Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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June 15

What the hell did I just see in the sky?

What did I just see flashing almost directly overhead? About 2235CDT, I was letting the whiney dog out and saw something flash almost overhead in my peripheral vision. I thought it was a meteor, but about 15-20 seconds later I saw it again. [more inside]
posted by notsnot at 9:16 PM - 3 answers

June 12

What equations graph these curves?

I've got three curves that I'd love to find equations for, if such exist. I've done some research on the Internet but everything I find is talking way over my head. I got up through trigonometry in high school, but that was probably the miracle of teacher apathy during grading. So, do you know what equations graph these three curves? (Okay, one is straight lines, but that's still a curve for these purposes, isn't it?) [more inside]
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 4:44 PM - 18 answers

1980s National Geographic story about a radiation burn

Some time in the late 1980s I read a story in a National Geographic magazine about people who found an abandoned radioactive substance and were harmed by it. I want to re-read the story and see if my decades-old recollection of the incident and photos is accurate- it really struck me as a child. Is it online anywhere? [more inside]
posted by nouvelle-personne at 1:07 PM - 6 answers

June 10

How would a violin case decompose if it was buried outside for 20 years?

I'm writing a piece of fiction. A violin case with a black leather exterior, something like this one, is buried in a forest for 20 years. How would the case look once unearthed? What kind of shape would the violin itself be in? Details below the fold. [more inside]
posted by Beardman at 5:59 PM - 11 answers

June 9

Assume spherical blinds in a vacuum... (very minor physics question)

I have nothing riding on the answer to this, I'm just idly curious about the physics behind the movement of some vertical blinds as they're being closed. [more inside]
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:19 PM - 9 answers

June 7

How to debunk anti-vaccine sources?

Typically, the sources cited by anti-vaxxers to provide evidence that vaccines cause autism or are otherwise dangerous are not credible and thus easily dismissible. This Gish gallop of a Reddit post is something else, though—50 different links, many of them to NCBI or other academic journals. [more inside]
posted by Bodechack at 8:46 AM - 11 answers

May 29

Identifying Mushrooms

I wouldn't really even know where to begin with identifying the mushrooms in the pictures in this folder. Casual clicking around the internet isn't popping up anything; I want to know what these are whether or not they're edible or whatever. They don't seem to be anything from here or here but I'm not sure. [more inside]
posted by Caduceus at 9:56 AM - 8 answers

My Car, the Generator

Can I use my car during a hurricane to power a small window A/C unit? [more inside]
posted by uncannyslacks at 6:05 AM - 21 answers

History of bounty hunting of animals?

Bounty hunting of animals is politically and ecologically important, but casual searching doesn't up anything on the subject in general. Anyone know of a source?
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 2:40 AM - 12 answers

May 28

Plastic bags, the more sustainable choice? Break it down please...

Like many municipalities, my town and state are both in the process of trying to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags. Opposers of the ban keep putting forward a handful of life cycle analysis studies of paper vs. plastic vs. cloth reusable bags that find that plastic bags had the least impact on the environment. While I understand the complexities of LCA study and recognize these are mostly government studies and not likely plastic-lobby bias, my strong feeling is that when all forms of impact are considered, plastic is still a net negative. I want to be able to point out the limitations of these studies. What do they miss or exclude? [more inside]
posted by Miko at 11:35 AM - 29 answers

May 25

Caving in the Pacific Northwest: newbie edition

I'm interested in doing some cave-exploring. I have never done this, other than a few tours over the years. I live in Portland, Oregon, and ideally would like to get started with some stuff that's a 2-3 hours drive from here -- I know about Oregon Caves National Monument, but I'd prefer to do stuff in central/eastern Oregon, or southwestern Washington. I also know about Ape Caves, so that's already on the list. What are the newbie-friendly caves & cave-resources I should be looking at?
posted by curious nu at 3:38 PM - 4 answers

May 24

But Grandmother! What big eyes you have!

In 2003, Hafen and Stocker contributed to the PLOS Biology "Unsolved Mystery" series with an article about how we don't know how organs, cells and bodies know how to grow to their correct sizes, writing hopefully that, "Given the significant interest that has been generated in growth control, it should not be long before some of these old mysteries in biology are explained." In 2008, Tsukaya added another article to the series, writing that leaf size is "under the control of an unknown, organ-wide integration system." In 2010, Wolpert wrote, "While we have a reasonably good understanding of how our limbs grow, we know relatively little about how their growth is so reliably controlled." In the 16 years since the first article and the 9 years since the third article, what else have we learned about how growth of organs and limbs is controlled, in either plants or animals?
posted by clawsoon at 5:33 AM - 1 answers

May 17

What can I learn by studying my own sleep?

I've always had frequent, vivid and absorbing dreams that I usually remember. I'm curious about my sleep patterns and behaviour. How can I learn more about my own sleep? [more inside]
posted by AllShoesNoSocks at 1:53 PM - 3 answers

Microscope for young child

My soon-to-be-five-year-old has declared that what she really wants for her birthday is a microscope. "Not a toy microscope that's just for pretending to be a scientist, but a real microscope that will make things look bigger. But not so hard to use that I can't do it by myself." Among other things, she wants to use it to look at rocks and shells, but insists that she wants a microscope and not a magnifying glass. [more inside]
posted by Kriesa at 12:06 PM - 19 answers

May 16

Best Reads in Behavioral Science

I'm looking for recommendations for engaging reads, both books and longform articles, about how people can change their physical and mental habits. [more inside]
posted by capricorn at 8:11 PM - 10 answers

May 15

Playing with my self-radiation

I'm going to be taking radioactive iodine in the not distant future to deal with thyroid problems. Are there any sciencey experiments or demonstrations that I can do with my radioactivity, preferably using household items or items that I can acquire for under, say, $50?
posted by donpardo at 10:33 AM - 11 answers

May 14

Clover lawn?

Is clover a good replacement for a grass lawn? Seeking advice, resources, and subjective opinions. [more inside]
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:46 AM - 9 answers

May 12

Whose jawbone did I dig up in my backyard today?

I was planting something in my yard and unearthed this jawbone. Whose is it? Details within. [more inside]
posted by centrifugal at 7:33 PM - 6 answers

May 10

What scale is useful for measuring depression that maxes out the PHQ-9?

I would like to track my depression with a quantitative metric, to measure the effects of medicine, situational changes, etc. The PHQ-9 is what I would ordinarily use. However, my depression severity is often higher than it is able to differentiate. What are metrics that work for tracking gradations within extremely severe depression?
posted by anonymous at 11:07 PM - 4 answers

May 7

What might this bee?

I decided to make a solitary bee house that would allow intermittent bee viewing. One day later, I had my first bee tenant! Yay! But now I’m concerned that it may be a carpenter bee that will spawn a legion of house-eating children. Here’s a link to a photo. Any opinions?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:11 PM - 7 answers

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