Right-hoofed Horses Don’t Win Races

 

Are you right-handed or left-handed? I’m a rightie, which is a pretty good thing to be for us humans. About 90 percent of humans are right-handed and we’ve built our world to favor that majority. Many things end up being more cumbersome if you are left-handed, since humans use hands quite a lot.

What about animals? Do they exhibit signs of handedness? Even ones that don’t use or even have hands? As it turns out, some animals do. Most horses have a preference for right-front, hind-left. This means that most horses prefer turning left and that is why horse races are run counter-clockwise. Marsupials are interesting. It seems that the ones that walk on all fours don’t show a preference for handedness. But, the ones that hop on their hind legs, like kangaroos, do show sidedness and most are lefties.

What is even more interesting is that some bees seem to exhibit a “handedness” preference when flying. About half of studied bees don’t seem to care either way and deal with obstacles going either to the left or to the right. But the other half seem to care quite a lot and will put up with greater hardship to stick to their preferred side.

You can read more about animals and handedness in the article “Bee Sides” in the February 2018 issue of Scientific American magazine. To find out more about handedness in humans these books from our library collection will come in handy.

Event Video: Science & Computer Science in the Argonne Leadership Computer Facility

We are excited to share the video from this week’s STEM talk from computer scientist Ben Lenard. His talk focused on supercomputers at Argonne National Laboratory’s Leadership Computer Facility which help  solve problems within the world, from physics to medicine.

Ben is responsible for overseeing the administration and improvement of database systems in the ALCF’s supercomputing environment. These databases are critical to many of the facility’s support services, including job scheduling, job accounting, and business intelligence. In 2016, Ben deployed the IBM Data Server Manager to help streamline database administration tasks. With this tool in place, Ben has a better idea of how the databases are being used, while developers have an improved method for identifying and addressing any performance issues with their queries. In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Ben has been strong advocate for the ALCF and for computer science, volunteering for events like the Hour of Code and Argonne’s public open house. He is also currently pursuing a PhD in Computer and Information Sciences at DePaul University. Prior to Argonne Ben worked in the financial services industry for 13 years as well as academia for 2 years.

Science & Computer Science in the Argonne Leadership Computer Facility

The audio of this discussion is available below:

The Big Fake Out: Why Do we Fall for Fake News?

Our world of seamless information sharing and low-attention spans make it easy to spread news stories that are entirely fabricated. An entire industry of fake news sites has emerged generating advertising revenue for their owners. How do preexisting beliefs make us fall victim to outrageous stories? Why can’t we make rational decisions when it comes to evaluating information? How do our Why can’t we resist sharing articles that confirm our views? A panel of faculty members from philosophy, sociology, and psychology discuss these questions.

The Big Fake Out: Why Do we Fall for Fake News?

The audio of this discussion is available below:

Three’s a Crowd?

Were there 5 million people at the Cubs rally downtown last week? Everyone agrees that there were a lot of people there, but just how do they decide on a number? One estimation method was developed by journalism professor Herbert Jacobs in the 1960s. The method is described by msnbc in an article that discusses estimating crowds and some recent historical gatherings. And in 2011, Popular Mechanics magazine talked about some of the science behind crowd estimation.

 

Where are all of the aliens? Fermi’s Paradox & Colonizing the Galaxy

In the video below, novelist and physicist Alastair Reynolds offers some thoughts on colonizing the galaxy. He notes that given the vast size of the galaxy it would take about 3.75 million years to colonize the entire galaxy. This is longer than humans have been in existence. But, it is actually not too long considering that the galaxy works on a scale of billions and billions of years.

In this talk, Reynolds asks us to think about the Fermi Paradox, which basically asks, “if there are aliens out there, where is everyone?” Why haven’t they shown up yet?

Alastair Reynolds – Asking the Biggest Question: Fermi’s Paradox

If you’d like to read more, take a look at these titles in our collection:

Aliens : can we make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?
Life beyond Earth : the search for habitable worlds in the Universe
Life in the universe : expectations and constraints