discovery.com brings us this:
Whale waste is rich in iron so it stimulates the growth of phytoplankton, which then serve as carbon traps that remove some 400,000 estimated tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.
Since carbon has been linked to greenhouse gases, sperm whales likely reduce global warming.
Sperm whale waste isn't much to look at -- a diarrhea-like substance with a few squid beaks floating around -- but new research has found it removes carbon from the atmosphere, helping to offset greenhouse gases that have been tied to global warming.
There you go! That diarrhea-like substance with squid beaks ... it helps the environment. So leave it there! Don't try to bring it home.
Over on wired.com Nadia Drake tells us how cats see the world.
Cats' color vision is less vibrant than humans', a result of different densities of photoreceptors in their retinas.
Scientists used to think cats were dichromats — able to only see two colors — but they’re not, exactly. While feline photoreceptors are most sensitive to wavelengths in the blue-violet and greenish-yellow ranges, it appears they might be able to see a little bit of green as well. In other words, cats are mostly red-green color blind, as are many of us, with a little bit of green creeping in.
Cats see much better in dim light. Night vision!
Instead of the color-resolving, detail-loving cone cells that populate the center of human retinas, cats (and dogs) have many more rod cells, which excel in dim light and are responsible for night-vision capability. The rod cells also refresh more quickly, which lets cats pick up very rapid movements.
featured research from sciencedaily.com:
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis.
"The effect that dark chocolate has on our bodies is encouraging not only because it allows us to indulge with less guilt, but also because it could lead the way to therapies that do the same thing as dark chocolate but with better and more consistent results," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Until the 'dark chocolate drug' is developed, however, we'll just have to make do with what nature has given us!"
Wordnik Word of the Day for February 25, 2014
The drone of a bagpipe, or a monotonous and repetitious ground-melody.
George Berridge at the telegraph.co.uk brings us this story:
On Saturday, thousands of Latvians marked the start of Riga's tenure as one of two European Capitals of Culture by forming a human chain and moving 2,000 books by hand to the new national library building.
Around 15,000 people braved freezing temperatures – as low as -14C – to form a chain stretching more than a mile across the capital, deliberately echoing 1989's Baltic Way when some two million protesters formed a human chain across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to fight for independence from the Soviet Union.
Organiser Aiva Rozenberga said the event had deep symbolic significance for Latvians.
"The people taking part in the book chain who are prepared to stand here on a cold winter day are taking this seriously too – we are literally standing up for culture."
People in the chain passed along books from the city’s existing 150-year-old national library across the River Daugava to a new national library building which opens in August.
Agent S sends us this note:
It's Snowmageddon in Atlanta - but that won't stop us from readin!
Thanks for writing in, and we love the pic. But so blatantly reading the Secret Series? We consider that COLD! (get it)
The best news is that come spring the evidence will melt.
The Taiwanese publisher sends us this top secret image of the cover art of THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET.
SHOW NO ONE!
Here it is so you'll know what to hide.
Wordnik Word of the Day for February 13, 2014
The secret copying and sharing of illegal publications, chiefly in the Soviet Union; underground publishing and its publications.
A samizdat publication.
END ALL SECRET SHARING!!!!
WE ARE AGAINST THIS WORD!!
discovery.com with even more codes for us:
Discovered on Easter Island in the 19th century, Rongorongo is a text found only on fragments of wooden objects. It consists of glyphs resembling human, animal and plant figures as well as abstract, geometric symbols.
Dating the text has proven tricky, since researchers can only radiocarbon-date the wood, not necessarily the text itself. Evidence suggests, however, that the text couldn't date much further back than around 700 years ago.
discovery.com gives us more code:
Thousands of artifacts bearing Indus Script, a more than 4,000-year-old writing form tied to the prehistoric Indus Valley Civilization, have been discovered over the past century. However, the meaning of these ancient hieroglyphics has remained a mystery to anyone looking to decipher them.
Although a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identified patterns in the symbols taken from different artifacts bearing this text, the language remains a mystery.
In fact, some archaeologists have questioned whether the script represents a language at all, or "merely pictograms of political or religious icons," as reported in a related release from Science Daily.
With the discovery of sequences and patterns in the script, however, those looking to decode these ancient texts are more confident that the codes reflect an underlying logic of a verbal system.
discovery.com gives us more code:
Discovered in 1908 in Crete, the Phaistos Disk is a Bronze-Age relic containing a script that dates back about 4,000 years.
Measuring around 16 centimeters (6.3 inches) in diameter and containing some 45 symbols repeated throughout the artifact, the pottery disk contains a mix of figures resembling humans, plants, weapons and animals.
