A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Citizen Science - science by and for the people

Credit: Gettyimages

Through citizen science, ordinary people can take part in extraordinary research

While the story of science is full of larger-than-life figures such as Marie Skłodowska-Curie or Albert Einstein, not everybody can win a Nobel Prize for their individual insights.

But working together as part of a community with professionals, citizen scientists can play an important part in genuine scientific discovery, experiments, data collection and analysis.

Through citizen science, ordinary people can take part in extraordinary research.

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Great Art Explained

Credit: The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, 1907-08, via Wikipedia

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Paintings are visual mysteries, which are often difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to be verbally described. They use a language that aims to our perception and could include otherwise mutually excluding elements. For example, there are many debates about one of the most popular pictures of all time – "The Kiss" - painted by the most prominent member of the Vienna Secession movement – Gustav Klimt. Is it showing a romantic consumption of love between a man and a woman, or maybe the woman is turning her head away from the thrusting advances of the lover? We could only wonder. Like many other painters, Gustav Klimt hasn't left an explanation for that question and many other of his pictures and murals. Once he said: "If you want to know me better, just look at my pictures" and that is what we do.

Below you can enjoy a short but elucidating video explaining "The Kiss" and the art of Gustav Klimt.

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Did you know that?

Credit: @neilrkaye

The most popular geographical map is highly inaccurate

Maps are of great importance not only for orientation but also for shaping our perception of the world. Comparing the size of countries is one of the favorite games of young pupils. Which one is the largest continent, or the biggest country? And on the contrary, which are the smallest ones? The depiction of the world, we have all seen in Geography classes, on paper maps, and in more recent days, on Google Maps and many similar applications, is actually distorted. This is true, especially when speaking of the northern hemisphere. The size of almost all countries in the north of the equator is represented as bigger than it is. The northern we get, the more deviation we have. However, in terms of guiding our journeys from point A to point B, the map works perfectly well. How is that possible, and why?

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Simulated human eye movement aims to train metaverse platforms

Credit: Hendrike

Engineers have developed "virtual eyes" that closely mimic human eye behavior

U.S. National Science Foundation grantee computer engineers based at Duke University have developed virtual eyes that simulate how humans look at the world. The virtual eyes are accurate enough for companies to train virtual reality and augmented reality applications.

"The aims of the project are to provide improved mobile augmented reality by using the Internet of Things to source additional information, and to make mobile augmented reality more reliable and accessible for real-world applications," said Prabhakaran Balakrishnan, a program director in NSF's Division of Information and Intelligent Systems.

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Brainy Quotes to Reflect on

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5 quotes by Jacques Lacan that will blow your logic

1. "I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think. I am not whenever I am the plaything of my thought; I think of what I am where I do not think to think."

2. "...Desire, a function central to all human experience, is the desire for nothing nameable. And at the same time, this desire lies at the origin of every variety of animation. If being were only what it is, there wouldn't even be room to talk about it. Being comes into existence as an exact function of this lack."

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Expand your imagination with the books of Italo Calvino

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Italo Giovanni Calvino Mameli

Italo Calvino (15 October 1923 – 19 September 1985) was an Italian writer and journalist. Part of the literary movement Oulipo. He is best known for his fiction works Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter's night a traveler (1979). Yet another work that deserves to be mentioned here is his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, an essayistic account, published posthumously by his wife Esther Judith Singer. Calvino is one of the most refined examples of elaborated, imaginal, intense, and beautifully performed fiction. His style is concise and fragmentary, weaved by vivid imagery and a metaphysical atmosphere where reality and fantasy merge into a higher state of existence.

Enjoy two excerpts from his magnificent and extravagant prose.

