Science - Intro Notes - Back to Index



Michael Clarke posted an interesting and informative article at "the shcolarly kitchen" - Why Hasn't Scientific Publishing Been Disrupted Already.

Ranking and mapping scientific knowlede is what is all about - check out the interactive mapping browser.


An excellent slideshow - The Unbelievable World of Snowflakes.


Trailblazing is an interactive timeline for everybody with an interest in science. Compiled by scientists, science communicators and historians - and co-ordinated by Professor Michael Thompson FRS - it celebrates three and a half centuries of scientific endeavour and has been launched to commemorate the Royal Society's 350th anniversary in 2010.


I have watched a few good talks from the Quantum to Cosmos Festival in Canada. Most recently I watched a great talk by Lawrence Krauss, basically explaining the history of the science of Cosmology right up to the present day - Life the Universe and Nothing.

Even more recently, I have just watche a two hour documentary called The Botany of Desire. Based on a book by Michael Pollan the film explores man's relationship with four different plants: apples, tulips, cannabis and potatoes.


Wired Science has a feature on 35 years of the world's best microscope photography.


An international team of scientists has agreed on a standard "DNA barcode" for plants that will allow botanists to identify species quickly and easily.


Last year I linked to the Periodic Table of Videos and I have just discovered a sister site about physics and astonomy called Sixty Symbols.


NASA and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) have released the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM).


MIT engineers have built a fast, ultra-broadband, low-power radio chip, modeled on the human inner ear, that could enable wireless devices capable of receiving cell phone, Internet, radio and television signals.


Scientists have "entangled" the motions of pairs of atoms for the first time.


The beautifully preserved remains of a 47-million-year-old, lemur-like creature have been unveiled in the US.


Graham Hawkes has built a state of the art submersible that offers "exotic new capabilities to explore one of the least understood parts of the planet".


One of the most important launches in European spaceflight history is about to take place in French Guiana.


It seems that Elsevier has an entire division devoted to publishing fake journals for money.


Someone pointed out a blog with photos of amazing recently discovered animal species.


Sense About Science is an independent UK charitable trust that responds to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society.


About a week ago I saw something on the Internet about a vehicle with a propeller geared to its wheels that can move down wind faster than the wind (DWFTTW). Many people think it is clearly impossible, and that any video demonstrating such a machine must be a hoax. I thought about it a bit and discussed it with a couple of friends who both thought it was impossible. I tried to convince them that it might be able to work and used an analogy with a vehicle that has a wheel touching the stationary road geared to a wheel touching a moving conveyor belt. With the right gearing the vehicle would move faster than the conveyor. I didn't actually build such a vehicle but I just watched a video of an excellent practicle demonstration - Under the ruler faster than the ruler.

So if a propellor is a device which moves through the air like a screw (a distance proportion to the angle through which it is turned) and it is geared correctly to the wheels of a vehicle (of course the drive direction has to be turned through 90 degrees with a bevel drive) then DWFTTW should be possible. In practice a propeller will "slip" relative to the air (equivalent to the ruler slipping on the tyre) so whether it could work in practice depends on some compex aerodynamic factors which I don't yet have a handle on - but it would not obviously violate any law of physics. In particular, just like the cart in the video, it would not be a "perpetual motion machine".


Curious about astronomy? Ask an Astronomer at Cornell University.

I just watched an excellent TED talk by Garrett Lisi called A beautiful new theory of everything.


Reconstruction of zebrafish early embryonic development by scanned light sheet microscopy.


The idea that graffiti-spraying and other forms of low-level delinquency promote further bad behaviour has now been tested experimentally.


The first pictures of planets outside our solar system have been taken, two groups report in the journal Science.


The McCollough Effect is a curious optical illusion that typically lasts for hours, or even overnight. It might be a reliable test for extroversion. For me the green haze was a lot more noticable than the magenta haze.


Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have shown that simply peeling ordinary sticky tape in a vacuum can generate enough X-rays to take an image


In a previous entry on this page I mentioned the Encyclopedia of Life. It turns out that there was already a project called The Tree of Life which had a similar aim. Fortunately people involved with the two projects have agreed to collaborate.

