Right Now in Stuff to Blow Your Mind

Fight Fire with Fire

We've all heard the saying "fight fire with fire," but could it actually work? Tune in as Robert and Allison break down the ways in which firefighters actually do use fire and explosives to fight fires in this episode.

Space Roundup: Horror Stories, Psychic Astronauts and Galactic Ghouls

My name is Robert Lamb, and I get excited about space horror. And I don't just mean really good stuff like "Alien." I will gladly endure such lackluster entries as "Event Horizon" and even the such utter cheese as "Jason X" and "Leprechaun 4: In Space." I am still trying to talk my wife into watching 2009's "Pandorum" with me. That movie's better than it has any right to be, people. Aside from my posts here at the HowStuffWorks.com blogs, I also contribute to the Discovery Space blogs. The crew there does a fantastic job of covering breaking space news, and I throw in my own takes on a variety of topical or weird space subjects. So here's a look at just a handful of the topics I've covered there.

Stuff from the Science Lab Roundup: Lizard Throwdown!

Imagine you're walking along the beach of a small Indonesian island, the pounding surf in your ears and thoughts of your next fruity drink filling your mind. Then the world's largest and most intelligent lizard, the Komodo dragon, lumbers into your path, its forked tongue flicking the air incessantly, while its clublike tail drags through the sand, marking your last days. Got that image? Now go back in time 68 million years or so. You're hiking through the woods enjoying the prehistoric scenery when the forest fills with the roar of the great lizard king, Tyrannosaurus rex. Oh, and both beasts haven't eaten in a while. So which scenario, if either, makes you want to run like one of those cartoon characters with the windmilling legs?

Science and Religion: Two Shades of Why

Yesterday I blogged about Vatican astronomer Guy J. Consolmagno's thoughts on the relationship between science and religion -- and the conflict that sometimes emerges there. I thought the planetary scientists turned Jesuit brother presented a very positive, thought-provoking view on the matter. But in the interest of providing another take less rooted in Western monotheism, I thought we'd turn to Varadaraja V. Raman.

Those Crazy Komodos

Located in Indonesia, Komodo dragons are one of nature's fiercest living reptiles. They're also the world's largest lizard. Tune in as Robert and Allison investigate the unique lifestyle -- and brutal dining habits -- of the Komodo dragon.

Can science and religion coexist?

My friend Bill made an interesting statement on Twitter today: "Maybe we can cut a deal where all the biologists can believe in God in return for evangelicals believing in evolution." This was particularly amusing because I attended a lecture last night by a man who was taught evolution by nuns and who studies meteorites while wearing a clerical collar. American research astronomer Guy J. Consolmagno spoke at Agnes Scott College last night on the ethics of exploration and planetary astronomy (see my post at Discovery Space). He also happens to be a Jesuit brother and a planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory.

Barbie the Computer Software Engineer

A couple of months ago I reported on a study that suggested computer engineering programs needed to cut down on the masculine dork factor if they wanted to snare more female students. Well, now Mattel has done one further and created computer software engineer Barbie. Yes, this won't be the first plastic, female figurine to grace the murky, Cheetos-dusted man caves of the computer engineering world. But it might just be the first to lack swords, machine guns or a pair of triple Ds. Face it, for all her failings as a female role model, Barbie's far less sexualized than your typical anime heroine.

How well do you know the T. Rex?

The Tyrannosaurus rex is one of history's most well-known, feared and misunderstood dinosaurs. Children often learn that this dinosaur was a ferocious predator ... but this might not be the whole story. Listen in and learn more in this podcast.

Stuff from the Science Lab Roundup: Blood Spatter and Gene Banks

A murder has taken place on Noah's Ark and it's up to one curmudgeonly old antediluvian patriarch to solve the crime. There's blood on the poop deck* and a fatally stabbed Pegasus is hanging from the rigging. All the horned animals are being held for questioning and the unicorns are getting restless. As the world drowns beneath the waves of the Great Flood, will Noah be able to stop the murderer before he kills again? Yes, this week on Stuff from the Science Lab, Allison and myself tackle the mostly unrelated topics of blood spatter analysis and gene banks. We'll discuss blood at a crime scene and gene banks.

