linkmachinego.com

May 16, 2015
[science] Forget Fingerprints—in the Future We’ll Be Identified by Gut Bacteria … a future plot to CSI: Vegas? … ‘Compared to microbes in the skin, mouth, and vagina, gut microbes were the most stable over time, according to the researchers. Around 86 percent of the time, the scientists were able to uniquely identify an individual based on stool samples taken 30 to 300 days after the original stool sample from which the microbial fingerprint was derived. With bacteria in the skin, mouth, and vagina, later fingerprints matched the original ones about 30 percent of the time.’
May 10, 2015
[weirdscience] Radio 4 in Four: Robin Ince explores hollow earth… go listen to this clip of Robin Ince on Hollow Earth theory (guest-starring Alan Moore).
May 9, 2015
[fractals] Web Mandlebrot … nicely done web-based Mandelbrot generator. [via Kottke]
March 11, 2015
[science] 13 Science Myths You Probably Believe … … ‘Whether you can roll your tongue or not depends on your genes – In a 1940 study some children managed to learn the skill. Eleven years later, some scientists showed that the number of tongue rollers among Japanese school children increased by 20% between the ages of 6–7 and 12. So it can’t be purely genetic.’
January 4, 2015
[science] Is the Universe a Simulation?‘But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used. This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.’
December 19, 2014
[life] This scientist solved the mystery of belly button lint‘It was mostly people that had stomach hair who also typically found belly button lint. He proved it by shaving his own stomach, and seeing that he didn’t produce any belly button lint until his hair grew back. He also confirmed the seemingly obvious fact that lint originates from shirt fibers in two ways: by seeing that it always matched the color of the shirt he was wearing, and by chemically analyzing the lint and finding that it was mostly made of cellulose (the material that makes up cotton). It also contained some nitrogen and sulfur, likely from sweat and skin cells.’
August 26, 2014
[dawkins] Richard Dawkins’ Apology Generator … handy tool for when the evolutionary biologist offends large sections of the public‘If you transcended human emotion you’d know that you are delusional.’
August 18, 2014
[box] Expensive Shoebox – What would be the most expensive way to fill a size 11 shoebox (e.g. with 64 GB MicroSD cards all full of legally purchased music)?‘A gram of pure plutonium, for example, would cost about $5k. As a bonus, plutonium is even denser than gold, which means you could fit almost 300 kilograms of it in a shoebox. Before you spend $3 billion on plutonium, take note: Plutonium’s critical mass is about 10 kilograms. So while you could fit 300 kilograms of it in a shoebox, you could only do so briefly.’
June 19, 2014
[life] Has David Birnbaum solved the mystery of existence?… engrossing profile of “outsider thinker” David Birnbaum … ‘There is no shortage of people who would say no, at least in Birnbaum’s case. His work, said a commenter on the Chronicle’s website, “reads like L Ron Hubbard had drunken sex one night with Ayn Rand and produced this bastard thought-child”. One scholar who became professionally involved with Birnbaum described the experience as “unsettling, unfortunate and, to my knowledge, unprecedented in academic circles”. Another just called him “toxic”. But then again – as Birnbaum pointed out to me, more than once, during the weeks I spent trying to figure out exactly what he was up to – just suppose that a scrappy, philosophically unqualified Jewish guy from Queens really had cracked the cosmic code, embarrassing the ivory-tower elites: well, isn’t this exactly the kind of defensive response you’d expect?’
January 28, 2014
[health] How do vaccines cause autism? … a useful website for anti-vaxxers.
January 8, 2014
[science] Scientists Tell Us Their Favourite Jokes‘Sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium sodium Batman!’
January 1, 2014
[science] List of scientists who became creationists after studying the evidence‘ * ‘
November 8, 2013
[health] Setting the Record Straight: Debunking ALL the Flu Vaccine Myths … With flu season’s arrival this is a very timely debunking of myths about Flu vaccines … ‘Myth #18: If I get the flu, antibiotics will take care of me. (No, they can’t.) Influenza is a virus. Antibiotics fight bacteria (anti = “against”; biotics = “of life,” referring to living bacteria, not to viruses). All the antibiotics in the world won’t help you fight off a flu infection.’
October 24, 2013
[funny] Lost Wormhole‘Do not attempt capture because you’ll totally screw with the Space/Time Continuum Bro.’

