Every corner of human endeavor has its researchers, and that includes activities that we might think are just supposed to be fun for kids, like pinewood derbies. In case you don't know, a pinewood derby where kids build a car out of a block of wood, add some nails for axles and plastic wheels and then race them head-to-head on a length of track with an elevated starting line. It's all about kids having fun with gravity and little chunks of timber.
Proving that there is still something to be learned on television these days, National Geographic Channel recently introduced a new series called Duck Quacks Don't Echo. On the first episode of this science/comedy show, host Michael Ian Black proposes the idea that a truck can be supported with a ceramic coffee mug under each wheel – yes, he says that the entire weight of a truck can be balanced on just four coffee mugs.
Our sister site keeps up with the plainly-visible automated machines that are precursors to The Robot Apocalypse. But what about the microscopic machines that the T900s will be working with? At right in the picture above is a Top Fuel dragster. To the left is a nanodragster; the red guys in the foreground are the front wheels, and the chassis runs to the rear axle and wheels.
Parallel parking isn't difficult, but we have generally found ways to make it so. Between cars that almost kinda park for you to those with video game displays that turn parking into a Microsoft Flight Simulator landing attempt to the automated cars that park themselves (a frickin' robot! To park!), getting a car into a space couldn't be more complex.
While the automobile's total impact on the environment remains up for discussion, it's apparently pretty clear that cars and frogs don't really mix. Well, not if you're a male frog trying to get your croak on, at least. Scientists in Melbourne have found that due to traffic and machinery, a male frog's call can't be heard at great distances by female frogs. That's cutting down on the amount of frog sex to be had, and that, in turn, is cutting down on the number of frogs.
The good news is that the men in white coats have figured out why washboard roads develop on sand, gravel or any other loosely-surfaced roads. Above a certain speed, any linear force interacting with the surface causes the force to skip over the surface like a rock skipping over the water. The ripples are caused by the force alternately being "thrown off the surface" and then touching down again.
You can add another life-killing phenomenon to the list of deadly byproducts attributable to cars: increased lightning strikes. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that in the southeastern U.S. from 1998-2008, there was 25% more lightning during the work week than on the weekend.
In the military it's called "mission creep," when the quick little job you intended to do turns into something big and ugly. In science, it's called "progress." What started out as a quick little way to keep folks from texting while driving has turned into a way to track how and where you drive so that that information can be reported to your insurance agency.
RealClimate reports on a comment
posted in Science recently, pointing out that a study which criticized the ability of a specific climate simulation to
accurately predict Northern Hemisphere temperatures was based on an incorrect implementation of the methodology. While
the article might be a bit tough to digest for non-scientists (and even for scientists) it is important to point out,
since the original study garnered significant publicity, and was used on the Senate floor as a reason for the U