Right Now in Stuff to Blow Your Mind

Never let it be said that Robert Lamb doesn't appreciate a good sports story. While baseball and I have never quite seen eye-to-eye, I can't help but be amused by Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis' 1970 no-hitter (or "no-no") against the San Diego Padres -- a feat that Ellis claims to have accomplished while totally mind-blasted on LSD.

Long before John Collins Warren, M.D., thought up The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and the Collateral Branches of Science in 1812 or, more recently, PLoS One revolutionized top-tier peer-reviewed journals by becoming open access, a bunch of scientists were building much of the foundation for science across its myriad disciplines at the Royal Society of London. Three-hundred-and-fifty year's worth of foundation in fact. And now, to celebrate its steadfast roots in science, the society is offering 60 historic papers online, as blogger Sarah Zielinski at Smithsonian.com reports. And they are truly awesome. In fact, don't haul your butt to that tedious 9 a.m. Friday intro biology lecture. Just shuffle over to your laptop and visit the Trailblazing Web site where the papers are offered and bone up on canine blood transfusions. Or read about the father of microscopy's, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek's observations of "little animals," some of which we now call bacteria and protozoa.

The Science Behind "The Road"

You might find yourself wondering just what happened to the world in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." In this post we'll take a look at the wages of nuclear war -- the science behind nuclear winter and radioactive fallout.

PETA to UGA: Get a Robot Dawg, Morons

In the wake of football mascot Uga VII's death, PETA is demanding that the University of Georgia turn to costumed mascots or, yes, robot dogs instead of subjecting a poorly bred English bulldog to hot, humid games. What say you, football fans, robots and animal lovers?

The Real Sherwood Forest

Ever heard of Robertus Hood, Robert Fitz Odo (aka Fitzooth) or Gilbert Robynhood? As I learned in Jessika's recent article, each could be the real Robin Hood (although probably is not). But while the green-hosed bandit's true identity has famously eluded historians and Robin Hood enthusiasts for centuries, one aspect of the legend is firmly grounded in fact: its setting. Sherwood Forest, Robin's hangout, once covered western Nottinghamshire and stretched into Derbyshire, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Space Music: Johannes Kepler has an Opera

I can't say I expected my next Space Music post to revolve around an opera, but here we are. And yes, I mean an honest-to-god opera. Not a pulp-fueled Star Warsian "space opera" and not even a science fiction opera like the L.A. Opera's adaptation of "The Fly." We're talking ladies in Viking helmets. The latest opera from living musical legend Philip Glass centers on the life of noted 16th century astronomer Johannes Kepler. The opera's title? "Kepler." What a minimalist, eh?

Football Mascot Uga VII Bites the Dust: Breeding to blame?

Before I retired to bed last night, I caught word (via the AJC) that the University of Georgia's esteemed mascot Uga VII had passed on into that great Varsity parking lot in the sky. As I'm not a fan of American football, my reaction was muted. I hadn't prayed for the team's victory against Kentucky this weekend (though how's that for a good omen, Kentucky?*), and I didn't lose any sleep. But it did get me thinking about the plight of purebred dogs.

Saving Santa from Swine Flu

I still haven't gotten my hands on an H1N1 vaccine yet. And it looks a bunch of jolly men in red suits just stepped in line before me, too. According to Santa-America, a U.S. nonprofit organization that sends Santa across the United States to visit families dealing with various physical and emotional issues, the bearded giver of gifts wants protection from swine flu. I can't blame him.

I love old animated Disney movies, as well as the gruesome Brothers Grimm stories or Perrault fairy tales that most come from. One of the best has got to be "Cinderella," with its talking mice and bad cat in the 1950 film and the grisly, on-the-fly foot surgery in the Grimm's version. So I was pleased to see the cachet of a nice fairy tale title extended to the world of agriculture. "Cinderella species," like their namesake heroine, are diamonds in the rough, underappreciated beauties still hidden in the obscurity of the wild. More specifically, they're the 3,000 species of wild fruit trees that grow in areas of west Africa, southern Africa and the Sahel, largely uncultivated. But that's been changing since the mid-1990s, when researchers at the World Agroforestry Centre surveyed residents on which indigenous trees they found most valuable. Instead of putting timber species at the top of the list, most people chose fruit trees as valued delicacies, staples or even famine food.

Own Everything, Advertise Everywhere

Like a lot of you, I recently watched the season finale of AMC's "Mad Men," the absolute best television show in which nothing actually happens. I got to wondering what a modern day Don Draper might apply himself to (aside from, obviously, sleeping around, drinking and smoking). Perhaps he'd use cutting-edge science for the good of advertising? Consider these two real-life possibilities. Each takes high-tech science and uses it to shill a product.

