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Tag: Science (81-90 of 93)

Site of the Day: 78 Optical Illusions...

Opticalillusionsquare_lHey, bud, c’mere! Take a look at the squares in the box at left. Do they look like they’re uniformly spaced? Really? Are you sure? … Okay. Thanks for playing along. I know that you know that these are ordinary squares. You’re no rube — you saw that this was a site with lotsa swell optical illusions and other, you know, visual phenomena. Hey, before you go, be sure to check out some of the Flash-animated effects, like the "Reverse Spoke Illusion" and the "Stepping Feet" — you’ll thank me later, chief.

Discovery's 'Time Warp': The only acceptable use of slo-mo?

Tonight, the Discovery Channel debuts its new show Time Warp, which uses high-speed photo technology —  up to 10,000 frames per second — to show what it really looks like when a man, say, juggles chainsaws, takes a punch to the face (you’ll want to watch that below), or uses a Blendtec blender on gumballs and butane lighters.

Awesome, right? I know Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET is a busy time for your DVR you, so I’ve taken the liberty of linking to Discovery’s Time Warp schedule: Tonight’s back-to-back episodes repeat at midnight.So, is this the only acceptable use of slo-mo camerawork (outside of sports), or just one of the best? If you answer the latter, name your favorite slo-mo scenes… so we can judge you.

Are you genetically programmed to be a scaredy cat?

Thering_lA new study by German scientists suggests there’s a genetic explanation as to why horror films amuse some folks, yet fill others with nameless dread. Researchers tested 96 women on their response to crime-scene images and unexpected loud noises, and found that ones with a certain variation of something called the "COMT gene" startled more dramatically than others. 

Despite the depth of my scientific knowledge*, I’m not sure how solid the study is. I am, however, vindicated knowing it was not me who, in the middle of a crowded movie theater back in 2002, curled my knees up to my chest, pressed my fists up to my forehead, squinted my eyes, and made a pathetic "eeep" sound when Scary McLonghair crawled out of that television set in The Ring.

So tell me, PopWatchers: Do any of you have the same easily rattled genes as me? And would you be interested in a "cure" for what ails you? (My short answer can be found by clicking here.)

* Took courses called "sociobiology" and "geology" to fill college science requirement.

History's 'Jurassic Fight Club': As awesome as it sounds

Jurassicfightclub_lTell me I wasn’t the only one who tuned in for the premiere of History Channel’s Jurassic Fight Club  last night (Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET). The first face-off pitted Majungatholus against Majungatholus (pictured) in a CGI battle to the death based on a scenario paleontologists deduced from fossil finds on the island of Madagascar. The first 45 minutes showed the science that determined that a female dinosaur had gone cannibal on a male. The final 15 minutes recreated their deadly encounter, after an ominous flashing of the warning "YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE A GRAPHIC DEPICTION OF A VIOLENT PREHISTORIC BATTLE. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED." Allow me to give you the fascinating play-by-play after the jump.

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Radiohead's Thom Yorke vs. the machines: The battle goes on

Johnmatthias_lWho is John Matthias (pictured)? Take your pick. He’s the British avant-folkie who just put out an accomplished, unsettling album, Stories from the Watercooler. He’s also the physics Ph.D who, with collaborator Nick Ryan, created Cortical Songs — a far-out project due this month in which all the music was "written" by an artificial brain program on a computer, then played by a human orchestra. (For a more detailed explanation which may or may not clarify matters, try this academic paper by Matthias and Ryan.) But most importantly to the likes of me, John Matthias is an old pal of Thom Yorke’s who totally played violin and viola on The Bends. In fact, Yorke recently repaid that 13-year-old favor by remixing one of those Cortical Songs tracks. So what does it sound like when Radiohead’s leader works out his infamously complex relationship with modern technology… on a piece of music that literally emerged from some sort of rudimentary robot mind? Check it out at Nonclassical Music’s Myspace, or stream it below (thanks to Pitchfork for that):

I, predictably, am loving it. This remix could easily have fit in on Yorke’s electronic solo album The Eraser if only he’d seen fit to sing a little something over that dissonant backdrop. That’s a compliment — it’s fun to hear him going crazy with all those glitchy bleeps and blips again, even if it’s only for a few minutes. So I’ll definitely be enjoying this track while I wait for Radiohead to follow through on the tantalizing hints they’ve been dropping about new material in the works (already? OMG!) — and I’ll be keeping my ears open for the next twist in John Matthias’ career. How about you?

Stars in roles that make you uncomfortable

Isabellarossellini_lI had heard about Isabella Rossellini’s new role as a "insect-sex (insex?) advocate" on Sundance’s educational Green Porno series, but it wasn’t until a friend sent me a link to the website — which has posted the short films for streaming — that I really got uncomfortable. (And of course had to watch them all, you know, so I could write this post with the journalistic integrity required of a PopWatch scribe.) Anyway, do check ‘em out if you think you’d enjoy watching Rossellini dressed in a variety of insect guises doing what the birds and the (you got it!) bees do. It’s sort of SFW, in the way that the Team America marionette-sex scene is SFW. (I’d link to it, but I can’t seem to find it online… curious, that.)

Here’s my question about the Green Porno films — who’s their intended audience? They can’t be for kids, despite the cutesy outfits and soft colors. The "Snail" film (pictured) has more in common with Secretary than with Sesame Street. Especially the part where she informs us, graphically so, about where the snail’s, er, anus, is unfortunately positioned. (I’m sure there’s a Love Guru joke in here somewhere.)

So! If you’ve watched Green Porno, do you feel any differently about the former Lancome model (who, granted, has starred in some pretty out-there films)? Besides Rossellini, are there any other stars that have played roles that make you similarly uncomfortable?

