Astronomers have used two big telescopes to create an infrared survey of the Milky Way that is the largest of its kind: the resulting image has an incredible 150,000 megapixels containing over a billion stars. Something that large is difficult to use, so they also made a pan-and-zoom version online which should keep you occupied for quite some time.
 
 
"While it would be wrong to say that there is no evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy, there is no conclusive evidence that homeopathy is more effective than placebo. This is is exactly what you would expect given the fact that homeopathic solutions are water."

Full article here.
 
 
Are you learning about your customers? Or, rather are you learning from them? Pick up your cellphone, and call one of your best customers right now. You will learn a lot about what you are doing right and wrong. Here are 15 simple, straightforward questions to ask:

COMPETITION
  1. How did you first find out about us?
  2. When you were shopping for [insert your product/service here] why did you select us? Is there anything you saw about us that especially helped you decide to buy from us?
  3. Are there companies that you see as our competitors? (If YES, ask these follow-up questions)
      - What are the top two or three that come to mind.What do our competitors do better than us? What’s one thing we do better than our competitors?
    - How did you first become aware of these companies? [May be different for each.]
    - Among the companies you mentioned, which one, besides us, would you consider to be the best choice if you were making this decision now? What are this company's key strengths? Weaknesses? Are there changes about our company that we should make in order to be clearly superior to this competitor?

PERSONAL
  1. Why/how do you use [insert your product/service here] ?
  2. When you talk about our product to friends and family, what do you say?
  3. Do you refer us to others? (If so, why?)
  4. If you were us, what three things would you be sure to say about [insert your product/service here]?
  5. How do I find more people like you? (That is, What do you do? Which professional and trade associations are you a member of that are specific to your line of business? Are there newsletters and "e-zines" that you read regularly? How do you spend your free time? Et al.)

IMPROVING
  1. How are we really doing?
  2. What would you do differently if you were the owner of my business?
  3. Have you ever thought, "If only a company like ours could do [BLANK] for me, life would be so much easier?" Tell me about BLANK and how you would find it useful.
  4. What do you think is a fair price for [insert your product/service here]?
  5. Would you pay more for a better product?
  6. Is there anything I should have asked you, that I didn’t?
  7. May we use what you just told me as your "testimonial" about [insert your product/service here] and its value to you on our website and brochures? (Be careful to get permission to use their name.)


 
 
Most of us are familiar with the Facebook "Like" button. When someone posts a photo that you enjoy, or when someone makes a witty comment, you may click "Like" to express your approval. Facebook users can "Like" just about anything: products, bands, TV shows, politicians, and other pages that have been set up in Facebook.
However, if you come across something that irritates you, something you can't stand, a product that doesn't work as advertised, you are out of luck: Facebook doesn't have a "Dislike" option.

What the average Facebook user does not know is that the "Like" button plays a central role in the Facebook business model. By collecting billions of Likes across millions of users, Facebook has amassed a great deal of consumer preferences that are used for targeted advertising. If I have a product that I want to sell I can run an ad on Facebook that displays only to my chosen customer demographic. Let's say I want to sell Coach purses. Using Facebook's advertising system I can ensure that my purse ads only display (for example) to unmarried working women aged 25-35 living in Manhattan who "Like" Coach and "Like" Gucci.

I could get more specific, but you get the point. Facebook's advertising model allows me to target a consumer group with far greater specificity than Google Adwords does. This ability to target is important because every time someone clicks on my ad, I pay Facebook. I want to maximize the chance of an ad-clicker being someone who is actually goin to buy from me, not just drain my ad budget.

Where Facebook's advertising model falls short is that an ad cannot be run based on peoples' dislikes. I realized this limitation first-hand when I tried to target an ad for Quellitall. (For those of you unfamiliar with it, Quellitall is a dietary supplement that prevents and relieves night time leg cramps, muscle overuse cramps, dehydration cramps, and cramps accompanying kidney dialysis.) I began designing an ad targeted for people that suffer from night leg cramps, and was suddenly stopped by the realization that I had no way to identify those people. I couldn't target by age, by geography, or by Likes. What I really needed was an option to target my ad toward people that "Dislike" nocturnal leg cramps, but the option didn't exist. Because there was no good way for me to use a combination of other demographic data and Likes as a proxy for a "Dislike" button, I didn't run the ad.

