Having trouble with iCloud? Confused by CrashPlan? Today's smart tech consumers are getting ready to purchase the sturdiest backup media of all: human DNA. The mad scientists behind a weird new study say that the double helix of genetic code has been successfully used to store all kinds of documents, including audio files and text of Shakespeare's sonnets and "a picture of their office," because most of what we digitally save is silly garbage. (Future archeologists will likely be baffled by the discovery of, say, a flash drive holding nothing but hundreds of weirdly filtered pictures of somebody's entrée with a glass of wine in the background. "These [...]
The most environmentally ethical way to deal with the waste of Thanksgiving feasts is to go to somebody else's house or a restaurant, so you can "let others worry about it." But millions of us who hosted the holiday dinner are now left with the additional work/guilt of doing something with all the rotting containers of increasingly gross five-day-old leftovers in the fridge.
The EPA says that "food waste" is now the "largest component of municipal solid waste being sent to landfills," at more than 33 million tons per year. That's good, because it means that recyclables like cardboard and aluminum and plastic are no longer the bulk of stuff [...]
"Reaching for a glass of wine following a long day is a habit enjoyed by millions. But scientists think they may have solved the mystery of why that one glass could turn into a drinking problem – it is all down to how we cope with stress." —Um, that is how I cope with stress.
“They have orgies. I’m serious. When they mate, they’re connecting male and female, female and male.” —Mary Stewart farms snails in Northern California and knows lots about them. They are hermaphrodites, for example, and, as part of their mating ritual, they shoot each other with sharp "love darts" that inject a mucous chemical into the female reproductive system that allows more snail sperm to find purchase. Mary says the darts are very painful for humans, and they appear to be painful for snails, too. As The McGill Tribune's Ian Popple reported in 2002, "Copulating snails are commonly seen jostling in an attempt to hit but not be hit" [...]
There's certainly something to be said about life, the election, taxation and the classes in light of this study—it says that "wealthy" smokers in New York City spend 2% of their income on cigarettes and "poor" smokers in New York City spend 25% of their income on cigarettes—but I'll be darned if I know what.
The first in a series about youth.
When you're a kid, there are no limits on the world—everything seems possible. When he was seven, my brother truly believed that one day he'd wake up to see a T-Rex peering at him through his bedroom. (Yes, he had just watched Jurassic Park.) He also talked about inventing a plane that could withstand the strength of a tornado enough to fly within its wind currents, for a real bird's-eye view of the storm. To find out other would-be inventions and asked an assorted group of tech- and science-minded folks, "When you were young, what did you want to invent, discover or [...]
Another glass ceiling has been shattered by women, as "binge drinking" is no longer just something most men do all the time. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one-in-four college ladies and one-in-eight of all gals over 18 are dangerous binge drinkers, consuming up to … four alcoholic beverages per "binge." Four drinks is binge drinking, now?
These wild drunkards are going crazy with the four drinks up to … three times a month, according to the CDC. Well good gracious, that's almost having drinks on a single night of every weekend, as long as you don't drink at all on the fourth weekend. Further research may [...]
The year 1977 is perhaps best remembered for a televised incident in September, when "a tube top-clad woman named Yolanda Bowsley is called into Contestant's Row on 'The Price is Right,' and while running down her breasts pop out of her shirt." But also that month, Voyager 1 launched from Cape Canaveral.
The awkward-looking collection of antennas, science instruments and a nuclear power supply has been zooming through space on its grand tour of the solar system for 35 years now. Its sister craft, Voyager 2, was launched two months earlier but took a slightly longer route on its way toward interstellar space. The Voyager missions are now [...]
"First, 95% of all the stars we see around us today were formed during the past 11 billion years, and about half of these were formed between roughly 11 and 8 billion years ago in a flurry of activity. But the real shocker is that the rate at which new stars are being produced in galaxies today is barely 3% of the rate back 11 billion years ago, and declining. This indicates that unless our universe finds a second wind (which is unlikely) it will only ever manage to produce about 5% more stars than exist at this very moment. This is, quite literally, the beginning of the end."
"Since September 11, 2001, there have been roughly 30 Americans killed by terrorism (depending on how you do the numbers). Meanwhile, extreme weather deaths in the same time period have totaled 6,408 as of 2011, according to the National Weather Service." —But terrorism lets us blame scary foreigners!
