Feb

25

Bunsen Bwog: Devil’s in the Details

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BunsenBwog: boldly going where no humanities student has gone before

This week Zach Kagan, Bwog’s resident Research Rubbernecker has compiled tales of  mistakes, myth busting, and gut instinct for your enlightenment.

Last year physicists at CERN observed that neutrinos seem to travel faster than the speed of light. The team sent the particles from the Swiss facility to an underground laboratory in Italy and found they made the journey 60 billionths of a second faster than light would have. This caused a great deal of consternation in the physics community, and some big names—including Columbia’s Brain Greene—were openly skeptical. Well, it was reported this week that the too-quick-to-be-true measurement was most likely caused by a loose fiber optic cable.

The Borna Disease Virus (BDV) is known to cause strange behavior and eventual death in livestock animals. In humans, there’s some evidence that psychiatric patients posses high amounts of BDV antibodies and genetic fragments. Many scientists have wondered whether BDV could cause bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and dementia. Columbia Mailman School’s own disease superstar W. Ian. Lipkin did  some real myth busting, however. Using modern molecular techniques to detect the pathogens, his team analyzed 198 patients and concluded that there was no relation between mental illness and the bornavirus.

NASA is preparing it’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) probe to boldly go where no man has gone before, and to analyze data from black holes and dying stars when it gets there. The probe is a collaborative effort and Alma Mater has put in her fair share: Columbia engineers developed new techniques to align and assemble the 9,000 mirrors into concentric shells to form an optical assembly that, as an integrated unit, can focus X-rays.” Now that the probe has been assembled and mated to a rocket (yes, that’s the proper term) a launch can be expected soon after March 21st.

New Research from Columbia’s Medical Center says that women both young and old have similar risks for complications relating to pregnancy via egg donation. Previously it was believed that women over 50 were at higher risk but the study suggests that rates of hypertension, gestational diabetes, premature birth, and placenta abnormalities are the same regardless of age.

Move over Pythia, there’s a new oracle in town, and it’s called “your gut.” A new study from Columbia’s Business School says that when you make baseless predictions the higher your trust in your feelings the more likely you are to be correct in the end. Remember to believe during midterm week.

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7 Comments

  1. Liz Lemon  

    WHAT IS BUSINESS SCHOOL?

  2. WRONG!  

    Your write-up for the faster-than-light neutrinos is not only wrong but misleading. What you wrote makes it seem like the results have been found wrong based on this error. That is not true. Here is the real story:

    1) There are TWO sources of error. One from the faulty cables, but another from the GPS timing they were using.
    2) The faulty cable actually INCREASES the speed of the neutrinos, while the other error DECREASES it

    So after the errors are taken into account, it could (though unlikely) remain true that the neutrinos traveled faster than the speed of light.

    Please actually read the articles you cite.

    • Anonymous  

      Nothing Bwog said was wrong. What they wrote makes it seem like the results were invalid, not wrong. Here's the real story:

      1) A significant source of error makes something invalid, not wrong.
      2) They put emphasis on the faulty cables, presumably, because that's what would have caused the neutrinos to break the cosmic speed limit.

      So after that's taken into account, Bwog did a decent job.

      Please get laid and chill out a bit.

  3. Biochem major  

    Yay science!

  4. Another correction

    Also, you say the Nustar will "analyze data from black holes and dying stars when it gets there"... what do you mean by 'there'? The black holes? Impossible. It's just orbiting....

  5. Anonymous

    Does everyone know that Columbia has an entire particle physics campus at Nevis Laboratories in Westchester?

  6. More corrections  

    "In humans, there’s some evidence that psychiatric patients posses high amounts of BDV antibodies and generic fragments...."

    Generic should read genetic

    "...W. Ian. Lipkin did some real myth busting, however. Using modern molecular techniques to detect the pathogens...."

    Abstract punctuation to say the least

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