I’m really enjoying a lot of my recent (or not so recent) science reading; I feel like it’s been a long while since I took the time to really catch up on a lot of it. And some of it is really cute! Or neat! Or both.
First, I have heard of knuckleballs in baseball, but never knew what they were. Now, not only do I know that they’re a slower pitch with no spin put on the ball, but that they can happen in other sports! I also now know that we aren’t sure what the physics behind them is! Over on Science News, they report that it might be due to a phenomenon called drag crisis, but also that previously it had been attributed to the seams on the baseball. A baseball physicist quoted in the article says that wind tunnel experiments lean more toward the seams being the case. Me? I’m not a physicist, but I’m wondering why it can’t be both. Wouldn’t the seams1 cause more drag, allowing more chance for that change in drag coefficient? I need someone to get back to me on this. If I have to, I will contact my physicist ex-husband to ask him, but it’d be cool if one of my readers is a physicist who just can answer this. (Even if said physicist is my ex; he’s cool and it’d be neat if he reads this thing.)
Also, I enjoyed this clever comic helping to explain when a biologist uses the word “poisonous” vs the word “venomous.” I think the art is very cute, while the comic itself is amusing, and the text is incredibly clear on the differences. If you’ve ever struggled to understand which is which, or to explain it to someone else, this is the comic for you.
Speaking of biology, in my undergraduate studies, one of my favorite professors got very into studying epigenetics. As I worked in her lab, this means I heard a lot about DNA methylation. So, not going to lie, I laughed my butt off at this recent Beatrice the Biologist comic. You can read more about DNA methylation at the wikipedia link above, but if I recall my studies and work with her correctly (and it’s been awhile, so I may not), the methyl group suppresses gene expression by making it impossible for RNA polymerase to bind to DNA. It literally blocks the two from getting together, as I recall.
Finally, a long read that’s about genes, RNA, and proteins. Over on her blog, science journalist Diana Crow writes, “according to science’s latest numbers, at least 2/3rds of all “genetic bad luck” happens outside of genes.” Her “tl;dr” at the end is a great synopsis, but it’s really worth taking the time to dig into why she says “Blaming your weight or your hatred of exercise on genes alone is unfair” and learn about a bunch of cool molecular interactions.
1 I especially don’t see how the town things can’t be related, as every ball the Science News article listed as having a “knuckleball” phenomenon also has seams. See the above Silly Selfie. ➥