Category Archives: science

Funny Scientific Names, part 2

Part 1 is here.

Spongiforma squarepantsii (yes, really)- a mushroom

Tinkerbella nana – a fairy fly

Ittibittium – a mollusk

Oedipus rex – a salamander

Megapnosaurus (means “big dead lizard”) – a dinosaur

Irritator challengeri – a dinosaur

Gojirasaurus – a dinosaur, obviously

Not the name of a creature, but “thagomizer” is the name for the spikes on the end of a Stegosaurus’s tail. It originated in this Far Side cartoon:

Thagomizer

“Now this end is called the thagomizer … after the late Thag Simmons.”

And so finally, there is a louse named Strigiphilus garylarsoni.

Funny scientific names, part 1

I haven’t posted anything science-related in a while. If you’re at all familiar with the scientific names given to various creatures, you might have noticed that a few of them are weird or funny.

If you’re not familiar, the reason they have them in the first place is for international consistency; so scientists from all of the world can call a plant or animal by the same name. Most come from Greek or Latin, but not nearly all of them (in particular most of the funny ones don’t). The first word is the genus, the second is the species, and if there’s a third word it’s a subspecies.

Gaga germanotta – a fern (yes, it is named after Lady Gaga)

Hakuna matata – a wasp

Bison bison bison – take a guess (hint: bison)

Harryhausenia – a fossil sand crab

Laputavis – appropriately, a fossil swift

Brontomerus (means “thunder thigh”)- a dinosaur

Dracorex hogwartsia – a dinosaur

Bambiraptor – a dinosaur

Pantydraco – yet another dinosaur (this one is a coincidence; it’s named after Pant-y-ffynnon Quarry in Wales…which I need to remember if I ever do funny place names)

Zyzzyxdonta – a snail so slow it’s at the very end of the alphabet

The small world with the big heart

New Horizons made its closest approach to Pluto this morning, but it’s actually too busy observing to transmit right now, plus it’s so far away that it takes hours for the signal to get here.

But if this picture, which it took from about 50 times as far away, is any indication, the closeup ones should be incredible.

tn-p_lorri_fullframe_color

Continue reading The small world with the big heart

Science of Anime: Beam Sabers

Star Wars had lightsabers before any anime did, but weapons similar to them are quite common in anime, so they’re the topic today.

0_Gundam_Beam_Saber

First of all, they certainly can’t literally be light. Neither a normal beam of light nor a laser stops when it reaches a set length, or blocks other beams from crossing itself.

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Science of Anime: Getter Rays

Getter Robo is full of things that defy the laws of physics, but it’s not really the physics that we’ll be looking into today. It’s the implications the title robot’s power source has for biology that concerns us.

Getter Rays are called the energy of evolution. (As is Spiral Power from Gurren Lagann, in direct homage to Getter.) They are said to be what originally wiped out the dinosaurs on the surface, and are still harmful to the reptilians of the Dinosaur Empire. Most of the other things they do don’t really have anything to do with evolution at all.

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Science of Anime: Destroying the Moon

Another one from Dragon Ball. Goku’s transformation into a Great Ape is triggered by the light of the full moon, so “Jackie Chun’s” method of changing him back is to use his Kamehameha to blow up the moon. For how much of a task it is to do that, see “Destroying a planet”. This post is going to be about what would happen to Earth if the moon was destroyed.

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Science of Anime: Ludicrous Size

As I’ve said before, some anime like to have things so big that the square/cube law says they shouldn’t be able to support their own weight. But weight only applies when there’s gravity, right? So how about giants in space?

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Science of Anime: Space terminology and scale

Transformers Energon was the terrible English dub of Transformers Superlink, which wasn’t that good to begin with. One infamous line of dialogue from it was “We warped into another galaxy on the outer reaches of the solar system.”.

That’s an extreme example of an issue that a lot of other anime have to a lesser degree; mixing up astronomical terms and/or the scale associated with them. Several series have used “galaxy” like it meant “universe”. Others don’t seem to realize how close a “moon” and a “planet” can be in scale.

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“Reactionless” drive may also be a Warp Drive?

I’m a little behind with this; I was deliberately holding back for a couple of reasons.

I wrote about a “quantum vacuum plasma thruster”, in other words a device similar to the one that this latest news involves, a few times during the early days of this blog, never really saying much about it myself. Since then, I’ve done more research, and found that the variety of explanations for how it’s supposed to work is wider than I’d been aware of, but none of them seem to be very likely and some of them violate the law of conservation of momentum. Nonetheless, there does seem to be some evidence that the EmDrive does in fact work somehow.

Continue reading “Reactionless” drive may also be a Warp Drive?