Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Dawkins, Richard (2011-10-04), The Magic of Reality, Simon and Schuster, Retrieved on 2012-01-01
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  • Folksonomies: science wonder adolescent

    Memes

    01 JAN 2012

     We Only Notice Certain Statistical Events

    Sometimes we can literally count the number of ways you can reshuffle a series of bits - as with a pack of cards, for instance, where the 'bits' are the individual cards. Suppose the dealer shuffles the pack and deals them out to four players, so that they each have 13 cards. I pick up my hand and gasp in astonishment. I have a complete hand of 13 spades! All the spades. I am too startled to go on with the game, and I show my hand to the other three players, mowing they will be as amazed ...
      1  notes

    Using the example of a remarkable card-dealing hand, Dawkins explains how every hand of cards is statistically improbable, but we only notice and awe at combinations that are significant to us in some way.

    01 JAN 2012

     How Radiometric Dating Works

    Briefly, a radioactive isotope is a kind of atom which decays into a different kind of atom: for example. one called uranium-238 turns into one called lead-206. Because we know how long this takes to happen, we can think of the isotope as a radioactive clock. Radioactive clocks are rather like the water clocks and candle clocks that people used in the days before pendulum clocks were invented. A tank of water with a hole in the bottom will drain at a measurable rate. If the tank was filled at...
      1  notes

    A great summary of how we date fossils using Uranium and Carbon atoms and their decay rates.

    01 JAN 2012

     The Genetic Drift of Languages

    Just as some species are more similar than others and are placed in the same family, so there are also families of languages. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French and many European languages and dialects such as Romansch, Galician, Occitan and Catalan are all pretty similar to each other; together they're called 'Romance' languages. The name actually comes from their common origin in Latin, the language of Rome, not from any association with romance, but let's use an expression of love as nr ...
    Folksonomies: evolution language drift
    Folksonomies: evolution language drift
      1  notes

    Languages evolve and have a family tree like species in evolution.

    01 JAN 2012

     Explanation of Isotopes

    The number of neutrons in an atom's nucleus is less fixed than the number of protons: many elements have different versions, called isotopes, with different numbers of neutrons. For example, there are three isotopes of carbon, called Carbon-12, Carbon-13 and Carbon-14. The numbers refer to the mass of the atom, which is the sum of the protons and neutrons. Each of the three has six protons. Carbon-12 has six neutrons. Carbon-13 has seven neutrons and Carbon-14 has eight neutrons. Some isotope...
    Folksonomies: atoms carbon isotopes
    Folksonomies: atoms carbon isotopes
      1  notes

    The different types of carbon have different numbers of neutrons and therefore different masses.

    01 JAN 2012

     The Arctic Tern's Migration

    The difference between night and day is dramatic - so dramatic that most species of animal can thrive either in the day or in the night but not both. They usually sleep during their 'off' period. Humans and most birds sleep by night and work at the business of living during the day. Hedgehogs and jaguars and many other mammals work by night and sleep by day. In the same way, animals have different ways f coping with the change between winter anc summer. Lots of mammals grow a thick, shaggy ...
    Folksonomies: migration bird arctic tern
    Folksonomies: migration bird arctic tern
      1  notes

    The bird migrates back and forth from North and South poles so that it always enjoys the arctic and antarctic summers.

    01 JAN 2012

     How a Rainbow Works

    If you want to see a rainbow you ' have to have the sun behind you when you look at a rainstorm. Each raindrop is more like a little ball than a prism, and light behaves differently when it Sits a ball from how it behaves when it hits a prism. The difference is that the far side of I raindrop acts as a tiny mirror. And that is /hy you need the sun behind you if you want 0 see a rainbow. The light from the sun turns somersault inside every raindrop and is reflected backwards and downwards, wh...
      1  notes

    A fantastic explanation of how sunlight reflects off of raindrops to form a rainbow, which would be a rain-circle if the ground didn't get in the way.

    01 JAN 2012

     Newton's Experiment Proving White Contains All Colors

    Newton wasn't the first person to make a rainbow with a prism. Other people had already got the same result. But many of them thought the prism somehow 'coloured' the white light, like adding a dye. Newton's idea was quite different. He thought that white light was a mixture of all the colours, and the prism was just separating them from each other. He was right, and he proved it with a pair of neat experiments. First, he took his prism, as before, and stuck a narrow slit in the way of the co...
    Folksonomies: experiments prism spectrum
    Folksonomies: experiments prism spectrum
      1  notes

    Using a prism to split light into a rainbow, he then used a lens to merge the rainbow back into white light and split it apart again.

