04 October 2011 @ 08:27 pm
Mini-post-it modular-origami Menger sponge, completed to three levels and nicely photographed by Nicholas Rougeux. Via BoingBoing.

Nikon's top 20 microphotographs of the year. Via Wired.

Music generated algorithmically from a single line of code. Ok, it's a bit low-res and repetitive but some of it would make great ringtones. Via pinboard.

Starlings can recognize context-free languages. Via a metafilter thread about a joke Chomsky/Foucault video (really).
The discoverer of the diamond planet speaks out about the public reception of climate change science.

And, some anonymous supporter of Edinburgh's libraries (possibly Su Blackwell) leaves mysterious but beautiful paper sculptures around the city.
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24 February 2009 @ 07:17 pm
Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group: Taxonomic Data of the Breadties of the World. Did you know that there were so many genera and species of breadties?
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18 October 2008 @ 09:30 pm
Don't want scientists talking about global warming? Easy! Just take away their money for going to conferences. That's what someone in the senate (rumored to be Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn) did to NASA. The effects extend beyond muzzling the NASA scientists affected by this cut, as reduced conference registration is likely to hurt the societies that sponsor the conferences as well.

At least, they were less thorough in their slashing than they might have been: when this first came to light, it was thought that it would affect NASA contracts and grants as well as NASA employees, but that seems not to be true.
17 October 2008 @ 08:37 am
The New York Times compares McCain and Obama's positions on science and technology. Via Digby. Scariest clip: McCain has said he would freeze all federal research spending for at least a year.
05 October 2008 @ 04:48 pm
61 Nobel prizewinners endorse Obama due to Republican politicization of the government's scientific advisory process, stagnant support for scientific research, and most especially due to government attempts to suppress or minimize the significance of research on global warming.

Via Kos, which also links to a story in The Guardian detailing Sarah Palin's attempts as Alaska governor to reverse the threatened-species listing of polar bears by using research from oil-company-funded climate change skeptics. Her past actions foretell the likely position of a McCain-Palin administration on the issue:
The Guardian's findings show without a doubt where Sarah Palin stands on global warming, regardless of what she has said in recent interviews.

It also presents a disturbing view of what a potential McCain-Palin administration would look like. It would simply be a continuation of the Bush administration's science policies.

The only difference is that Bush admits global warming is real.
Via CACM: UT Southwestern's Deja Vu project has applied text pattern matching algorithms to all the titles and abstracts in Medline and found up to 200,000 duplicates. Many of them have benign explanations (e.g. the first one I saw was a Chinese-language paper and its English-language translation, by the same authors) but many others are likely plagiarism: the database currently lists 200 duplicate pairs of abstracts with no author in common. This is just in the abstracts; I imagine that additional similarities would be turned up in a full-text search.
03 April 2008 @ 06:09 pm
From the link below:
The world’s largest database on [scientific field], containing citations with abstracts to scientific articles, reports, books, and unpublished reports ... has been changed so that one can no longer search the term [XXX] ... As the representative from [the database] states, “As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now.”
See this link (or these earlier ones) for details. And don't tell me I'm censoring anything for leaving out those details here: I've left out the key words describing exactly who at Hopkins runs this database and what they censored, deliberately, not as a matter of censorship but because I think this is appalling no matter the field and I'd prefer to focus more on issues of academic freedom and less on any emotional reactions people might have to the specific topic. It's a term that is relevant and likely to be searched within this field of scientific inquiry. It's still present in its uncensored glory if you follow the link.

ETA: Wired, /., BB; C+L update, NYT, JHU.
31 August 2007 @ 04:34 pm

Unclassified scientists and other workers at Yoyodyne JPL (a government lab devoted to space science and operated by CalTech) are now being required to undergo an intrusive government background check process that, among other things, examines their sexual history and orientation. There's no statement that their political leanings are also being examined, but there's also no statement that they aren't.

This quote from the L.A. Times version of the story is especially unreassuring, given the present administration's history of politicizing previously nonpartisan executive-branch units:

David Mould, a NASA spokesman in Washington, said JPL employees were being treated no differently than other executive branch workers.
The Bloomsberg version of the story states that "the requirements are part of a uniform identification system for federal employees", but the New York times clarifies that the affected scientists are not actually federal employees.
22 August 2007 @ 01:44 pm
Redheads to become extinct, possibly as early as 2060. I suppose I shouldn't take it personally, since (if I lived that long) my hair would no doubt have long since gone white, but...
08 March 2007 @ 06:17 pm
When a person is removed from a totalitarian regime's history, face erased from past news photos, etc., he becomes an unperson, right? So what do we call it when it's a whole species?
16 February 2007 @ 11:26 am
If you're like me, you probably thought that humorous comparisons between creationist evolution-disbelievers and anti-Copernican astronomy-disbelievers were just exaggerations to make plain the intellectual bankruptcy of the Intelligent Design proponents. Right? Nobody in any position of authority could seriously believe in this modern age that the earth doesn't revolve around the sun.

Think again. State congressmen in Georgia and Texas caught peddling Fixed Earth Society crankery. And it isn't even their know-nothing attitude that's getting them in trouble, it's the virulent anti-Semitism that comes in the same package.

What century are we living in again?

Also on mefi. Or would be if mefi were up...
12 January 2007 @ 01:25 pm
Brian Hayes discusses the work of my UCI Computer Science colleague and next-door-neighbor Eric Mjolsness on the biochemical origins of Fibonacci-number spiralling patterns in plants. Turing had suggested that special cells at plant stem tips generate chemical growth factors, and the concentration in the factors there leads to the growth patterns, but Mjolsness' work (with several other authors, recently published in PNAS) shows that instead the growth factors are generated uniformly throughout the growing plant shoot and concentrated in the tips by chemical transport. Eric had just spoken about this at the math meeting in New Orleans, at about the same time as I was there for SODA. The Computer Science part of Mjolsness' research is in developing computer simulation models of biological systems that are large-scale enough and accurate enough to be able to simulate this sort of behavior.

It was also interesting to me to see the explicit statements about who did what part of the paper as footnotes to the PNAS abstract. We have to supply such information on our own papers whenever we go through any sort of personnel evaluation, but for PNAS it is part of the public record.
10 January 2007 @ 01:27 pm
A Teiresias-eye view of anti-female prejudice in physics. Via Mefi. See also Evelyn Gates' well cited response to several disbelieving letters in Physics Today.
Intelligent-design based sorting algorithm. The key idea: it's so unlikely to be in its current state that it must have been put there by an intelligent designer; consequently, it's already in the optimal order and no reordering need be done. Via Pharangula.
22 October 2006 @ 12:15 pm
If you thought you were safe from the Christian fundamentalist anti-science types because you work in computer science instead of biology, or that the Catholic church learned its lesson about how to mix science with faith from their fiasco with Galileo, think again: scientists who believe in artificial intelligence risk Icarus' fate of having their wax wings melt and falling into the sea, according to the pope. Via Fark.
14 August 2006 @ 12:44 pm
From 6_bleen_7, via Pharangula:

More at the original post.
06 June 2006 @ 04:47 pm
Much as I may agree with its sentiment, I am also impressed by the adroitness with which driftglass has used a deep thought experiment from physics as analogy for the moral and political issues of our time: Schrödinger's cat and gay marriage. A great Two Cultures moment. (Via Shakespeare's Sister.)