Cool Stuff Sunday 8

Really cool week, so some really Cool Stuff to share with everyone! I’ve got another wide range of articles and videos for everyone. One article was actually sent to me by a friend who knew I loved these types of reads and shared them with everyone. Thanks! Everyone is encouraged to send submissions for Cool Stuff Sundays!! Doesn’t even have to be something you think would specifically interest me, if you think it’s Cool Stuff, then it is!

Unknown mathematician (Yitang Zhang) published paper that takes us
leaps forwards in understanding twin prime conjectures

(Thanks, Mike for sharing this one!)
I’m also very VERY excited to share with everyone a recent publication from an
 Ecology friend of mine, Colin  Kremer. We studied together in 2007 at
Kellogg Biological Station, where he has since continued as a PhD student.
His paper: Coexistence in a variable environment: Eco-evolutionary perspectives.

Usually I have Stuff that primarily relates to STEM fields of interest, however this Cool Stuff is a
 book recently published by an old college friend. I remember being in awe of his poetry at slams
 and can attest to his talent and voice. 
Filmmaker, Samuel Orr, has been working on a one hour documentary on Cicadas 
since 2007, and now has a Kickstarter to help with funding. I really hope you 
check out this moving video and consider donating to his cause!
Credit: ACS Nano
RNA laced bandages could treat wounds on the genetic level. What?!
Question of the Day:

What topics interest you? What would you post in your own CSS section?


Scale Matters: Applying the Concepts

If you haven’t checked out Monday’sTuesday’sWednesday’s and Thursday’s blog posts, it’d be best to start there! This week we’re having a series of posts discussing scale and size. I’m hoping you all still have your imagination hats handy. 

The concepts we’ve learned about during this week’s series, space and time, hold a very important role within scientific research, more specifically, within experimental design. We may also refer to these aspects as spatial and temporal factors, respectively.

An important question to ask in research: So What?

Researchers need to be very mindful of these scales when asking their research questions. This questions will lead to treatment  and experimental structure.

When scientists study genetics, they use fruit flies and not elephants. Life span is important.

When entomologists study insects, they often have to consider multiple life stages that occupy both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Some insects live days, while some may live over a decade.

When climate researchers collect data, they do so over centuries. Perspective related to time is important. Repetition is vital to minimizing experimental error.

100+ years is a long time! Certainly longer than any one researcher could record. (Dang, that would be one heck of a PhD project). However, as science is a field of collaboration, communication, and networks, people have found a way to develop approaches to address the limitations our lifespans present. Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) is currently being conducted at 26 different sights in the U.S. that spans multiple ecosystem types, environmental conditions, and varying levels of human domination of the landscape.

Different Scales within Research

Grand Canyon Temporal Scale – Click for Full Size

But even looking at data that span a hundred, or even a thousand years becomes less impressive when you start talking to a geologist. A great way to visualize the time frame geologists must consider is to imagine the layers of rocks in the walls of the Grand Canyon. Geologist can match each rock type and layer position to a point in our Earth’s history. The further down the rock layer, the older it dates. 
You may also confer with a planetary scientist. Or an astronomer. Even a cosmologist. They deal with temporal time scales that stretch back millions or billions of years. Even to that very first moment, the Big Bang. 

This week has been a great experience for me. I’ll try and do series like these every so often. Next week, we’ll return to more sporadic topics for posts. Feedback on these posts is greatly appreciated. Just a head’s up, the next application announcements may occur this week. ‘Mid-April’ is a little vague, but I’m feeling very optimistic. Keep reading, sharing, and commenting if you’d like to read along while I’m on (fake) Mars!

Questions of the Day:
If you are a scientist conducting research, what are some of the spatial and temporal scales that you’ve had to consider?
If not, can you think of the spatial and temporal scale necessary if someone wanted to study you?

Further Reading:
Implicit Scaling in Ecological Research
Choosing appropriate temporal and spatial scales for ecological research
Relative Importance of Spatial and Temporal Scales in a Patchy Environment
Expanding the Temporal and Spatial Scales of Ecological Research and Comparison of Divergent      Ecosystems: Roles for LTER in the United States

Scale Matters: But, What about Time?

If you haven’t checked out Monday’sTuesday’s, and Wednesday’s blog posts, it’d be best to start there! This week we’re having a series of posts discussing scale and size. I’m hoping you all still have your imagination hats handy. 

Size, both great and small, and the ability to perceive it through a series of magnificent inventions are already wondrous enough to contemplate. However, by adding one more aspect to this thought process, we can really understand the importance of scale. 


We generally think of time in seconds, minutes, hours, and days. If longer stretches are required we have years, decades, and millennia. 

For those of us on Earth, time is linked to the path of our plant around the sun. A day is the length of time for one rotation of the Earth. 24 hours. A year is one Earth orbit around the sun.  8765.81277 hours. But each planetary body has it’s own duration for days and year. 

On Mars, each day lasts on average 24 hours 37 minutes and 22.663 seconds. Researchers and technicians working with robotic rovers and landers on the red planet must adjust their lives to Mars time. Imagine a whole team waking up about 40 minutes later each day so they can maximize research conducted during the daylight hours on a distant planet. 

The human concept of time is inherently quite stunted. We have about 80 year to observe, learn, and live. We use time to schedule our lives, educations, and aspirations. We have time allotted for school, work, and play. Holidays are assigned a certain date on our calendar. Sometimes it can feel like a very local concept. 

But time spreads out over the universe, just like space. 

All of human history is but a blip in time.  

If we take the 14 billion years that have occurred since the Big Bang and realign it into a single year, then all of recorded human history has happened in the last 13 seconds. 

With our universe, time and distances are very closely aligned. Remember that our universe started as a single point from which everything erupted. Time and space included. And with time, the universe expands, thus more space. 

The building blocks of everything that exists now were created in the seconds following the Big Bang. Everything that composes our body, planet, solar system, galaxy, etc. At first, the universe was mainly comprised of basic elements. Hydrogen, the simplest of all elements was most abundant. One proton, one neutron. As time continued protons began to stick together an eventually Helium. Two protons and neutrons. Allow enough time and more and more elements arise, increasing in complexity. 

 So we’ve connected time to it’s importance in our own lives, and to the lifespan, size, and complexity of the entire universe.

We may also use time as a form of distance! 

The speed of light in a vacuum is a universal constant valued at 299,792,458 meters per second. You can see this in action by just going out at night and taking in the night sky. Light from stars and reflected from planets is barreling across space to your eyes. The light has traveled hundreds or thousands of light-years to reach you, granting you a glimpse into the past. My artist friend, Danielle, calls it our Museum of Light that serves as a window to our past. Keep in mind that your eyes are the first things these photons have bumped into since they left the surface of a star. Also, that the star you make a wish upon tonight might not exist at this point in time!

Remember the Hubble’s Deep Field Image from yesterday’s post? Those galaxies are some of the oldest we’ve observed, but we can still collect the light that has been traveling towards us to create an inspiring photo. 

The following video brings together several concepts from this week’s series on scale. As the intro states, this film shoes the known universe as mapped through astronomical observation. Every celestial body is represented to scale and in its correct location. Keep an eye on the lower portion of the video that keeps track of light years traveled. 

We’re nearing the end of this week’s series of posts. I hope to bring everything together tomorrow in the final post. I’d appreciate some feed back on the pace and quality of recent posts. 

Questions of The Day:
Have you enjoyed and learned from these posts?
Do you like the idea of a series of posts spanning a week?
Do you have a topic in mind that you’d like to know more about?