Monday, March 27, 2006

Science Links

Some links to keep you from taking a sick day, since you're already at work.

From CNN:
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia said Saturday that they have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man.

The hominid cranium -- found in two pieces and believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old -- "comes from a very significant period and is very close to the appearance of the anatomically modern human," said Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia.

If it starts with "paleo," it's red hot right now. Stunning discovery, and here's the link:

From Sirius, a link to an article--believe it or not--about the grammar of whale songs. Here's an excerpt:
Using syntax, the whales combine sounds into phrases, which they further weave into hours-long melodies packed with information.

Although the researchers say these songs don't meet the linguistic rigor necessary for a true language, this is the first evidence that animals other than humans use a hierarchical structure of communication. Whales have also been found to sing in dialects.

...Humpbacks repeat short and long phrases multiple times to sing long songs — the longest known lasts 20 hours. They also sing in multiple layers, or scales, of repetition called periodicities. A short scale consists of six units, whereas a longer one contains 180 to 400.

I tried to learn whale, but could never master the subjunctive mood. Here's the link:

Here's a fascinating link from Michael Clayton to a speech given by Michael Crichton at the California Institute of Technology in 2003. Crichton has a thoughtful and provocative perspective on what political and peer pressure are doing to the pursuit of knowledge. Here's an except:
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.

It's a terrific read, and here's the link:

Not exactly a science link, but interesting nonetheless--from Daniel Quock, a seven minute time-compression video of the building of an Airbus A380. Here's the link:

From Sirius, a link to the greatest accidental discoveries in science.

From Brian Minsker, a link to an upcoming NOVA episode titled "The Great Robot Race," a documentary about the DARPA challenge. The episode is showing March 28 (this Tuesday) at 8 p.m. CST, but there are plenty of videos at this website already:

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