Right Now in Stuff to Blow Your Mind

The Life of a Georgia Aquarium Diver

Last night I had the opportunity to attend Science on Tap, the first in a new series of lectures at the Georgia Aquarium here in Atlanta. This particular presentation was led by head divers Jeff Reid and Mauritius Bell, who provided a fascinating insight into their professional lives.

Monkeys, Historic Trials and Climate Change: Where's the missing link?

Until yesterday, you could have rightly assumed monkey trials and global warming had nothing to do with each other. But that was before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, concerned over possible emissions regulations, challenged the EPA to a global warming showdown. According to the L.A. Times, officials at the chamber said the proposed legal faceoff could be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century."

Robots Bone Up On Human Anatomy

So just why did European researchers build a robot with bones and muscles? And why is Josh Clark picking a fight with the machines? In this post we'll watch Eccrrobot in action and answer these pressing questions.

Amphibian Self Defense #563: Bone Shiv Assault

A few weeks ago I went over the various self defense strategies we can adapt from the armored ground cricket (the short answer: Dress and act like you're a member of GWAR). Today, I thought we'd prepare ourselves to go all Wolverine on our adversaries by looking at couple of rather strange amphibians.

After researching John Snow and his "Ghost Map" of cholera cases in Victorian London for the podcast, it's quite possible I'm hyperaware of water-quality issues. News that atrazine, a popular herbicide, exceeded federal safety limits in several states' drinking water had me looking for Georgia on the list and wondering if Brita filters take care of things like that. (Georgia's clear by the way, and simple filters do cut out atrazine -- at least according to the National Research Defense Council.) But it seems like everyone's talking about atrazine this week. The New York Times published a feature possibly linking the weed killer to birth defects and menstrual problems. Low exposures in utero have also made research animals more susceptible to cancer. Research from Purdue University suggests that even small concentrations -- 0.1 parts per billion -- can cause low birth weights. The EPA, however, has taken a fairly sunny outlook on all the data, especially considering levels of atrazine spike to their highest during summer months.

Have you ever played Pit, the commodities card game? It always seems like it might be a little boring -- trading barley or hay sounds awfully tame, after all. But then you realize you're gaining a corner on barely and everything gets really intense. Well last year, the dairy pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange saw a little action of its own. According to NPR, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission fined the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and former executives $12 million for trying to inflate the price of cheddar cheese. The incident sounds bizarre, but it's systemic of a wider problem: monopolization and manipulation in the dairy business. The proof is in the (milk) pudding: Despite the lowest raw milk prices in 40 years, consumers aren't seeing much of a dip in supermarket prices. Instead, dairy giants are increasingly forcing down what they pay to farmers, leaving dairy farms in the lurch.

Meteorites: To hunt or not to hunt?

In many countries (such as Gambia, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Argentina and India) meteorite ownership defaults to the government or state museums. As you might imagine, this puts varying restrictions on meteorite collecting, depending on where you are.

Robot Fish Farmers Might Shepherd Future Schools

Since we're gobbling up fish faster than they can spawn, aquaculture has had to pick up the slack. Fish farming produces about half of the fish we eat -- the rest comes from increasingly depleted fisheries. So it's likely that if you want to keep fish as a regular part of your future diet, you'll have to rely more and more on the farmed variety. Unfortunately, farming doesn't always produce the healthiest, tastiest animals. To keep fish accessible and safe from rough weather, most farming operations are close to shore. The resulting combination of poor water circulation plus tight quarters can equal disease or heavy antibiotic loads to prevent it. Deep water cages offer more circulation (and the potential to introduce a little natural food into the fishes' diet), but due to their inaccessibility, they're not particularly convenient. Could robots do the work for us? We're already part-way there according to National Geographic News: Cliff Goudey of MIT is building self-guided operations that equip Aquapod cages with propellers.

DNA Evidence can be Fabricated

We've largely come to hold DNA evidence as the ultimate weapon in criminal investigation, as well as one killer obstacle on the road to the perfect crime. Humans are constantly spurting fluids, shedding skin flakes and dropping hairs. Just one genetic sample left in the wrong place is enough to cinch it. At least it's been that way till now.

