By Ryan Bradley
Posted 12.23.2011 at 11:01 am 1 Comment
No. The charm has nothing to do with the music and everything to do with the charmer waving a pungi, a reed instrument carved out of a gourd, in the snake’s face. Snakes don’t have external ears and can perceive little more than low-frequency rumbles. But when they see something threatening, they rise up in a defensive pose. “The movement of the snake is completely keyed in on the guy playing the toodley thing,” says Robert Drewes, chairman of the department of herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles) at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
By Kaitlin Miller
Posted 12.14.2011 at 1:11 pm 0 Comments
Yes, but only with practice. The best place to start is right before bed. Deirdre Barrett, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of The Committee of Sleep, asked 76 college students to choose a problem (where to take a vacation; how to arrange their furniture) and focus on it while falling asleep. The subjects recorded their dreams for a week, and graduate students reviewed the material and found that a third of the students successfully solved the problem in their dreams.
Probably not. Even when it’s nipping at our toes, wireless electricity is pretty safe. In 1899, Serbian engineer Nikola Tesla built a 142-foot-tall, 12-million-volt electric coil in Colorado Springs and transmitted electricity wirelessly across 25 miles, illuminating 200 lamps with the charge. After he flipped the switch, flashes of lightning leaped from the coil, but no one was harmed.
Yes, the universe itself will eventually outpace the speed of light. Just how this will happen is a bit complicated, so let’s begin at the very beginning: the big bang. Around 14 billion years ago, all matter in the universe was thrown in every direction. That first explosion is still pushing galaxies outward. Scientists know this because of the Doppler effect, among other reasons. The wavelengths of light from other galaxies shift as they move away from us, just as the pitch of an ambulance siren changes as it moves past.
By Nick Statt
Posted 09.14.2011 at 10:30 am 34 Comments
Enough to fill a big soup can. “That’s three to five pounds of bacteria,” says Lita Proctor, the program coordinator of the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, which studies the communities of bacteria living on and in us. The bacteria cells in our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1, she says, but because they are much smaller than human cells, they account for only about 1 to 2 percent of our body mass—though they do make up about half of our body’s waste.
By Joseph A. Bernstein
Posted 07.28.2011 at 10:07 am 19 Comments
Consider the autoclave, which scientists use to sterilize tools and which issues scalding steam to do so. Or consider the heat gun, which is used to dry glassware and to warm distillation devices. It can also ignite anything flammable that gets too close. Glass containers in a vacuum can implode, spraying shards everywhere. Centrifuge rotors can fail, causing explosions that throw shock waves throughout a lab filled with chemicals. Steel vessels built to contain liquids and gases at hundreds of pounds of pressure per square inch can rupture, hurling metal at lab workers.
Cats get seasonal allergies to pollen and grass, and some have year-round allergies to fleas and dust mites. Sandy Willis, a veterinary internist who advises the American Veterinary Medical Association, says that when cats interact with an allergen, their body sends immunoglobulin E antibodies to link with it, triggering the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause itchy eyes, runny noses, sneezing, hives and rashes.
It is very hard to say. In February, the editors of The Guinness Book of World Records announced that the Infinity chili, grown by Nick Woods, the proprietor of a hot-sauce company in Lincolnshire, England, was the hottest pepper ever—more than 250 times as hot as Tabasco sauce. Just two weeks later, Guinness declared that the Infinity had been unseated by another British-grown hybrid, the Naga Viper.
By Ryan Bradley
Posted 05.23.2011 at 4:17 pm 7 Comments
The escalator was patented in 1892, and the design hasn’t changed much since then. The landing platforms make entry and exit dicey endeavors—particularly when the moving stairs disappear beneath them, and all manner of clothing and body parts can get stuck. In recent years, escalators have torn the big toe from a Croc-wearing child in Singapore, bucked dozens of riders in Washington, D.C., and strangled a tipsy sushi chef when the hood of his sweatshirt got caught in the gap between the stairs and the landing platform.
By Ryan Bradley
Posted 05.19.2011 at 11:00 am 9 Comments
Not yet, though we’ve been trying to do so since at least the 1970s. Fabricating an environment that needs no power other than the sun and is a closed system (where waste gets broken down and reused) is extremely difficult.
By Caitlin Kearney
Posted 05.17.2011 at 11:00 am 2 Comments
You might get scurvy, like a pirate. Cooked meat contains very little vitamin C, notes Donald Beitz, a nutritional biochemist at Iowa State University. Without the vitamin, scurvy would bring on rashes and gum disease, not to mention very bad breath. Moreover, meat lacks fiber, so you’d probably be constipated. All in all, you wouldn’t be healthy or comfortable.
By Benjamin Ewen-Campen
Posted 05.11.2011 at 11:00 am 12 Comments
This may seem obvious. But in evolutionary terms, the benefits of sexual reproduction are not immediately clear. Male rhinoceros beetles grow huge, unwieldy horns half the length of their body that they use to fight for females. Ribbon-tailed birds of paradise produce outlandish plumage to attract a mate. Darwin was bothered by such traits, since his theory of evolution couldn’t completely explain them (“The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me feel sick!” he wrote to a friend).
By Caitlin Kearney
Posted 04.19.2011 at 10:13 am 80 Comments
In a roundabout way, yes. But first we must heat that atmosphere, since the surface of Mars is about –58°F. “We know how to warm planets; we’re doing it right now,” says Robert Zubrin, the president of the nonprofit Mars Society, a group devoted to Martian exploration.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.