Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Science’

A very bright and massive star rejoins the cosmos: Stephen Hawking, 76.

March 14, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

We mourn the loss of a man whose physical body was bound to a wheelchair, but whose mind encompassed universes. And while his death is deeply felt, we must also celebrate his sheer grit and tenacity. Stephen Hawking was not expected to live more than two years after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He lived another half-century.

The cosmos is bigger and more wonderful because he told us so. He taught us that the mind need not be bound by time and space. We should name stars after him. Galaxies. Universes.

His obituary.

Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis from 1966

Proof that no one can drive safely while texting

June 22, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Science, Technology No Comments →

So there you are, driving to school or work or whatever when your phone buzzes. “I’ll just look at my phone for one second,” you think. “It will only be a second and I should be fine—right?” Wrong.

Let’s say you are traveling at some speed v and you take just one second to glance at your phone. That is one second that you are not looking at the road. What happens during that one second? First, let me define average velocity (in one dimension—I add that because I hate being technically wrong).

In this definition, ?x represents the change in position and ?t represents the time interval. Please stop saying velocity is distance over time—that is only sometimes true. In this case, I know the time interval is one second. If I solve this equation for the change in position, I get:


Albert Einstein on our mightiest weapon

June 19, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, History, Science No Comments →

In a long life I have devoted all my faculties to reach a somewhat deeper insight into the structure of physical reality. Never have I made any systematic effort to ameliorate the lot of men, to fight injustice and suppression, and to improve the traditional forms of human relations. The only thing I did was this: in long intervals I have expressed an opinion on public issues whenever they appeared to me so bad and unfortunate that silence would have made me feel guilty of complicity.

Read about Einstein and the duties of the individual in Brain Pickings.

Get enough sleep, people! Sleep problems can make you sick.

March 16, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

If you caught the first episode of Trippies (Thank you! Replays on CNN Philippines today at 1230pm and Saturday at 11am), you may recall how Pepe and I, two non-athletic people, wondered what Olympic-level skills we have. Mine is sleeping. I can sleep through anything. Sometimes on long-haul flights I’m asleep before take-off. I seriously believe that writing gets done during sleep, when the brain is resting and free to work out the details.

Given today’s 24-hour work schedules and omnipresent gadgetry, more and more people are having trouble sleeping. I’ve noticed that the rare occasions I cannot fall asleep are when my brain won’t shut up (After I’ve seen an excellent movie and cannot stop thinking about it, or after I’ve finished a piece of writing and cannot stop criticizing it). Sleep experts tell us to turn off our screens, but I find that playing videos I’ve already seen helps me to zone out and eventually lose consciousness. Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Seinfeld, which by now I have memorized, help me to fall asleep. Also BBC documentaries.

Sometimes I really cannot fall asleep, so I accept that sleep has eluded me, pick up a book, and resolve to go to bed early the following day.

Clinicians have long known that there is a strong link between sleep, sunlight and mood. Problems sleeping are often a warning sign or a cause of impending depression, and can make people with bipolar disorder manic. Some 15 years ago, Dr. Francesco Benedetti, a psychiatrist in Milan, and colleagues noticed that hospitalized bipolar patients who were assigned to rooms with views of the east were discharged earlier than those with rooms facing the west — presumably because the early morning light had an antidepressant effect.

The notion that we can manipulate sleep to treat mental illness has also been around for many years. Back in the late 1960s, a German psychiatrist heard about a woman in Tübingen who was hospitalized for depression and claimed that she normally kept her symptoms in check by taking all-night bike rides. He subsequently demonstrated in a group of depressed patients that a night of complete sleep deprivation produced an immediate, significant improvement in mood in about 60 percent of the group.

Read Yes, Your Sleep Schedule Is Making You Sick

When we start colonizing other planets, what are the rules?

March 02, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

What are the protocols? Will we abide by the Prime Directive? But there’s no United Federation of Planets yet. Ugh will orange billionaires get their little hands on the new worlds?

An artist’s interpretation of a human colony on Mars. (NASA AMES)

If humans were to land on Mars and were somehow lethally threatened by Martians, should humans attack the Martians? In his personal opinion, Lee says the answer would be yes. “If at some point it came down to either me or the microbe on Mars that’s going to survive, I’m probably not going to hesitate,” he says.

Yet these are not simple questions to address, and are not within the realm of the Haughton Mars Project to answer. The International Council for Science, consisting of 142 countries, has organized a Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) to help answer some of these questions and a United Nations Outer Space Treaty, in place since 1967, also helps streamline some of the ethical and legal implications that this issue raises.

But the treaty is meant to protect the safety of humans and scientific evidence of life on other planets, not to protect the environments or ecosystems of those planets. Moreover, the contents of the treaty are just guidelines: They are not laws, and the legal implications of not following them remain unclear, says Catharine Conley, head officer at NASA’s Planetary Protection Office.

Read it in Smithsonian.

The Outer Space Treaty provides the basic framework on international space law, including the following principles:

the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner;
the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes;
astronauts shall be regarded as the envoys of mankind;
States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and
States shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

If you’re disappointed in your species, here’s a story to give you hope (and clean your tear ducts)

December 09, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Science 5 Comments →

The Coma Cluster of Galaxies from the NASA APOD Archive.

Allora & Calzadilla collaborated with author Ted Chiang on their video installation The Great Silence, which centers on the world’s largest radio telescope in Esperanza, Puerto Rico— home to the last remaining population of a critically endangered species of parrots, Amazona vittata.

(I copy my favorite writing into a notebook, hoping to figure out how they were created.)

The Arecibo telescope, from the National Geographic.


Endangered Puerto Rican parrot ceremonially released at the new flight cage of the flight cages at the Iguaca Aviary.	Saturday	Photo by Tom MacKenzie
Amazona vittata photo by Tom MacKenzie from Wikimedia Commons.



Continue reading The Great Silence.