Laugh first, think later. That’s the theory behind the annual Ig Nobel Awards, which celebrate academia’s most bizarre, irrelevant studies. Past winners have included Dan Quayle, doctors who found that Viagra helps jet-lagged hamsters, and two researchers who proved that sword-swallowing is dangerous. This year’s feature ovulating strippers, intelligent slime and soft drinks that double as spermicide.
If you make a mess, just cover it up. That's the theory behind the Department of Water and Power's latest project in Los Angeles, which aims to prevent the formation of a carcinogen in two drinking-water sources, the Ivanhoe [pictured] and Elysian reservoirs.
Finally, mental health is getting the respect it deserves.
Yesterday, Congress approved legislation that will compel employers and health insurers to provide the same benefits for mental illnesses as they do for physical ones. It hasn't been an easy bill to pass. For 15 years, the mental health bill has been stuck on the House and Senate floors, where it's been rewritten several times. Now, almost everyone is behind the legislation, including both parties, the President, businesses, insurance companies and the medical community. And the bill's advocates are thanking science for transforming the public's view of mental illness, which led to its passage. Representative Patrick Kennedy praised science for destroying "the myth that this stuff is a choice," according to a Washington Post article.
The myth may be busted, but that doesn't mean the legislation is a shoo-in.
Scientists have known for years that map sense stems from the magnetite in birds’ beaks, which measures the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field so they recognize home when they get there. But how do they know which direction home is?
Primate intelligence gives me cognitive dissonance. It's fascinating that monkeys can recognize numbers, construct tools and even follow to-do lists. But it also bruises my ego, just slightly, knowing that monkeys aren't that different from my parents, friends or heroes. (Michael Phelps excluded. He's the übermensch.)
Lost in drive-by country? Look for a cow. It will probably be pointing north—or south.
After analyzing satellite photos of 8,000 cows in 308 different locations, German scientists have found that the milk-makers usually confront the world in a north-south direction. This preference isn’t an indication of the cows sunning themselves, researchers say—it shows that they can sense the Earth’s magnetic field.
The beige-colored Jabal Bayda volcano crater, seen in the top center of this image, is almost a mile wide.
Science and Analysis Laboratory/NASA Johnson Space Center/Anne Phillips
The sands of Harrat Khaybar, in the Saudi Arabian desert, weren't always so parched. Evidence on the ground, such as fossilized hippo teeth, has led geologists to conclude that this dessicated lava field was once a lush grassland. But the case is even clearer from space, as seen in this photograph, taken from the International Space Station in March.
In the eighties, scientists issued a strange warning: don’t drink grapefruit juice if you’re taking the high-blood-pressure drug felodipine. The study, led by University of Western Ontario’s David Bailey, found that the body’s levels of felodipine mushroomed after people drank the bittersweet nectar. They later identified 50 more medications that exhibited the “grapefruit juice effect,” stamped warning labels on them, and called it a day.
Fifty years after Popular Science profiled his alternative vehicle, William Bertelsen is still tinkering away
By Holly OtterbeinPosted 07.31.2008 at 4:27 pm 4 Comments
In 1959, William Bertelsen became the unlikely star of a national science magazine.
He wasn't a scientist. He was the country doctor of Neponset, Ill., his hometown of 500 people; he was married, with three girls and one boy. In all his days at school, he hadn't taken a single class in aerodynamics, and only took one course in physics.
Then, at 38, his career in cooking up futuristic, unorthodox vehicles began.
Say goodbye to slow downloads: Australian scientists develop chip that makes Internet 60 times faster
By Holly OtterbeinPosted 07.28.2008 at 4:09 pm 12 Comments
Sometimes, what futurist Ray Kurzweil calls the "ever-increasing rate of technology" is scary. (Who, exactly, wants to live forever? Or grant robots the same rights as humans?) But when singularity—the theory that technology will improve exponentially until it reaches a state of unprecedented progress—quickens the Internet's pace by a hundredfold, I will gladly drink Kurzweil's Kool-Aid. Scientists from the University of Sydney have inadvertently demonstrated this theory by making the Web 60 times faster than current top-notch speeds, and promising to raise that to 100 times in the near future.