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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

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This just doesn't look good

Planetary Structural Layer Cakes!

Self-taught chef Rhiannon over at Cakecrumbs has been working on a fun series of planetary cakes that are designed to be scientifically accurate with different types of cake representing various layers within Earth and Jupiter. For her Jupiter Cake the center is the theoretical rock/ice core (mudcake), followed by a layer of liquid metallic hydrogen (almond butter), and finally the liquid molecular hydrogen (colored vanilla). She layered her Earth Cake similarly and finished it off with some absurdly detailed continent design made with marshmallow fondant.

Due to high demand she just posted an extremely detailed tutorial including a video that explains how to make spherical concentric layer cakes. Which is now a thing. That I will have at my birthdays now and forever. (via I F’ing Love Science)


These Are the Most Exquisitely Weird Spiders You Will Ever See

Spiders are among the craftiest and most beautiful of arthropods, entirely undeserving of their maligned reputation. Some signal their presence with massive horns or brilliant colors, others attempt to blend into the scenery. Many spin intricate traps of sticky silk, but some chase their prey -- or ambush it, bursting out of burrows hidden beneath Earth's surface. Some spiders are solitary, watching over trembling webs and waiting for the day when they can mate and cannibalize their partner. Others live in colonies, dividing chores among hundreds of individuals. Some spiders are as big as your face -- others can be mistaken for dewdrops.

Hanging from the corners of the world, or tucked into its creases, is a dazzling array of arachnids, mostly going about their lives with little notice from us humans.

But some are lucky enough to find themselves in front of photographer Nicky Bay's lens. Based in Singapore, Bay specializes in macrophotography -- or taking super close-up images of tiny things. Trekking through the region's forests or poking around parks at night have brought him face-to-face with some of the most bizarre and beautiful spiders we've ever seen. Now, he's captured thousands of marvelous images that highlight a diverse and incredible world that's too easily overlooked. "Macro photography opens a window to the micro world, which exists all around us," said Bay, shown shooting robberflies on a beach. "Looking up close can often reveal many surprises."

Mirror Spider
Thwaitesia sp.
Singapore, July 2013

Wow. WOW. On July 12, Bay captured this shimmering spider as it transformed itself from a somewhat rhinestone-studded arachnid (right) into a solid wall of spider mirror (below). The shiny, reflective patches on this spider’s abdomen may be produced by guanine crystals, which can be a source of structural color in arthropods. Also commonly referred to as a “sequined” spider, the arachnid is a member of the Thwaitesia genus. In a post on his website, Bay described how the shiny patches were initially quite small, perhaps because the spider was agitated. But as it chilled out, the spider's mirrored patches grew and grew, eventually forming a mesh of beautiful silver cells.



Olek Crochets an Entire Four-Car Locomotive in Lodz, Poland

Textile artist Olek has just completed work on what may be her largest piece ever, a four-car locomotive covered in crocheted technicolor camo in Lodz, Poland. The artist didn’t even stop to change out of a costume she wore at the Animal Ball in London before jumping on a plane to meet four assistants who began a four-day assault on the large train that was completed on July 19th. You may remember Olek’s work from just over a year ago here on Colossal when she crocheted an entire alligator-themed playground in São Paulo. The locomotive will be on view through August 19th, and you can see more over on Hi-Fructose.


Cool periodic table!

In this beautiful, easy-to-read periodic table, created by London-based graphic designer Alison Haigh, each element is represented by a visualization of its electronic structure, rather than by numbers and letters.

The dots each represent electrons—so, hydrogen, which has an atomic number of 1, is the single dot in the upper lefthand corner.


Dolphin Strandings on East Coast Alarm Scientists

Above-average occurrences of dolphins washing ashore dead or dying along the US East Coast has marine scientists concerned.

Wednesday another dead dolphin washed up in the Ocean View area near Norfolk along the state's southeast, marking the third dead cetacean to be found in a matter of days and the fourth in the last three weeks, according to local news station WAVY.

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center initially dismissed suggestions that the dolphin deaths were connected, but now it is reevaluating its position.

"We are a little bit concerned about it," the Virginia Aquarium's Mark Swingle told WAVY. "It's definitely at a much higher level than we're used to seeing at this time of year."

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, last year 217 dolphins were stranded on the East Coast in a four months period, making 2012 "the largest dolphin stranding season on record within the East Coast." As last year came to a close, researchers postulated that 2013 might be another year record mass strandings.

This summer's strandings in Virginia are not isolated. Since July 9, at least 21 dolphins have washed up along the shores of New Jersey and in Delaware 10 dead baby dolphins have been found since June, the Press of Atlantic City reported, adding that NOAA said last week it is investigating an increase of bottlenose dolphin deaths between New Jersey and Virginia.



Young Stars Surrounded by "Hula Hoops" of Debris Discovered

By Tamarra Kemsley

In this artist's impression, a disk of dusty material leftover from star formation girds two young stars like a hula hoop. As the two stars whirl around each other, they periodically peek out from the disk, making the system appear to "blink" every 93 days. (Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have spotted a young star system that appears to be two developing stars surrounded by disks of star-formation residue. The stars, those who discovered say, are caught in a game of cosmic peek-a-boo while a third orbits at the periphery.

