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Something to chew on along with your Easter chocolate.
How are the scientific method, free market, and natural selection related?
Read +Sabine Hossenfelder's blog post to find out. I particularly like this paragraph:

In science, the most relevant restriction is that we can’t just randomly generate hypotheses because we wouldn’t be able to test and evaluate them all. This is why science heavily relies on education standards, peer review, and requires new hypotheses to tightly fit into existing knowledge. We also need guidelines for good scientific conduct, reproducibility, and a mechanism to give credits to scientists with successful ideas. Take away any of that and the system wouldn’t work.

I write to try to undo the hype in a new scientific findings where a newspaper has lathered on too much hype. I also moderate the Science on Google+ community. So I often get comments about how we should question everything, that science is about challenging everything. If you don't question everything, e.g., evolution, climate change, etc. then you aren't doing science. Sadly, these comments often come from climate change deniers, believers in pseudoscience or conspiracies.  So I often have to explain that skepticism is fine, however, when you have an extraordinary claim, you need extraordinary evidence. I've written about that before.

Skepticism doesn't equal question all things

I'm not sure many people truly understand the scientific method and IFLS doesn't help with catchy GIFs with no science or attribution.

Science is not about certainty. Science is about finding the most reliable way of thinking, at the present level of knowledge. Science is extremely reliable; it's not certain. In fact, not only it's not certain, but it's the lack of certainty that grounds it. Scientific ideas are credible not because they are sure, but because they are the ones that have survived all the possible past critiques, and they are the most credible because they were put on the table for everybody's criticism. [...]

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Just getting set up, and we will be starting imminently - hope you can join us!
Menstruation and menopause are two fundamental biological processes in every woman's lifetime. However, both these subjects are shrouded with secrecy, and it's often difficult to have open conversations about them because of cultural taboos. But what are the consequences of silence? What are the economic impacts, the social injustices, and the health risks? Why is it so difficult to find consensus on what menopause is, and what its purpose is? 

Join us for a +Mosaic  and +Science on Google+  Hangout on air as we speak to author Rose George about these under-reported topics. Rose wrote two fascinating articles for Mosaic about menstruation and menopause, and we will be exploring these subjects in-depth. 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday 23rd January at 3 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel ( after the event.

Rose's articles: and

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Menstruation and menopause are two fundamental biological processes in every woman's lifetime. However, both these subjects are shrouded with secrecy, and it's often difficult to have open conversations about them because of cultural taboos. But what are the consequences of silence? What are the economic impacts, the social injustices, and the health risks? Why is it so difficult to find consensus on what menopause is, and what its purpose is? 

Join us for a +Mosaic  and +Science on Google+  Hangout on air as we speak to author Rose George about these under-reported topics. Rose wrote two fascinating articles for Mosaic about menstruation and menopause, and we will be exploring these subjects in-depth. 
This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe. You can tune in on Saturday 23rd January at 3 PM UK time. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel ( after the event.

Rose's articles: and

Join the conversation using #MosaicHangout    
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Debunking the preposterous premise that navigation is mediated by testosterone.
#ScienceMediaHype Women, testosterone and navigation
As usual, science hyperbole would like us to believe that men are "hardwired" to perform better than women at technical tasks. In this article by Science Alert, the heading tells us women navigate better when given testosterone: "Women can navigate better when given testosterone, study finds" The article itself keeps up this facade. Reading the study, however, we find that nothing of the sort is true.

Fifty-three women were recruited on the basis of being on the oral contraceptive pill and not having significant experience in gaming. Why did the latter matter? Because this experiment uses computer games to simulate navigation. The study does not actually test navigation in real life conditions. That's usually okay - experiments try to construct experiences in a controlled environment. But when those conditions are created to exclude women with certain skill sets that immediately tells us that what is being measured is not biological processes, but rather experience - a social experience.

Women who game - the fastest growing group of gamers - are excellent at navigation of simulated environments, proving, in fact, that women are more than capable in picking up navigation skills with practice... you know, same as men do. (Studies that try to link technical skills with biology as this study does, to suit a contrived evolutionary psychology hypothesis, fail to account for social experience. This study is no different.)

Women who game, whose existence disproves the flawed biological argument put forward by the researchers, can't be included in such a study as they immediately disprove the preposterous premise that navigation is mediated by testosterone.

