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Scribbles on the margins of science.

Word watch


The new name for objects such as poor little Pluto, which was thrown out of the planet club by the International Astronomical Union in 2006. Sidelines thinks that is slightly nicer than the term 'dwarf planet', but also slightly unfair to Eris, the other officially recognized dwarf.



Kansas State University's wind erosion lab was blown away by a tornado.


The rusty metal ranked only sixth in a list of the element names most often mentioned in songs. The top five in the study, which the author admits was more an ode to music and science than a comprehensive analysis, were silver, gold, tin, oxygen and copper.

Credit: S. WENIG/AP

Number crunch

1 million purpose-made Erector-set pieces are estimated to have been used to build a 'toy' skyscraper at the Rockefeller Center in New York by artist Chris Burden.

20 metres is the height of the giant building.

7,250 kilograms is its weight.

30 people with screwdrivers were needed to put it together.

1 year was about how long it took them to do it.

Sources: IAU, Reuters, New Journal of Chemistry, BBC

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Sidelines. Nature 453, 966 (2008).

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