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Science of TRON

Listen to audio from the "Science of TRON" panel, featuring director Joe Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, and science consultants Sean Carroll & John Dick. Learn More

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How Supervillain Magneto Could Control Blood

It seems like just yesterday we were discussing the real world potential of supervillain Magneto’s powers. Now, we’ve spotted a new use for Magneto’s magnetic field control: thinning blood. Two researchers, Rongjia Tao and Ke Huang, recently released the results of their study on the effects of magnetic fields applied to the bloodstream.

In the study, Tao and Huang exposed blood samples to varying magnetic field pulse strengths for varying lengths of time. The results found a magnetic field pulse of 1.3 Tesla, applied for one minute in the parallel blood flow direction, reduced blood viscosity by 20-30%. After this procedure, the blood viscosity slowly returned to normal after a couple of hours. 

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

Maybe you have not noticed but there are quite a few talking animals in television and film. From a talking parrot (Paulie) to talking bees (Bee Movie), and beyond, there are conversational critters everywhere. What’s with humans’ fascination with talking animals? Who knows, but if the Cetacean Hearing and Telemetry (CHAT) project has any success, we humans will soon be experiencing two-way communication with one of the most intelligent mammals on Earth: dolphins.

Let the Games Begin!: Learning Science Through Gameplay

“Lure of the Labyrinth” teaches pre-algebra concepts through a series of puzzles (and they meet a few monsters along the way!)Imagine telling your child to “turn off that computer game and go finish your homework.” Then imagine your surprise as he replies, “But this is my homework.” You might think he’s trying to pull a fast one – a computer game as homework? What kind of teacher would assign that? Well, actually, a math or science teacher would. Okay, but why? We asked that question to Eric Kopfler, Director of the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program (MIT STEP) and the Director of The Education Arcade (TEA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Learning with Laughter: Late Night Talk Shows & Science

Where do you get your daily dose of science? Online? Reading a magazine or newspaper? From a comedian?

If that last suggestion sounded a bit off, trust us, it’s not. David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert – these are the comedians who keep you laughing late into the night. And every so often, they are the comedians entertaining you with science.

The unlikely suspect: How geophysics revolutionized the recording industry

Chances are, when you think of Cher, the iconic recording artist, you also think of geophysics. Okay, maybe you don’t. But you should. Cher and geophysics revolutionized the recording industry – together.

It started in 1998, when Cher released her single “Believe.” The song was a major success, sitting at #1 on the Billboard charts for four straight weeks. It also featured a new, and peculiar, effect on Cher’s vocals: at key moments, her voice wobbled uncontrollably, like a robot attempting karaoke. The description sounds cringe-inducing, but combined with the song’s fast-paced beat, it sounds, well, good. Good enough to be adopted by Madonna, Janet Jackson – even rappers T. Pain and Kanye West. The “Cher effect” (as it became known) was soon a staple of the recording industry, a distortion process reinvented as an artistic choice.

Scientists Sharing Secrets Online

Maybe the success of The Big Bang Theory started a backlash. Because now there seems to be a campaign underway to sell the public on the notion that scientists don’t have to be geeks, nerds, or white men. The latest assault on the stereotype comes from the new PBS online-only series, The Secret Life of Scientists, the title co-opted from the critically acclaimed ABC Family network show The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

So far, more than a dozen profiles of scientists have been posted, with the promise of more in a few months. Viewers are entertained by clicking on four brief video segments for each scientist, one of which features answers to 10 questions.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Back in the 1990s, it was all the rage to play a game dubbed "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." It all started when three college students in Pennsylvania were watching the actor's performance in The Air Up There, and started competing to name all the movies in which Bacon had appeared, and other actors who performed with him. They realized that it takes remarkably few indirect relationships to tie Bacon to just about any actor in Hollywood -- 2.95 steps on average, to be exact.

Prusiner's Prions

While everyone loves the romantic notion of the scientific revolutionary who bucks a doubting "establishment" to change our understanding of the world, every now and then, that narrative comes true. In the early 1970s, an otherwise healthy woman became a patient in the University of California, San Francisco's neurology department; she was suffering from something called a "slow virus infection," specifically, a neurodegenerative condition called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The (Shrimp) Eyes Have It

Wondering what the next Big Thing might be in terms of DVD/Blu-Ray technology? The secret might lie with the lowly mantis shrimp.

A One-Way Ticket to Mars

Now that the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings has come and gone, we are faced with the grim reality that if we want to send humans back to the Moon the investment is likely to run in excess of $150 billion. The cost to get to Mars could easily be two to four times that, if it is possible at all.

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