Scienceline Staff Picks

Randomness, perceptive dogs, and extreme journalism

Our favorites of the week

January 20, 2012
[Image Credit from left to right: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/f7oor/3762349403/">floorvan</a> via Flickr, Justine Hausheer, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/elisfanclub/2189147534/in/photostream/">eliduke</a> via Flickr]
[Image Credit from left to right: floorvan via Flickr, Justine Hausheer, eliduke via Flickr]

From Ashley Taylor:

The New Scientist reports on a nanometer-scale microphone that can detect sound waves one-millionth the volume that we can hear. Sounds like science, anyone?

In that same volume of The New Scientist, Catherine de Lange discusses art that is not just computer generated but also computer created, giving as examples computer programs that create paintings and music in the styles of various renowned composers.

The New Yorker‘s Joan Acocella discusses the use of chance in art in a goodbye to choreographer Merce Cunningham, who died in 2009 and whose modern dance company recently finished its final tour. Cunningham relied on chance and randomness in many aspects of his choreography, Acocella says, and also played with technology, such as motion-capture animation.

 

From Justine Hausheer:

A few weeks ago, I pointed you to a great piece on the physics of falling into lava by Erik Klemetti of Wired’s Eruptions blog. The debate continues on the accuracy of Hollywood human-lava interactions, along with some cautionary tales from real life.

Many dog owners (myself included) swear that their pets understand more than a few key words like walk, treat, and bath. So it’s not entirely surprising when scientists reported that dogs are very attuned to some of the subtleties of human communication, like eye contact, and can even understand our intentions.

When wandering the vaults of large museums, it is always worth your while to poke into the forgotten boxes in the corner. British paleontologist Howard Falcon-Lang did just that, and found lost plant fossils collected by Charles Darwin. The fossils arrived in the vaults of the British Geological Survey in the 1840s, but their presence was never recorded and they were forgotten.

 

From Taylor Kubota:

I am totally fascinated by comments on my stories, so it’s interesting to learn that those of you who use pseudonyms may actually write better comments. This author is a little wary of this finding but it’s an interesting possibility.

The first magazine published in Antarctica ran from 1902 to 1912. I can’t complain about how hard it is to be a journalist when there’s work like this to compete with.

Two words: pirate botanist. Not enough? How about this: Robert Krulwich.

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