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Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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June 29

Duck Wars: Is there anything humans can do?
We have two families of ducks on our pond. The older family of six started killing the new babies of the young family of ten. [more inside]
posted by shipbreaker at 11:42 AM - 6 answers

June 27

Mystery mark stains seat! Blue butt print upon the tainted throne!
This morning, I was surprised to see the clear imprint of my wife's butt and thighs in a bluish tone on our white melamine toilet seat. Is the actual chemistry known here, and what should we do to avoid this in the future? [more inside]
posted by anonymous at 10:37 AM - 19 answers

June 26

Learning about artificial intelligence
I'm currently exploring artificial intelligence as a potential field to go into. What books (fiction or nonfiction), films, or resources would you recommend for learning about artificial intelligence, the possibilities of AI, and its future? What should I know? [more inside]
posted by markbao at 4:45 PM - 12 answers

Shiprock, New Mexico and climate change.
This past weekend, we drove through Shiprock, New Mexico and I started wondering how much humans have changed the landscape. Pre-Columbus - what was the landscape like? Was there more water and groundcover - or was it always arid and (almost) desolate?
posted by TorontoSandy at 3:24 PM - 6 answers

June 25

why did so much of Philadelphia smell like gas yesterday?
Yesterday morning it smelled like gas from South Philly though center city and up into Fishtown, but it wasn't actually natural gas. What was it? [more inside]
posted by sepviva at 6:12 PM - 10 answers

Spinach and wolves
In 'The Half-Life of Facts' there's this neat anecdote on the importance of checking data: a guy puts a decimal point in the wrong place and everyone thinks the wrong thing about spinach for decades. But this academic paper makes me wonder - has anyone ever checked the origin of that data? [more inside]
posted by robself at 10:13 AM - 1 answers

June 23

Because, not why
What's the word for when a website's malfunctioning makes you feel trapped and panic-achey in your hands and arms? For example, right now any Google Spreadsheet is stuck "Working..." and I can't get cells to update even though I can type in them. I'm using e-claustrophobia as a working word, but is there another name for this?
posted by michaelh at 8:29 AM - 6 answers

June 22

Where can go to I touch something that's been to the moon?
Where can I go to touch something that has been to the Moon and back? Is such a thing even possible? There must be artifacts spread around the U.S. Where's the nearest one to you (and where are you)?
posted by dws at 9:02 PM - 19 answers

June 21

Air Conditioning Efficiency (Coefficient of Performance) Questions
I have come to understand that a typical modern window or residential-central air conditioner (which I believe is referred to in the industry as a "Direct Expansion" or DX unit) has a coefficient of performance which typically ranges between 3.0 and 3.5. That is to say, for every unit of energy consumed, the air conditioner removes between 3 and 3.5 units of heat from the conditioned space. I have a few questions regarding this, inside. [more inside]
posted by Juffo-Wup at 7:37 PM - 3 answers

SciFiFilter FTL-ish Plausibility Check
In a discussion elsewhere on the internets a twist on a common science fictional transportation technology was proposed. A spaceship leaps from one point in space to another, but while it is instantaneous for the passengers, the transit actually takes some small amount of time longer than light would take to cover the distance (let's say the Planck time). Would the time delay prevent the violation of causality? It appears that everyone is staying in their light cones, what am I missing? [more inside]
posted by Octaviuz at 6:53 PM - 13 answers

June 18

Best college major for addressing climate change?
What kind of skill sets does one need to be of best help to addressing climate change? It would seem like the most obvious choice is to major in environmental science. Otherwise, maybe political science to deal with legislators and capital hill? Or "who cares what you study undergrad" and go to law school?
posted by defmute at 7:40 PM - 26 answers

June 17

What animals are making these vocalizations?
I live in Deerfield, MA, USA. These sounds are coming from a tree across the street. Both the whimpering-pup sounds and the louder squeals/screeches are coming from the same place. Any idea who is making these sounds?
posted by Camofrog at 9:15 PM - 9 answers

Where to get algebraic help?
I am working through the mooculus calculus one mooc as a refresher (which I clearly need), and there is one thing I have run across that I just don't see. Can you help me figure out what is going on, and what I can do to work out future problems? [more inside]
posted by carpographer at 8:01 PM - 5 answers

Can anyone identify this... Thing?
One of the kiddos in my Cousin's class found this: rando nature doodad Data points - she is located in Iowa. She describes it as being squishy and the white bit feels kind of like a hard boiled egg. Any ideas?
posted by sleepykitties at 2:08 PM - 12 answers

Resources to better understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity
I'm seeking recommendations for documentaries or books that offer more than a layman's explanation of Einstein's Theory of Relativity, but don't require advanced studies in astrophysics to comprehend. [more inside]
posted by bkpiano at 12:49 PM - 12 answers

June 16

Cosmos - "The Clean Room" Clarification Question about Age of the Earth.
My wife and I just watched the seventh episode of Cosmos called "The Clean Room" which tells us (among other things) about how Clair Patterson determined the age of the Earth. The episode explains Patterson used meteorite fragments, such as those from the Canyon Diablo crater, because they were assumed to be leftovers from the creation of the solar system. My question is one of clarification; specifically, how they could be sure that assumption was correct? [more inside]
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:12 PM - 12 answers

Test for significant change from a menu of choices over time.
A large group of people are asked to choose exactly one option out of 8 options, A B C D E F G H. A year later this is repeated. How to test for significance? [more inside]
posted by 92_elements at 1:54 PM - 14 answers

June 14

What did Robert Oppenheimer say about scientists' drive to get results?
I read a while ago a quote from Oppenheimer that eloquently expressed the idea that once a scientist gets in his or her head the idea that a result is achievable, he or she will not be stopped until that result is achieved. He referred to the scientist, though the sense in which he meant the term might better map to what many consider an engineer. [more inside]
posted by edw at 9:10 AM - 6 answers

June 9

Introductory sources on biological classification
I'm beginning a project that looks partly at biological classification, primarily in western science. I have no background in this, and so I'm digging around. I'm interested to know more about the current rules for nomenclature, and also to know more about historical, philosophical, sociological, knowledge practice, ethnographic, anthropological, science technology and society (STS), sociotechnical, etc., approaches to the study of biological classification. I'll take monographs, articles, papers, web sites, etc. I have access to a university library. What are some good sources that can introduce me to this? Many thanks!
posted by carter at 6:53 AM - 13 answers

June 8

Mathematical moments of wonder like Cantor's diagonal method
I've been reading Godel, Escher, Bach and I want to find more mind-expanding concepts that give the sense of understanding some fundamental truth. [more inside]
posted by StephenF at 3:57 PM - 14 answers

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