Happy Pi Day!!

Happy Pi Day from CauseScience:

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

Learn more about Pi here. Also, check out the awesome pi bread made by Crestwind24’s mother!


Happy Belated International Women’s Day! #WomenofScience

Sorry for the belated note, but yesterday (Mar 8) was International Women’s Day! Celebrate by recognizing the contributions of Women to science. Motherboard has a great list of female scientists from A-Z who are pushing the limits of science and technology.

Also check out NobelPrize.org which is featuring female prize winners, including several scientists!

Girl Power!

CauseScience wraps up 2015!

Check out the top 5 most viewed posts from CauseScience in 2015! The top 5 represent diverse topics that were highlighted several other times throughout the year – Ebola, HIV, climate change, and space.  Enjoy!

1. NASA’s SLS is Epic! 950 views

2. Bill Nye’s awesome advice to students during Rutgers Commencement speech.  449 views

3. Can you feel the love? #ElsevierValentines #ScienceValentines. 372 views

4. Ebola vs other threats #PoliticalCartoon. 362 views

5. Scientists “delete” HIV virus from human DNA! 329 views



The 12 days of #OpenScience thanks to PLoS ONE!

PLoS blogs is featuring the “12 days of Open Science“. Enjoy this creative take on the 12 days of Christmas with insights from articles featured in PLoS ONE!

It’s starting to get colder in San Francisco, and the year-end holidays are soon to be upon us. This has made all of us on the PLOS ONE team excited to spend some time with our loved ones and general merriment. So for a little festive fun, here are 12 PLOS ONE articles that scientifically remind us of the verses in the classic holiday tune “12 Days of Christmas.”

1. Partridge in a Pear Tree

partridge 2

It’s not all pear trees for these partridges. In “Transcriptomic Characterization of Innate and Acquired Immune Responses in Red-Legged Partridges (Alectoris rufa): A Resource for Immunoecology and Robustness Selection,” the authors explored the possible role of red-legged partridge immunity when wild populations restocked with partridges raised in captivity are exposed to disease and stress.

2. Turtle Doves

Turtle Doves

If you’ve ever wondered where the European turtle dove migrates throughout the year, the authors of “Migration Routes and Staging Areas of Trans-Saharan Turtle Doves Appraised from Light-Level Geolocators” studied wild turtle doves’ routes and winter resting spots for a year using lightweight GPS.

3. French Hens

french hens

There is the possibility that we may pick up our parents’ idiosyncrasies, but the authors of “Parents and Early Life Environment Affect Behavioral Development of Laying Hen Chickens,” wanted to see if the same could be true for chickens. The researchers studied whether parents and environment could affect anxiety and severe feather pecking in their young.

4. Calling Birds

calling birds

Scientists observed how New Caledonian crows interacted in order to potentially as a team in “New Caledonian Crows Rapidly Solve a Collaborative Problem without Cooperative Cognition.” They found that wild-caught New Caledonian crows would pass a stone from one to the other and then drop the stone into a hole that collapsed a baited platform. This showed that they could instinctively solve complicated tasks together, but the researchers did not discover any evidence that their problem-solving skills were based on comprehension of cooperation.

5. Golden Rings

golden rings

Every two years, top athletes from around the world compete in the Olympic Games in search of the gold medal. In “The Road to Gold: Training and Peaking Characteristics in the Year Prior to a Gold Medal Endurance Performance,” scientists researched whether these athletes taper their workouts before their competitions and how this affects their performance. The researchers found that gold medalists did not taper their workouts prior to competitions, as is suggested as the best practice.

6. Geese a-Laying

geese a-laying

More and more wild Greylag geese may be a-laying their heads in more northern areas in a possible reaction to climate change, according to “Latitudinal-Related Variation in Wintering Population Trends of Greylag Geese (Anser Anser) along the Atlantic Flyway: A Response to Climate Change?

7. Swans a-Swimming

swans a-swimming

The authors of “Molecular Detection of Hematozoa Infections in Tundra Swans Relative to Migration Patterns and Ecological Conditions at Breeding Grounds,” looked into how blood parasites can spread between wild tundra swans and whether where they swim when migrating has any effect. The infection of blood parasites was considerably different in the populations of tundra swans in Alaska with the highest prevalence in swans whose breeding grounds were warmer and less windy, according to the researchers.

8. Maids a-Milking

maids a-milking

Can you detect biomarkers in cow’s milk with an ordinary smartphone? In “Calling Biomarkers in Milk Using a Protein Microarray on Your Smartphone” the authors explore the possibility of doing this with the potential application of on-site food safety, health monitoring, and environmental tests.

9. Ladies Dancing

ladies dancing

In “Psychophysiological Responses to Salsa Dance,” researchers studied whether dance provides enough exertion to promote fitness and overall health benefits in the same way that traditional forms of exercise can provide. From their experiments, the authors found that salsa dance likely does provide enough energy expenditure to deliver overall health and fitness benefits, but also that people find it fun, which may mean that people will continue to practice dance.

10. Lords a-Leaping

lords a-leaping

Our bodies anticipate the impact back onto the ground after we jump, but the authors of “Motor Control of Landing from a Jump in Simulated Hypergravity” wanted to see how bodies would react when gravity was increased. Through their experiments, the authors found that while the preparation for jumping is modified in hypergravity, the remainder of the jump remains the same.