    01 JAN 2012

     Utnapashtim Origin of the Story of Noah's Ark

    The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest stories ever written. Older than the legends of the Greeks or the Jews, it is the ancient heroic myth of the Sumerian civilization, which flourished in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago. Gilgamesh was the great hero king of Sumerian myth - a bit like King Arthur in British legends, in that nobody knows whether he actually existed, but lots of stories were told about him. Like the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) and the Arabian he...
    Folksonomies: scripture sumerian legends
    Folksonomies: scripture sumerian legends
      1  notes

    The Sumerian legend is clearly where the Old Testament gets its version of the story.

    01 JAN 2012

     The Parallax Method

    It is possible to measure how far away from us each galaxy is. How? How, for that matter, do we know how far away anything in the universe is? For nearby stars the best method uses something called 'parallax'. Hold your finger up in front of your face and look at it with your left eye closed. Now open your left eye and close your right. Keep switching eyes, and you'll notice that the apparent position of your finger hops from side to side. That is because of the difference between the viewpoi...
    Folksonomies: measurement parallax
    Folksonomies: measurement parallax
      1  notes

    Using the change in position of an object when viewed from two different points can be used to determine its distance from you.

    01 JAN 2012

     Speculation Informed by Science is Not the Same as Fantasy

    Our search for life elsewhere is not haphazard or random: our knowledge of physics and chemistry and biology equips us to seek out meaningful information about stars and planets vast distances away and to identify planets that are at least possible candidates as hosts for life. There is much that remains deeply mysterious, and it is not likely that we will ever uncover all the secrets of a universe as vast as ours: but, armed with science, we can at least ask sensible, meaningful questions ab...
      1  notes

    We keep our speculations within the realm of the probable. It is imagination, but with rules, which is far more satisfying.

    01 JAN 2012

     Pollyanna VS Sod's Law

    It's easy to see that predators (animals that kill and then eat other animals) are working for the downfall of their prey. But it's also true that prey are working for the downfall of their .fedators. They work hard to escape bei and it they all succeeded the predators would starve to death. The same thing holds between parasites and their hosts. It also holds between members of the same species, all of whom are actually or potentially competing with on another. If the living is easy, natural...
      1  notes

    Evolution favors the paranoid mind.

    01 JAN 2012

     The Immune System Reaction and Overreaction

    The body has a very ingenious and usually effective system of natural defence against parasites, called the immune system. The immune system is so complicated that it would take a whole book to explain it. Briefly, when it senses a dangerous parasite the body is mobilized to produce special cells, which are carried by the blood into battle like a kind of army, tailor-made to attack the particular parasites concerned. Usually the immune system wins, and the person recovers. After that, the imm...
    Folksonomies: immune system allergies
    Folksonomies: immune system allergies
      1  notes

    It is a delicate balance, as when a mother is carrying a baby and her immune system must not be allowed to attack it, or when people get hay fever or allergies.

    01 JAN 2012

     A Clock Stopped at the Moment Feynman's Wife Died

    Sometimes we can actually pin down the explanation of a weird coincidence. A great American scientist called Richard Feynman tragically lost his wife to cancer, and the clock in her room stopped at precisely the moment she died. Goose-pimples! But Dr Feynman was not a great scientist for nothing. He worked out the true explanation. The clock was faulty. If you picked it up and tilted it, it tended to stop. When Mrs Feynman died, the nurse needed to record tl the time for the official death ce...
      1  notes

    But he traced the phenomenon to a faulty mechanism in the clock that triggered when the nurse picked it up to record the time of death.

    01 JAN 2012

     Admit When You Don't Know

    There are things that not even the best scientists of today can explain. But that doesn't mean we should block off all investigation by resorting to phoney 'explanations' invoking magic or the supernatural, which don't actually explain at all. Just imagine how a medieval man - even the most educated man of his era - would have reacted if he had seen a jet plane, a laptop computer, a mobile telephone or a satnav device. He would probably have called them supernatural, miraculous. But these dev...
      1  notes

    It is more honest to admit ignorance, to admit that something is a puzzle, than to invoke the supernatural to explain it.

    01 JAN 2012

     Sifting Through Photographs of Our Ancestors to See Evolu...

    Find a picture of yourself. Now take a picture of your father and place it on top. Then find a picture of his father, your grandfather. Then place on top of that a picture of your grandfather's father, your great-grandfather. You may not have ever met any of your great-grandfathers. I never met any of mine, but I know that one was a country schoolmaster, one a country doctor, one a forester in British India, and one a lawyer, greedy for cream, who died rock-climbing in old age. Still, even if...
      1  notes

    A great thought-experiment that takes us all the way back to when our ancestor was a fish, but shows us that the neighbors of any ancestor looked identical.