In case you missed it, this week the Brontosaurus was re-established as its own genus (sort of). Brontosaurus was, of course, formerly believed for many years to have been an incorrectly categorized Apatosaurus. Since paleontology always gives preference to the first name given to a species, Apatosaurus won the name game, and the name ‘Brontosaurus’ disappeared–but not from our hearts. Now, a computer algorithm that was designed to categorize fossils into genera has revealed that Brontosaurus should have its own genus, which makes me very happy. For those who prefer their scientific news in video form, this should help clear up the controversy:
By far one of the funniest comments on the Brontosaurus issue that I’ve seen comes from @edyon209.
“Brontosaurus”, of course, comes from the Greek words for “IN YOUR FACE, PEDANTS” and “lizard”. http://t.co/Ke2dplKPGm
One of the most ingenious and useful inventions of ancient Rome was cement. In fact, the famous state formation theorist Paul Kennedy has said that concrete was the innovation that most completely accounts for the rise of a civilization unmatched until the 18th century (no state or empire reached the same level of GDP until the British industrialization and mercantile economy in the 1700’s). It was used for everything from aqueducts to the famous Coliseum. Two thousand years later, cement is still mankind’s favorite and most used construction material.
Now, a five year research project by a team from MIT and CNRS may have found a way to improve the formula. The amount of green-house gas emissions from concrete is alarming, especially given its popularity in construction all over the globe. Through a reduction in the calcium content, scientists have been able to lower emissions by up to 60% while simultaneously increasing the mechanical strength of the material and reducing the possibility of fracture, which would make it even more appealing to the oil industry especially.
Now if only we could figure out a way to make it last 2,000 years…
A city north of London looks to be the first city to roll out self driving cars. Minton Keynes is starting its program with 100 cars that will take passengers to various destinations for a minimal fee of $3. The program will start in 2015 with a full roll out by 2017.
Even with speed limited to 12 mph, this is still a huge leap foward. I’d love to know why we in the US can’t seem to get ourselves moving on this.
So often women in the sciences don’t get proper recognition for the important contributions they make in their chosen fields. One New York exhibit is working to change that. The exhibit highlights the work of thirty two different women, some as famous as Marie Curie and Florence Nightingale, and others who are less well known, though just as important. The exhibit also provides interesting little tidbits about their lives, such as that Marie Curie drove to the Western Front in WWI to x-ray wounded soldiers.
In male dominated fields, like the sciences, it’s often too easy to forget that there have been women proving they are equally capable of ground breaking discoveries. The exhibit runs through Nov. 23.
For those of us who are frequent internet shoppers, one of the biggest fears is that our awesome new acquisition will be stolen right off the door step while we’re at work. Now with the Doorbot, you can go to work with peace of mine. When your doorbell rings, the Doorbot lets you know via an app for your smartphone and then allows you to see who is at your door. If combined with a Lockitron lock, you can unlock your door, allow the delivery man to place the package safely inside your house, and then lock the door behind him.
Now hopefully nobody steals the package that delivers the Doorbot.
Of course, on everyone’s mind this week is Super Typhoon Haiyan. How did this storm get to be so massive and destructive? It turns out that Haiyan is the fifth storm of this magnitude in the Pacific this year. For comparison, it has been six years since there was a storm this bad in the Atlantic. Haiyan and the other storms like it are due to a combination of three factors: higher surface water temperature, higher subsurface water temperate, and low wind sheer. These three allow large storms to continue to grow in size while also moving as one.
While the science of these storms is quite fascinating, we can’t forget the human toll. Please donate to the Red Cross and help these people in their time of need.
NASA has once again made history with its launch on Friday of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. They call the probe LADEE, but blatantly mispronounce it as “laddie;” to which I say, “Tut, tut, NASA.”
LADDEE preparing for its historic mission.
As its name suggests, the probe is going to run tests on the atmospheric conditions on the moon as well as changes in the lunar dust due to environmental factors. It will orbit the moon for approximately 100 days, and then crash into the surface at the end of its mission.
LADEE is a test model for low-cost space missions. Since NASA has been receiving considerably less in government funds (and has defunded manned space-travel completely), this mission will be important to allow the program to continue space exploration while maintaining its budget.
The liftoff moment (last Friday at 11:27 p.m.) was visible from much of the east coast. Students at William & Mary were even able to watch the launch from the sunken gardens in the middle of campus.
Not only is this probe fascinating for its mission, but because it launched from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, it also makes the commonwealth a lunar launch site for the first time. Considering that Virginia’s NASA outpost in the city of Hampton has been a major participant in NASA training missions for decades, this is a huge deal.