Weekly Webcrawl: January 24, 2013

 

When I saw this photo on my weekly creative commons Flickr search, my first thought was the incredible engineering feat that must have been required to make that bridge. I was right: according to an engineering firm that helped build it, "the site frequently experiences winds of more than 100 mph and is located near the seismically active San Andreas Fault. The underlying bedrock has a history of collapse, with a drop of more than 100 feet from the bridge site into the ocean. Constant salt spray creates a highly corrosive environment, necessitating unique construction materials and protective coatings. Access to the bridge is on a steep, half-mile trail that includes a narrow 6-foot by 6-foot hand-carved tunnel, so the site was not accessible with traditional construction equipment.

When I saw this photo on my weekly cre­ative com­mons Flickr search, my first thought was the incred­ible engi­neering feat that must have been required to make that bridge (second thought was how saw I am not live in Cal­i­fornia). I was right: according to one of the firms that helped build it, “the site fre­quently expe­ri­ences winds of more than 100 mph and is located near the seis­mi­cally active San Andreas Fault. The under­lying bedrock has a his­tory of col­lapse, with a drop of more than 100 feet from the bridge site into the ocean. Con­stant salt spray cre­ates a highly cor­ro­sive envi­ron­ment, neces­si­tating unique con­struc­tion mate­rials and pro­tec­tive coat­ings. Access to the bridge is on a steep, half-​​mile trail that includes a narrow 6-​​foot by 6-​​foot hand-​​carved tunnel, so the site was not acces­sible with tra­di­tional con­struc­tion equip­ment. Photo by Robert Dawson via Flickr Cre­ative Com­mons.

Everyone wants to figure out the secret to going viral. It’s become a whole sci­ence these days. Ran across two links this week on the topic: first, an info­graphic on the most oft-​​appearing words in viral Face­book posts, tweets, and blog posts. Second, a New Yorker blog post on what those words reveal about the con­tent that is really behind its going viral.

On her pod­cast Inquir­ing­Minds, Cyn­thia Graber inter­viewed Michael Pollan about the Paleo diet. Take­away: it’s just as ridicu­lous as it sounds.

In his new monthly sci­ence column at the New York Times, George Johnson talked about the growing problem of irre­pro­ducible sci­ence: “With the most acces­sible truths already dis­cov­ered, what remains are often subtle effects, some so del­i­cate that they can be con­jured up only under ideal cir­cum­stances, using highly spe­cial­ized techniques.”

And here’s a beau­tiful essay for anyone that’s ever found them stuck between sci­ence and sto­ries. The author ends up choosing the latter, but I like thinking there’s a way to choose both.

This might be just the moti­va­tion I need to begin my amaeu­teur astronomer career with the tele­scope I got for my birthday two years ago: A super­nova in nearby galaxy M82 will only get more vis­ible as the days wear on.

Also, PS, Happy Birthday Mom!