Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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January 6

Need help identifying eyepiece from an old chemistry/science set

I have a small black eyepiece from my dad's old chemistry set. Its purpose was to teach about isotopes by showing a visual example of radioactive decay. Any clues or knowledge of what the element inside is? Links to original documentation or similar sets? (Bonus question: This set is from the "our friend the atom" era, so, is it actually safe? I hope putting it up to my eye isn't like licking a radium covered paintbrush.) [more inside]
posted by BleachBypass at 10:12 AM - 6 answers

January 4

Odd Animal Out. Which species are not like the rest of their kind?

Any examples of animal species that are vastly different or behave differently, eat differently than the rest of their species. [more inside]
posted by thelloydshow at 2:00 PM - 28 answers

What's a good book or resource for understanding weather?

This is one of those writer questions. I'd like to develop a good working knowledge of weather and weather patterns that would enable me to... 1) Quickly come up with a plausible climate for a given latitude and geography. 2) Get a good on the ground sense of weather. (The more sensory details, the better). I basically want to be the old person who looks at a cloud and knows it's going to rain, and I want to know the variations in clouds, wind, how the air smells, etc. Like most authors, I want to sound like I know what I'm talking about. I've read through some basic weather and climate textbooks. They do give a general systemic description, but I'd like more narrative detail, if possible.
posted by Alex Haist at 11:50 AM - 12 answers

December 31, 2015

Need good book on physical world of the Bible that isn't for children

For a project I'm doing, I'd like an illustrated book with lots of information on the physical world of the Bible - particularly animals, plants, and insects. I can look up what's mentioned in the Bible on Wikipedia, but I want more than that. I want to be able to page through an illustrated work (color) - bonus points if there are commentaries from scholars - and to learn a lot about all of the creatures mentioned without having to turn to my computer for complete information. More below. [more inside]
posted by FencingGal at 3:23 PM - 9 answers

December 30, 2015

Weird little dots

Can you identify this interesting orange and black lichen? Is it a lichen? Is it two? [more inside]
posted by theodolite at 3:07 PM - 4 answers

Optical fiber transmitting light gained lengthwise?

Having a brainfart about bare optical fiber that is really bothering me. Tried to google this and while I think the answer is yes my google-fu is failing in a big way. [more inside]
posted by Slackermagee at 1:06 PM - 5 answers

December 23, 2015

What is a good global warming advocacy org to donate to?

I would like to donate some money to combat global warming. I'm thinking more of orgs that influence public policy than carbon offset donations, because the former seem to have greater impact, but welcome opinions to the contrary. [more inside]
posted by splitpeasoup at 5:47 PM - 4 answers

December 20, 2015

Why Do Some Trees Oooze Globs of Clear Gel-Like Sap?

I think I went by a silk tree and looked up and down and there were globs of clear gel on the ground and clusters of it above. What purpose does this serve the tree? What is it indicative of?
posted by watercarrier at 1:42 AM - 4 answers

December 18, 2015

Graphic design for scientific figures

I'm looking for examples of well-designed scientific figures. As a materials scientist I've encountered many horrendous figures that are difficult to understand and read. I've read about collaborations between graphic design and physical science departments, which yield much more attractive and informative figures, but these examples are few and far between. I'm hoping to apply principles from good graphic design and data visualization to my own work. Are there any resources or websites where I can learn more about this?
posted by Aanidaani at 1:25 PM - 10 answers

December 15, 2015

Medical podcasts

I would like to find new medical podcasts to listen to whilst I cycle. I would be interested in physiology, pathology, anatomy, anything similar, really! I have enjoyed Doc C on anatomy, pathology and pathophysiology and Robert Sapolsky on Human Behavioural Biology a great deal, so more excellent lecturers would be great. [more inside]
posted by fizban at 7:57 AM - 8 answers

Can the stars be seen more clearly when flying at 40,000 feet?

In relation to reading a recent article on the Skydeck, I wondered if flying at 40,000 feet and thereby removing an equivalent chunk of the Earth's atmosphere, made a significant difference in how clearly one can view the stars.
posted by fairmettle at 4:14 AM - 5 answers

December 13, 2015

Have any animals been observed to spontaneously create external symbols?

Have any kinds of animals been observed to spontaneously— ie, in the wild, without the coaching of humans— create any kind of enduring external symbols, such as number markings, pictograms, ideograms, etc (visual-based or based in any other sense, such as sound, etc)? — Doubt it, but would be curious to know of any leading or controversial research on this subject
posted by cotesdurhone at 11:40 AM - 22 answers

December 12, 2015

Challenges, Puzzles and Courses in Maths, Logic and Computing

I'm looking for challenges, puzzles and "teach yourself" courses that involve maths and logic, probably related to computing. Ideally I'd like a curated source (mailing list or regularly updated website), but perhaps the best we can do is collect them here. Inside I will give examples of what I mean by "challenges, puzzles and courses". [more inside]
posted by andrewcooke at 1:58 PM - 9 answers

December 11, 2015

Other snow

The kids and I were making paper snowflakes. We watched some snowflake videos. I showed them folding steps to make classic six-pointed or twelve-pointed paper snowflakes. They in turn rediscovered four and eight-pointed paper snowflakes. They asked, "Are there any real snowflakes that don't have six points?" [more inside]
posted by gregoreo at 9:45 AM - 7 answers

December 10, 2015

Pantry moths?

Our kitchen has an insect infestation. Here are some adults caught with a pantry moth pheremone glue trap: one, two, three Can anyone identify the species? Or recommend means of eradication? [more inside]
posted by sindark at 12:52 AM - 22 answers

December 5, 2015

Tiger conservation charity?

Every year I donate to two charities, one for humans (Doctors Without Borders, Direct Relief, etc) and one for animals. I'd like to donate for the conservation of tigers, but I'm not sure which charity is best. Details within. [more inside]
posted by bluecore at 10:14 AM - 9 answers

December 4, 2015

Basic statistics question

I have the results of a survey, along with a couple of basic descriptive statistics. I'm trying to determine how they were calculated and my one semester of stats isn't holding up. Could you help? Details inside. [more inside]
posted by Think_Long at 11:44 AM - 14 answers

Testing "stepwise" biochemical affinity for multimers?

How would you test whether the affinity of a tetramer for a particular ligand proceeds stepwise, i.e. assuming that the tetramer can bind one ligand per subunit, how would you test whether an initial binding event made subsequent binding events on the same tetramer more likely? I can't think of a good way to isolate a single molecule in solution, so any experiments would have to be on a aggregate population which would make stepwise cascades in affinity impossible to measure. Maybe if the measurement was really really time sensitive? Thoughts?
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:43 AM - 3 answers

December 1, 2015

What can I do with this data?

I volunteer at an NGO that provides legal aid to asylum seekers. I'm trying to create graphs that will help us better visualize the population we serve and perhaps make connections that we haven't before. Our data points are: age, sex, nationality, arrival date in our service, length of asylum procedure, and outcome of procedure (refusal or acceptance). We have this information from every person who has used our service. What interesting and useful things can I do with this data? [more inside]
posted by Blissful at 2:10 PM - 10 answers

best flood control/diversion strategy for river cabin?

We have an old log cabin on a river, downstream from a private dam (large manmade lake). Decades ago, a major flood picked up the small house upstream and slammed it against the trees (approx. 1/2 acre) in between, which diverted the floodwaters to either side of our cabin. But what about next time? [more inside]
posted by mmiddle at 8:33 AM - 5 answers

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