Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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August 25

Terminal velocity of an Etruscan shrew

Smaller, lighter animals can fall from further up without being harmed (I believe). Is there a mammal that is so small it could fall from any height and not be hurt? Is my basic premise wrong? Does terminal velocity figure into the explanation?
posted by Naib at 6:12 PM - 7 answers

August 21

Are there always rainbows?

Is it safe to say that there is always a rainbow visible in the sky somewhere on Planet Earth? Relatedly, is it possible to estimate the average number of rainbows visible across the planet at a given moment?
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 9:44 PM - 8 answers

I was told there would be no math.

I've crossed a bunch of plants with one another, and now have a bunch of berries on those plants. Each berry can contain way more seeds than I have room to pot up and grow out individually, so I'm trying to find the point of diminishing returns, where potting up additional seedlings stops giving me new and interesting results, but my math background is inadequate. [more inside]
posted by Spathe Cadet at 10:22 AM - 13 answers

August 19

How does your non-profit org get access to academic journals?

We're growing (yay!) but we need a more regular way for about twenty people to access (mostly hard science) academic peer-reviewed journals. Do you and your org have subscriptions you're really satisfied with? [more inside]
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:04 PM - 13 answers

August 18

Weird round creatures washing up on Devon and Cornwall beaches?

What are the weird, pebbled round things washing up in their hundreds on Devon and Cornwall beaches, as reported here? (Daily Mail link, sorry.)
posted by Mistress at 1:37 PM - 3 answers

What shape are the numbers?

When you think of numbers, do they have some specific, reliable spatial organization in your mind? [more inside]
posted by biogeo at 12:11 PM - 50 answers

Great SciFi books for an 11 yr old girl obsessed with Star Wars trivia?

She doesn't need any more Star Wars trivia books. She's gifted, reads at an adult level, is super-knowledgeable about science- especially natural sciences-, but hey, she's just turning 11 and is a bit immature. She doesn't need any graphic sex scenes or horrendous gore. I'd love to find her some books that are really well-written and that will challenge her to think.
posted by mareli at 11:19 AM - 41 answers

August 15

Why is July the hottest month *worldwide*?

I just read this article that says July 2016 was Earth's hottest month in recorded history. And the same article notes that: "NASA's five hottest months on record are July 2016, July 2011, July 2015, July 2009 and August 2014. Only July 2015 was during an El Nino. Records go back to 1880." The data relate to the global average temperature, not just the parts that are having summer in July. So why are the global averages being pulled up especially during the northern hemisphere's summer? [more inside]
posted by nomis at 5:15 PM - 5 answers

August 13

How bad for you is CO2?

What are the direct effects of elevated levels of carbon dioxide on human health in the long term? [more inside]
posted by MrVisible at 10:43 AM - 18 answers

August 12

Acceleration due to gravity

How close could you get to the speed of light due to acceleration by falling into or being in a decaying orbit around a large gravity well (black hole?) [more inside]
posted by blue_beetle at 6:46 AM - 12 answers

August 8

Do you have a vigor? A vigor for rigor?

A colleague mentioned a college course he took on rigorously proving commonly handwaved aspects of math. Help me find books or a syllabus relating to this! [more inside]
posted by The Gaffer at 11:34 AM - 9 answers

August 7

Science-y Adventures for Adults in the Bay Area?

I'd like to follow around a trained naturalist or scientist and listen to them hold forth on flora, fauna, geology, weather, (and some history) you name it. I have an Absolute Lack of Patience for general tours that lack a suitable density of information. (This is also true of nature documentaries.) I'm less picky about exact topic and more interested in interesting and knowledgeable speakers. Museums are cool, but I far prefer wandering around outside. Any ideas to share?
posted by Alex Haist at 2:54 PM - 7 answers

August 4

What are some surprising things that not everyone can do?

Recent articles featured on MF learned me that not everyone gets goosebumps, and that not everyone has a mind's eye. What are some other things that not everyone can do, either mental or physical? [more inside]
posted by bq at 3:25 PM - 90 answers

Can someone id this plant for me?

Hoping for an ID for a low-growing, herbaceous perennial plant. [more inside]
posted by release the hardwoods! at 9:34 AM - 2 answers

July 30

What was a petrified animal doing in this tree?

My cousin's friend recently discovered a small, petrified animal embedded in a tree. He chopped down this tree near Marquette, Michigan, and was cutting firewood when he made this discovery. He describes the animal as about three inches long, and rock hard. Though maybe not visible in the photo, he believes that it may have hind legs. What might this animal have been, and how might it have gotten embedded in a tree? [more inside]
posted by basil at 8:31 PM - 10 answers

Marine biologists, what was that thing I saw all the time in Bermuda?

I lived in Bermuda for a few years as a little kid. I remember swimming in shallow water and encountering this tubular/ intestine shaped, orangey translucent mass of...stuff...that seemed to ooze up from the sand. [more inside]
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:07 PM - 7 answers

July 28

Why does the military prefer space planes such as the X37?

I've been playing Kerbal Space Program and now I'm like a kid about space again. How come commercial ventures are opting for Mercury style capsules and the military is wanting a space plane? I don't understand the advantage, I assume you can drop a capsule anywhere with the same precision as a glider.
posted by geoff. at 10:55 AM - 14 answers

July 26

How can you maintain original thinking when learning a new field?

When diving into a new field, how can you keep 'thinking outside the box' as you learn the traditional knowledge in a field? As you learn the patterns of thinking that a field promotes, I think it's hard to think outside of those patterns in the future. How do you maintain originality in thinking and avoid paradigm blindness? Some ideas inside. [more inside]
posted by markbao at 12:40 PM - 13 answers

July 25

Cloud watching for beginners

What is the best way to get into cloud identification as a hobby? I'm mainly interested in learning the vocabulary and how to talk about and describe clouds—not the satellite imaging / meteorology / weather predicting side. [more inside]
posted by metaphorever at 8:55 AM - 10 answers

Lower temperature methyl cellulose

Methyl cellulose solution has the handy property of being liquid up to about 50deg C, and becomes solid(ish) above that temperature. I'm looking for a substance that does the same, but with a transition temperature somewhere around 0-20deg C. [more inside]
posted by metaBugs at 7:38 AM - 9 answers

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