Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

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

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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
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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]

Don’t Panic, But You Are Currently Awash in Dark Matter

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

dark matter.jpg

You just got pelted with dark matter. Don’t worry, it’ll happen again in a couple of seconds. Should you be worried? Probably not, it’s been happening your whole life, at least according to a new study by a few theoretical physicists.

A dark matter particle smacks into an average person’s body about once a minute, and careens off oxygen and hydrogen nuclei in your cells, according to theoretical physicists. Dark matter is streaming through you as you read this, most of it unimpeded.

If you’d like to read up on this mysterious (nefariously named) substance the is estimated to comprise 83% of all matter in the universe, check out Wikipedia. I know I had to.

[Popular Science]

Actually No, Your Pee is NOT Sterile

Monday, April 9th, 2012

just found out urine isn_t sterile better drink my own... wait... - Bear Grylls | Meme Generator.jpg

A new study debunks the long held myth that urine is sterile. The results, which appear in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology was conducted at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. If found evidence of bacteria in the bladders of healthy women.

“Doctors have been trained to believe that urine is germ-free,” said Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, dean, SSOM. “However, these findings challenge this notion, so this research may have positive implications for how we treat patients with urinary tract conditions in the future.”

The myth has long been a contributing factor to the survival strategy of drinking one’s own liquid waste. The idea being that 95% of urine is water and sterile so to combat loss of water in the body it would help to recycle the excrement.

Somebody please inform Bear Grylls.

[Science Daily]

By the Time You Read This, James Cameron Could Be at the Bottom of the Ocean

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

james cameron submarine challenger.jpg

It’s go time.

The man who directed the most successful film in movie history twice is about to embark on his greatest adventure yet. James Cameron will begin his descent into the Pacific Ocean, weather permitting, sometime this weekend.

His mission is to make it to the bottom of Challenger Deep, the lowest known point in the ocean. His submarine, a revolutionary vertical design, will attempt to sink to the bottom as fast as possible so he can spend six hours investigating. He will be the first ever human to see the depths with his own eyes, the only previous crew (aboard the Trieste in 1960) to make it that deep hit the bottom to hard and caused a silt storm bringing visibility down to zero.

Cameron will also bring along 3D cameras to make a documentary of his voyage.

Godspeed James.

[Nat Geo]

Nokia Wants to Give You a Vibrating Tattoo So You Don’t Miss Calls

Friday, March 23rd, 2012


Nokia has applied for a patent which amounts to tattoo which would accommodate customizable buzzing for your phone.

Here is how it would work:

The patent application describes “a material attachable to skin, the material capable of detecting a magnetic field and transferring a perceivable stimulus to the skin, wherein the perceivable stimulus relates to the magnetic field.” The material would react to magnetic signals emitted by a nearby electronic device, such as a smartphone. It would offer some sort of micro vibration, and could be set to certain vibrating patterns. The idea is to provide you with a more direct way to notice when you’re receiving some sort of incoming device alert, whether it be a phone call, email, or text message.

Congratulations I Didn’t Feel The Vibration Through My Pants Excuse Practitioners and welcome to Screwsville.

In reality though, this is something that could be used for far more than smart phones. Imagine how many “alerts” we get everyday. Our phone, our car, our appliances and anything else you can think of. What if we had a way to prioritize some to directly interact with our body.

It’s a pretty cool idea at least.

[Information Week] via @Lockridge_Lisa

Great News For People Who Hate Fun! Error Found in Neutrino Results

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

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Much was made over the last few months about the apparent discovery of faster than light neutrinos at the CERN laboratories. The neutrinos appeared to travel at 60 seconds faster than the speed of light. Of course, this would stand in contrast to Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Now, those results seem to be attributed to an error in the process.

This will certainly be seen as a reason to celebrate for those professional frowners who did nothing but rain “we should wait and see…” negativity on the parade of interest in this particular scientific breakthrough.

Those people, are terrible.

Allow me to qualify, this is not about respecting the scientific process. Of course, we shouldn’t rush off and proclaim the preliminary research on neutrinos scientific fact, damaging a fundamental physics concept in the process. But it is it wrong to hope that it could change everything? Isn’t hope and enthusiasm for a better understanding of our natural world tempered with rigorous and constant verification the backbone of why science is awesome?

So the neutrino test turns out to be flawed. Fine. It was going to wind up here no matter which road we travelled. I am happy that a large population of folks who only kind of care about science got to take a route that included a possibility of Earth shattering realizations about time, space and our relation to it.

First Test-Tube Hamburger to be Produced in 2012

Monday, February 20th, 2012
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It’s a revolution best served with pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun.

The first test-tube grown hamburger will be produced this fall. Although still in the laboratory phase as of now, the experiment will eventually produces thousands of small tissues recreated from a cow’s stem cells. This proof of concept could be a very powerful one, reshaping agriculture as we know it.

Could meat grown in a lab and not from a slaughtered animal be considered vegan?

Only time and possibly some Bar-B-Q sauce will tell…

[Fox News]

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No Heart, No Pulse, No Problem: Surgeons Save Dying Man By Replacing Heart With Turbine

Friday, February 3rd, 2012
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In this remarkable video, we see two Texas heart surgeons who replace a dying man’s failing heart with a turbine. This does a few remarkable things.

1) Saves the dude’s life
2) Removes his pulse, since the turbine creates a continuous flow of blood
3) Changes the conventional definition of physiological death

Very emotional stuff. Things might have gotten a little dusty for me while watching it. The closer we get to liberating ourselves from the fragile limitations of our meat bag prisons the better.

[Design Taxi]

Heart Stop Beating | Jeremiah Zagar from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.