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Friday Science Jokes

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The International Joke day

There is a saying that every day one should learn something new. Well, that is quite right. However, we should put some detail to that proposition. It is not just something new but some new joke. Even physicians can't deny that jokes are good and wholesome both for your health and mental performance. There is something more. Today is the day that all the tricksters and jokers around the world have been waiting for one year. We should honor that patience and give all of us a joke treat. Not just a joke treat. It comes from arguably the most difficult category – Science Jokes. So, enjoy your scientific treat and have a pleasant weekend.

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A green ‘sea change’ as water transport makes its move

'Flying' Seabubbles boat on a test run in Lake Geneva. © Axel Phélipon

Zero-emission water transport

All aboard! Europe's ferry industry has set sail for an emissions-free future. It's leading the eco-friendly revolution with electric and hydrogen-powered boats that are destined to make urban transport more sustainable.

In just a few months' time, passengers in Stavanger, Norway, will be able to begin commuting on a revolutionary ferry that doesn't produce any greenhouse gas emissions. Called Medstraum, which means both "to go with the flow" and "with electricity" in Norwegian, it will be the first high-speed vessel in the world that runs purely on electric power, replacing a diesel-powered ferry that currently shuttles people to surrounding islands.

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On this date, 169 years ago

Credit: Vincent van Gogh, a part of Self-Portrait, oil on board, 1887; via Wikipedia

Vincent Van Gogh was born

Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch painter considered part of the Post-impressionist movement. He created more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings, most of which were painted in the last two years of his life. Subjects of his pictures were landscapes, still life, portrait, and self-portraits. Van Gogh's paintings are distinctive with their bold, vivid, and contrasting colors. They are characterized by expressive brushwork and a dramatic, intensive atmosphere.

He became one of the most influential figures for Modern art and Western art ever since his late posthumous recognition at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, his paintings are some of the most expensive in the world. Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" sold for $82.5 million and "Irises" for $53.9 million.

Paradoxically, during his life, he wasn't commercially successful at all. He was able to indulge in painting mostly thanks to his brother Theo, who supported him and his art financially and believed in his talent despite the lack of public acceptance of Van Gogh's paintings. During his life, he struggled with poverty, suffered from severe depression, and his extravagant, even weird social appearance.
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What Can't Be Predicted in Physic? – Seth Lloyd

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Why do we believe in Science?

Have you ever asked yourself: Why do we believe so blindly in science? Why is it that nowadays, we think scientific discourse holds the truth or at least is capable of disclosing it? Well, maybe you do not share this belief but it is nevertheless the predominant point of view in the 21st century and surely, it deserves some critical attention. Of course, there are many reasons and as many opinions why to believe in science. However, maybe the most attractive part of science, which is also undeniably beneficial and empowering for humankind, is the ability to predict.

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Sailing into interstellar space

Credit: Masumi Shibata, courtesy of Breakthrough Initiatives

One of humanity's earliest inventions could be the key to safe interstellar travel

U.S. National Science Foundation grantee astronomers based at The University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles concluded that if spacecraft are to withstand interstellar travel, a laser-powered light sail that billows during acceleration and can endure the light of a million suns is a key requirement. The team, inspired by sailboats and parachutes, undertook the task of designing a prototype interstellar sail.

The principle behind the size, shape and material is to create a sail made of nanoscopically thin material. It would include an array of powerful lasers, carry a microchip-sized probe, and travel at a fifth of the speed of light -- fast enough to travel to Alpha Centauri in about 20 years instead of the 80,000 years it would take a rocket to make the trip.

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Thoughts to reflect on: Murakami

Credit: lithub.com

Haruki Murakami

"According to Aristophanes in Plato's The Banquet, in the ancient world of legend, there were three types of people.
In ancient times people weren't simply male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female, or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everyone in half, right down the middle. So after that, the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing half."
Kafka on the Shore

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10 Quotes about Science, Art and Knowledge that will provoke your convictions

Credit: Gettyimages

When single thought becomes broader than a book

1. Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway.

