“It started with a fortuitous chair squeak.”

October 17th, 2016

NPR two-way: A Spider Across The Room Can ‘Hear’ You, Study Finds. By Merrit Kennedy.

“Scientists have discovered a new kind of spidey sense.

We already knew that jumping spiders have exceptional vision. We knew that they are great at perceiving vibrations. We even knew that they can “hear” at extremely close range.

But in research published in Current Biology, researchers at Cornell University found that a common species of jumping spider called Phidippus audax can actually hear from much farther away than we thought — at distances of 10 feet away, or more.”

“A six-year-old knows that this is not how adults behave.”

October 15th, 2016

The White House, Office of the First Lady: Remarks by the First Lady at Hillary for America Campaign Event in Manchester, Nh.

“The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.
This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a “lewd conversation.” This wasn’t just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV.

And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life.
Because here’s the truth: Either Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be elected President this year. And if you vote for someone other than Hillary, or if you don’t vote at all, then you are helping to elect her opponent. And just think about how you will feel if that happens.”

You can watch the First Lady’s Speech on YouTube.

Apes, like very young infants, understand subjectivity and the limits of perspective.

October 14th, 2016

NPR Science: Apes May Be More Like Us Than We Thought. By Alva Noë.

“Suppose I take the candy from the cabinet where you left it and put it someplace else. Where will you look for it when you get home?

Children younger than 5 will rarely get this right. When questioned, they will say, mistakenly, that you will look for the candy at its new location. […] If you measure not what they say, but what they do, in particular, where they look, it turns out that they are able to anticipate that you will look for the candy where you mistakenly believe it still is.

We now know the same is true of apes.”

I can’t vote in this election

October 13th, 2016

… but I’m interested in the outcome nevertheless.

John Scalzi: My Endorsement for President, 2016: Hillary Clinton.

“[L]ook at the 2016 election, in which a racist, sexist, ignorant boor of a straight white male, with no experience in public service and no policies he could personally articulate beyond “it’ll be great, believe me” went up against a woman who spent the better part of four decades in and around public service, including occupying some of the highest positions in government, and who had exhaustive, detailed policy positions on nearly every point of public interest — and was ahead of her in some polls on the day they had their first debate.

If that tape in which Trump bragged about sexual assault hadn’t hit the air, the polls might yet still be close. It literally took “grab ’em by the pussy” to get some air between arguably the most qualified candidate ever to run for president, who is a woman, and inarguably the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, who is a straight, white man. I cannot know that fact and not be confronted by the immense and absolutely real privilege straight white men have — and just how much better a woman has to be to compete.”

Link via MetaFilter.

From a catastrophe to a new theory

October 12th, 2016

Physics Girl: The Ultraviolet Catastrophe.

“How did the field of quantum mechanics come about in the first place? The Rayleigh-Jeans catastrophe, also known as the ultraviolet catastrophe was a prediction by the Rayleigh-Jeans law that a blackbody would radiate infinite amounts of ultraviolet light. It wasn’t until Max Planck came along and predicted that light came in packets or quanta that the field of quantum mechanics emerged and unintentionally solved the ultraviolet catastrophe.”