Something to think about, there


For all those who can seriously, at such a moment of profound technological triumph, find themselves saying things like “Surely this money could have been spent better on something else”: please note that you’re not thinking this through.

Brief example: the Space Shuttle. Just a few of the bits of tech developed for the Shuttle have since been spun off into such down-to-earth uses as bloodless surgery, lenses that correct human eyesight without looking like Coke bottle bottoms, artificial heart valves that never wear out, and more advanced pregnancy monitoring than was even dreamed of twenty years ago. And this is just in the physical/medical mode. Don’t even get me started on engineering. The Shuttle program is all through your life and you don’t even know it.

What Mars exploration will do for us in the next ten years: too soon to tell. The possibilities are staggering. But to say “this money could be spent better” implies both an intense lack of understanding of what has been done so far, and a huge misunderstanding of the phrase “value for money”, because NASA is better value for money than almost anything else the United States has ever done.

Concerned about spending money better? Give up potato chips.

Thank you.


Jaundice is a condition caused by the accumulation of bilirubin in the body, leaving a yellowish appearance to the patient’s skin, mucus membranes and/or eyes.


Albino frog(order Anura). Albinism is caused by the absence of skin and eye pigments. Photographed at Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Quito, Ecuador.


Also called a straight ammonite, Bacculite is an ammonite mollusk with a straight, not spiraled, shell.


Basically, a single drop of this venom (from a Russell’s viper) is dripped onto a petri dish of blood, and in seconds the blood clots into a thick chunk of solid matter.

It may sound scary, but snake venom can be very useful to humans.  […] Snake venom contains a vast number of toxins that target proteins in platelets,” Yonchol Shin, an associate professor at Kogakuin University who specializes in snake toxins told ScienceDaily. “Some of those toxins prevent platelets from clotting, which can lead to profuse bleeding in snake bite victims. Others, like the one we’ve focused this research on, potently activate platelets, which results in blood clots. Identification of the molecular targets of many of these toxins has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of platelet activation and related diseases. [read more]

I find this very interesting.


O RLY? Not to pick on you, but …

When your brain fires that particular pattern of chemical signals and neurons that we call “love”? That’s science.

That uncontrollable passion? Sexual desire? Even kissing! That’s science.

And music? The translation of carefully timed and arranged vibrations in the air, combined in particular ratios of frequencies that we find naturally complementary? That’s science.


We’re gonna need a bigger boat. And some guns. Lots of guns.

This is the goliath tigerfish. It can grow up to 5 feet in length and is found in the Congo river system. If you happen to be swimming there without a suit of armour, try and stay away from the stabby bits.







(image by crownedrose)



Seven hundred and fifty light-years from Earth, a young, sunlike star has been found with jets that blast epic quantities of water into interstellar space, shooting out droplets that move faster than a speeding bullet.

Yep, Source.

The discovery suggests that protostars may be seeding the universe with water. These stellar embryos shoot jets of material from their north and south poles as their growth is fed by infalling dust that circles the bodies in vast disks.

“If we picture these jets as giant hoses and the water droplets as bullets, the amount shooting out equals a hundred million times the water flowing through the Amazon River every second,” said Lars Kristensen, a postdoctoral astronomer at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“We are talking about velocities reaching 200,000 kilometers [124,000 miles] per hour, which is about 80 times faster than bullets flying out of a machine gun,” said Kristensen, lead author of the new study detailing the discovery, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Water Vanishes, Only to Reappear

Located in the northern constellation Perseus, the protostar is no more than a hundred thousand years old and remains swaddled in a large cloud—gas and dust from which the star was born.

Using an infrared instrument on the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, researchers were able to peer through the cloud and detect telltale light signatures of hydrogen and oxygen atoms—the building blocks of water—moving on and around the star.

After tracing the paths of these atoms, the team concluded that water forms on the star, where temperatures are a few thousand degrees Celsius. But once the droplets enter the outward-spewing jets of gas, 180,000-degree-Fahrenheit (100,000-degree-Celsius) temperatures blast the water back into gaseous form.

Once the hot gases hit the much cooler surrounding material—at about 5,000 times the distance from the sun to Earth—they decelerate, creating a shock front where the gases cool down rapidly, condense, and reform as water, Kristensen said.

Stellar Sprinkler Nourishes Galactic “Garden”

What’s really exciting about the discovery is that it appears to be a stellar rite of passage, the researchers say, which may shed new light on the earliest stages of our own sun’s life—and how water fits into that picture.

“We are only now beginning to understand that sunlike stars probably all undergo a very energetic phase when they are young,” Kristensen said. “It’s at this point in their lives when they spew out a lot of high-velocity material—part of which we now know is water.”

Like a celestial sprinkler system, the star may be enriching the interstellar medium—thin gases that float in the voids between stars. And because the hydrogen and oxygen in water are key components of the dusty disks in which stars form, such protostar sprinklers may be encouraging the growth of further stars, the study says.

The water-jet phenomenon seen in Perseus is “probably a short-lived phase all protostars go through,” Kristensen said.

“But if we have enough of these sprinklers going off throughout the galaxy—this starts to become interesting on many levels.”