Tag Archive: science

  1. What’s your sign? Not so fast . . .

    Leave a Comment

    This post is re-blogged from Thea Beckman’s, Why, Because Science.



    What’s your star sign? Sagittarius? LIAR!!

    If your horoscope a little out of scope, it’s because you’re reading the wrong one.

    This is not really your fault. How are you to know that things have changed in the heavens since the zodiac was assigned to each calendar month just over 2,500 years ago? This is the problem with astrology in the 21st Century. It is the single most ridiculous cluster of notions that have ever been conceived, second only to the idea that womankind was created from the rib of a man. How insulting! If anything, man was created from the rib of a woman. Why else would men have nipples?

    On the upside, on issues of astrology and horoscopes, I’ve finally found something I can agree with Christians about.

    If you’re keen on these subjects, I am really sorry to burst your bubble. I’m all for esoteric beliefs if it distracts people from judging thy neighbour and killing in the name of You-Know-Who. But the entire rational framework of astrology is completely and inexcusably flawed. This isn’t only from a logical standpoint, but for one very particular reason, which we shall discuss shortly.

    First, let’s find out what on Earth our ancient counterparts were thinking…

    2 science and astrology

    A cluster of ridiculous notions is forgivable of an ancient civilization that has no understanding of the physical world around them and of all its beautiful and intricate macroscopic and microscopic complexity. Back in the day, a sickness was not the result of a virus running rampant in your body: it was a punishment for wrong-doing or an expression of some deity’s dissatisfaction with your most recent sacrifice. Even though said sacrifice was your sister…

    Lightning wasn’t an electrical discharge between a negatively charged sky and a positively charged Earth; it was Zeus throwing his toys out the cot. The stars were not balls of intense and unending nuclear reactions held together by gravity, they were the souls of dead people (or fireflies, if you’re a Lion King fan).

    Every civilization has sought to explain the physical observable universe using what little bits and pieces of knowledge they had. A few thousand years ago, in the absence of powerful telescopes, super computers, mathematical equations and the cumulative work of tens of thousands of scientists, that knowledge stemmed from tradition, superstition and beliefs that had been passed down from generation to generation.

    Scientific these explanations were not.

    Meet the Babylonians

    3 science and-The-Ancient-Babylonians

    Humans are inherently creative and seek symbolism in just about everything around us, so naturally the patterns perceived in the arrangement of stars against the night sky became other people, animals and objects. These constellations were then bestowed with significance over and above their random scattering across the sky.

    And who can blame our ancestors? Back in the day there was no TV, so our ancient counterparts looked to the sky for their daily and seasonal weather forecasts; the stars were their GPS. If a decent crop yield depended on you sowing seeds at precisely the right time of year, you too would regard the sky as something sacred and symbolic. Your life could depend on it.

    Around 7th century BC, Babylonian astronomers (dudes who puzzled over the sky and made attempts to measure and record the migrations of the stars and planets) divided the constellations that coursed across the Milky Way into the zodiacal signs, which, in Latin, literally means “circle of animals.” Think “zoo.”

    4 science Astrology-and-the-zodiac

    Although some of the constellations that make up the zodiac have origins elsewhere and in other times, the Babylonians were the ones who landed the Oscar for incredible breakthrough work in scientific observation, measurement and recording. They were the ones who divided the sky into the co-ordinate system that has largely survived to this day (with subtle modifications and a greater accuracy, of course.)

    Each calendar month was assigned a ‘star sign,’ beginning with the constellation that was positioned behind the sun at the time of the spring equinox. This was around March and April in the northern hemisphere. Remember, back in these days, the seasons very much governed the life and times of these people. Spring was an auspicious time of year because your farm animals would start bonking like mad, which was a good thing if you wanted your farm animals to make baby farm animals.

    5 science-Funny-goat-picture

    At the time this was all cooked up (just over 2,500 years ago), the constellation that took position behind the sun at the spring equinox was Aries, the ram. Baaa. Every year at the same time, the same star sign would resume its rightful position in the sky.

    But the Earth’s movement relative to the stars changes year after year. Every time we make our way around the sun, our aspect is very slightly different thanks to Earth’s wobbly axis of rotation. Just under three millennia later, the constellation positioned behind the sun at the time of the spring equinox is no longer Aries. It’s Taurus.

    What does this mean?

    The Zodiacal Identity Crisis

    6 science and astrology

    “Screw this, I’m not a Leo anymore… I see myself as a Virgo anyway.”

