Month: April 2015

Astronomers discover largest known structure in the universe is … a big hole

Astronomers discover largest known structure in the universe is ... a big hole | Science | The Guardian

via The Guardian: ‘Astronomers have discovered what they say is the largest known structure in the universe: an incredibly big hole (circled, at lower right in map above).

The “supervoid”, as it is known, is a spherical blob 1.8 billion light years across that is distinguished by its unusual emptiness.

István Szapudi, who led the work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, described the object as possibly “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity”.

Its existence only emerged thanks to a targeted astronomical survey, which confirmed that around 10,000 galaxies were “missing” from the part of the sky it sits in.

Szapudi’s team was intentionally searching for the void because they believed that it could explain previous observations showing that part of the sky is unusually cool.’

 

Editing Human Embryos: So This Is Happening

Carl Zimmer via The Loom: ‘Earlier this week, Chinese researchers reported that they edited the genes of human embryos using a new technique called CRISPR. While these embryos will not be growing up into genetically modified people, I suspect this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine. David Cyranoski and Sara Reardon broke the news today at Nature News. Here I’ve put together a quick guide to the history behind this research, what the Chinese scientists did, and what it may signify.’

 

UNESCO Intangible Heritage

via UNESCO: ‘The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity is made up of those intangible heritage elements that help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance. In 2008 the Committee incorporated 90 elements (formerly proclaimed Masterpieces) into the Representative List and from 2009 to 2014, it inscribed 224 new elements for an overall number of 314 elements on the Representative List.’

 

The M7.8 Earthquake In Nepal Is Going To Be Really, Really Nasty

Via io9: ‘A major shallow earthquake hit near Kathmandu in Nepal just before noon on Saturday local time. Between high population densities, intense prolonged shaking, unstable slopes, and inadequate buildings, this has the makings of a very nasty disaster.’

via Gizmodo: ‘There are a few important ways you can contribute to the Nepal earthquake relief effort from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.’

I’m praying for all my friends in Kathmandu.

Are Two Giant Black Holes About to Collide?

Are Two Giant Black Holes About to Collide?

Via National Geographic: ‘A collision between two giant black holes is the most titanic smashup astronomers can imagine. Nobody’s ever seen it happen—but if a new report in Astrophysical Journal Letters is correct, they might not have long to wait….

When that happens, says Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, the collision should release a powerful burst of gravitational waves—ripples in the very fabric of spacetime itself. Physicists have built enormous instruments to detect those waves, which would be a ringing confirmation of the theory.’

 

Gorilla Cracks Glass Window At Zoo After Little Girl Beats Chest

Via IFLScience: ‘For Kijito—the 375-pound male gorilla—it may have just been a matter of mixed signals. What the girl found funny, the gorilla deemed aggressive. Officials at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo said that no one was in danger, even when the pane of glass cracked.

“Shortly before this, we were telling the kids [the gorillas] could not break [the glass],” said Kevin Cave, the father in the video, to Omaha World-Herald. “They will never believe us again.” ‘

 

Search for the Loch Ness Monster from your couch

Google Maps lets you search for the Loch Ness Monster from your couch | The Verge

Via The Verge: ‘On the 81st anniversary of the iconic Surgeon’s Photograph — the fake image claiming to show the head and neck of the Loch Ness Monster — Google Maps will now let you search for Nessie yourself. Street View has been updated to include imagery of the 23-mile-long Loch Ness in Scotland, and Google even sent a team of divers into the depths of the nearly 800-foot-deep loch to capture underwater images of the legendary lake. Is the Loch Ness Monster real? Is it resting at the bottom of Loch Ness? The answer to your questions may now be hidden in a Street View image.’

Monster or not, Loch Ness is one of my favorite spots on earth, so this is good news.

 

The Problem With Satisfied Patients

Via The Atlantic: ‘When Department of Health and Human Services administrators decided to base 30 percent of hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement on patient satisfaction survey scores, they likely figured that transparency and accountability would improve healthcare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) officials wrote, rather reasonably, “Delivery of high-quality, patient-centered care requires us to carefully consider the patient’s experience in the hospital inpatient setting.” They probably had no idea that their methods could end up indirectly harming patients…

The Problem With Satisfied Patients — The Atlantic

Patient-satisfaction surveys have their place. But the potential cost of the subjective scores are leading hospitals to steer focus away from patient health, messing with the highest stakes possible: people’s lives.’

 

Why don’t our brains explode at movie cuts?

