Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Researchers Record the Moment of Inception…in a Hungry Zebrafish. We’re Next!

Friday, February 1st, 2013


Ever wonder what it looked like at the inception point of a thought? Like when your watching ‘fail videos’ online and you do that mental cringe at the exact moment that you’re watching someone sledding down a hill on an oil-pan and suddenly the shot pans far enough to see the gaggle of unattentive people about to meet said oil-pan driver?

Wonder no more!

Researchers in Japan have actually filmed that ‘Oh $#%*!’ moment…

In a zebrafish.

Watch the video. That sudden flash of light takes place the moment the fish noticed food being put into the tank. Zebrafish aren’t going to be taking over the world anytime soon with all of their incredible cerebral abilities, but that was the point of this…to record the inception of a thought in a more simple brain simply to see if it could be done.

A double-transgenic larva was embedded in agarose, and a spot was presented on an LCD display placed on the right-eye side. Ca2+ signals were detected on the left tectum upon appearance (ON) and disappearance (OFF) of the spot. The spot was shown for the first 3 s in this 6 s movie. The video is shown at 3x real time.

Experiments are expected to take place on more advanced brains way too soon.

We could sit around all day and come up with scenarios about this stunning breakthrough.

But if you were a zebrafish, we’d already know that.


18 Severed Heads Discovered at O’ Hare International Airport!

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Ever leave the house knowing you forgot…something?

We’re wondering what it was like when the guy who was supposed to file paperwork for 18 human heads for medical study realized that he’d forgotten to file paperwork for 18 human heads for medical study.

One week before Santa Claus was to descend on the world with a bag of awesomeness, 18 well-preserved human heads showed up at O’ Hare International Airport with no explanation….just a bunch of questions. It wasn’t until an employee from a crematorium came to pick up the heads that things became clear.

Tagged as ‘medical specimens’, the heads had originally shipped from the US to Rome for medical study and were coming back to the states to be cremated.

Brian Bell of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stated:
“There’s no issue with the transportation of body parts for medical purposes. There’s nothing against the law that says you cannot ship them, provided you have the right documentation. Everybody here is ‘Oh my gosh, you got a box of heads’ and everybody thinks that it’s unheard of. It is a potentially legitimate medical shipment. We’ve seen it at various ports in the nation.”

You can leave all your ‘I’d-forget-my-head-if-it-wasn’t-attached jokes below.’

[Chicago Sun Times]

Teenager Builds Solar Panel – Using Human Hair!

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

While everyone sits around and debates the cost of solar power and that anything that could effectively power your home right now would cost more than feeding your family for about a year, a teenager in Nepal has come up with a solution that NONE of us thought of…

Using human hair instead of silicon to generate electricity from our buddy, the sun.

Along with fellow students, this kid created a solar panel made using human hair that can generate enough electricity to charge a smartphone! It also brings the prices of this thing down to under $40.

Most people would be like, “Big whoop-de-doo. He can charge a phone.”

When you’re living in some of the less-developed parts of the world? The available wall-sockets are just a little…uh…limited.

Oh..did we mention? He’s a freakin’ KID!

[Design Taxi]

NYU Scientists Create Microscopic Tractor Beam!

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Star Wars uses tractor beams as frequently as newly graduated college kids use U-Haul trailers.

Imagine if, just like in the movies, you could hook up those U-Hauls with a tractor beam instead of trying to get one of those ball-and-cup trailer hook-ups?

That day might not be as far away as it once was according to research at the Department of Physics and Centre for Soft Matter Research at New York University. Although it’s on a significantly smaller scale than trying to yank the Millenium Falcon into your garage using a flashlight, scientists have recently used a beam of light to pull a particle in a line. While researchers of the ideas surrounding what’s being called ‘soft matter’ have used laser ‘tweezers’ to pull along particles, using light alone to move something verged on magical.

By varying the relative phase of the two beams, this technique traps the particle in a moving hologram they call an ‘optical conveyor’ which allows ‘bi-directional transport in three dimensions’.
New Scientist explains how projecting the beams in this way creates a pattern of alternating bright and dark regions. By fine tuning the beam photons in the bright regions which flow past the chosen particle can be made to scatter backwards, hitting the particle and knocking it on towards the next bright region.

Watch the guy in the video explain it in an endearingly enthusiastic nerdy manner…and then explain what he’s talking about to us.