What exactly is a gene bank?

A gene bank is a repository used to preserve genetic material for the future. Gene banks are not a modern concept -- the idea dates back thousands of years. Tune in as Allison and Robert explore gene banks, from Noah's Ark to the Doomsday Vault.

Living in the Shackles of Memory

Human memory is tricky, to say the least. It's an ever-changing cloud of imperfect recollections, distortions and outright fabrications. It's a tag cloud full of joys, torments and minutia. And while savants and mnemonists can sometimes exhibit startling displays of memory, there is no such thing as total recall. Following a 2005 study published in the journal Neurocase, however, the media had a field day with Jill Price, a California woman with an amazing capacity for personal memory. Give her a name and she can tell you exactly where and when she spoke to that person last and what the subject was. Throw out a date and she can link it to plane crashes, presidential elections and episodes of "Dallas."

What can blood spatter tell us?

To forensic scientists, a bloodstain is more than just a grisly ornament at a crime scene -- so what exactly do they do with it? Turn in and learn more about bloodstain pattern analysis in this episode.

Space Music: Sun Ra and Afrofuturism

It's Black History Month, so is there a better time to discuss the space music of Sun Ra? Stick to the facts and you have in Herman Poole Blount (Ra's birth name) a highly prolific and influential black musician. Take the artist at his word and you have a being from another planet, come to Earth to save us with a message of cosmic liberation. As always, it's best to tread a middle path between the reality and the myth. In this post we'll explore Sun Ra's origins and contributions, as well as just what Afrofuturism is all about. So don your favorite space robe and light-up Egyptian headpiece because we've quite the celestial crash course ahead of us.

Stuff from the Science Lab Roundup: Space Eats and Grow Houses

It seems appropriate that I should write this week's Stuff from the Science Lab podcast roundup on grow houses and dinner in space right before lunch, when my stomach is rumbling and I've already ploughed through my measly cup of yogurt and devoured a very wrinkly tangerine. That seems like a rather pathetic spread for lunch, especially when you consider what the astronauts are noshing on in space. Forget squeezing your meal out of a tube. Space food has come a long way since John Glenn also earned the little-known distinction of being the first U.S. man to eat anything while hanging out in Earth orbit. I'm pretty sure Glenn didn't have the option of diving into mashed potatoes and bacon, courtesy of celeb chef Emeril Lagasse.

Why does time fly as you get older?

Remember what summer was like when you were a kid? The season seemed to span an eternity and Christmas might as well have been a million years in the future. But then you grew older. Summers passed in quick succession, Christmases and birthdays swept by like pages in a flip book. Everything seems to be speeding towards an unavoidable conclusion.

Dinner in Space!

Let's say you're an astronaut: Each day you wake up, conduct research and make adjustments to your orbit. Eventually you grab some chow -- but what kind of food do you eat, and why? Join Robert and Allison as they explore the science behind space food.

Maybe I had "Lost" on the brain (season premiere tonight!), but this story on EurekAlert! caught my eye. Men and women no longer have to fight over which gender needs a map and which one doesn't. It's genes, not gender, that could make the difference. Keep reading to see how researchers tried to establish a link between human navigational abilities.

Do I live next to a Grow House?

When drug dealers want to grow marijuana without getting caught, they often set up a "grow house." These buildings look like any other building, and they often fool bystanders. Tune in and learn how to tell if your neighbors are running a grow house.

Cosmic Megastructures: How to Enslave a Star

The sun is the powerhouse for our solar system, heating the spheres with its radiation and holding everything from gas giants to asteroids in thrall to its massive gravity. Stars, in their various forms, are the most powerful forces in the known universe, so it only comes naturally that a species of egotistical apes would dream about capturing one and bending it to their will.

Are we better off in the dark?

Most city dwellers are familiar with contaminated water and smoggy air -- but have you heard of light pollution? Listen in as Allison and Robert explore the effects of light pollution -- and whether humans are better off in the dark.