Today I Learned…

…that physicists have made a major breakthrough in what is known as quantum information science, and it’ll make you go a little Trekkie (as I’ve been known to cause in the past).

Scientists at the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland have successfully teleported information from one atom to another at a distance of about a meter — something that has never been done before.  Successful teleportation of information, accomplished using quantum-mechanical phenomena like entanglement, has occurred over great distances, as well as over atomically small distances using an intermediary, but never at this human scale.  While this doesn’t mean that we’re one step closer to “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” it does represent a significant step forward in the field of quantum computing.

For more, check out the article @ livescience.


Today I Learned…

…that not only am I not very good at keeping promises about my blog, but that British scientists have invented a new kind of cement that absorbs more carbon as it hardens than is burned in its production.  This is a major breakthrough in materials science, and stands to be a big step in combating global warming as the two billion tons of cement produced every year account for 5% of the world’s total carbon emissions (!) — more than the entire aviation industry (!!).  For more information, check out this article at EcoWorldly and written for The Guardian.

For those of you who are interested in lowering your own carbon footprint, check out TerraPass, which gives you the ability to offset your emissions with monetary donations as well as lower them with different techniques and products.  My car’s emissions for the past year have been offset, and yours could be too!

Today I Learned…

…that someone went ahead and did it.  They made a flash game where you can throw shoes at still-President Bush.


…I also learned that in the ten-year period from 1997 to 2007 over 1,000 new species were discovered in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.  NOTICE: If you are freaked out by pictures and descriptions of bugs, I wouldn’t click on this link to the CNN story.  The species included 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals (including a rat which was believed to be extinct for over 11 million years), four birds, four turtles, two salamanders and a toad.

Today (and Yesterday) I Learned…

…that apparently in 2007 there were 22 incidents of anti-heterosexual hate crimes according to the FBI.  On a related note, I learned that there can be anti-heterosexual hate crimes.  Can anyone enlighten me as to how that would work?

…also that there is a possibility of direct evidence of dark matter relatively near our solar system!  Article on slashdot with other links.

Today I Learned…

…the winners of the 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes!  These were announced early last month, but I had forgotten about them.  So when I stumbled on tonight I realized that I had to post the winners in case any of you out there in blagland haven’t seen it yet!  They are as follows (c/p from above site):

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.
REFERENCE: “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Chips,” Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spence, Journal of Sensory Studies, vol. 19, October 2004,  pp. 347-63.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Massimiliano Zampini. unable to attend the ceremony, was presented with the prize at a special ceremony, later in the month, at the Genoa Science Festival.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.
REFERENCE: “The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Urs Thurnherr, member of the committee.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.
REFERENCE: “The Role of Armadillos in the Movement of Archaeological Materials: An Experimental Approach,” Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino, Geoarchaeology, vol. 18, no. 4, April 2003, pp. 433-60.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and  Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.
REFERENCE: “A Comparison of Jump Performances of the Dog Flea, Ctenocephalides canis (Curtis, 1826) and the Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis felis (Bouche, 1835),” M.C. Cadiergues, C. Joubert, and M. Franc, Veterinary Parasitology, vol. 92, no. 3, October 1, 2000, pp. 239-41.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Marie-Christine Cadiergues and Christel Joubert, unable to attend the ceremony, were presented with the prize at a special ceremony, later in the month, at the Genoa Science Festival.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University (USA), Rebecca L. Waber of MIT (USA), Baba Shiv of Stanford University (USA), and Ziv Carmon of INSEAD (Singapore) for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine..
REFERENCE: “Commercial Features of Placebo and Therapeutic Efficacy,” Rebecca L. Waber; Baba Shiv; Ziv Carmon; Dan Ariely, Journal of the American Medical Association, March 5, 2008; 299: 1016-1017.

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.
REFERENCE: “Intelligence: Maze-Solving by an Amoeboid Organism,” Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada, and Ágota Tóth, Nature, vol. 407, September 2000, p. 470.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Ryo Kobayashi, Atsushi Tero

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that professional lap dancers earn higher tips when they are ovulating.
REFERENCE: “Ovulatory Cycle Effects on Tip Earnings by Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence for Human Estrus?” Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan, Evolution and Human Behavior, vol. 28, 2007, pp. 375-81.
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Geoffrey Miller and Brent Jordan

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.
REFERENCE: “Spontaneous Knotting of an Agitated String,” Dorian M. Raymer and Douglas E. Smith, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 104, no. 42, October 16, 2007, pp. 16432-7.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.
REFERENCE: “Effect of ‘Coke’ on Sperm Motility,” Sharee A. Umpierre, Joseph A. Hill, and Deborah J. Anderson, New England Journal of Medicine, 1985, vol. 313, no. 21, p. 1351.
REFERENCE: “The Spermicidal Potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola,” C.Y. Hong, C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang, Human Toxicology, vol. 6, no. 5, September 1987, pp. 395-6. [NOTE: THE JOURNAL LATER CHANGED ITS NAME. NOW CALLED “Human & experimental toxicology”]
WHO ATTENDED THE CEREMONY: Deborah Anderson, and C.Y. Hong’s daughter Wan Hong

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations.”
REFERENCE: “You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations,” David Sims, Organization Studies, vol. 26, no. 11, 2005, pp. 1625-40.

Today I Learned…

…that scientists in Mexico have created diamond-like conductive substances from tequila.  You figure, hey, work with what you have, right?

By heating tequila blanco in a low pressure environment, the researchers were able to create thin films with a diamond-esque crystalline structure.  These films are very useful in products which require harsh conditions or high ambient temperatures to work properly for which silicon would not be an option.  These tequila crystals are not the first synthetic diamond films produced, but they are the first from any alcohol (not just spirits, but /any/ chemical alcohol).

Materials science FTW!  And diamond shots for everyone!

Today I Learned…

…that wearing red can boost a woman’s sex appeal.

I guess we’ve all heard of that theoretical/clichéd pinnacle of womanhood, the “woman in the red dress.”  Well, it seems that there might be something to that — and why she’s not in a green dress, like I thought she should be.  According to a study from the University of Rochester (they have nothing better to do — it’s Rochester), heterosexual men with normal color vision rated the same woman 1.25 points higher on average on a 7-point sexiness scale, “with 1 being the least sexy and 7 being a white-hot sex goddess.”

First of all, please tell me that quote was actually in the operational definition of sexy.  Second of all… well, there’s really no second of all.  I just want that to actually be how they defined it, word for word.

The writer, like any “good” science “journalist,” goes on to ask ridiculous questions which have nothing to do with the data in an attempt to lengthen their article.  “That’s nice, but given the looming election, one might wonder: Does wearing red make you more attractive in the voting booth too?”  Give me a break.  Just once I want a science writer for a mainstream media outlet to not make a fool of themselves talking to a researcher.  It’s not that it’s not a valid question — there’s a ton of money out there in the political realm to try to make candidates look better on TV with different color ties and whatnot, and it’s taken on a whole new importance and scale with the emergence of the modern female major party candidate in Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.  The problem is that there’s nothing in the data that could even begin to suggest a link there, and trying to force a scientist into making an irresponsible leap like that is questionable at best.

The researcher does go on to say that they measured what other effects the color red may have, and… “[they] only found the effect for attraction, so males don’t rate females in red as more intelligent, more likable, or as having a better personality; they only rate her as sexier and more attractive.”

I guess what I take away from this is the following: all you smart, awkwardly sexy girls out there?  Keep wearing green and I’ll still drool, you white-hot sex goddesses you.