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What is your favorite definition of science?

I've heard some great quotations from famous scientists that succinctly embody the nuances and beauty of the practice of science. I'm teaching high school science for the first time (starting tomorrow! eek!) and I'm looking for some good examples to share with my students. What are your favorite quotations on the subject? How do you personally define the practice of science? Thanks!
posted by garuda on Aug 24, 2014 - 12 answers

Please help me ID this old sci-fi story

Here are a few facts about this old SF story whose author I can no longer recall. 1. It was written by a giant of mid-century SF whose name I can no longer recall. Not Sheckley, not Asimov. I thought it might be Damon Knight, but I can't find it in his work. 2. It's a story about a man who travels to the future as part of a gigantic relief effort to assist future men who are burying themselves in the earth. [more inside]
posted by Mr. Justice on Aug 23, 2014 - 4 answers

How to make a smoking area smell less horrible?

On a lanai in southwest florida, there is some heavy daily smoking going on. Even with three walls made of screens that open to outside, the smell remains. Looking to find ways to mitigate the stale and persistent smoke smell. The amount of smoking is not going to decrease, looking for a product that will help with the smell from the actual smoking and the ashtrays full of butts (which are emptied fairly often.) [more inside]
posted by slowtree on Aug 21, 2014 - 10 answers

1970s science fiction short story about a young mother going crazy?

There's this science fiction story I can recall reading in at least one anthology, if not multiples. It is told from the perspective of a young mother who is going crazy dealing with her kid(s). The writing is very stark and bleak, but it's a fun story nonetheless. I am fairly certain the author was a woman. I believe it's from the late 60s or early to mid 1970s. [more inside]
posted by Slinga on Aug 21, 2014 - 9 answers

What is this bug? Should I be afraid (very very afraid?)

I hate bugs, and I have one that is in my space. Can the generous and awesome amateur (or professional) entomologists of MetaFilter help me identify it, and perhaps give me a general sense of how dangerous it might or might not be? [more inside]
posted by SMPA on Aug 20, 2014 - 15 answers

State of French scientific knowledge about the moon in 1878

need some pointers as to research strategies/leads to find out about the state of the art knowledge about the moon in 1878, with particular reference to things arising in or popular in the French scientific community. First thoughts are Times digital archive and to look for an encyclopaedia of similar date. Any leads appreciated.
posted by aesop on Aug 20, 2014 - 9 answers

How do I get into following academic publishing?

What ways exist where would one keep up with big ideas or events in the academic publishing world, in some kind of passive way that involves me regularly checking in and picking out what's interesting and saving those for later. [more inside]
posted by dubadubowbow on Aug 17, 2014 - 7 answers

Calling all virologists - important events in virology needed!

I'm preparing a timeline of important virology-related events for work. We have some HIV-related and some bacteriophage-related material as well as some cancer-related stuff and some "greatest hits" (x-ray diffraction patterns, transduction, discovery of interferon). I'd like to expand our timeline to cover more diverse kinds of virology-related stuff. [more inside]
posted by Frowner on Aug 15, 2014 - 8 answers

Static Shocks

I was wondering if the static shocks that a person normally gets in the winter are caused by an excess of electrons, a deficiency of electrons, or if it happens both ways but just depends on the circumstance.
posted by 517 on Aug 14, 2014 - 8 answers

Let's all be scientists!

Throwing away all the political and financial pressure that dilutes and warps science, if one wants to engage in scientific inquiry and be productive and contribute in some small way to humanity's scientific understanding of the cosmos, how does one go about things? Can we boil things down to simple generalized steps -- brief enough to put on a wall plaque -- starting with the evaluation of an experimental idea (is it a "good" experiment?) all the way through to publishing one's reproducible results? [more inside]
posted by strangeguitars on Aug 11, 2014 - 18 answers

Which algorithms changed the world?

A recent post to the blue proposed a set of equations that changed the word. As a computer professional, I'm curious, which algorithms transformed the world? [more inside]
posted by pwnguin on Aug 10, 2014 - 22 answers

I can put together words so that they sound nice. I can't write. Why?

