Archive for science

VOTD: World Science Festival – Pentatonic Scale

Posted in General, Technology with tags , , , , , , , on Sunday, 2 August 2009 by Deems

It seems there are a lot of cool things we miss out on not being in the US. One of which is the World Science Festival that takes place each year.

This year Bobby McFerrin demonstrated the power of the pentatonic scale, using audience participation, at the “Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus” event, on June 12, 2009. Just take a look at the video clip below to see how he uses the audience and how quickly they learn to acompany him. [via BoingBoing]

You can take a look at some more short clips from the event on their site here and full clips here.
Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale, using audience participation, at the event “Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus”, from the 2009 World Science Festival, June 12, 2009.

Big Picture: Photos from 30,000 feet

Posted in General, Photography with tags , , , , on Saturday, 21 March 2009 by Deems

I just love The Big Picture at – they’ve just released a set of photos that were taken at 30,000 feet during an experiment by Spanish students.

On February 28th, a team of four Spanish teenage students and their instructor from IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia launched a weather probe they designed and built themselves. Their helium-filled balloon carried a payload of electronics and a camera to take atmospheric measurements and photographs throughout the trip. After getting permission from aviation officials and getting good weather, they released the probe on a trip that took it over 30,000 meters (19 miles) above sea level, through winds gusting up to 100 kph, and temperatures reaching -54C (-65.2F), and traveling 38 kilometers overland in a time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. The Meteotek08 team has collected their images and data on both their blog and flickr page, and has kindly given me permission to share these photos here with you. (28 photos total) – source

I picked up from the comments that there have been a couple other occurrances too of students sending cameras up with baloons to take pictures from above. 

Pictures taken with a Pentax k10d from a high-altitude sounding balloon. Experiment conducted by Oklahoma State University while testing a new cosmic radiation detector.

The Best of Borealis page also has a number of great photos taken from above.


The upper part of the sky is looking blacker now. (Meteotek08 Team)


Food for thought – Physics Question

Posted in Funny, General with tags , , , , , on Thursday, 12 March 2009 by Deems

barometerI just spotted this account on Demonicious and thought I’d share it with you – oh and before people start ranting in the comments about its authenticity, yes I did check for it on Snopes. In any event I like the thinking – out of the box. Enjoy.




The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:
“Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer.”

One student replied:
“You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building.”

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed immediately. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case.
The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer that showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.
For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought.

The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn’t make up his mind which to use. On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

“Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g * t squared. But bad luck on the barometer.”

“Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper.”

“But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T = 2 pi sqr root (l / g).”

“Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up.”

“If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building.”

“But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper’.”

The student was Niels Bohr, the only Dane to win the Nobel Prize for Physics.

“An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a very narrow field.” – Niels Bohr

The real peridoc table of elements

Posted in General, Photography with tags , , , on Wednesday, 3 December 2008 by Deems

I’m sure you remember the periodic table of elements from school – but back then those posters were pretty bland. The usually only had the shortened form for each chemical and it’s atomic weight. Now a creative guy has made a real model of wooden drawers with each of the actual chemicals and metals or representations thereof and made a nice poster out of it. You can even order them from his website as large prints. 

Theodore Gray has been making the ultimate periodic table, a one-of-a-kind wooden table with real samples that sits in his office. For the rest of us who don’t visit his office he has he has created an incredible (and very tastefully designed) photographic poster “after four years of collecting and photographing samples of all the chemical elements, months of struggling to select the very best example of each one.” [via Boing Boing]


Click on the photo above to visit the website and get a better look


Bone marrow transplant ‘cures HIV patient’

Posted in General with tags , , , , , , on Thursday, 13 November 2008 by Deems

According to doctors, in Germany, a leukaemia patient, who was also infected by HIV, is HIV free for the last 20 months since his bone marrow transplant. Experts are saying that 1 in 1000 Americans and Europeans have a genetic mutation that prevents the HIV from attaching to cells in their bodies.

The clinic said since the transplant, tests on his bone marrow, blood and other organ tissues have all been clean.

“More than 20 months after the successful transplant, no HIV can be detected in the patient,” the clinic said in a statement.

Such a donor supplied this patient with a bone marrow transplant and has subsequently cured him from HIV for almost 2 years now. You can read more about this on BBC News.  – thanks to David for the link.


HIV Particle - Image Copyright Russell Kightley

X-Ray DIY with Scotch tape and a vacuum

Posted in General with tags , , , , on Thursday, 23 October 2008 by Deems

Okay, so not everyone had a vacuum (and I’m not talking about the upright in the cupboard you use once a week to clean the carpets) available – but almost everyone has a roll of Scotch tape lying around. Apparently the effect of peeling of a piece of Scotch tape from the roll (when enclosed in a vacuum) releases enough X-rays to image a bone in your hand!

This kind of energy release — known as triboluminescence and seen in the form of light — occurs whenever a solid (often a crystal) is crushed, rubbed or scratched. It is a long-known, if somewhat mysterious, phenomenon, seen by Francis Bacon in 1605. He noticed that scratching a lump of sugar caused it to give off light.

Believe it or not – go take a look at the Nature website to read more.