Podcasts and rhythmic power

Podcasts are a great way to pass the time while commuting to campus and an opportunity to learn something new.  I admit that I got hooked on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast and fell a little behind on my sci/tech favourites, but yesterday I caught up with Quirks & Quarks from CBC Radio. In the last episode of the season, Bob McDonald interviews McGill’s famous cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Daniel Levitin, who discusses how a 1/f power law can be used to predict musical rhythms across genres and composers. You can read Dr. Levitin’s paper in PNAS.

There are so many podcasts to explore from CBC and NPR alone but let me know if you have favourites to recommend.

Image from Quirks & Quarks

How to become a Science Hall of Famer

I was browsing through the latest issue of Science and poking around its website when I discovered a video about the Science Hall of Fame.  This hall of fame lists approximately 4,000 scientists whose names have appeared the most frequently in books over the centuries.

The top 10 on the list are:

According to John Bohannon, one of the creators of the Science Hall of Fame, the data used to compile the list provides a few unexpected career tips for individuals who wish to be famous among the popular masses.  One of these tips is to write a best-selling book.  Read Bohannon’s article for all the details.

Image from Meeg-el

Climate change and the Great Lakes

“Earlier this month, researchers at the University of Duluth revealed that the temperature of Lake Superior – the coldest and deepest of the bodies of water that make up the Great Lakes – is sitting at about 20°C, the warmest it’s been in a century.”

We have all heard that rising temperatures have the potential to impact almost everything. For example, if water levels decrease, loads of shipping vessels would need to be decreased too and shipping costs would increase accordingly. And if levels shrink to the point that the Great lakes were no longer connected, shipping might discontinue.

Rising temperatures also lead to the growth of toxic algal in Lake Erie, which increases pollution for people living in that region.

If you are interested in keeping track of this topic, you could set up an email alert in a database, such as SCOPUS. Search by the topic, and then click “Set alert” from the top menu of the search results page. You will be able to receive the updates weekly in your email.

Adapted from Climate change and the Great Lakes

Surf’s up!

I just spent a week in PEI and Nova Scotia, enjoying the sun and the surf. It is a true pleasure to be seaside, relaxing in the warm sand, cooling off in the waves and afterwards, at a small seafood shack, getting your fingers greasy eating fried clams and lobster rolls. It’s fair to say that I am rather romantic when it comes to the ocean and the less I know about it, the better. If you’re not like me and you’re actually a budding or seasoned scientist or oceanographer, please visit Fisheries and Oceans Canada and explore their Scientific Data and Products page. This is an online portal to “[o]ceanographic information and data collected and aggregated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Data is collected through several national and international programs.” You can browse the different websites and databases by topic (Biology and Chemistry; Ocean Physics; Meterorology) or alphabetically by title. Bookmark it!

Image courtesy of Library of Congress

Formula for constructing perfect sandcastles

Researchers from France, Iran, and the Netherlands have published a journal article on “How to construct the perfect sandcastle” in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports.  They present a mathematical formula for building stable sandcastles, which can be used on land or below water.

According to the authors, the study’s “results are of practical interest for civil engineering and soil mechanics… In addition, it explains the maximum height of, and provides us with a recipe to construct, the perfect sandcastle.”

In ScienceNordic, one of the authors also explains in layman’s terms how it can be applied to building sandcastles on the beach.

Image from Sandyfeet

Science at the movies

Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) is one of my favorite action superheroes.  It turns out that the “Decay Rate Algorithm” in the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, is based on real science.  Jim Kakalios, the author of The Physics of Superheroes and a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, explains the science behind the most recent Spider-Man movie in this short video:

Olympic fever continues

Anette Hosio, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering recently talked to MIT news about the mechanics of sports. From her points of view, what helped Usain Bolt give the record-breaking performance in 2008 is “his unique combination of both strength and the long stride.” In the following video, Hosio also explained the mystery of the “fast pool” from the perspective of fluid mechanics.

Read more at 3 Questions: Anette Hosoi on engineering and the Olympics

Curiosity lands on Mars

Curiosity (XKCD comic for August 6, 2012), http://xkcd.com/1091/NASA successfully landed their Curiosity rover on Mars last night/early this morning (depending on your earthly location) and Curiosity is already sending back pictures. I am now following Curiosity on Twitter!

You can find out more about the mission from NASA and JPL.

Previously: Curiosity Rover to discover whether Mars was once habitable

Image: XKCD comic Curiosity (August 6, 2012) by Randall Munroe

Summer fireworks

Since 1985, LaRonde has been hosting the Montreal International Fireworks Competition, also known as L’International des Feux Loto-Québec.  Tonight at 10pm is this year’s finale.  Every summer over the past few years, I have made the trip to go see them at least once.  My favorite spot to view the fireworks is just outside the Longueil metro station; a lesser-known, quiet spot that is right across the highway from LaRonde.  I had the opportunity to see the fireworks last Friday night and, as always, I was amazed by the spectacular light show.

I recently found this short video about the chemistry involved in making fireworks that features Professor Conkling, the author of the Chemistry of Pyrotechnics: Basic Principles and Theory.