The Big Think

January 5, 2014

It’s Not Easy Being Green

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 7:57 pm

The Intelligence of Plants: “Time-lapse photography is perhaps the best tool we have to bridge the chasm between the time scale at which plants live and our own. This example was of a young bean plant, shot in the lab over two days, one frame every ten minutes. A metal pole on a dolly stands a couple of feet away. The bean plant is ‘looking’ for something to climb. Each spring, I witness the same process in my garden, in real time. I always assumed that the bean plants simply grow this way or that, until they eventually bump into something suitable to climb. But Mancuso’s video seems to show that this bean plant ‘knows’ exactly where the metal pole is long before it makes contact with it. Mancuso speculates that the plant could be employing a form of echolocation. There is some evidence that plants make low clicking sounds as their cells elongate; it’s possible that they can sense the reflection of those sound waves bouncing off the metal pole.”

More mindblowingness at the link.

Book Report

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 6:51 am

For the record, I read 44 books during 2013. 33 of them from my personal library and 11 from the public library or borrowed from friends. All time high number of pages at 14886 for an average pages per book of 337. I’ve had years when I read more books (in 2008 I managed 48 books). Still have never passed 50 books but I’ve gotten close. Maybe next year.

Already on #2 for the year, so that’s a good start! Last year I was helped along by reading (most of) the Vorkosigan Saga (at Katherine Coble’s much appreciated suggestion). Working on the final 2 books out of the 15 or so. I need another big beefy series to read this year. I’ve got the first few books of the Master and Commander series but I need another one after that if I’m going to hit fifty books. Suggestions?

Like Grains of Sand

Filed under: Space/Astronomy — jasony @ 6:30 am

4 Mind-Blowing Things About Stars: “In 1995, scientists picked out a little section of the night sky that was unusually devoid of stars. To the naked eye, and even in a normal telescope, this region looked empty and black. And the section was tiny—it covered the same amount of sky that a tennis ball would cover if it were 100 meters above you (and the image on the right shows the size of the region in comparison to the size of the moon in the sky at night).

The scientists used the Hubble Telescope to take a 10-day long exposure of the empty region to find out what was out there deep in the blackness. They came back with this:

690958main_p1237a1.jpg

Astonishing.

To be clear, nothing in this photo is a star. Each thing you see—even the faintest little dot—is an entire galaxy. There are over 10,000 in this image, each one containing around 100 billion stars. And again, this is all in a pinpoint little square of the night sky.

Scientists used the info from this photo to postulate that the observable universe contains over 100 billion galaxies, which puts the total stars in the observable universe at somewhere between 10^22 and 10^24, or around 100 sextillion stars.

To put that in perspective, people at the University of Hawaii spent an unreasonable amount of time calculating an estimate for the number of grains of sand in the world—7.5 quintillion or 7.5 x 10^18.

That means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are about 10,000 stars in the universe.

Silliness.”

For more gobsmackingly amazing facts, read the whole article.

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