-Mary Kay Ash

2. Geologists have a saying - rocks remember.

-Neil Armstrong

3. A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

-Max Planck

4. The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.

-Paul Valery

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Carl Jung - Ending Your Inner Civil War

Credit: Carl Jung in 1910, via Wikipedia

A passage of Carl Jung's writings read by Alan Watts

The English philosopher Alan Watts was a great admirer of Carl Gustav Jung's work. Watts was immersed in Eastern philosophy and was one of the greatest promoters and translators of the wisdom of the Orient for Western audiences. Carl Jung was also a tremendous explorer of Eastern traditions. This is certainly a link that connects the two thinkers but what really ties them is their interest in the existential challenges met by each individual, the connections between the conscious and the unconscious parts of the psyche.

One of the most popular components of Jung's work is the so-called shadow. That is the personification of all the repressed complexes and problems, which are thrown in the deepest parts of the human unconscious. The shadow is the first ordeal one should meet if he wants to take on the path of the individuation (another Jungian term, which means becoming one with the true self, self-realization, or the integration of the unconscious into the consciousness). If a person fears the acquaintance with the hidden and repressed contents, qualities, and tendencies locked in his shadow, then he enters into a state of inner civil war. Such a situation could be resolved not by condemnation of what is seen as undesirable parts of the unconscious but by accepting and integrating them until the moment of realization that they are not necessarily ominous, malevolent features but inhibited parts of one's own personality.

In the 6o's, Alan Watts was leading a radio show, and he read a passage of Jung's works after the death of the latter. Now, you can enjoy the illuminating force of two great minds - the thought of Carl Jung with the voice of Alan Watts.

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Elderly care? Bring in the robots!

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Welcome to the future of Robotics

Robots have come a long way. For years they have been supporting human activity – enabling exploration in dangerous and unreachable environments like out in space and deep in the oceans. A new generation of robots are being designed to stay closer to home – caring for ageing adults and young children.

In the not-too-distant future, elderly people who live alone may be reminded to take their medicine, have books read to them, and be offered a metaphorical, shoulder to cry on - by a robot.

As Europe's ageing population places increasing strain on healthcare services – with the share of older people in the total population expected to increase significantly in the coming decades – robots could provide a useful solution.

Several robots are being developed as companions to help the aged live independently for longer.

'Robotics are essential for the health sector and for older adults because in 20 to 30 years' time there's not going to be enough people to take care of the ageing population,' said Estibaliz Arzoz-Fernandez, project manager and deputy coordinator of a joint EU-Japan project called ACCRA.

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The Hidden Troves of Etymology

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What are the origins of the name Europe?

Often, we do not ask ourselves for the origins of words that we use on a daily basis. That is especially valid, for the most common ones like the names of days, months, and countries? That applies to the same degree when speaking about the continents although they are only seven. Today, we are going to take a look at a name we all have heard – Europe.

 We find it recorded first in a Homeric hymn to Apollo from 522 B.C.E. or earlier. It says: "Telphusa, here I am minded to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich Peloponnesus and those of Europe and all the wave-washed isles, coming to seek oracles." 

But what are the etymological roots of the word? It is widely considered that, as above-mentioned, Europe derives from the Ancient Greek language. It consists of two morphemes: urys "wide" + ops "face," or "eye", literally "broad face," or "wide-gazing" as a suitable description of Europe's mainland and broad shoreline as seen from the shipboard perspective of the maritime Greeks.

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Confessions of a former fireball - how Earth became habitable

Credit: Simone Marchi/Southwest Research Institute

New theory to explain how Earth transformed into a planet capable of sustaining life

Researchers at Yale and Caltech have a bold new theory to explain how Earth transformed itself from a fiery, carbon-clouded ball of rocks into a planet capable of sustaining life.

The theory covers Earth's earliest years and involves "weird" rocks that interacted with seawater in just the right way to nudge biological matter into existence.