Back to the study: the women were asked to come off the pill a week before the experiments (the pill has elevated levels of estrogen which would counteract with the additional hormones provided in the study). A few of the women were later disqualified from the study due to experiencing nausea during navigation tasks (resulting from the additional testosterone) as well as due to not competing the tasks correctly (AKA human - not biological - error).

Twenty-one women were given a small dosage of testosterone, another 21 women were not. Both groups completed a series of tasks. In some tasks both groups performed slightly differently, in many they preformed the same. Notably, the women on testosterone did not navigate better. Instead, in some tasks where the two groups differed, the key observation was that there was a slightly different level of activity recorded via fMRI, a machine which in this case measures brain activity but does not specifically tell us why that activity differs.

Given the machine can't give us this explanation, the researchers asked the women to explain why they made the navigation choices they did. When we ask people to describe their experiences and choices, are we measuring biology? Nope. We are measuring social processes.

The researchers did not actually prove that women on testosterone navigate better than those who do not have extra testosterone. It is equally noteworthy that the researchers did not measure what happens to men when they're given an extra dose of testosterone. If they had, the likelihood that a similar shift in brain activity may be recorded during some tasks would be worth commenting on, in so far as increasing hormones can impact brain activity of anyone. And yet still, if they had sampled men with and without additional testosterone, the fMRI would not give the researchers the answers they sought, as they would still rely on questionnaires to figure out why men make the decisions they make.

Men's answers, like the women in this study, would reveal social patterns about decision making that reflect cultural narratives. That is, when some groups of White women who don't play online games are asked to describe why they make certain choices about navigation, they would reflect back socio-cultural reasons which would differ from White men, and which differ again from White women who do game, and which would differ from Indigenous Australian women who live in remote regions, and so on. Our social experiences shape our decision-making and our exposure to certain types of navigation has an impact on our skills.

This study has not proven what is being reported. It simply shows that brain activity can be affected by increased testosterone, without leading to demonstrable changes in navigation skills. That's not the story being reported on here.

Finally, as with all science media hyperbole, sampling matters: 21 women from undisclosed ethnic groups (the omission tells us they very likely they were White women) do not represent all women. We already know that psychology and cognitive sciences extrapolate on findings from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies to make universal statements that simply are not true (

In the end, this study only tells us we should remain wary of poorly designed research and even more cautious about incomplete science "journalism." In the words of psychologist Jane Hu, "Writers, we need to stay vigilant and look beyond the easy gender narratives. Readers deserve better." 

Read more
The study:
The media report:
Image and further discussion on inaccurate reporting of social science research on gender and biology, see my blog post:

#socialcience   #psychology   #sociology  
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Please join us for a fascinating and timely lecture on Science Denialism in America with Dr.+Michael Stamatikos, Assistant Professor at +OhioStateNewark. This lecture is hosted by the American Chemical Society and streamed online by +Science on Google+. Feel free to post your questions on the event post. See below for more details.

Link to event:

Title: A Modern Reprise of the Dark Ages? The Socioeconomic and Geopolitical Consequences of Science Denialism in America

Dr. Michael Stamatikos
Department of Physics, Department of Astronomy &
Center for Cosmology & AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP)
The Ohio State University (OSU) at Newark

