Archive for: July, 2010

The Giant's Shoulders #25, 2nd anniversary edition, is out!

Jul 16 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

The Giant's Shoulders #25 is officially out at The Dispersal of Darwin, and it marks the two year anniversary since the first carnival!  In honor of it, Michael has put together a truly massive list of posts for the month, celebrating the history of science -- many thanks to him for assembling it!  If you follow me on Twitter, I'll try and post some links to highlights from the carnival throughout the day, even though everything is worth reading!

The next month's edition will be hosted by Scicurious at Are You Scicurious? It will also be a special event, as we have dubbed it to be a special "fools, failures, and frauds" edition -- it's time to commemorate the history of those scientific discoveries that didn't work out as intended!  Though all entries on the history of science will still be accepted, consider submitting a history of science post that describes (a) some really stupid or crazy scientific research (or researchers), (b) research that didn't work out as intended or expected, (c) research that was completely fraudulent.  I'll have more to say about this special edition in the next few days, as well as a few other bits of news.

Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

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Marie Corelli's Vendetta

Jul 14 2010 Published by under Mystery/thriller

Marie Corelli (1855-1924) is another of those curious set of authors whose work was stunningly successful during their lifetime but is virtually unknown today. This neglect is often independent of the quality of the writing: Richard Marsh, another Victorian/Edwardian era thriller author, has yet to disappoint me with one of his stories.

Fortunately, Corelli is gradually being reintroduced to the public with a number of excellent quality editions.  Last year, I discussed Marie Corelli's supernatural revenge novel Ziska (1897), which had recently been reprinted by Valancourt Books.  More recently, Zittaw Press released an edition of Corelli's second novel, the macabre Vendetta (1886):

Vendetta is, like the later Ziska, a tale of vengeance.  Though I occasionally felt like the novel got a little too wordy (at least to my 21st century ADD brain), the story is dark, atmospheric, and compelling.  I ended up staying up way past my bedtime to reach the conclusion, which is pretty high praise on my part!

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2 responses so far

Freaks & geeks: optical freak waves in the laboratory

Jul 13 2010 Published by under Optics, Physics

ResearchBlogging.orgOne of the most fruitful and intriguing avenues for developing novel scientific research is through cross-pollination with other fields of study.  This is one of the reasons I'm proud of my excessively liberal arts-focused education, as well as one of the reasons I like reading blogs on diverse subjects outside of my field: interesting ideas can often come from unexpected sources.

An example of this I found a few months ago in Physical Review Letters, in an article entitled, "Freak waves in the linear regime: a microwave study," by Höhmann, Kuhl, Stöckman, Kaplan and Heller.  Freak waves, also known as rogue waves*, are anomalously large -- and deadly -- isolated oceanic waves that can shatter and overturn ships, and they have only been acknowledged relatively recently as a genuine and unusual phenomenon, albeit one that is still not completely understood.

Hokusai's 1832 The Great Wave off Kanagawa, via Wikipedia.   Not necessarily a freak wave, but probably close to what most people would envision one to be.

It was probably inevitable that researchers in optics would become interested in freak waves: broadly speaking, a wave is a wave, and an effect that appears in water waves is likely reproducible in electromagnetic waves.  Experts on oceanic freak waves have even been invited to speak at optics meetings; a session at the 2009 Optical Society of America's Frontiers in Optics meeting was opened with the invited talk, "Freak Ocean Waves in One and Two Dimensions," by Peter Janssen and Jean-Raymond Bidlot of the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts.

In this post I thought I would take a look at the phenomenon of freak waves, the physical origins of said waves, and methods that physicists have used to create electromagnetic versions of them in the laboratory.

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3 responses so far

ResearchBlogging editor's selections: International romance, sluggish T-rex, double rainbows and World Cup excuses

Jul 12 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

It was, perhaps not surprisingly, a relatively quiet week in research blogging, but there were still lots of great posts!

  • Men, English, and international romance. We begin this week with a post about international relationships, specifically of Japanese folks with foreigners.  There's been a lot of attention paid to Japanese women with foreign men, but what about the reverse?  In an amusing post, Lachlan of Language on the Move looks at some of the cultural aspects.
  • Tyrannosaurus didn't have the nerve to run fast. Those scared to death by the t-rex in Jurassic Park can breathe a sigh of relief -- recent research suggests that the "tyrant lizard" couldn't move nearly as fast as depicted.  Brian Switek of Dinosaur Tracking explains the reassuring details.
  • The science of double rainbows (OMG, what does this mean?). Everyone loves to see a rainbow, but we feel doubly blessed when we see a double rainbow.   How do such rainbows form?  Westius of Mr. Science Show explains the physics.
  • Top ten excuses for World Cup losers (with citations). Finally, in honor of the recently-concluded World Cup, Duncan of O'Really? gives us the top ten excuses for failure -- and the scientific citations that back them up!