All my life, people have complimented me on my abiity to write well. In middle and high school, it was writing good chapter summaries, literary analyses and essays for homework using flowery language. In college, it became about construction and the flow of ideas, and I found myself to be reasonably adept at that as well. I'm currently jobless ( looking for my first job at 25), and when people chime in with suggestions on how to fix that, they can't understand why I poo-poo the idea of writing professionally out of hand. Help me develop my writerly mind and get myself out of the English class for good. [more inside]
posted by marsbar77 on Aug 7, 2014 - 25 answers

Need the title of a space-based science fiction novel

Around 10 years ago I read a science fiction paperback novel (that I think had been recently published) and I can't remember what it was called. All I can remember is that it was largely set on a spacecraft and there were a group of Humans investigating a series of horrible deaths on a planet and on another spacecraft. They found the bones of the missing people buried on the planet they were investigating.
posted by DarrenLB on Aug 6, 2014 - 5 answers

Interesting Science Jobs

Help me find interesting, unique jobs in the sciences - physics, biology, or chemistry. [more inside]
posted by theboxpenguin on Aug 3, 2014 - 5 answers

Best, Cheap Technology for a Science Classroom

Hey MeFites, I'm really trying to expand the use of digital technology in my classroom. Unfortunately, the resources at my school are fairly limited. However, I do have access to $1200 in grant money, assuming I can write a compelling enough proposal. Help me find some affordable tech for my classroom! Needs of class inside. [more inside]
posted by thelastpolarbear on Jul 30, 2014 - 5 answers

Science Wanted: kitchen powder identification edition

I have a large tupperware full of a crystalline white powder. It could be sugar, or it could be xylitol. How can I tell? So far I've found two possible ways: burn it and record the energy per gram; feed it to dogs. I would prefer not to do the second, as xylitol kills dogs. I'm open to the first, if someone wants to link me to a good experimental method for such. But I'd really love a third way.
posted by freyley on Jul 21, 2014 - 19 answers

Chromatography for newbies

Chemists! I have a question about chromatography. Specifically, what is the best way to isolate a specific molecule, if I want to produce large volumes of this isolated molecule? [more inside]
posted by special agent conrad uno on Jul 19, 2014 - 7 answers

"Objective" studies of the paranormal?

I'm looking for well-written and researched "objective and scientific" studies of the paranormal. I am aware that those are loaded words, particularly around this topic, and I doubt there is a book that settles questions about paranormal activity and abilities once and for all, but essentially I would like to read books written by authors who don't have a pre-determined agenda in favour or against these types of phenomena being real.
posted by Grinder on Jul 16, 2014 - 15 answers

Project management and scheduling for a scientific team

I am part of a large collaborative lab-based project. We are currently disorganized and inefficient and are are looking for some project management systems or tools. [more inside]
posted by strekker on Jul 16, 2014 - 6 answers

Learn Chemistry the fun way...via audio?

Is there a way to learn chemistry that is 1) fun/funny/in some way entertaining 2) via audio? [more inside]
posted by Calicatt on Jul 1, 2014 - 5 answers

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 on Jun 26, 2014 - 12 answers

Chocolate cake for SCIENCE!

How will changing variables in this microwave chocolate cake recipe change the outcome? [more inside]
posted by Solomon on Jun 26, 2014 - 11 answers

Science for English Majors

I saw -- maybe here, maybe on the blue -- a link to a webpage with discussions of all sorts of future-science problems. I can't find it again. Help? [more inside]
posted by AmandaA on Jun 24, 2014 - 2 answers

What cooking chemistry should I know?

What are basic pieces of kitchen science that would be helpful for me to know? I'm most interested in baking but cooking is okay too. Things like the effect of salt or liquid on a recipe or whether I want my bread dough to rise in a dry or humid area and why would be really great. I'm okay at following recipes but I'd absolutely love to know why different ingredients and combinations have different effects and how I can use that to my advantage. [more inside]
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl on Jun 23, 2014 - 22 answers

Please help us name our kitten - very specific requirement edition!

