careless.

08 Jul 2017

Copper of Iceman’s Axe Came From Hundreds of Miles Away From the Tyrol

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Telegraph:

New research has shown that a copper axe carried by a Neolithic hunter known as Ötzi the Iceman came from southern Tuscany.

The find has surprised experts because hundreds of miles separate Tuscany from the Alpine pass where the mummified body of Ötzi was discovered 25 years ago.

It is known that copper was mined in the Alps so it is a mystery why the Iceman’s blade should have come from so far away.

Nor do scientists know whether the copper was acquired as a raw ingot, which then had to be fashioned into an axe, or as a ready-made blade.

The hunter-gatherer, nicknamed Ötzi after the Otztal mountains where he was found, died 5,300 years ago on what is now the border between Italy and Austria.

He perished after being shot in the back with an arrow by an unknown assailant, in one of the world’s oldest murder mysteries.

His body was frozen forever in the snow and ice of the mountains.

“Our results unambiguously indicate that the source of the metal is the ore-rich area of southern Tuscany, despite ample evidence that Alpine copper ore sources were known and exploited at the time,” scientists said in a report published in the research journal Plos One.

The fact that copper was being traded between central Italy and the remote Alps was “surprising”, said the experts, who are from Padua University and the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, where the mummified body of the Iceman is on permanent display.

RTWT

26 Jun 2017

Microchipping Rattlenakes

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Wouldn’t you be annoyed?

Adaptation Environmental Services is tagging 12-20 prairie rattlesnakes [Crotalus viridus], tracking “their movements, behavior, home range sizes and areas of ecological importance.” Denver Post

01 May 2017

New Research on Bog Bodies

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In 1950, Tollund Man’s discoverers “found a face so fresh they could only suppose they had stumbled on a recent murder.”

Smithsonian has a major update on the latest scientific news on researching Bronze Age and Iron Age bodies found in Northern European bogs.

Archaeologists have been asking the same questions since [peat-cutters in 1950] first troubled Tollund Man’s long sleep: Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you live? Who murdered you and why? But the way the researchers ask the questions, using new forensic techniques like dual-energy CT scanners and strontium tests, is getting more sophisticated all the time. There’s new hope that, sometime soon, he may start to speak.

Scholars tend to agree that Tollund Man’s killing was some kind of ritual sacrifice to the gods—perhaps a fertility offering. To the people who put him there, a bog was a special place. While most of Northern Europe lay under a thick canopy of forest, bogs did not. Half earth, half water and open to the heavens, they were borderlands to the beyond. To these people, will-o’-the-wisps—flickering ghostly lights that recede when approached—weren’t the effects of swamp gas caused by rotting vegetation. They were fairies. The thinking goes that Tollund Man’s tomb may have been meant to ensure a kind of soggy immortality for the sacrificial object.

“When he was found in 1950,” says Nielsen, “they made an X-ray of his body and his head, so you can see the brain is quite well-preserved. They autopsied him like you would do an ordinary body, took out his intestines, said, yup it’s all there, and put it back. Today we go about things entirely differently. The questions go on and on.”

Lately, Tollund Man has been enjoying a particularly hectic afterlife. In 2015, he was sent to the Natural History Museum in Paris to run his feet through a microCT scan normally used for fossils. Specialists in ancient DNA have tapped Tollund Man’s femur to try to get a sample of the genetic material. They failed, but they’re not giving up. Next time they’ll use the petrous bone at the base of the skull, which is far denser than the femur and thus a more promising source of DNA.

Then there’s Tollund Man’s hair, which may end up being the most garrulous part of him. Shortly before I arrived, Tollund Man’s hat was removed for the first time to obtain hair samples. By analyzing how minute quantities of strontium differ along a single strand, a researcher in Copenhagen hopes to assemble a road map of all the places Tollund Man traveled in his lifetime.

Fascinating stuff. RTWT

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