Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Natalie, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    So I've been thinking about making a thread like this for a while but never really got down to it. The idea is that every week I will post some new scientific discovery that I think is cool and I'll say a little about why I like it (or not), etc. Of course, everyone is welcome to join in, comment, post their own news story, whatever. In order to keep the thread going and relatively up to date however, I just wanted to put it out there that once a week there will be a new discovery put on here (lets hope I can adhere to my own rules).

    That being said, here is the first story of this series:

    If you're too lazy to click on the above link this is not the thread for you, but I'll recap it a bit anyway :p. Russian scientists have been drilling a really long-ass ice core into the Antartic in order to reach a sub-glacial lake that has never seen the light of day. Without contaminating it, they plan to extract some of the water and examine it in order to find out about the life forms that live in it that of course would be very different from the life forms that currently exist on the surface, being that they are not exposed to the atmosphere or to sunlight. This is particularly interesting because sub-glacial lakes like this exist on other planets, most notably Jupiters moon Europa. Ultimately, the lake could give clues as to the very origins of life on our planet and how life could form on other planets.

    Thrilling stuff right? I chose this article because (a) its a huge feat of engineering first off and (b) it holds huge potential not only for us understanding more about climate and how life began on Earth but it could also hold clues to life on other planets which is something we've been searching for, for decades.

    What I do find a tad sad about it is that it was not an international expedition and as such, could stir up some old rivalries and bad sentiment between the US and Russia especially (given that there is a US expedition to another sub-glacial lake). It sounds a little bit as if it was a race, and while thats all well and good at the end of the day I don't think its healthy and could very well undermine the scientific value of the expedition. Especially if, due to the rush, someone messes up and contaminates the water, which would render the whole thing null and void.

    To close, I think a very interesting article recording the finds of these Russian scientists will come out in the next 5 years so be on the lookout! (I kid).

    As of 2017-02-20

    Renamed thread because I want the freedom to post things about science that aren't necessarily new or recent discoveries. Welcome to all who want to philosophize about the state of science in the world today, alternative facts, climate change, the birth of science as we know it during the Enlightenment, what the hell is peer review anyway, do we need philosophy of science, etc.

    Also, because I want to open the discussion up to more light-hearted topics such as science comics (xkcd anyone?) and science in the media. This might make it a bit easier to update this thread on a semi-regular basis (don't hold your breath though).
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  2. Night Prowler

    Night Prowler CriedWhenBazzaSued Staff Member

    I heard about this. Let's just hope that the Russians don't contaminate the water.

    Btw. you haven't mentioned that the lake is called Vostok ;) There's a cool swedish band called Loch Vostok.
  3. Onhell

    Onhell Infinite Dreamer

    In Russia, you don't contaminate the water, the water contaminate YOU! Sorry, too easy :p, Great article, I remember reading something similar back in College, LOOONG ago lol. I like this idea, keeps lazy bums like myself informed :).

    I don't think that two separate expeditions by old rivals is that bad, if they work separately and arrive to similar conclusions it could be better, or if one picks up on something the other one missed. Joint ventures are not necessarily a good thing.
  4. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    Story of this week:

    Although not quite a discovery (this mutated H5N1 virus created by scientists in a lab that is transmittable between mammals is old news), I still found it interesting that a global conference was held between the World Health Organization and US security officials in order to determine whether to publish the entire study in a scientific journal or not. While I do recognize that there are safety concerns (theoretically the materials and methods section of the paper would reveal to the average person how to replicate the experiment and thereby recreate this human pandemic-prone virus), I see no reason NOT to publish the material. After all, it defeats the purpose of scientific research if other scientists could not replicate and thereby verify results (although there is some grey area here with research on behalf of pharmaceutical companies where it is impossible to replicate anything they do but then again, they rarely publish, they go straight to patent). And also, it would require the expertise of scientists, plus funding, plus a state-of-the-art lab, plus materials and know-how to replicate this kind of experiment, its not like making deadly viruses are equatable with home-made Molotov cocktails.
    The article does bring up some interesting questions about science and security (where the two overlap) and about censorship. At what point does the quest for knowledge do more harm than good? It also makes me wonder what other research there is out there that might be even deadlier but as it is not being published (perhaps because it is completely funded by a government) nobody knows about it. Scary thought isn't it?
  5. Onhell

    Onhell Infinite Dreamer

    I got one:

  6. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    So this week was a bit low on compelling science breakthroughs. But I did find an article linking diminishing Arctic sea ice with increased snowfall in North America and Europe. Given how this winter has been unusually mild in Boston (and for the most part North America I believe), I find this study interesting, mostly because I think we will have to revise our definitions of "normal" climate and weather events for the Northern Hemisphere. At the end of the day, "global warming" might have a lot of unforeseen or less straightforward consequences than merely warmer temperatures.

    Unusual Weather: Arctic Sea Ice Decline May Be Driving Snowy Winters Seen in Recent Years in N. Hemisphere

    ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2012) — A new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology provides further evidence of a relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere. The study's findings could be used to improve seasonal forecasting of snow and temperature anomalies across northern continents.
  7. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    This is not a scientific discovery but a heads up for all you star/planet lovers out there: March 2012 is a great month to get out there and peruse the night sky with your telescope!

