Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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April 14

Video about mathematical models of why sexual reproduction happens

A while ago, I saw a video where a woman speaker discussed some of the puzzles in biology about why sexual reproduction evolved and continues to happen. It covers "the cost of males" and other major drawbacks, then discusses how only models that incorporate a finite population show sex evolving and persisting. [more inside]
posted by sindark at 6:21 PM - 3 answers

April 13

Bug Identification help needed, possible disease vector?

I'm looking for a positive ID on this bug before I get rid of it. I think it is some type of assassin bug. I live in south Georgia. [more inside]
posted by Talia Devane at 5:47 PM - 6 answers

April 5

Orbital Mechanics for Dummies

Where can I learn about the physics of spaceflight if I don't know calculus? What books, movies, video games, websites, etc., would you recommend? [more inside]
posted by contemporarySlob at 8:37 PM - 8 answers

April 4

What smells like almonds in the forest?

While hiking on the Point Reyes peninsula (Marin County, California, USA), we kept smelling an almond smell. We poked and prodded various trees and plants but could not find the source of the smell. What would commonly grow in a costal fir forest that would smell like almonds? It was a strong "so where's the cookies" almond extract-y almond smell, though slightly more herby and piercing than that cheap bakery cookie smell. [more inside]
posted by gyusan at 10:37 AM - 7 answers

April 2

Chemistry filter: Decaf edition

An idle curiousity question for the Green's resident chemistry boffins: is there a chemical that could break caffeine down into safe and inactive (from the body's perspective) components? [more inside]
posted by duoshao at 6:42 AM - 3 answers

Videos explaining the origin of life and evolution for very young kids.

I am struggling with explaining the origin of life, evolution and natural selection in a tangible way to my kids 4 & 5. Informing myself better has helped in the explaining, but I hope you can direct me towards videos aimed at young children which do a better job. Those I have found online are great for adults and slightly older kids, but level of detail is off-putting for them e.g. From the big bang to me, great video, but slightly too advanced.
posted by therubettes at 12:45 AM - 7 answers

March 31

How is global warming measured?

1. Not all points can be measured. 2.Which points are measured affect the result. 3. So how is the global temperature determined? [more inside]
posted by maurreen at 6:54 PM - 3 answers

March 29

help explain how a plumbing snake works in terms of physics

Spouse has been using an electric eel for the past few days and is curious about the physics of how the snake travels through the pipe. He doesn't understand how the machine pushes the snake in to the pipe or how the snake travels through the pipe. We are having a hard time finding good search terms for this. It's easy to find information on how to use a machine auger, but not easy to know what to look up to understand the physics behind it. Does it have to do with springs? How things coil?
posted by bleary at 7:53 AM - 6 answers

I'm constantly shocking people. But why?

I get and give little electric shocks all the time. This means I often get zapped i.e. when touching a computer or door. That's annoying but okay but it gets worse when I zap coworkers, friends or even clients. I'm not so much interested in how to cope with this but more in what causes this issue. Do you know why I fry them?
posted by krautland at 12:20 AM - 28 answers

March 25

Statistical framing of the engineering and extremism article

Reading this article on the blue got me thinking about conditional probabilities, prediction and causality. I came up with an analytical framing of what I think the article is saying and would be grateful if stats/social science Mefites could tell me if it seems accurate or else set me right. [more inside]
posted by mister_kaupungister at 7:01 AM - 3 answers

March 23

App for graphing a phylogenetic tree?

What's the best app for graphing out a phylogenetic tree, including pictures, for a fantasy taxonomy? (OSX or iOS, please.) [more inside]
posted by progosk at 12:25 AM - 7 answers

March 20

Halliday & Resnick Editions

I picked up the first edition of Halliday & Resnick's Physics from my local bookshop. My goal is to work through it (along with a calculus text) for fun and profit. Will I be missing out on anything important by using the original 1960's text, rather than one of the more recent ones (now titled Fundamentals of Physics)?
posted by stinkfoot at 1:00 PM - 12 answers

March 16

Seeking biological weapons science info

(asking for a friend) I'm writing a novel - a thriller - set principally in the Antarctic in WWII which takes the idea of the development of a biological weapon as its premise. What I need is an insight into a suitably nasty bacteria or virus that could have been developed into a weaponisable form; something that the British might have been working on towards the end of WWI; and something that could have been resurrected again in 1943 as a back-stop to deal with two possible scenarios. [more inside]
posted by jessamyn at 3:02 PM - 5 answers

March 14

principles-based Chinese language education?

The grammars of English, Latin, and Spanish are all taught as relatively general principles (families of declensions, verb tenses, etc.). In contrast, I'm now on my third attempt at learning Chinese, and this program like both before it apparently expects me to learn the grammar by memorizing a vast library of fill-in-the-blank templates. Why the difference? And is there anybody teaching Chinese with less reliance on rote memorization? [more inside]
posted by d. z. wang at 8:51 PM - 7 answers

March 12

Help identify these eggs attached to a leaf

Asking this for my five-year-old son. He found these eggs attached to a leaf while we were raking. [more inside]
posted by Brodiggitty at 3:29 PM - 7 answers

March 11

Public health definition of "end of epidemic"?

How does one come to define the end of an epidemic? Whether HIV or Ebola, smallpox or Zika, what are the accepted public health guidelines for defining the end of an epidemic/pandemic? I can't find the answer anywhere and hopefully you fine folks in public health can help.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:22 AM - 10 answers

Quote help: "[animals] are acutely aware of the productivity..."

I remember reading a quote from a book, perhaps about deer, that I cannot locate. Can anyone help? It was discussing the possibility of starvation and it went something like "[animals] are acutely aware of the productivity of their own [foraging] efforts..." Thanks.
posted by Space Dog at 9:17 AM - 1 answers

March 7

Swimming in phosphorescent algae in or near the UK?

I live in the UK. At some point this year I want to play with, and ideally swim amongst, wild phosphorescent (/bioluminescent) algae. Where and when should I go? [more inside]
posted by metaBugs at 4:27 PM - 4 answers

March 3

Bones Unknown

Found some bones. Be they sheep, deer, or monster? [more inside]
posted by popcassady at 12:30 PM - 4 answers

March 1

What is an effective method for obliterating white pine weevils?

I planted a number of native (to Michigan) white pine trees only to see them bedeviled by evil weevils. Specifically, the cause of the damage is white pine weevils and 100% of my trees were affected. Two part question: first, what are tried and true "natural" methods for controlling this pest, and second, what are its most effective pesticides, placing a high importance on minimizing collateral damage to people, flora, and fauna? [more inside]
posted by tempestuoso at 6:45 PM - 3 answers

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