Star found seeding universe with water

Seven hundred and fifty light-years from Earth, a young, sunlike star has been found with jets that blast epic quantities of water into interstellar space, shooting out droplets that move faster than a speeding bullet.

The discovery suggests that protostars may be seeding the universe with water. These stellar embryos shoot jets of material from their north and south poles as their growth is fed by infalling dust that circles the bodies in vast disks.

There is no magic — deconstructing "genius"

“Genius” was an idea that the layman would marvel at, an incomprehensible leap in human mind that seemed more surreal than relatable. Like much of science, this too has now been daintily plucked from the “magical mystery” basket and gently placed in the “oh that makes sense” zone. We now understand that the third ingredient, raw analytic intelligence, is necessary only as a dough, but it is relentless curiosity and a surplus of mentors and encouraging peers which decides how many theorems the recipe makes, and how delicious they taste.

The first two things can be selected for when building a team environment, with the environment itself set up to provide the third.

Is gravity not actually a force? Forcing theory to meet experiments.

With the advent of quantum theory over the past 100 years, scientists have been able to develop an elegant mathematical framework capable of uniting three of the four fundamental forces that are thought to exist in the universe. The fourth, gravity, still remains the fly in the ointment, and has resisted unification to this point. Early last year, Dutch theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde published a manuscript to the arXiv that purports to explain why science cannot reconcile all four fundamental forces. According to him, it is simple: "gravity doesn’t exist."

Study hacks: the art of learning well in technical courses

Here’s what I commonly observe: the students who struggle in technical courses are those who skip the insight-developing phase. They capture concepts in their notes and they study by reproducing their notes. Then, when they sit down for the exam and are faced with problems that apply the ideas in novel ways, they have no idea what to do. They panic. They do poorly. They proclaim that they are “not math people.” They switch to a philosophy major.

Without insight you can’t do well.

Research tying vaccine to autism an "elaborate fraud"

The first study to link a childhood vaccine to autism was based on doctored information about the children involved, according to a new report on the widely discredited research.

The conclusions of the 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues were renounced by 10 of its 13 authors and later retracted by the medical journal Lancet, where it was published. Still, the suggestion the MMR shot was connected to autism spooked parents worldwide and immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella have never fully recovered.

A new examination found, by comparing the reported diagnoses in the paper to hospital records, that Wakefield and colleagues altered facts about patients in their study.

The analysis, by British journalist Brian Deer, found that despite the claim in Wakefield's paper that the 12 children studied were normal until they had the MMR shot, five had previously documented developmental problems. Deer also found that all the cases were somehow misrepresented when he compared data from medical records and the children's parents.

Bonus: For a two line lesson on how "mainstream media" reacts when they realize they sensationalized the wrong side of a story, just look at MSN's headline versus subhead.

Physics professor reacts to "Troll Physics" comic strips

troll physics

This actually makes an interesting point, sort of. Why don't you recoil when you shine a beam of light? The answer is -You actually do! But not at the same SPEED as the light - with the same MOMENTUM as the light. The momentum (p) of a single photon of light is equal its energy divided by the speed of light (E = c p). So how much momentum does a beam of light carry? Well, suppose we shine a 100 Watt spotlight - we are producing 100 Joules of light energy per second (a Watt is a Joule of energy per second). So every second we are giving that light a momentum of (100J) / (300,000,000m/s) = .00000033 kg m/s.

To give a sense of how hard of a push that is, let's assume that the stupid troll thing in the wagon weighs 50 kg. To accelerate the wagon up to a speed of 1 m/s (around 3 feet per second... which is still pretty slow) would take (33 million * 50) seconds, which is 52 years. And that's assuming no friction!

(In reality, it would never move at all because of friction, so we'd have to do it in space. In fact, even though this seems like a feeble form of propulsion, NASA has plans for prototypes of a "solar sail" to push space probes out of the solar system using no propulsion other than that provided by reflected sunlight!)