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Thu July 5, 2012
From Collider to Collision: Week in Review
By far the biggest science news this week was the discovery (do you really get to call it that if you've been searching for the exact thing you find?) of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that gives matter mass. A quick Google search or perusal of your favorite news source will give you the salient details (plus a lot more). But you might not hit upon one of my favorite commentaries on the topic, from Cape Cod Times' Sean Gonsalves. It's as much about parenting as physics - a personal essay about Sean's hopes for his son, Sean Jr.
I want him to see the face of God. And, I want him to behold the "God particle" that has physicists more excited right now than an electron-absorbing photon.
There's enough rappers and athletes in this world already, for the love of Pete Higgs. I want him to be a truth-seeker in both religion and science and inculcate him with the spirit of empathy and empiricism.
Lofty goals for any parent. Best of luck, Sean!
Elsewhere in the news, the National Science Foundation announced that a team of scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Maine, and University of Washington have figured out what's behind massive algal blooms that happen in the North Atlantic every spring and summer.
Whirlpools, or eddies, swirl across the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean sustaining phytoplankton in the ocean's shallower waters where they can get plenty of sunlight to fuel their growth, keeping them from being pushed downward by the ocean's rough surface.
The result is a burst of spring and summer color atop the ocean's waters.
You've got to check out the photo gallery. But keep in mind these blooms aren't just beautiful when viewed from space. They're also major players in the global carbon cycle. So figuring out how they work is big news ... or it should be, anyway.
News that Cape Wind developers are beginning a detailed seafloor survey caught my eye not so much because of the political or economic ramifications (first concrete step toward construction!), but because it means we'll learn a little bit more about the seafloor right off our own coast - a place that is too poorly understood, in my humble opinion. I, for one, will be interested to learn what's out there, particularly whether there are artifacts from native tribes who may have lived there thousands of years ago when glaciers still had enough of the world's water locked up to make Nantucket Sound dry land. Still not convinced seafloor mapping is cool? Here are five reasons seafloor maps are important for everyone.
Looking for something to do this weekend? How about a dance performance inspired by cell biology?
HIT is a collaboration between cell biologist David Odde and Carl Flink, artistic director for Black Label Movement. The pair have been working together - and learning from each other - for three years now.
Odde realized that having movers represent a cell-biological process is much faster (and less tedious) than creating a computer simulation, which can take months. “We started to explore the idea of using dancers to literally embody our scientific hypotheses, in order to quickly convey them to other people,” Odde says. “We call it bodystorming,” which is like brainstorming ideas, but using actual bodies.
They also found themselves entering bracing new territory for dance. In “HIT,” which focuses on a cellular process called “microtubule catastrophe,” the dancers were asked to experience the “stochastic, violent pulling and pushing dynamics of molecules in a cell,” Odde says. This led to arresting movement and musical dynamics; the dance is strange but beautiful and compelling. But it also meant Flink had to develop “impact techniques” for the dancers so they could careen and collide without getting injured.
Free lecture-demonstration, Sunday at 4pm in the MBL Club in Woods Hole.