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Science


V.23 No.13 | 3/27/2014
Red blood cells
All images by David Goodsell

Art Magnified

Inside Information

The science of cells paints a pretty picture

The bedrock of discovery is observation. That’s where a scientific demiurge like Dr. David Goodsell comes in. He’s spent years translating the utterly tiny into the comprehensibly visual.
View in Alibi calendar calendar
V.23 No.5 | 1/30/2014
“42 Horse” by Ralph Greene

Culture Shock

A horse is a horse, of course

Culture Shock zooms you around the city creative to East Meets West, Testimonios de una Guerra and Roll, Drop, Bounce.
V.22 No.48 | 11/28/2013

Book Review

Deviant is the Norm

Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

What’s sick, and what’s just human?
V.22 No.37 | 9/12/2013
An octopus hides in the rocks in Welker Canyon.
[click to enlarge]
Images courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, 2013 Northeast U.S. Canyons Expedition.
An octopus hides in the rocks in Welker Canyon.

Science

The Biggest Last Mystery on Earth

¡Viva la Science!

Wow. This is why we do science.
V.22 No.35 | 8/29/2013
MRSA, could you be any worse-a?
prep4md via Flickr
MRSA, could you be any worse-a?

Science

Infection Is a Real Pain in the Everything

¡Viva la Science!

Your brain makes some terrible decisions when it comes to infection-related pain.
V.22 No.33 | 8/15/2013
NASA

Science

Flipping Out Over the Sun’s Big Flip

¡Viva la Science!

Great news, you guys—the sun’s magnetic field flip probably won’t destroy the earth or anything.
V.22 No.32 | 8/8/2013
Andréia via Flickr

Science

Ruled by Sun and Moon

¡Viva la Science!

Has science proven that we’re all just pawns of celestial balls of light?
V.22 No.31 | 8/1/2013
Dave_B_ via Flickr

Food

I’ll Take My Hot Sauce Unleaded, Thanks

¡Ay, no! A new study finds evidence that four chile-based hot sauces imported from Mexico may contain unsafe levels of lead.
V.22 No.30 | 7/25/2013
Adila’s owner touches the cone for Adila to imitate.
Claudia Fugazza/Animal Cognition
Adila’s owner touches the cone for Adila to imitate.

Science

Your Dog Knows What You Did Last Summer

¡Viva la Science!

Canines may be paying more attention than we thought.
V.22 No.29 | 7/18/2013
Photo by César Rincón

Science

The Problem With Being Made in May

¡Viva la Science!

Photo by +Angst
We’ve known for decades that babies conceived at certain times of the year tend, on average, to be healthier than babies conceived at other times. But what the hell, right? Why should that be? By looking at the birth records for over 1.4 million children born in the 1990s and 2000s, two economists may have figured out how it happens.

Science deals with the big, messy soup of our world. Its eternal challenge lies in teasing out what’s truly connected from that which simply happens at the same time. Previous studies have shown the correlation between infants who are born in winter and a host of problems later in life, but no one knew why it was happening. Wintertime diseases? Higher winter pollution? It could’ve been almost anything. The questions were complicated by data showing that certain mothers, ones from a lower socioeconomic tier, are statistically more likely to have children with developmental and health problems. But they’re also more likely to give birth in the first half of the year. So what’s been causing what? To study the problem, scientists needed a way to control for things like a mother’s race, marital status and education level so they didn’t end up comparing apples to oranges.

Janet Currie and Hannes Schwandt, economists out of Princeton University, came up with a solution. They looked only at mothers who had given birth to more than one child—over 600,000 of them. That way, when the differences in outcomes were measured, it had more to do with when the baby was born than the particular social conditions of the mother.

What they noticed was kind of startling. For babies conceived in May, the study found more than a 10-freaking-percent increase in premature births. The average gestation length is only about half a day shorter, but it still matters. Being born prematurely is linked to all kinds of problems, including a weaker immune system, neurodevelopmental complications and impaired vision or hearing.

Clearly, this sucks and we need to find the culprit. The study’s authors think we can most likely blame the seasonal flu, which really gets roaring in January and February, when May-conceived babies are born. The 2009-2010 flu season was particularly nasty, infecting more people than usual, and corresponded to a more dramatic dip in gestation times.

Plenty more work needs to be done to see if the common winter flu is really the reason for the premature births and therefore the reason for the generally worse outcomes of babies conceived in May. Right now, it’s just an association—the outcomes could actually be caused by some other seasonal disease or by climate or temperature, which this study wasn’t able to control for. But by looking at large samples of already-existing data, Currie and Schwandt have given other researchers a strong lead for their inquiries. And knowledge inches forward once more.

Sources: Medical Daily and Science Now

Music

I’m Happy When it’s Sad

Study concludes sad music evokes positive emotions

A group of researchers from Tokyo University of the Arts and RIKEN Brain Science Institute have decided to tackle an interesting subject: Why do we love sad songs? It's a valid question, considering many sad songs have entered the top-40 and kept listeners on their toes while belting out minor chords over hopeless lyrics. Adele's “Someone Like You” is one example that comes to mind. These researchers not only wanted to discuss the various reasons why people listen to sad music but also to see if they could pinpoint certain characteristics within the music that pique certain emotions.