    What’s your star sign? Libra? Nope! Actually, you’re a Scorpio. When you were born, the constellation positioned behind the sun was Scorpio, not Libra. So all that crap about being sensitive, artistic, fickle and in love with the idea of love blah, blah, is just that: crap. Whatever star sign you thought you were, you are actually one ahead:

    Aries’ are Gemini’s

    Gemini’s are Cancer’s

    Cancer’s are Leo’s

    Leo’s are Virgo’s

    And so on and so forth.

    Everything you’ve ever read about yourself in a horoscope – what kind of person you are, your personality traits, your likes, loves, potential health problems and more – is all fundamentally flawed because you are reading the wrong star sign. Plain and simple. What’s the point in reading the horoscope for, example, Sagittarius when you’re actually a Capricorn? And why don’t astrologers or whoever writes this garbage picked up on this very simple, yet grave error?


    My birthday is on the 19th October. Every horoscope I have ever read in any magazine, newspaper or book has told me that my star sign is Libra. But every single one of them has been inaccurate. The constellation behind the sun on the date of my birth is Scorpio, which makes far more sense because I can be quite a bitch.

    Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message Astrology Milky way stars

    7 science and

    The idea that the stars and planets play a part in forecasting our future is a very romantic one. It makes us feel very important. But those giant impartial elemental worlds composed of ice, rock, fire and air have about as much to do with your love life as scientology has to do with science.

    Sure, those horoscopes you read in People while sitting on the porcelain throne can make sense sometimes. But horoscopes are self-fulfilled prophesies. If Madame Zola tells you that your love life is about to get hot and heavy, you’re immediately primed to see significance where there is none. You regard the world with fresh eager eyes; watching and waiting for your Prince Charming or Pussy Galore (guys) to come and sweep you off of your feet.

    The bottom line is: stars are far too busy exploding and being catastrophically nuclear to worry about your office dynamics and how that bitch down the aisle keeps stealing your stapler. The planets couldn’t be less interested in how flaccid your sex life has been recently and the moon couldn’t give two hoots about what colour you should dye your hair next.

    Perhaps it’s our innate fear of being ordinary that compels us to seek evidence of our extraordinary nature outside of ourselves – in the relative orientation of the stars and planets – when in fact we already ARE extraordinary.

    We’re made of star dust, aren’t we?

    On image usage: In spite of our efforts, the original sources of the unmarked images used in this blog post have not been found. If anyone believes we have not given correct reference, please notify us and we shall correct immediately.


  2. It isn’t raining rain, you know . . .

    Leave a Comment


    It’s raining diamonds! According to some researchers the heat, pressure and chemical conditions on Saturn and Jupiter may be conducive to the production of diamonds – diamonds that may rain down through the atmosphere.

    This research, reported by David Reneke on his World of Space and Astronomy, was recently presented at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences held in Denver, Colorado.

    This research opens up new and interesting ways to look at the composition and mineral wealth of the solar system.

  3. Higgs Boson in the News

    Leave a Comment


    It is official.  Britain’s Peter Higgs and Francois Englert of Belgium, discoverers of the Higgs boson, will receive the Nobel Prize in Physics.  The existence of this particle has been predicted for decades, but it was not until 2012, with the help of the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), that the particle was detected.

    higgs2Francois Englert and Peter Higgs discussing their findings

    In this news article on ABC Science, discovery of the Higgs particle is described as follows:

    The insight has been hailed as one of the most important in the understanding of the cosmos. Without the Higgs mechanism all particles would travel at the speed of light and atoms would not exist.

    The ABC Science article notes the contribution of a number of scientists, not the least of which those working at CERN where the discovery was made.  Alfred Nobel, however, stipulated that any prize given in his name could not include more than three scientists.  The Nobel Prize was instituted in a time when scientific discovery was viewed as a more solitary pursuit in contrast with the strides being made today by recognized teams of researchers. Confirmation of the Higgs mechanism dramatically advances our understanding of the physics of the universe, although there is much work still to be accomplished.

    On a lighter note:


  4. Polymers in Space

    Leave a Comment


    The Cassini was launched in 1997 to study Saturn and its moons.  It contains a battery of scientific instruments that have been sending back data about the Saturn system since 2004.

    Reported by BBC News, Cassini recently sent back information that it detected on Saturn’s moon, Titan, propene or propylene – a building block of POLYPROPYLENE – a commonly used plastic.  What makes this discovery special is that it is the first time this constituent of polypropylene has been found anywhere outside of Earth.


    NASA commented:

    On Earth, this molecule, which comprises three carbon atoms and six hydrogen atoms, is a constituent of many plastics.

