Apologies to My Beloved Audience for the extended radio silence. I could claim I was taking a holiday break, but the truth is I just didn’t have much to say. So, I posted last year about the discovery of the then-largest known prime number: 225,964,951-1 Well, GIMPS has done it again: On December 15, 2005, Dr. Curtis Cooper and Dr. Steven Boone, professors at Central Missouri State University, discovered the.. Read More

Brain drain, part 4

Stem cell scientists headed to Singapore to continue research, from CNN Two government biologists heavily recruited by Stanford University have decided to work in Singapore instead, saying they will face fewer restrictions on stem cell research overseas. And so it begins. It seems that today is the day for me to revisit themes that I blogged about this time last year. Last year I was posting about the impending decline.. Read More

Grand Challenge

Driven by Design, from the Chronicle The students were exultant that the driverless Volkswagen Touareg SUV they built had just snapped the tape at the Grand Challenge, a robot race through the Mojave Desert. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense, the competition carries a $2-million prize. … The first race — held in the Mojave in 2004, at a cost of $13-million — had been a bust, with no.. Read More

Ig Nobel Prizes

The Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded yesterday — last night, in fact, as we here in SILS were holding our Louis Round Wilson Academy shindig. Coincidence? Some of the more amusing prizes, in my opinion were: Physics, for a seriously longitudinal study. Literature, for spam as a short narrative form. Peace, for making a a locust watch Star Wars. What I want to know is, how can you tell if.. Read More

Giant squid

Giant squid snapped in the deep, from Nature News This is the first ever photograph of a giant squid in the wild. Japanese researchers snapped the eight-metre monster as it attacked their bait in the inky blackness almost a kilometre below the waves. The photographs were taken by zoologist Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum, and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association, both based in Tokyo. They.. Read More

Jared Diamond at Duke

The Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke has recently launched the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. As I understand it, the Nicholas School wants to get more involved in setting environmental policy, & this is essentially a think tank to help move them in that direction. As part of the launch of the Institute, they’re even as I write this running a day-and-a-half long Environmental.. Read More

NSF Review Panel

I recently served on a review panel for an NSF program. We were asked not to say which one. But this is my first time doing this, & it was quite an education. When I first accepted, I had some moments of doubt & guilt over the seriousness of what I was being asked to do: tell, or at least suggest to the federal government how to spend taxpayer money… Read More

Transactive memory, revisted

Here’s another spring-cleaning post. I originally wrote this back in March, shortly after Malcolm Gladwell came to talk at Duke; I no longer remember why I didn’t post it at the time, except that I never finished writing it. So here it is, completed & submitted for your edification. Since reading about the idea of transactive memory in The Tipping Point, I’ve tracked down the article that Gladwell cites on.. Read More


Distributed computing pays off: An eye surgeon in Germany has discovered the world’s largest known prime number – or at least his computer did. The surgeon, Dr. Martin Nowak of Michelfeld, is among thousands of participants in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, one of several big projects that tap idle computers worldwide. Now, Can You Find Its Square Root?, from the NY Times Here’s the GIMPS site itself. Me,.. Read More


A paper in Science Magazine: Underwater Bipedal Locomotion by Octopuses in Disguise. Also covered on NPR. It’s just too weird for words to watch these blobby creatures walk on two legs (tentacles?). Cthulhu fhtagn.