55 search results for: "Science Break"

Science Break: Sociopathy

…If life was a sport, sociopaths / psychopaths would be the players repeatedly cheating. In real life they flagrantly flout fundamental human social rules, such as ‘Do unto others as you would do unto yourself,’ and ‘Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ If a sociopath had written these rules…

Science Break | March 2015

Science Break: Aerial Archaeology

…GIS technology, especially Google Maps and Google Earth, has given anyone the ability to view even the remotest parts of the globe. When my grandparents were young, in the late 1800’s, there were huge areas of the Earth that were simply blank spaces on western maps. The source of the…

Science Break | February 2015

Science Break: Prions

…Even before I saw the scratchy old movie clips of Papua New Guineans afflicted with kuru shaking spasmodically in the days leading up to their inevitable deaths, I found prions frightening. There is something otherworldly about prions, akin to a horrific sci-fi plague or biblical scourge, and they seem to…

Science Break | January 2015

Science Break: In the Glue

…This month I’m going to look at glues, or adhesives as they are also known. Everybody understands these terms – they refer to substances, liquid or viscous, used to bind two objects or materials together. Writing this article underscored for me how very interested I am in ancient history, the…

Science Break | October 2014

Science Break: The Math of Mosaics

…It is a common misconception that the artistic depiction of people is forbidden by Islam. Scholars debate this – various hadiths contain such prohibitions, but many of them are specific to this or that sect within Islam. But regardless, within the Islamic world the depiction of people in art, especially…

Science Break | September 2014

Science Break: A Fire in the Mind

…There has been a powerful social trend recently towards more open attitudes concerning mental illness. Mental illness is very prevalent, with about 1 in 3 people experiencing symptoms at least once in their lifetime, meaning many of us have grappled with it, and each of us most certainly is close…

Science Break | June 2014

Science Break: Baye’s Theorem in Practice

…As a follow up to his excellent September VIG column (Value of Integrated Geophysics, Sept. 2013 RECORDER) Lee Hunt suggested I build an article around Bayes’ theorem. Lee has published an article with some excellent examples of Bayesian methods before (Hunt, 2013), but we thought something fluffier would make for…

Science Break | November 2013

Science Break: Steel

…Steel has become such a widely used material that we take it for granted. Approximately 1.3 billion tons of steel is produced annually, in a broad range of forms, to be used for an even broader range of purposes. To do the topic justice would require far more space than…

Science Break | October 2013

Science Break: Sewage

…Stinking foul mess Biodegraded Our ultimate fate There are numerous reasons why we are lucky to live in today’s world, but access to modern plumbing and sewage treatment has to be near the top of the list. Maybe things weren’t so bad when there weren’t many of us around –…

Science Break | September 2013

Science Break: Encryption part two – the digital era

…I admit that splitting this article into two parts was partly borne out of trepidation. By delaying part two I was able to put off the daunting task of writing about an extremely dry and complex topic – not as exciting as WWII spy stuff! Part one ( March 2013)…

Science Break | June 2013

Science Break: Applied science in the office

…It’s fun to speculate how we’d do in that cliché sci-fi situation, the post nuclear holocaust, à la Mad Max. I imagine we all would be hopeless in terms of being able to recreate various implements, gadgets, devices and technologies which we take for granted. Probably the most self-reliant and…

Science Break | April 2013

Science Break: Encryption, part one – the pre-digital era

…The science of encryption is as broad as it is ancient. Since the dawn of recorded history, humans have devised innumerable methods to keep information secret from, or unintelligible to, others. It is a huge topic, so in part one I will look at a few historical methods of encryption,…

Science Break | March 2013

Science Break: Plant Hydraulics

…The call came on a Sunday evening back in the fall. “This is Xishuo. It’s started – can you come over?” “We’ll be there in about 15 minutes,” I responded. “It” was the spectacular blooming of one of Xishuo’s moon flower plants (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) (Wikipedia, 2012a). These plants, originally from…

Science Break | February 2013

Science Break: Did they or didn’t they?

…I love a love story as much as anyone, and the romance that has had me on tenterhooks for at least 15 years happened (or did it?) over 50,000 years ago. I’m talking about humans and Neanderthals – did they or didn’t they? Science has been tormenting, teasing, and tantalising…

Science Break | January 2013

Science Break: Human Heuristics

…I’m sure my friends are getting quite sick of hearing about heuristics – ever since I read “Thinking, fast and slow” (Kahneman, 2011) I just can’t shut up about them. I have been aware of heuristics for some time, but until this book came along I viewed them as an…

Science Break | December 2012

Science Break: The Antikythera Mechanism

…This month’s topic is one that I have been eager to present – it contains almost everything that makes archaeology a fascinating discipline. Occasionally an archaeological discovery is made that completely changes accepted wisdom. The Antikythera mechanism, as it is known, has done this. Doubly fascinating is that although an…

Science Break | October 2012

Science Break: Solar Cells

…In writing these articles, I have moved from topics that I am very familiar with, to topics that I know very little about. In other words I am now using the process of writing the articles as a way of learning more about things that I am interested in and…

Science Break | June 2010

Science Break: Monitoring Active Volcanoes

…“He carefully cleaned out his active volcanoes. He possessed two active volcanoes; and they were very convenient for heating his breakfast in the morning…If they are well cleaned out, volcanoes burn slowly and steadily, without any eruptions. Volcanic eruptions are like fires in a chimney” (The Little Prince, Antoine de…

Science Break | November 2009

Science Break: Terra Preta

…My plan for this column has been to steer away from the social sciences and stick to the “purer” ones, despite the fact that I am extremely interested in many of the former, especially anthropology, history, and archaeology. This month I am breaking with that rule, mainly because I read…

Science Break | September 2009

Science Break: Science Centres

…You could say that I was likely born with a predestined love for science centres. My father was a Munich native, and grew up not too far from its famous science museum, the Deutsches Museum. He visited on a regular basis, and it obviously made a big impression on him…

Science Break | June 2009