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Categorized | Science

Lab Letters Issue #9: Squared Circles, Faster Swallows, and the Golden Record

Hello darlings! Did you miss me? I sure missed you! Welcome to another issue of Lab Letters, FF’s weekly science micro-post! Enough with the words. I’ll tell you exactly what to do for today:



Chipper British numberphile James Grime tells the bizarro story of that one time in American history when the value of pi almost became 3.2. It all started when Edward Goodwin wanted to square the circle (note: it’s a real geometry problem).

Is it possible for these two shapes to have the exact same area? And to be drawn using a finite number of moves? (source:

Then the weirdness happened:

1. Edward Goodwin claimed to have solved it

2. He raced to the patent office to copyright his proof

3. But magnanimously allowed his home state of Indiana to use it for free

4. He almost got it to be proclaimed as law

5. Lulz in the US Senate


Watch the video below:

And that, kids, is why “squaring a circle” is a metaphor for attempting the impossible.



Do you have that friend who always acts all smug and says that evolution is a lie, and that animals can’t possibly evolve in an observable way? Have them READ THIS:

It seems that cliff swallows are evolving to have shorter wings, an adaptation that increases agility and take-off speed. It also probably helps them dodge cars speeding along on the highways of Nebraska, USA. This ‘vehicular selection’ (as opposed to, say, natural selection) is yet another case of human activities directly affecting evolution in animals.

 Makes for more efficient coconut transport. Thanks, Evolution! (source:



Despite initial reports earlier this week, NASA has set the record straight: the Voyager 1 spacecraft has NOT left the solar system. Not yet, anyway. The Voyager program, consisting of two unmanned probes, were launched in 1977 initially to study Jupiter and Saturn, but have extended their mission to go out into the farthest corners of the Solar System, and eventually, to go beyond that.

Aboard the spacecraft is the Voyager Golden Record, a copper-plated gold phonograph intended to present the variety of life on Earth should intelligent extraterrestrials stumble upon the mission. The record contains spoken greetings from 59 languages, sounds found in nature, a variety of music from different cultures and times, the brainwaves of a woman, and 116 images showing the diversity of life on Earth.


The number system


DNA structure and replication


The inside of a seashell


Dancer from Bali


Eating and drinking


Rush hour in India


Antarctic expedition


Rocket launch


Then-US president Jimmy Carter included a message for whoever would find the record:

 We are attempting to survive our time so that we may live into yours.

The committee that prepared the Golden Record? Chaired by none other than Carl Sagan. The full album can be seen here.


That does it for today, I hope you enjoyed this week’s FF LL! See you next week,

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.