Shared posts

23 Feb 16:02

Rob Knight: How our microbes make us who we are

by TEDTalks
Rob Knight is a pioneer in studying human microbes, the community of tiny single-cell organisms living inside our bodies that have a huge — and largely unexplored — role in our health. “The three pounds of microbes that you carry around with you might be more important than every single gene you carry around in your genome,” he says. Find out why.
20 Feb 05:00

Fundamental Forces

"Of these four forces, there's one we don't really understand." "Is it the weak force or the strong--" "It's gravity."
13 Feb 15:56

Hannah Fry: The mathematics of love

by TEDTalks
Finding the right mate is no cakewalk -- but is it even mathematically likely? In a charming talk, mathematician Hannah Fry shows patterns in how we look for love, and gives her top three tips (verified by math!) for finding that special someone.
02 Feb 22:13

The History of Frame Rate for Film


Explore the history of the frame rate - the engine that gives motion to the motion picture from their earliest versions in silent pictures to the frame rates of broadcast television.

This lesson is proudly sponsored by RØDE Microphones:


Tags: Frame Rate, History, John P. Hess, FilmmakerIQ,, Frame and Documentary

27 Jan 14:00

Modern languages show no trace of our African origins

by Cathleen O'Grady

The evolution of human culture is often compared to biological evolution, and it’s easy to see why: both involve variation across a population, transmission of units from one generation to the next, and factors that ensure the survival of some variants and the death of others. However, sometimes this comparison fails. Culture, for instance, can be transmitted “horizontally” between members of the same generation, but genes can’t.

“Little is known about whether human demographic history generates patterns in linguistic data that are similar to those found in genetic data,” write the authors of a recent paper in PNAS. Both linguistic and genetic data can be used to draw conclusions about human history, but it's vital to understand how the forces affecting them differ in order to be sure that the conclusions we're drawing are accurate.

By conducting a large-scale analysis on global genetic and linguistic data, the researchers found that languages sometimes behave in ways very unlike genetics. For instance, isolated languages have more, not less, diversity, and languages don't retain the echo of a migration out of Africa—unlike our genomes.

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22 Jan 16:00

Genome engineering used to create a bacterial kill switch

by John Timmer

In 2011, researchers announced that they had reprogrammed the genome of the bacteria E. coli, changing it so that one of DNA's methods of encoding information went unused. While a technological tour-de-force, the scientists didn't actually do anything with the newly available bit of genetic code. Now a few years later, two different groups have used it to accomplish the same end: creating genetically modified organisms that may never be able to escape into the wild.

All forms of life we're aware of use what's called a triplet code: it takes three bases in a row in order to encode for one of the amino acids that make up a protein. A series of triplets, stretched out along the DNA, can be read to determine the precise order of amino acids. At the end of the list of amino acid codes, you'll find what's called a stop codon. The three stop codons (TAA, TAG, and TGA in their DNA form) don't code for any amino acids, which the cell interprets as an indication to terminate translation of codes into amino acids.

Since there are three stop codons that mean essentially the same thing, the earlier work involved replacing all instances of one of them (TAG) with a different one (TAA). The editing process preceded in stages but, by the time it was done, all 314 cases where TAG was used as a stop codon had been replaced. This, in effect, freed up TAG to encode something else, such as an artificial amino acid.

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19 Jan 20:56

Google, Fidelity invest $1 billion in SpaceX and satellite Internet plan [Updated]

by Megan Geuss

Update: SpaceX confirmed that it had received $1 billion in funding from Google and Fidelity Investments. The two companies will together own slightly less than 10 percent of the company. "This funding will be used to support continued innovation in the areas of space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing," SpaceX said in a short statement on its website.

Speaking to Ars, a Google spokesperson added, “Space-based applications, like imaging satellites, can help people more easily access important information, so we’re excited to support SpaceX’s growth as it develops new launch technologies.”

Ars has contacted Fidelity for a statement and will update if we receive a response.