Via Aeon: ‘With a cut, a filmmaker can instantaneously replace most of what is available in your visual field with completely different stuff. This is something that never happened in the 3.5 billion years or so that it took our visual systems to develop. You might think, then, that cutting might cause something of a disturbance when it first appeared. And yet nothing in contemporary reports suggests that it did.’

 

Dark Chocolate Is Not Good for You, and Also Sucks

Via Gawker:

“Oh, your dark chocolate only has 70% cacao? You poor thing. I only eat 97% cacao fair trade raw vegan organic helper monkey picked chocolate that’s been through the digestive system of a spotted African cat.”

 

Ted Cruz is dangerous: Why liberals scoff at his campaign at their peril

Via Salon.com:

‘Since Ted Cruz first announced his candidacy, much has been made of his chances of winning, his arrogance and his extreme conservative views. But most of the controversy over his candidacy centers on his lying.It is no surprise to any of us that politicians lie. We generally assume they stretch the truth to get elected, to denigrate their political foes, and to bolster their images. But Cruz may just represent one of the biggest liars in recent history. In fact, he may be a whole new form of political liar.

The Daily Beast reports that, “Cruz’s Politifact track record for publicly asserted falsehoods is the second-highest among front-runners, totaling 56 percent of all statements they’ve looked at.” And Matthew Rozsa tell us that “Googling ‘Ted Cruz lies’ pulls back an astonishing 7,890,000 results, and on Twitter, the two phrases are basically synonymous.”

The trouble with this angle on Cruz’s misstatements is that it presumes that Cruz is, in fact, lying. But lying depends on the liar knowing that what he is saying is false. Cruz shows no signs of such awareness. As Ann Marie Cox points out in her survey of Cruz’s lies, there’s more going on here than just a politician’s twisting of the truth or a partisan spin on data. She wonders whether it is time to take seriously the idea that he really believes what he is saying. “There are objective falsehoods that show Cruz could just be looking at a different set of data. Other, more telling whoppers show that Cruz isn’t just looking at different data, he’s living in a different universe.”

That different universe is Cruz’s world of misinformation. He doesn’t lie because lying would require that he actually know the truth. And that is what makes Cruz an even greater threat to the health of our democracy than all of his lies put together. Cruz represents a turn in GOP politics where political beliefs operate more like religious fervor than reasoned inference.’

 

6 modern-day Christian terrorist groups our media conveniently ignores

Via Salon.com: ‘The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently released an in-depth report on terrorism in the United States. Covering April 2009 to February 2015, the report (titled “The Age of the Wolf”) found that during that period, “more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.” [Although] “the jihadist threat is a tremendous one,”  law enforcement, the SPLC stressed, are doing the public a huge disservice if they view terrorism as an exclusively Islamist phenomenon.’

A Chart Of The Most Common Colors In Paintings Over The Last 200 Years

Via io9: ‘Next time you’re strolling through a museum, pay attention to just the colors of the paintings and the years. Notice anything? Paintings have been getting progressively bluer.

Or, to put it another way, blue is becoming “the new orange,” says Martin Bellander, who put together this chart analyzing color usage in over 120,000 paintings. To make this visualization, he scraped data and images from the BBC’s database of famous paintings through the centuries and analyzed which colors predominated.

Orange is, indeed, far and away the most used color in paintings through the 19th century, and then the usage of other colors — blue, in particular — start to creep upwards so that by our own time, the color spread is fairly evenly spread across the spectrum. Why exactly this happened isn’t clear. But just as interesting is the question of how far we can expect it to go: Will the current state of more-or-less color equilibrium hold, or will a similar chart a few centuries from now show blue sweeping the field, just like orange used to?’

 

Great advice from Marshall McLuhan:

Marshall McLuhan caused wide irritation with h...

Via Boing Boing: ‘Read only the right-hand page of serious books. “If it’s a frivolous, relaxing book, I read every word. But serious books I read on the right-hand side only because I’ve discovered enormous redundancy in any well-written book, and I find that by reading only the right-hand page this keeps me very wide awake, filling in the other page out of my own noodle.” ‘

 

Mice are tiny, quiet singers, according to science

Via Salon.com: ‘Male mice sing ultrasonic love songs to woo mates according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience. In fact, the mice perform long, complex strings of syllables the same way as song birds.

“Those songs are really high in pitch, above 50 kilohertz, and are not audible to humans,” said Jonathan Chabout, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University. “When we pitch them down and play back at real speed, it sounds like a bird.” ‘