"This period is the most enigmatic time in Earth history," said Jun Korenaga of Yale and co-author of a new study in the journal Nature. "We're presenting the most complete theory, by far, for Earth's first 500 million years." The study's first author is Yoshinori Miyazaki of Caltech. The research was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Most scientists believe that Earth began with an atmosphere much like that of the planet Venus. Its skies were filled with carbon dioxide -- more than 100,000 times the current level of atmospheric carbon -- and Earth's surface temperature would have exceeded 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Biological life would have been unable to form, much less survive, under such conditions, scientists agree.

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Thoughts to reflect on: Borges

Credit: Borges in 1979; Gettyimages

Jorge Luis Borges

1. "A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art."

2. "So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers."

3. "When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation."

4. "Heaven and hell seem out of proportion to me: the actions of men do not deserve so much."

5. "A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships."

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The Polish Nightmare Artist

Credit: Zdzisław Beksiński, 1996,  fot. Wojciech Druszcz / EAST NEWS.

Zdzisław Beksiński

When referring to dark, nightmarish artists, people often cite Giger, or Francis Bacon (the painter), and their alternative macabre perception of the world. The first with his frustrating fusion of body and machine, and the latter, with the permeating anxiety of his blurry expressionistic figures caught in their existential dreadful scream. Truly, two scary examples of fine art. However, today we are going to focus on one artist, which is maybe less known but certainly, he completes the atmosphere of horrifying artistic beauty - Zdzisław Beksiński (24 February 1929 – 21 February 2005). He was a Polish painter, photographer, and sculptor. He is mainly known for his dystopian surrealistic imagery of death, decay, fleshy skeletons, bleak deserts, apocalyptic architecture, and synthesis of bodies and objects. Although his pictures are depressing and dark, they evoke a state of contemplation and thoughts about the nature of life and how do we use our time on the planet, what is our attitude to each other. Critics are often seduced by the idea to interpret his art as a reflection of the turbulent ages that he lived in. However, Beksiński remained unrelenting in his conviction that his paintings don't need any words to dismantle their meaning. Furthermore, he even abstained from giving his pieces any title. They are rather dreamlike visions for visual perception and meditation.

Below you could take a look and decide for yourselves.

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How scientists are ‘looking’ inside asteroids

The shape of asteroids such as 243 Ida can reveal information about what they're made of, which can, in turn, tell us more about the formation of the solar system. Image credit - NASA/JPL/USGS

Asteroids - treasure troves of knowledge

Asteroids can pose a threat to life on Earth but are also a valuable source of resources to make fuel or water to aid deep space exploration. Devoid of geological and atmospheric processes, these space rocks provide a window onto the evolution of the solar system. But to really understand their secrets, scientists must know what's inside them.

Only four spacecraft have ever landed on an asteroid – most recently in October 2020 – but none has peered inside one. Yet understanding the internal structures of these cosmic rocks is crucial for answering key questions about, for example, the origins of our own planet.

'Asteroids are the only objects in our solar system that are more or less unchanged since the very beginning of the solar system's formation,' said Dr Fabio Ferrari, who studies asteroid dynamics at the University of Bern, Switzerland. 'If we know what's inside asteroids, we can understand a lot about how planets formed, how everything that we have in our solar system has formed and might evolve in the future.'

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SSA Recent Posts

22 June 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Jean Louis Théodore Géricault – The Raft of the Medusa (Museo Del Louvre, 1818-19); via Wikipedia The unrecognized genius Do you know which is the second most popular painting in the Louvre museum, second only to Mona Lina? If not, maybe you ...
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20 June 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Gettyimages Making connections requires brain circuits to be active and interact during sleep Relational memory is the ability to remember arbitrary or indirect associations between objects, places, people or events -- such as names and faces...
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17 June 2022
Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
Credit: Cortada.com Xavier Cortada's Public Art Over the past three decades, Cortada has created art across six continents including more than one hundred and fifty (150) public artworks and dozens of collaborative murals and socially engaged project...
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