A New Way to Smell Old Books

I love the smell of old books. It's just one of the reasons they'll have to drag me kicking and screaming into the world of Kindles, Nooks and BeBooks. So it's rather amusing that while the forces of technology and science seem intent on carrying out a kind of print holocaust, some scientists are hard at work creating new ways to smell books.

As you busy yourself this fall raking leaves, sipping cider and experiencing the Great Outdoors, you may want to consider ditching all that outside stuff, plopping down in your La-Z-Boy and flipping on "Gearing Up." The new one-hour documentary premiering right now on public television takes you behind the scenes of the 2008 FIRST robotics competition, serving up a healthy dose of suspense, teenagers and, of course, robots. The FIRST Robotics competition, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is an annual event held in Atlanta in which teams of students are all given an identical kit and challenged to build a robot that can rock some task, such as, say, slam-dunking balls into some nets. "Gearing Up" trails four teams as they're readying their bots for the 2008 regional competitions. The documentary follows Miss Daisy, a bunch of old hands at robot building from Ambler, Pa.; the RoboDoves, a rookie all-girl troupe from Baltimore; the Ratchet Rockers from Wentzville, Mo., and, potentially my favorite, the Rambotics, an all-boys team from a Colorado correctional facility.

A New Ocean is Ripping Through Ethiopia

Thought the "Seven Seas" were static? Nope, they've gone through many incarnations since the ancient Greeks started grouping their local bodies of water into one convenient moniker. European explorers expanded the definition a bit to include a wider sampling of world waters, and today we'd probably list the Arctic, North and South Atlantic, North and South Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans in the big seven -- if we used the phrase at all. But it turns out, there's a new ocean in the making, rending the African continent right through the middle of Ethiopia.

Invasive Species Tire of Bad Press; Sue

Invasive species are gotten tired of all the bad press and have finally appealed to the U.S. judicial system for respite. Until I read Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow's "Don't Sweat the Invasion" post on Slate, I, too, was a hater. In my defense, as an amateur gardener and resident of the South,* it's hard to like kudzu or English ivy -- both notorious invasive plant species in the Southeastern U.S. -- when they maintain a death grip on your tulip poplar.

Cold War Dreams of Paranormal Warfare

Imagine a different world grew from the Cold War's thawing soil, one defined not by a decades-long space or arms race, or even by oil-fueled expansionism -- but by the rise of the psychic soldier.

Depending on where you live, you may not think too much about malaria. And that's a ridiculous luxury, considering that every 30 seconds a child dies from the infectious disease, according to the World Health Organization. Despite favored interventions such as using bed nets treated with insecticides, spraying the inside of dwellings, getting rid of standing water and, of course, drug treatments, about 250 million people get sick and 1 million people die every year from malaria, reports the WHO. Given those numbers, it's hard not to be interested when a malaria vaccine apparently shows promise -- even if it is years away from reaching the people who need it. The candidate in question is RTS,S, a vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, working with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, an organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (You know, the same foundation that gives money to people for things like figuring out how to detect tuberculosis with an electronic nose.)

Inhibit Hormones, Eat Soft-shell Crabs Year Round

Love soft-shell crab sandwiches? Wish you could have them all year? Well, a team of University of Alabama scientists may just have a way to make that happen.

Vampire Bats Will Bite You -- In the Amazon

One of my favorite tabloid headlines from the now-defunct Weekly World News was this: "Vegan Vampires Attack Trees." I can just see it -- a particularly menacing vegan vampire, perhaps draped in an organic cotton cloak (wool would be inappropriate, right?), lurching toward a helpless tree, preferably maple. But I'm here to discuss something nonvegan and decidedly bloody: the vampire bat.

Guns for Girls

I'm knee-deep in firearms this week editing an article on the 5 most popular guns. Yep, firearms fall under the science umbrella here at HowStuffWorks.com, but until this week, I really had no idea how little I knew about them. It got me thinking, maybe I should try one out (on a shooting range, of course). This, in turn, got me wondering, are there guns designed specifically for women?

Jonathan Coulton Talks Music, Technology and uPlaya.com

It's possible I went a little overboard in writing this week's Discovery News piece about uPlaya.com, the Web site that lets musicians upload a track for quick evaluation by music-savvy algorithms. The whole thing deals with AI's designed to judge a song's hit potential, and it goes a little into algorithmic musical composition as well. So I thought, "Who better to give a musician's perspective on the whole deal than former programmer and overall Internet music sensation Jonathan Coulton?"