Entries Tagged 'Science' ↓

My Goodness: Are Pop Rocks Next On the Airlines’ Restricted Items List?

Here’s a question for travelers in our security-minded era: Should the TSA put Pop Rocks, above—the fizzy, crumbly, kids candy from the ’70s—on its air travel prohibited items list?

I ask because it’s long been known what happens to the human digestive system when you swallow Pop Rocks, then mix it with Coca-Cola, a drink available on every commercial flight: Your stomach explodes!

The effect on the individual is, obviously, catastrophic. As for the craft’s airframe, well, suppose this were to happen while flying over the Pacific, right?

Heh, heh. Of course, it’s nonsense, the idea that these two substances, when combined, detonate. It’s a 30-year-old, urban myth. But, as every parent knows, kids have lots of questions about how our bodies are affected by all kinds of phenomena, and why we work as we do.

Andrea and Julia Ditkoff sure did. For example, they wanted to know:

Why do you get a headache when you eat ice cream too quickly?

What’s that small, dewdrop-shaped thing in the back of your throat?

Why do people hiccup?

…not to mention the query which forms the title of their mother’s book, Why Don’t Your Eyelashes Grow?: Curious Questions Kids Ask About the Human Body, right, by Dr. Beth Ann Ditkoff.

In fact, they came up with all the interrogatives Dr. Ditkoff uses in her text. She thought her daughters’ inquiries were, indeed, provocative, but commonplace. Other children, and other adults, would want to hear the answers, also.

They will: Dr. Ditkoff is the guest today on a repeat edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, June 18, at 2 pm ET.

You can listen to this thoughtful writer / physician’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

It’s Hard Out Here For a Nerd.

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Looks like knowledge reigns supreme over human biology at Tiger Woods’ alma mater: For an undergrad course there, says the Stanford University News,

instructor Tom McFadden has created a series of rap videos to explain concepts such as gene regulation and evolution.  His latest video, entitled “Oxidate It Or Love It” explains how metabolism works while paying homage to “Hate It Or Love It” by 50 Cent/The Game and “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z.

Yeaaah, boyee.

Next & Last Stop: Omicron Centauri.

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Though I’ve never ridden the London Tube, I ride the New York City subway system all the time. So, this graphic by Samuel Arbesman, postdoctoral fellow at Harvard studying computational sociology, hit me like a little blitz of genius.

It’s a map of our Milky Way galaxy, done in the style of those in the UK underground trains system, published by Arbesman’s imaginary “Milky Way Transit Authority.” He says his map is

an attempt to approach our galaxy with a bit more familiarity than usual and get people thinking about long-term possibilities in outer space. Hopefully it can provide as a useful shorthand for our place in the Milky Way, the ‘important’ sights, and make inconceivable distances a bit less daunting. And while convenient interstellar travel is nothing more than a murky dream, and might always be that way, there is power in creating tools for beginning to wrap our minds around the interconnections of our galactic neighborhood.

Since you’re looking, the red arm, in the Orion belt, pictures Sol, the scientific name of our own star, the Sun. Heading left, the Orion Nebula is the next stop, 1,344 light years away. In other words, traveling 186,282 miles a second, it would take you over 1300 years to get there. Better pack a lunch.

[via collisiondetection.net]

Haiti, When the World Changed.

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The Elements to Producing Precious.

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Precious, Lee Daniels’ adaptation of author / poet Sapphire’s 1996 novel, Push, has gained wide acclaim for the director. Perhaps even more, though, it has procured deeper regard for both Gabourey Sidibe, as the titular, obese, frequently-raped, illiterate, 16-year-old Claireece “Precious” Jones, above, and comedian Mo’Nique, as her acid-tongued, trigger-hair-violent mother, Mary.

lisacortesUnless you closely study indy film credits, though, you may not heard of Precious executive producer Lisa Cortés, right. (A sr. v.p. with Lee Daniels Entertainment, she’s also worked with Daniels, in varied roles, on the Academy Award-winning Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman, Shadowboxer, and Tennessee.)

