24 February 2012


Hooray, it's Science Friday ~ here is a tiny sampling of the riches we're exploring.

Has All of Humanity Actually Forgotten the Right Way to Sleep? presents research which demonstrates that not only is it not uncommon for us to awaken halfway through the night, but doing so was accepted as normal until around 200 years ago.  Rather than strain for that elusive (and perhaps fictitious) eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, people would use the wakening time to read, write, go for a walk, chat with neighbors, or enjoy sex with their partners.  To paraphrase Andrea Kuszewski, from whom I obtained this link, "Sleep a while, make love, sleep a while, make love.  Sounds heavenly."

Astronomer's Paradise is an awesome time-lapse video of the night sky, taken through some of the clearest air on Earth ~ at the European Southern Observatory in Chile's high Atacama Desert.  Be certain to watch this in full-screen, with no distractions.

A Trip Around Our Solar System is a collection of 38 high-definition, animated and still images taken by various robotic space probes operated by NASA and the European Space Agency.  Each includes a caption explaining what you're seeing.  Simply stunning.

Could long-term global warming result in smaller body size among living organisms?  That's one possible conclusion of Research Reveals Evolution of Earliest Horses Was Driven by Climate Change ~ Global Warming Affected Body Size.  56 million years ago, during a 175,000-year interval of climate warming (average temperature increased by 10 dF), the ancestral horse Sifrhippus shrank in body size by 30 percent to the size of a small house cat ~ about 8.5 lb.  Sifrhippus later rebounded in size to about 15 lb.  This is not a new understanding among ecologists.  Bergmann's Rule states that "within a broadly distributed genus, species of larger size are found in colder environments, and species of smaller size are found in warmer regions.  Although originally formulated in terms of species within a genus, it has often been recast in terms of populations within a species."

Finally, check out The Math of Rock Climbing ~ an entertaining five minute video posted by university mathematician (and free climber - see image above) Skip Garibaldi, who was struck by the implications of the question, "Wow.  Shouldn't I be done falling already?"  When you fall 40 feet down a sheer cliff face, while dangling from a rope hundreds of feet from the ground, the most instinctive thoughts can lead to inquiry and insight.  Fun video.

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