Check back next Monday for more miscellaneous selections!

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A. Merritt's The Ship of Ishtar

(I've been working on a particularly difficult science post for a week now, and the end is still a ways off.  In the meantime, I thought I'd catch up a little on my weird fiction posts.)

Author A. Merritt (1884-1943) was, in a sense, the exception that proves the rule in fiction writing.  Though he was first and foremost a successful journalist and newspaper editor and only wrote weird fiction as a sideline, he was one of the most successful authors such stories of his day.  On this blog, I've discussed a number of his works, including his first serialized novel The Moon Pool (1919), the sublimely alien The Metal Monster (1920), Dwellers in the Mirage (1932) and The Face in the Abyss (1923).

Unfortunately, Merritt has been largely neglected in recent years, with the exception of his fantasy adventure novel The Ship of Ishtar (1924), which seems to be considered a classic of the genre.  I put off reading it until the release of the Planet Stories version this past October:

Curiously, though I enjoyed TSOI, I also felt like it had the least to offer of all of Merritt's books that I've read so far.  There were also some rather unenlightened aspects of the story that I found rather unappealing and dated.

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2 responses so far

7 days until The Giant's Shoulders #25!

Jul 07 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

In spite of all the craziness in the blogosphere right now (or perhaps because of it), this seemed like a good time to remind people that there are 7 days left until the deadline for The Giant's Shoulders #25, to be held at The Dispersal of Darwin.  This edition will mark the 2nd anniversary of this carnival’s existence!  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!

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The sciencebloggosphere is a changing! (updated)

Jul 07 2010 Published by under ... the Hell?

(Updated July 22, 2010 -- been hard to keep up with all the changes! Let me know if I have left anyone out.)

Update: The strike is over!  SEED seems to have agreed to the changes requested.

BIG Update: PZ Myers of Pharyngula is going on strike until SEED makes changes both in its communication policies and improves its technical support! (Greg Laden joins the strike.)

Update: Food Frontiers is officially off of Scienceblogs.  It remains to be seen how this will affect the bloggers' decision to stay or go -- some have already stated that they won't be coming back.

If you haven't heard, the Scienceblogs community has gone through a tremendous upheaval over a short span of 24 hours, with a number of their best science writers basically resigning from the community in protest.  The spark that ignited the powderkeg was the introduction of a corporate paid for and sponsored blog to the science blogging mix, Food Frontiers: a blog by PepsiCo on nutrition, of all things!  This has been seen by many, if not most, of the bloggers as corporate propaganda masquerading as legitimate science, which hurts the reputation of said bloggers and corrupts the integrity of the system.

I don't have enough of an understanding of the details to make a strong statement about the controversy here (at the very least, the whole thing seems like a very big PR clusterf#$k on the part of SEED).  Right now I can understand the arguments of both those who have chosen to stay at SBs and those who have chosen to move on to, or rather back to, independent blogging.  I did want to say that I support all of the Sciencebloggers and feel your pain right now (hell, the whole thing has made me anxious, and I have no association with SBs!).

I also wanted to help out those who have departed by throwing a few links towards their new/old homes!

People who were undecided but seem to be staying (for now):

I'll try and update this when I hear more about where folks are ending up...

Note: Carl Zimmer is also keeping a list of evacuees here.

40 responses so far

Is there anybody... out there?

Jul 06 2010 Published by under Personal

Over the past week, a lot of blogs have revived a venerable scienceblog tradition: inviting those who "lurk" on the blog (read without posting) to de-lurk and say "hi"!  I've never tried to do that, but it seemed like a nice idea to fill some time while I'm working on my next science-y post.

I'd love to hear from you!  Feel free to post a comment saying a little about yourself, how you found yourself at this blog, and what sort of topics interest you.  Heck, even if you've posted comments somewhat regularly here, you should also feel welcome to say hello!

(Title of post comes from here, if you're wondering.)

49 responses so far

ResearchBlogging editor's selections: Eclipse in the Odyssey, photons still bosons, and soccer GPS

Jul 05 2010 Published by under General science, Science news

Check back next Monday for more "miscellaneous" suggestions!

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Hummingbirds are back!

Jul 03 2010 Published by under Animals

The hummingbirds are back around, and drinking from our window-based feeder!  I managed to get a really clear shot of one of them:

The image is so clear, in fact, that if you zoom in on the full, hi-res version, you can actually seen the side of the house reflected in the hummingbird's eye!

This shot was a bit of quirky luck: I had seen the birds buzzing in and out of the feeder several times during the day, but they usually take off when they see me moving in the house.  On a random whim, I suddenly decided to grab the camera and stand, motionless, pointing at the feeder, just in case one went by.  This was really a long shot, since they come by perhaps several times a day at most, but within a minute of me standing there, the fellow pictured above stopped in for a drink!

2 responses so far

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