Three reasons to watch... Discovery's 'When We Left Earth'

Earlier this week, I went to a screening of Discovery’s When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions, a six-part HD history lesson on our space program with never-before-seen, remastered footage that premieres June 8. Amazing. The kind of amazing that makes your mouth drop open and your head turn to the person sitting next to you to make sure that they’re seeing what you’re seeing.

Here are three reasons, from episode 2′s Gemini missions, why you need to tune in… 

(1) The first American spacewalk: Gemini IV astronaut Ed White (below) steps outside the capsule and flies at 17,000 mph, 200 miles above the Earth, for 36 minutes. He "didn’t hear" the commands to come inside sooner.

Whenweleftearth01_l

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Next week on 'The View': Nicolaus Copernicus!

Sherri_lI had hoped that the lively and funny Sherri Shepherd would make The View into a must-watch show again, but I never imagined she would do so by displaying her complete scientific illiteracy, as she did yesterday when she said she doesn’t believe in evolution and doesn’t know whether or not the world is flat. (In her defense, Shepherd suggested science was less important to her than figuring out how to provide food for her child. Then, I suppose, she left the studio on her horse, galloped home to her cave, wrung the neck of a chicken, roasted the bird on a spit over an open fire, and fed it to her son with her fingers.) Elisabeth Hasselbeck must be breathing a sigh of relief, since she is officially no longer the biggest airhead on the panel.

addCredit(“Steve Fenn”) 

Sharks shag to Salt 'N' Pepa, not Britney

Pepa_lSomeone please tell me the Discovery Channel was filming this: According to this piece from The Independent, researchers at 10 different German aquariums played sharks music for two hours a day, for four weeks, hoping to find a sound that stimulates their libidos. (The captives apparently aren’t knockin’ fins like they used to.) While Britney Spears fell flat at a facility in Munich, other cities got lucky: "Push It," by Salt ‘N’ Pepa (pictured) was a hit in Speyer, Joe Cocker’s "You Can Leave Your Hat On" did the trick in Timmendorf, and Justin Timberlake’s "Rock Your Body" had them courting in Konstanz.

What tracks would you recommend?

addCredit(“Salt ‘N’ Pepa: Joe Bangay/LFI”)

The PopWatch Interview: 'Shark Week' host Les Stroud

Shark_lAh, Shark Week. The Discovery Channel’s favorite time of year. The 20th anniversary of cable’s longest-running event kicks off July 29 with Survivorman Les Stroud (pictured), a self-proclaimed child of the Jacques Cousteau era and one of our recently-crowned EW 100, serving as master of ceremonies through August 4. He also hosts his own special, Shark Feeding Frenzy, a look at what’s really on various species’ menus, premiering July 31 at 9 p.m. ET.

I recently phoned Stroud at the Ritz-Carlton New York opposite Central Park — the man can’t rough it all the time — and since he’d been traveling all day, and I’d just accidentally left the notebook with my questions for him in the wilds of the Virgin Megastore where I’d been interviewing Hanson, we opted for the survival technique commonly referred to as "winging it."

Entertainment Weekly: Was there anything that you yourself wanted to do, but [producers] wouldn’t let you?
LS: Yeah. Be in the water without the cage with the Great Whites.

EW: Why would you want to do that?
LS: I don’t know. I just felt confident with the shark experts there. Mark Rackley, who was filming with me, he and I became brother-dudes. "Dude, did you see that shark?" "Oh, come on, when we go down we’ll go out of the cage. They won’t be able to say anything." We were conspiring. He’s been in the face of every shark, so he’s very highly-skilled and he saw that I was calm, cool, and collected about it. And then another time was with the hammerhead shark. We were waiting hours for a hammerhead shark to show up, and I’m the in water, and all of the sudden we get the call: "Shark! Hammerhead! Hammerhead!" (Laughs) So the producer starts yelling, "Get Stroud out of the water! Get Stroud out of the water right now!" And while he’s yelling that, I took a big, deep breath and dove down so I could pretend like I couldn’t hear him. I was with Manny Puig, who is the shark expert, and we worked together to get me to ride on the back of a hammerhead shark. So I was being a little of a bugger there for my producer.

EW: I’m silent because my mouth is hanging open.
LS: I’m so jazzed that I had that experience, and I did not feel any sense of fear. I felt very calm. I tell you where I’m scared. I’m scared with polar bears. Polar bears will chase you down and eat you. They definitely scare me. But the sharks are different. Predators like that don’t want to be hurt. They fear being injured because if a predator is injured, he’ll die. If a herbivore is injured, well he can sit and graze for awhile and hide. But a predator gets injured, that’s it, he can’t eat anymore. I saw a 16-foot Great White coming right toward me flinch and move away because I moved my arm. He got jittery and left — and he was 16-feet of Great White teeth, you know. It’s calculated risk. It’s still way riskier to drive on the freeway.

EW: Wait, so you did or did not get out of the cage with a Great White?
LS: (Laughs) Oh no, now my producers are gonna find out, huh? What happened was, we got this big square cage, right? Well this big cage had a big sliding door on the side. As soon as it got down in the water, Mark opens up the big door, and he’s hanging out the cage, and he’s goin’ "Come on, hang out here with me and we’ll get a great shot of the shark coming in for ya." So we kinda poked our heads out of that cage. But again, I’m with a guy who’s got so much shark experience. You’re still very careful and cautious about the interaction. You’re not reckless.

EW: Why don’t I recall seeing footage of this in the special? Did they use it?
LS: No, what you see is the footage Mark got leaning out, of the sharks coming in close. (Pauses) But you didn’t hear any of this from me. (Laughs) I’m not gonna be one of these guys who shows up and reads lines.

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