I’m sure this will end up in an arms race at some point, but for now, I’m really enjoying it.
The newest issue of the journal Intelligence has the largest review ever of research on the so-called Mozart Effect, the popular idea that listening to classical music can enhance the intelligence of people in general and babies in particular.
The review is titled “Mozart Effect, Schmozart Effect,” which should give you some idea of its conclusion: there ain’t no such thing.
But even if listening to Beethoven won’t make us smarter, the history of how the Mozart Effect ultimately became fashionable does have something to teach us. It’s a story about careful science, less careful journalism, and of course, death threats.
And so kicked off a decade of people believing that Mozart makes them smarter because people jumped far too early to broad conclusions based on a very simple very specific investigation.
Ars Technica has a great article on the history of the telescope. But there was something entirely non astronomy related that struck me:
In 1608, Hans Lipperhey in the Netherlands applied for a patent on a pair of lenses, one with a much shorter focal length than the other, arranged in a tube. He called it a “spyglass” as it allowed the observation of greatly distant events from a secluded retreat—Lipperhey noted that counting coins from afar was a suitable use. The patent was denied because the device was so very easily constructed.
The big breakthrough came when Galileo was informed of Lipperhey’s failure to secure a patent. He was certainly aware of the Venetian prowess in lens grinding, as well as work in optics that Kepler had done. Galileo decided to make such a device for himself, inspired by a mixture of Renaissance gung-ho and a desire to make his name. Presumably, he reasoned that a device able to magnify distant objects would also minimize the uncertainty in their position, providing an improved version of the wall quadrant.
That’s a frightening thought, and one I hadn’t known before. Had that patent been granted, we may never have had the revolution in science in 1609, because Galileo wouldn’t have jumped into the telescope manufacturing business. That work is what sealed the fate of the geocentric solar system, and became a great leap forward for all physical sciences.
Last year, high school science teacher Ron Dantowitz of Brookline, Mass., played a clever trick on three of his best students. He asked them to plan a hypothetical mission to fly onboard a NASA DC-8 aircraft and observe a spacecraft disintegrate as it came screaming into Earth’s atmosphere. How would they record the event? What could they learn?
For 6 months, they worked hard on their assignment, never suspecting the surprise Dantowitz had in store.
On March 12th, he stunned them with the news: “The mission is real, and you’re going along for the ride.”
The full write up, the video and spectrographs they got, are all up on NASA’s website.
I’m always looking for good simple drinks that involve lots of real fruit and basic liquor that you’ve already got in your liquor cabinet. After coming home from picking 6lbs of blueberries, I eventually found a recipe for blueberry daiquiris that fit the bill.
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1/2 cup light rum
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
- 1/4 cup superfine sugar
In a blender, combine all ingredients and process for about 30 seconds. Pour into a chilled glass.
Yields 1 drink
Realize it’s a big and strong drink. It is slightly more than 1 of our margarita glasses holds, and it’s nearly 3 shots of rum per “drink”. You could probably get away with about 2/3 as much rum (probably cut back the sugar if you did) for something less high octane.
Damn though, it’s seriously tasty. This alone might be reason enough to best our season record of 21lbs of picked blueberries.
Recently a bunch of 7th graders were asked to describe and draw scientists before and after a trip to fermilab. The results are fascinating:
It’s really worth checking out all the pictures and statements from the kids. It’s really impressive how fixed the scientist archtype is fixed in people’s heads, and you can see this from the before pictures.