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Posts Tagged: science

Man vs. Terrifying Gigantic Agribusiness

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…“grew up in world (S.C.) that wouldn’t accept him,” “needs adulation,” “doesn’t sleep,” was “scarred for life.”…“What’s motivating Hayes?—basic question.”

An actor’s notes for a role? A writer’s sketch of a character for a novel? Actually, these are observations by the communications manager of agribusiness giant Syngenta, as she and her colleagues try to figure out how to discredit the scientist who found one of their herbicides to cause “birth defects in humans as well as in animals.”

For the New YorkerRachel Aviv tells the story of the corporation’s relentless campaign against one biology professor—and his increasingly desperate attempts to fight back.

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How to Scientifically Predict a Novel’s Success

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It’s impossible to predict what will make a book sell well, but scientists at Stony Brook University think they might be on the right track.

After conducting statistical analyses of novels from several genres, they were able to predict with 84% accuracy whether a book was “highly successful” based on certain elements of style such as “discourse connectives” and “verbs that describe thought-processing.”

Of course, there’s a pretty large degree of subjectivity inherent in any study of this nature, but it’s still interesting stuff to think about.

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Reading Makes You Better At Life

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A degree in English may make your job search harder, but it makes empathy and social interaction easier, according to a study conducted by some people who had more practical majors.

The study, published in Science, found that literary fiction like Dostoevsky or Louise Erdrich enhanced subjects’ ability to read others’ emotions more than did popular fiction or “nonfiction that was well-written, but not literary or about people.”

Erdrich’s take on the matter: “This is why I love science….[They] found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction….Thank God the research didn’t find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries.”

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Science: Still Confusing, Still Important

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Some scientific experiments can sound ridiculous, especially to us writerly types—like, for instance, a study measuring mosquitoes’ attraction to limburger cheese.

There’s even a fake prize dedicated to mocking such studies: the “Ig Nobel,” which the aforementioned mosquito story won several years back.

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Tracking Quakes

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I’d lived in California for over six years and still hadn’t experienced a quintessential California quake, still hadn’t come close to what Schopenhauer might call the “dynamic sublime,” the encounter with something powerful enough to destroy you.

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The Blame Game

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Scientists have been putting the blame on almost everyone when it comes to climate change and subsequent natural disasters.

In L’Aquila, Italy, however, the tables have turned as six scientists and one government official potentially face six years in prison for charges of manslaughter after “lying” to the public about a deadly earthquake in 2006.

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Sending Vibes Through Squids

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BoingBoing documents the research of Backyard Brains, which, as of late, has consisted of monitoring how playing Cyprus Hill affects a squid’s chromatophores. The results look not unlike an iTunes Visualizer:

“Greg Gage of the DIY neuroscience company Backyard Brains stimulated the axons of a squid with the electrical signals coming out of a headphone jack plugged into an iPhone playing a Cypress Hill song.

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A History of Mars Exploration

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Last night, NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on the surface of Mars, beginning its year long exploration of the planet.

The Guardian has compiled a short history of Mars musing, which highlights scientists’ fascination with the planet. Since their first sightings in the 17th century, scientists argued about the planet’s capability for sustaining life:

“Lowell eventually ‘saw’ and published maps of not only canals but also vastly thick lines of cultivated vegetation, oases and cities, standing out against ‘one vast Sahara’.

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Look Closer

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Yesterday marked the fortieth anniversary of the launch of Landsat, America’s longest running Earth-imaging satellite program.

Since the NASA-run program began in 1972, Landsat has captured more than three million images of our planet. To look at some particularly stunning photographs taken by the satellite (pictures chosen through Nasa’s ‘Earth as Art’ contest), click here.

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‘The The Angels Angels’ & Other Astrophysicist Baseball Observations

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Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History. Author: Space Chronicle, The Pluto Files. Host: StarTalk Radio) on Baseball:

> Tonight’s @AllStarGame compells me to Tweet what Baseball looks like through the lens of an astrophysicist…

> In the 1960s, when we still dreamed, we named a dome, a baseball team, and even the artificial turf they played on “Astro”

> If baseball reported averages to 4 decimal places instead of 3, then a three-hundred hitter would be batting “three thousand”

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Odor and Desire

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“I went into this party wondering what kind of guys I’d be attracted to just on the basis of pheromone smell. Could I clear away all the flotsam in my heart – the fetishes for big noses and curly hair that I’ve had since high school, or my habit of falling for cocky artists and writers?”

At Salon, Rumpus contributor Lauren Eggert-Crowe writes about her experience participating in a pheromone party, a phenomenon at the intersection of science and speed dating.

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What About the Sky?

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According to scholars, Homer never mentioned the color blue in any of his works; neither did the Bible, nor an abundance of ancient texts. Also, linguists have found a near-universal pattern in which languages developed color in stages, and blue was always the last to be named.

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Coffee for Life

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Here at Rumpus HQ, we take every caffeine-addiction-validating study to heart. So we’re pleased by this week’s research finding that “people who drank four or five cups of coffee a day tended to live longer than those who drank only a cup or less.”

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Memory Excavation

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Guernica examines the intersections of science, emotion, and memory by way of an exchange between novelist Rivka Galchen and neuroscience professor David Linden, featured in the Rubin Museum’s Brainwave series.

“As Linden explains in his book, ‘memory retrieval is an active and dynamic process.’ Thus recollecting past experiences—reliving them again and again or retelling them to others—subtly modifies the memories we keep.

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Worst. Water Bed. Ever.

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The Animal Kingdom, specifically the marine insect known as the water skater, has devised a new use for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, using the expanse of pelagic plastics as a space to lay its eggs.

The Patch, now 100 times bigger than it was in the ’70s, has a formidable impact on the ocean ecosystem as it spreads pollutants and its smaller bits are ingested by marine life at a tremendous rate.  With the addition of a more robust water skater population destabilizing the food chain, the Patch may very well be the most troubled neighborhood in the seven seas.  Here’s to hoping they develop a mutant appetite for high-density polyethylene.

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Our Brains On Art

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“While Rembrandt was an astonishingly talented artist, our response to his art is conditioned by all sorts of variables that have nothing to do with oil paint. Many of these variables are capable of distorting our perceptions, so that we imagine differences that don’t actually exist; the verdict of art history warps what we see.”

Jonah Lehrer explores how the brain perceives art.

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