Abstract: We live in an Information Age that is defined by ever increasing computational benchmarks, which further enable discoveries in traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. However, average cell phones with more computing power than all of NASA circa 1969 are bluntly juxtaposed with a rapidly eroding national capacity for accepting unbiased scientific results. Why is the first nation to reach the Moon scientifically regressing towards the Dark Ages? Although there are several contributing factors, Science Denialism is playing a major role in this disturbing national trend. Science Denialism is the irrational denial of otherwise conclusive scientific evidence, solely based upon a perceived conflict with antecedent political, economic and/or religious worldviews, which results in a selective distortion of scientific understanding. The conflation of skepticism with denialism leads to ambiguous inferences regarding the nature of consensus amongst scientists and provides a historical context for the apparent verisimilitude of pseudoscience, which some have attempted to include into academic curricula. In that regard, I’ll give an astrophysicists’ perspective on common topics such as: evolution, climate change, intelligent design and young Earth creationism, which are periodically the subjects of high-profile public “debates”. This national regression is further exacerbated by a STEM educational crisis and rampant scientific illiteracy/innumeracy amongst the electorate and its appointed government officials, which systematically obstructs our ability to formulate and implement evidence-based policies with bipartisan support. The resulting political dissonance resonates in cyber echo chambers and is further amplified in an era of the 24-hour cable news cycle – especially in a presidential election year. But what is science? How is it done? How do we “know” things? Why is it important? How can we combat this internal threat? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. As practitioners of science, we need to help each other understand on all levels, which means enhancing the quality and content of information when communicating our results, their implications and the scientific process, via education and public outreach. Science is not an absolute collection of facts to be memorized, but rather it can be thought of as the art of asking the right question(s) - this distinction is paramount. The scientific method allows for a statistical analysis of different models, whose selective predictions are confronted with independent observations, thus allowing for an evolving empirical understanding of Nature. Critical thinking and analytical reasoning are ubiquitous problem solving skills that are also crucial characteristics of an educated citizenry, which is essential to a thriving democracy and national security. Most importantly, we’ll need to collaborate with science advocates embedded within the insular communities that harbor each particular strand of Science Denialism. If left unchecked, Science Denialism threatens to cripple our long term national economy, short-change future generations of crucial self-investments in our education system and impede our ability to compete as a world leader in STEM research.
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Excellent coverage of the highlights of chemistry over more than five millennia.
An Enjoyable Walk Through Chemistry History

Do you know who is the first chemist whose name is recorded on an official document? Do you know what role chemistry played in the development of the Pantheon in Rome about 2000 years ago? Have you heard of a person named Geber? If so, do you know what are his contributions to chemistry? Do you know what role adhesive tape played in the development of graphene?

Sterling Publishing Company in New York, a subsidiary of Barnes and Noble, publishes the Sterling Milestones series, which includes The Math Book, The Physics Book, The Psychology Book, The Physics Book, and more. The most recent addition to this series is The Chemistry Book by Derek B. Lowe. Dr. Lowe is an organic and medicinal chemist who has worked for several major pharmaceutical companies. He is also one of the pioneer science bloggers, writing the wildly popular blog In the Pipeline, now hosted by the publishers of Science.

The subtitle of Lowe's book is "From Gunpowder to Graphene, 250 Milestones in the History of Chemistry." In this book, he celebrates important accomplishments in chemistry, moving chronologically from circa 500,000 BCE when the Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) formed, with its truly stunning, massive gypsum crystals. From there, the book jumps to 3300 BCE and the Bronze Age, and then moves forward to the present day, hitting the highlights of chemistry along the way.

I'm sure that some people might object that he included certain events and excluded others, but I won't quibble. The book provides excellent coverage of the highlights of chemistry over more than five millennia, and Lowe takes care to show how early concepts influenced later developments and later developments related back to earlier concepts. He maintains a focus on the science, but he provides interesting insights into the people, personalities, and disputes in the sciences as he moves through time.

Here are a few examples from the book of interesting points about chemistry.

• The first chemist whose name we know is Tapputi, a palace overseer and perfume maker. She is mentioned on a Babylonian text from 1200 BCE, and in the text she is described doing things quite familiar to working chemists, such as distillation and filtration (page 22).

• Although Rome did not have a strong science culture during its existence as Republic, and then Empire, one area in which it excelled was making concrete. Analytical chemists have recently figured out the recipe that the ancient Romans used for making concrete, and it turns out that in several respects it is superior to Portland cement, developed in nineteenth century England. The Pantheon, the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world was built by the ancient Romans about the year 126 CE, and it still stands today as a testament to how good Rome's concrete technology was (page 34).

• Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān, known to Western scientists and historians as Geber, lived in modern-day Iraq from about 721 CE to about 815 CE. Among other subjects, ibn Hayyān studied alchemy, but in many ways, he was a prototype for alchemists and, much later, laboratory chemists who followed in the centuries after his death. A dedicated researcher, ibn Hayyān insisted that practical laboratory work was necessary to obtain competence in alchemy. He kept notes of his experiments and wrote numerous detailed manuscripts about his work, attracting many followers. His followers also wrote numerous manuscripts about alchemy, attributing them to Geber (ibn Hayyān). These false Geber manuscripts are written in an elaborate style that is particularly difficult to decipher. Lowe informs us that the word gibberish (commonly defined as "talk in no known or understandable language" and also, "overly technical and obscure language") comes from the difficulty historians and others have had in translating and understanding these writings by Geber's followers (page 40). Lowe's discussion of the origins of the word "gibberish" is only one of a few theories of the word's etymology, and it is not the most widely held theory. Moreover, a few people assert that the word has become a racist code word, the use of which should be avoided.

