Fractaled Atlas

By Maryam Zaringhalam, @thisisartlab fractals in nature. snail shell // milky way // leaf veins // motor neuron No matter where we look in the natural world, we are sure to find recurring patterns. As a result, natural scientists devote their careers to [humbly] attempt to find and define these very patterns. The most abundant of these natural motifs is arguably the fractal—a geometric structure that can be subdivided into smaller parts that look roughly similar to the whole. Take the branching pattern of the veins on a leaf as an example: zoom into one of those branches, and you'll find that it's reminiscent of the overarching branching structure // zoom into one of those branches' branches and you'll find the same thing... over and over again! At their core, fractals are simply the geometric result of repeating the same pattern over and over at a smaller and smaller scale—increasingly tiny patterns within a greater overarching motif. But fractals are the ultimate paradox. Though they are built on simple repetitions, they are infinitely complex. You can subdivide // zoom in // subdivide // zoom in and you'll still see the same [or similar] patterns emerging and repeating with

The Fine Li(n)e

By Simona Giunta Science communication faces stiff challenges with the blurring of boundaries between public and private science and the fragmentation of audiences. (Jean-Francois Podevin/Science Photo Library) 'A scientist, in a broad sense, is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge'.  Scientist Definition: Wikipedia Is the universe expanding or contracting? How did life on Earth begin? How does damaged DNA get repaired? These are all tough questions for scientists, but are they the toughest?  Actually, no. One question I have always dreaded as a scientist is: “What exactly do you do?” There are two reasons why this seemingly simple question is actually very complicated to answer.  The first reason is that scientists often struggle to explain their research in lay terms. For many scientists, breaking down highly technical information in simple terms is an exercise akin to sending a probe to Mars! The second problem is the low science literacy rates in the US. For instance, terms like ‘DNA’ and ‘proteins,’ which are widely used by mass media, are neither fully understood nor appreciated by the public. Whose fault is this? Circle back to the first reason! So, how did I handle the dreaded question? “I’m a

Happy Pi Day!

By Laura Seeholzer Happy Pi Day!  It's a fact A ratio immutable Of circle round and width Produces geometry's deepest conundrum For as the numerals stay random No repeat lets out its presence Yet it forever stretches forth Nothing to eternity. - David Saul and Danielle Mathieson  Can you figure out the pattern in this piem (pi + poem - us math geeks love wordplay)? Remember, pi = 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028... It is not a coincidence that the first word word of the poem has 3 letters, the second word has 1 letter, the third has 4 letters, etc.  People use piems as mnemonics (piphilology) to memorize the digits of pi. However, if you want to memorize large sequences of pi, I would recommend more creative methods. Currently, Lu Chao holds the world record for number of digits recited. Over the course of 24 hours and 4 minutes he recited 67,890 digits of pi. There were no bathroom breaks because the Guinness Book of World Records mandates that you only have 15 seconds between numbers. The youngest pi competitor, so far, is a three-year-old girl, Grace Hare, who recited 31 digits! What a feat. I’m excited when I correctly recite my nine

Tesla Coils are Cool

By Emily Dennis, @emilyjanedennis I watch a lot of hockey. As a Detroit Red Wings fan, I know that The Joe is the best hockey rink: it has the best music, the best zamboni guy, the best octopi traditions, and the best players. So, I can't believe I'm saying this, but the Tampa Bay Lightning has the best goal-celebration in sports. Whenever the amazing Steven Stamkos or one of his teammates score a goal, this happens: That is a Tesla coil. The Tesla coil is named after its inventor, Nikola Tesla. In the late 1800s, Tesla and Thomas Edison were both working on competing forms of electricity. Tesla worked on alternating current (AC), a current that changes direction at an imperceptible speed: 60 times a second! Edison invented a device to supply direct current (DC) power, the kind of power that flows in one direction, like a battery. Lucky for us, Tesla won this “War of Currents” and we now have AC power in our homes. DC power isn’t as good for our modern needs because the farther it travels, the less efficient it gets. It’s also significantly harder to increase and decrease the voltage of DC power than AC