The Periodic Table of Videos is a website that allows you to see a short video about each element in the Periodic Table. As to why the Periodic Table has the structure it does, the best explanation I have seen is this one from The Chemogenesis Web Book.


I just read an interesting short paper on The History of Dog Domestication by Vladimir Dinets.


A new class of cosmic object has been found by a Dutch schoolteacher, through a project which allows the public to take part in astronomy research online.


The world's geologists have dug out their maps and are sticking them together to produce the first truly global resource of the world's rocks.


I enjoyed reading an essay by W. Daniel Hillis on the subject of Richard Feynman and the Connection Machine. It was originally written for Physics Today, but the link I have given is on the website of The Long Now Foundation.


An Inteview with Douglas R. Hofstadter, following "I am a Strange Loop".


I just read an article by Sally Adee in IEEE Spectrum about Reverse Engineering The Brain. It describes work going on at Jenelia Farm research facility to basically create a circuit diagram of a fruit fly brain.


A hypnotist from West Sussex has undergone surgery on his right hand without a general anaesthetic.


Looking for some data about intervals between equinoxes and solstices I came across a nice website at Archeoastonomy.


Astronomers have captured the first footage of a solar "tsunami" hurtling through the Sun's atmosphere at over a million kilometres per hour.


The Stanford Encycolpedia of Philosophy has an extensive entry on the Prisoner's Dilemma.


The first 30,000 pages have been unveiled of a vast encyclopedia which aims to catalogue every one of our planet's 1.8 million species.

Here is a Flash animation showing how Pangea split up and the continents drifted into their present positions.


A material that is able to self-repair even when it is sliced in two has been invented by French researchers.

The US National Academy of Engineering has consulted widely and come up with a set of Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century.


I have just read a fascinating article called The Interpreter by John Colapinto. It is about linguistics in general and the Piraha people of the Amazon in particular, whose bizarre language is causing confounding our theories about human linguistic ability.


Remarkable new images of Earth's highest and most mysterious clouds have been captured by a Nasa spacecraft.


A multi-million pound government land deal has secured plans for a new national medical science centre in central London.


Chimpanzees have an extraordinary photographic memory that is far superior to ours, research suggests.


The first global map of magnetic peculiarities - or anomalies - on Earth has been assembled by an international team of researchers.


Comet Holmes undergoes huge outburst.


Elephants can tell whether a human is a friend or foe by their scent and colour of clothing, according to Fife experts.


French scientist Albert Fert and Peter Grunberg of Germany have won the 2007 Nobel Prize for physics.


It's official - the godwit makes the longest non-stop migratory flight in the world.


Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers.


A tiny generator powered by natural vibrations could soon be helping keep heart pacemakers working.


Archaeologists have revived the debate over whether a spectacular Bronze Age disc from Germany is one of the earliest known calendars.


The extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago had little effect on the evolution of mammals, according to a study in the journal Nature.


Experts are "lost for words" to have found that a medieval prayer book has yielded yet another key ancient text buried within its parchment.


Scientists analysing data from Gravity Probe B have confirmed the geodetic effect prdicted by Einstein to a precision of better than 1 percent. They are still working on confirmation of frame-dragging from the data but expect to have a result in about eight months.


Apparently bats do not forage near radar installations. Of course they use something like radar to hunt and avoid obstacles, but it is sonar, not radar, so the obvious question is how they can detect the presence of electromagnetic radiation and what does it do to them - or us for that matter?


Exposure to dirt may be a way to lift mood as well as boost the immune system, UK scientists say.


I was just re-reading a recent BBC article about the launch of the NASA Themis mission, comprising five identical probes to study auroral substorm initiation. I used to work on that sort of stuff as a postgrad at Dartmouth College in the United States in the late 1980's but I was still surprised to see the article quoting a mission scientists called Dr Tai Phan - I used to share an office with him!