• Graphene was a form of carbon that long had been thought to exist but remained undiscovered until 2004 when Andre Konstantin Geim and Konstantin Novoselov produced it by applying adhesive tape to graphite and peeling it off, leaving graphene layers stuck to the tape. Although I have known this story for years, I remain surprised that it took so long for anyone to figure out how to obtain graphene by such a simple technique (page 492).

Lowe covers the discovery of elements, the gradual conversion of alchemy into modern chemistry, the development of the ideal gas laws, and numerous other topics of great interest to chemists. He doesn't focus solely on great events, but he touches also on smaller events that are of great importance to practicing bench chemists, including the development of separatory funnels (page 140), the Erlenmeyer flask (page 152), structural formula (page 154), the Dean-Stark Trap (page 266), and the rotary evaporator (page 362). I find it hard to imagine doing good quality modern chemistry without these devices!

Chromatography and spectrometry are extensively covered in the book, as these are vital techniques for analyzing chemical compounds and deducing the structure of what has been synthesized or isolated from an extract. These are tools that I use daily, and it is interesting to learn the back-story of how these things developed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in chemistry. If you know a young person who is interested in chemistry, this book may be a great gift for him or her, a gift that will stimulate the mind and help develop an appreciation for how far we have come and where we are going in chemistry, the central science.

Derek B. Lowe. The Chemistry Book. From Gunpowder to Graphene, 250 Milestones in the History of Chemistry (part of the Sterling Milestones series). New York: Sterling Publishing, 2016, 528 pages. 

Derek B. Lowe Wikipedia: 

In the Pipeline blog by Derek Lowe

Some In the Pipeline blog posts are also featured on the Chemistry World website, run by the Royal Society of Chemistry in England.

See, and search for Derek Lowe by name. The search will return the featured blog posts he has written.

Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān
Encyclopedia Britannica: 

There are quite a few websites that have pages dedicated to Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān. Some are well done; others are much less well done. If I could go back in time and meet a famous scientist, he would be on my list of people to meet.

History of the word "gibberish"
From atoms and fluorescent pigments to sulfa drug synthesis and buckyballs, this lush and authoritative chronology presents 250 milestones in the world of chemistry....
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Some of the science—and the poetry—of LIGO’s gravitational wave announcement.
The Poetry of LIGO’s Gravitational Waves

Yesterday the LIGO scientific collaboration announced that they had detected the gravitational waves from the in-spiral and merger of two black holes, shown in figure 1. It would not be an overstatement to say that this result has changed science forever. As a gravitational physicist, it is hard for me to put into words how scientifically important and emotionally powerful this moment is for me and for everyone in my field. But I’m going to try. This is my attempt to capture some of the science—and the poetry—of LIGO’s gravitational wave announcement.

To read this post in blog form, see here:

The Source

About 1.3 billion years ago and as many light years away, two spinning black holes, each about thirty times the mass of the sun (one a bit bigger, one a bit smaller) ended their lives as separate entities. These two monsters had probably lived out many separate lives together: first as a binary system of two massive stars and most recently as two black holes orbiting each other. Somewhere in between, each one probably briefly outshone the entire galaxy as a core-collapse supernova.

But nothing lasts forever. Einstein tells us that mass distorts spacetime, warping distance and duration. And an accelerating mass (like a black hole in an orbit) releases some of its energy in ripples of this distortion. And so, over the billions of years of their shared lives, our black holes lost energy to these gravitational waves and their orbit decayed. They slowly, inevitably, spiralled towards each other.

As the partners approached, their orbit sped up and their slow, stately waltz gradually transitioned into a frantic tarantella toward coalescence. Eventually the partners came within about 500 kilometres of each other (about the distance from Paris to Frankfurt!). By this time, they were orbiting each other about thirty-five times per second!

The black holes spiralled towards each other at roughly the same rate about five more times before they suddenly plunged together, spinning around their shared centre of mass 250 times per second. But this stage didn’t last that long. Before even one second had passed, the black holes’ event horizons overlapped, and they merged into a single rapidly rotating object. This new single black hole oscillated wildly as it settled down into its final configuration, emitting gravitational waves all the while.