Called YLW 16A, the system "blinks" every 93 days as the two inner stars whirl around each other, periodically popping out from the disk that girds them like a hula hoop. Moreover, this disk, the scientists determined, is misaligned -- probably due to the disruptive gravitation of the third star -- and is likely to go on to spawn planets and other celestial bodies that make up a solar system.

As the fourth example of a star system known to blink in such a manner, and the second spotted in the same star-forming region Rho Ophiuchus, YLW 16A is evidence these systems might be more common than once thought, the researchers explain in their analysis of the finding.

Furthermore, blinking star systems with warped disks offer scientists a way to study how planets form in these environments. In a binary star system, it's possible for the planets to orbit one or both of the stars -- much like the famous fictional planet Tatooine in "Star Wars" with its double sunsets. Such worlds are referred to as circumbinary planets, and because astronomers can record how light is absorbed by planet-forming disks during the bright and faint phases of blinking stellar systems, they offer a unique look into the information regarding the materials that comprise the disk.



Do 14% of Americans Really Suspect that President Obama is the Anti-Christ?

Aug 1, 2013

Since Barack Obama first began campaigning for the presidency, people have said some crazy things about him. “He is a socialist Muslim with a radical anti-colonial agenda who was born in Kenya,” for example.

Commentators described the accusations as a racist reaction to an African-American president. Others comforted themselves that they were the ramblings of a lunatic fringe. But polls indicated otherwise. A 2012 Harris Interactive poll found that the following percentage of Americans believed about President Obama that:

He is a socialist (40%)
He wants to take away Americans' right to own guns (38%)
He is a Muslim (32%)
He wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government (29%)
He was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (25%)
He may be the Anti-Christ (14%)
He wants the terrorists to win (13%)

These beliefs split clearly along partisan lines. Republicans believed the following about President Obama:

He is a socialist (67%)
He wants to take away Americans' right to own guns (61%)
He is a Muslim (57%)
He wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a one world government (51%)
He was not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president (45%)
He may be the Anti-Christ (24%)
He wants the terrorists to win (22%)

Although these are extreme examples, they are typical of how polls about facts show clear partisan bias. In 2012, years after American officials failed to find any signs of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, 63% of Republicans believed in their existence. (As did 15% of Democrats.) Democrats (falsely) underrate economic performance under Reagan while Republicans do the same for the economy under Clinton.

Academics often explain this ideological gap in the realm of facts as a result of partisanship influencing how we acquire and process information. Four economists, however, recently decided to challenge the sincerity of these reported beliefs. (Perhaps they were inspired by the fact that 14% of Americans report believing that Obama may be the Anti-Christ.)



How Much Is a Life Worth?

By James Oliphant

To Ken Feinberg, if you lose both your legs, you’re as good as dead.

Here, in the world of the living, inspirational media stories after the Boston Marathon bombings featured survivors who persevered, grittily relearning to walk atop state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs, fighting for normalcy with each new step. But in Feinberg’s world, it made no difference whether a person could still live a rewarding life or never left the race’s finish line. That didn’t enter the equation—his equation. His choice. His rules. Whether you died at the scene or you lost both your legs, you received the same amount of money—$2.2 million—from the victim fund established in the wake of the attack. If you lost one limb, you received considerably less. If you were hospitalized but kept your limbs, then still less.

Feinberg is the nearly ubiquitous expert who has been called in to divvy up funds for the fallen and the injured in a stomach-churning sequence of tragedies, from the Sept. 11 attacks to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, from the Virginia Tech shootings to the Boston bombings. He’s Death’s accountant. When the stands collapsed at the Indiana State Fair in 2011, killing seven, they called Ken Feinberg. When a gunman murdered 27 children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, they called Ken Feinberg. His is the grimmest of specialties.

“You’ll never make these people whole,” Feinberg says, sitting in his Washington law office as the city below baked in the summer’s heat. Befitting a career lived under klieg lights, one wall is dedicated to press clippings. But here, dread and devastation run though the framed articles, a sorrowful wall of fame. On the coffee table are we-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-you letters from Presidents Bush and Obama, along with a picture of Feinberg and family in the Oval Office. Opera, Feinberg’s passion, is piped into the room continuously.

And characteristic of a man who has waded repeatedly into tragedy’s wake, who has been praised and flayed, who has sent millions of dollars to some victims and told thousands of others they’ll see nothing, and who is viewed as the unparalleled expert in his field, Feinberg is alternately boastful and defensive, contemplative and bombastic. He’s done this so long now, he knows the questions before they come, addresses the criticisms before they’re raised, and stands by his record to the end. With this vocation, it seems, comes a nearly bottomless capacity for self-examination. Feinberg has written books and delivered commencement speeches on the principles of victim compensation, on the value of a life. He has a singular perspective on how our society chooses—or declines—to take care of its own. And it has left him troubled. “Bad things happen to good people each day in this country,” he says.



Friday TOON Roundup 4 - The Rest






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