Climate change has become such a major issue that a leading UK university is to create a dedicated institute to study the subject.


Chimpanzees in Senegal have been observed making and using wooden spears to hunt other primates, according to a study in the journal Current Biology.

A laser developed for military use is a few steps away from hitting a power threshold thought necessary to turn it into a battlefield weapon.


The final design for a "doomsday" vault that will house seeds from all known varieties of food crops has been unveiled by the Norwegian government.


Prototypes of microscopic engines that could power molecular machines have been brewed up in a Scottish laboratory.


Reintroducing wild wolves to the Scottish Highlands would help the local ecosystem, a study suggests.


A conservation programme for some of the world's most bizarre and unusual creatures has been launched by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).


Sir Patrick Moore is to present the 650th episode of BBC One's astronomy programme The Sky at Night, nearly 50 years after the show first aired.

Astronomers have mapped the cosmic "scaffold" of dark matter upon which stars and galaxies are assembled.


Celebrities have been asked to check their facts before lending support to scientific research and campaigns, rather than risk misleading people.


Stephen Redmond (Vermont Heat Research) has built an interesting Experimental Wood Chip Furnace.


Sediments extracted from the Antarctic seafloor show the world's largest ice shelf has disintegrated and reappeared many times in the past.


Aaron Swartz wrote in his blog:

In the early 1900s, anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski did his field work in the Trobriand Islands of the Western Pacific. After getting himself ashore, he dropped himself into their culture and begun having to learn their language and understand their customs. The result were a series of groundbreaking books in the field of anthropology, much of which is still entertaining to read today.

He went on to descibe how Bronislaw discovered that the islanders truly did not believe that sex is a causal factor in pregnancy! A strange state of affairs, but no stranger on reflection than the bizarre beliefs held by Christians in modern societies.


The first tree to have its full DNA code unravelled is a poplar.


A Japanese scientist who invented environmentally friendly sources of light has been awarded this year's Millennium Technology Prize.


The amazing life of Nudibranchs or Sea Slugs.


A German/UK team has put the giant GEO 600 gravitational wave detector in a continuous observational mode.


Ned Wright at UCLA has a good Cosmology FAQ on his website (and also an associated cosmology tutorial).


A Nasa satellite mission will be launched this year to study the highest and most mysterious clouds on Earth.


The origin of HIV has been found in wild chimpanzees living in southern Cameroon, researchers report.


An invasive frog species may be implicated in the spread of a fungus linked to global amphibian decline, research indicates.


Humans and chimpanzees may have split away from a common ancestor far more recently than was previously thought.


An artificial insect eye that could be used in ultra-thin cameras has been developed by scientists in the US.


Two men have suffered terrifying visual and auditory hallucinations after eating a popular local seafish in Mediterranean restaurants. Ichthyoallyeinotoxism, or hallucinogenic fish poisoning, is caused by eating the heads or body parts of certain species of herbivorous fish and has previously only been recorded from the Indo Pacific.

Check out this Science Myths page on Bill Beaty's SCIENCE HOBBYIST website.


A tiny, three-wheeled car that could help solve city congestion has been demonstrated at the University of Bath.


ScienceBlogs claims to be the web's largest conversation about science. I am currently watching the Richard Feynman interview which is linked to from this blog entry.


In April 2003, pregnant Joyce Ann Hafford took an HIV test and came up positive. It was very likely a false positive but rather than further tests she was signed up for a drug trial. She started to get ill almost as soon as she began taking the drug but she was encouraged to keep taking it and died shortly thereafter due to liver failure brought on by nevirapine toxicity. Her family has filed a $10 million lawsuit against the doctors who treated Hafford, the Tennessee Medical Group, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, and Boehringer Ingelheim, the drug's manufacturer. See the full disturbing story in Out of Control, a Harper's article on Aids and the corruption of medical science.


Fossil hunters have found remains of a probable direct ancestor of humans that lived more than four million years ago.


I just learned that the zero meridian used by satellite navigation systems (on the WGS84 datum) is about 100 metres to the east of the line which marks the Prime Meridian at the Greenwich Royal Observatory.