That Cortés does this in comparative obscurity, however, may prove she possesses what those in a producing role actually need, even more than publicists: The ability to work relentlessly, behind the scenes, to make movies happen, and an ego healthy enough not to pursue media visibility as its own end.

Lisa Cortés is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, December 11th, at 2 pm ET.

Then, Theodore Gray, is cofounder of software company Wolfram Research, makers of the legendary Mathematica. But that’s just his day job. In his spare time, Gray writes Popular Science‘s “Gray Matter” column…and collects samples of the 118 elements which populate the periodic table.

9781579128142But why leave all that hydrogen, helium, and ununoctium just sitting there? Working with Nick Mann, the two shot seemingly everything in Gray’s hoard for publication.

The result is The Elements A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, right.

Organized in order of appearance on the periodic table, each element is represented by a spread that includes a stunning, full-page, full-color photograph that most closely represents it in its purest form. For example, at -183˚C, oxygen turns from a colorless gas to a beautiful pale blue liquid.

You can hear Lisa Cortés’s and Theodore Gray’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

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You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Master of the Universe.

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Dr. Leonard Susskind is widely regarded as one of the fathers of string theory. The field’s objectives consist of nothing less than a re-ordering of the universe, and a mapping of its very structure, far, far past the atomic level. In his book, The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design, Dr. Susskind illuminates the challenges of his research, the discoveries, and the work still to be done.

Dr. Susskind is the guest today on this previously broadcasted edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, September 18, at 2 pm ET. You can hear his ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.

Planet Brooklyn.

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Familiar landmarks within New York City’s largest borough dominate this image, above. The spectacularly detailed view was shot by NASA’s EO-1 (Earth Observatory) satellite, as it hovered over 438 miles above the nation’s most populated city, on September 12, 2001.

The Girl’s Got It.

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The over 400,000 women, ages 18-24, in the U.S. and Canada who practice Islam have been dutifully represented, bimonthly since 2007, by Muslim Girl magazine, the only beauty and lifestyle publication that targets young females of the faith.

Unfortunately, the mag has not published an issue since this one, above, in the spring of 2008. As Ausma Khan, editor-in-chief, noted in a letter to readers on the Girl‘s web site, the causes are “the current state of the economy and the overall decline in the print industry,” but, also, uniquely, “an advertising industry that is risk-averse to our name and audience.”

I’m personally hoping that Muslim Girl will revive and thrive. Though neither a Muslim nor a girl, I found it an exciting, thought-provoking, and colorful read. Normally, this is the part where most would also probably say something about hoping we can one day live in a country where all people are respected, no matter what their religion, skin color, etc. However, I’m Black.

Magazine or no magazine, Ausma Khan is a smart and analytical thinker on many issues, and especially one ones muslim girls face. That’s why she’s a guest today on this repeat edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, June 19, 2 pm ET.

janna_levin05As well, I’ll be speaking with astrophysicist Dr. Janna Levin, right. (You may recall me mentioning her, last week, in my post on whether or not the universe is conscious and alive.)

She’s giving a lecture here in New York, next week, Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 8:00 PM, at Columbia University’s Lerner Hall, as part of the 8th Edoardo Amaldi Conference on Gravitational Waves. Janna’s talk, Songs from Space: Black Holes and the Big Bang in Audio, will show how physicists are using audio, animation, and other aids to make the wonders of the cosmos more real to regular people. (Check out her cool poster.) Plus, we’ll be playing one or two weird-sounding samples from her talk, in advance, during the broadcast!

You can hear Ausma Khan’s and Janna Levin’s ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state area, you can check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, fly over to our archives for up to 90 days after the broadcast.

Is the Universe Conscious?

Large-Scale Structure of the Universe

Everybody knows that the universe is big, and everybody knows that it was here long before there were people.

But is the universe alive?

By this, I don’t mean in the sense that, say, freedom can be alive, or the way an ocean can be alive because it’s filled with living things.

I mean, is the universe, itself, alive? To put it roughly, is the universe somewhat akin to a big animal?

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Journey to a Strange Planet.

alien-ice

The stunning frozen terrain, above, made of ice several feet thick, but clear as glass, was photographed by explorers on the surface of a planet millions of miles from our Sun.

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