Lost Wormhole

October 23, 2013
[science] Science For The Epic Motherfreaking Win… a profound meditation on the glory of science … ‘Science… fuck yeah. The cool part about learning science on Facebook is that they use pictures and the words aren’t very big and you get to browse Facebook the entire time. Plus, the swearing. You can’t swear in school which is bullshit. I think I would like school a lot more if it was compacted down into meme format. Like instead of summer reading we could just look at like 10 to 20 different memes a day. Neil deGrasse Tyson for the motherepic shit win.’
September 9, 2013
[movies] Jurassic Park’s dinosaurs: out of time?… Twenty years after the release of Jurassic Park how realistic were the dinosaurs … ‘New finds show that the forelimbs of tyrannosaurs were rather closer together than previously assumed – on screen those famous little arms are set far up the side of the animal, but in fact should be much closer together and almost underneath the head. These are minor details in appearance compared to the probability that Tyrannosaurus had feathers, or the fact that there’s no good evidence that Velociraptor was a pack hunter or especially smart (or as fast as a cheetah while we’re on the subject), and the giant frill and venom-spitting in Dilophosaurus is basically fiction.’
June 28, 2013
[numbers] Pi Versus Information Theory … searching for meaning in Pi… ‘Is all of life written in pi? No. There is nothing there. For every fact you might find, you would also find the exact opposite. For every name of someone you might love, there would be countless other names. Claude Shannon would tell us that a sequence of random numbers contains no information, which he describes as “the removal of uncertainty.” No uncertainty is removed through perusal of the digits of pi.’
March 27, 2013
[funny] The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense‘In my gross over simplification the vast majority of the multitude of evidenced-free beliefs at large in the world can be crudely classified into four basic sets or bollocks. Namely, Religion, Quackery, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.’
July 2, 2012
[life] What is the most astounding fact about the Universe? … answered by Astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson

‘So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive…’
May 21, 2012
[water] All the Water on Planet Earth … picture showing what would happen if all the water in the world was collected into a ball on the surface of the Earth.
May 4, 2012
[life] A Timeline of the far future … 7.9 billion years from now: ‘The Sun reaches the tip of the red giant branch, achieving its maximum radius of 256 times the present day value. In the process, Mercury, Venus and possibly Earth are destroyed. During these times, it is possible that Saturn’s moon Titan could achieve surface temperatures necessary to support life.’
February 5, 2012
[nature] Snow Under A Microscope … some amazing extreme closeup pictures of individual snowflakes.
January 30, 2012
[religion] Swallowed by a whale — a true tale? … a writer for Salon investigates if people were ever swallowed by whales and what would happen to them if they were …

‘I went to the Illness drawer and scanned the divider labels: Asthma, Bowels. Cold virus, Colic, Consumption, Convulsions / Fits, Distemper, Dropsy, Faintings, Food Poisoning, Homesickness, Depressed, Kidney, Lips, Measles, Pleurisy, Pox, Prickly Heat, Scurvy, Seasick, Smallpox, Typhoid, Venereal.

Venereal was the thickest category. Eighty-seven notecards referencing 87 mentions in close to 87 logbooks – that’s one-third more than the Scurvy category and a magnitude thicker than the Homesickness category. I thumbed through Venereal and found, slid between endless Syphilis cards, an archaic Lady’s Fever, the whimsical Blue boar in groin, and the enigmatic doby itch. Of all the Illnesses, it appeared the stops on shore hit the whalemen the most, the damage done in the arms of a woman. One 19th-century writer calculated that during whaling season in the port of Lahaini, Hawaii, there were ”upwards of 400 instances of intercourse daily.”

Crammed between Depressed and Kidney, at only 10 notecards thick, was the file I was looking for: Injury by Whale.’