In-spiral. Merger. Ringdown. After (possibly) millions of years in a slowly decaying orbit, the final plunge took less than a fifth of a second. In those last moments, gravitational waves carried away 1.8x10^(47) Joules. That’s three times the energy contained in our Sun. Three suns, released as ripples in spacetime.

This is a computer simulation of the in-spiral and merger of two black holes much like the ones I described, produced by my friends and collaborators in the Simulating Extreme Spacetimes collaboration:

(Note my calculations of distances are based on extremely rough Newtonian approximations. They are not very accurate. Maybe not even by an order of magnitude. But at these scales, it's not super important.)

Gravitational Waves

But what of the gravitational waves emitted by our ill-fated dance partners? These ripples in distance, in the very fabric of space and time, travel outwards from their source at the speed of light. Space is large and empty and it is mostly a lonely journey. Perhaps they pass through a cloud of gas and dust. Perhaps they don’t. If they do, the distortions of distance move the gas. Some gas particles move apart, some together. The gravitational waves might move a ring of gas particles, as shown in figure 2.

The effect is small; if the gas cloud were a few kilometres in width, the gas particles would move a distance less than one one-thousandth of the width of a proton. But they would move. And if they moved enough (they don’t) they would make a sound—the sound of the merging black holes:


Eventually, after about 1.3 billion years, on September 14th, 2015, the gravitational waves reached Earth. They were too weak to make a sound, but we could detect them. A gravitational wave is a distortion in distance, one that travels. So we can measure this distortion with a very precise ruler. And light is one of the best possible rulers.

Actually, we used two gigantic, perpendicular light-rulers, each several kilometres long. As a gravitational wave passed the rulers, it shrank distance in one direction and grew it in the other. The scientists who use these light-rulers call this discrepancy a “strain.” The paired light-rulers themselves are called “interferometers.”

We’ve built several interferometers to detect gravitational waves. There’s one in Livingston, Louisiana (, which is shown in figure 3, and one in Hanford, Washington ( There’s another in Sarstedt, Germany ( and another in Cascina, Italy ( One, destined for India, is in storage ( And another is under construction underground in Kamioka, Japan (

On that fateful day, only the detectors in Livingston and Hanford were active. (Some of the others aren’t even sensitive enough for their intended purpose. When people first started building gravity-wave detectors, it wasn’t clear how far away the sources would be.) The waves hit Livingston first, at exactly 3:50:45 AM local time. About seven-thousandths of a second later, they reached Hanford and distorted the light-ruler there, too. And a fifth of a second after that, they were gone. The sound of the black holes had passed us by and continued its journey into the void.

But they did not pass without a trace. No, the Livingston and Hanford detectors recorded their passage, shown beautifully in figure 4. The 1.3 billion-year-old waveform passed through our world and changed us forever.

Learning from the Waves

We already knew gravitational waves exist. That measurement took 30 years and won the Nobel prize ( And we had a pretty good idea of what they should look like. But the only way to confirm that they looked like we expected was to observe them. So the first thing the LIGO team did was to use sophisticated statistical techniques, without any assumption about the final waveform, to extract the true wave from the noisy signal shown in figure 4.

They then compared that waveform to the wave predicted by general relativity. The two agree spectacularly. Score one for Einstein! Of course, there are possible modifications of general relativity such that a black hole in-spiral wouldn’t look any different. So only time, and more gravitational waves, will tell if those modifications are wrong. But for now, this result is a triumph of relativity.

Independently, the LIGO team matched the raw data to a “template bank” of possible gravitational waves, each generated for a different configuration of the black holes—different masses, different rotation rates, different orientations, et cetera. Eventually, they found a match. (Actually they found several, all of which were very similar.) And, fantastically, this match agreed perfectly with the wave extracted using the statistical technique. The extracted waveforms from the two detectors, calculated in both ways, are shown in figure 5.

As a huge bonus, matching the waveform in this way told the LIGO team the masses and rotation rates of the initial black holes and the final black hole that they became.

From the ripples in spacetime, they had extracted astrophysics!

Two Detections

I want to emphasize that one reason we can be so confident in the LIGO detection is that it happened twice, once for each detector. Both detectors are extremely sensitive—they could easily see an earthquake or a car driving down the highway and misinterpret it as a gravitational wave. But the gravitational wave was seen at both detectors, and the odds of them both getting exactly the same false positive are extremely low.

