Sunday, January 24, 2010

Selected readings 1/24/10

Interesting reading and news items.

These items are also bookmarked at my Diigo account.

Full Speed Ahead
Physical forces acting in and around cells are fast—and making waves in the world of molecular biology. [The Scientist, 12/1/09]

24 Questions for Elementary Physics
One of the motivating ideas that was mentioned more than once was the famous list of important problems proposed by David Hilbert in 1900. These were Hilbert’s personal idea of what math problems were important but solvable over the next 100 years, and his ideas turned out to be relatively influential within twentieth-century mathematics. Our conference, 110 years later and in physics rather than math, was encouraged to think along similarly grandiose lines. [Cosmic Variance, 1/15/10]

Superior Super Earths
Super Earths are named for their size, but these planets - which range from about 2 to 10 Earth masses - could be superior to the Earth when it comes to sustaining life. They could also provide an answer to the ‘Fermi Paradox’: Why haven’t we been visited by aliens? [, 11/30/09]

Super Earths May Be Superior at Fostering Life
Rocky planets found so far are actually more massive than our own. Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University, coined the term "Super-Earths" to reflect their mass rather than any superior qualities. But Sasselov says that these planets – which range from about 2 to 10 Earth masses – could be superior to the Earth when it comes to sustaining life. [, 12/1/09]

Believers' inferences about God's beliefs are uniquely egocentric
Religious people tend to use their own beliefs as a guide in thinking about what God believes, but are less constrained when reasoning about other people's beliefs, according to new study published in the Nov. 30 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [, 11/30/09]

What Is the Meaning of 'One' Plant or Animal?
High cooperation and low conflict between components, from the genetic level on up, give a living thing its "organismality," whether that thing is an animal, a plant, a bacteria -- or a colony. [ScienceDaily, 12/2/09]

Double Sunsets May be Common, But Twin-Star Setups Still Mysterious
The Earth may orbit around a single star, but most stars like our sun are binaries — two stars orbiting each other as a pair. In fact there are many three-star triple systems, even going up perhaps as high as seven-star — or septuplet — systems. Although astronomers once thought these systems might not easily support planets, worlds with multiple sunsets might actually prove common. [, 1/18/10]

European space missions given cost warning
Europe's scientists have presented the six dream space missions they would like to fly before 2020. The concepts ranged from a quest to map the "dark" components shaping the cosmos, to a plan to find far-off planets that most resemble Earth. [BBC News, 12/2/09]

Quantum computer simulates hydrogen molecule just right
Groups at Harvard and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have designed and built a computer that hews closely to these specs. It is a quantum computer, as Feynman forecast. And it is the first quantum computer to simulate and calculate the behavior of an atomic, quantum system. [Science News, 1/22/10]

A tale of two qubits: how quantum computers work
Quantum information is the physics of knowledge. To be more specific, the field of quantum information studies the implications that quantum mechanics has on the fundamental nature of information. By studying this relationship between quantum theory and information, it is possible to design a new type of computer—a quantum computer. [Nobel Intent, 1/18/10]

Supernova winds blow galaxies into shape
New computer simulations show that winds generated by supernovas, which are the explosions of massive stars, can push stars out from the center of a dwarf galaxy. This simulation of supernova winds redistributes both ordinary matter and invisible dark matter in a way that almost perfectly matches observations of the way matter is distributed in actual dwarf galaxies. [Science News, 1/13/10]

Fermi’s excellent adventure
Since its launch in June 2008, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has shed light on some of the brightest, most explosive events in the universe and opened tantalizing windows into dark matter and the nature of space-time. [Symmetry, 12/1/09]

The Maverick Bacterium
Whether it’s powering through the cytoplasm leaving a trail of polymerized actin, activating an arsenal of virulence factors through changes in RNA structure, or storing the code for RNA transcripts on the wrong side of DNA, Listeria makes up its own rules for survival. [The Scientist, 1/1/10]

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only three stories directly relative to biology? As a biologist, I'm hurt! But anyway, I really like the blog!

Any other good science blogs out there? They seem hard to come by.

1/24/2010 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Daney said...

Only three stories directly relative to biology? As a biologist, I'm hurt!

I actually am sorry about that. I wish I could find more of the kind of story I prefer, namely stories dealing with basic science.

You'll notice that two of the biology stories are from The Scientist, which is almost the only regular publication I know of dedicated to biology and whose stories are accessible to a wide audience.

If you'd like to suggest others, I'll be happy to scan them for material.

Most of the stories in the popular media with a biological flavor are actually about health and medicine. And most of those do not deal with the basic science, which is what I'm trying to cover. I readily admit that I have a bias towards cellular and molecular biology, as opposed to evolution, zoology, paleontology, etc. Dinosaurs? Meh... I don't get excited by much that's post-Cambrian.

As a rule, too, I'm not looking for new research results, because stories on such things often don't provide (in my opinion) enough background to really appreciate the science. You'll notice that I do write articles here about cancer and other diseases, when I have time to go into the molecular details. Stem cells, too.

1/24/2010 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Daney said...

Any other good science blogs out there? They seem hard to come by.

I don't actually read a lot of blogs, since it's time-consuming enough just to keep up with the research news flow. I would recommend following Research Blogging closely, since it offers content from a wide selection of blogs.

There are, of course, many blogs covering biology, but few dealing with the kind of cellular and molecular biology that interests me. You'll find many biology blogs by looking in the link I just mentioned.

The Loom, by a professional science writer, is also pretty good on general biology.

And have a look at my blogroll in the right hand column. I haven't updated it recently, but it lists what I thought was best as of a year or so ago.

1/25/2010 12:09:00 AM  

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