Natural Sciences

Analysis | Spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year

Analysis | Spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year:

It’s been a while since I posted, but I thought I’d share this moderately creepy factoid via the Washington Post: 

Or, for a slightly more disturbing comparison: The total biomass of all adult humans on Earth is estimated to be 287 million tons. Even if you tack on another 70 million-ish tons to account for the weight of kids, it’s still not equal to the total amount of food eaten by spiders in a given...

The geometry of weird-shaped dice

I’ve been enjoying a bit of reminiscing about my childhood lately, hunting down old copies of role-playing games I enjoyed in my youth as well as exploring newer games that have come out since then.  One thing that has changed dramatically since my gaming days is the proliferation of types of dice.  Most human beings never go beyond ordinary 6-sided dice, which we in the gaming world call a “d6.” Classic Dungeons & Dragons players, however, are...

This 400-Million-Year-Old Worm Monster Is Metal as Hell

This 400-Million-Year-Old Worm Monster Is Metal as Hell:

Once again, it turns out reality is much more freaky than the imagination of the most twisted horror writers.

...

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin

After reading the epic Foundation series of novels by Asimov, I was in the mood for a change of pace in science fiction.  I turned to another brilliant author, Ursula K. Le Guin, and her classic 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness.

I vaguely remember being told about this novel when I was in college, though I didn’t read it then. At the time, the description that I was given was more or less “a book entirely about linguistic, social and cultural details.”  ...

Fossils Show Humanity’s Earliest Known Ancestor Saccorhytus Had a Mouth But No Anus

Fossils Show Humanity’s Earliest Known Ancestor Saccorhytus Had a Mouth But No Anus:

Must… resist… political… commentary…

Must… resist… political… commentary…

...

Chills, by Mary SanGiovanni

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few weeks and haven’t been reading much.  What I needed to get myself back on track was a nice solid bit of horror fiction, and fortunately I had on hand the most recent novel by Mary SanGiovanni, Chills.

As is made clear from the cover image and the title, Chills centers on a danger that originates in the coldest weather.  A team of detectives and investigators race, in the midst of a blizzard, to solve a series of grisly murders and...

Optics basics: reflection

It’s been some 5 years since I wrote my last “Optics basics” post!  The goal of that series of posts was to introduce some of the most fundamental concepts in optics in a non-technical way, in part so I wouldn’t have to constantly reexplain them in more advanced posts.

I’ve covered most of the topics that I would truly call “basic” — hence the long time since the last post — but I realized that I missed one concept that...

This 400-Million-Year-Old Worm Monster Is Metal as Hell

This 400-Million-Year-Old Worm Monster Is Metal as Hell:

Once again, it turns out reality is much more freaky than the imagination of the most twisted horror writers.

...

Fossils Show Humanity’s Earliest Known Ancestor Saccorhytus Had a Mouth But No Anus

Fossils Show Humanity’s Earliest Known Ancestor Saccorhytus Had a Mouth But No Anus:

Must… resist… political… commentary…

Must… resist… political… commentary…

...

Pepper’s last optical illusion: metempsychosis

A month ago, I shared the lengthy, odd and sometimes dramatic history of the illusion commonly known as “Pepper’s ghost,” which I believe is more properly called the “Pepper-Dircks ghost.”  In researching this post, I uncovered a wealth of fascinating information and trivia related to Pepper, Dircks, and their work, which continues to serve as fodder for posts.

For instance: “the ghost” is not the only optical illusion that...

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