A long-lost 17th century manuscript charting the birth of modern science has been found gathering dust in a cupboard in a Hampshire home. Filled with crabby italics and acerbic asides, the 520 or so yellowing and stained pages are the handwritten minutes of the Royal Society as recorded by the brilliant scientist Robert Hooke, one of the society's original fellows and curator of experiments.


Astronomers have for the first time put some real numbers on the physical characteristics of dark matter.


January saw an International Symposium on the occasion of the 100th Birthday of Albert Hofmann, the Chemist who discovered LSD.


Stem cells play a key role in the deer's remarkable ability to grow new antlers, according to research.


Japanese company NEC has developed a lightweight, flexible battery that is less than a millimetre thick and can be recharged in half a minute.


While watching the sunset have you ever seen part of the sun suddenly turn green? I haven't but apparently it does happen and it is called a Green Flash.


The Center for Natural Units has some stuff about Planck Units and a whole lot of links to stuff about cosmology, quantum gravity etc.


When scientists developed an efficient device for emitting light, they hadn't realised butterflies have been using the same method for 30 million years.


The in-orbit testing phase of Galileo, Europe's satellite-navigation system, will begin in December.


I just found an excellent website called The Particle Adventure which summarises the current state of particle physics for a lay audience.


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is helping to build Fab Labs around the world.


DttSP is an open source project started by Dr.Frank Brickle and Dr. Robert McGwier of the DTTS Microwave Society to provide code to be used in various DSP projects with an emphasis on Software Defined and Cognitive Radio.


Lojban is a carefully constructed spoken language designed in the hope of removing a large portion of the ambiguity from human communication. It was made well-known by a Scientific American article and references in both science fiction and computer publications. Lojban has been built over five decades by dozens of workers and hundreds of supporters.

In A Rocket To Nowhere, Maciej Ceglowski delivers a blistering critique of the US manned space program in general, and the space shuttle in particular.


Billington Export Limited claims to be the UK's largest supplier of valves and tubes (of the electronic variety). I once sent them a box of old valves I found in a loft and they sent me a cheque. There are lots more interesting devices at Mike's Electric Stuff.


An international research team has proposed new techniques that may lead to the mass production of meat reared not on the farm, but in the laboratory.

Anyone who has watched The Matrix will have heard of EMP, or Electromagnetic Pulse. In the US Congress on 2005-06-09 a Mr. Bartlett spoke about the risk to the United States of a Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse attack. He spoke of a scenario in which an EMP weapon is detonated at 600km altitude above the northwest corner of Iowa, destroying all unshielded electronic equipment in the country. His presentation is available in the Congressional Record and is reproduced at Cryptome.


The Mercator UAV is designed to be able to fly continuously at high altitude using solar power and lithium batteries - a so called Eternal Plane.

MIT OpenCourseWare is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners around the world.


Polygraph "Testing" (according to is a danger to the truthful and easily beaten by liars.


To coincide with this year's Reith Lectures, entitled the Triumph of Technology, BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" asked what has been the most significant technological innovation since 1800. Surprisingly, the clear winner was the bicycle! Of the final ten I would say that the most significant is probably the transistor - which came in a poor second. However, as a keen cyclist and advocate of cycling I too would have been tempted to vote for the bicycle.


Aluna is a proposal for the world's first tidal powered Moon Clock.


Speaking of satellite photos (as I was in my last entry) there are some amazing photos of the 115km B-15A iceberg colliding with the Drygalski ice tongue in the Ross Sea in this BBC article.

I just tried one of the Implicit Association Tests which are part of Harvard's Project Implicit.


The American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing has in interesting Guide to Land Imaging Satellites.


Aaron Swartz reviews Horace Freeland Judson's book "the Great Betrayal: Fraud in Science".

India has won a 10-year-long battle at the European Patent Office (EPO) against a patent granted on an anti-fungal product, derived from neem.


Aaron Swartz was impressed by Jeff Hawkins' talk about his new book "On Intelligence".


