Archive for the ‘science’ tag

#  History’s Technological Lifesavers →

August 13th, 2015 at 20:59 // In Worth Considering 

A really neat little site, which lists out and explains the people who’ve saved the most lives in history. For some reason it had never occurred to me before seeing it to think of some of these science innovations we take for granted now as life-saving, but it’s hard to deny.

(via Marginal Revolution)

#  Spurious Correlations →

July 2nd, 2014 at 17:00 // In Worth Distraction 

Spurious correlations are a common and obvious problem that afflicts a lot of science. Tyler Vigen’s site is dedicated to collecting them. They’re pointless fun to see. Here’s how the divorce rate in Maine is driven by the consumption of margarine across the US:


#  Squirrels Are Tracking You →

June 30th, 2014 at 16:59 // In Worth Knowing 

Having studied them pretty casually over the last few years — did you know squirrels bark? — I wasn’t really shocked that a scientist has found that squirrels definitely are able to differentiate among human behaviors:

Squirrels “can tell if a human is looking at them,” or if a person behaves in an unusual way, Bateman found. Squirrels were 40 percent more likely to scoot if Bateman focused his attention on them. And 90 percent of the squirrels leapt away if the scientist left the sidewalk to stalk them across the grass. “They don’t get scared by humans all the time,” he explains. But they always seem to pay close attention to what people do. Bateman published his results June 12 in the Journal of Zoology.

(via Virginia Hughes’s Gray Matters Newsletter)

#  A Thorough Exploration of Why We’ve Not Met Aliens →

June 27th, 2014 at 11:04 // In Worth Distraction 

Wait But Why explores with an admirable depth the answers that have so far been posited for the Fermi Paradox, which they summarize as:

Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old “existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour.” But everyone feels something.

Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—”Where is everybody?”

#  The Effectiveness of Vaccines →

June 25th, 2014 at 15:03 // In Worth Seeing 

David Mendoza put together a pretty awesome series of charts of how effective the introduction of the measles vaccine was in stopping new cases across the United States. This one really requires no introduction:


#  Back to Basics of Fitness →

June 24th, 2014 at 17:01 // In Worth Considering 

If you follow my sensible science skepticism tag, you’ll understand why on this I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

This raised a question: If all the latest cutting-edge scientific research says that outdated barbell movements have to be updated with core stability tricks and then integrated into super-short high-intensity muscle-confusion routines, how come none of that did much for me, while the same five lifts repeated for a year caused profound structural changes to my body?

The answer, it turns out, is that there are no cutting-edge scientific studies.

Also of note on this topic: I recently posted a little essay I consider quite relevant to this piece. It’s called “Simple But Not Easy”, give it a look.

#  Hubble Ultra Deep Field Explanation →

June 4th, 2014 at 11:02 // In Worth Watching 

It’s an astronomy story I knew before, but this presentation is good enough and awe-inspiring enough to share:

#  The Fire Lab →

May 29th, 2014 at 9:00 // In Worth Watching 

My first reaction was — no way these people are getting paid to do this! A really neat little artful 8-minute video from The Atlantic about the US Forest Service’s Fire Lab.

Bonus: the lab’s site is online at

(via Kottke)

#  An Upper Bound on the Wisdom of Crowds? →

May 26th, 2014 at 10:35 // In Worth Considering 

Carl Zimmer reports on some preliminary research of that’s pretty interesting to consider:

Couzin and Kao expected that the bigger the group got, the wiser it would become. But they were surprised to find something very different. Small groups did better than individuals. But bigger groups did not do better than small groups. In fact, they did worse.  A group of 5 to 20 individuals made better decisions than an infinitely large crowd.

The most interesting implication is that perhaps many band of animals — and humans before “civilization” —are kept small not because smaller groups are smarter than larger ones.

(via Virgina Hughes’s Grey Matters newsletter)

#  An Internet of Ants!? →

May 21st, 2014 at 12:00 // In Worth Knowing 

An interesting little tidbit: ants and the TCP protocol behave very similar. Natural engineering:

This feedback loop allows TCP to run congestion avoidance: If acks return at a slower rate than the data was sent out, that indicates that there is little bandwidth available, and the source throttles data transmission down accordingly. If acks return quickly, the source boosts its transmission speed. The process determines how much bandwidth is available and throttles data transmission accordingly.

It turns out that harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) behave nearly the same way when searching for food. Gordon has found that the rate at which harvester ants – which forage for seeds as individuals – leave the nest to search for food corresponds to food availability.