    Best Venus-Jupiter conjunction in years in mid-March 2012

    For the Northern Hemisphere, mid-March 2012 presents the best time to see a Venus-Jupiter conjunction in the evening for years to come. At mid-northern latitudes, these two brightest planets – Venus and Jupiter – stay out for nearly four hours after sunset. That’s about the longest period possible at these latitudes. You can’t miss these two worlds in the west as darkness falls.

    I know where I'll be come sunset March 15 :cool:.
  8. Perun

    Perun Stepping out bravely Staff Member

    I'd noticed those two close to each other for a few weeks now, but didn't know it was Venus and Jupiter. I could even see them in my area, although it is rife with light pollution. Makes you think and wonder about quite a few things.
  9. Dr. Eddies Wingman

    Dr. Eddies Wingman Brighter than thousand_suns

    I became curious the first day I observed them between the setting Sun and the Moon. I was pretty sure that the brightest one was Venus, but had to check a couple of astronomy sites to verify that the other one was Jupiter.
  10. Forostar

    Forostar Ancient Mariner

    *Blashyrkh Mighty Ravendark!*:shred:

    Sorry had to think about some anthemic black metal for some reason when I read that.
    Anyway, thanks for the tip, Nat! :)
  11. Onhell

    Onhell Infinite Dreamer

  12. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    And as predicted, I kind of forgot about this thread. But today I saw something kinda cool about giant turtles living in South America, 60 million years ago. Its just preliminary, so the full research hasn't been published yet, but it always amazes me how much diversity and how much change the earth and its inhabitants have gone through throughout the millenia.

    Check it out:
  13. Night Prowler

    Night Prowler CriedWhenBazzaSued Staff Member

  14. Perun

    Perun Stepping out bravely Staff Member

    I hope this will succeed. And I wish I could be there, among the settlers.

    Just imagine. The best I can hope for is to make a contribution to a minor field of science that may be considered authoritative for a couple of decades after my death. That is, if I am really, really good. If I was to be one of the first settlers on Mars, I'd be immortal. People of the upcoming millennia would imagine what it was like to be the first man on Mars and take inspiration from that. And would you have anything to lose? Once you enter that spaceship, you're leaving all behind. Sure you might miss your loved ones, but if they really are what you project into them, shouldn't they burst out in pride of you? And just think of it: No more insurance bills, no more standards of increasing absurdity you have to live up to, no more feeling inferior because others in your age boast their newly-born children or their maximum-wage jobs. And what is more, you could actually start to believe in mankind. You could believe that they are the crown of creation, that they are destined to a great future. You wouldn't stand in a crammed tube staring into gaping holes in the middle of ugly people's faces that stutter out inane and ill-considered words. You would no longer walk by bums looking for cigarette butts on the streets or drunks belching out primitive chants whenever their favourite football team scores a goal. You would no longer think to yourself, if seven million years of hominid evolution were worth it if it has come to this.

    You would know what those years are worth.
    Night Prowler likes this.
  15. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    I imagine the first Europeans to come to the "New World" might have felt something like this and look how that turned out.
  16. Crimson Idol

    Crimson Idol Caveman

    why oh why do they repeat mankinds mistakes? why!
  17. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member

    The pictures in this are way cool. Also, its funny how the concept of "6 billion years from now" is so hard for us humans to grasp that scientists actually feel the need to say that there's no need to take out insurance for the coming merger of our galaxy with Andromeda. I mean, in all likelihood in 6 billion years we won't be around, period.
    JudasMyGuide likes this.
  18. Natalie

    Natalie Insect of Terror Staff Member


    This could be the scientific discovery of the century or at least of the past 40 years! Lots of work remains to be done of course and they need to confirm that what they see (or detect more like) is actually a Boson and then put it all together in a concise way that helps make sense of the universe around us. I don't think this is the be all end all but I do think it is an absolutely pivotal step into a deeper understanding of our universe and how matter comes to be. Yay for science! :D
  19. Zare

    Zare sorry Zed

    ...or it could be a classic quantum mechanics result : it is a Higgs boson, and at the same time, it isn't. :D
    Fingers crossed, although if positive, it won't mean we'll know what the hell "mass" is, but where it comes from. An revolutionary step, never the less.

    In the face of skeptics and assholes that called for discontinuation of CERN's major experiments, "they cost too much".
    Today, I'm really proud of the fact that Yugoslavia was a CERN founding member.
    Natalie likes this.
  20. Perun

    Perun Stepping out bravely Staff Member

    Yeah, the tabloids are now rampant on how this is stuff that doesn't matter and how we don't benefit from it. An editor of Germany's biggest tabloid wrote the other day, "you scientists are annoying me with your protones, neutrones. Nobody understands it (...) I'm a normal person who lives on Earth." Another tabloid headlined, "God particle discovered - why should I care?"

    It just makes me sad to see this. I had a conversation about this with a friend of mine the other day, and the jist of it was that those people who mocked people like the Wright Brothers or Otto Lilienthal are the same ones who now complain if they can't get a flight to Mallorca for 50 Euros.

    It's days like these when you feel inclined to think that scientific progress is just pearls before swines.

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