[Daily Mail UK]

Woman Grows Ear on Her Arm to Replace Her Missing Ear!

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

We’ve seen tissues and body parts grown in petri dishes before. Nothing new, right? Now we’ve seen a human being’s own body used as a petri dish to grow a body part for her own body!

Sherrie Walters, a woman from Baltimore, has become that human being/test subject for an extremely radical and extremely weird procedure. Plastic surgeon and reconstructive surgeon Patrick Byrne has been looking for someone like Sherri Walters for quite a while to basically test a theory he had.

The discovery of a rapidly-spreading basal cell cancer in her ear in 2008 required the removal of part of her ear, part of her skull and her left ear canal. But now, in a groundbreaking and complicated set of surgeries, Johns Hopkins doctors have attached a new ear made from Walters’ own tissue.

Byrne used cartilage from Walters’ ribs to stitch together a new ear matching her right ear. He then implanted it under the skin of her forearm, where it grew for months.

Byrne later surgically attached the ear and its blood vessels. Then surgery Tuesday added shape and detail to the ear.

Walters still has two minor surgeries to go before the whole bizarre procedure is over with and she gets that ‘new’ ear.

And she’s got some sage advice before you ever end up in this situation:

“And it’s a cliche but use the sunscreen and if you are not sure about something, get it checked because that’s what I didn’t do.”

Different parts grown in different places? Hmm.

Every single guy right now is probably thinking about a particular woman in Total Recall.

Knock it off.

[CBS Baltimore (via @ManusFerrea}]

Dean Kamen and Coca-Cola Team to Solve the Biggest Environmental Problem of Our Time

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Clean water. For first worlders who have it on tap, access may not seem like a big deal. For 1 out of 6 people on the planet, clean water, free of parasites and pollution is an expensive luxury. Diarrhea from tainted water is the second leading cause of death for children under five.

Recognizing this problem, über inventor and potential Tony Stark rival to Elon Musk, Dean Kamen and his Deka engineering group set out to create a water filtration system that was more efficient than anything before. The result is the Slingshot, a system that can take anything from muddy pond water to salty sea water and produce drinkable water. Powered by solar panels in rural locations, the Slingshot is a technological oasis that can help solve the greatest environmental problem facing our planet.

Kamen tackled this problem because more people die every year from bad water than any current or projected environmental crisis. Coca-Cola teamed up with Kamen as part of their long-term vision of minimizing their environmental impact. They plan to roll out 30 by the end of the year and thousands more by 2014 in rural locations where the kiosks could provide the daily water needs of hundreds of people.

The Reuters article

Here’s a video of Dean Kamen demonstrating the Slingshot:

Illusion Makes You Believe You Have a Third Arm

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Tricking the Mind_ Third Arm Illusion? |

Researchers in Sweden have successfully created the illusion of people feeling sensations in three arms at the same time.

In five separate laboratory experiments, 154 volunteers were seated with their hands on a table and a rubber arm was placed next to their right arm. A sheet covered their shoulders and elbows, creating the illusion that the person had three arms. ( Source: Science Daily)

Researchers stroked the both the real and fake arms with a brush simultaneously until 7 out of 10 subjects reported feeling sensation in both limbs. They then threatened the fake arm with a knife and measured recognizable stress in heart rate that is normally associated with the threat of bodily harm.

The study could be helpful in helping amputees better accept prosthetics.


You See Red, I See Blue: New Study Says Color Perception Not Set, Can Be Changed

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

blue strawberry.jpg

Our perception of the world around us could be very different than the person next to you.

In extreme cases it could mean the luscious red strawberry could look like a bulbous blueberry to someone else. Even more mind altering, results of new experiments with monkeys suggest that these receptors can be altered, allowing us to see colors we have never seen before and possibly helping reverse blindness.

In work published in the scientific journal ‘Nature’, colour vision scientist Jay Neitz from the University of Washington injected a virus into monkeys’ eyes which enabled them to see red as well as green and yellow.

Remarkably the group of squirrel monkeys were able to make sense of the new information despite their brains not being genetically programmed to respond to red signals.

The result was that just four months later the monkeys could see in full colour for the first time.

As well as allowing colour-blind humans to tell red from green, the innovative technique could restore sight to the blind.

Could color blindness really be a thing of the past? Does it make you wonder how different the world looks outside of your own head? How freaked out are those monkeys right now? Is this basically Pleasantville for them?

