Posts Tagged: science
2

Ada Lovelace, Genius

I have a peculiar way of learning, and I think it must be a peculiar man to teach me successfully… Do not reckon me conceited… but I believe I have the power of going just as far as I like in such pursuits, and where there is so decided a taste, I should almost say a passion, as I have for them, I question if there is not always some portion of natural genius even.

This is part of a letter that Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, sent to Charles Babbage, requesting him to be her mentor. Walter Isaacson, author of The Innovators, a collection of mini-biographies, included this [...]

3

Let's All Major in Feminist Biology

PS: When people hear about a biology study, what are some things they can ask themselves to check for gender bias in the study?

JH: The first step is always to say, 'Does this finding replicate?' Because we've so many of these flash-in-the-pan things where a study gets tons of publicity and there's so much competition in biology to be first with your breathless finding. So that's the first question to ask, 'Has anybody else gotten this?'

There are certain phrases that tip people off about gender bias. For example, if people do some kind of neuroscience study, let's say it's an MRI study with humans. These researchers will often say, 'This [...]

20

NYT Magazine's Hillary Cover Makes No Sense: A Brief Scientific Chat

Here is this weekend's New York Times Magazine cover. (The orbiting objects, if you can't tell: The Friends-of-Bill Black Hole, The Super-Pac Nebula, Huma's Dark Matter, The Chelsea Quasar, The Arkansas Cluster, Katzenberg's Comet, The Patti Solis Doyle Vortex, The Obama Supernova; the bottom text reads "The gravitational pull of a possible 2016 Campaign is bringing all the old Clinton characters into her orbit. Can she make the stars align, or will chaos prevail?" Click here to enlarge.) Here is a chat I had about the cover with my friend and astronomy scholar Claire Webb.

me: uh

Claire:  snorted

is this a joke?

me:  it's real

Claire:  no [...]

63

A Migraine *Just For You*

Women, already twice as likely to suffer from chronic migraines as men, may also require different treatment for their bouts; Harvard scientist Nasim Maleki suggests we even consider men's and women's migraines "different diseases altogether." From Scientific American:

In women with chronic migraines, the posterior insula does not seem to thin with age, as it does for everyone else, including male migraineurs and people who do not have migraines. The region starts thick and stays thick.

We don't know yet whether the thickening of the insula is something the brain is doing to protect itself or something that worsens women's migraines, Maleki says. Yet the evidence is mounting [...]

8

How Proteins Work

Cytokines Every morning Cytokines wake up for another goddamn day at the office.

It is difficult to get out of bed when they know today will be a day exactly like any other. They consider for a moment: "Should I even bother?" Ultimately, they drag themselves up and go through the routine: coffee, shower, suit up, out the door.

"What if I wore the same suit for a week straight? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?" they wonder, on their daily bus route from the primarily residential neighborhood in which they reside to the high rises of downtown Amyopolis. "That's right. The exact same blue pin stripes and pants [...]

5

First-Ever Tramp Stamp Discovered

A 1,300-year-old mummy had a hot tat, scientists have found:

One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.

The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.

The owner of the tattoo was a woman who [...]

3

Save the Males!: The "Degenerating" Y Chromosome

Human genomes are 99.9 percent identical—with one prominent exception. Instead of a matching pair of X chromosomes, men carry a single X, coupled with a tiny chromosome called the Y. Tracking the emergence of a new and distinctive way of thinking about sex represented by the unalterable, simple, and visually compelling binary of the X and Y chromosomes, my book, Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome, examines the interaction between cultural gender norms and genetic theories of sex from the beginning of the 20th century to the present, postgenomic age. Here, we've excerpted from the chapter "Save the Males!"

The prospect that [...]

3

The Love-Hate Relationship Between Science Fiction and Technology

Via Longreads, here's this great (and not very long) piece at Smithsonian Mag, about science fiction as (in the words of Ursula LeGuin) a "safe, sterile laboratory for trying out ideas."

For every author who meticulously examines the latest developments in physics or computing, there are other authors who invent “impossible” technology to serve as a plot device (like Le Guin’s faster-than-light communicator, the ansible) or to enable social commentary, the way H. G. Wells uses his time machine to take the reader to the far future to witness the calamitous destiny of the human race. Sometimes it’s the seemingly weird ideas that come true—thanks, in part, [...]

18

And the Chocolate Pills Taste Like Chocolate Pills

In a novel collaboration, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the National Institutes of Health, and Mars, Incorporated plan to partner on the largest research trial to date that will investigate the heart health benefits of cocoa flavanols. Once initiated, this large-scale, prospective nutritional intervention will evaluate the role of flavanols in reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.

Let's cut to the chase here: they're testing out chocolate pills for our health. I say, skip the pills and keep eating the chocolate, but I'm no doctor. Where do we sign up? [BWH, AP]

57

Brain Trouble

I am 22 when it first occurs to me that migraines will impede my projected path through life. It is the first week of my first real job. My business card says Rural Reporter, which distinguishes me from the Education Reporter and the Business Reporter and the Crime Reporter, but really we are all rural reporters, at a tiny newspaper in a town you’ve never heard of, tucked away in the foothills of the Washington Cascades. Thanks to a nearby spearmint factory, which refines the sweet oil used in candies and toothpaste, the whole town smells like a pack of gum left on a car dashboard on a hot summer [...]