Robert Smith Prepares Canada for Zombie Apocalypse

If you're on the same wavelength as me, then that slightly misleading headline probably summons images of The Cure front man flanked by Mounties, their ranks of cavalry charging rotting hoards of undead on the plains of Saskatchewan. Will our smokey-eyed hero stand a chance at conquering these reanimated cannibal legions? The actual story on BBC News is nearly as odd.

Following a trip to Boston early this summer, I left with one particularly indelible impression about the lovely city: The drivers there are crazy. I spent most of my time on the "T," the favored mode of transportation for many sensible citizens. But a jaunt around the city by car and a two-way trip on the Massachusetts Turnpike left me shaken by the patient, seemingly deliberate impulse drivers had to run into each other or make up their own lanes. So it's easy for me to understand why Boston is one of the most walkable cities in the world -- who would want to drive? At HowStuffWorks, we even ranked it at No. 4 on a list of the United States' five most walkable cities. There's the aforementioned "T" and the miles of foot and bike paths. But according to Inhabitat, the city's about to become even easier to get around sans car due to a new bike-sharing system.

Can photos of cake help you diet?

Just consider this image, would you? Do you find your dieting resolve strengthening, or caving to its sweet, chocolaty powers of seduction? According to a recent study, this photograph might help you resist temptation.

Are North African meteorite dealers enemies of science ?

Ever want to catch a falling star and put it in your pocket? Well don't do it! You could be bogarting valuable scientific data.

As a kid, I remember conservation being all about the Three R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Thus the triangular formation of green arrows that probably graces all manner of products in your home. But at some point (maybe even from the start), recycling surpassed the other two R's in terms of recognition. It became the talented artist in the passé pop group who obviously needs to go solo. But what of reducing and reusing -- arguably the most important of the three R's? They didn't vanish, only to return years later on some "Remember the '90s" clip show. No, they've been rebranded as the trendier sounding "precycling" and "upcycling," words that happen to look a lot like their popular counterpart. I've posted about upcycling before, so you might already know the deal: It's not just buying a table at Goodwill instead of IKEA.

Are meteorites full of star jelly?

Find any suspicious slime in your backyard following this week's Perseid meteor shower? If so, please read this post before you call NASA. It might save everyone a lot of grief.

Sunken Cities Open Their Doors to Exploration

Fiction lovers adore splendid underwater cities. It used to be the ancient, lost Atlantis (or its similarly mythical colonies) that made regular appearances in books and movies. Then it was high-tech underwater bases. Now it's more likely to be real, recognizable coastal cities drowned in a global warming end game.

Sure, thanks to a pesky sinkhole, all you have are your memories of the Epcot Center's Horizons attraction. But hey, maybe you won't have to wait too long for the real thing. Scientists are once again talking about robot harvesters in a way that brings to mind the ride's futuristic farm equipment (check out the video clip). You can practically smell the oranges.

When you think of future bone replacement methods, you probably either imagine cultivated, lab-grown tissue or some manner of steel and plastic implants. You probably don't think of wood -- at least not inside you. Too many weird "George Washington had carved chompers" connotations to think about. Yet Discovery News is reporting a new procedure may make it possible to turn a block of wood into artificial bone. It's not simply a matter of whittling a femur out of red oak, though.

Space Music: Chill Out with Astronauts and Ambient Music

I know what you're thinking: Isn't there away to stay on the cutting edge of NASA's space missions while ALSO pumping hours of ambient electronic music into your brain? Now there is, as popular Internet radio station SomaFM has unveiled a new channel "Mission Control." So plug in your ear buds, grab that DVD of "2001" and prepare to drift off into deep space.

Light Pollution II: Afraid of the Dark?

As frightening and intimidating as the dark can be, it's something we might need on a biological level. Earlier in the week, I blogged about light pollution and its effects on both the environment and our enjoyment of the night sky. Today, I thought I'd quickly run through some of the possible effects on human health.