A Bit More Detail

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Posts Tagged ‘science

[NEWS] Some Saturday links

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  • The BBC suggests bird-like dinosaurs survived the Cretaceous catastrophe because they could eat seeds.
  • Bloomberg wonders what lessons Poland has for China’s economy.
  • Bloomberg View examines immigration controversies in Malaysia.
  • CBC notes that Manulife is now providing life insurance for HIV-positive people.
  • Gizmodo reports from the Pyongyang subway.
  • The Guardian notes the sequencing of Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA.
  • The National Post reports that Québec NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau might well be considering a run for the NDP leadership.
  • Newsweek reports on the decision of the Wall Street Journal to run an ad denying the Armenian genocide.
  • Finally, there has been much written after the death of Prince. Some highlights: The Atlantic looks at how he was a gay icon, Vox shares 14 of his most important songs, the Toronto Star notes his connection to Toronto, Dangerous Minds shares videos of early performances, The Daily Beast explains Prince’s stringent control of his content on the Internet, and In Media Res mourns the man and some of his songs.

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

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  • Bloomberg reports on how the weakening yen is hurting some Hong Kong retailers, notes how Chinese are visiting Hong Kong in the search for approved vaccines, and observes Brexit may not change British immigration much.
  • MacLean’s notes a court ruling which states the Confederate flag is inherently anti-American, and reports on the Swedish Tourist Association’s new campaign which offers people around the world the chance to talk to a random Swede.
  • Juan Cole at The Nation reports the exceptional unpopularity of Egypt’s transfer of two islands in the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia.
  • National Geographic considers the concept of dam removal in parts of the United States.
  • Open Democracy examines the awkward position of Russian culture in the Ukrainian city of L’viv.
  • Science Daily notes findings suggesting that the genes which influence homosexuality are found in most people in the world, explaining why homosexuality is common.
  • The Toronto Star reports on a thankfully foiled, but still horrifying, suicide pact involving 13 young people in Attawapiskat, and notes Denmark’s turn against even people who help refugees.
  • Wired describes Yuri Milner’s proposal to use powerful lasers to launch very small probes to Alpha Centauri.

[OBSCURA] The Milky Way’s 19 black holes

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Eric Betz’s D-Brief blog post “Prepare for an Explosion of Gravitational Wave Detections”, examining the exciting possibility of imminent gravitational wave observations giving us unprecedented insight into black holes, included this map of the Milky Way Galaxy’s known 19 black holes. This graphic, by Astronomy‘s Roen Kelly, originally featured in Richard Talcott’s February 2016 article “A guide to the black holes in our backyard”. There are surely many more than 19, but these are all we know for now. Perhaps LIGO will let us track down some more?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 13, 2016 at 10:00 am

[LINK] “Ancient Pluto May Have Had Lakes And Rivers Of Nitrogen”

Universe Today’s Evan Gough notes that ancient Pluto seems to have had a much warmer climate, allowing for flowing nitrogen lakes and rivers.

The New Horizons probe revealed the surface features of Pluto in rich detail when it reached the dwarf planet in July 2015. Some of the features look like snapshots of rivers and lakes that are locked firmly in place by Pluto’s frigid temperatures. But now scientists studying the data coming back from New Horizons think that those frozen lakes and rivers could once have been liquid nitrogen.

Pluto has turned out be a surprisingly active place. New Horizons has shown us what might be clouds in Pluto’s atmosphere, mountains that might be ice volcanoes, and cliffs made of methane ice that melt away into the plains. If there were oceans and rivers of liquid nitrogen on the surface of Pluto, that would fit in with our evolving understanding of Pluto as a much more active planet than we thought.

Richard Binzel, a New Horizons team member from MIT, thinks that lakes of liquid nitrogen could have existed some 800 or 900 million years ago. It all stems from Pluto’s axial tilt, which at 120 degrees is much more pronounced than Earth’s relatively mild 23 degree tilt. And computer modelling suggests that this tilt could have even been more extreme many millions of years ago.