Astronomers have shown how the present pattern of galaxies in the cosmos grew from tiny fluctuations in the density of matter just after the Big Bang.


Scientists at the National Institute for Medical Research have published work indicating that HIV would not have become established in the human population if mankind carried the same version of a gene found in rhesus monkeys.

Einstein Year has been launched in the UK and Ireland to inspire the next generation of physicists.


The Galileo satellite navigation system took another important step forward on Tuesday with the go-ahead being given to build its first four spacecraft.


The largest digital panoramic photo in the world has been created by researchers in the Netherlands.


A team of scientists from Leicester University have reported that blood levels of anandamide (a cannabis like compound produced by the body) rise almost fourfold in pregnant women when they go into labour.


Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human that lived in Indonesia at the same time our own ancestors were colonising the world.


All young people should learn about scientific reasoning up to the age of 19 says the president of the Royal Society.


Physicists from the University of Manchester (UK) and Chernogolovka (Russia) have created a new type of fullerene called graphene. It is basically a single layer of carbon atoms in a flat sheet.


An unusual, square bacterium that has eluded scientists since it's discovery almost 25 years ago has been grown in the lab by two independent teams.


US Scientists David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek have won a Nobel prize for their work on quarks and the strong force.

The skull of a man who lived between 960 and 1100AD has yielded evidence that surgeons were carrying out relatively complex cranial surgery in medieval times.


I attribute much of proficiency in mathematics and science to the fact that my natural desire to tinker with things as a child was encouraged rather than suppressed. My Grandfather had a little workshop where he used to make and repair all sorts of things. I have early memories of him giving me a box of broken clocks for Christmas which kept me occupied for ages as I took them apart trying to figure out how they were supposed to work. Later I got a kit for experimenting with electrical circuits. I only mention this because I have been looking at David Merill's website, where he has a useful page of resources for tinkerers. There is also a Freedom to Tinker website which champions your right to understand, discuss, repair and modify the technological devices you own.


The world's largest particle physics laboratory, CERN, is 50 years old today.


A new sign language created over the last 30 years by deaf children in Nicaragua, has given experts a unique insight into how languages evolve.


We are approaching the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. The British Astronomical Association has compiled detailed information about this year's observing prospects.


Light Blue Optics claim to have developed a ground-breaking holographic technology, which will power a new generation of pocket-sized digital video projectors.


Apparently, sunspot activity is at a 1,000 year high.


The Lisa Pathfinder will demonstrate technologies that will be necessary to detect gravitational waves in space.

Europe and the US have signed a deal to co-operate over satellite navigation which means the Galileo system will be compatible with the US GPS.


The Welding Institute has developed a technique it calls Surfi-Sculpt TM, in which an electron beam is used to "grow" tiny protrusions from the surface of a solid. There are a wide variety of possible applications.

Strange things happen when shear thickening fluids are vibrated. See these results (including a movie) of experiments carried out at the University of Texas.


The New Scientist Archive is available free to personal subscribers of the Print Edition, and I can access it from work because UH has an institutional license. The Hot Topics section though is free access.


New measurements from Luna suggest that the Universe may be a billion years older than previously thought.

SMaRTFinder is a command line tool to search bio sequences for structured motifs. It is released under the GNU General Public License.


IBM and Stanford University are joining forces on the research and creation of new high-performance, low power electronics in the emerging field of spintronics.


Check out this Wired article on science related search engines.


Scientists have managed to "weigh" a single bacterium, but the BBC make a common error in their headline of their report. The device works by detecting changes in resonant frequency of a tiny cantilever when an object is placed on it so they have not measured the "weight of a single cell" but it's mass. In other words the device would work just as well away from the influence of the Earth's gravitational field.

Another BBC story discusses reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the requirement for new methods of "mapping" scientific knowledge.


Added a Mathematics section.


I have just created this directory and will add stuff as and when I get time. For the moment I just have an "under construction" sign on the index page, this notes file and a couple of links on the links page. Ian Gregory 2010