Interesting Stuff: Late July 2009

It’s now late July, and therefore a suitable time to publish my Late July collection of Interesting Stuff. However, I’ve been short of time lately, and I think I need to adjust my priorities. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop publishing the series, but I think I should devote less time each day to catching up on the latest news in science, and more time to other activities, both offline and on. In the meantime, installments of this series may be briefer than usual.

Over in the Real World, I am currently reading several books. As I’ve mentioned, I recently won a copy of a pre-release version of Chad Orzel’s How To Teach Physics To Your Dog, so I’m reading that, and I’m also reading a couple of books by Simon Singh that I bought when I attended his talk at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas on July 12, including Trick Or Treatment: Alternative Medicine On Trial.

Anyway, here are some online articles that have caught my attention recently.


  • Phil Plait linked to an episode of the Are We Alone? radio podcast, which I enjoyed very much. I intend to listen to some more episodes to see if they’re all as good as that, but haven’t got around to it. [Update: Podcast approved and added to sidebar.]
  • Ammonia anti-freeze may be responsible for Enceladus water. [Update: See also the ABC News take on this.]
  • Looking for ejected black holes.
  • Mars took longer than we thought to cool.



  • Swearing helps people to tolerate pain.
  • I scored a perfect 15/15 on the Casanova Test, which supposedly means I’m romantic (though I noted, for some questions, that “most romantic” does not mean the same as “most appreciated“). Now, why can’t real life be as straightforward as an online quiz?
  • It’s amazing what you can do with half a brain.
  • Some research into anorexia.


  • A robot that learns to emulate facial expressions. (BTW, my internal editor wishes to fine the writer for using the word “hyper-realistic”. It’s a pretty good robot, but not actually more realistic than reality itself.)
  • News of a new kind of microscope. No scientific details, sadly, but I’m making a note in the hope of learning more in the future.

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