"Spreading democracy in the Middle East is so hard. Maybe we shouldn’t have done it Second Amendment first." -Jon Stewart

(via tytnetwork)



The recent release of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" reminded me of one of my favorite ape vs. man films – this 1932 video that shows a baby chimpanzee and a baby human undergoing the same basic psychological tests.

Its gets weirder – the human baby (Donald) and the chimpanzee baby (Gua) were both raised as humans by their biological/adopted father Winthrop Niles Kellogg.  Kellogg was a comparative psychologist fascinated by the interplay between nature and nurture, and he devised a fascinating (and questionably ethical) experiment to study it:

Suppose an anthropoid were taken into a typical human family at the day of birth and reared as a child. Suppose he were fed upon a bottle, clothed, washed, bathed, fondled, and given a characteristically human environment; that he were spoken to like the human infant from the moment of parturition; that he had an adopted human mother and an adopted human father.

First, Kellogg had to convince his pregnant wife he wasn’t crazy:

 …the enthusiasm of one of us met with so much resistance from the other that it appeared likely we could never come to an agreement upon whether or not we should even attempt such an undertaking.

She apparently gave in, because Donald and Gua were raised, for nine months, as brother and sister. Much like Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” movies, Gua developed faster than her “brother,” and often outperformed him in tasks. But she soon hit a cognitive wall, and the experiment came to an end. (Probably for the best, as Donald had begun to speak chimpanzee.)

You can read more about Kellogg’s experiment, its legacy, and public reaction to it here.

This is the most adorable experiment that has ever been done.

When someone tells me they’re “not political”



(via tytnetwork)


Big dogs who think they are lap dogs.

My type of dogs.



Happiest puppies in the world

I clutched my heart and gasped audibly upon seeing these happy pups. Hand me a fan, these little friends gave me the vapors!




Host John Oliver Skewers Dr. Oz, Dietary Supplements, and Shameless Pandering on ‘Last Week Tonight’

John Oliver’s takedown skills are pretty incred.

Dr. Oz is a pseudoscientific snake oil salesman that should be banned from TV.

John Oliver, however, is a genius.

For a moment, imagine a world where people have enough experience with scientific thinking that they don’t need the help of a cable news comedian to save themselves from brain-falling-out-of-head syndrome. That’s a beautiful world. I want to live in that world. But if that world can’t exist, I’m glad that people like John Oliver and the countless scientists and science writers out there working to put out the Good Word of science live in this one.


Doodling the Right Thing

With a few humble doodles, I think Google may have created the most widely-seen, and perhaps the most influential, science communication effort on Earth. Their series of Google search page tributes to female scientists (a few of which I’ve shared above) is a huge win for showcasing the efforts of women in science, which, unless you’ve been living under a very patriarchal rock for the past forever, you know is something the world needs very badly. 

It might seem silly to be talking about a picture like this, but we’re dealing with the Times Square billboard of internet graphics here. Every day, 730 million people visit a total of 17 billion times. Billion. Granted, not all of them see the same Google doodle, as only a small set of them are “global” doodles, but even if just 10% of daily unique visitors see a particular doodle, and just 10% of those people take the time to figure out who/what they’re looking at, that means 7+ million people a day (and that doesn’t even take into account repeated visits). I suspect that’s a low estimate, too, although I base that on nothing except my own optimism.

For comparison, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey drew just over 3 million U.S. viewers for its final episode. I’ll concede that’s not really a fair comparison, since Cosmos is a highly-produced, hour-long scripted TV series with very broad and lofty goals and a Google doodle is, well, a picture on the internet. The point I’m trying to make is not that Cosmos is less influential than a cartoon, because that’s ridiculous (although I must admit the more I think about it, I really don’t know how ridiculous it is). My point is that a Google doodle about science reaches a metric f**kton of people.

I am having a hard time thinking of another single Internet Thing that has the potential to reach so many people in a single day. No meme-filled Facebook page or educational YouTube channel comes close, and I don’t suspect any traditional science news/media sites are even in the ballpark. 

Google still has a long way to go to bring their doodle gender representation anywhere close to level. According to SPARK, only 17% of doodles between 2001-2013 were women (and 74% of them were white people). I can’t find the numbers, but on the bright side it seems like 2014 has showcased a high percentage of women in the doodles. In addition to monitoring women featured in doodles, the blog Speaking Up For Us keeps a running list of doodle-worthy women.Despite that remaining imbalance, I think this is an incredible effort on the part of Google, and we should demand even more doodles of underrepresented groups (both in science and beyond).

Can something so passive make any difference? To be honest, I don’t know, but I suspect that it does. When people only see one type of person recognized for accomplishing the Great Scientific Things of history, they consciously and subconsciously assume that only that type of person actually accomplishes Great Scientific Things. That is how underrepresented people stay underrepresented, which is the opposite thing we want to happen.

Google doodles aren’t going to cure cancer or send a human to Mars, but they just might help inspire the person who does. Not bad for a drawing.



You can hear Geoff Brumfiel's full story about cosmic microwave background (the thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang) here.

I dunno, that pigeon looks really skeptical


It was the story. I was going to do anything to get that story.

I just didn’t realize how much it was going to cost.

(via americanhorrorstoryismylife)


Why Females Are Stripey

Each of us is made of a mixed-up jumble of cells. Most of you is you, but a few of your cells actually belong to your mom, stowaways that she left in your body.

But thanks to our sex chromosomes, it’s females who are the real mosaics. In this video from Veritasium, you’ll learn how biological females are like calico cats. Early in a female’s life, way back when her embryonic body was little more than a ball of cells just beginning to fold into basic patterns, a molecular coin was flipped inside each of her nuclei, and one of the two X chromosomes was silenced forever.

Why is this? Although our sex chromosomes are tiny compared to the other 44, they contain vital genes. But just like a genetic knockout can cause problems, so can too much of a gene product. Each cell in a female nucleus only expresses the genes on one of the two X chromosomes, muting the other so that the "dose" of X genes is pretty much the same between XY and XX individuals. 

Heads or tails, that epigenetic pattern persists for life, and although we can’t see them … women have “stripes”!

Bonus: Features the wonderful molecular animations of Drew Berry!