February 01, 2007
Advice on Designing Scientific Posters
Colin Purrington of the Department of Biology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania offers some very good advice (with plenty of pictures!) about creating scientific posters to effectively communicate your research at scientific meetings. It's been awhile since I've attended a conference, but I used to attend GIS (Geographic Information Systems) conferences a couple of times a year, so I've seen numerous posters -- good and bad.
(Incidentally, Colin Purrington is the one whose photos at Flickr I've featured here a few times in the past, and I'm sure I'll do so again in the future!)
Link: Advice on Designing Scientific Posters | digg story
January 11, 2007
Hey, whatever floats your boat!
Amazing demonstration at the Physikshow of the University of Bonn!
So, what's going on here? Well, obviously the hexafluoride gas is heavier than air (about 5 times as heavy), so the "ship" floats. Yeah, I got that. But I wanted to read more about it and pass on what I read here. Unfortunately, my searches of the Internet haven't really turned up much of anything.
There's a Wikipedia entry about uranium hexafluoride, which it describes as "a compound used in the uranium enrichment process that produces fuel for nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It forms solid grey crystals at standard temperature and pressure (STP), is highly toxic, reacts violently with water and is corrosive to most metals." Presumably that is not what this is!
There's also a Wikipedia entry about sulfur hexafluoride, which presumably is what this is, but it doesn't mention anything about nifty little science fair demonstrations like this one. It does mention that breathing sulfur hexafluoride will make you voice much deeper (the opposite of breathing helium), because the speed of sound is about one-third what it is normally. Neat. Of course, our body requires oxygen, not sulfur hexafluoride, so breathing the latter is not recommended.
If you come across any other nifty science fair demonstrations like this, let me know!
December 15, 2006
DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Don’t Trust Them - New York Times
Here's an interesting article from the New York Times:
The National Geographic Society’s multimillion-dollar research project to collect DNA from indigenous groups around the world in the hopes of reconstructing humanity’s ancient migrations has come to a standstill on its home turf in North America.
Billed as the “moon shot of anthropology,” the Genographic Project intends to collect 100,000 indigenous DNA samples. But for four months, the project has been on hold here as it scrambles to address questions raised by a group that oversees research involving Alaska natives.
At issue is whether scientists who need DNA from aboriginal populations to fashion a window on the past are underselling the risks to present-day donors. Geographic origin stories told by DNA can clash with long-held beliefs, threatening a world view some indigenous leaders see as vital to preserving their culture.
I find this sort of thing very frustrating. As I mentioned before, I'm currently reading Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies". In it, he discusses the spread of modern humans across the planet, focusing on the last 13,000 years. What becomes apparent is that we're all one group of people. (Duh!) Yes, our more recent history might vary widely, but we all started out as one group, and not all that long ago. Yet some people seem to continue to cling to the belief that their ancestors apparently sprang fully formed from the ground. For example:
Some American Indians trace their suspicions to the experience of the Havasupai Tribe, whose members gave DNA for a diabetes study that University of Arizona researchers later used to link the tribe’s ancestors to Asia. To tribe members raised to believe the Grand Canyon is humanity’s birthplace, the suggestion that their own DNA says otherwise was deeply disturbing.
Octopus escaping through a 1 inch hole
|Wow. Just wow. Oh, and a little bit freaky.
Here's the description: "Octopuses have an amazing ability to squeeze through tiny crevices, cracks and holes. My fall BIOS independent studies student, Raymond Deckel is investigating just how small a hole Octopus macropus can fit through as well as how long it takes them to squeeze through different sizes of holes. CAABS intern Rowena Day, NSF-REU intern Jared Kibele as well as teaching assistant Abel Valdivia help wrangle the 232 g octopus, Ray times it’s escape through a 1 inch hole while I shot video clips for later analysis. Location: Whalebone Bay, St. George’s, Bermuda.
Dr. James B. Wood - BIOS
November 22, 2006
Catching up is hard to do
Okay, I am a very bad blogger. I plead being a new father with very little time. (The fact that the child is nearing his 2nd birthday doesn't make me any less of a new father. I'm a bit of a slow learner.)
The previous post was made in July 2005. I had a few "I ought to post about this" moments since then and filed away a few links to discuss later. Well, the discussion isn't going to happen, but I hate to see those links go unmentioned, so here they are.
(Religions, Cults, and Miracles) slacktivist on Hermeneutics
- Link: slacktivist: Hermeneutics.
(Creation/Evolution) IMAX vs. the Fundamentalists
(Religions, Cults, and Miracles) Divorce Judge bans Wicca
(Religions, Cults, and Miracles) Survey of Doctors on Religion
(Creation/Evolution) Catholics debating meaning of Cardinal's op-ed on evolution
(UFOs and Aliens) Sleep paralysis at Science News Online
- Link: Night of the Crusher.
- Link: In search of Bigfoot.
(Science and Technology) Shuttle Trouble - Where is the science?
(Creation/Evolution) Santorum says to teach the controversy
After this maybe I can start posting about stuff when it's still relevant!
February 13, 2005
Universe Today - What Did Galileo See?
Galileo was born on February 15, 1564 -- 441 years ago this Tuesday. As a quick celebration, pop over to Universe Today and read What Did Galileo See? Here's an excerpt:
There can be no doubt that Galileo's early adoption of the recently invented spyglass for astronomical purposes marked a major departure toward the way we now view the world. For before Galileo's era the heavens and the Earth were not in accord. The bulk of the thinking going on previous to Galileo was scholastic in nature. Truth depended on the words of the ancients - words which carried greater weight of authority than natural law and behavior. It was the era of faith - not science - that Galileo was born into. But his observations built a bridge between Terrum et Coelum. Earth and sky became part of a single natural order. The telescope could demonstrate to anyone with an open mind that there was more to all things than could be conceived of by the great minds of the past. Nature had begun to instruct the hearts and minds of humanity...
But let us speak no more of Earth-shaking events. What did Galileo actually see in the early months of the year 1610?
Perhaps the best way to celebrate his birth would be to grab you telescope, step outside, and take a peek at the sky. (Alas, I have no telescope yet. I keep wanting to get one, but higher priorities keep getting in the way. Oh well, now that I have a son, I'll soon have an excuse to buy one -- "It's for our child's education!")
January 27, 2005
Titan's methane not of biological origin
Scientists analyzing data from the Huygens probe say that Saturn's moon Titan has more methane than they expected, but Jean-Pierre Lebreton, mission manager for the Huygens probe, said "This methane cannot be coming from living organisms." There doesn't appear to be any explanation in the article as to why he said that, not that I doubt him. Anyone have any details?