[Daily Mail]

HYSTERIA ALERT: Human Blood Still Has More Alcohol than Soda

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The UK’s Daily Mail is breathlessly reporting that leading soft drinks including Coca-Cola and Pepsi contain trace amounts of alcohol. What ramifications should this have for teetotallers and people who abstain for drinking for religious reasons? Um, none.

While the Daily Mail points out that the soft drinks contain about .001 percent alcohol, they forgot to mention that your body naturally already has about .004 percent alcohol. This is because those wonderful bacteria that live in our gut and help us digest food and live, sometimes like to ferment (Endogenous ethanol production).

The article was taken from a French publication called ‘60 Million Consumers’ so we can’t tell if they missed that important detail either.

So to put it in simple terms, since Coca-Cola has less alcohol than your bloodstream, assuming that it all went to your blood (instead of getting digested, which is what happens) .001 is less than .004 – so drinking cola will actually lower your body’s natural level of alcohol. It makes you less alcoholic.

If you’re looking to get drunk off cola, you’d be better of drinking human blood. Um, forget we said that. Do not drink human blood.

People will likely ignore this. We’ll get more soda hysteria. Orange juice has more sugar and dissolves teeth too (and fangs).

Check out the Straight Dope if this naturally produced alcohol can get you buzzed…

Japanese Scientists Grow Crude Liver in a Dish!

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Something straight out of a science fiction story is becoming a reality in Yokohama, Japan right now: regenerative organs.

There have been tons of attempts, theories and even a small handful of groundbreaking work concerning regenerating new organs, veins, tissue and even blood using stem cell research. It often sounds almost fantastical at times considering the small amount of work that’s actually been produced from the field.

Japanese researchers revealed at the International Society for Stem Cell Research last week that they’ve reproduced a liver-like tissue in a dish.

Their findings have yet to be published but there is a lot of buzz taking place on the internet this morning about this news release.

Our imaginations and the media will probably go crazy talking about the possibilities of this breakthrough. The reality is that this is about as crude an example of a regenerated as one could possibly get. It’s still got a long way to.

Using various cell types and what reads like a hipper, less late-night grave-diggy version of Frankenstein, researchers have basically taken human skin cells back to an ’embryonic state’, reprogrammed them, let them begin to grow, added various other cells to the process and created a very primitive ‘liver bud’, a very early stage of liver development.

As primitive as this ‘liver’ is right now, the tissue does contain blood vessels that worked when the tissue was transplanted under the skin of a mouse.

There’s no doubt where this amazing technology is headed and that its goal of recreating human organs is going to happen given time.

And, George Daly, the director of the stem-cell transplantation program at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts in charge of last week’s session, said:

“It blew my mind.”


This Ugly Blob is the Future of New Materials

Monday, June 11th, 2012

That thing pictured over there to the right? That thing that looks like hair from your shower drain or a Giger-inspired coffee mug? It’s a living organism that just might be the future of how we harvest material for all of our tech needs.


That weird-looking thing is actually a genetically engineered living thing that, depending on the materials used to create it, produces various types of material including fiberglass and even magnetic nanoparticles.

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara are continually tweaking the original DNA combinations used in these things to produce not only materials which we are currently using but to produce new types of materials that hadn’t even existed before.

Remember when your grandma would crochet a sweater for you that you’d never wear? In about ten years time you’ll be crocheting a Kevlar-like sweater for your grandchildren except that instead of rolls of yarn? You’ll have a bunch of THESE things producing all your Kevlar in different colors sitting in an adorable little basket covered in holograms of geese wearing bonnets.


Gaydar Confirmed By Science

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012


Gaydar, it’s not just a one liner from sassy friends in romantic comedies anymore. It’s science fact.

A University of Washington study flashed faces for less than a blink of an eye and asked respondents to determine if the person was gay or straight. Not only did results come more accurate than chance, they also tracked accurate when displayed upside down.

Here are the parameters of the study:

In the study, 129 college students viewed 96 photos each of young adult men and women who identified themselves as gay or straight. Concerned that facial hair, glasses, makeup and piercings might provide easy clues, the researchers only used photos of people who did not have such embellishments. They cropped the grayscale photos so that only faces, not hairstyles, were visible.

By the numbers, women had more “gaydar readable” faces. Participants were 65 percent in choosing sexual orientation when the faces were right side up. 61 when upside down. Sorting the men proved harder, participants had 57 percent accuracy right side up and 53 upside down.