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18 Jan 21:15

Satellite Internet: meet the hip new investment for Richard Branson, Elon Musk

by Megan Geuss

It was an interesting week for ideas about the future of the Internet. On Wednesday, satellite industry notable Greg Wyler announced that his company OneWeb, which wants to build a micro-satellite network to bring Internet to all corners of the globe, secured investments from Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Qualcomm. Then in a separate announcement on Friday, Elon Musk said that he would also be devoting his new Seattle office to creating "advanced micro-satellites" to deliver Internet.

The satellite veteran

OneWeb, formerly WorldVu Satellites Ltd, aims to target rural markets, emerging markets, and in-flight Internet services on airlines, the Wall Street Journal reported. Both Branson and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs will sit on the company's board, but Wyler did not say how much Virgin and Qualcomm invested in his company.

Wyler said that his company's goal is to create a network of 648 small satellites that would weigh in at around 285 pounds each. The satellites would be put in orbit 750 miles above the Earth and ideally cost about $350,000 each to build using an assembly line approach. Wyler also said that Virgin, which has its own space segment, would be launching the satellites into orbit. “As an airline and mobile operator, Virgin might also be a candidate to resell OneWeb’s service,” the Journal noted. Wyler has said that he projects it to take $1.5 billion to $2 billion to launch the service, and he plans to launch in 2018.

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16 Jan 17:25

SpaceX releases video of Falcon 9’s explosive landing

by John Timmer

Today, under the heading of "Close, but no cigar," SpaceX released video of its Falcon 9 booster's failed landing following last weekend's successful launch. This was the company's first attempt at retrieving one of its boosters for reuse, and it publicly stated that it wasn't expecting success on the first try. But the video will clearly provide some information on what went wrong with the landing.

It shows the booster drifting above the barge that was its intended landing site; the lighting makes it a bit difficult to tell whether the rocket was oriented vertically at that point. Then, as it was clearly off target and headed past the far end of the barge, the booster tilted heavily in order to re-center itself on the landing site. Unfortunately, it was quite low by that point, and it ended up striking the barge while leaning heavily to one side. That set off the explosion of its remaining fuel, scattering rocket parts out into the ocean.

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15 Jan 20:10

Thin atmosphere is enough to keep many exoplanets spinning

by John Timmer

The majority of stars in our galaxy, and most likely the Universe as a whole, are small, (relatively) dim, low mass bodies. Because they emit much less light, the habitable zone for these stars is close in, where planets would take weeks to complete a full orbit. That's also close enough where the star's gravity can create tidal interactions with the planet's interior, slowing its spin until the planet perpetually shows a single face to the star (much like our Moon does to Earth).

Needless to say, leaving one side of the planet perpetually in the dark could have some rather interesting effects on the environment, including the idea of an "eyeball Earth." That's where the area facing the host star is melted while the rest of the planet remains a frozen wasteland. But now some researchers have suggested eyeball Earths may be a rarity: an atmosphere like Earth's is enough to keep a body from becoming tidally locked.

The tidal forces we recognize most easily are (duh) the tides on Earth, which are pulled around by the Moon's orbit. But tidal forces also operate on a moon or planet's flexible interior, creating a friction that gradually slows the body's rotation. That's why many of the moons in our Solar System are tidally locked, even though there aren't any oceans to be seen. (Although the internal friction may melt enough of the interior to create internal oceans.)

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08 Jan 15:00

Supermassive black hole binary discovered

by Xaq Rzetelny

When galaxies collide, they tend to intermingle, ultimately forming a new, merged galaxy. And the supermassive black holes from the original galaxies’ cores should generally end up at the core of the new galaxy, according to current models. Some models predict that the two supermassive black holes could orbit each other, forming a black hole binary system. However, until recently, this has proved difficult to actually observe. Current instruments can’t resolve the difference between two supermassive black holes like these, which could be significantly less than a parsec apart.