What We’ve Learned

In this one detection, we’ve learned a tremendous amount…some of it very definitive, some of it not. But at the very least, we now know the following:

1. Gravitational waves look very much like we expected.

2. Black holes definitively exist. No other two objects in the universe could have been so close before colliding. Of course, we had pretty good evidence that black holes existed before now (see:

3. Binary black hole systems definitely exist. A few years ago, it was not obvious that these systems formed. To get a pair of black holes orbiting each other, you need a pair of supernovae. And that could easily destroy the orbit.

What We Stand to Learn

For most of the history of astronomy, humans relied on their unaided eyes to look at the stars. In the early 1600s, telescopes were invented and the universe opened up. Suddenly the twinkle of stars and planets resolved into gas giants and moons, clusters and nebulae and galaxies. In the 1930s, we discovered a new kind of telescope: the radio telescope. Once again, we saw space in literally a whole new light. Suddenly objects we thought we understood looked very different. And wild new things appeared, like radio pulsars. Every advance in telescope technology sparked a huge leap in our understanding of the universe. We could, essentially, see a whole new side of the universe.

This is just as big. Now we can hear the universe. We’re going to learn so, so much.

Related Reading

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about general relativity and gravitational waves, you may be interested in my series on #howgrworks :

1. In Galileo Almost Discovered General Relativity, I explain the motivating idea behind general relativity and how Galileo almost figured it out.

2. In General Relativity Is the Dynamics of Distance, I explain how simple arguments can tell us that gravity stretches or shrinks space and time.

3. In General Relativity Is the Curvature of Spacetime, I describe how the distortion of distance and duration from gravity translates into curvature, and how this bends the path of light (and other stuff).

4. In Distance Ripples, I explain how gravitational waves work.

5. In Our Local Spacetime, I present a visualization of the curvature of spacetime near Earth.

6. In Classical Tests of General Relativity, I explain a little history.

7. In the Geodetic Effect, I talk about how we can use gyroscopes to directly measure the curvature of spacetime.

Further Reading

Here are some nice lay resources on the recent LIGO discovery. (Thanks to +Johnathan Chung  for finding some of these.)

1. This is LIGO’s online press release. It contains, for example, a number of fantastic videos.

2. In this video, Brian Green explains the take-home message.

3. This is a great explanation of gravitational waves by quantum gravity physicist +Sabine Hossenfelder

4. This is the lay article about the discovery by the American Physical Society:

5. +Yonatan Zunger wrote up this nice explanation:

6. This is a nice article by +Brian Koberlein  on the existence of black holes.

7. This is the press release for the Nobel prize awarded for the indirect discovery of gravitational waves:

8. This Nature article talks about several questions we can answer with gravitational waves:

Scholarly Reading

For the very brave, here are my academic sources.

1. This is the LIGO detection paper. Already peer reviewed. Kudos to the LIGO collaboration for going through peer-review before announcing their result!

2. This is the LIGO paper describing how they extracted the mass and spin of the black holes.

3. This paper describes the LIGO team’s investigation of whether or not the December detection could have been a mistake. (Obviously, they concluded it was real, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog post…)

4. This paper describes the LIGO team’s model-agnostic approach to measuring the wave. This is how they know they’re not falling victim to wishful thinking.

5. This technical paper describes how the LIGO team estimated their noise and error

6. This paper discusses how we’ve tested general relativity with this observation.

7. This is an assessment of the rates of black hole binary mergers in the universe based on the measurements LIGO has made so far.

8. This is a related paper on what that means for detectors.

9. This paper is a search for neutrinos from the black hole merger that LIGO observed. (None were found.)

10. This is the population model for binary black holes which may be wrong.

#howgrworks #physics #science #ScienceEveryDay #gravitationalwaves #astronomy #astrophysics
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Do you have a science related degree and/or are working in a science related field? We would love to hear about your research. Comment on this post ( and let us know what you’re working on!
Science on Google+ Meet and Greet
We would like to take this opportunity to meet some of the people/pages in this community, and to introduce you to the new +Science on Google+ moderators. Do you have a science related degree and/or are working in a science related field? Comment below and tell us briefly about your research. Also don’t forget to introduce yourselves to the new +Science on Google+ moderators - Thanks for all of your hard work, +Carissa Braun+Jonah Miller, and +Johnathan Chung.

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Science involves a question. Technology involves a problem.
Science vs. Technology: What's the Difference?