They had 44 volunteers listen to two pieces of sad music and one piece of happy music, and they basically came to the conclusion that sad music actually made people feel more positive about their own lives. They concluded that while the volunteers listened to these despairing, emotionally-driven opuses, they found “sad music to be more tragic, less romantic, and less blithe than they felt themselves while listening to it,” according to an article in Science Daily. So maybe we do listen to sad music to realize how good we have it?

This got me thinking about what sad songs I enjoy listening to, or better yet, got me thinking what my favorite sad song is. As a music journalist, that's a hard question to answer because I like different things at different times. But one sad song that did come to mind was Joanna Newsom's “Go Long,” from her 2010 album Have One On Me. It's one of those songs that if you see her play it live, it utterly kills you. I witnessed the most rough-looking dudes crying like babies when the song was over. I don't cry when I hear it, but I do really enjoy it. It's a beautiful number that dissects the “Bluebeard” story in its most poetic, morbid sense. But now I'm curious … what's a notable sad song for you?

V.22 No.28 | 7/11/2013
The Asian corn borer
photo by Ryo Nakano
The Asian corn borer

Science

What Sounds Sexy to a Moth?

¡Viva la Science!

Play Youtube Video
On the importance of language
Moths avoid bats. It’s nothing personal, just an understandable desire not to get devoured. In the perpetual evolutionary arms race between the nocturnal creatures, moths seem to have developed ears for the sole purpose of hearing bats’ echolocation cries—because if you want to avoid becoming someone’s midnight snack, getting wind of their approach is key.

Do you remember that part in Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams asks his students why language was invented? “To communicate,” suggests one. “No!” he replies, “To woo women.” Well, humans aren’t the only mammals that have a way of making everything about sex. Until recently, scientists believed that moths could hear sounds, but not produce them. Turns out, though, that most male moths make sounds when they want to engage in a little nookie. And not just any sounds, either—their calls are distinctly bat-like.

A sensory physiology researcher from the University of Southern Denmark, along with colleagues from the University of Tokyo, has been studying two different species of moths to find out exactly how sound is used for courtship. It’s not quite the same for everyone.

The Japanese lichen moth
photo by Ryo Nakano
The Japanese lichen moth

In the Asian corn borer, a moth much prettier than it sounds, males make a call that’s indistinguishable from a bat’s hunting cry. Females instinctively freeze at the sound, making it harder for the bats to find them. But in Asian corn borer society, immobility apparently equals consent, because when a female holds still, that’s when the magic of reproduction can happen.

On the other hand, male Japanese lichen moths also make sounds like bats gone a’hunting. But the females of that species aren’t fooled—they can tell the difference between a bat and a suitor. The sound the males make, then, has evolved into a specific mating call.

“The acoustic communication between bats and moths is a textbook example of the interaction between predator and prey,” says Annemarie Surlykke, the researcher from Denmark. “However, our studies show how such a system can evolve, so also moths use their ability to hear and produce sounds to communicate sexually and that they have developed many different ways of doing it. It is a beautiful example of evolutionary diversity.”

If you were wondering how moths can make sounds like bats without attracting their mortal enemies, the key seems to be volume. Moths essentially whisper their calls while only inches apart, whereas bats are pretty much just screaming through the night sky. Spooky! Since we humans aren’t equipped to hear any of it, you’ll just have to imagine what sweet nothings moths murmur to one another.

Source: Science Daily

More Videos

V.22 No.26 | 6/27/2013
Inside the space donut we call home
Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
Inside the space donut we call home

Science

Gone With the Plasmaspheric Wind

¡Viva la Science!

Researchers using data from the European Space Agency's Cluster spacecraft have found evidence that a “plasmaspheric wind” is releasing a kilogram (over two pounds) of plasma from the plasmasphere into the magnetosphere every second.

I swear you’re not reading an X-Men comic. Supervillains do not appear to be involved. Yet.

The plasmasphere is a region of dense, cold plasma that surrounds the Earth. Filled with charged particles, it’s shaped like a donut and forms the inner part of the magnetosphere, the area around our planet controlled by the magnetic field.

The existence of plasmaspheric wind was theorized over two decades ago, but it’s difficult to detect. It requires fancy instrumentation and detailed measurements of moving particles in the plasmasphere. Now, the four Cluster spacecraft have provided ion measurements from the plasmasphere that support the plasmaspheric wind theory.

We need to understand what’s going on in the plasmasphere because of its effect on things like satellites, GPS and traveling astronauts. Presumably, we also need to keep one step ahead of Magneto.

--

Source: “Cluster spacecraft detects elusive space wind”


Today's Events

Comedy Open Mic at Back Alley Draft House

Back Alley Draft House

See some live comedy at this open mic hosted by Drew Wayne.

Winter Day Camp 2014 at National Museum of Nuclear Science and History

Whiskey Business Karaoke! at Blackbird Buvette

More Recommented Events ››
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Dj Ntox "In The Mix"
Dj Ntox "In The Mix"12.27.2014