"Death will come for us all one day, but life will not fade from our bodies all at once. After our lungs stop breathing, our hearts stop beating, our minds stop racing, our bodies cool, and long after our vital signs cease, little pockets of cells can live for days, even weeks. Now scientists have harvested such cells from the scalps and brain linings of human corpses and reprogrammed them into stem cells. In other words, dead people can yield living cells that can be converted into any cell or tissue in the body." —All I can say about this is "Fire bad."
"The so-called 'superweeds' have arisen because of the success of genetically modified crops, which now account for the vast majority of US corn, soya and cotton. GM essentially means that crops are protected from one type of chemical weedkiller. But because farmers have become over-reliant on this one product, weeds with natural resistance have spread rapidly and have strangled production on millions of acres." —Do you know about ambrosia trifida, a.k.a. giant ragweed? Well, you should because it's scary. It's scary like a combination of Children of the Corn, Godzilla, Cheech & Chong's Next Movie, Little Shop of Horrors, and Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire. It can grow [...]
I sat behind the plate at Fenway Park in Boston a few years back and watched Tim Wakefield pitch a game with his knuckleball, and man, the way the ball dove and rose and fluttered and swerved—sometimes, clearly to a distance of feet—it was about the closest thing to magic I've ever seen with my own eyes. The science is hard to understand. (For me at least.) It has to do with air currents and friction created by the seams of the ball and turbulence and vortices. Anyway, Awl pal Christine Schomer helped make what looks to be an excellent documentary about the subject. And here's hoping [...]
According to the latest scientific proof in the form of a magazine list feature, San Francisco is the nation's healthiest city. Women's Health surveyed a hundred American cities and ranked them according to life expectancy, obesity, access to health care, incidence of cancer, nutrition, and probably how much money everybody has. How did a wealthy and beautiful city with its own universal health care plan and a population of attractive people who walk everywhere end up at the top of the list? (SELF magazine put out a similar list last month, with San Jose at No. 1 and San Francisco in third place.)
Also, why did [...]
Carrie: So Ken, I understand that you recently purchased a Prius and are pleased with your purchase! And I bought one several years ago, and am likewise very happy with it. So my first question would be: What do you think the plural of Prius is: Prius-us? Pri-i?
Ken: Well, did you know that Toyota asked Prius owners to vote for the plural form of Prius, because the actual Latin plural (priora) was already taken by a crappy Lada? I just read this on Wikipedia, so I am pretty much an "automotive journalist" now. Anyway, the plural is officially and legally prii.
Carrie: I did not know that! Very [...]
Alleged 2016 GOP hopeful Marco Rubio was interviewed by his favorite magazine, GQ. And now Twitter is all abuzz because the Republican senator from Florida claimed that the Earth's age is one of the Great Mysteries. In the Q&A, Rubio says: "Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries."
The scientific elite scorn such talk, because of course they have used "science instruments" to figure out that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old—when the rest of our solar system took shape. But this semi-precise [...]
Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a very rude message for those fun people who use "climate change" as a punchline on the campaign trail: Global warming is real, superstorms are but one devastating result, and people who continue to say otherwise are "stupid."
Just to make this science-based rude behavior clear, BusinessWeek editor Josh Tyrangiel had this to say to the world of Twitter:
— Josh (@Tyrangiel) November 1, 2012
The debating season may be presidential, but if the spectacle of supersized pandering served with an unlimited salad bar of platitudes, slogans, and empty promises strikes you as strangely unfulfilling, there is always academia, where, sometimes, the politics are as equally vicious because the stakes are equally as high. Such was the case in San Antonio recently, at the Obesity Society's 30th annual meeting, the premier scientific conference in the US on what is, arguably, the nation's most pressing health problem. As the prologue to a four-day Finnegan's Wake of technical discussion (did you know that NMDA receptor NR2B subunits in the parabrachial nucleus mediate compensatory feeding?), the society's presidential [...]
"It is a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. And it has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us." —The urgency apparent in Norwegian Polar Institute's Dr. Kim Holman's assessment of recent data about the melting arctic ice cap is truly terrifying. But the fact that the Institute named its icebreaker ship "Lance" makes me smile.