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This Week in Science 2017–09–24


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2017/09/24

“The secret to enjoying a good whiskey? A dash of water.

Whiskey drinkers have been doing this for centuries to heighten certain flavors and reduce burn.

Science has two competing theories for why this works. One explanation suggests water traps bad flavors. Whiskey contains a compound called “fatty acid esters”. These compounds interact with water in an interesting way. One end repels water molecules and the other end attracts it.”


“atthew Walker has learned to dread the question “What do you do?” At parties, it signals the end of his evening; thereafter, his new acquaintance will inevitably cling to him like ivy. On an aeroplane, it usually means that while everyone else watches movies or reads a thriller, he will find himself running an hours-long salon for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. “I’ve begun to lie,” he says. “Seriously. I just tell people I’m a dolphin trainer. It’s better for everyone.”

Walker is a sleep scientist. To be specific, he is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute whose goal — possibly unachievable — is to understand everything about sleep’s impact on us, from birth to death, in sickness and health. No wonder, then, that people long for his counsel. As the line between work and leisure grows ever more blurred, rare is the person who doesn’t worry about their sleep. But even as we contemplate the shadows beneath our eyes, most of us don’t know the half of it — and perhaps this is the real reason he has stopped telling strangers how he makes his living. When Walker talks about sleep he can’t, in all conscience, limit himself to whispering comforting nothings about camomile tea and warm baths. It’s his conviction that we are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”, the consequences of which are far graver than any of us could imagine. This situation, he believes, is only likely to change if government gets involved.”


DUNE is one of the better particle physics acronyms. The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment involves a large, sensitive detector which will indeed be deep underground — in the Sanford Lab at the Homestake goldmine in South Dakota — and will study neutrinos produced from a high-intensity beam of protons at Fermilab in Illinois. UK scientists from several universities are already deeply involved in the experiment, and Cambridge’s Prof. Mark Thomson is one of the two spokespeople who lead the experiment internationally.

The science of neutrinos is fascinating, with wide implications for our understanding of the universe and how it operates. Neutrinos are produced copiously in the Sun, and are the second most abundant particle in the universe. In the original conception of the “Standard Model” of particle physics, they were taken to be massless. The discovery that they actually have a — very tiny but non-zero — mass remains the only major modification forced upon the Standard Model since it was established. Fittingly, the first measurement leading to that discovery took place in the Homestake mine, which will now be reoccupied by one of the DUNE detectors. A goldmine in more than one sense.”


“Last week, Disney Parks Blog held a Galactic Meet-Up for their fans, who were treated to a meeting-of-the-minds between NASA representatives, Imagineers and superhero storytellers. It was a unique panel discussion that explored how the science of space exploration influences storytelling. Turns out that if you love Disney, you may be a budding scientist.

On the panel was retired U.S. Navy pilot and NASA astronaut Capt. Mike Foreman, NASA Astrophysicist Dr. Kimberly Ennico Smith, Marvel Entertainment’s Vice President of Development, TV and New Media, Stephen Wacker, and Walt Disney Imagineers John Mauro and Amy Jupiter. The panel spoke about their various fields and how the intersection of science and storytelling comes together to celebrate both technology and entertainment.

“As a physicist we solve problems,” said Dr. Kimberly Ennico Smith. Having worked at NASA for 17 years she related, “If you’re curious — if you ask questions — you are a scientist. Science is going to make the world a better place, and our future even brighter. In this age of technology, with technology within the Disney Parks, animation, and movies, it gets you to think beyond reality. You can use that thinking to solve problems in science and engineering.”


“KOZHIKODE: Creative thoughts are a must for the growth of science and scientific education, scientist C.N.R. Rao has said.

He was interacting with select students from the State as part of a three-day conference on ‘Emerging frontiers in chemical sciences’ at Farook College here on Sunday.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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