Friday, November 14, 2008

Spliced feed for The Science Network

Spliced feed for The Science Network

Five-leaf Clovers [Sciencebase Science Blog]

Posted: 31 Oct 2008 02:30 AM CDT

A four-leaf cloverAn anonymous visitor to the site emailed me: “I found a 5 leaf clover… do you know anything about it? Is it good luck or bad luck?”

It’s just a mutation, like the four-leaf clover, of course. The four-leaf mutation is quite rare occurring once in about 10,000 specimens. Five is rarer still. But, according to this site: Five-leaf Clovers bring extra good luck and attracts money.

Nice, I wonder why the banks don’t breed these things and hand them out to their managers.

Of course, there is no such thing as “luck” and no number of leaves on a member of the more than 300-strong species of plants in the pea family Fabaceae is going to change that. Clover (Trifolium), or trefoil, usually means three-leafed, hence the surprise when one finds a specimen with four, five or more leaflets. The world record clover is an uber clover with 21 leaflets, although the Guinness record site says 18. Wikipedia, in traditional character has both figures on two different pages. Intriguingly, both the 18 and 21 leaflet specimens were found/grown by Shigeo Obara, a farmer in Japan’s Iwate prefecture.

Clover is found across the globe, most species are found in the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, but many also occur in South America and Africa, particularly at high altitudes in the tropics. Clovers are small annual, biennial, and short-lived perennial herbaceous plants. To “be in clover” means to be living a carefree life of ease, comfort, and prosperity. But, if you’re due for a drug test make sure you haven’t been drinking milk from cows fed on clover. Clover has a small amount of morphine, which can end up in bottled milk. Eating clover itself can trigger blood and urine drug tests. It’s one more excuse for unlucky athletes caught abusing the system.

So, what is the origin of the notion that four-leafed clovers are lucky? According to legend, each leaf, or rather leaflet, represents something: hope, faith, love, and the fourth luck. It presumably has some association with the Irish “Shamrock”, which Saint Patrick used as a metaphor for the Holy Trinity of the Catholic fate. the Shamrock having four leaflets forming a single leaf by definition - God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Such metaphors are not uncommon in other religions where multifaceted deities are represented this way.

But, the Shamrock
metaphor
doesn’t explain
the luck associated
with the
fourth leaflet
the Shamrock metaphor doesn’t explain the luck associated with the fourth leaflet, if anything one would imagine that a fourth leaflet would represent the Devil and so be bad luck. Although some say it is meant to represent God’s grace. According to the Wisegeek site, when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, Eve is supposed to have carried a four leaf clover. “Curiously, the lore of the white clover plant is also associated with repelling snakes, though it didn’t seem to work in the Garden of Eden,” the site says. I suspect the snake-repellant aspect comes from the Irish St Patrick legend. Ireland famously has no snakes.

One important aspect of the four-leaf clover myth is that for it to bring luck you must find it serendipitously, there’s no point in searching for one and certainly no point in buying one; several websites offer for sale hand-picked four-leaf clovers! However, if you were a child in the Middle Ages who found a four-leaf clover you would have been given the gift of being able to see fairies and plant sprites…

It’s all superstitious nonsense, steeped in the mythology of religion, in dark times there is a deep-rooted (pardon the pun) psychological need to cling to such ideas of a better life beyond the grave and the idea of good luck associated with a symbolic plant simply reinforces such notions and reminds us of the deep-seated need in many people to postpone thoughts of their own mortality. Whoops…got all heavy there. Apologies. It seems that searching for four-leaf and beyond clovers is a perennial favourite among children and if it gets them out in to their gardens or the countryside on a long hike to search for the biggest then that’s no bad thing. Indeed, the exercise and fresh air will no doubt bring them luck by helping to stave off obesity and type 2 diabetes. Just don’t let them pick any dandelions…it’ll make them wet the bed, you know?

The original short version of this post originally appeared on Sciencebase - 2005-05-19

Five-leaf Clovers

Revolutionary Solids [Sciencebase Science Blog]

Posted: 29 Oct 2008 07:00 AM CDT

pisa-balloonHistory teachers can always turn to the significant figures and battles to enliven their lessons, biology education has the enormously diverse range of species to point to, and even physics can pull in metaphors and anecdotes for the more esoteric aspects, try teaching gravity without mentioning Galileo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But, teachers of mathematics have it tough. They can describes solids and shapes, discuss how Alice and Bob might share out an apple pie fairly between nine friends. But. How does one visualise an abstract equation like this:

big-equation

A rare few students will cope entirely, finding a way to see what such a formula means, but most struggle (I know I did) to imagine an object like a four-dimensional hypercube, for instance.