    It is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than our home world, says the US space agency.

    Other interesting chemicals detected on Titan include propane, and ethylene – a constituent of another common polymer – polyethylene.

    This is only part of the chemical story.  NASA scientists hypothesize that Saturn’s huge magnetic field and the effects of the sun’s ultra-violet light may yield more exotic chemistry on Titan and Saturn’s other moons.

    converted PNM fileSaturn’s moon,Titan, eclipsing Tethys, another one of Saturn’s sixty-two moons


  5. Revisiting the Powers of Ten

    Leave a Comment

    At the Envoys meeting we viewed the video clip from Cosmic Connections on the Powers of Ten.  This video reinforced Jessica’s session about units of measure and scientific notation.  I think it would be even more interesting to see the entire film in an IMAX setting.  Still, this one is interesting.  Turn up the volume on your computer and enjoy the show!

  6. How do touch screens work?

    Leave a Comment

    r1121289_13728340Touch screens are everywhere.  You swipe your finger across a screen and magic happens, but that magic is really technology.

    I find a lot of interesting stories on ABC Science, including this one on how touch screens work.

    Touch screens have totally changed the way we use mobile phones. But how does wiping your finger on a glass screen make things happen inside your phone?

    By Bernie Hobbs

    Don’t be fooled by the mild-mannered glass surface; you’re poking your finger fair smack into an electric field or two when you swipe your phone.

    Touch screens on phones and tablets really have the X factor. Being able to text, phone or film something just by swiping your finger on glass almost makes up for all those other failed sci-fi promises of the 60s.

    But considering how futuristic touch screens seem, they rely on a bit of physics that’s almost as old as Newton — capacitance — and the fact that your finger is three parts salty water.

    If you stick your finger on a regular piece of glass, the most you can hope for is a smudge.

    Read more here.

  7. Communicating Ideas in Science and Engineering

    Leave a Comment

    I found this video about “talking nerdy” on a blog about language usage that I visit – it is originally from the TED site.  This little video is about how to share the passion we feel about our work and to make it accessible and understandable to the general public.

    We seem to spend the early part of our education learning the language – and the jargon – of our field.  This is one of the ways scientists can recognize each other – by their vocabulary.

    There is another step, I believe, that is often missing that this presenter talks addresses.  That is to learn to shed the jargon in order to make our ideas and findings relevant to others.

  8. What do molecules look like?

    Leave a Comment

    In chemistry class, we have all had to draw  (and have been tested on) the schema of molecules.  Recently scientists at UC Berkeley have been able to image a single molecule and to see it rearrange its atomic bonds.  The resulting AFM images, look a lot like those little stick drawings I referred to.


    A ringed, carbon-containing molecule, shown both before and after it has rearranged itself, with the two most common reaction products included. The scale bars measure 3 angstroms, or three ten-billionths of a meter, across. Image and Caption: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California at Berkeley

    I think the images are amazing and elegant.  There are more images here at WIRED Magazine.

    This breakthrough was described in Science in May 30, 2013.

  9. The Scale of Things

    Leave a Comment


    I have an application on my phone that tells me not only the phase of the moon, but how far away the moon is from the earth on any given day.  It tells me the distance in miles and kilometers. It even tells me how many Eiffel Towers it is from the earth to the moon.

    I love things like that.  I am a fan of the Charles Eames film, the Powers of Ten.  If you are not familiar with this classic, I recommend it and you can see it here.

    I came across an interesting and related  infographic the other day on LiveScience.  I think that it also is a fascinating look at the scale of things on earth, man made and natural.

  10. Geeky Science Post

    Leave a Comment


    Geeky Science Joke

    Albert Einstein, Blaise Pascal and Isaac Newton were hanging out one day and they were bored.

    “I know,” said Albert Einstein, “let’s play hide and seek.”

    So Einstein closed his eyes and began counting back from 100.

    Pascal took off running to find a place to hide.

    Newton just stood where he was and drew a box around the area where he was standing.

    When Einstein finished counting, he looked up and exclaimed, “Newton, I found you!”

    Newton calmly smiled and said, “No, you found one Newton per square meter – you found Pascal.”

    If you would like to know more about scientific measurements and conversions, I suggest you look at Kyle’s Converter. This website is an interesting reference guide, as well as a handy tool.

  11. Careers in the Sciences

    Leave a Comment


    CNN covers women who are making a difference in non-traditional careers. In July 2012, Fabiola Gianotti was featured. Dr. Gianotti runs the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Read more about her career here. Read more about her career here.