Science Channel - InSCIder


24 Feb

The Mysteries of WHAT ON EARTH?

I’m Neil Laird, Executive Producer of WHAT ON EARTH?  Science Channel’s motto has long been to “Question Everything” no matter how bizarre or strange, and put it under the bright glare of modern science to see what might be revealed. Your guesses about the mysterious satellite photos fit right into that philosophy—they are informed, thoughtful, surprising, and just as importantly, entertaining. We’re thrilled you love the mysteries we are able to bring you here on the web and even better, leave you questioning some of these provocative images along with the experts. Many of the world’s top archeologists, meteorologist, geologist and other experts are as stumped as you are! And there are many more to come—so please keep chiming in. We’d love to hear more about what you think of the pictures and what you think of our show.

As a special sneak peak for our blog fans, here is a particularly eye-catching image that has captured everyone full attention---including the US State Department. It was glimpsed during a flyby over North Korea. It may seem like just a huge cloud, or the effects of a forest fire---but satellites reveal its neither--- now people wonder, could it be a man-made smoke screen? And if so, what on earth are they hiding? See scientists and military analysts probe the evidence next week at 9p on WHAT ON EARTH?


18 Mar

Big Bang 'Cosmic Inflation' Theory Proven Correct -- And The Physicist Who Predicted This Result Can't Believe It

By now you know that huge news was confirmed Monday: the "smoking gun" of the Big Bang was detected by scientists using a special telescope at the South Pole.

As our friends at Discovery News put it:

"For the first time, scientists have found direct evidence of the expansion of the universe, a previously theoretical event that took place a fraction of a second after the Big Bang explosion nearly 14 billion years ago."

Scientists, researchers, journalists and pundits will be debating the discovery and its implications for decades but the best reaction must be that of Andrei Linde, the Stanford University physicist and professor who first predicted these results back in the early 1980s.

His reaction, captured on camera, is priceless:

Joking that he wasn't expecting any visitors and thought the knock on the door was a delivery man, Linde laughed, "'It's probably some kind of delivery -- did you order anything?' Yeah, I ordered 30 years ago... finally it arrived!"

The Atlantic spoke with Stanford University science information officer Bjorn Carey, who came up with the idea of breaking the news to Linde on camera -- a "Publishers Clearing House-style approach to scientific discovery."

"I think people always think of physicists and scientists in general as people list sitting behind a calculator or computer or whatever, crunching numbers," Carey said of the gone-viral video. "But they're so much more than that. And I think this video does a pretty good job of showing that other side of them. But it's not normal. I don't know how to top this."

After news of the incredible discovery broke, Science Channel dived into its archives to compile expert videos on the Big Bang and its aftermath.

Here's a clip from Carl Sagan's original Cosmos series:

Tell us: What was your first reaction when you heard about the first direct evidence of cosmic inflation?

Stay connected with Science Channel on Twitter and Facebook.

17 Mar

In The Name Of St. Patrick's Day Science, Physics Explains Why Guinness Bubbles Sink Rather Than Rise

This St. Patrick's Day, we're wearing greeen, eating corned beef and cabbage, and listening to the Riverdance soundtrack on repeat.

There's also plenty of Guinness being poured around the world -- about 3 million pints today alone -- and, in the interest of science, we're looking a little closer at the iconic brew.

In particular, scientists have answered the all-important question, "Why do Guinness bubbles sink and not rise?"

Three Irish scientists at the University of Limerick tackled that query in a 2012 paper, "Why do bubbles in Guinness sink?" [PDF]. They found that the secret to Guinness' descending bubbles lies in the shape of the glass:

"If it narrows downwards (as the traditional stout glass, the pint, does), the flow is directed downwards near the wall and upwards in the interior and sinking bubbles will be observed. If the container widens downwards, the flow is opposite to that described above and only rising bubbles will be seen."

It's counterintuitive. As LiveScience put it, "Since bubbles are lighter than beer, one might think this defies the laws of gravity."

