Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson shares some of the big questions astronomers are working to answer:
We can measure the influence of this thing we call dark energy which is forcing an acceleration of the expanding universe. We don’t know what that is, we don’t know anything about it, other than what it’s doing to the universe.
Then 85 percent of the gravity of the universe has a point of origin about which we know nothing. We account for all the matter and energy that we’re familiar with, measure up how much gravity it should have, it’s about one-sixth of the gravity that’s actually operating on the universe. We call that dark matter, but what we should call it is “dark gravity.” We don’t know what that is either.
We don’t know how [Earth] went from inanimate organic molecules to self-replicating life. We got top people working on that as well.
We don’t know what was around before the universe. We don’t know what is at the center of a black hole. We don’t know whether or not the universe is actually one of many in a multiverse. We want to know if there’s life thriving in under ice oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
… But my favorite question is one that we don’t even know to ask yet because it’s a question that would arise upon answering these questions I just delivered to you. … If you’re a scientist and you have to have an answer, even in the absence of data, you’re not going to be a good scientist.
photo via NASA
OK, but this tho.
(Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson)
In today’s interview we listen to sounds we wouldn’t normally hear—such as tadpoles ‘munching’ on a hydrophone or sand moving like an avalanche on a dune. Acoustic engineer Trevor Cox's new book is called The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World. Here Cox explains thunder:
What’s amazing about thunder is when you hear it, it’s actually got that crack and then it’s got the rumble afterwards. As a kid, when you drew thunderstorms you would’ve drawn the lightning with that jagged line. If you didn’t have that jagged line, you wouldn’t have the rumble of the thunder.
… The visual look of lightning is really crucial to how the thunder sounds. … Each little kink is actually generating the sound, and … the sound takes different time to come from different kinks because they’re all slightly different distances from you. That’s the reason you get that very distinct rumble sound.
We’ve got some sounds from the interview here
Chicago’s Sears Tower backlit by multiple bolts of lightning. The picture was taken August 4, 2008, during the severe thunderstorm that spawned several tornadoes in the Chicago area.
Penelope Lewis, author of “The Secret World of Sleep" joins us today to discuss how our memories are strengthened while we sleep. She also has the inside scoop on how to trick your body into falling asleep, snacks before bed, and why anti-depressants inhibit dreaming.
Memory is a fickle and funny thing, isn’t it?
The New York Times published an article today on a study at M.I.T on false, or mistaken memories and where they come from.
Essentially, they shocked mice in one location and caused them to falsely remember the event occurring in a different location. The scientists could actually see the cells in their brains indicating a memory being formed in the location where they had not been shocked. When the mice were re-introduced to that first location (where they had not been shocked), they exhibited fear.
From the article:
'Because the mechanisms of memory formation are almost certainly similar in mice and humans, part of the importance of the research is “to make people realize even more than before how unreliable human memory is.”'
It also poses the question of why our brains would allow us to create false memories.
Here is a Fresh Air interview with scientist Suzanne Corkin on her work in short term memory and her book, Permanent Present Tense. Corkin worked with a patient (H.M.) who was unable to form new memories.
image via PBS
What we’re discovering is that we’re enormously malleable. We’re really responsive to our environment in a physical sense, but also in a psychological sense, in the sense that stress is one of the really big forces in epigenetic changes. So the malleability of the human body seems to me an argument for creating a better community, a better society, and that’s what I love about religion: is that it’s a place where you can turn for ideas about the good society. I recognize — as many people go around arguing — that religion can be used as a force for bad — but it can also be used as a source of ideas that drive us to the greater good. So I turn to science to tell us how to live and I turn to religion to tell us how to live and I follow neither of them slavishly.
Image by Electric Arc via Flickr Commons
This cute animal photo just made you a better worker: Study says looking at adorable little ones can make you more concentrated and productive.
Tests showed that an image of fluffy little critters “not only improves fine motor skills but also increases perceptual carefulness.” They could be used “to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work,” according to the report.
Justification to sneak an occasional peek at the CorgiCam or I Can Has Cheezburger? We think yes.
What’s your experience?
YES. YES. YES. Good news for all of us.
Scientists are just like novelists in a way. We’re all trying to tell a good story that explains how the world works and we’re interested in understanding how it works in exactly the same way that perhaps the early philosophers were. But we have much better tools with which to dissect it and understand it today. And the thing about science is it’s always based on the facts. So if facts change and you discover new ones or many more new facts don’t fit the old ones, then you have to change the story. That’s how major scientific revolutions happen, as, for example, when people suddenly realized that the earth goes around the sun. So science is indeed a theory. But I really like what the very famous American physicist [Richard] Feynman said. He said, ‘Science is imagination in a strait jacket’. We are constrained by all the things which we already know, so you can’t simply conjure a story out of the air. It has to explain all the current facts and the new ones that have just been discovered. And it has to make predictions that can then be tested to see whether in fact that story continues to hold when we know even more information.
Trace amounts of pesticides, dioxin and a jet fuel ingredient – as well as high-to-average levels of flame retardants.
When science journalist Florence Williams was nursing her second child, she read a research study about toxins found in human breast milk. She decided to test her own breast milk and shipped a sample to a lab in Germany.
Tomorrow: Breasts are getting bigger and arriving earlier. And breast milk might not be as pure as you think it is. We’ll talk to science writer Florence Williams about her new book, Breasts.
Sprinkler Alarms (by spronkey)
Tomorrow: a social history of breasts with science writer Florence Williams
My Peaks are Stiff ~ Cliché Saturday (by Bunny Spice)