Ben Greenman has discovered a problem with the Internet. It allows children to look up information too quickly!
Recently, one of his sons (age 9) had to do a report on anacondas. Proudly displaying his finished product, Greenman Jr. informed his father that anacondas are the largest snakes in the world. Greenman Sr. wondered what the second largest snake was. Not having the information to hand, Greenman Jr. went off to look it up. Enter: the Problem.
If I had done an anaconda report, and my teacher had asked after the second-largest snake, I would not have simply turned, walked, typed and learned. I would have returned to the encyclopedia, and if the answer wasn’t there, I would have ended my investigation abruptly. Or maybe, if I was especially motivated, I would have gone to the library and checked out a book about snakes, but even that would not have been a guarantee. And so I would have most likely gone on with my life in third grade, and then fourth, faintly feeling the burr of the question in my brain, continually assessing how important it was to scratch that itch. By supplying answers to questions with such ruthless efficiency, the Internet cuts off the supply of an even more valuable commodity: productive frustration.
There’s a sort of weight-room logic to the argument. We need to exercise our curiosity muscles, so making it a little bit hard to satisfy our longings for knowledge should limber us up, right? Kind of like lifting weights or running laps. But every personal trainer knows that you can mess yourself up if you do an exercise badly. What if just wondering isn’t a full rep? Maybe we need to wonder and be satisfied, over and over again, as we develop increasingly difficult curiosities to resolve.
via The Internet as Curiosity Machine – Tim Maly – Technology – The Atlantic.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to have extra or missing DNA compared with normal children, British researchers have found.
The study compared the genomes of 366 white British children from five to 17 years old with attention deficit hyperactivity, or ADHD, to those of more than 1,000 similar children without the disorder.
via CBC News – Health – Kids with ADHD show DNA changes: study.
Should we clone a neanderthal? No, really, should we? Recently, Archaeology magazine considered the scientific, legal, and of course ethical challenges of doing just that. Researchers from Roche’s 454 Life Sciences and genetics firm Illumina are collecting bits of Neanderthal DNA to sequence the genome of a 30,000-year-old Neanderthal woman from Croatia. Once the genome is complete, making a clone is no easy task. But as the article explains, it’s within the relam of possibility. And what happens if there’s success?
via Cloning Neanderthals – Boing Boing.
While refining their novel method for making nanoscale wires, chemists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology discovered an unexpected bonus — a new way to create nanowires that produce light similar to that from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These "nano-LEDs" may one day have their light-emission abilities put to work serving miniature devices such as nanogenerators or lab-on-a-chip systems.
via Growing nanowires horizontally yields new benefit: ‘nano-LEDs’.
Humankind has seen the Stone Age, the Golden Age, and the Iron Age. Some would argue the 20th century should be called the Silicon Age. Based on the events of its first 10 years, the 21st century may very well become known as the Carbon Age.
via The Carbon Age: Dark element, brighter future | Green Tech – CNET News.
Since December, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been smashing particles together at record-setting energy levels. Physicists hope that those high-energy collisions could replicate the conditions seen immediately after the Big Bang, shedding light on how our universe came to be. Now, data from collisions that took place in July suggests that the LHC may have have taken a step toward that goal.
via A step closer to Big Bang conditions? More study is needed to confirm the latest LHC findings.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2010) — Researchers in England say they have discovered a set of biomarkers that can distinguish prostate cancer from benign prostate disease and healthy tissue with 90 percent accuracy. This preliminary data, if validated in larger ongoing studies, could be developed into a serum protein test that reduces the number of unnecessary biopsies and identifies men who need treatment before symptoms begin.
via Biomarker panel identifies prostate cancer with 90 percent accuracy.
A new kind of probe microscope can measure the force needed to push a single atom.
via Technology Review: Feeling the Force.
Astronomers say they have for the first time spotted a planet beyond our own in what is sometimes called the Goldilocks zone for life: Not too hot, not too cold. Juuuust right.
Not too far from its star, not too close. So it could contain liquid water. The planet itself is neither too big nor too small for the proper surface, gravity and atmosphere.
via Earth-Sized Planet Discovered in Perfect Position to Support Earth-Like Life | Disinformation.
A Russian company on Wednesday announced plans to launch a comfortable space hotel for tourists who up to now have shared cramped accommodation with astronauts, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
via Russian company to build ‘space hotel’ with home comforts.
The presence of Earth-like exoplanets in what is called the “habitable zone” has been predicted for some time, but actually identifying and measuring one was referred to Wednesday as the beginning of a new era in the search for life beyond Earth…
Click here to read the entire Washington Post article.
Click here for more information on Earth-like exoplanets.
A few years ago the city council of Monza, Italy, barred pet owners from keeping goldfish in curved fishbowls. The sponsors of the measure explained that it is cruel to keep a fish in a bowl because the curved sides give the fish a distorted view of reality. Aside from the measure’s significance to the poor goldfish, the story raises an interesting philosophical question: How do we know that the reality we perceive is true?
via The Elusive Theory of Everything: Scientific American.
Time magazine reports that Europe’s most liberal drug policy has been a huge success. Not, as you might think, those hippie Dutch, but Portugal, where possession of all drugs for personal use was decriminalised in 2001.
A study by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has found that in the five years after decriminalisation, Portugal’s drug problems had improved in every measured way. The man behind the research, Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer, told Time: “Judging by every metric, decriminalization in Portugal has been a resounding success.”
via Portugal drug decriminalisation ‘a resounding success’: will Britain respond? No. – Telegraph Blogs.
Patients are to be placed into a state of suspended animation when they undergo surgery by using a ground breaking technique that freezes their bodies to the point of death.
via Patients to be frozen into state of suspended animation for surgery – Telegraph.
ScienceDaily (Sep. 26, 2010) — A team led by engineers and physicists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, have developed one of the key building blocks needed to make a quantum computer using silicon: a "single electron reader."
via Single electron reader opens path for quantum computing.