It's not a complicated idea, researcher Eugene Benilov told the Ottawa Citizen:

"The bubbles try to rise vertically up. As they do so, they move away from the upward and outward sloping wall, resulting in smaller concentration of bubbles near the wall. The low concentration of bubbles makes the near-wall layer heavier than the rest of the liquid/bubble mixture, so this layer begins to slide down along the wall. Its velocity turns out to be greater than that of the rising bubbles, so they get entrained in the downward motion (even though they still rise relative to the liquid)."

Word to the wise: "Don't drink too much Guinness while testing our conclusions!" Benilov joked with LiveScience. If you do want to test this at home or your local pub, BBC News recommends "a pint of stout... served in a straight-sided, cylindrical glass (not quite filled up)."

(And yes, we're aware that Guinness may not be as Irish as it appears.)

So as you're raising a glass today, say "Sláinte!" to the incredible (and delicious) physics of your pint.

Don't try THIS at your St. Patrick's Day party:

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17 Nov

Richard Feynman and the Beautiful Pursuit of Knowledge

Like seeing the increasingly beautiful details in the science of a flower, the further you look into Dr. Richard Feynman's life, the more inspiration emerges.

The scientist who helped figure out the cause of the shuttle Challenger's destruction had spent a lifetime tackling even larger mysteries, and his main contribution wasn't just solving them, but teaching a love for the pursuit of knowledge with an eccentric discipline.

You'll see for yourself in our upcoming documentary "Feynman: The Challenger," airing Monday at 10pm on Science. It follows the life and challenging times that formed him into the larger than life character that William Hurt portrays in, "The Challenger Disaster," encoring immediately before it. 

In the meantime, here's some of the beauty that others have seen by looking deeply into Feynman's genius:




Feynman diagrams starting at 1:00!:



Finally, we'll leave you with one of our favorite quotes: 

“Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don't think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn't stop you from doing anything at all.” 
- Richard P. Feynman

2 Oct

Put Your Head on My Shoulder


And no, we're not talking metaphorically about romance, as in the 1963 Paul Anka classic, later covered ably by 1970s teen idol Leif Garrett. We're talking literally here, about the possibility of surgically transplanting your noggin on someone else's body.

When I last wrote about head transplantation in this 2009 blog post, it still seemed like a fairly remote prospect, given the problem of connecting a transplanted head to the donor body's spinal cord. But now, in a newly published article in the medical journal Surgical Neurology International, Italian surgeon and neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group argues that recent developments in the use of fusogens--basically, plastic membranes that can be used to connect severed nerve fibers and allow the transmission of nerve impulses--now have eliminated that obstacle. He even describes a theoretical procedure for performing such a transplant. As he explains to, an Italian news website: "The head transplant in humans is technically possible. And in a couple of years could be a reality. " 

Continue reading >

26 Sep

Mars Topsoil Contains Two Percent Water

Mars-rover-250-new-discoveryJust last week, data from the Mars Curiosity rover indicated that the Red Planet was missing methane — a gas that is often an indicator of microbial life. While the science community was disappointed by this news, NASA has new data to get us excited again. New findings published in the journal Science reveal that Mars topsoil contains a suprisingly high amount of water!

We've known about ancient riverbeds on the Martian surface and even ice just below the crust. Today's topsoil discovery, however, is huge for possible manned missions in the future.

Continue reading >

19 Sep

A Capella Science Takes on String Theory

There are many educational videos that try to make complicated topics more accessible, but Tim Blais brings this genre to another level with his rock opera cover tune, "Bohemian Gravity." It's by far the geekiest Queen cover you'll ever hear, and it's probably one of the best you'll find, too. The String Theory explainer quickly took off and even earned a nod from Queen guitarist (and astrophysicist!) Brian May.

