So do we crave times of silence or not?

Friday, 29 August, 2014

While a lack of silence, or more to the point, incessant noise, can be harmful to our well being, it would seem our brains don’t exactly enjoy a state of complete silence either

As it turned out, even though all the sounds had short-term neurological effects, not one of them had a lasting impact. Yet to her great surprise, Kirste found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory, involving the senses. This was deeply puzzling: The total absence of input was having a more pronounced effect than any sort of input tested.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Is there a scientific formula for finding satisfying work?

Wednesday, 20 August, 2014

Is finding the sort of work that is right for you a matter of applying a scientific formula? Whatever helps I say, but much of the science here seems more like common sense.

Given that perceptions of common sense vary considerably however, taking a structured approach might be a better option though.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The science of the science fiction “Star Wars” films

Thursday, 14 August, 2014

US scientist Andy Howell discusses the science of the “Star Wars” films… which he actually describes as “space fantasy”. Could it be that more people might focus on the fiction, rather than the science, of sci-fi stories if they were referred to as fantasy more often?

In any event, some of the apparent science presented to us in the films isn’t too far off the mark.

If Star Wars really happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we might be able to watch it through a telescope right now, or at some point in the future.

Read more posts on related topics

, , ,

In the event of a solar storm, what might happen?

Tuesday, 12 August, 2014

There’s been a bit of talk recently about solar storms, being flares, or charged particles, emanating from the Sun, and how they might impact on us, were there to be a repeat of the 1859 event. While the inhabitants of Earth should remain unscathed should there be another such storm, it would certainly make a mark otherwise.

With the space weather satellites we have up now, we would have about a half-day’s warning to shut down our power stations and voluntarily shut off the grid in the event of such a flare. These things can not be predicted, and neither can their interaction with the interplanetary-and-Earth’s magnetic field, so you must never listen to fear-mongers who tell you a catastrophic solar flare is imminent; we can only be prepared to react when one is detected.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

A tree that threatens to make orchards much smaller

Friday, 1 August, 2014

A single tree that can bear forty different types of stone fruit? The notion sounds incredible, but thanks to some complicated grafting techniques, branches from various fruit trees were attached to one, bringing forth the “Tree of 40 Fruit”.

Working with a pool of over 250 varieties of stone fruit, Van Aken developed a timeline of when each of them blossom in relationship to each other and started grafting a few onto a working tree’s root structure. Once the working tree was about two years old, Van Aken used a technique called chip grafting to add more varieties on as separate branches. This technique involves taking a sliver off a fruit tree that includes the bud, and inserting that into an incision in the working tree. It’s then taped into place, and left to sit and heal over winter. If all goes well, the branch will be pruned back to encourage it to grow as a normal branch on the working tree.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

The field of physics needs your help to solve these problems

Thursday, 31 July, 2014

As if there wasn’t enough to think about… there are still unsolved problems in the field of physics… here are ten of them:

Why does the universe appear to have one time and three space dimensions? “Just because” is not considered an acceptable answer. And just because people can’t imagine moving in extra directions, beyond up-and-down, left-and-right, and back-and-forth, doesn’t mean that the universe had to be designed that way. According to superstring theory, in fact, there must be six more spatial dimensions, each one curled up too tiny to detect. If the theory is right, then why did only three of them unfurl, leaving us with this comparatively claustrophobic dominion?

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

There’s more physics to playing a guitar than meets the eye

Wednesday, 30 July, 2014

Dr David Robert Grimes, an Oxford University based physicist, makes playing the guitar seem more like a science experiment, than anything else:

Dr Grimes derived equations describing how string bending, vibrato and whammy bars change the pitch of a note. He found that the properties of the strings had a big effect on the change in pitch – in particular the Young’s modulus (a measure of how much the string stretches under force) and how thick the strings are. He also worked out how easy hammer-ons and pull-offs are, depending on the height of the guitar strings above the finger board. Finally, he confirmed the equation for string bends experimentally, measuring the frequency of the sound produced for strings bent through different angles on a guitar.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Yes, we have different blood types, but why?

Friday, 25 July, 2014

People have different blood types. That much we all know. What’s not so certain is exactly why there are varied types of blood in the first place:

Being type A is not a legacy of my proto-farmer ancestors, in other words. It’s a legacy of my monkey-like ancestors. Surely, if my blood type has endured for millions of years, it must be providing me with some obvious biological benefit. Otherwise, why do my blood cells bother building such complicated molecular structures?

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Pluto, what we know now is not what we’ll know in twelve months

Tuesday, 22 July, 2014

NASA’s New Horizons space probe is now only one year out from its scheduled encounter with former planet Pluto, in the outer reaches of the solar system.

While astronomers have gleaned much information about the distant dwarf planet from Earth based telescopes, it is likely a fair bit of what we know, or think we know, will be turned on its head as New Horizons draws closer. In fact, far from coming up with answers, the abundance of new data brought forth will likely only pose even more questions.

New Horizon’s Pluto visit will transform the science of this small body in a matter of weeks, and it will likely take a long time before all of the data it provides will be unpacked. The only thing that would truly surprise the science team at this point would be if they find no surprises on Pluto, said Stern. It’s a safe bet to assume the probe probably won’t be definitively answering scientific questions so much as raising interesting new problems and providing researchers with many decades of mysteries.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,

Hot bananas, the universe is an incredible place

Tuesday, 22 July, 2014

If the Sun were made of bananas it would be just as hot as it is presently. Seems incredible, but it’s apparently the case. Then again though, there is little that is matter of fact about the universe, when you think about it.

If the Sun were made of bananas, it would be just as hot. The Sun is hot because its enormous weight – about a billion billion billion tons – creates vast gravity, putting its core under colossal pressure. Just as a bicycle pump gets warm when you pump it, the pressure increases the temperature. Enormous pressure leads to enormous temperature. If, instead of hydrogen, you got a billion billion billion tons of bananas and hung it in space, it would create just as much pressure, and therefore just as high a temperature. So it would make very little difference to the heat whether you made the Sun out of hydrogen, or bananas, or patio furniture.

Read more posts on related topics

, ,