"Our sense of wonder grows exponentially; the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery."

-- E.O. Wilson

Web scienceontap.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Simple Science

Several months ago I noticed a favorite all-you-can-eat-pizza-emporium I frequent had stopped giving out food trays to their patrons; i.e. a person walking through the line, holding a plate in one hand and a beverage glass in the other, is much more limited in how much food they can pile up to take to their seat (they can get out of their seat and return to the line for 2nds, 3rds, etc., but it's still no doubt an effective limiting measure).
Now the NY Times reports that this is actually a trend across college campus cafeterias to do away with trays with many benefits resulting. Simple steps can sometimes have many effects; less tray-washing/water-use, less food waste, less overeating, less cost (...just not a good time to buy stock in tray-making companies!):


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Euler's Equation

This is the month of Leonhard Euler's birth; Euler was one of the most prolific, productive mathematicians of all time. His so-called "Euler's Equation" or "Euler's Identity" is considered by many to be hands-down the most beautiful equation in all of mathematics. In his honor this older essay from Keith Devlin:


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mirror Neurons Redux

Yesterday I posted about "mirror neurons." Psychologist Alison Gopnik offers a slightly different, more skeptical take on them here:


Monday, April 27, 2009

Mirror, Mirror... In the Brain

One of the most intriguing discoveries of the last decade in neuroscience has been the existence of "mirror neurons" in the primate brain; neurons that not only fire when an individual is engaged in certain tasks, but also fire when merely watching another individual engaged in that task. They have a multitude of behavioral, social, and evolutionary implications. Some relevant articles below:

from the NY Times:


from ScienceDaily:


from the Edge site:


and finally, Nova video here:


Friday, April 24, 2009

The Size of the Universe

Friday video: The Hubble deep field and the size of the universe:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Transgressing Science...

Every now and then it's probably worth going back to re-read physicist Alan Sokal's 1996 'parody' paper, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," which was submitted and embarrasingly accepted for publication by the professional journal "Social Text," much to the editors' later chagrin.

Read the original paper in its entirety here:


And much more below from Sokal on the controversy that he initiated:


And later Alan authored an entire book, "Beyond the Hoax," recounting the whole affair.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Science and Ideology"

E.O. Wilson on "science and ideology" here, briefly reviewing the sociobiology 'wars,' among other things:


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"Gaia is a Tough Bitch"

Classic Lynn Margulis essay here on the significance of symbiosis in evolution:


Monday, April 20, 2009

The 'Many-Worlds' Postulation

A blog post HERE about quantum mechanics and the 'many-worlds' interpretation of 'reality'... whatever THAT is.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How Bacteria Communicate

Friday video explains bacteria communications:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pretty and Ugly Words

Some words are mellifluous and others are pukey as revealed in research described

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cranes, Revered and Roasted...

A wonderful podcast below from Julie Zickefoose on "Life and Death Among the Cranes" --- what happens when an inveterate birdwatcher and nature-lover comes face-to-face with the fact that one of the largest, most primal birds in North America is routinely hunted along its migratory flyways:


Monday, April 13, 2009

Of Mice and Men?

Interesting essay below on the commonalities, from a biological perspective, between humans and lab rats, and addressing the question, 'do we both share the same fate?':


Saturday, April 11, 2009

April Book Picks

April book picks from Seed Magazine here:


Friday, April 10, 2009

Imagining 10 Dimensions

Cosmologists tell us the universe must (mathematically) have at least 8 dimensions, if not in fact 10 or 11; hard to imagine for us 3-dimensional types. But this Friday video purports to help you conceptualize what the cosmologists are talking about:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book Picks From "Discover"

Science books recently recommended by Discover Magazine HERE.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Epigenetics Redux

Epigenetics continues as one of the hottest topics in the life sciences. More on it HERE.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Life List"

I've got a backlog of books to read at the moment, but one I'll have to add to the queue is Olivia Gentile's new (and first) volume "Life List" (here and here) which chronicles the life of Phoebe Snetsinger, a name not widely known outside of birdwatching circles. Snetsinger took up birding at the age of 49 after being diagnosed with cancer and given one year to live. Instead she obsessively traveled the world for 20 years and every continent viewing 8000+ (a world record) of the 10,000+ bird species in existence (before dying tragically in a van accident on a remote bird expedition). This is a book that will inspire and uplift. A story of fortitude, self-determination, and the human spirit unleashed, that any reader, and particularly birders will find enthralling.

Friday, April 3, 2009

We Are One

Friday video: Earthrise:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Large Hadron Collider

CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), out of commission since a failing during its maiden run last September will try again next fall to reveal secrets of the Universe to awaiting physicists (...that would be as opposed to creating a mini black hole that sucks us all into its bowels). Article HERE.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"American Earth"

Review of "American Earth," an anthology of environmental writing, edited by Bill McKibben here: