Category Archives: Science

European Etymology Maps


A great set of maps showing the etymological origins of various words in European languages. Interesting to see how the families group together…or don’t.


And lots more here.


Levitating Superconductor Riding a Mobius Strip

From the Royal Institution:

Andy takes a closer look at one of his favourite demos from the 2012 Christmas Lectures, bringing together a levitating superconductor and a bewildering Möbius strip made from over 2,000 magnets.

As his super-conducting boat whizzes along the track, Andy demonstrates the remarkable properties of the superconducting material (Yttrium barium copper oxide) which allows it to seemingly float both above and below the track.


Two Months Aboard an Antarctic Icebreaker

In this video, two months aboard an antarctic icebreaker (the Nathaniel B. Palmer) are condensed into five minutes. As a bonus, it is narrated by research scientist Cassandra Brooks, who explains the different types of ice as well as what they were doing there in the first place.


The Art and Science of Beer

Great piece with Charlie Bamforth, the head of Malting and Brewing Science and UC Davis.


Does Chocolate Make You Smarter?


The chart above shows the correlation between chocolate consumption (per annum, per capita) and the number of Nobel Prize laureates per capita, by nation. It seems to show a very strong connection between the two. According to the author of the study, Franz Messerli of Columbia University,

“When you correlate the two – the chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel prize laureates per capita – there is an incredibly close relationship,” he says.

“This correlation has a ‘P value’ of 0.0001. This means there is a less than one-in-10,000 probability that this correlation is simply down to chance.”

But the author is trying to make a point about the use (and abuse) of statistics:

It might surprise you that we are trying to make a serious point. This is a classic case where correlation, however strong, does not mean causation.

Messerli gave us another example. In post-war Germany, the human birth rate fell along with the stork population. Were fewer storks bringing fewer babies?

The answer was that more homes were being built, destroying the storks’ habitat. And the homes were small – not the sort of places you could raise a large family in.

“This is a very, very common way of thinking,” he says.

“When you see a correlation, you do think there is causation in one way or another. And in general it’s absolutely true. But here we have a classic example where we cannot find a good reason why these two correlate so closely.”

Does Chocolate Make You Clever?   [BBCNews]

The Earthquake Rose


The image above shows the record of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that shook Olympia, Washington in 2001. It was discovered in a sand-tracing pendulum by shop-owner Jason Ward. According to seismologists, the rose in the middle was created by the high-frequency waves that arrived first, with the larger oscillations around it being caused by the lower-frequency oscillations that arrived later.


Imaging at a Trillion Frames per Second

Fascinating discussion of a technique to photograph at an absolutely astonishing framerate. At that speed, you can see light itself moving. Incredible.