We have a naming convention for our cats - so far they are all science related terms that start with M. We have Magnet, Möbius and Meniscus. Now we have a new little fluff ball - a black kitten with a white tuft on her chest. Can you help think of a name for her? So far we've thrown around Muon, Mendel (too masculine) and plain ol' μ.
posted by lizjohn on Jun 21, 2014 - 67 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 on Jun 21, 2014 - 13 answers

Leaving Academia, but Sticking it Out for the Degree

Assuming nothing goes catastrophically wrong (which might not be a good assumption to make, unfortunately), I should be getting a PhD in about 18 months. I'm about 90% sure that I don't want to stay in academia. What steps can I start taking now to have a smoother career change? [more inside]
posted by anonymous on Jun 20, 2014 - 11 answers

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 on Jun 18, 2014 - 26 answers

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 on Jun 14, 2014 - 6 answers

How to respond to Mars exploration vs feed the hungry?

Today, I was enthusing about a photograph from the surface of Mars, and a friend responded along the following lines: "I find it hard to get excited about it when there are so many starving people here on Earth. We should fix our own problems before exploring other planets." How could I have responded? [more inside]
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Jun 13, 2014 - 39 answers

Help Building a Gameplan For a Career In Market Research Analysis

So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to land a career in market research analysis. Below are the steps I’ve laid out for myself. Could you tell me if this is a good game plan to get where I want to go? [more inside]
posted by ggp88 on Jun 12, 2014 - 5 answers

Music that makes me feel big feelings about being small

I love thinking about the vastness of space, the long arc of the cosmic time scale, the complexity of connections in various systems. I find thinking about these big ideas creates a pleasurable feeling in my body, and putting them to music is even more moving. Examples of favorites include Peter Mulvey's "Vlad the Astrophysicist" and Symphony of Science's "We Are All Connected". What other songs combine music and big scientific ideas about how small and insignificant humans are?
posted by spindrifter on Jun 11, 2014 - 13 answers

Can you answer this question before my traffic court at 9 am?

I'm due in traffic court at 9 am. Help me use math to prove I didn't do it. [more inside]
posted by anastasiav on Jun 10, 2014 - 15 answers

Attending a scientific conference alone and overseas

I could really use some tips on networking and well, not panicking. Difficulty: I'm pretty strongly introverted and have some social anxiety as well, although I can fake it for a few hours if I have enough energy. I'm a senior PhD student who is expected to be better at this than I am. [more inside]
posted by anonymous on Jun 6, 2014 - 11 answers

Poo vs Gravity

As a by-product of this FPP about a very large water slide, have just been involved in an inconclusive and heated argument about the physics aspects. Hypothetically, what would happen if, halfway down this very fast waterslide in a raft, you (accidentally or deliberately, it doesn't matter) defecated? [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on May 20, 2014 - 13 answers

Sweetest Kill

I'm under the impression that factory farming is insane and detrimental to our continuing existence as a species. However, it's difficult to find resources that further explore the environmental impact without the Peter Singer-type ethical concerns of animal welfare, which is appreciated but sometimes lacks a certain scientific rigor. Are there good, go-to resources that explore the environmental impact of factory farming that refrain from diversions into animal rights?
posted by four panels on May 20, 2014 - 9 answers

Regression equation with mean temperature as output variable

If you had a multivariate equation whose output variable is mean surface temperature on earth, what would be the rough beta value for distance from the sun (in millions of miles or whatever)?
posted by clockzero on May 18, 2014 - 4 answers

Did people really believe the Earth birthed minerals?

After browsing John Comenius' Orbis Sensualium Pictus (per this fine Mefi post), I came across this curiously worded statement in the The Fruits of the Earth section: [more inside]
posted by Chrischris on May 16, 2014 - 6 answers

Explosions for Three-Year-Olds

The coolest, smartest almost-three-year-old I know is having his birthday next month. He's really into explosions--what kind of experiments can we perform that will blow his little mind (beyond baking powder volcanoes)? Thank you!
posted by sugarbomb on May 13, 2014 - 19 answers

Help me Meta Kenobi.

Can you reassure me that majoring in computer science and trying to find a job in technology and software as a woman isn't going to be terrible? [more inside]
posted by trogdole on May 13, 2014 - 44 answers

online masters in library science

I'm planning to get a Masters in Library and Information Science. There are no schools that offer this program that are close enough to me at present. There are several online programs that are ALA accredited that I'm interested in. Does anyone have any experience with whether online masters programs are looked down upon when hiring in the library field? (Primarily looking at being a public librarian, if it matters.)
posted by firei on May 12, 2014 - 14 answers

How NOT to be like the nerdy scientist on The Simpsons?