But by using alternative methods, recent searches have found some promising candidates that could be supermassive black hole binary systems. In a new study, a team of researchers has reported a strong, clear signal from an extremely bright quasar that appears to be an example of a black hole binary. While this identification is still uncertain, the researchers conclude it’s the most plausible explanation of the behavior of that quasar.


Quasars are simply extremely bright supermassive black holes, with the intense light originating from their jets and accretion disks. The jets, which emerge at each pole, are probably caused by their magnetic fields interacting with their spin and mass. The black hole also often has a disk of material falling in, called an accretion disk, that can produce a lot of light, since the infalling material is hot from friction.

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29 Dec 05:00

December 29, 2014

Bonus comic over at THE NIB!
22 Dec 19:12

Things You Didn't Know About North Korea

by (Damn Cool Pics)

23 Dec 16:31

Michael Rubinstein: See invisible motion, hear silent sounds

by TEDTalks
Meet the “motion microscope,” a video-processing tool that plays up tiny changes in motion and color impossible to see with the naked eye. Video researcher Michael Rubinstein plays us clip after jaw-dropping clip showing how this tech can track an individual’s pulse and heartbeat simply from a piece of footage. Watch him re-create a conversation by amplifying the movements from sound waves bouncing off a bag of chips. The wow-inspiring and sinister applications of this tech you have to see to believe.
22 Dec 00:05

Christmas coach

19 Dec 20:57

The Coder and the Beast

by CommitStrip

16 Dec 15:50

Jeremy Howard: The wonderful and terrifying implications of computers that can learn

by TEDTalks
What happens when we teach a computer how to learn? Technologist Jeremy Howard shares some surprising new developments in the fast-moving field of deep learning, a technique that can give computers the ability to learn Chinese, or to recognize objects in photos, or to help think through a medical diagnosis. (One deep learning tool, after watching hours of YouTube, taught itself the concept of “cats.”) Get caught up on a field that will change the way the computers around you behave … sooner than you probably think.
15 Dec 13:55



10 Dec 19:16

Ancient doodle hints that Homo erectus was smarter than we thought

by Ars Staff

When piecing together the story of human capabilities, one of the most useful sources of evidence available is the presence or absence of an ability in other species. Humans make art; chimpanzees do not. This gives us some clues about the time bracket where we should search for the emergence of symbolic and abstract thinking.

It wasn’t clear whether extinct species of humans like Neanderthals engaged in these behaviors until earlier this year, when a group of researchers announced evidence of Neanderthal etchings in a cave wall from more than 39,000 years ago. Now, a new paper in Nature reports a more startling discovery: etchings on a shell that date back to 500,000 years ago, created by an entirely different species: Homo erectus. The shell was actually found with the first Homo erectus skeleton, Java Man, but has sat in a collection until recently re-analyzed.

The intentional creation of abstract patterns is seen as a major step in cognitive evolution, no matter how simple the patterns. It is “generally interpreted as indicative of modern cognition and behavior,” write the researchers who discovered the shell etchings. If Homo erectus was carving abstract patterns, it means that they were capable of more advanced cognition and motor control than previously thought.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

08 Dec 16:28

Jose Miguel Sokoloff: How Christmas lights helped guerrillas put down their guns

by TEDTalks
“In my lifetime, I have never lived one day of peace in my country,” says Jose Miguel Sokoloff. This ad executive from Colombia saw a chance to help guerrilla fighters choose to come home -- with smart marketing. He shares how some creative, welcoming messages have helped thousands of guerrillas decide to put down their weapons -- and the key insights behind these surprising tactics.
10 Dec 14:47

How to Draw Mushrooms on an Oscilloscope with Sound

by Christopher Jobson

How to Draw Mushrooms on an Oscilloscope with Sound video sound

In this surprisingly interesting video from Jerobeam Fenderson we watch (and listen) as he explains how to draw images using the visualizations of sound waves on an old analog Tektronix oscilloscope. To be clear: the images you’re seeing here are not being animated through software, instead Fenderson creates waveforms (sounds) using his computer, and those sound waves LOOK LIKE THIS when fed into an oscilloscope. Suffice to say there’s lots of math involved, and it’s all a little bit over my head, but luckily he answers some questions over on his blog about how it all works. Make sure to watch through to the end.

