Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

The Cure For Male Pattern Baldness: Bears

Thursday, December 8th, 2011
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Are you suffering from male pattern baldness? Would you like to feel younger, more confident and regain your youthful swagger?

Why not take a note from the majestic bear! Yes, instead of turning to stem cell treatments one Dr. Cheng-Ming Chuong, a professor at the University of Southern California suggests we take a page from how our forrest friends regrow their winter coats.

…a treatment could aim at altering the environment around hair follicles, rather than implanting stem cells within them.

These outside signals that are present in animals are missing in people.

“This extra follicle-affecting factor has disappeared during human evolution,” so human hair follicles are activated only by signals internal to the hair follicle, Chuong told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Unconfirmed are reports that such a treatment would involve snagging a fish out of a moving stream with your mouth. But… you know… it couldn’t hurt.

[Live Science]

Do Our Brain Hemispheres Communicate With Electromagnetic Fields?

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
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Are we moving closer to proving that electromagnetic fields help our brain hemispheres communicate?

Neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have made a puzzling finding: people born without a corpus callosum (which links the two hemispheres of the brain) — a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC — still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains.

[Kurzweil AI]

Parasite Empowers Nebbish Wasps To Be Zombie Queens

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

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The social hierarchy of a wasp is pretty rigid. But what if a snide little parasite made you a deal. You could live the life of a queen, no foraging for anyone but yourself, living off the fat of the land. All you have to do is become subservient to a macabre march of death that enslaves your brethren and propagates the evil parasite.

For many paper wasps through Europe, the answer is “yes, please!”

The parasite X. vesparum infects the wasp which withdraw from their previous social pattern and instinctively fly away to a meeting point with other parasites. It’s there the parasites mate, with the male hosts disposing of their wasp coats, leaving them to die. But the females remain inside the wasps, turning them into zombie queens which find food for themselves and fatten up while infecting other nests and plants with the parasite larva.

“After that, they start wandering among the colonies,” spreading their deadly larval load, said Manfredini. “They don’t lay eggs. They don’t build colonies. They’re completely anarchic.”

Get your zombie queen paper wasp costume ready for Halloween!

[Wired]

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Rats Are Getting Digital Cerebellums

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have successfully restored lost brain function to rats by implanting them with a prosthetic cerebellum.  The prosthetic works by receiving signals from the brainstem, decoding them, and then transmitting a signal to a different part of the brainstem that signals motor neurons to fire which provide information for the desired motion.  This was made possible for two main reasons.

 First, the cerebellum, among other things, coordinates muscle movement.  And secondly, the cerebellum is so well understood that some of the signals that it transmits are able to be replicated in circuitry.  The synthetic cerebellum was implemented in a chip that sat on the outside of the skull and then wired into the brain.  The whole thing was then tested by anaesthetisizing some rats and disabling their cerebellums (whatever that means).  Then when an audible tone was played, they would puff their eyes with air to make them blink until they would blink when only the tone was played.  

Without the prosthetic cerebellum connected, the rats were unable to learn this behavior.  But with it enabled, they would blink like Pavlov’s dog when just the tone was played.  Obviously, this is just a proof of concept and we are far from curing Alzheimer’s but this definitely a step in the right direction.

[New Scientist]

Research On Beetle’s Mating With Beer Bottles Among Winners Of Ig Noble Prize

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

This week the Nobel Prizes for the year 2011 will be announced. Last week another set of prizes, the Ig Nobels, were awarded to “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think”. The entire webcast is available here.

Among this year’s winners:

Chemistry: Makoto Imai et al. for their invention of the wasabi alarm.

Biology: Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz for their study of beetle mating habits with Australian beer bottles.

The complete list of winners (and from previous years which are absolute gold) can be found below.

[Improbable.com]

Paging Dr. Mario: Video Game Addicts Make Huge Scientific Breakthrough

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Have you ever been playing a game, put down your controller, and thought “I should be doing something more constructive with my time”? Well no need to think that anymore, in fact, you should probably even pick that controller up and work a little harder on your gaming skills, you may be able to find the cure to some horrible disease!