The recurrant scientist character has some distictive speech patterns. What do they reveal about his thought patterns? [more inside]
posted by anonymous on May 10, 2014 - 9 answers

How would a spaceship be protected from solar wind and deterioration?

Once we develop the technology of manned, long-term space travel (such as star trek, for example), how would our spaceships hulls and housing be protected from things such as solar wind, other "energy debris", and deterioration? [more inside]
posted by lain on May 9, 2014 - 8 answers

Help me to debunk climate engineering/chemtrails.

I keep running into very influential people who can cite craploads upon craploads of sources for their beliefs in a world conspiracy involving chemtrails and/or climate engineering. Is there any truth to their beliefs? If so, how much is truth and how much is bullshit or truthiness? [more inside]
posted by quiet earth on May 9, 2014 - 18 answers

What makes magnets work?

My second grader is doing a presentation on magnets. He's read books and can tell you all sorts of cool things about magnets, which is probably fine for second grade. But the really interesting question is not "what do they do?", but "why do they do it?" Can anyone explain how magnets work at a level second graders might understand?
posted by squaregear on May 8, 2014 - 10 answers

Astronomy 101

Cosmos has me very intrigued. Assume I know less than a 5th grader. I am looking for: book recommendations for basic astronomy concepts; blogs; podcasts for beginners; good audio books; and documentaries. If you wanted to teach an adult about astronomy where would you start?
posted by morganannie on May 5, 2014 - 13 answers

What Major and Career Should I Look At If I Enjoy Math?

In studying for my Behavioral Statistics final (it’s a statistics class dealing with psychology research methods) I’ve realized something. I actually kind of enjoy math. As long as I don’t have to memorize formulas (as long as they are right there as I’m going through the work) it’s actually kind of comforting and fun. In fact, every math class I’ve taken in college (I’ve taken two remedial algebras, college algebra, and regular statistics before this class) I’ve enjoyed and made an A in. I’m really struggling about what I want to major in (I’m in psychology but I don’t have it in the gas tank to get a PhD), but I know that a lot of people don’t like math. They don’t get it. I do, so I’ve got something there, right? The only problem is, I don’t know what to do with it. These are the parameters… maybe you can think of something that fits? [more inside]
posted by ggp88 on May 4, 2014 - 16 answers

US 1970s educational/science TV series?

I'm trying to remember a series of shows broadcast in the late 1970s or maybe as late as 1980 or so. It explained science topics through the lens of recent discoveries or advancements. It might have been PBS but I think it was a "special broadcast" on network tv. I loved them and got all excited when one would be on, so I don't think it was regular or weekly. The only one I specifically remember was on the brain, told through the story of a little girl (?) who needed brain surgery. It wasn't for specifically for kids, but I recall them being very upbeat and "yay science!" They were broadcast in prime time, probably 8 PM. Also: it's definitely not Connections. Apologies - this may the the vaguest TV-related AskMe yet!
posted by JoanArkham on Apr 27, 2014 - 10 answers

I have no IDeaL what I'm doing (IDL programming for absolute dum-dums)

So, I recently got selected to do undergraduate physics research this summer. Great! Awesome! Yay me! However, my research advisor has asked me to use something called IDL to analyze tomographic images of compounds and turn them into 3D images. This is good news, because IDL is used a lot by astronomers to analyze astronomical data, and I want to continue my education in astronomy. But, I've never used IDL ever before. I'm not even sure exactly what it is (a programming language?). My question is this: how do I get up to speed so that I can hit the ground running with my research? Difficulty: Research begins in two weeks. Details: [more inside]
posted by runcibleshaw on Apr 25, 2014 - 12 answers

Help us with a good title and decor for 4th grade science fair project

We can't figure out a good title for my daughter's Science Fair Project. The school wants the 4th grade children to basically do the whole project at home with guidance from the parents. My daughter's experiment is on why apples turn brown and she is learning about why the lemon juice worked (learning about acids and bases, etc.) The poster board we will use will have a title on it. The teacher wants us to think of a good title, and it does not necessarily have to be the question, "Why do apples turn brown". It can be a clever, or interesting title that goes with the experiment. At first we thought about, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But then we thought it was too long, and it also might be presumed that her project is about apples and how they are healthy. [more inside]
posted by lynnie-the-pooh on Apr 24, 2014 - 20 answers

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