This isn't the first viral hit for the physics graduate student. You may remember Blais from the Adele cover song "Rolling in the Higgs" he released to celebrate last year's Higgs Boson discovery. But as you'll see in the video below, this year's song was a little more complicated -- and not just the scientific theory he covers! 

Even if you don't understand the complicated physics references, you can still enjoy the special appearance by an Albert Einstein sock puppet. Check it out below!

Still confused about String Theory (or even more confused now)? Listen to the soothing voice of Morgan Freeman as he tackles the very same topic in this Through the Wormhole clip.

18 Jul

Science Channel Returns to SDCC with New Panels That Are Both Outrageous and Unexplained

Comic-con-morph-2012-350x210You heard right! We struck gold last year with the Firefly 10th Anniversary with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion and other reunited cast members (check out videos from that panel here). Now, Science Channel returns to San Diego Comic-Con this Friday and Saturday with two brand new panels: Outrageous Acts of Science on Friday, July 19th and The Unexplained Files on Saturday, July 20th

Whether you're at the event or following from home, follow @ScienceChannel on Twitter for the latest from SDCC and chances to win awesome free stuff!
Click here for details and to find out how to enter for a chance to win free stuff from Science Channel!

Check out the full press release for more info on SDCC and Science Channel panels:


Science Channel presents OUTRAGEOUS ACTS OF SCIENCE on Friday, July 19 and THE UNEXPLAINED FILES on Saturday, July 20

Following up on the success of last year's BROWNCOATS UNITE: THE FIREFLY 10th ANNIVERSARY reunion panel, Science Channel today announced its lineup for this year’s Comic-Con.  On Friday, the network known for smart, lean-forward content will debut its panel for the breakout series OUTRAGEOUS ACTS OF SCIENCE, where citizen scientists from around the web walk the line between genius and insanity.  A panel featuring experts in topics ranging from the worlds of astrophysics and biology will comment on the unbelievable internet videos created by crazy geniuses from around the globe.  On Saturday evening, Science Channel delves into the unknown with a look at the upcoming series THE UNEXPLAINED FILES.  Panelists will share eye-witness accounts of blood rain, alien encounters and mysterious meat eaters with Comic-Con crowds for the first time ever.

Continue reading >

19 Jun

Are Animal-Human Hybrids Really a Menace?

Human-animal-hybrids-250x150I got a big bump in page-views and reader comments back in 2007 when I wrote this blog post about then-President George W. Bush's call for Congress to outlaw animal-human hybrids, which made him sound worried that some real-life version of H.G. Wells' fictional Dr. Moreau might create a freakish race of furry, cloven-footed parahumans.  Actually, Bush, who banned the harvesting of stem cells from leftover embryos at fertility clinics for medical research, didn't want scientists to get around his prohibition by inserting human genes into animal egs to create human-like embryos. But the President's terminology was so tortured that it inspired a ROFL-fest across the web-o-sphere, including a Cafe Press vendor who quickly began offering t-shirts and coffee cups emblazoned with a knuckle-walking man-monkey. And indeed, British opponens of stem-cell research apparently took this idea seriously. They actually proposed requiring stem-cell researchers to implant any human-animal embryos they created into women, so they could be carried to term and born, presumably to wreak revenge upon the evil madmen who spawned them. Alas, that didn't come to pass, because it would have made a great premise for a reality TV show.  And society certainly needs more of those.

Continue reading >

31 May

Making Transplant Organs in a Lab

Volunteer-clinical-trial-250x150Organ transplants save lives, but due to a lack of donations and the difficulty of obtaining a suitable match, a lot of people still die while waiting for a transplant. Worldwide, the shortage has grown so dire that in Australia, the government actually has begun offering to pay potential kidney donors an upfront fee of around $3,800, just for promising to provide an organ if called upon.

That's why a lot of people are excited about the news coming out of Boston. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston say that they've successfully transplanted kidneys grown in a lab into actual rats, and that those kidneys successfully have filtered the recipients' blood and made urine, just like the rats' natural kidneys.

Continue reading >

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