Exercise Makes You Smarter

I knew that puzzles and other brain exercises were being debunked, but this is encouraging:

According to Gretchen Reynolds, author of the soon to be released The First 20 Minutes, a book about the science of exercise, recent research shows that exercise can help your brain resist physical shrinkage and improve cognitive flexibility.

“Exercise,” she writes in this New York Times article, “…does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.”

Here’s why. Your brain is a tissue and so like any other tissue, abuse, lack of use, and especially age causes its performance to decline. Sometime in our late twenties the hippocampus, the portion of our brains devoted to learning and memory, loses about a percent per year in total volume. So it’s no surprise that as we get older we naturally lose some of our memory and learning capacity.

But what is surprising is that, just like with your muscles, exercise can slow or even reverse the physical decay of your brain.

Read it all: Boost Your Brain Power: A Simple Exercise | Inc.com

How Big is the Universe?

Impressive animation showing relative sizes of some of our most impressive neighbors:

TheNextWeb published the picture below [click through for full size pic] showing the size of a 5 MB drive in 1956, noting that it weighed over a ton (hence the forklift):

Wikipedia informs us that this was the first commercially available hard disk derive, the IBM Model 350 disk storage to be used with an IBM 305 RAMAC system.

This drive had fifty 24 inches (0.61 m) platters, with a total capacity of five million characters. A single head assembly having two heads was used for access to all the platters, yielding an average access time of just under 1 second.

And now I carry faster, larger, better storage on my keychain. Ain’t technology wonderful?

Sun Diving Comet

Who would’a thunk it? A big chunk of ice surviving a trip through the sun’s corona:

Lovejoy is newly-discovered and among a class of comets called Kreutz sungrazers whose immense orbits take them through or near the Sun’s surface. The comet, an icy rock with a core only about 660 feet in diameter, was first spotted just a few weeks ago.

When its course was plotted, scientists realized it was headed for a certain fiery demise.

So, NASA trained a couple of its satellites on the scene and waited to capture The End.

Except they got a celestial surprise.

Here’s a brief — and we do mean brief — video of the comet emerging from its close encounter of the solar kind.

The Physics of Wine Swirling

A team of physists recently turned their attention to the factors involved in the fluid dynamics of creating the perfect wine swirl. They came up with a mathamatical formula that precisely describes how wine sloshes, and presented their findings this week at the annual American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics:

Unlike the flavor of a perfectly aged pinot, Reclari says, the factors at play aren’t overly complicated. Three factors seemed to determine whether the team spotted one big wave in the wine or several smaller ripples: the ratio of the level of wine poured in to the diameter of the glass; the ratio of the diameter of the glass to the width of the circular shaking; and the ratio of the forces acting on the wine. Those forces affecting the wine were the centrifugal force pushing the liquid to the outside of the glass and the gravitational force shoving the liquid back down.

[Click through for a nice video.]

Finally, physics applied to something useful. Now if they can only figure out how to deliver the flying car they’ve been promising us since about the 50s.

Boeing 787 Makes Debut

Boeing 787 DreamlinerProduction delays are over and the first 2 Boeing 787 Dreamliners have been delivered to All Nippon Airways, with 18 more expected to be delivered by the end of FY2012. ANA has a total of 55 Dreamliners on order.

The first commercial flight was a 4½ hour charter from Tokyo to Hong Kong:

Journalists, special guests and representatives from ANA and Boeing
joined Chief Executive and President of ANA, Shinichiro Ito aboard
today’s flight. Business Class seats were also sold in a charity auction
with one passenger shelling out US$30,000 for a ticket.

The carbon fiber composite 787 offers passengers increased overhead
luggage space, 30 percent larger auto-dimming windows, power, USB and
iPod connections, touch panel LCD screens and more comfortable air

The Dreamliner also promises significant fuel savings of around 20
percent, which ANA says will eventually help it save JPY10 billion
(US$130m) a year.

Aeronautics engineer (but non-blogging) Advised by Wolves writes:

The big thing about the 787 is how different it is from previous airliners.

1. The aircraft will have a much higher percentage of composite materials as opposed to 90% metals for all previous airliners. The fuselage tube is carbon-carbon with metal reinforcement. The rudders and elevators are composites, but the wing, vertical and horizontal stabilizers are still aluminum alloy.

2. Aerodynamics is much slicker in this aircraft. That is a function of the greater knowledge of the physics and the composites that allow the minute bends of the slicker shell.

3. It has electrical actuators for the flaps and all control surfaces instead of hydraulics that is the norm for airliners. It has additional and more powerful APUs (auxiliary power units) to provide the additional electrical power. Other aircraft use the main engines to provide hydraulic power.

4. The biggest difference is how the aircraft was designed and built. Partners (i.e. subcontractors) were much more responsible for designing their components and the components were supposed to be completed so that major parts could be assembled easily at the shop floor in Seattle and the new shop in the Carolinas. And that is why the plane was delayed two years.

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Build Your Own (Pumpkin) Dalek

Working Homemade Dalek PumpkinA do-it-yourselfer named Wendell had the time, the interest, and evidently a spare pumpkin. The result, a fully functional Dalek recreation!

HT to SyFy Blastr, which notes:

Wendell didn’t use the traditional Kaled to power the Dalek shell. Instead, he outfitted the pumpkin with wheels, a servo motor and a remote control. So this particular Dalek might not look the part of universe-threatening alien … but it moves as if it could exterminate you.

OK, so “fully functional” may be stretching things a bit as it can’t actually exterminate you. But it really looks cool.

Wendell posts complete instructions so you can build your own. But first, watch the YouTube video to see just how scary this thing can be.

“Sexy” Penguins

A recent oil spill off the coast of New Zealand has volunteers flocking to help. But you don’t have to go all that way to help. You can just turn out a few “sexy knits” for stricken penguins to wear “so they don’t freeze or are poisoned as they preen themselves.”

Stylin' Penguins

Certainly better looking than one of those silly neck things they put on dogs to keep them from grooming themselves after an operation. Ah, those wacky environmentalists! What will they think of next?


Pendulum Waves

From Harvard Natural Sciences comes a video of “fifteen uncoupled simple pendulums of monotonically increasing lengths.” That’s what they call it. I call it awesome.