Shadowy Saturn, fluttering flight, and determining decisions
Our favorites from the week
Scienceline Editors • September 12, 2011
Each week, the Scienceline staff combs through the web to find the smartest, coolest, and newest stuff for you to read. See what we’ve got this week!
From Amber Williams:
A sad reminder of how awesome NASA’s space shuttle program was: Last week a private spaceship lost control on a test journey into the skies and was destroyed. The ship is a pill-shape and funded by the billionaire who founded Amazon, Jeff Bezos, as well as the U.S. government. Apparently NASA will share its money, but not its secrets.
Ray Bradbury, the author of science fiction favorites such as Fahrenheit 451, was dubious of technology, but when it came to science, he knew his stuff. New Scientist explores how science shaped Bradbury’s stories.
Astronomy picture of the day: Amazing photograph of Saturn shot by the circling Cassini spacecraft back in 2006. There’s beauty in the shadows.
From Stephanie Warren:
A virus changes the behavior of caterpillars in a strange and horrifying way: the infected insects, when in their death throes, keep to the tops of trees, then liquify from the inside out, dripping melted, virus-carrying caterpillar drops onto the hapless victims below.
Ed Yong is as entertaining as ever on his blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science. In his words: “Flutter brought down the passenger plane Braniff Airways Flight 542, killing everyone on board. Flutter wrecked the Tahoma Narrows Bridge, causing it to warp and twist like a piece of rope. But flutter also ensures that male hummingbirds get some action.”
Sometimes pictures really do render words unnecessary. Check out this series of stunning shots from National Geographic of some of Europe’s most wondrous watery places.
From Lena Groeger:
Think you have free will? Think again. Then read this article. Scientists and philosophers debate whether we control what we decide.
Speaking of decisions, why did you buy that last Groupon? Jonah Lehrer explains some science behind why we shop – and like bargains so much.
John McWhorter’s new book, called “What Language Is,” explores the history of languages, where slang comes from, and why English is so darn weird. Here’s a conversation between him and one of my favorite cognitive scientist/philosophers, Joshua Knobe.