The Incubator Celebrating International Women’s Day – March 8th, 2013

Bees Are Cool

By Emily Dennis, @emilyjanedennis  Bees are cool. In the early 1900s, researchers like the tremendous Karl von Frisch noticed that when a group of bees gets too big, the queen will lay eggs and then leave the hive, bringing with her 10,000 of the worker bees. These bees swarm on a branch for several hours, or even days. Then, they all fly off at the same time and head toward their new home. Until 2010, the way the bees make this collective decision was a mystery. Recently, we discovered that the swarm sends out scouts to collect information and then ‘debate’ about which site is best. At the end of this process, they all agree on one site and then fly there to build their new home. When I first heard about this, I wanted to know how scientists figured it out. It’s really difficult to do experiments with bees because they need miles of space to fly around. To get around this problem, the research team, led by Dr. Thomas Seeley, did their experiments on an island that didn’t have any good natural homes for the bees. This allowed them to set up artificial bee homes of different qualities

Notes in the Margin: The Library of the Future

By Carol Feltes (Source: Yes! Somebody “gets” it…The library of the future. The changing technological landscape is changing the way we share, process, and store information, and libraries are evolving to match this change. Tim O’Reilly’s blog  Tools for Change in Publishing (TOC) is exactly what it’s name implies, and the January 29 issue features a great post under Kat and Joe’s column Must Reads: “Bookless Bibliotechs.”   They comment on a new report that celebrates the emerging library of the 21th century – a place not of books, but of knowledge.   The study, by the Pew Research Center, can be found here (excerpt below). The internet has already had a major impact on how people find and access information, and now the rising popularity of e-books is helping transform Americans’ reading habits. In this changing landscape, public libraries are trying to adjust their services to these new realities while still serving the needs of patrons who rely on more traditional resources. In a new survey of Americans’ attitudes and expectations for public libraries, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project finds that many library patrons are eager to see libraries’ digital services expand, yet also feel

Notes in the Margin: Moonbird

By Carol Feltes For the birders among us….. Here is a good read suitable for the layman.  Moonbird  by Phillip Hoose is the story of the rufa red knot. Regional birders know that, for many migratory birds traveling the eastern flyway, areas of the New Jersey shore are important stopping places.  The red knot (subspecies rufa), a medium sized shorebird, is eagerly watched for in the spring by New Jersey birders. The Red Knot is facing severe challenges from human impacts on the environment as well as reduced food availability.  Since 1995, populations have fallen by 80%.  Moonbird examines the challenges the red knot faces around the hemisphere, and introduces us to the group of scientists and conservationists working to ameliorate the problems, and assures the future of shore birds.   These views are the work of individual authors, do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of The Rockefeller University, and are not approved or endorsed by The Rockefeller University.

Evolution by Aesthetic Design

By Maryam Zaringhalam, @thisisartlab Biological evolution is the change in gene frequencies in populations over successive generations through forces like mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. But at its most basic conceptual level, evolution is simply change over time. Since life is not stagnant, but perpetually moving forward, we can make analogies between evolution and just about anything we experience. But how can we use these analogies to glean something meaningful about our experiences? In an experiment called DarwinTunes, bioinformatician Robert MacCallum at Imperial College London put the analogy into practice in an attempt to evolve music from noise.  By applying basic evolutionary principles, he hoped to gain some insight into what aural // aesthetic forces underlie audience experience of music. For musical evolution to proceed, MacCullum and his team first generated a population of noises—the origin for [Darwinian] musicality to come. Because the origin of life was devoid of any human intervention, they used an algorithm to generate a series of computer programs, or "digital genomes," thereby limiting their influence on the generative process. Just as our DNA genomes hold all the information needed to build us, each program specifies how to build a particular short sound loop by determining

Jumping species: How HIV entered our world

By Laura Seeholzer Monkey poop: a scientific goldmine Have you ever wondered what mysteries primate poop could unlock? No? Me neither. But luckily, Dr. Beatrice Hahn did. Dr. Hahn was deeply curious about the origin and evolution of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) so, naturally, her path lead to poop. Don’t see the connection? Well, during Dr. Hahn’s recent visit to The Rockefeller University, she walked us down the poop path toward some astounding conclusions. Why monkeys? When HIV was identified in 1983, researchers almost immediately suspected that the virus came from non-human primates. This suspicion was heightened when a team of researchers found AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the fatal final stage of HIV, in a captive colony of macaque monkeys. Over the last two decades, Dr. Hahn’s team has shown that HIV originated in a sub-species of chimpanzee. But how did they solve this mystery? HIV in Humans HIV is diagnosed in humans by looking for antibodies against the virus in the blood and saliva. When infectious agents like viruses or bacteria enter our body, our immune system generates antibodies that help destroy the invaders. Importantly, each of the thousands of antibodies we make generally recognizes one type