28 Nov 14:08

Doctor appeal


384 doctor pidjin 6-01

384 doctor pidjin 6-01

384 doctor pidjin 6-01

384 doctor pidjin 6-01

384 doctor pidjin 6-01

12 Nov 16:00

Ethan Nadelmann: Why we need to end the War on Drugs

by TEDTalks
Is the War on Drugs doing more harm than good? In a bold talk, drug policy reformist Ethan Nadelmann makes an impassioned plea to end the "backward, heartless, disastrous" movement to stamp out the drug trade. He gives two big reasons we should focus on intelligent regulation instead.
14 Nov 20:05

Первый по фотошопу

(большая картинка по ссылке)

Сегодня первый канал на всю страну выдал свою версию катастрофы малазийского боинга, произошедшей 17 июля. Тогда погибло 298 человек, и до сих пор не понятны точные обстоятельства произошедшего. Первый канал представил зрителям якобы снимки со спутника, на которых предположительно видно, как истребитель сбивает самолёт. При детальном рассмотрении выяснилось, что это очень грубо слепленная в фотошопе фальшивка, откопанная редакторами первого канала на форуме, где обсуждают заговоры.

Вот что конкретно тут не так:
— Снимок был сделал с гугл-карт в 2012 году, вот только одна из склеек

— на фотографии предположительно СУ-27, но никак не МиГ, о котором говорят в репортаже. Вот сравнение, обратите внимание на хвост.

— размеры истребителя и самолета вызывают большие сомнения. Вот пример как показывается самолет на снимках со спутников.

Еще про размеры: длина северной кромки лесного массива, что находится под Мигом справа ~850 метров... Размах крыльев Мига составляет 11,36 м... Учитывая, что на "фотографии" перечисленные сущности визуально равны, эту "фотографию" должны были делать с высоты много меньше 10 км...

— на снимке показано место в 60 км от места крушения

— Время, указанное на снимке, не совпадает с временем, когда сбили самолет (его сбили около UTC 13:21). На снимке с таким временем должны была быть ночь.

— Навальный выяснил, что эксперт из репортажа не является никаким инженером и не получал технического образования.

— Первая картинка по поиску гугла "Боинг вид сверху" полностью совпадает с самолетом со снимка.


— Nickolay (@interhalfer) 14 ноября 2014

— мало того, что картинка самолета взята из гугла, так еще и надпись на борту самолета, который сбили, расположена в другом месте

— сторона, в которую должна была попасть ракета с картинки первого канала, не совпадает с местом попадания ракеты в боинг

— после выпуска ракеты истребителем за ним остается инверсионный след от выпускаемой ракеты, на картинке первого канала этого не видно

Комментарий Владимира Салуянова о подлинности снимка, руководитель аппарата Российского союза инженеров:
Снимок экрана 2014-11-15 в 0.39.37

Запись репортажа:

Детальный разбор:

СМИ, которые опубликовали эту "сенсацию":
Московский комсомолец — уже удалили.
Говорит Москва
Телеканал Звезда
Комсомольская правда

Это только один из эпизодов информационной войны. Держите свой мозг в чистоте, не смотрите телевизор.

07 Nov 20:20

New telescope array captures planet-forming disk orbiting distant star

by John Timmer

Yesterday, the European Southern Observatory released the first images taken with the upgraded version of its ALMA telescope. The images capture a disk of material orbiting the young star HL Tauri in exquisite detail, showing gaps in the disk that are likely to be created by the formation of larger, potentially planet-sized bodies.

