The Perfect Yawn?

Ever ‘caught’ a yawn from someone else? According to University of Maryland professor Robert Provine, about 55% of viewers seeing a yawn will yawn themselves. Provine embarked on a quest to design “the 100 percent contagious yawn” (inspired by a Monty Python sketch).

Intrigued? NPR’s All Things Considered talked to Provine about his experiments on September 24th. See if you can make it though the story without yawning yourself – I couldn’t!

Want to learn more? Read Provine’s article about his early research in the December 2005 issue of American Scientist. The full text of the article is available through the General Reference Center Gold database on the library’s Research page.

Baby Names, Swearing, & Human Nature

What do baby names and swearing reveal about thought and human nature?

Find out in Steven Pinker’s new book, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

If you haven’t read any of Pinker’s entertaining and thought-provoking books on language and psychology - or if you’re already a fan - listen to him discuss his new book on the second hour of NPR’s Science Friday on September 14th.

Comics AND Science!

What better format through which to explore science than comics? Jim Ottaviani does a splendid job of introducing us to the scientists who shaped the 20th century (including one of my all time favorites Richard P. Feynman). His informative writing is enhanced by the illustrative stylings of many talented artists.

Jim Ottaviani will be at the Kerrytown Book Festival this Sunday (September 9) appearing on the Future of Comic Art panel with Jerzy Drozd, Kay Fedewa, and Chad Sell.

EXPLODapalooza!!

Mentos FountainMentos Fountain

Get in on the action and try out some fun chemistry at EXPLODapalooza on Wednesday, August 15 at 2PM at the Malletts Creek Branch. Make your own Alka-Seltzer rocket and bask in the joy of a mentos fountain. It will be a glorious, exploding hour. Hope to see you there!

Program is for children in 4th grade and up. Please note that the program was incorrectly published as starting at 7 PM in a local publication.

Stargazers, get ready!

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks in mid-August with many shooting stars visible each hour. The night of August 12 through dawn of August 13, with a new moon- meaning no moonlight, will be one of the best nights for viewing. Since the shooting stars will seem to be emanating from the constellation Perseus, why not beef up your stargazing skills with a few star maps to make sure you're looking in the right spot. Check these out: Simple stargazing : a first-time skywatcher's guide, Atlas of the night sky, A walk through the heavens : a guide to stars and constellations and their legends, Star maps for beginners, Peterson first guide to astronomy. So grab your blanket and find a good spot to watch the sky!

Your Summer Science Reading List from Science News

Science News (June 30, 2007) recommends “a picnic basket of lively books. Scientists soaring through trees and camping out with ivory-billed woodpeckers are our action heroes. Storytellers describe natural living, raising flowers for profit, and surviving as original Americans. Our dose of summer school seriousness comes from authors trying to explain climate change, the religion-science divide, and the universe itself. Enjoy.”

The Wild Trees: a Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Flower Confidential: the Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers by Amy Stewart
Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by William F. Ruddiman
Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature by Keith Thomson
Ivorybill Hunters: the Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness by Geoffrey E. Hill
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
Many Worlds in One: the Search for Other Universes by Alex Vilenkin

Blinded by Science! Tesla vs. Edison: Electricity Throwdown

When I think of Nikola Tesla, I imagine David Bowie, who played him in the recent film about magicians, The Prestige. The real Tesla may not have looked like a rock star or built a mysterious cloning machine in the mountains of Colorado, but he did compete in a heated rivalry with Thomas Edison, each man hoping to secure the future of his own electrical designs.

See the competition play out in person at the Downtown Library this Thursday evening at 7pm. The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum's very own John Bowditch, an Edison expert featured on BBC and the History Channel, will be on hand not only to discuss this historical scientific rivalry, but also (Steampunks, listen up) to demonstrate some electric artifacts from both inventors—zzzt! spark! flash! Awesome!

Any bug lovers out there?

The periodical cicada has invaded the Midwest by the billions over the past few weeks- particularly in parts of llinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. These red-eyed beauties (yes, I said beauties!) spend 17 years underground before they emerge, and when they emerge, boy are they en masse! Some people find them amazing, others find them loud and messy. You can be your own judge of that. Find more cicada facts, and colorful pictures too, here. Happy reading, and don’t let them bug you too much!

Rarely Seen are Now Readily Accessible

frogfrog

This is not a zigzag bladderwort, it's a Blanchard's cricket frog, one of the more than 600 rare plants and animals featured in the new Michigan Rare Species Explorer. The curious of all ages can search by habitat, location, name, best time to view or browse the beautifully illustrated entries for all the species. Kudos to the team at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory for this wonderful new resource.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #67

Critics are calling Rebecca Stott’s academic thriller Ghostwalk* “hypnotic”, “intelligent”, and “stunning”, (where) “Isaac Newton joins Dracula and Leonardo da Vinci”. Curious? I was.

Elizabeth Vogelsang, a Cambridge University scholar at work on a potentially controversial biography of Isaac Newton is found drowned and clutching a prism in her hand (a clue?). Lydia Brooke, a successful screenwriter is asked by Cameron Brown, her former lover and Elizabeth’s son to ghostwrite the last chapter of Elizabeth’s manuscript.

Lydia soon finds that Elizabeth’s cottage might be haunted and she is drawn into solving two series of murders centuries apart, both connected to 17th Century alchemy and present-day animal rights.

This well-researched and intricately crafted debut novel by British historian Stott (bio.) is a clever whodunit that entertains and instructs - of such varied subjects as optics, neuroscience, and animal testing. More interesting trivia on 17th Century Cambridge could be found on her website.

* = Starred Reviews

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