I can't be the only person that has encountered this opportunity for Facebook to make more ad revenue. By adding a "Dislike" option, Facebook is not just giving users an opportunity to whine, but collecting valuable data that is useful to advertisers. How much additional revenue would they realize? Who knows. But given the evolving nature of the world's most-used social media website, it is worth exploring.
 
 
Maybe. A Princeton University research team has found that rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same. Long-term consumption of HCFS also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen.

"Some people have claimed that high-fructose corn syrup is no different than other sweeteners when it comes to weight gain and obesity, but our results make it clear that this just isn't true, at least under the conditions of our tests," said one researcher. "When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they're becoming obese -- every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don't see this; they don't all gain extra weight."

Why would this be? In humans, triglycerides (which are a type of fat in the blood) are mostly formed in the liver. The liver acts like a traffic cop coordinating how the body uses sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides. When fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.

So what can we as consumers do? A few things:

1. Read your labels. HFCS is everywhere, even in unexpected places like whole-grain bread and cereals.

2. Stop drinking beverages containing HFCS. No soda. No punch. No Sunny Delight. No Gatorade. Even pure friut juice, which has no HFCS, is very high in fructose. Eat the fruit; don't drink fruit juice.

3. Exercise! It keeps your resting metabolic rate up.


 
 
Here's a clever pro-science rap video.
 
 
Passed by Congress in 1984, the National Organ Transplant Act makes it illegal to pay any compensation to organ donors or their families. Before reading any further, pause a moment and decide whether you agree with this law.

Decided? Most people I talk to about this issue favor the law. They rely on altruism to supply organs to those in need. The lawmakers' intentions were good: They didn't want human organs being bought and sold like mere commodities. They probably also wanted to avoid the poor being exploited to supply body parts for the rich. Those things have indeed been prevented.

Yet this is a classic illustration of the Law of Unintended Consequences. By criminalizing organ sales we have needlessly caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans who could have been saved if only the organs they needed had been available. 80,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant right now; another 3,000 patients are added to the waiting list each month.
 
 
This is huge. I don't think it's "let's enshrine it with a holiday huge" but it will redirect scientific approaches to finding alien life and creating artificial organisms:

A bacterium found in the arsenic-filled waters of a Californian lake is poised to overturn scientists' understanding of the biochemistry of living organisms. The microbe seems to be able to replace phosphorus with arsenic in some of its basic cellular processes — suggesting the possibility of a biochemistry very different from the one we know, which could be used by organisms in past or present extreme environments on Earth, or even on other planets.... The finding implies that "you can potentially cross phosphorus off the list of elements required for life", says David Valentine, a geomicrobiologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
 
 
Not all proteins are equal when it comes to the health of dieters eating low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets. According to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine:

Animal-based proteins and fats are associated with increased mortality rates, including increased cardiovascular mortality and increased cancer mortality.... But low-carbohydrate, high-protein diets composed mostly of plant-based proteins and fats were associated with lower mortality rates overall and lower cardiovascular mortality rates.

Suck it, Dr. Atkins.
 
 
This is so cool. Evolution has been caught in the act. A species of Australian lizard is abandoning egg-laying in favor of live birth. Along the warm coastal lowlands of New South Wales, the yellow-bellied three-toed skink lays eggs to reproduce. Scientists have discovered that individuals of the same species living in the state's higher, colder mountains are almost all giving birth to live young.

"By studying differences among populations that are in different stages of this process, you can begin to put together what looks like the transition from one [birth style] to the other," said one of the researchers.

The scientists have also detected the early stages of the evolution of a placenta in reptiles.