The 'show why science is awesome' thread:


Somewhat relatedly, the financial press has been full of pieces over the last few days about this flying taxi startup getting a big investment from Tencent. It’s pretty cool tech, especially if the VTOL-to-horizontal aspect proves reliable in the long term, but some of the coverage has been absurdly breathless, talking about it reducing congestion in cities and competing on cost with ground travel. Just a simple back of the envelope calculation would show how ridiculous those claims are. They’re planning a five-seater vehicle. There are 5m passenger journeys each day on the London Underground alone, and road congestion is still abysmal. To have a material impact on traffic the sky would be blotted out by flying taxis. Assuming this gets regulatory clearance and the tech stands up, it will replace helicopters for executives. That’s it.


Well, if The Fifth Element taught me anything, it’s that the future looks exactly as you described.



This year for our yard haunt we’ve been experimenting with silicone molds and rigid foam props.

Working with the foam is fascinating. I’d never really considered how rigid foam is made; now having played with it, it’s fun. It’s simple; two chemicals mixed 1:1 by volume, stirred vigorously, then poured into the mold. All done in a short time, as the mixture has a very short pot life before it starts to rise.

That’s the fun bit. It looks like cake batter rising in an oven. You can cap the mold with something that’s ventilated to provide some back pressure (and increase the density of the resulting foam), but you don’t always want to do that. That’s more for molds with some complex bits you want to force the foam into.

The props that come out are generally nicely detailed. The foam we got is self skinning, and quite dense compared to, say, styrofoam.

I’ll try to post some examples when we run our next prop. Halloween - fun and sciencey!


Today is the 60th anniversary of Crick’s lecture proposing the “Central Dogma” of biology:

Crick also went on in the early 60s to do most of the experiments that deciphered the “genetic code” - which DNA triplet codes for which amino acid.


But Watson’s an asshole. I’ve met him in person, can confirm.


Certainly not the only scientist who qualifies. William Shockley was a racist jerk.



Nobel Prize awarded for Physics:


The punniest Nobel ever.

Still i’ve been listening to grav wave stuff for the last couple of years. Kind of didn’t want it to actually have been true, but amazing stuff nonetheless. There are three interferometers up now, and these black hole merger events seem surprisingly common.


I’m curious, why? Was there a competing idea that you liked?


What with dark energy and dark matter - the discovery of which seems to have been in the last couple of decades - seemed to coincide with my long held but ignorant belief that somehow gravity was “different” than the other forces, and that the failure to find gravitational waves would validate that hunch, and that DE and DM would “disappear” once we had a more informed view of gravitational forces and be explained away as sort of “background misperceptions” of gravitation effects over large distances we hadn’t predicted or understood. This turns out not to be the case! These are amazing interferometers and the math involved on such tiny perturbations must be astonishing. The more astonishing/disturbing thing is thinking about how much gravitational energy is being “held” right now as propagating waves.

I still feel like i have some weird ignorant leap-of-faith hunch about gravity due to “potential energy” in gravitational fields, but i don’t have the skills nor career to pursue that hunch.

Right now they discovered - possibly - the existence of an enormous “drift” in all of the visible universe toward a direction. It’s very very possible we could use this angular pull to calculate the actual size of the universe (rather than the visible universe) which would be pretty incredible in and of itself!


Doc, this is heavy!


Wait, what? No way. It’s all baryonic matter?

One thing about this is rotation of th galaxies. Apparently galaxies rotate like a “record” as seen from above and this wouldn’t be possible (as I’ve read) without dark matter within the galaxy pulling everything else along. Supposedly what they should see is everything rotating at the same speed (more or less) and therefore the “arms” of galaxies being ripped apart as the “ends” trail the “heads”.


I have to see more confirmation before I believe it.


Fear not—it isn’t dark matter. It’s just the baryons we were missing according to theory.


What Fishbreath said.

I found an illuminating thread on (of all places) Reddit on the topic.


I suppose this could also go in the “What Could Possibly Go Wrong” thread since an obvious application is for stealth surveillance or even assassination. But it’s a pretty awesome technology with promise for less terrible things, like studying animals in natural surroundings or placing beneficial technology where people haven’t been willing to accept it for aesthetic reasons.


Building brains!


I didn’t realize that stainless steel was a difficult material to use in 3D printers. Apparently it’s not any more!


An improvement over their previous version.