The result of this extreme tilt is that much more of Pluto’s surface would have been exposed to sunlight. That may have warmed Pluto enough to allow liquid nitrogen to flow over the planet’s surface. These kinds of changes to a planet’s axial tilt, (and precession and eccentricity) affect a planet’s climate in what are called Milankovitch cycles. The same cycles are thought to have a similar effect on Earth’s climate, though not as extreme as on Pluto.

According to Binzel, Pluto could be somewhere in between its temperature extremes, meaning that if Pluto will ever be warm enough for liquid nitrogen again, it could be hundreds of millions of years from now. “Right now, Pluto is between two extreme climate states,” Binzel says.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 23, 2016 at 1:04 pm

[LINK] “Psychologists Throw Open The “File Drawer””

Discover‘s Neuroskeptic blogs about a team of psychologists who are starting to publish papers showing negative findings, to help overcome publication bias.

The ‘file drawer problem’ refers to the fact that in science, many results remain unpublished – especially negative ones. This is a problem because it produces publication bias.

Now, a group of Belgian psychology researchers have decided to make a stand. In a bold move against publication bias, they’ve thrown open their own file drawer. In the new paper, Anthony Lane and colleagues from the Université catholique de Louvain say that they’ve realized that over the years, “our publication portfolio has become less and less representative of our actual findings”. Therefore, they “decided to get these [unpublished] studies out of our drawer and encourage other laboratories to do the same.”

Lane et al.’s research focus is oxytocin, the much-discussed “love hormone”. Their lab has published a number of papers reporting that an intranasal spray of oxytocin alters human behaviour. But they now reveal that they also tried to publish numerous negative findings, yet these null results remain in the file drawer because they weren’t accepted for publication.

Is there a file drawer problem in intranasal oxytocin research? If this is the case, it may also be the case in our laboratory. This paper aims to answer that question, document the extent of the problem, and discuss its implications for intranasal oxytocin research. We present eight studies (including 13 dependent variables overall, assessed through 25 different paradigms) that were performed in our lab from 2009 until 2014 on a total of 453 subjects…

As we will demonstrate below, the results were too often not those expected. Only four studies (most often a part of them) of the eight were submitted for publication, yielding five articles (2, 8, 27, 34, 35). Of these five articles, only one (27) reports a null-finding. We submitted several studies yielding null-findings to different journals (from general interest in psychology to specialized in biological psychology and in psychoenodcrinology) but they were rejected time and time again.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm

[LINK] “18 Billion Solar Mass Black Hole Rotates At 1/3 Speed Of Light”

Damn. From Universe Today’s Bob King, a report about a massive fast-rotating black hole at the centre of a quasar.

Way up in the constellation Cancer there’s a 14th magnitude speck of light you can claim in a 10-inch or larger telescope. If you saw it, you might sniff at something so insignificant, yet it represents the final farewell of chewed up stars as their remains whirl down the throat of an 18 billion solar mass black hole, one of the most massive known in the universe.

Astronomers know the object as OJ 287, a quasar that lies 3.5 billion light years from Earth. Quasars or quasi-stellar objects light up the centers of many remote galaxies. If we could pull up for a closer look, we’d see a brilliant, flattened accretion disk composed of heated star-stuff spinning about the central black hole at extreme speeds.

As matter gets sucked down the hole, jets of hot plasma and energetic light shoot out perpendicular to the disk. And if we’re so privileged that one of those jet happens to point directly at us, we call the quasar a “blazar”. Variability of the light streaming from the heart of a blazar is so constant, the object practically flickers.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly wonders why people read at all in the 21st century world.
  • D-Brief notes how chickens have been modified to have dinosaur-like legs.
  • Dangerous Minds shares 19th century photos taken of Native Americans in their traditional and ceremonial wear.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper predicting exoplanets orbiting HD 202628 and HD 207129 based on gaps in the debris disks of those stars.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that the director-general of the ESA asked China to opt to contribute to the International Space Station.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that the lesbian subtext of Xena will be made explicit in the remake.
  • Language Log looks at odd names, in the Chinese world and in the wider world.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper speculating that future economic growth will be absorbed entirley by life extension.
  • pollotenchegg maps changing birth rates across Ukrainian regions from 1960 on.
  • Towleroad quotes lesbian comedian Joy Behar on her incredulity about Caitlyn Jenner’s professed politics.
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