ALMA stands for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. As its name implies, it's located in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions on the planet. It's also placed at 5,000 meters above sea level; the combination limits the imaging complications posed by Earth's atmosphere. ALMA is an array of multiple individual telescopes, with the final image constructed by mathematically processing the input of each individual telescope.

The final resolution of these images depends on the distance among the telescopes, and ALMA has just received an upgrade that places them up to 15 kilometers apart. This is close to the planned final configuration (which will allow 16km separations) and much larger than previous telescopes that imaged at this wavelength, which were limited to separations of about 2km.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

07 Nov 15:00

Dark matter: Devourer of stars

by Chris Lee

A type of star that I hold dear is the pulsar (a type of neutron star). Not just because the first one discovered was called LGM-1 (Little Green Men), but because they are a rich mixture of quantum physics, electromagnetism, and gravity, all in a single macroscopic object. For a young graduate student, being able to solve a set of equations and describe (at a simple level) the behavior of an entire freaking star is just mind-blowing.

But they are also a huge mystery, having a complex structure and possibly mountains. Another mystery that's not inherent to the objects themselves is that neutron stars of a certain type are conspicuous by their absence in the galactic center. There are many possible reasons for this absence—maybe there aren't any good schools in the neighborhood or it's too far to the local pub—but one of the most exciting possibilities is that the heaviest neutron stars are being hunted down and devoured by dark matter.

Neutron stars are essentially the corpses of stars. After burning through all their fuel and exploding in a last furious burst of energy, the remaining matter collapses in on itself. The temperature and pressure get so high that the electrons and protons fuse to form neutrons. However, their mass isn't sufficient for gravity to force the neutrons together—if it were, a black hole would form.

The pressure that prevents a neutron star from collapsing is called the Fermi pressure. Neutrons are fermions, which means they repel each other. Fermions cannot occupy the same quantum state, so at close range, they stack in energy and space themselves out. This unusual state also generates huge magnetic fields, which accelerates charged particles to enormous energies as the star spins. These particles emit beams of radiation that sweep around like the beam from a light house. When we happen to fall in the path of this beam, we record this as a regular blip of light.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

10 Nov 05:00


I need an extension for my research project because I spent all month trying to figure out whether learning Dvorak would help me type it faster.
24 Oct 12:42

New Shopping Label


New Shopping Label

This would drastically affect my shopping decisions. Comment on Facebook!

21 Oct 15:08

The north pole moved to the North Pole in a single human lifetime

by Scott K. Johnson

Geology rewards an active imagination. It gives us a lot of tantalizing clues about very different times and places in Earth’s history, leaving us to try to answer “Man, what would that be like?” One of the things that's tough to imagine involves changing something that most of us never give a second thought—the fact that compasses point north. That’s plainly true today, but it hasn’t always been.

What we call the “north” magnetic pole—the object of your compass’ affection—doesn’t need to be located in the Arctic (it noticeably wanders there, by the way). It feels equally at home in the Antarctic. The geologic record tells us that the north and south magnetic poles frequently trade places. In fact, the signal of this magnetic flip-flopping recorded in the seafloor was the final key to the discovery of plate tectonics, as it let us see how ocean crust forms and moves over time.

That the poles flip is interesting in itself, but “Man, what would that be like?” Does the magnetic pole slowly walk along the curve of the Earth over thousands of years, meaning your compass might have pointed to some part of the equator for long stretches of time? Do the poles weaken to nothing, disappearing for a while before re-emerging in the new configuration? Do they somehow flip in the blink of an eye? Given the number of species that use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate—especially for seasonal migrations—this is more than an academic curiosity.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

15 Oct 15:09

Jorge Soto: The future of early cancer detection?

by TEDTalks
Along with a crew of technologists and scientists, Jorge Soto is developing a simple, noninvasive, open-source test that looks for early signs of multiple forms of cancer. Onstage at TEDGlobal 2014, he demonstrates a working prototype of the mobile platform for the first time.