Posts Tagged ‘science’
October 9, 2013 | by Nathan Deuel
You discover one day—while everyone else is doing whatever it is that makes them happy—that you can almost pop one of the bones in your hand right out of the skin. It’s awesome. First, you practice in secret, when you’re bored or exasperated by school. But one day, you are practicing out in the open when someone notices the little bit of white sticking out, and they say, Wow, how cool, and they ask you to do it again. Look at this guy, they say—when formerly you were ignored or marginalized or made to feel you were odd or would at any rate never to amount to much—and it occurs to you: maybe you’re on to something.
You get good at it, the bone popping, and in college you realize there’s a whole department devoted to the study of it: how they did it in the old days, how it became different when the boats came to North America. Yet, on the musty college campus, everything seems safe and no one’s trying hard enough. In fact, it’s difficult to find anyone doing a good or brave job of bone popping.
Eventually, you find places in the big city—loft buildings, various dark cafés—where people gather. Most can pop one or two hand bones, but a few can do their whole arm bone or an entire leg. Some of these people are actually making a living doing this. They get contracts to spend years on one big bone popping. Some win awards, or fellowships. But no matter how good you get, one old timer says, never remove your heart. Then you’re dead.
So you practice, getting good, refining your technique. Read More »
September 9, 2013 | by Adam Leith Gollner
What have we not done to live forever? Adam Leith Gollner’s research into the endless ways we’ve tried to avoid the unavoidable is out now as The Book of Immortality: The Science, Belief, and Magic Behind Living Forever. Every Monday for the next three weeks, this chronological crash course will examine how humankind has striven for, grappled with, and dreamed about immortality in different eras throughout history.
During the Middle Ages, every alchemist worth his saltpeter tried to find the philosopher’s stone, the water stone of the wise, the miraculous stone that is no stone. It was the means to transmute base metals into gold and—more importantly—concoct elixirs of immortality.
The word is Arabic in origin: al-kimia, al-khymia, or al-kīmyā. It’s how chemistry begins. Science as we now conceive it did not exist in the medieval period. (The word scientist only became commonplace in the nineteenth century, after Cambridge University historian William Whewell coined the term in 1833.) Instead, there was natural magic and philosophy—and alchemy, the experimental attempt to combine different elements and uncover the factual mysteries of nature. Read More »
July 9, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- A twelve-foot fiberglass Mr. Darcy is currently standing in the middle of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake, and is terrifying.
- A new analytics tool claims it can detect sarcasm in online comments. But the best part: “Its clients include the Home Office, EU Commission and Dubai Courts.”
- The artist formerly known as “the” is now represented by the symbol Ћ.
- Book titles missing one (key) letter.
- A scientifically accurate “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Sample lyric: “Thirty-two light years in the sky / Ten parsecs which is really high.”
December 12, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
May 4, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
As Shakespeare said, “It is the very error of the moon … she comes more nearer earth than she wont, and makes men mad.” This weekend will see the biggest full moon of the year. The “supermoon" will be at its most visible Saturday night, and we are already scouting our vantage points!
It seems fitting that we should mark the event with a visit to the newly available online picture archive of the venerable Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge. Founded in 1660, the Royal Society is the world’s oldest scientific library. It’s easy to lose yourself on the site for a few hours—and you should: whether your tastes run to seventeenth-century botanical studies, early lunar photography, or the history of telescopy, you’ll be rewarded by a collection that, a week ago, might have required a plane ticket.
And since 2012 also marks the 110th birthday of the classic silent short A Trip to the Moon, it is meet and right that we pay tribute to Georges Méliès as well! Happy viewing, wherever you are.