That’s what gamers at Washington University have done, with the help of scientists and a program called Foldit, a game created and developed by Seth Cooper. The game was designed to see if the intuitive mind of a gamer could solve complex problems that scientists have been struggling with by turning the mapping of protein into a competitive game. “We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed”, said Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab.

After testing the gamers capability to solve the puzzles of a number of “almost” solved proteins, Khatib decided to step in with a protein that he had personally tweeked. What protein was that you ask? The Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), a close relative of HIV.
With the findings they are potentially able to develop new or improved drugs to help fight HIV and AIDS.

This is probably the first time the gaming community has helped solve a longstanding scientific problem, but it’s bound to be the beginning of a new innovative way of problem solving, and quite possibly leaps in technological advancement.

[Discover Magazine ]

Intel’s New Processor Could Run On A Potato

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Not unlike poor GLaDOS here, Intel showed off a super low energy processor that requires only 10 millivolts to operate.  It operates at what is called “near-threshold voltage” or NTV for short.  This voltage is all that is needed for transistors to begin to conduct current.  While a potato would most likely not be used to power the device, the power consumption is so low that it could be powered with either a small solar panel or kinetic energy.

“This concept CPU [codenamed 'Claremont'] runs fast when needed but drops power to below 10 milliwatts when its workload is light – low enough to keep running while powered only by a solar cell the size of a postage stamp,” writes Intel in its release. “While the research chip will not become a product itself, the results of this research could lead to the integration of scalable near-threshold voltage circuits across a wide range of future products, reducing power consumption by 5-fold or more and extending always-on capability to a wider range of computing devices. 

[Digital Trends]

SPICE World: Artificial Volcanos Could Help Cool The Planet

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

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Without delving into the debate on how it’s happening, most reasonable people can agree the world is getting warmer.

If we want it cooler, we are going to have to do something about it. Sure, we could all drive electric cars to our self-sustaining farm communes where we split an organic zucchini soufflé with Ed Begley, Jr. Or we can just stick a hose in the air (as if we don’t ca-re) and pump sulfates into the atmosphere, simulating a volcano eruption, cooling the planet in the process.

The latter is code named SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering) and will undergo it’s first test this next month when a hose suspended one kilometer in the air will pump water into the atmosphere. Although geoengineering strategies have been tested before, researchers believe this to be the most cost effective option should the results come back favorable.

[Scientific American]

South Korean Scientists Create Glowing Dog

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Yes, you read that right.  There is now a dog that glows under UV light.  Her name is Tegon.

A research team from Seoul National University (SNU) said the genetically modified female beagle, named Tegon and born in 2009, has been found to glow fluorescent green under ultraviolet light if given a doxycycline antibiotic, the report said.

The researchers, who completed a two-year test, said the ability to glow can be turned on or off by adding a drug to the dog’s food.

Lovers of dog science will remember SNU from their controversial (yet ultimately confirmed) dog cloning breakthrough which resulted in the adorable Snuppy.

[Reuters]

Concept Car Grown From Cartilage, Creates Own Algae Fuel

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

That’s right folks, a concept car from a company in L.A. is experimenting with cars that are grown from cartilage and run on algae that it will make itself.

If you wish to look at something very futuristic and revolutionary, then you should catch a glimpse of the semi-rigid car by Emergent. This stunning concept car from Los Angeles designers is fabricated out of cartilage and it has the capability of making its own fuel out of algae. The surprising fact is that this concept car need not to be assembled, in fact, it grows along with bonnet and doors fabricated with synthetic skin. The car’s chassis folds up similar to a limb, making the vehicle easily transportable.

[Design Buzz]

Splish-Splash! Largest Water Reservoir In Universe Discovered

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
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Thirsty?

Astronomers have discovered a reservoir containing 140 trillion times the amount of water in all the Earth’s oceans, making it the largest mass of water ever detected in the universe.

“The environment around this quasar is unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” Matt Bradford, a Caltech visiting associate and NASA scientist said in a press release. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

Thanks to Weird Things reader Jason for sending this in.

[Huffington Post]

Scientists Create Memory Expansion for Brain

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Well this is certainly a step in the right direction for downloading instructions on how to fly a helicopter right into your brain. Researchers have stuffed chips into rat brains that enabled them to instantly know things. They can also flip the switch off and the rats forget. Fascinating.