[Science Daily]

Revolutionary New Theory Suggest Supernovae Radically Affect Life on Earth

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
supernova guiding life.jpg

Are exploding supernovae guiding life on Earth? If a new ground breaking theory is to be believed, the answer is yes.

According to the study by Henrik Svensmark published by the Royal Astronomy Society in London the explosions of stars relatively close to Earth has proven itself to be the variable for life on our planet.

In short, according to the Watts Up With That blog, this is as big of a claim as the theory of plate tectonics was for geology.

Here is the short, short, short, short version:

Here are the main results:

• The long-term diversity of life in the sea depends on the sea-level set by plate tectonics and the local supernova rate set by the astrophysics, and on virtually nothing else.

• The long-term primary productivity of life in the sea – the net growth of photosynthetic microbes – depends on the supernova rate, and on virtually nothing else.

• Exceptionally close supernovae account for short-lived falls in sea-level during the past 500 million years, long-known to geophysicists but never convincingly explained..

• As the geological and astronomical records converge, the match between climate and supernova rates gets better and better, with high rates bringing icy times.

The implications here are massive. Not only for our understanding of the natural world but even politically charged debates like climate change.

But this theory easily encapsulates the reason we write this blog. One day you can wake up and the world is radically different then when you went to sleep. Amazing.

[Watts Up With That]


The Optical Illusion that Explains Bloody Mary

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

bloody mary optical illusion-1.jpg

The whiz kids at io9 have put together a compilation of research that explains why we see imaginary, monstrous faces when we look in the mirror for an elongated period of time. This is the very basis for sleepover games like Bloody Mary, designed to spook kids into wetting themselves while surrounded by their jerkwad friends.

Ah, youth.

Here’s the jist:

The brain, when faced with a lot of stimulation, only some of which is considered relevant, will tune out the non-relevant parts, filling in what it can from the general area. It’s a little like how the blind spot works, except this is a dynamic process. The brain will zoom in on a desired area, and the rest of the space will fade away. This is called the Troxler Effect, or Troxler Fading.

The post goes on to discuss a study where respondents looked in a mirror for 10 minutes and reported all manner of horrors staring back at them by the end of it. 10% explained seeing dead parents with key elements of their face rearranged.


Silicon Valley Billionaire Starts Fund for Development of 6 Insane Projects

Friday, April 20th, 2012
peter thiel.jpg

Peter Thiel has long been a heavy hitter in Silicon Valley. He was a co-founder and CEO of PayPal and made an early stage development in Facebook, even earning himself the “honor” of being portrayed in The Social Network film about the site’s founding.

But Thiel has bigger fish to fry. Fish like the creation of antimatter-based fuel. Or minting of artificial protein therapeutics. Of even the advancement of human cell reengineering.

All projects that are far too radical (as in improbable) to garner much money for serious research. Except for Thiel, who finds them much too radical (as in awesome) to not toss cash at.

His fund will be called Breakout Labs and it awarded six grants of $350,000 to the following companies.

3Scan: development of 3-D digital reconstruction of brain issue.
Arigos Biomedical: advanced organ cooling for long term storage
Immusoft: re-programming of immune cells
Inspirotec: identification and collection of any airborne toxin
Longevity Biotec: creation of therapeutic artificial protein technology
Positron Dynamics: production and collection of positron, could be used as fuel for space travel

The best part, the application process is open at Breakout. They will continue to award good money to insane causes until the future gets here.

[Kurzweil AI]

Asteroid that Killed Dinosaurs Also Seeded the Universe with Life

Thursday, April 12th, 2012
asteroid dinosaurs life seed.jpg

The big rock from the sky that crashed into Earth and proved an extinction level event for our dinosaur pals could also seed life on a far off planet. The meteorites launched into space by the impact carrying the ingredients for life itself have since spread across our solar system and far beyond.

A new table estimating the trajectories of the rocks provides many surprises, according to Ray Kurzweil’s blog. For example, it would take a trillion years for the Earth ejecta to spread the size of the Milky Way.

But most awesomely…

The probability is almost 1 (close to certain) that our solar system is visited by microorganisms that originated outside our solar system.

To tie this together with a post yesterday, this means that our ejecta could bring life to other planets and some point there might be a scientist there warning of our fearsome existence. Yes, my friends, WE ARE THE SUPER GENIUS SPACE DINOSAURS!

[KurzweilAI Blog]