Posts from the ‘link’ Category

521 Years

Link: 521 Years


That’s the half-life of DNA, according to new research from scientists in Denmark and Australia. That means that dinosaur DNA is pretty much out of the question, but that the Earth’s primary genetic material lasts longer than once thought.

By studying DNA left over in leg bones of extinct moa birds of different ages, they were able to determine how fast it naturally degrades. Water, essential for life, can be pretty reactive over the span of hundreds and thousands of years, slowly breaking the bonds that hold DNA molecules together.

If half the DNA is gone in 521 years, then even at optimal temperatures any sample would be almost totally degraded after 6.8 million years.

I guess there’s a few questions that remain, like if different environments could lead to different numbers, or what different soils could do to move that number up or down … but I’d sell your stock in any Jurassic Park-type ventures.

More at Nature.

Well that’s a bummer. Guess we’ll just have to build our own dinosaurs from scratch!

(Don’t hold your breath; we can barely make single living cells.) 

How Science Explains America’s Great Moral Divide

Link: How Science Explains America’s Great Moral Divide


From a longer interview at Scientific American, Jonathan Haidt offers this explanation of how modern human culture, especially American moral/political culture, is the result of our unique evolutionary path, part bee and part primate:

For the last half of the 20th century, the dominant idea in the social sciences was that people are selfish. Economists thought that people were only out to maximize their self-interest, political scientists believed that people voted entirely for their self-interest, and biologists told us that we were driven by selfish genes, which make us generous only when it will help our kin or our reputations. Self interest is of course a very powerful force, yet it leaves out our deep and passionate desires to be part of a group, to lose ourselves in something larger than ourselves. It leaves out so much of the psychology of religion and self-transcendence.
This is why I say that one of the basic principles of moral psychology is that we are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. Most of our social nature is like that of other primates – we’re mostly out for ourselves. But because our evolution was shaped by a few hundred thousand years of intense group versus group conflict, we are also very groupish. We are descended from groups that had fine-tuned mental mechanisms and cultural rituals for binding themselves together into communities able to work together, suppress free riders, and achieve common ends. When we do these things we are more analogous to bees than to chimps. But for us, it’s just temporary. We have brief collective moments, and we can do great things together in those moments, but eventually, self-interest returns.

A fine explanation of that conflict that seems to be at the heart of so much political tension: Is this about me, or about us?


The food-chain effects of invasive species

Link: The food-chain effects of invasive species

A study tried to determine the effect that losing apex bird species in a large-scale environment would have, and to do so turned its eyes on Guam.

There, brown snakes were introduced by trade years ago. On the small island, insectivorous birds were the apex predators until the snakes were introduced, and have been almost entirely wiped them out. 

The study found that during the wet season, Guam’s spider web density was almost 40 times as high as nearby islands with healthy bird populations. During the dry season, that number dropped to 2.3 times as high. 

Another example of how dangerous a relatively benign non-native species may be to an environment, and the top-down effects they can have on the food chain.

Help map seafloors and sealife in this dynamic project

Link: Help map seafloors and sealife in this dynamic project

Help scientists identify seafloor types and living species in this engaging, citizen dependent project. The hope is to identify species, map populations, and get a better idea of the makeup of the northeastern continental shelf of the U.S. 

Despite just being released, over 200,000 images have been mapped and possibly even a new species. How reliable those mappings are remains to be seen, but with such a great amount of input the results should even out.

A fantastic project that really takes advantage of the huge citizen workforce that is available on the web. I’m looking forward to see what results Seafloor Explorer can give us, and whether any similar projects pop up.

Only passionately curious: Bill Nye the Science Guy

Link: Only passionately curious: Bill Nye the Science Guy



-Season 1

1. Flight

2. The Earth’s Crust
3. Dinosaurs
4. Skin

5. Buoyancy

6. Gravity

7. Digestion

8. Phases of Matter

9. Biodiversity

10. Simple Machines

11. The Moon

12. Sound

13. Garbage

14. Structures


There’s really no really to attend college classes now that you have all of these.

But not really. Go to class.

NPR Fresh Air: To this day, they are the most efficient insulation known. We haven’t…

Link: NPR Fresh Air: To this day, they are the most efficient insulation known. We haven’t…


To this day, they are the most efficient insulation known. We haven’t been able to match them with synthetics, and I think it boils down to that growth process and the fact that you can make these fine, fine branching structures. The key to insulation is what they call loft — how much air…

Nicholas Eftimiades doing a Reddit AMA

Link: Nicholas Eftimiades doing a Reddit AMA

Go ahead and click the link, Eftimiades lets you know who he is right off the bat. He’s in a pretty unique position to answer some cool future-tech questions and has some really fascinating responses on world politics and such.

Not getting quite the response Obama’s AMA did, but Eftimiades is answering more and the website can handle it.