Although the volunteers tended to describe each smell and color in their own words, it quickly became clear that Jahai speakers could describe colors and odors with equal precision, while English speakers showed much less aptitude for smells than for colors. While Jahai speakers’ ability to distinguish smells averaged out just a few percentage points below their ability to distinguish colors, English speakers’ odor-naming precision averaged out to less than one tenth of their color distinction specificity.
Just as English has precise color terms like “mauve” and “cerulean,” Jahai has highly precise terms for smells – such as cŋεs, “the smell of petrol, smoke and bat droppings,” itpɨt, “the smell of durian fruit, Aquillaria wood, and bearcat,” pʔus “a musty smell, like old dwellings, mushrooms and stale food,” and plʔεŋ, “a bloody smell that attracts tigers.” English speakers, meanwhile, tended to rely on broader smell terms like “smoky,” “sweet,” “piney” and so on. The results were published in the journal Cognition.


Earth’s magnetic field takes between 1,000 and 10,000 years to reverse, and in the process, it greatly diminishes before it re-aligns.

(via plantias)


"In recent years, many students have been introduced to to topology in high school mathematics. Having met the Möbius band, the seven bridges of Köningsberg, Euler’s polyhedron formula, and knots, the student is led to expect that these picturesque ideas will come to full flower in university topology courses. What a disappointment "undergraduate topology" proves to be!" 
In most institutions it is either a service course for analysts, on abstract spaces, or else an introduction to homological algebra in which the only geometric activity is the completion of commutative diagrams. Pictures are kept to a minimum, and at the end the student still does not understand the simplest topological facts, such as the reason why knots exist.

(via teradono)

A little stress helps you perform better when studying. It pressures you to focus. Too much stress reduces your ability to process and absorb information.



Sometimes I think about how many little things we probably do every day that would totally mess up the reasoning of a Sherlock-Holmes-style detective.

Like the other day we went to the cinema and I was wearing a shirt with no pockets so I put the ticket in my trouser pocket.  The next day I was wearing the same trousers and I put my hand in my pocket and found the ticket there.

Now, I have a certain selection of things I always have in my trouser pockets and I don’t really like having anything else in there because it confuses my hands when I want to get something, so I took the ticket out.  And I wasn’t near a rubbish bin, but I was wearing a shirt with a breast pocket.  So I put the ticket in the shirt pocket.

And I thought: if I get interestingly murdered, the Sherlock-Holmes-style detective is going to deduce that I’m wearing the same shirt that I wore yesterday.  Because it’s got a cinema ticket in the pocket with yesterday’s date on, and why on earth would anyone put a cinema ticket in the pocket of a shirt unless they were wearing the shirt when they went to the cinema?

Which is a bit of reasoning we would all find totally convincing if it came from a Sherlock-Holmes-style detective.  But it would be wrong.  Because actually there are so many other explanations for things once you take account of the fact that people are often slightly eccentric in completely trivial and unguessable ways.

“Samuel Vimes dreamed about Clues. He had a jaundiced view of Clues. He instinctively distrusted them. They got in the way. And he distrusted the kind of person who’d take one look at another man and say in a lordly voice to his companion, “Ah, my dear sir, I can tell you nothing except that he is a left-handed stonemason who has spent some years in the merchant navy and has recently fallen on hard times,” and then unroll a lot of supercilious commentary about calluses and stance and the state of a man’s boots, when exactly the same comments could apply to a man who was wearing his old clothes because he’d been doing a spot of home bricklaying for a new barbecue pit, and had been tattooed once when he was drunk and seventeen* and in fact got seasick on a wet pavement. What arrogance! What an insult to the rich and chaotic variety of the human experience!”

—Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

(via zuckergussprinzessin)

I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

(via velificantes)


scientist, n.: a person who gets very excited when they find out they were wrong.


Saoirse Ronan by Paolo Roversi for The New York Times Magazine

(via ronweasley)

(via ooksaidthelibrarian)

I woke up this morning with competing ideas regarding quantum mechanics. I woke up this morning with the oddest ideas in my head. It’s like my brain still had to work while I slept in order to process all the weird-ass ideas you’ve exposed it to; from phonons to tetrachromacy (which is totally amazing wow anything about color vision and color in general is wonderful to me) and telling me my precious Copenhagen Interpretation is like totally dubious and goddamn neanderthal DNA what even

Pseudo-sarcasm aside, it was very lovely, heck it was tons of fun, and I thank you. It’s still a mystery to me why you’d put up with me since in terms of information new to you I contributed little to the conversation (except perhaps about that color-blindness monkey vision study but that’s about it) and I had made you explain the most basic and elementary things (especially in Biology) that I bet most of your other smart layfolk friends know like the back of their hands. You could’ve Sherlocked it out and been all OBVIOUS, John, but you didn’t. Your tolerance is an act of kindness and for that I am grateful.

Now I must do my schoolwork and also my library copy of Field Geophysics is due to be returned aahh (also the contents of the book are like totally classical). It’s funny, so many times in that book geophysicists are referred to as Observers, and that’s uncanny what with their funny-ass telemetric measuring equipment and indecipherable data sheets :P.


Arranged Diatoms on Microscope Slides in the California Academy of Sciences Diatom Collection by california academy of sciences geology on Flickr.




Before the superluminal neutrino observation was tested (and discredited) I considered writing a short story where people from the future shoot neutrino beams at recent supernovas, causing them to start earlier and altering the night sky of the past. And yes, the big twist is that astrologers end up being the conduits of actual backwards causation.

Your brain sounds like a wild place.

That’s one way to put it.

(via divinitatefotage)