The Melquiades Project

an experiment in the precision of unconventional communication

Posts tagged science

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Package Free, Zero-Waste Grocery Store to Debut in Austin

I don’t get to toot my own city’s horn quite as much as I would like to, so I’ll gladly take that opportunity now. I recently heard about a new grocery store debuting this summer in Austin called In.gredients. They will be the first package-free and zero-waste grocery store in the United States, an idea with small footholds in Latin America and Europe.

I’m really intrigued by this idea. You bring in your own reusable containers for, well, everything. That means no package waste, which is a huge fraction of the waste that goes into our landfills. It means less processed foods, which support subsidized and often unhealthy corn and soy products, in addition to a bunch of unpronounceable chemicals. It means seasonal, local foods, reducing transportation costs, pollution and promoting natural agriculture. It means less food waste, since you only buy what you need, and you don’t throw away spoiled food.

This is an environmentally-friendly idea that I think could be adapted in almost any city. It could also give major grocery chains some ideas on how to improve their big box offerings. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is this an admirable but unscalable solution? Or is this something you’d like to see everywhere?

This is awesome. I don’t know why we haven’t worked harder to decrease packaging waste. (This is a big reason the local movement should have more support.) The problem is that it is *so* much more work for the consumer (think about going to the grocery store and having to tare your own containers for every item you purchase) and I worry that most people just won’t do it. (It is SO WORTH IT though.) I’d really like to hear how it’s working out in Austin and what ideas we have that would streamline this grocery shopping experience.

Filed under Science nature environment sustainability grocery in.gredients austin

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Science is an inherent contradiction — systematic wonder — applied to the natural world. In its mundane form, the methodical instinct prevails and the result, an orderly procession of papers, advances the perimeter of knowledge, step by laborious step. Great scientific minds partake of that daily discipline and can also suspend it, yielding to the sheer love of allowing the mental engine to spin free. And then Einstein imagines himself riding a light beam, Kekule formulates the structure of benzene in a dream, and Fleming’s eye travels past the annoying mold on his glassware to the clear ring surrounding it — a lucid halo in a dish otherwise opaque with bacteria — and penicillin is born. Who knows how many scientific revolutions have been missed because their potential inaugurators disregarded the whimsical, the incidental, the inconvenient inside the laboratory?

From Systematic Wonder: A Definition of Science That Accounts for Whimsy

via Brain Pickings

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What Processed Food Looks Like During Digestion … Oh YUCK.

If a Happy Meal can sit out for six months and not go bad, then it’s not surprising that processed foods can look pretty bad going through your digestive tract. Using a pill-sized remote comera, Stefani Bardin tracked processed versus perishable food through the caverns of digestion.

Enjoy. Just not while you’re eating.

(via Scientific American)

Filed under science medicine video digestion yuck food stefani bardin

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When Scientists Choose Motherhood



When Scientists Choose Motherhood

Jennifer was an extremely talented undergraduate, majoring in mathematics and engineering. Her grades and test scores were nearly perfect; her professors saw a bright future for her as an engineering professor and encouraged her to pursue a doctorate. In graduate school, she continued to excel, accumulating high-quality publications, fellowships and awards. She landed a premier postdoctoral position and was headed for a first-tier professorship. But she never applied for a tenure-track academic job. As a 33-year-old postdoc, she could not imagine waiting to have children until after tenure at age 40, nor could she imagine how she would juggle caring for a young family with the omnipresent demands of an assistant professorship. The harried lives of the two tenured mothers in her department convinced her that such a path was not for her. Jennifer made the choice to have a family and teach mathematics part-time at a local community college.

Although it’s not hard to find evidence of women professors’ many successes in the academy, scenarios like Jennifer’s are all too common.[…]



If we are to truly equalize the professional opportunities in science, a field where “expertise” takes in the neighborhood 10 years of post collegiate training, we must provide ample and fair support for young families. Fathers too, sure, but the stigma of motherhood and the false conflict that has been built between having children and being able to compete for jobs in professional science. It seems like Sophie’s Choice, only between doing what you love or creating something you love.

This would be a good time to tell you all about DoubleXScience (also on Twitter), a blog collaboration designed to highlight the challenges and successes of doing science with two X chromosomes.

It’s about more than the dangers of having kids later in life and creating a real-life Idiocracy. It’s about continuing to rid sexual bias from a world where it has been deeply rooted for decades. Has anyone had thoughts or experiences about this fork in life’s road?

Filed under science women motherhood science works longreads

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V is a kind of pale, transparent pink: I think it’s called, technically, quartz pink: this is one of the closest colors that I can connect with the V. And the N, on the other hand, is a greyish-yellowish oatmeal color. But a funny thing happens: my wife has this gift of seeing letters in color, too, but her colors are completely different. There are, perhaps, two or three letters where we coincide, but otherwise the colors are quite different.

It turned out, we discovered one day, that my son, who was a little boy at the time — I think he was 10 or 11 — sees letters in colors, too. Quite naturally he would say, “Oh, this isn’t that color, this is this color,” and so on. Then we asked him to list his colors and we discovered that in one case, one letter which he sees as purple, or perhaps mauve, is pink to me and blue to my wife. This is the letter M. So the combination of pink and blue makes lilac in his case. Which is as if genes were painting in aquarelle.

Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita, on being a synaesthete.

Steve Silberman profiles synaesthesia in Inside the Mind of a Synaesthete. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

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Filed under science neuroscience synaesthesia nabokov brain synaesthete