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Saturday, April 21, 2012

1234567891, 12345678901234567891, and 1234567891234567891234567891 are prime.

So are

19793393 and

And so are

742950290878080878092059247 and

If the nth term of the Fibonacci series is prime, then n also is prime (where n > 4). For example, the 17th term, 1597, is prime, and 17 is prime.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Endeavour for Endeavour

What would it be like to fly a space shuttle? Although the last of NASA's space shuttles has now been retired, it is still fun to contemplate sitting at the controls of one of the humanity's most sophisticated machines. Pictured above is the flight deck of Space Shuttle Endeavour, the youngest shuttle and the second to last ever launched. The numerous panels and displays allowed the computer-controlled orbiter to enter the top of Earth's atmosphere at greater than the speed of sound and -- just thirty minutes later -- land on a runway like an airplane. The retired space shuttles are now being sent to museums, with Endeavour being sent to California Space Center in Los Angeles, California, Atlantis to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Merritt Island, Florida, and Discovery to the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. Therefore sitting in a shuttle pilot's chair and personally contemplating the thrill of human space flight may actually be in your future.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Brain is Full of Surprises

Maybe you heard about the study published last week that compared the brain’s wiring to the streets of Manhattan. It made me wonder if this had anything to do with how active my brain’s fear center gets when I’m in the back of a New York taxi, but apparently the scientists did not see the value of this line of research.

They did, however, find that the connections in our brains seem to follow a fairly basic design, that instead of resembling a bowl of tangled spaghetti, as once thought, they’re laid out like a grid. (Well, that’s reassuring.) And, says the study’s lead author, Van Wedeen, of Harvard Medical School, that helps clarify how a relatively small number of genes can produce a blueprint for something so complex. It also explains how the basic brain of a flatworm could evolve into a stunningly complicated human mind. To extend Wedeen’s Manhattan analogy, it’s a case of adding a lot more streets to the grid.

The value of the study, along with other major brain mapping undertakings, such as the Human Connectome Project, is that they’ll help scientists see what goes wrong to cause disorders such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

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