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n1vux (1492)

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Only started with Perl4 and Perl5 in 1995. I was doing AWK etc for 12 years before that, and resisted switching. I've been doing OO since before C++ hit bigtime, with Objective-C and SmallTalk, so I really like the (no longer new) Perl5 OO style; and the Lispish Map style is also an old friend. What do I hack with Perl? All data that passes my way; systems monitoring scripts at $DayJob, weather data at night, and I cheat on NPR word puzzles. Member: [] [] /. LinkedIn []

N1VUX is my FCC-issued ham radio callsign.

Journal of n1vux (1492)

Monday July 11, 2005
03:15 PM

Science News

[ #25643 ]
African grey parrot is first bird to comprehend numerical concept akin to zero
«A Brandeis Univesity researcher has shown that an African grey parrot with a walnut-sized brain understands a zero-like concept -- an abstract notion that humans don't typically understand until age 3 or 4, and that can significantly challenge learning-disabled children.»

This is harder than one might expect -- it took a long time for Zero to be accepted in Western mathematics. See, for instance, The History of Zero: Exploring Our Place-Value Number System , or The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero .

 - Brandeis University & the Alex Foundation ; Journal of Comparative Psychology ;
via EurekAlert and World Science News and Primidi ;
and also Science Daily, and Google News

Is my red your red?
«Does society determine the way you see a rainbow? New findings are re-igniting an old controversy.»

Nice comparitive 2d color map in the linked summary. This debate has been running for 35 years -- interestingly, Paul Kay is cited as the original in color Relativism , so could be significant that he's a co-author in the non-relativist paper, but his 1969 title was "Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution" , so maybe the relativists took him out of context?

Debi  Roberson (University of Essex in Colchester, U.K), J. Davidoff, I.R. Davies, L.R. Shapiro, 2005.
Color categories: Evidence for the cultural relativity hypothesis . Cognitive Psychology. 50, 378-411.
Terry Regier (U.Chicago), Paul Kay (ICSI), R.S. Cook, 2005.
Focal colors are universal after all . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102, 8386-91.

ICSI's World Color Survey.

Why Is The Sky Blue, and Not Violet?
«The hues that we see in the sky are not only determined by the laws of physics, but are also colored by the human visual system, shows a new paper in the American Journal of Physics. On a clear day when the sun is well above the horizon, the analysis demonstrates, we perceive the complex spectrum of colors in the sky as a mixture of white light and pure blue. When sunlight enters the earth's atmosphere, it scatters (ricochets) mainly from oxygen and nitrogen molecules that make up most of our air. What scatters the most is the light with the shortest wavelengths, towards the blue end of the spectrum, so more of that light will reach our eyes than other colors. But according to the 19th-century physics equations introduced by Lord Rayleigh, as well as actual measurements, our eyes get hit with peak amounts of energy in violet as well as blue. [...]

The sky's complex multichromatic rainbow of colors tickles our eye's cones in the same way as does a specific mixture of pure blue and white light. This is similar to how the human visual system will perceive the right mixture of pure red and pure green as being equivalent to pure yellow. The cones that allow us to see color cannot identify the actual wavelengths that hit them, but if they are stimulated by the right combination of wavelengths, then it will appear the same to our eyes as a single pure color, or a mixture of a pure color and white light. »


- American Journal of Physics, July 2005, via AIP Physics News Update

Scientists get a real 'rise' out of breakthroughs in how we understand changes in sea level
«For the first time, researchers have the tools and expertise to understand the rate at which sea level is changing and the mechanisms that drive that change. ...
“We’ve found that the largest likely factor for sea level rise is changes in the amount of ice that covers Earth. Three-fourths of the planet’s freshwater is stored in glaciers and ice sheets, or about 220 feet of sea level." ...
The latest sea level research conducted by Dr. Steve Nerem, Associate Professor, Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and his colleagues, published in a 2004 issue of Marine Geodesy Journal, has found that recent TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason satellite observations show an average increase in global mean sea level of three millimeters a year from 1993-2005. This rate is more than 50 percent greater than the average rate of the last 50 years. »

- Comment

- NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office via EurekAlert  

NASA offers a real-time 3-D look at the inside of hurricanes
«Seeing how rain falls from top to bottom and how heavy the rain falls throughout parts of a tropical cyclone is very important to hurricane forecasters. NASA has sped up the process of getting this data within three hours, and making it appear in 3-D. The new process now gives information quickly enough for forecasters to use.»

- Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission or TRMM provided some astonishing view of H.Bonnie last year. They're providing similar views in near-real-time to tropical forecasters now.

- NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center--EOS Project Science Office ( ) via EurekAlert

NRL study finds shuttle exhaust is source of mysterious clouds in Antarctica
«A new study, funded in part by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reports that exhaust from the space shuttle can create high-altitude clouds over Antarctica mere days following launch, providing valuable insight to global transport processes in the lower thermosphere. The same study also finds that the shuttle's main engine exhaust plume carries small quantities of iron that can be observed from the ground, half a world away.»

- Days before the next Shuttle launch, they're still getting new science from the ill-fated Columbia. 
"Antarctic polar mesospheric clouds (PMCs)" or Noctilucent clouds form over the antarctic only days later, showing pretty rapid transport in the thermosphere, and bloomed later in the year.

- Naval Research Laboratory, NASA , Geophysical Research Letters,  via EurekAlert 

Experts Explore Science's Unanswered Questions
«Four AAAS symposia tackle overpopulation, string theory, the causes of disease, and what makes us human »

- Science Magazine has full discussion of 25 top questions and 100 more listed.

AAAS Science magazine

Simplifying a Nutty Problem -- The Brazil-Nut Problem.
« Swirling marbles may give clues to why larger nuts tend to float to the top of the can. »

Includes do-it-yourself experiment link! 

- via AAAS Science magazine 

A Coulomb Experiment for the Weak Nuclear Force
«Physicists at the SLAC accelerator have measured, with much greater precision than ever before, the variation in the weak nuclear force, one of the four known physical forces, over an enormous size scale (a distance of more than ten proton diameters) for so feeble a force. Although the results were not surprising (the weak force diminished with distance as expected) this new quantitative study of the weak force helps to cement physicists’ view of the sub-nuclear world. ... The SLAC work is, in effect, a 21st century analog of the landmark 18th experiments in which the intrinsic strength of the electromagnetic and gravitational forces were measured (by Charles Coulomb and Henry Cavendish, respectively) through careful observation of test objects causing a torsion balance to swing around. The weak force, in the modern way of thinking, is a cousin of the electromagnetic (EM) force; both of them are considered as different aspects of a single “electroweak” force.  »

Reuse of a classic experimental design to measure a radically expression of a related force. This experiment indirectly measures the weak force by measuring a parity violation. 

- Slac, via AIP Physics News Update

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