Archive for the ‘Awesome Science’ Category

IgNobel Prize Winners!

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, the IgNobel Prizes wrapped up not too long ago. Scicurious was live blogging the event and there was also a live webcast.

And the winners are:

A group from Europe won the Physiology award for demonstrating that yawns are not contagious in Red-Footed tortoises.

A group from Japan won the award for Chemistry by demonstrating the ideal amount ofwasabi to put in the air in order to wake people up. The purpose? A wasabi fire-alarm!

A couple of studies demonstrating how people make decisions when they really, really have to pee won the award for Medicine.

A group from Oslo won the Psychology prize for studying why people sigh. 

The Literature prize was given to John Perry of Stanford University for his theory of “Structured Procrastination“.

The Biology prize was given to a couple guys hailing from Canada, Australia and the USA for discovering a type of beetle that mates with stubby beer bottles.

A bunch of loons (e.g. Harold Camping) won the Mathematics prize for predicting the world would end and being wrong.

The Peace prize was awarded to Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for driving over an illegally parked luxury car with an armored tank.

The Public Safety prize was given to John Senders of the University of Toronto for conducting a driving safety study by having someone drive down the highway and have avisor repeatedly hit them in the face.

And finally, (and most importantly!) the Physics prize was given to a group from France and the Netherlands for studying why discus throwers get dizzy, but hammer throwers don’t. Very important with the 2012 Olympics coming up!


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Watch the IgNobel Prizes Tomorrow!

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The 21st 1st (no typo) Annual IgNobel Prizes are tomorrow. What are the Igs, you ask?

The Ig Nobel Prizes honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Awarded by Improbable Research, we will learn tomorrow whose real-life research is the weirdest, coolest, and funniest.

For example, last year’s physics prize went to

Lianne ParkinSheila Williams, and Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand, for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes.

Here’s the reference to prove it!

To hear about it live, you can watch the webcast or you can watch Scicurious (one of my fav science bloggers) live blog the event.

It is always entertaining and reminds us all why we love science!


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Scientists Can Be Funny!

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Apparently this is a genuine abstract from the American Geophysical Union conference in 1991:



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Don’t Eat This Jelly…

September 13, 2011 Leave a comment
a66c5  55257095 hamish Jelly batteries break the mould
A battery using a polymer jelly could make for cheaper, more efficient batteries.

Researchers from the University of Leeds have developed a new type of polymer jelly which could be used to make lighter, cooler (temperature wise) and more efficient rechargable batteries. They could be used in any application which currently uses a lithium battery, such as laptops, cell phones or tablets.

Professor Ian Ward from the University of Leeds went on BBC Radio 4 recently to discuss the new polymer jelly his research group has been working on.

This jelly, he says, could replace the current liquid electrolyte in most lithium batteries. The polymer jelly is supposed to be 10-20% cheaper but will not reach the high temperatures current batteries operate at during long usage times.

It would be regarded as safer because there is no excess solvent or electrolyte. All the solvents are bound into the polymer at a molecular level.

The group set out simply to make batteries safer. But as luck would have it, the design actually makes the batteries cheaper and more efficient.

It will certainly be cheaper because…the process of making batteries at the moment is generally rather laboruious. whereas we can do it in an instant step at a rather fast rate.

The batteries will also end up being lighter for doing similar applications as current electrolyte filled batteries, which will be particularly useful for military applications, says Ward.

This is one of those scientific advances which doesn’t seem too glamourous, but could directly affect all of us. Cell phones, tablets and laptops are ubiquitous now and battery life is a major consideration when buying a new device.

Anyone in the mood for PB&J now?


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The CN Tower Struck By Lightning

August 29, 2011 1 comment

It happens pretty often, but seeing it on video is quite cool.

On August 24, 2011 there was a large electrical storm over Toronto, Ontario. The CN Tower itself was struck by lightning about 15 times in a half hour.

Moon Motion Movie Madness!

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

Alliteration is fun.

Anywhooo…a lot of people know that only one side of the moon faces the Earth. That is because the moon rotates on its axis at roughly the same rate that it orbits the Earth.

The side of the moon which faces away from the Earth is commonly referred to as the Dark Side of the Moon (also one of the best album’s of all time).

In actuality, through the course of a year we see about 59% of the Moon’s surface. That is because the moon tilts and wobbles a bit, so sometimes we get a little more moon for our buck.

This video by the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio shows one whole year of moon motion in a 2.5 minute time lapse video.

Pretty cool stuff!

Also, don’t forget to check out today’s Google Doodle, which is a nifty little animation showing today’s total lunar eclipse.


“If Undergrads Are Our Future, We’re All Doomed!”

June 9, 2011 Leave a comment

I love the comics strip “Piled Higher and Deeper”

It depicts the trials and tribulations of being a graduate student. Even though I ditched the life of a grad student after my masters, I can still remember the horrors I experienced. And now, A MOVIE!

Is this “squee” worthy? I think so… SQUEEEEEEE!


Shock wave from a Trombone Caught on Film

May 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The weak shock wave emanating from a trombone was captured on film and presented at the 161st Meeting of the Acoustical Society for America in Seattle.

The researchers used schlieren photography to capture the images. This method is able to image fluids through the changes in their refractive index and is used largely in aeronautical engineering to study air flow around airplanes.

It’s also wicked-cool :)

The Human Powered Helicopter Flies!

May 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Gamera Team

Judy Wexler in the Gamera cockpit.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the University of Maryland’s ‘Gamera’ project. The engineering team there have designed and built a human-powered helicopter over the past two and a half years and were finally ready make it fly this week.

On Wednesday May 11, the team made their first attempt. They were unable to get the chopper off the ground, so minor repairs were performed and a second attempt was made yesterday, May 12.

After a few attempts, the pilot, Judy Wexler, was able to get the helicopter off the ground for a total of 4 seconds. (In the video below, she gets off the ground at about 3:20)

It is not quite what they had hoped. The ultimate goal was to win the Sirkosky Prize, but that would have required the chopper to fly for at least 1 minute and reach a height of at least 3 meters.

This is still a historic flight, however. It is the first human-powered helicopter to be piloted by a woman, and assuming the review of the flight video goes according to plan, the first to be certified by the National Aeronautics Association.

Darryl Pines, Dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering, had this to stay about the success:

I am incredibly proud of this amazing feat of engineering and physical prowess, and grateful to faculty mentors Drs. Inderjit Chopra, V.T. Nagaraj, and J. Gordon Leishman. Today’s flight of Gamera is a fitting symbol of our excellence in rotorcraft research and education, and our first step toward winning the Sikorsky Prize.

Building a Human Powered Helicopter

May 9, 2011 2 comments

Da Vinci would be proud.

Students at the University of Maryland will be testing their design for a human-powered helicopter this Wednesday, May 11. 

The team is attempting to win the Sirkosky Challenge. This is a challenge proposed by the American Helicopter Society in 1980 with a prize of $250,000. In order to win, the team’s flight machine must

  • use only human power
  • be off the ground for at least 60 seconds
  • reach a minimum 3 meter altitude during the flight
  • stay within a 10 meter box

While many man-powered aircraft have been produced, making a man-powered helicopter is quite difficult, as explained in the really cool video about the project shown below.

Best of luck to the team! I’m very curious to see how this turns out.