January 2, 2012
[science] Stephen Hawking Seeks Geek To Maintain His Unique Wheelchair ‘…the ideal candidate must be able to work under pressure, maintain “black box” systems with no instruction manual or technical support, be a whiz with computers and electronics, be able to speak to large audiences and show others how to use complex systems. Not a big ask, then. The salary is roughly £25k…’
December 19, 2011
[xmas] All I Want For Christmas…

Rationalist Christmas Card

November 18, 2011
[science] Richard Feynman on Curiosity

‘The world is strange. The whole universe is very strange, but you see when you look at the details that the rules of the game are very simple – the mechanical rules by which you can figure out exactly what is going to happen when the situation is simple. It is like a chess game. If you are in a corner with only a few pieces involved, you can work out exactly what is going to happen, and you can always do that when there are only a few pieces. And yet in the real game there are so many pieces that you can’t figure out what is going to happen – so there is a kind of hierarchy of different complexities. It is hard to believe. It is incredible! In fact, most people don’t believe that the behavior of, say, me is the result of lots and lots of atoms all obeying very simple rules and evolving into such a creature that a billion years of life has produced.’
November 2, 2011
[comics] Hark A Vagrant: Tycho

a cartoon about Tycho Brahe

September 23, 2011
[comics] Chiropractic … a beta-version of a comic strip about Chiropractic Therapy for Darryl Cunningham’s Science Tales book.
September 13, 2011
[life] A Deathbed Story I Would Never Tell … a story about a stopped clock and Richard Feynman’s Wife …

I’m thinking about the great American physicist, Richard Feynman, sitting in New Mexico, at the bed of his dying wife. He’d been called, and told that she had only hours to live; he’d hitchhiked from Los Alamos, where he was working on the top secret atomic bomb project. It was 1945.

He walks to her bedside, kisses her; she is breathing shallow breaths. We are still at war and six weeks later, America will explode its first atomic bomb. He stands there, sits there, watches her, kisses her, and very quietly, the Hodgkin’s disease that had attacked her young body takes her. She was in her 20s, he was 27. They’d been married only two years. The nurse records the time of death: 9:21 p.m. He is empty with loss. What few things she had, he packs up; he arranges for a cremation, walks back into her room and sees that the clock had strangely stopped ticking. The hands are frozen at 9:21, the very moment of her death.

I know how this story would feel to me. It would be as though the universe had somehow noticed what had happened, that some invisible hand slipped into my world and pointed, as if to say, “We know. This is part of the plan.”

So many of us, I think, would have this sense. Lawrence Krauss, in his new biography of Feynman, Quantum Man, says, “We seem to be hard-wired to find that what happens to each of us naturally appears to take on a special significance and meaning, even if it’s an accident.” But Feynman, he says, was unable to think that way. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t.

What he did was, he remembered that the clock had been fragile. He had been asked to fuss with it; he’d fixed it several times. In his memoirs (that is, in his version of this story), he says the nurse must have picked up the clock to determine the time of death, unsettled the workings inside, and the clock stopped. No miracle. Just an ordinary, accidental jostle. Here he is, describing a moment of enormous significance, and he won’t allow a Signifier.

February 17, 2011
[space] James Burke On Thermos Flasks‘You see, all three men had understood that certain gases ignite and that the thermos flask permits you to store vast quantities of those gases safely in the frozen liquid form until you want to ignite them; at which point, you take the top off the flask, the gases evaporate, you apply a light, and boom! Now, two gases do that better than any other. It was Oberth’s assistant, who put them together most efficiently. His name was Wernher von Braun…’



February 16, 2011
[space] Space Stasis … Neal Stephenson takes a fascinating look at path dependence and lock-in within the business, idea and design of rockets… ‘To employ a commonly used metaphor, our current proficiency in rocket-building is the result of a hill-climbing approach; we started at one place on the technological landscape – which must be considered a random pick, given that it was chosen for dubious reasons by a maniac – and climbed the hill from there, looking for small steps that could be taken to increase the size and efficiency of the device. Sixty years and a couple of trillion dollars later, we have reached a place that is infinitesimally close to the top of that hill. Rockets are as close to perfect as they’re ever going to get. For a few more billion dollars we might be able to achieve a microscopic improvement in efficiency or reliability, but to make any game-changing improvements is not merely expensive; it’s a physical impossibility.’
February 12, 2011
[history] The London Pedestrian Crossing of Doom … the place where one man’s thoughts later caused the deaths of a quarter of a million Japanese citizens …‘We’re on the corner of Southampton Row and Russell Square in leafy Bloomsbury. There’s no plaque to mark the event but this is the unlikely spot where the nuclear chain reaction was first conceived.’
February 5, 2011
[comics] Climate Change … another great science comic from Darryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham Investigates Climate Change

