Links for March 23, 2015

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  • A short and vivid history of the color purple, or how the chemist William Henry Perkin inadvertently created synthetic purple dye, which, until 1856, was extracted from the mucous of Mediterranean sea snails.   
  • History of Science March Madness! Historian of Science Darin Hayton has created a tournament for our kind of geek.
  • Mark Zuckerburg's Facbook book club is reading Kuhn. 
  • In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the chemistry of Guinness.
  • Our very own Evan Hepler-Smith reviewed Making Marie Curie for the Wall Street Journal. (!!!)
  • Biologists have called for a global moratorium on use of a new technique for editing a human's genome that allows for manipulation of hereditary traits, arguing that the technology as it stands is dangerous from an ethical standpoint. Can you ever put the gene-ie (get it) back in the magic lamp, though?
  • Leaping lizards! American herpetologists are speaking out against government inaction in the face of a potential "North American salamander apocalypse" (their words, not mine). In all seriousness, the fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) poses a grave threat to American salamander populations, and will most likely spread to North America unless the government institutes a strict ban on the import of salamanders from Europe and Asia. On a related note, check out this amazing (but potentially fraudulent) photo of a lizard strumming on a leaf guitar.
  • This week, Jacobin magazine released a theme issue on "Technology and Politics." It features an amazing line-up of articles, including one by historian of science Eden Medina about her research on the history of cybernetics in Chile.  You can read the introduction to the issue here, which reflects on the complicated relationship between labor, capital, and technological progress.
  • Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has published a paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. It's on "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians" and he is the lead author. Urschel lists his favorite activities as "reading math, doing research, playing chess."

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