Questions in the Science & Nature category.
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April 21

What is this quote about being scientifically illiterate?

I heard or read a quote in the last couple months (although the quote itself may very well be older than that) describing how being scientifically illiterate was totally acceptable among "educated," "intellectual" groups of people. It was an argument along the lines that saying at a dinner party that you didn't understand science -- particularly Physics, I think -- was totally acceptable in a way that saying you didn't understand literature was not. I think I remember a comparison between the Schroedinger equation or the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle and Shakespeare, although I could be misremembering the details. Does this ring a bell for anyone?
posted by Betelgeuse at 5:40 PM - 3 answers

April 16

Retrotransposon documentaries?

Retrotransposons tell us a lot of interesting things about evolution. Are there any great documentaries about them? Ideally it would talk about pufferfish genomes (hardly any retrotransposon content), the phylogeny of mammals and plants (lots of retrotransposon content in genomes that can help us trace family trees), the phylogeny of retrotransposons themselves (how are the different retrotransposons related to each other?) and the junk DNA vs. biologically active vs. evolutionarily active debate about retrotransposon content in genomes. Ideally, it would be aimed at a lay audience - Attenborough sort of stuff.
posted by clawsoon at 1:37 PM - 2 answers

April 15

Learning geology from youtube

What are the best videos on Youtube for developing an understanding of geology, rock types, and plate tectonics? I'm looking for visuals that help me learn, or just great explanations. Prefer an in-the-mountains perspective over a classroom-with-diagrams perspective. Thank you.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 1:04 PM - 3 answers

April 14

What's the science behind 'super taster' taste buds?

A friend jokes that I'll eat anything, and I joke that he's way too picky. Last year we did a test for super- / non-taster taste buds, and he hit super taster while I hit non-taster. I'm sort of suspicious of this for the pop-biology sheen, but have recently been wondering if a lot of personal tastes might come down to not being overwhelmed by certain notes in a food (e.g. bitterness in coffee, which I love and he hates) that might come with having more sensitive taste buds. Has this been studied in depth beyond some sort of at-home test they sell on the Internet?
posted by codacorolla at 8:50 AM - 3 answers

April 13

Who are the people and birds in your neighborhood?

There's a bird or maybe a family of birds or maybe some other kind of creature or maybe an alien(?) that has set up camp in my neighborhood and makes a distinctive cry. It's been here for a couple of weeks (or maybe it's always been here and I just now noticed?) and I was curious about what it was, and then I thought, I wonder if there's a way to find out? It makes a really distinctive yell that's like AH AH AH AH AH AH [more inside]
posted by bleep at 2:26 PM - 9 answers

What made these shapes in the dirt?

I spotted these, 1,2,3, in the field where I walk my dog and I'm curious what may have made them. [more inside]
posted by Tenuki at 1:40 PM - 7 answers

What did Richard Feynman contribute to physics?

I recently read a collection of Feynman's non-scientific essays. Eager to know more about his scientific work, I went to Wikipedia, did some Google searches etc, but found that even simplified explanations of his work were beyond my knowledge. The path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquids, the parton model he proposed for particle physics: I'm in dark across the board. Can anyone shed any light? Thanks
posted by BadgerDoctor at 1:32 PM - 7 answers

April 10

Essay or Quote on How Existence Is a Product of Exchange

Please help me recall a quote or essay/article (or Ted talk?) about how the basis of life, growth, and existence of all matter scientifically comes down to how particles must exchange (heat? Electrons?) with one another in order to develop. The implication is that we only grow when we interface. Maybe related to the concept of Complexity.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 11:34 AM - 1 answers

April 4

Seasonal rituals for a foreign climate

I'm from the Upper Midwest and have lived the past six years in the Pacific Northwest. It's possible I won't move home to the Midwest anytime soon, but I miss it deeply. Help me brainstorm new seasonal rituals and ways to bring out the colors and relate to my grayscale home. [more inside]
posted by cnidaria at 9:17 AM - 28 answers

April 2

Florida bird ID help

This handsome little friend has been eating my loquats for the past two days. What kind of bird is it? [more inside]
posted by saladin at 6:40 AM - 6 answers

March 31

L-Methylfolate vs folic acid

What dose of l-Methylfolate is equivalent to 400 mcg of folic acid? [more inside]
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:36 PM - 7 answers

March 27

What can a 6 year old buy that 'helps the environment'?

My 6 year old son has been saving his allowance, and he wants to buy something that will help the environment? Any ideas? [more inside]
posted by evadery at 9:02 AM - 34 answers

March 26

how come mirror neurons don't work on unrequited love?

or, why do they seem to only work on some emotions? [more inside]
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 7:27 PM - 8 answers

March 25

The Giving Tree

Our beloved 100-year-old Monterey Cypress tree was dying from heart rot and had to be taken down. The tree was one of the oldest in our neighborhood and its death is a tremendous loss for everyone. As the crew was working, I collected and saved several seed cones from the tree. From the seed cones, I want to grow as many saplings as possible, and give them to my neighbors. [more inside]
posted by mattdidthat at 11:41 AM - 5 answers

March 19

Help Me Find a Thesis Written in Psychology About Maternal/Infant Gazing

The thesis resides somewhere on the internets in PDF format, written by a man for a doctorate in psychology about the hypothesis that a mother's emotional state can negatively influence her infant with initial eye contact, and through this relay a so-called *evil eye*. [more inside]
posted by watercarrier at 11:23 PM - 2 answers

How could Theranos have proved tech without revealing trade secrets?

Suppose Theranos actually had been able to match traditional venous blood tests using capillary finger-stick blood. How could they have convinced the medical/bio-tech establishment that it was real without letting Siemens/Lab Corp/Quest Diag. use their method? [more inside]
posted by ASCII Costanza head at 7:57 PM - 7 answers

March 17

asthma and traffic

Have there been any studies on the relationship between the two?
posted by ebesan at 9:52 AM - 4 answers

March 15

Tell me about being a SKYWARN spotter

We had our first tornado warning of the season last night, and I'm thinking I'd like to train as a SKYWARN spotter. The one question I can't find the answer to is, What's it actually like? [more inside]
posted by FencingGal at 6:57 AM - 8 answers

March 13

Scream science

You've been really helpful with my scream-related research here and here. Now I'm trying to learn more about the physiology and neurology of screaming, and I'm also trying to figure out how I can be hooked up to science when I scream. Below the fold! [more inside]
posted by mermaidcafe at 5:46 PM - 6 answers

March 11

Nature guide for Spring?

This winter, I've been reading a book called "A Guide to Nature in Winter (Northeast and North Central North America)" and it is fantastic. There are separate chapters on wintering trees, birds, mammals/tracks, insects, winter weeds, and snow. In other words, rather than focus on a particular topic, it's a kind of holistic guide to the season. I'm wondering if there is something similar out there for Spring? [more inside]
posted by gwint at 11:25 AM - 4 answers

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