January 24, 2011
[health] How Does Homeopathy Work?‘Please note that corrections will not be accepted unless accompanied by robust, peer-reviewed, scientific data.’
December 3, 2010
[science] Schrödinger’s Cat Is Alive / Dead

Schrodingers Cat Is Alive / Dead

November 23, 2010
[comics] Scientists Confirm Existence of ‘Kirby Krackle’‘Scientists have made an incredible breakthrough in the study of antimatter that yielded the first ever creation and capture of antihydrogen, which looks almost exactly like the ubiquitous “Kirby Krackle” visual effect innovated by the legendary comics artist many decades ago.’
November 1, 2010
[funny] Go Look: A Small Tribute To The Mandlebrot
July 26, 2010
[lists] A List Of Common Misconceptions‘There is no evidence that Vikings wore horns on their helmets.’
July 5, 2010
[science] The Undead Henrietta Lacks And Her Immortal Dynasty … Adam Curtis has posted his BBC documentary on the story of Henrietta Lacks on to his blog‘Henrietta Lacks’ cells are immortal.’
June 30, 2010
[moore] The Infinite Monkey Cage Podcast … a BBC science podcast with Alan Moore, Jonathan Ross, Brian Cox, Robin Ince and Brian Greene discussing science fiction (available till next Monday).
[comics] Homeopathy … another comic on health and science issues from Daryl Cunningham

Darryl Cunningham On Homeopathy

May 17, 2010
[history] Scott and Scurvy … a long wonderfully written look at the history behind the treatment of scurvy and how the was cure was misunderstood and forgotten at the start of the 20th Century … ‘They had a theory of the disease that made sense, fit the evidence, but was utterly wrong.’
November 9, 2009
[funny] Vague Scientist‘Apparently reality is sort of a Jammie Dodger but with bad matter where the jam would be.’
October 23, 2009
[history] Nick Griffin’s Bad Science‘Furthermore, Britain has never had an indigenous population, in the sense of people who evolved here. Every member of Homo sapiens who has ever lived in Britain has been either an immigrant, or the descendent of immigrants. The very first ones, the genetic evidence suggests, came here from an ancestral home in northern Spain or the Basque country.’
September 24, 2009
[space] The Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life Gets Weird‘For instance, Leitner said, we can send rovers to Mars carrying antibodies that detect traces of chemicals and bacteria that would indicate life. But because we can only make antibodies to known substances, this method will be limited to finding Earth-like life. “When we try to find a definition for life, in most cases, such a definition is more a summary of the specific properties of terrestrial life,” Leitner said. Because life on Earth requires water, most of the search for extraterrestrial life thus far has focused on the “habitable zone,” or the relatively narrow region around a star where liquid water could exist.’
May 5, 2009
[funny] Let’s Say You’ve Gone Back In Time … useful document for all time travellers …‘Insulin can be extracted from the pancreas of dogs and pigs by tying a string around the pancreatic duct. Inject this extract and it will act as a miraculous treatment. Forget Banting and Best. Take the credit.’
April 13, 2009
[science] Go Watch: What happens when you drop a cannon ball in a bath of mercury? [via Kottke]
April 1, 2009
[lists] The 10 Biggest Intellectual Fights Of All Time … On Galileo vs. The Church: ‘…in 1632 he published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems and quickly found himself summoned to appear before the Inquisition on charges of heresy. Galileo was forced to recant his support for the Copernican model and spent the rest of his life under house arrest, though with rather lenient travel and visitation allowances. His works were finally dropped from the Index of prohibited books in 1835. In 1992 Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the “Galileo Affair” was handled, officially conceding on the part of the church that the earth is not stationary and that the planets orbit the sun.’
February 9, 2009
[knowledge] Clive Thompson on How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge‘Normally, we expect society to progress, amassing deeper scientific understanding and basic facts every year. Knowledge only increases, right? Robert Proctor doesn’t think so. A historian of science at Stanford, Proctor points out that when it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed: Ignorance increases. He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.” As Proctor argues, when society doesn’t know something, it’s often because special interests work hard to create confusion…’
September 26, 2008
[dawkins] Richard Dawkins Hate Mail


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