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Friday, November 6, 2009

Science Recap for Late October 2009

It is almost impossible to believe that just one day after I post Stephen Colbert's hilarious take on the supposition by physicists that time traveling particles are sabotaging the start up of the Large Hadron Collider, that a bird, dropping a piece of bread onto a piece of machinery at the LHC, has caused a minor incident. Visit the story as told by PopSci with a "reenactment photo!

I am experimenting with this brief bi monthly science recap video format. is featuring these for the time being as well (thank you!). If feedback is positive, I will consider doing more, mainly time permitting. As always I am very happy to talk about and share science, even if it is not from my field, per se.  

32 More Exoplanets discovered. Visit SpaceFellowship to learn more.

Exoplanet atmosphere may contain some important organic molecules. This is the second exoplanet as such discovered just this year! Read more here.

We'll be keeping an eye on the world's largest science experiment at the LHC. You can learn more here on Wikipedia.

Microglia in mouse brains stimulated by inflammatory mediator (Interleukin 6) can eat (phagocytose) amyloid plaques such as those found in Alzheimers. Read more at PhysOrg

Embryonic stem cells become the precursor to sperm and egg. Hope for infertility. Read more from US News and World Report

World's Oldest Spider Web found Entombed in Amber. More from Everything Dinosaur

Spiders eating blood engorged mosquitoes have opposite sex attracting scent. More from Science News

Laser creates new memories in fruitflies. Here's NewScientist's take on it!

Wait. Eating junk food makes you want to eat MORE junk food? Yep. And scientists have looked into the brains of rats to see what happens! Gorge yourself silly with more info on this at Science Daily

And, if you are student and need help studying your science, might I suggest any of the "Manga Guides" from No Starch Press? Get a sneak peak at one here. You will notice that I am now in collaboration with Science Cheerleader as she wanted a book reviewer and I really like what she does for outreach.  

Until next time,

Kindly, Joanne

Fri, November 6, 2009 | link 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Colbert on Physics! I can't resist sharing!

Stephen Colbert can be incredibly smart and funny. I really enjoy when he presents science because he has the facts spot on and takes a great twist with it all. You end up learning and laughing at the same time!

Yes, the Large Hadron Collider should be up and running soon! I have two books I will review together soon enough. Collider by Paul Halpern and Voyage to the Heart of Matter: a pop-up book about CERN

Are you ready? Science Hilarity! The second video features physicist Dr. Brian Cox.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Big Bang Theory
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Brian Cox
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Thu, November 5, 2009 | link 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Books: Conventional, Kindle and Audio!

I have recently taken to "curling up" with my Kindle DX.

"How can that possibly be the same as curling up with a book?!" exclaim some.

"I could never give up books." "I love how they smell, how the pages crinkle beneath my fingers." "I like to have something to hold."  have been the proclamations of others.

That's perfectly ok! I love books, too. My office and my home will attest to it. Publishers send me lovely, colorful jacketed books hot off the presses and it feels like Christmas everytime I go to the mailbox. I get high when I visit a bookstore and try very, very hard NOT to hug the entire shelf full of science books or attempt to not sprawl out on the ground to start reading as if I were seven years old again. I love books, no doubt about it!

Personally, I like bending the book open to make the spine nice and soft so the book opens flat--much to the chagrin of non-spine benders (and I know you are out there!!)

However, it is not the actual object of the book that enthralls me most. For me, it is the language and ideas in a book that hold my attention and affection. Hence, I have absolutely no problem reading an e-book like my Kindle or listening to one on audio.

I recently obtained my Kindle at the advice of author Barbara Oakley. She sold me on it by showing me the luxury of free sample chapters, the immediacy of a downloaded book, the fact that I can carry thousands of books in just a few ounces!

To add to it, the books are a touch cheaper via Kindle, although, unlike the upcoming Nook from Barnes and Noble, I can't share books with my friends. Ahem, new feature, please Amazon!

The font and number of words per line can be adjusted to suit your reading style. I think this is not only a great feature for people with eyesight issues, but you can figure out at what size you read best in order to optimize your reading experience!

Have you ever tried to read a book on a treadmill or elliptical machine? It is nearly impossible kindleexercise.jpeg as you have to keep your hand up on the book in order to prevent the pages from turning by themselves, but look!

I even up the font size to make the text easier to follow while moving! All I have to do is press a button to change the page. Genius.

E-ink is not like a computer screen with rastering and backlighting. It can be read quite well even in bright sunlight (and one can't say that about the reflective pages of books). It does need an overhead light in the dark, but that makes it similar to a book.

Even more enchanting is that Amazon bought out, of which I am a member, and I can dowload my audiobooks onto the Kindle. Yes, it has decent speakers and a place to connect your headphones, too. What this means is that you can play MP3 loaded music while you are reading. Wow. It also has a demo mode where you can connect, although slowly, to the internet. Not too shabby, as long as I keep it charged!

I also enjoy the convenience of dowloading pdf books and documents and putting them straight onto the Kindle. Now this does not allow you to change the font, but it has been a feature I have used numerous times. I even have Claude Bernard's "Principes de Médecine Expérimentale", in French, to read!

One drawback to the Kindle: Where does an author sign it?  As it turns out I bought a gelskin for the back of my kindle and when I saw the hilarious (and also gracious and kind) David Sedaris recently, I had him sign the gelskin. You can see his signature to the left. My 10 year old saw Sedaris' comment and said "Did he think you were dead before?" Cute!  Anyway, now I can just peel off the gelskin and put it in a scrapbook and get a new one for the next author!sedaris.jpg

Since I am a big believer in multitasking (a roommate once asked if I ever just "sit"! The answer is "yes, but not often!), I love audiobooks. I've mentioned this before in video book reviews that I will often listen on long drives, while painting, in the lab or while sewing. I notice I really absorb a lot of material auditorily. You might want to give it a try, especially if you are not very efficient at reading with your eyes. I'm a big believer in doing what works for you and not doing something if it will annoy the heck out of you. If you only want to read books and think the Kindle or audio steals from your experience, I have no designs on convincing you otherwise!



Speaking of audiobooks, I listened to The Age of Entanglement on audio and LOVED it. I had a brief email conversation with author Lousia Gilder. I thanked her for having it available on audio, and she shared some interesting information about creating an audiobook:

"The audiobook was an unexpectedly fun project. The reader, Walter
Dixon, called me with a list of 200 words (mostly names) that he
didn't know how to pronounce. At first I thought, how silly, these are
easy! Bothe, Itha, I had been pronouncing in my head for 8 or 9 years
but suddenly realized I had never heard any other person actually say
them, and I was probably totally wrong (we've agreed that, by analogy
with Bethe, which I did know how to pronounce, that Bothe must be
"BOAT-ah" and Itha "EAT-ah"). Then other complexities are what accent
should you use? i.e. "Einschtein" like the Germans (and as he would
have said it) or just "Einstein"? Lots of tricky decisions. I called
German friends and relatives, and he called the German Consulate, and
the French Consulate, etc. I haven't listened to the result yet, but I
thought he was terrific (nice voice), and it was fun to deal with all
the complexities of moving from reading silently to reading out loud."

I am always learning new things from the authors, either through their books or by conversing with them. You can see Louisa on when you have a chance! 

So there's my two cents. Find your favorite way to absorb a book and do it today!

Until next time,

Kindly, Joanne


Tue, November 3, 2009 | link 

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