Annunziata Cascone, Gerardo Durazzo, and Valentina Stile of the Department of Information Engineering and Applied Mathematics, at the University of Salerno via Ponte don Melillo, in Italy, point out that mathematics obviously plays an instrumental role in technical degrees, science, engineering, computing etc. Moreover, given how common is the use of computers and calculation programs today in these areas it really is critical that students can get to grips with seemingly esoteric mathematical concepts that have direct application but are hard to visualise.

mathematica-model-2The team suggests that Computer Algebra Systems (CASs) are the way forward in teaching mathematics for engineering and other technical subjects. Unfortunately, there are many professors who hesitate to use such technologies. They cite technical, personal or even political reasons, Cascone and colleagues explain. “An explanation for such behaviour can be found in the fact that most teachers were not taught to use CASs when they were studying to be teachers,” they say, and so perhaps don’t recognise the enormous possible benefits.

Writing in the International Journal of Knowledge and Learning this month, Cascone and colleagues describe an approach that can effectively integrate CASs into an analysis course, which they say can improve students’ conceptual understanding significantly.

To improve students’ ability to make some geometric concepts concrete, we developed a Mathematica package that is able to realise and visualise the result of a plane domain revolution in a three-dimensional space.

In other words, the package can generate pictures and computations for an equation that would otherwise not have its significant figures, events, battles, and apple pies. “CASs, when used thoughtfully, allow students to concentrate on conceptual development,” the researchers say, “The same students claim that the use of CASs created the possibility of checking their paper-and-pencil results; it enabled them to discover their mistakes and it clarified the processes to solve problems.”

Annunziata Cascone, Gerardo Durazzo, Valentina Stile (2008). Solids by revolution: materialising an idea International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, 4 (2/3) DOI: 10.1504/IJKL.2008.020651

Revolutionary Solids

Skeptics Guide #170 - October 22nd, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 26 Oct 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Phil Plait; News Items: Psychology of Superstition, Another Solar Breakthrough, UK UFO, Announcing SkepticBlog; Your Questions and E-mails: Blacklight Free Energy; Science or Fiction

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Skepticality #088 - From Ghost Hunters to The Mentalist, a Skeptic's look at Fall TV [Skepticality - Science and Revolutionary Ideas]

Posted: 21 Oct 2008 10:50 AM CDT

On this week's episode ofÂSkepticality,ÂDerek & Swoopy exploreÂthe good, the bad, and the scary amongÂtelevision's current crop of offerings â from "Psychic Kids" to "The Mentalist." Â Also, in a lead up to her favorite holiday,ÂSwoopy ponders the pros and cons of being a skeptic on Halloweenâ.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skeptics Guide #169 - October 11th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 18 Oct 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Perry DeAngelis Memorial Live Podcast, Special Guests: Steve Mirsky and Terrence Hines; Science or Fiction

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Skeptics Guide #168 - October 8th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 11 Oct 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with PZ Myers; News Items: 2008 Nobel Awards, Turing Test; Your Questions and E-mails: Darwin Quote, Cosmology; Name That Logical Fallacy; Science or Fiction

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skepticality #087 - A Skeptic for Congress? - Interview: Dr. Hal Bidlack [Skepticality - Science and Revolutionary Ideas]

Posted: 07 Oct 2008 05:20 PM CDT

With less than thirty days left until (U.S.) Election Day 2008, SkepticalityÂchecks in with noted skeptic Lt. Colonel Hal Bidlack (U.S. Air Force, Retired) â theÂDemocratic Party'sÂ5th Congressional DistrictÂcandidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Swoopy talks with Hal about the challenging and expensive process of seekingÂpublic office in the United States, and how the recent upset of financialÂmarkets is shaping this election season. Hal also explains how his study of the U.S.ÂConstitution and experience as the nation's premier Alexander Hamilton scholar lendsÂvaluable insight even in 2008.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skeptics Guide #167 - October 1st, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 04 Oct 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Matthew Chapman; News Items: Dust and Snow on Mars, PETA Nonsense, Calorie Restriction Diet; Your Questions and E-mails: LHC Update, Correlation and Causation, Emergent Intelligence, Neanderthal DNA; Science or Fiction

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Skeptics Guide #166 - September 24th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 27 Sep 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Sharon Begley; News Items: LHC Problems, Worthless Acupuncture Studies, Japan Space Elevator, Belief and Credulity; Your Questions and E-mails: Real versus Scientific; Science or Fiction

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Ubuntu Rules [DCS Security]

Posted: 24 Sep 2008 07:52 PM CDT

1. No I haven't abandoned the blog.
2. Yes I am going to finish the FMEA stuff.
3. Ubuntu is quite nice.

Oh Snap


Skepticality #086 - Where Do We Go From Here? - Daniel Loxton & Skeptrack Panel Discussion [Skepticality - Science and Revolutionary Ideas]