11. Pipers Piping

pipers piping

Researchers studied ant nest beetle piping to see whether the sounds they may help them in their predation of ants in “The Pied Piper: A Parasitic Beetle’s Melodies Modulate Ant Behaviours.” The experiments performed by the authors suggest that the beetles mimic the queen ant and use this skill to trick the workers into being treated like the queen. Visit SoundCloud to listen to these parasitic beetles’ melodies.

12. Drummers Drumming

drummers drumming

Tapping to the beat of your own drum, may be an un-related rhythmic skill than remembering rhythms, according to the authors of Evidence for Multiple Rhythmic Skills. The researchers explored how rhythmic skills relate to each other and what implications that could have for processing language.

Can you feel the love? #ElsevierValentines #ScienceValentines

Valentine’s day is the time for everyone to show their love, including scientists!  Scientists have taken to the twitterverse with clever, snarky, and cute science-themed valentines.  Enjoy and follow along with #ScienceValentines or, on a more serious level, #ElsevierValentines – which is meant to comment on the publishers controversial relationship with scientists and open access. Let’s just say… it’s complicated.

Where is Santa?!

Screen shot 2014-12-18 at 3.30.48 PM

A fun activity for kids, parents, and really people of all ages!  On Christmas eve, hit up the NORAD website and track Santa as he delivers gifts around the world! I used to do this as a kid… and not gonna lie, I still check this website out every Christmas eve!

NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been tracking Santa every Christmas since 1958 using state of the art technology:



It all starts with the NORAD radar system called the North Warning System. This powerful radar system has 47 installations strung across Canada’s North and Alaska. NORAD makes a point of checking the radar closely for indications of Santa Claus leaving the North Pole every holiday season. The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing air warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America.


These satellites are located in a geo-synchronous orbit (that’s a cool phrase meaning that the satellite is always fixed over the same spot on the Earth) at 22,300 miles above the Earth. The satellites have infrared sensors, meaning they can see heat. When a rocket or missile is launched, a tremendous amount of heat is produced – enough for the satellites to see them. Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch. The satellites detect Rudolph’s bright red nose with no problem.


The third system we use is the SantaCam. We began using it in 1998 – the year we put our Santa Tracking program on the Internet. NORAD SantaCams are ultra-cool, high-tech, high-speed digital cameras that are pre-positioned at many places around the world. NORAD only uses these cameras once a year – on 24 December. We turn the cameras on about one hour before Santa enters a country then switch them off after we capture images of him and the Reindeer. We immediately download the images onto our web site for people around the world to see. SantaCams produce both video and still images.


The last system we use is the NORAD jet fighter. Canadian NORAD fighter pilots, flying the CF-18, take off out of Newfoundland and welcome Santa to North America. Then at numerous locations in Canada other CF-18 fighter pilots escort Santa. While in the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in either the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with Santa and the famous Reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph. Even though Santa flies faster than any jet fighter (Santa actually slows down for us to escort him), all of these systems together provide NORAD with a very good continuous picture of his whereabouts.

The site also addresses common questions you may have about tracking Santa:


Santa usually starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean and travels west. So, historically, Santa visits the South Pacific first, then New Zealand and Australia. After that, he shoots up to Japan, over to Asia, across to Africa, then onto Western Europe, Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central and South America. Keep in mind, Santa’s route can be affected by weather, so it’s really unpredictable. NORAD coordinates with Santa’s Elf Launch Staff to confirm his launch time, but from that point on, Santa calls the shots. We just track him!


NORAD intelligence reports indicate that Santa does not experience time the way we do. His trip seems to take 24 hours to us, but to Santa it might last days, weeks or even months. Santa would not want to rush the important job of delivering presents to children and spreading joy to everyone, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions within his own time-space continuum.


NORAD can confirm that Santa’s sleigh is a versatile, all weather, multi-purpose, vertical short-take-off and landing vehicle. It is capable of traveling vast distances without refueling and is deployed, as far as we know, only on December 24th (and sometimes briefly for a test flight about a month before Christmas).


Designer & Builder K. Kringle & Elves, Inc.
Probable First Flight Dec. 24, 343 A.D.
Home Base North Pole
Length 75 cc (candy canes) / 150 lp (lollipops)
Width 40 cc / 80 lp
Height 55 cc / 110 lp
Note: Length, width and height are without reindeer
Weight at takeoff 75,000 gd (gumdrops)
Passenger weight at takeoff Santa Claus 260 pounds
Weight of gifts at takeoff 60,000 tons
Weight at landing 80,000 gd (ice & snow accumulation)
Passenger weight at landing 1,260 pounds
Propulsion Nine (9) rp (reindeer power)
Armament Antlers (purely defensive)
Fuel Hay, oats and carrots (for reindeer)
Emissions Classified
Climbing speed One “T” (Twinkle of an eye)
Max speed Faster than starlight

Holiday lights… FROM SPACE!

From NOAA/NASA, check out these satellite images of holiday lights around the world!

Around many major U.S. cities, nighttime lights shine 20 to 50 percent brighter during Christmas and New Year’s when compared to light output during the rest of the year, as seen in the satellite data. In some Middle Eastern cities, nighttime lights shine more than 50 percent brighter during Ramadan, compared to the rest of the year.