science

Has the Definition of “Cool” Changed?

Attention: you may not be as cool as you think you are. But then again, you may be a great deal cooler. According to a team of psychologists from the University of Rochester, “cool” no longer denotes a detached, rebellious James Dean-type figure, but now more aptly describes, um, someone who’s really friendly. In a … Read More

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Why Do Old Books Smell?

When you ask your literary friends why they like physical books more than e-books — if they don’t immediately roll their eyes at the question, that is — they might tell you it’s because they love the smell of books. Well, we agree that there’s nothing quite like the aroma of a used bookstore or a worn paperback, but we’ve never stopped to think about exactly what gives our dusty tomes their scent. Until we watched this very informative video from Abe Books, that is. “A physical book is made up of organic matter that reacts with heat, light, moisture, and most importantly of all, the chemicals used in its production,” we are told. “And it is this unique reaction that causes the unique used books smell… Old books release hundreds of volatile organic compounds into the air from the paper,” and it is this which gives books their scent, “a combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness.” Mmm. Click through to watch the video, and then you can get right back to happily sniffing your bookshelves. … Read More

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Strangely Beautiful Photos of Clear Preserved Animals

Artist Iori Tomita, who graduated from the Kitasato University School of Fisheries Sciences, creates these incredibly strange specimens of animals, turning all the protein in their bodies transparent, and then infusing their bones and cartilage with color so they become strangely compelling, soft-colored skeletons. The process was originally created for scientific specimens, but Iori pushed the process further, refining his technique. He writes, “I create transparent specimens as pieces of work that help people feel closer to the wonders of life. People may look at my specimens as an academic material, a piece of art, or even an entrance to philosophy. There is no limitation to how you interpret their meaning. I hope you will find my work as a “lens” to project a new image, a new world that you’ve never seen before.” Well, this is certainly a world we’ve never seen before. Click through to take a look at some of these strangely beautiful preserved animal specimens, and let us know what you think in the comments. … Read More

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Expensive Nerdy Toys for Kids (That Are Really for Adults)

Sure we’re still feeling the effects of the economic crisis, but let’s pretend that you have millions of dollars just sort of lying around. What would you do with it all? Well, you could run for president, of course, but we know we’d rather throw around a whole bunch of money making all of the nerdiest dreams we had as children come true. Seriously, if you’re the offspring of a software entrepreneur or something, there are some crazy gifts out there for you to put on your Christmas list! Here are some of the priciest geek toys on the market. They may be marketed to kids, but many will clearly appeal more to grown-up fans — and they run from least to most expensive, so prepare yourself now for the end of the list. Seriously, you might want to sit down. … Read More

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German Scientists Shoot the World’s Fastest Film

Recently, a group of scientists at Germany’s largest particle physics center were awarded a Guinness World Record for “fastest movie” after shooting two frames merely 50 femtoseconds apart (or about 800 billion times quicker than in modern film — a femtosecond is equal to one quadrillionth of a second) using an X-ray laser. We know,… Read More

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A New Species of Horsefly Has Been Named After Beyoncé

Um, okay. So, a previously unnamed species of horsefly has recently been dubbed “the Beyoncé fly” on account of its “glamorous golden rear end,” which makes it “all-time diva of flies.” We don’t think we were aware that flies have enough divas to have an all-time diva, but we’ll let that one slide. Bryan Lessard, a… Read More

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15 Amazing Tattoos Inspired by Science

[Editor's note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we'll spend the next two weekends revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published November 8, 2011.] Back in 2007, after spying a colleague with DNA-inspired ink at a party, Discover Magazine’s Carl Zimmer asked his blog readers whether any of the scientists among them were sporting similar tattoo odes to their work. Perhaps surprisingly, the response was overwhelming. “Without intending it, I became a curator of tattoos, a scholar of science ink,” he explains. “Tattoo enthusiast magazines called to interview me. All in all, it was a strange experience; I have no tattoos of my own and no intention of getting any. But the open question I posed brought a river of pleasures.” A collection of the photos that Zimmer received as a result of his query — which range from a tattoo of Darwin’s finches to a pair of colorful odes to Halley’s Comet — were published earlier this month in a new book called Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed. Click through to check out a slide show featuring some of our favorite science-inspired ink. … Read More

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Watch a Deaf Woman Hear Herself for the First Time

Amidst all of the will they/won’t they Radiohead drama currently clogging up our Twitter feeds, we also came across this really amazing clip of YouTube user sloanchurman, a 29-year-old woman who was born deaf and recently received a hearing implant. As she explains in the comments area, “[I] have worn hearing aids from the age of 2, but hearing aids only help so much. I have gotten by this long in life by reading lips. This was taken as they were activating the implant.” Suffice it to say that if witnessing this amazing moment doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, we don’t know what will. … Read More

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Scientists Now Able to Read Your Brain Images Using YouTube

UC Berkeley researchers, whose work was published in a study in the journal Current Biology on Thursday, have created a computer program that may allow us to view the images in another person’s brain. Using an MRI machine to record the brain signals of three subjects as they watched videos on YouTube, the team then took the recorded signals and ran them through their computer program’s database of 18-million-seconds of random YouTube clips, not including the ones the subjects had actually been watching. Their program was able to reconstruct muddy composites of the movies that the subject had been viewing from the random information they were given, to a bizarrely accurate extent, capturing movement, shape, color, even text.

“This is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery,” said Professor Jack Gallant, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the study. “We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.” It’s true — moving images have never been captured in this way before, and this technology seems to be the first step towards getting a glimpse into the mind of a person in a coma, or being about to record and watch your own dreams — or at least a visual approximation of them. Click through to see a side-by-side video of the original footage watched by the subject and the composite the Berkeley researchers’ computer created and prepare to be amazed. … Read More

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Open Thread: What Movies Make You Cry?

So here’s an intriguing story that’s been working its way through the blogosphere: a pair of UC Berkley researchers have determined that the final scene of Franco Zeffirelli’s The Champ, in which Jon Voight’s washed-up boxer dies in front of his son (played by nine-year-old Ricky Schroeder), is the saddest movie scene of all time — that is, it has been scientifically proven to be the film clip most likely to make people cry. Don’t argue, it’s science.

The details of the research are compelling, and its conclusions were certainly not arrived at hastily. And yet… there’s just something about this story that rubs your author the wrong way. The “cry-ability” of a movie doesn’t seem all that measurable — like laughter or fear, crying at a movie seems such a singularly personal and subjective experience that it hardly seems quantifiable. Which begs the question: what makes you cry at the movies? … Read More

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