Posted: 23 Sep 2008 10:52 AM CDT

This week, Skepticality rounds out its Dragon*Con coverage withÂthe Skeptrack panel inspired byÂJunior Skeptic EditorÂDaniel Loxton'sÂop-ed essay, "Where Do We Go From Here?"Â Daniel also joins Swoopy to share his thoughts upon hearing the panel discussion, and about skeptical trends. Panelists for this conversation about the future of skeptical activism include theÂJREF's James Randi and Jeff Wagg, Skeptical musician George Hrab, The Secular Coalition for America's Lori Lipman Brown , Center forÂInquiry's D.J. Grothe and Benjamin Radford, Australian skeptic Dr. KarenÂStollznow â and by popular demand, new JREF president Dr. Phil Plait.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skeptics Guide #165 - September 17th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 20 Sep 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Ben Goldacre; News Items: Goldacre LIbel Victory, Stellar Mystery, Creationism in the UK; Your Questions and E-mails: Pharma Conspiracy; Name That Logical Fallacy; Randi Speaks: The Media; Science or Fiction

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Skeptics Guide #164 - September 10th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 13 Sep 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Ben Radford; News Items: LHC Turned On, Elephant Math; Your Questions and E-mails: Bird Correction, Irradiated Food, Pseudoscience; Science or Fiction

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skepticality #085 - Why Magic is Important - Panel Discussion with James Randi and D.J. Grothe [Skepticality - Science and Revolutionary Ideas]

Posted: 09 Sep 2008 05:38 PM CDT

The hosts of Skepticality are recovering from their spectacularlyÂsuccessful "Skeptrack" events at Dragon*Con 2008: four days of livelyÂdiscussion featuring guests from some of the most prominent skepticalÂorganizations around the world. Included were James Randi and Dr. Phil PlaitÂfrom the JREF, Dr. Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society, BenjaminÂRadford and D.J. Grothe from the Center for Inquiry, and Richard Saunders andÂcrew from the Australian Skepticsâto name only a few. For those who participated in this groundbreaking weekend, we look forwardÂto hearing your stories. For those who could not attend,ÂSkepticalityÂbrings you the first of several recordings from last week's panelÂdiscussions, beginning with James Randi and D.J. Grothe discussing "Why MagicÂis Important to Skepticism." This in-depth discussion of the entwined histories of magic andÂskepticism reveals how creating illusions can illuminate the truth.

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skeptics Guide #163 - September 3rd, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 06 Sep 2008 07:25 AM CDT

SGU Live from DragonCon 2008 with special guests James Randi, Pamela Gay, and Derek Colanduno; News Items: The Milky Ways Supermassive Blackhole; Live Questions; Science or Fiction

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Skeptics Guide #162 - August 26th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 01 Sep 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Richard Saunders; News Items: WTC-7 Collapse, Neanderthal Tool Making, Rainbow Lady Follow Up; Your Questions and E-mails: Teleportation; Science or Fiction

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

Skepticality #084 - What's The Harm? - Interview: Tim Farley [Skepticality - Science and Revolutionary Ideas]

Posted: 26 Aug 2008 10:55 PM CDT

Misinformation is everywhere, but nowhere more prolific than on the internet. A Google search for "homeopathy" or "UFO" returns a landslide list ofÂmystery-mongering websites. Yes, there are a few skeptical web resources too âÂbut a non-skeptic can be easily misled online. On this episode,ÂDerek & Swoopy talk with Tim Farley, aÂskeptic applying his 20-plus years ofÂsoftware development experience to the creation of advanced tools and techniques for fighting the battle against misinformation on the World WideÂWeb. Tim's popular websites include the Skeptical Software Tools blogÂ"Skeptools" (which uses Web 2.0 techniques to aid the spread of criticalÂthinking information online), and WhatsTheHarm.net, which has collected theÂstories of over 225,000 people who have been injured or killed as a resultÂof supernatural andÂpseudoscientificÂpractices from alternative medicine to hypnosis to faith healing.

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Skeptics Guide #161 - August 20th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 23 Aug 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Adam Savage from Mythbusters; News Items: Remembering Perry, Monkey Eludes Dragnet, Bigfoot Body Hoax Revealed, Robot with Biological Brain, The Future of Doping; Special Report: JREF Psychic Challenge Report; Science or Fiction

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Skeptics Guide #160 - August 13th, 2008 [The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe]

Posted: 16 Aug 2008 07:25 AM CDT

Interview with Captain Disillusion; News Items: Bigfoot Body Claim, Invisibility Cloak, Prince Charles on GM Food, Sprinkler Rainbow Lady; Science or Fiction

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