Since its discovery, the authenticity of the Phaistos Disk has been questioned by some archaeologists who argue it's a forgery. But most scholars accept it as a genuine product of its time.
discovery.com gives us some more codes:
The Voynich manuscript, a 15th-century parchment containing both a coded script and mysterious drawings, was discovered in 1912 in the Villa Mondragone near Rome. Even since its discovery, it has confounded cryptographers. Only this year did researchers even determine how old the text is.
Even the true author of the text is something of a mystery. Theories range from a 13th-century friar named Roger Bacon to a religious sect hiding their customs and rituals in the pages of the manuscript.
Although the book contains nearly a quarter of a million characters, they are of such variety as to further complicate deciphering the text. Some resemble Latin letters and Roman numerals, while others are completely unique. The drawings only serve to further confuse anyone looking to see through to the meaning of the text.
discovery.com brings us some codes:
Known as the Copiale Cipher, the mysterious text seen here was the work of a secretive 18th-century society. Discovered in East Germany and first examined in the 1970s, the 75,000-character cipher details the operations and rituals of this 300-year-old group.
The cipher was cracked by a team of U.S. and Swedish researchers led by University of Southern California computer scientist Kevin Knight. Interestingly enough, the code revealed the political leanings of the organization and its curious fascination with eye surgery.
Although a combination of human ingenuity and computing power solved this centuries-old text, there are still other codes, both modern and ancient, whose meanings have eluded even the most skilled cryptographers.
Researchers at the Occupational Hygiene Unit at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Great Britain call the robot "Vomiting Larry." The robot is not designed to simply disgust the public, but to simulate the effects of norovirus projectile vomiting. That simulation can be used to determine how far the highly contagious norovirus particles travel when somebody with the illness throws up.
"Vomiting Larry" consists of a cylindrical body filled with water mixed with florescent liquid, a humanoid head with an open mouth, and a pump to propel the water through the mouth, in a manner similar to projectile vomiting.
After Larry vomits the florescent water, researchers measure how far the airborne particles travel.
Catherine Makison-Booth, who has the claim to fame of being dubbed Larry’s creator, said:
Under normal lighting, you can only see the main area where Larry actually vomited. However, under UV light, you can see the particles spread much further than that -- in excess of three meters.
I'm having a problem with my characters. They don't want to tell me anything about themselves. Any advice?
If your characters won't tell you anything about themselves force them into difficult situations and then see what they do. That'll teach 'em! And it will teach you what they are like.
If you think you have the right stuff to help colonize Mars, you'll soon get your chance to prove it.
The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which hopes to put the first boots on the Red Planet in 2023, released its basic astronaut requirements.
Final astronaut candidates will be selected after review by Mars One experts and a global TV event. Those chosen will be employed by Mars One during their Earth-based training and for the length of their time on the Red Planet, officials said.
Eleanor at tydknow.com explains to us why we sometimes walk into a room and forgot why we went in:
The researcher Gabriel Radvansky discovered that just passing through a doorway creates an “event boundary” in the human mind. This means that the boundary is separating episodes of activity in the brain and storing them away. In other words, crossing the doorway puts a barrier between the action you were doing (or thinking about) and the one you’ll be doing once you pass through the doorway. This boundary effect is the reason why sometimes we can’t remember why we’ve entered the living room or the kitchen.
The “event boundary” effect is something very common and it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with your brain or memory function. It just means that sometimes you’ll need to work hard in order to remember what you were about to do before you entered the room.
Maria Popova wrote about irony, and Keith Houston's book on the subject on brainpickings.org.
In Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks language-lover Keith Houston traces the secret history of punctuation, spanning from antiquity to the digital age, from the asterisk to the @-symbol, chronicling the strange and scintillating lives of the characters, glyphs, and marks that populate the nooks and crannies of human communication
"The concept of irony got its name — though not yet an attendant mark of punctuation — in ancient Greece, where playwrights employed a cast of stock characters made recognizable by their physical characteristics, props, and personalities. One such staple of comic plays was the eirôn, a seeming buffoon who would best the alazon, his braggart opponent, by means of self-deprecation and feigned ignorance, and it was the cunning eirôn who gave his name first to the Greek eirôneia and then to the modern term “irony.”
John Wilkins declared that irony should be punctuated with an inverted exclamation mark (¡).
Here are some other marks suggested:
"Long ago the late Tom Driberg proposed that typographers should design a new face, which would slope the opposite way from italics, and would be called “ironics”."
Wow! How interesting.
Agent A wrote in to tell us:
You're a really suspicious character. . .
Your suspicions have been correct so far. You're just the kind of reader we want on our side!