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Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

Category: Science/Geek (page 1 of 23)

Design for an Audience, a talk by the NYT science graphics editor

 

This is well worth your time: http://style.org/ku/

If I need to explain why, then you don’t know me very well

Hat tip to Flowing Data, which is also worth your time. Don’t ask me why.

No, that probably is not a brown recluse bite, I’m sorry to say

This, THIS! Is a Brown Recluse, honey.

This, THIS! Is a Brown Recluse, Radel.

I think I love this press release from UC-Riverside. Yes, it is nicely written and has a fine, eye-catching headline. (Really, I appreciate these things.)

I think I love it, however, because it doesn’t solve a problem for me. In fact, it creates new ones. And, sometimes, you have to appreciate the beauty in the world burning (and itching). Every spider in my house is a brown recluse. Just is. Until proven otherwise. And, perhaps that’s the safest way to negotiate a world that contains brown recluse spiders, even if they really aren’t an issue here in Jenkintown.

Basically, in a JAMA Dermatology paper,  researchers suggest that a misdiagnosis of a brown recluse bite could mask other serious skin conditions. When I first saw this press release, I somehow thought it would be about how rare these bites are and how easily misdiagnosed. Nope, it turns out that, with some skin conditions, you might just prefer the bite. That’s not going to go over well in Stinkbug Manor.

Another reason to love this press release–this video:

 

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KkxcZKaA7c[/embedyt]

That’s just gorgeous.

But it gets better! The UC-Riverside entomologist and his dermatology pals at University of Missouri Health Sciences Center (I say the whole thing to make the Missouri flacks happy) even came up with a mnemonic device: NOT RECLUSE. Which, well, a little on the nose, but there you go.

For example, the REC of NOT RECLUSE indicates Red, Elevated and Chronic. Recluse bites are whitish blue or purple (not red), flat (not elevated) and don’t last more than 3 months. So, if a patient has a wound that is elevated or red or persists more than 3 months, something other than brown recluse bite should be considered.

Then the release goes into  little biographical detail about the lead author, Rick Vetter, now retired UC-Riverside, who wrote a book on the topic and created a map of where you can find brown recluse spider populations.

Note: Not Pennsylvania

Whole Foods Pseudoscience

How lovely is this icon? Its like a Scout badge for nonsense.

A walk through the isle of Whole Foods  often presents a bewildering array of fads and pseudoscience, and this article over at the Daily Beast calls them on it. While the right has its War on Science, the left has been fighting a guerrilla campaign for some time.

Baffled Report: Who Mourns for Adonais? Edition

The rules: “Scientists are baffled” is one of those phrases reporters and headline writes love to overuse. In most cases, the scientists aren’t baffled, per se. In many cases, its just the opposite, but its a cheap shorthand to use when you want to get across the notion of a mystery. Bonus points if they use the phrase “Boffins Baffled!”

Dead ‘Hand of God’ star leaves astronomers baffled by its shape .

Really High Five

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has showcased the telescope’s talent with an image showing the energized remains of a dead star, a structure nicknamed the “Hand of God” after its resemblance to a hand.

So, celestial objects looking like things is nothing new, like the famed “Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula, which always looked like something, erm, different…ahem…to me. The phenomena is called paredolia–the way your mind looks for familiar shapes in patterns, whether its a picture of a nebula or the pattern that appears on your toast. I guess its a handy (ha!) way of naming things.

In this case, however, it appears the “hand” is imparting some useful information:

The new “Hand of God” image shows a nebula 17,000 light-years away, powered by a dead, spinning star called PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short.

The dead star, called a pulsar, is the leftover core of a star that exploded in a supernova.

The pulsar is only about 19 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter but packs a big punch: it is spinning around nearly seven times every second, spewing particles into material that was upheaved during the star’s violent death.

These particles are interacting with magnetic fields around the ejected material, causing it to glow with X-rays. The result is a cloud that looks like a hand.

One of the big mysteries of this object, called a pulsar wind nebula, is whether the pulsar’s particles are interacting with the material in a specific way to make it appear as a hand, or if the material is in fact shaped like a hand.

“We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion,” Hongjun An of McGill University, Montreal, Canada, said.

“With NuSTAR, the hand looks more like a fist, which is giving us some clues,” An said.

Nice description. I’m going to say that this is Not Baffling.

See also:

see also:

Experts baffled by quake-formed island except…you know…they’re not

This is what gets me about the “Baffling” meme in headline writing. Inevitably, the story reveals that, no, its a nifty, curious, uncommon thing, but rarely baffling.

Here’s the headline in question:

Experts baffled by quake-formed island

As you can imagine, the story is about a new island formed off the coast of Pakistan by a recent, massive earthquake in the region. The article embeds this nifty video from the Telegraph:

 

It takes about five paragraphs before the article contradicts the headline:

Such islands are not entirely unusual to scientists who study the earth and its sometimes violent movements.

Marco Bohnhoff, a professor of seismology at the German Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam said there are two ways such islands can be created.

So…essentially, its prolly a mud volcano:

It RISES!
Click for source.

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