Science Caturday: LOL Effect

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The area around Buffalo, NY was buried under an astonishing seven feet of snow this week, due to a phenomenon called “lake effect”, which is explained here. Meteorologists may find this fascinating, and kids may be happy to miss school, but at least one group of upstate New Yorkers is seriously disgruntled: the cats. Well, except for this guy. There’s always one.

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Science a Movie Title – #ScienceaMovieTitle

Starting with #SciWars, we’ve been in the semi-regular habit of dedication Fridays to sciencing quotes from a particular movie, with one brief (or not so brief) foray into Shakespeare (#ShakesPeerReview). Often, the biggest challenge is not picking a great movie to do, but figuring out a good, science-y hashtag* (see #GhostBusterSci for an example of such difficulties).  So, I thought we could crowdsource some ideas. We got more than a few (as of this writing, there had been about 1000 #ScienceaMovieTitle tweets).

Today, we kicked off #ScienceaMovieTitle with:

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Haven’t run the numbers on it, but I can be pretty sure using a tortilla chip and guacomole to simulate the Philae landings is now the second best thing I’ve done on the Internet.

Click the image below for a progressively more complete Storify collection of the #ScienceaMovieTitle tweets. UPDATE: Your #ScienceaMovieTitle tweets required not one, not two, but three Storifys to contain them. We have a trilogy. Just as your favorite deity or deity replacement intended.

Screenshot 2014-11-21 14.25.23*I also have a backlog of scienced movie titles that amuse me, but aren’t associated with enough great lines to be good fodder for script rewrites (see #ConanthePostDoc for an example where folks only know one line – though there are SO many really).

Science for the People: The Psychopath Whisperer

sftpThis week on Science for the People, we’re looking at the science of psychopathy. We’ll spend the hour learning  about social science research, neuroimaging and behavioral therapies with Kent Kiehl, neuroscience researcher, lecturer and author of The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience.

*Josh provides research help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

The Art of Science: Sculpture with Deep Roots

Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis Sativa, Steel, 2014

Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis Sativa, Steel, 2014

Artist Dalya Luttwak takes hard steel and transforms it into the sinuous shapes of roots.  For a recent show at the Greater Reston Art Center in Virginia, Luttwak chose as one of her subjects the root system of Cannabis Sativa.  Cannabis, a plant of many uses, which evokes strong and complex responses and touches on so many areas of our culture – industrial, medical, recreational, and criminal – is an irresistible subject for art.

Working in a combination of gilded and blackened steel, the artist “sought the “golden balance” arising from the combination of vertical and horizontal black roots, and existing between the different elements of the Cannabis plant and their nutritious, medical, and psychedelic uses.”

Luttwak, who was born in Israel and now works in the US, says that her work tries to “uncover the hidden beauty of roots, exploring the relationship between what grows above the ground and the invisible parts below of various root systems. My sculptures reveal what nature prefers to conceal. My wish is to uncover and discover roots even when they are hidden, indeed especially when they are hidden.” (source)

Beyond the secrets of plant life, however, this sculpture, and many of Luttwak’s other works, strongly evoke the brain and nervous system. Seeing the roots of the Cannabis Sativa as a metaphor for the paths of chemical stimulation or even of our tangled attitudes to drug-taking, elevate and deepen our response to this deceptively simple art.

You can see more of Dalya Luttwak’s work on her website.

The Palette of Dunloe

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Gap of Dunloe (County Kerry, Ireland); Photo Credit: Josh Witten (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 2011, we took the family to County Kerry in Ireland for Easter (I was working at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK at the time). One of the highlights of the trip was walking at the Gap of Dunloe. The gorse was in full bloom, providing a bright contrast to the greens, greys, browns, and blues of the landscape.

We didn’t really do much. Just walked. And looked. Among all the wonderful mornings we have had as a family, that morning at the Gap of Dunloe is a stand out. Afterward, the kids fell asleep in the car and we took a leisurely drive around the Ring of Kerry.

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cropped-dunloe-vintage-fp-banner-trans-3 Since Mike and I founded The Finch & Pea, we’ve slowly and steadily made superficial changes to the site’s style, without getting away from our original “online science pub” idea. We still love the concept; but we (by which I mean me) like to fiddle with things. So, over a series of incremental changes, we’ve changed quite a bit – as you can see from looking at our various site headers.

Maybe it is the approaching winter and shortening days. Maybe it is the pessimistic feeling that our Internet home is a bleak Mad Max wasteland roamed by gangs of sociopaths, pock-marked by outposts of civilization. Maybe I was procrastinating. Whatever the reason, we decided to brighten up some of the colors around the joint, while still being recognizable and feeling like home. We wanted to keep the same general theme to our site colors, but draw the updated versions from nature.

Gap of Dunloe (County Kerry, Ireland); Photo Credit: Josh Witten (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Gap of Dunloe (County Kerry, Ireland); Photo Credit: Josh Witten (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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