Psych of Science: Hello World

Hello, world. ūüôā I’m filing this post under a new category on Is Nerd called¬†Psych of Science. A¬†dull name but it’ll do. This category will host my¬†personal reflections on the science in the stories I’ve written or read and, more importantly, of the people in those stories. I decided to create this category¬†after the Social … Read more

Rocky exoplanets only get so big before they get gassy

By the time¬†the NASA Kepler mission failed in 2013, it had gathered evidence that there were at least 962 exoplanets in 76 stellar systems, not to mention the final word is awaited on 2,900 more. In the four years it had operated it far surpassed its envisioned science goals. The 12 gigabytes of data it … Read more

Replication studies, ceiling effects, and the psychology of science

On May 25, I found¬†Erika Salomon’s tweet: Excellent comment thread on replication going on at the SPSP blog — Erika Salomon (@ecsalomon) May 25, 2014 The story started¬†when the journal Social Psychology decided to publish successful and failed replication attempts instead of conventional papers and their conclusions for a Replications Special Issue (Volume 45, … Read more

All ice that falls is not an avalanche

Note: Updated with quotes from Patrick Wagnon, ICIMOD On April 18, an avalanche on Mount Everest killed 16 Nepalese guides. By the end of the month, 13 bodies had been recovered. The search for the remaining three was called off after conditions were termed too risky and difficult. On April 22, the Sherpa guides announced … Read more

The violent history of the Chelyabinsk meteorite

The Copernican May 22, 2014 With the second largest air burst recorded in history,¬†a meteorite exploded over the southern Ural region of Russia in February 2013 and crashed near the city¬†of Chelyabinsk.¬†During its journey through Earth’s atmosphere, it underwent intense heating, eventually glowing brighter than the Sun, and blew up¬†with a bright flash. The accompanying … Read more

Dude, where’s my comma?

(Update: Includes Gopal Gandhi’s reply.) Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s lead in The Hindu, ‘An open letter to Narendra Modi‘, was a wonderful read – as if from the Keeper of the Nation’s Conscience to the Executor of the Republic’s Will. I’m not¬†interested in scrupulous political analyses and¬†Gandhi’s piece sat well with that, explaining so lucidly what’s really … Read more

Metal, flesh and monochrome

Sunday Magazine May 18, 2014 Hans Rudolf Giger, the Swiss artist who conceived of the alien xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), died on May 12 at the age of 84 in Zurich. Here was an artist who was not awkward, harboring no pretense of subtlety. Giger was an artist suckling on a vein of … Read more

‘Free Indian science’: Responses, rebuttals and retrenchments

In the April 3 issue of Nature, Joseph Mathai and Andrew Robinson published a Comment on¬†the afflictions of¬†scientific research in India – and found the interference of bureaucracy to be chief among all ills. Most of the¬†writers’ concerns were very valid, and kudos to them for highlighting how it was the government mismanaging science in … Read more

If prey can eat predators, we’re ignoring evolution

The half-century old¬†mathematics that ecologists use to understand how predator and prey populations rise and fall has received a revamp. Two scientists from Georgia Tech did this by crediting evolution for what it is but not commonly thought to be: fast, not slow. The scientists, Joshua Weitz and Michael Cortez, applied a branch of mathematics … Read more

The magnetic sky

On May 6, the team behind the now-inoperative Planck space telescope released a map of the magnetic field pervading the Milky Way galaxy. Titled ‘Milky Way’s Magnetic Fingerprint’, the map incorporates two textures to visualize the magnetic field’s dual qualities: striations for direction and shading for intensity. Planck¬†was able to measure the polarization by studying … Read more