I'm Chels. I blog about science, art, tennis, and my adventures in journalism. Officially, I'm a Science Writer at Brookhaven National Lab and I blog for them, too. Unofficially, I'm pretty awesome.

Or, you know, owsome.

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Posts tagged science

Dysentery parasite attacks gut by eating cells alive 

It’s “purely malevolent”, says Michael Blennerhassett of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, because the amoeba aren’t interested in the cells once they’re dead. This suggests they don’t need to eat them for the nutrients they contain, says Blennerhasset, who was not involved in the study. “This is a previously unsuspected method of attack.”

I wrote a piece on amoebas that live in intestines and wreak havoc by shredding cells apart (and end up causing dysentery, as it happens). My first attempt at writing this article started like this: “There’s a tiny, single-celled creature living in your intestines, and it’s mean.” But don’t freak out, because it’s not in everyone’s intestines, okay?

The whole time I was writing about these little creatures, I was thinking, “Gross gross gross gross gross gross gross.” So, yeah! Go read about this disgusting parasite! Amoebic dysentery is awful! 

We had a really high rate of data transmission. You could have watched Netflix on the moon if you wanted to.

Mihaly Horanyi, a member of the NASA team that operates LADEE, a spacecraft orbiting the moon and working to test a broadband communications system between Earth and the moon using lasers.

Okay, look. If we can get a fucking data stream to the MOON, why does it take my phone so long to load GIFs? Why doesn’t HBOGO work? GIVE US THE GOODS, NASA.

Face map of mixed feelings could help AIs understand us | New Scientist 

I wrote a cool piece about research into human emotions, and how humans express similar emotions using the same facial muscles despite different backgrounds. Basically, scientists are on the hunt for emotions that can truly be called “universal” based on how they show up on our faces, and how we recognize them. And learning about that could help us build better computer interfaces that can respond to how humans feel while they’re using them. 

This was such a fascinating thing to report. One of the most surprising things I learned was that while lots of emotion research has been done to categorize dozens of emotions, most studies still use only six emotions as the basic ones all humans can express: happiness, fear, disgust, sadness, anger, and surprise. If you think about it, all these have evolutionary advantages that would help humans survive. But it’s kind of nutso to me that others haven’t been broadly categorized or incorporated into most emotion research. I mean, SIX emotions?! I go through six emotions while I have a cup of coffee! I can’t even imagine how many I experience in a full day. 

The cosmic microwave background is a faint glow that pervades the entire sky, dating back to just 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Before that time, the baby universe was too hot and dense for light to travel far without bumping into matter. When it cooled to the point that neutral atoms could form, light was freed to fly through space unimpeded, and it became the CMB. This glow was discovered accidentally 1964 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, who initially mistook it for interference caused by pigeon droppings on their antenna. Eventually, the scientists realized they had discovered an imprint from the primordial universe, a finding that won them the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics.

Gravity Waves from Big Bang Detected - Scientific American

Discovered accidentally. Mistook it for interference from pigeon droppings. Nope. Just a fingerprint from the dawn of time. 

Science is hilarious a whole lot of the time. 

We are using our universe as a big microscope. The sky is a photographic plate.

Pioneering cosmic inflation theorist Andrei Linde

Swoon and swoon and swoon.

“Although I might not fully understand it,” Dr. Kamionkowski said, “this is a signal from the very earliest universe, sending a telegram encoded in gravitational waves.”

(via dreamofthedragon)

If you wanna know about the universe, listen hard for the story it’s telling all around us. 

(via dreamofthedragon)

Big news in science, this morning, kiddos. Scientists working in the South Pole on the BICEP2 project announced that their years of sky-gazing have produced direct evidence of the inflation of the universe that happened 13.8 billion years ago.

Just microseconds after the beginning of time and space, according to Cosmic Inflation Theory, the universe expanded faster than the speed of light — fast enough to produce the Big Bang and violently enough to create gravitational waves. BICEP2 now has direct evidence of those waves, and it’s startlingly clear. 

This is truly an enormous discovery, and it rules out a lot of theories and also gives physicists a clearer way to understand our universe. The folks at SLAC got a video of one of the BICEP2 researchers bringing this news to Andrei Linde, one of the scientists who first proposed inflation theory. He’s hearing proof that his theory really took place. 

"This is a moment of the understanding of nature of such magnitude that it overwhelms," Linde says. His jubilant smile is so heart-warming to see.

Great things to read if you’re curious to know more: 

The insides of a tardigrade — also known as a water bear, or moss piglet (!) — imaged by a confocal laser scanning microscope. German researchers stacked several photographs, each in a different color, to get this picture of the inner workings of our planet’s toughest tiny little creature. Geez, this is just so, so cool. I mean, these little guys are less than a millimeter long, so until now we haven’t had a good look at their nervous system or musculature. And look at the confetti-like stuff in its bowel! (Maybe that’s not its bowel…I know nothing about tardigrade anatomy.) Also, because tardigrades can survive almost anything, it’s pretty apt that this one’s little fingers are making a sort of Live Long And Prosper sign. Right on, rainbow moss piglet. Right on.


Last month, Brookhaven Lab was part of Apple’s 1.24.14 video, which was shot at 15 locations around the globe in one day, including right here at our Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. Keep an eye out during the video (at 00:47) for a shot of Brookhaven physicists working at our stunning atom smasher. We’re proud to be repping Big Science in this groundbreaking video.

January 24, 2014 was one of my favorite days since I’ve been at Brookhaven. It is so cool to be part of this Apple ad. Go check us out! 

In a first for laser-driven fusion, scientists at a US lab say they have reached a key milestone called fuel gain: they are producing more energy than the fuel absorbed to start the reaction.

Laser-sparked fusion power passes key milestone  |  New Scientist

Okay, okay, okay, okay, guys. Scientists at the National Ignition Facility have taken the first itty bitty baby steps towards fusion and I’m having trouble containing my excitement.

First of all, they’re using 192 laser beams, which are pointed at a gold chamber that converts the lasers into X-ray pulses, which then squeeze a small fuel pellet and make it implode and undergo fusion. That anyone ever figured out even how to do this is completely nutso.

Secondly, the lead researcher is named Omar Hurricane. I have never in my life heard a better name. He sounds like a comic book character. Please someone write a comic starring Omar Hurricane and his band of laser-wielding scientists.

And then there’s what it actually means. So far, they’ve been able to get 15 kilojoules of energy out of a fuel pellet that was blasted with 10 kilojoules. But, as The Guardian points out, much more energy is delivered by the lasers (and lost in the conversion to X-rays): “The lasers unleash nearly two megajoules of energy on their target, the equivalent, roughly, of two standard sticks of dynamite.” 

Even so, this is a hugely significant tiny step forward toward recreating the clean energy production that happens in the heart of stars.

This stunning photo of the eye of a tree frog, taken by photographers Heidi and Hans-Jürgen Koch, makes me wish Refrog had some crazy cool golden eye veins. New Scientist explains what they’re for: 

"The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) lives all over Central America and the Caribbean. In the day, when the frog is asleep, a gold membrane creeps over its eyes. It lets in a small amount of light, enough so that if a predator approaches, the non-poisonous frog can wake up, show its bulging red eyes and present its yellow feet in a bid to make the would-be attacker think twice.”

Super cool. Super creepy. Way to go frogs. You win the Weirdest Body Part of the Week award. (I can’t wait to continue that series from here to eternity.) 

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