Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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June 24

What is this type of survey called?

I'm interested in performing a survey to get people to rank 10–15 items. I would like them to be presented these items in randomized pairs, choosing the one they think has a greater value of the variable I'm interested in. This would be repeated over and over until a stable ranking is achieved. What is this kind of survey called? [more inside]
posted by dondiego87 at 8:39 AM - 6 answers

June 23

What's tiny, brown, lives underwater, and looks like a mushroom?

I went scuba diving at Clear Lake, Oregon today. I saw a ton of tiny, medium-brown unidentified biological-looking... *things* attached to some of the rocks. What were they? [more inside]
posted by cnidaria at 8:57 PM - 8 answers

Seeking a salt solution

Is it possible to dissolve more salt into water, by weight, than the weight of the water? [more inside]
posted by Naib at 2:15 PM - 4 answers

Really really really really really hard minerals

Ok, so this is the first Metafilter question coming from my daughter, who is six. According to DK's My Book of Rocks and Minerals, "Diamond can be scratched by two known rare minerals". The book does not elaborate. What are these two minerals? Google is confusing me today.
posted by selfnoise at 12:16 PM - 9 answers

June 20

What is conservation of information? (physics)

I've been watching the PBS Space Time series on black holes and quantum mechanics. They're now talking about how black holes violate the principle of conservation of (quantum) information. I'm really having a difficult time wrapping my brain around what is meant by information, why it needs to be conserved, and what it means to not be conserved. [more inside]
posted by runcibleshaw at 4:58 PM - 10 answers

June 19

Insect aside?

Someone in our new-to-us condo had put down tape in the kitchen to block some buggies. I pulled the tape out during renovations and saw they caught some victims in the glue. What are these guys? Looks like some some wormy guys and some kinda ants. Specifically what was infesting this place and how should we protect against future incursion? (Note there is no sign of living bugs right now.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:59 AM - 8 answers

June 17

Has anyone ever proposed a Turing test for a non-human biological entity

I'm just curious if anyone or if any group has proposed a way to breed a non-human species for sentient behavior? Sure, some dogs and parrots come close to being as intelligent as a "five year old" -- but I assume no one has really pushed the boundaries. Or am I wrong? Is this a mad-scientist ethical nightmare? Or could it be done in an ethical way?
posted by mhh5 at 2:32 AM - 18 answers

June 13

Books for preschoolers: trees are homes

Please help me find some preschool appropriate books to read with kids during a program about how a big tree is a home to many living creatures from eagles to raccoons to birds to salamanders to bugs. [more inside]
posted by RaeVaughn1958 at 10:00 AM - 12 answers

June 10

What are these weird rocks?

I was at an estate sale and to bring my total up to the necessary amount to use a debit card, I grabbed these rocks. I'm dying to know what they are. [more inside]
posted by christinetheslp at 5:20 AM - 8 answers

June 9

Fungus or slime mold?

(Or other?) Friend saw this on their run today and wants to know what it is, location S. Korea. Another shot. I've tried Google but I don't have much previous knowledge to go on. Thanks! [more inside]
posted by lesser weasel at 3:04 AM - 6 answers

June 8

Help make new telescope a great experience for youngster

Need advice as a non-astronomer parent who's about to unbox a telescope for kids birthday? [more inside]
posted by GPF at 4:26 PM - 11 answers

June 4

When you run up an escalator, is that more steps or fewer?

Say you have a really long escalator, like inside many subway stations. If you run up the steps, are you stepping on fewer steps than you do if you walk up at a fast pace? At a normal pace? Or is it the same number of steps because you're still traveling the same distance, which requires a certain number of steps to reach? Or fewer steps because you're going faster than the rate of speed of the escalator itself? Assume you're not skipping any steps on your way up.
posted by Mchelly at 3:02 PM - 18 answers

number search optimal strategy

I recall hearing about a "golden number" when playing a number guessing game, such as "guess the selected number between 1 and 100 when after guessing you are told your guess is high or low". Most online references recommend successively dividing the remaining range in half, but i recall reading that a strategy of dividing the remaining range roughly 1/3 and 2/3 allows you to eliminate 2/3 of the range often enough that it results in less guesses on average. Anybody ever heard of this?
posted by grahahw at 8:50 AM - 9 answers

June 3

Trees can't move, can they?

Do tree branches hang lower when it rains? [more inside]
posted by Violet Hour at 9:48 PM - 8 answers

Spider filter: should I be glad, worried, or neutral about this spider?

This spider built a web inside a ceramic mug in my garage. I'm not arachnophobic in general, but I'm converting the garage into a pottery studio and would love to know if anything living out here is bad news. Thoughts on what kind of spider this is?
posted by centrifugal at 7:43 PM - 7 answers

Insanity - But True. Man PURPOSELY Infects Himself with Ear Mites. Name?

So I read about this (Dr.?) or lab guy who purposely put ear mites into his own ear to gauge wth a cat would feel like and wrote to report on it. I remember that he described the sensation like insane whooshing screeching sounds. [more inside]
posted by watercarrier at 1:14 AM - 4 answers

May 21

Orphaned baby raccoon - help

Hi, Found a baby raccoon at the bottom of a tree. About a week old, eyes still shut. I left him out over-night on the chance mom would come pick him up. Its been about 36 hours, he has been chattering/yelling out the entire time but no sign of mom. I fear this guy is running out of time. He is strong and stands a chance but no clue what to do now. I am in Maryland. Everywhere I call doesn't take raccoons. I really want to give this critter this chance - any ideas?
posted by archivist at 6:46 AM - 6 answers

May 20

ISO university that offers online CHEM with intensive in person LABS

well, this is proving to be a bit of an elusive unicorn - yes, many schools offer hybrid online/in person CHEM but how to find the ones that offer a **very condensed in person lab option** - ie one you could travel for if you had to, and do all at once, efficiently. If you've never tried to look for this particular magical beast you probably think it's something a quick google can solve. Alas, this has not been my experience.. details inside [more inside]
posted by elgee at 10:31 AM - 5 answers

Genetic diversity and life-history strategies

This previous genetics question led to this answer, with links to some fascinating papers about genetic diversity. These papers have led me to a random smattering of questions, below the cut. I'd be happy for answers to (or informed speculation about) any or all of them. Thanks! [more inside]
posted by clawsoon at 6:43 AM - 4 answers

May 19

Duet for muezzin and swan.

What kinds of birds might I hear on the Nile in Luxor late at night? [more inside]
posted by mykescipark at 2:32 PM - 5 answers

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