On a recent +Science on Google+ post that highlighted advances in technology, a discussion arose on what is science and why it is different from technology. +Jonah Miller emphasized that the distinction between the two was blurry, but "most scientists draw the line at falsifiability. In other words, if you are investigating an idea that you can prove false, then you might be doing science. This idea was first put forward by Karl Popper. Here's a basic introduction for you:

Now, is falsifiability all it takes to do science? Most modern scientists would say no.  Science also involves a system of checks to make sure that you're not fooling yourself (and you are very easy to fool). This includes things like the peer-review system, keeping careful records, and an emphasis on reproducibility. And by this heuristic, when you build something, like a phone app, with the goal of selling or giving that app away, you're probably not doing science."

The image makes the point: Science involves a question. Technology involves a problem. "It may sound like semantics, but projects following each method start at a different point and with different assumptions. Starting with a question suggests that a project will be constructed as a way to find an answer by performing a test or experiment. Starting with a problem, on the other hand, sets an engineering design project up to find a solution—the development of something that can address the needs of the problem."

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California Basin Model

This is a six day simulation of the California Basin using the coupled HydroGeoSphere and Weather Research and Forecasting models. 
Integrated Hydrosystem Modeling of the California Basin

The Western United States is facing one of the worst droughts on record. Climate change projections predict warmer temperatures, higher evapotranspiration rates, and no foreseeable increase in precipitation. California, in particular, has supplemented their decreased surface water supplies by mining deep groundwater. However, this supply of groundwater is limited, especially with reduced recharge. These combined factors place California’s water-demanding society at dire risk. 

In an effort to quantify California’s risks, we present a fully integrated water cycle model that captures the dynamics of the subsurface, land surface, and atmospheric domains over the entire California basin. Our water cycle model combines HydroGeoSphere (HGS), a 3-D control-volume finite element model that accommodates variably-saturated subsurface and surface water flow with evapotranspiration processes to the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, a 3-D finite difference nonhydrostatic mesoscale atmospheric simulator. The two-way coupling within our model, referred to as HGS-WRF, tightly integrates the water cycling processes by passing precipitation and potential evapotranspiration data from WRF to HGS, while exchanging actual evapotranspiration and soil saturation data from HGS to WRF. Furthermore, HGS-WRF implements a flexible coupling method that allows each model to use a unique mesh while maintaining mass conservation within and between domains. Our simulation replicated field measured evapotranspiration fluxes and showed a strong correlation between the soil saturation (depth to groundwater table) and latent heat fluxes. Altogether, the HGS-WRF California basin model is currently the most complete water resource simulation framework as it combines groundwater, surface water, the unsaturated zone, and the atmosphere into one coupled system.

The simulation below illustrates the coupled model running for a six day time period. The first plot, Log Depth, is the surface water elevations over the entire basin in log base 10 units (so a value of -2 is actually 1 cm). The next plot illustrates Precipitation shown as meters per second. The third plot Evapotranspiration is the amount of water coming out of the surface and subsurface as evaporation and from plants (transpiration). The last plot is the change in soil moisture from the initial condition, these values are negative values because the soil is drying with time. 

I am presenting this research at the American Geophysical Union Tuesday, 15 December 2015 in San Francisco. Hope to see you there!
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Live in 30 mins - come join us as we talk about the links between processed meat and cancer, and how diet can affect cancer risk. 
We've all read the headlines about the link between processed meat link and cancer. But what exactly is the risk, and should we give up bacon and burgers? Is it really as bad as smoking? What is the underlying mechanism behind the increased risk of developing cancer? Join us for a +Science on Google+ and +Cancer Research UK  Hangout on Air as we speak to Dr Kathryn Bradbury and Professor Owen Sansom about this story. 

Kathryn is a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Oxford who studies the links between diet and cancer. Owen is a molecular biologist at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, who is investigating the cell signalling pathways that are activated in colon cancer. 

This HOA will be hosted by Dr +Buddhini Samarasinghe and Dr +Kat Arney  . You can tune in on Friday November 27th at 4 PM UK time. The hangout will also be available for viewing on our YouTube channel ( after the event.
This Hangout On Air is hosted by Science on Google+. The live video broadcast will begin soon.
Processed Meat and Cancer: What is the risk?
Fri, November 27, 2015, 11:00 AM
Hangouts On Air - Broadcast for free

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