Category Archives: Science Is Awesome

Crowdfunding Cutting Edge Science

StandBackScience
Because you’re totally into the mating habits of giant sea bass, the flight patterns of American crows, robot submarines and prion disease transmission, right? Of course you are. Who wouldn’t be. But the problem is, how can you make sure that the vital and necessary research into the neural mechanisms of behavioral variation in Temnothorax ants gets done before they… I don’t know. Grow huge and attack Manhattan or something.

Well do I have a solution for you. Experiment.com is a crowdfunding site that allows you to back specific research projects with your own cash. So if, for example, you think chemically sterilizing mosquitoes is more important than tracking Magellanic penguins, you can now vote with your wallet.

The crazy thing is how little most of these projects are asking for. The crew investigating pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed? They need $1,175. The guy looking at microbes in the Greenland ice sheet wants just $3,000 to get him to Greenland so he can spend a month on the ice (though he’d really like another $5,000 for an infra-red gas analyzer).

So if you happen to have, like, thirty bucks just burning a hole in your pocket, maybe throw a little in the direction of science, huh? Because, seriously? Someone has to go to Greenland to look out for the microbes. Just be glad it’s not you.

Fund Science You Believe In [Experiment.com]

Google’s Secret Superpower: Crowdsourcing Idiocy

google

The internet is awesome. We all get that. And Google? Pretty cool way to categorize all the world’s information–from the most vital to the most mundane.

But for all the talk about the Internet of Things and social networks and total information awareness and other such big words for gestalt benchmarks in the collection and categorization of all the world’s cat videos, reviews of taco trucks and places to buy Estelle Getty sex dolls, I think the most impressive thing that Google can now do is crowdsource idiocy–to gather and make available not just correct information but also stuff that people get totally and completely wrong.

An example: Forever ago, my dad bought a CD of Irish-y Christmas music. I could vaguely recall listening to it when I was a young man, home for the holidays or whatever. Here and there, snatches of old tunes would come to me and I’d think to myself, “Man, I’d really like to get a copy of that for myself.”

A normal person? They’d just ask their dad about the CD. Hope he remembered just the one in question and be able to provide a name. But I am…contrary. So instead, I tried to find it myself.

Continue reading Google’s Secret Superpower: Crowdsourcing Idiocy

Kickstarting A Cocktail-Making Robot and Getting Techy With Your Jell-O Shots

JelloPrinterSee that picture? Not terribly impressive, is it. It’s just, what… A kind of wiggly cube suspended in some Jell-O?

Oh, but wait. First off, that’s some kind of wiggly cube suspended in a Jell-O shot which, right off the top, makes it cooler. Second, it’s some kind of wiggly cube 3D printed into a Jell-O shot. More accurately, printed into about 70 Jell-O shots for someone’s 25th birthday party by a guy who scratch-built the printer out of a bunch of old DVD players and CD drives in just a couple days. Why? Because he wanted to make a bunch of wiggly shapes in Jell-O shots for a birthday party which, not for nothing, is exactly the kind of inspiration that makes me go all tingly in my nerd organs.

Continue reading Kickstarting A Cocktail-Making Robot and Getting Techy With Your Jell-O Shots

We Are Not Our Memories Anymore

SpotlessMind

Memories are what make us. We are, in a biological sense, just mobile containers for the (occasionally spotty) recall of everything we’ve ever learned or ever done.

And this is a good thing because, seriously, how much would it suck to wake up every morning and have to re-learn everything we know? We exist to learn, to gather knowledge, and to pass that knowledge along. Sure, we do other stuff, too. We build rocketships and tweet about sandwiches and reproduce and get lost trying to drive to the mall, but that memory thing? That’s important.

What’s more, that memory thing is permanent, right? I mean, setting aside the things we forget, the things we misunderstand, the memories we warp either deliberately or just in the course of being alive and imperfect containers of data, once something goes into the brain, it’s in there for keeps.

Except that maybe that’s not the case anymore. What if we really could Eternal-Sunshine-Of-The-Spotless-Mind ourselves and wipe out memories that we just don’t want to hang onto?

Continue reading We Are Not Our Memories Anymore

The Moon Will Kill You In Innumerable Terrifying Ways

lunarregolith

From way down here, it looks so harmless. I mean, it’s just the moon, right? We’ve walked on its face, so how bad can it be?

But for those of you out there who dream of someday hanging out on the moon and going all bouncy-castle among the craters, here’s something to keep in mind from former NASA developer Katy Levinson:

The dust on any celestial body is called regolith, but lunar regolith comes from a special kind of hell. It’s created by the impacts of foreign space bodies striking the Moon’s surface. This causes big rocks to break up, while fusing little bits of it back together to form horrific pointy shapes, often covered in tiny, glassy shards…An engineer or doctor’s nightmare, particles of regolith are small enough to cause similar health problems to asbestos, though you’d die from inhaling small airborne razors long before you developed mesothelioma.

And seriously? The regolith is just one of the more game-ending tricks the moon has up its sleeve. Over at Boing Boing, Levinson has a whole mess of reasons why the moon is both harsh and awesome (300 degree temperature swings! Nights that last almost a month!). For you writers out there, it’s something to keep in mind next time you have Captain Dash Strongjaw rolling around in the dust fighting moon weasels or whatever it is you do. And for you colonists-in-training, maybe you should ask yourself if you’re really down for living somewhere that the dust can kill you from the inside out.

The Moon Is Terrifying, And That’s Why I Love It [via Boing Boing]