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Comment Not stealing, stole. (Score 5, Informative) 74

The slugs at some point in their past acquired the genes from algae that are required to maintain/repair the chloroplasts that each one collects from the algae they eat. The horizontal gene transfer is (presumably) not an ongoing process but something that happened in their distant past.

The baby slugs start eating algae and they digest most of them but they save the chloroplasts from the algae cells and integrate them into their own tissue. Once they accumulate enough of them they basically become solar powered and don't need to eat anymore.

Normally the chloroplasts would not survive very long without an algae around them to take care of them, but this is where the genes that the slug has that originally came from the algae come into play. The slug is thus able to provide the things that its adopted chloroplasts need to survive for many months.

Definitely very cool.


Comment Sorry, this is bullshit photoshopped "art". (Score 5, Interesting) 35

No, I'm sorry, it appears to me that this is all photoshopped fakery. Yes, two-photon lithography is a real thing, but in this case we have some artist claiming to have done things which are not currently possible.

This kind of thing happens pretty frequently now and it pisses me off, sorry. Real scientists and engineers (and even artists) dream and strive to accomplish great feats of engineering and discovery. But some people like to pretend their dreams are real and by presenting fake accomplishments to the world they damage society by trivializing the actual accomplishments of real innovators. They present their "art" as if it were real, and it gets sent around the internet and people believe that it's true, and that further blurs the public's view of what's real and what's art or pure fantasy. What's the point of trying to actually do something like this when everyone thinks it has already been done?

So, anyhow, a few minutes googling will expose some of the original pre-photoshop images that these people appropriated to create their "art". For example, the microphotograph of the needle's eye can be found here with no tiny statue in evidence:

In addition, depth-of-field, lighting, and other cues like the fact that there's no actual connection to the substrate make these fakes pretty obvious.

Ergo, I must presume the whole thing, including the video interview is all just "performance art".

Here's a tip: amazing and groundbreaking scientific and technological breakthroughs are generally not announced to the world by artists.


Comment Where this news came from perhaps. (Score 1) 368

Considering all the other ridiculous acquisition prices from Apple, Facebook, etc. recently, I think $2B for the Minecraft "brand" is awfully cheap.

So I would imagine the "leak" of the news about these negotiations would come from Notch's side, just to make sure everyone knows that there's an opportunity to bid higher.

I can imagine a few large media companies waking up this morning going "Shit, Mojang is actually for sale? I gotta get me some of that".

So just as everyone "knew" Google was buying Twitch a few weeks ago, I wouldn't count my Minecraft Chickens just yet.

But then...


...they're already almost the same thing!


Comment Re:R? (Score 1) 359

Mod parent up please. The Scientific Python stack (numpy, scipy, pandas, etc.) with it's iPython Notebook interface (in the style of Mathematica) is rapidly taking the world by storm, both in the sciences as well as Big Data Analytics and "Data Science".

If you like software toys, or ever use a calculator, go get yourself the free Anaconda scientific python distribution (Win/Mac/Linux) from Continuum and try out the iPython Notebook. Seriously this is an out-of-the-box computing tool that is AMAZING and can do practically anything. Anaconda is built on the Conda package manager which makes installing any and all bits and pieces you need for any of the popular Python packages completely effortless.

The existence of these tools also makes Python absolutely the best "programming" language to learn, even if you only use it for scripting/invoking all the existing libraries that exist. Also Python is available as a scripting language built into many software packages (Blender etc.) which makes it a tool/skill that just keeps on giving.

R is fine, and currently very popular, but it's also a one-trick-pony when compared to the thundering herd of functionality available on top of Python. You can even invoke R from within an iPython Notebook and pass DataFrames back and forth between R and pandas for example.

I used to love calculators (back when calculator was spelled H-P rather than T-I) but apart from the standardized testing requirement, and the fun of hacking on hand-held devices, it's just silly to use one any more.


References: (free, open source) (great way to share Notebooks) (the SciPy stack for iPads (Great iOS Python environment) (Foundation supporting the core SciPy stack components) (This is just too cool)

Comment In 1984... (Score 3, Informative) 329

"So if you were interested in bioinformatics, or computational economics, or quantitative anthropology, you really needed to be part of the computer science world."

These weren't even things in 1984.

Computers were not so pervasive that you were missing out on much if you didn't know anything about them.


Submission + - Male Scent May Be Compromising Biomedical Research (

sciencehabit writes: Scientists have found that mice feel 36% less pain when a male researcher is in the room, versus a female researcher. The rodents are also less stressed out. The effect appears to be due to scent molecules that male mammals (including humans, dogs, and cats) have been emitting for eons. The finding could help explain why some labs have trouble replicating the results of others, and it could cause a reevaluation of decades of animal experiments: everything from the effectiveness of experimental drugs to the ability of monkeys to do math. Male odor could even influence human clinical trials. If a male doctor injects you with a new kind of pain medication, do you feel better because of the drug—or because of his gender?

Submission + - Astronomers Discover Pair of Black Holes in Inactive Galaxy

William Robinson writes: The Astronomers at XMM-Newton have detected a pair of supermassive black holes at the center of an inactive galaxy. Most massive galaxies in the Universe are thought to harbor at least one supermassive black hole at their center. And a pair of black holes is indication of strong possibility that the galaxies have merged. Finding black holes in quiescent galaxies is difficult because there are no gas clouds feeding the black holes, so the cores of these galaxies are truly dark. It can be only detected by this ‘tidal disruption event’,.

Submission + - The cosmic origin of gold (and other heavy elements)

StartsWithABang writes: Yeah, you might think you know where the elements come from. The lightest ones were formed from the Big Bang, heavier ones were formed in the cores of stars, and the true heavyweights of the periodic table were formed in the hearts of ultramassive stars during their deaths as Type II supernovae, right? As it turns out, that will get you all the elements in the periodic table, but not in the right amounts! For that, you need something more, and we owe it all to neutron stars!

Comment Meh, not this guy again. (Score 5, Informative) 292

Horgan has been going on about stuff like this for years. He wrote a book in 1997 called "The End of Science" which I read and thought was completely ridiculous. My recollection (possibly faulty as it's been quite a few years) is that he came across as very anti-science and wandered off into religion later in that book. It feels to me as though he WANTS science to fail at some point.

I don't know why he seems hell-bent on convincing everyone that we're going to run out of things to discover, but I just don't buy it.

Even if we manage to get to the "bottom" of Physics some day that's cool and all but it's hardly the end of much. The biology of even simple cells is fantastically complex and there's lifetimes worth of discovery left there. Also even if some day we we know most or all of the "rules", the possible applications of these simple rules are virtually infinite, so no scientists or technologists or explorers are likely to be unemployed any time soon.

Every time humanity thinks it knows everything, someone thinks up a clever new idea for measuring things and boom, a whole new world of complexity opens up. There might be an end to the turtles at some point, but I'm not worried :)


Submission + - James Lovelock reflects on Gaia's legacy (

An anonymous reader writes: "A lot of investment in green technology has been a giant scam, if well intentioned."

The quote, and entire interview, are significant for two reasons. First, the interview is seeped with many skeptical opinions about human caused global warming, is very critical of that movement's effort to politicize science, and the person being interviewed is James Lovelock, the founder of of the concept of Gaia, a former strong advocate of global warming but now a skeptic.

Most significant however is where the interview is published. It is in Nature, one of the most important and influential science journals, which previously has been aggressively pushing global warming politics for years. That they allowed these politically incorrect opinions within their walls and then broadcast them to their readers signals a major cultural shift within the science community. It is beginning to be acceptable to be a skeptic again!

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