After studying the chemical interactions that allow short-term learning and memorization in rats, a group of scientists lead by Dr. Theodore Berger—from the University of South California’s Viterbi School of Engineering—have built a prosthetic chip that uses electrodes to enhance and expand their memory abilities. The chip is capable of storing neural signals, basically functioning as an electronic memory, allowing rats to learn more and keep it in the devices.

Dr. Berger’s description is almost frightening:

“Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget [...] These integrated experimental modeling studies show for the first time that with sufficient information about the neural coding of memories, a neural prosthesis capable of real-time identification and manipulation of the encoding process can restore and even enhance cognitive mnemonic processes.

[Gizmodo]

World’s First Living Laser

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Scientists at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have genetically engineered the world’s first living laser. This is a living cell that can emit laser light. Based on previous Nobel winning work on Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) the researchers believe these laser shooting cells can be used in imaging and the targeted destruction of diseased cells.

Now, GFP has been incorporated into living human cells for an entirely new purpose: the production of laser light. Optical physicists in Boston have genetically engineered a cell capable of amplifying light and emitting a bright-green directional laser beam visible to the naked eye. Their research is published in the June 12th issue of Nature Photonics.

“This is the first time that we have used biological materials to build a laser and generate light from something that is living,” said Dr. Seok-Hyun Yun, who, together with his colleague Malte Gather, created the living laser.

[io9]

Backwards Planets: Reverse Orbits Explained

Monday, May 16th, 2011

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They call them hot Jupiters. A series of gas giant planets in far off solar systems that appear to circle their star in two very peculiar ways. First, it swings perilously close. Second, a quarter of them seemingly do it backwards compared to the normal orbit behavior.

But how the so called “flipped hot Jupiters” come to be is fascinating. In essence they begin like our own Jupiter, as a gas giant further out in the solar system. At some point, they come in contact with a larger planet whose orbit is so similar it eventually begins to “interact tidally”:

This tidal squeezing is like friction, dissipating energy and causing the planet’s orbit to shrink.

Sometimes, while this process is happening, the orientation of planet’s orbit can be shifted so it’s not in the same plane as the other planets. Occasionally, the orbit can be changed so much it completely flips around.

“We saw this for the first time because we did the calculation much more carefully than people had ever done before,” Rasio said. “The basic physics is just Newtonian mechanics. All of that comes out naturally of simply calculating these very tiny gradual changes that build on.”

Emosewa.

[Space]

By The Hammer Of Thor! Anti-Matter Found Streaming From Thunderstorms

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

BBC News  Antimatter caught streaming from thunderstorms on Earth

Positrons. They are all around us. Specifically if you are standing naked in the middle of the thunderstorm taunting the Old God’s to strike you down if they indeed still hold sway over this earthly realm.

“Take your sacrifice or wallow in a pit of lies, frauds!” you scream while spittle trains down your chin and mixes with the driving sheets of rain.

Or, you could eliminate everything else and just say that anti-matter has been photographed with a Fermi telescope during thunderstorms.

Such storms have long been known to give rise to fleeting sparks of light called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes.

But results from the Fermi telescope show they also give out streams of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons.

The surprise result was presented by researchers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in the US.

It deepens a mystery about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs – sparks of light that are estimated to occur 500 times a day in thunderstorms on Earth. They are a complex interplay of light and matter whose origin is poorly understood.

You know else is poorly understood? Tempting the Old God’s on “public property,” by the police.

[BBC]

Man Named “Iceman” Could Be Scientific Proof We Control Our Immune Responses With Our Brain

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

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Wim Hof is called the Iceman.

He runs up mountains like Kilimanjaro in only shorts, he sits in buckets of ice for record amounts of time and is genuinely a worldwide, five-star badass. Now, you might be able to add scientific proof that our brains have staggering control over our immune system as part of his resume.

According to Science Daily, initial test trials have shown that Hof’s body indeed suppressed natural immune system response by 50% when injected with endotoxin. Hof applied a meditation ritual during the experiment. The injection normally triggers flu-like symptoms.

Yet not so in Hof, who says the secret to his chilly feats of endurance is being able to turn his own thermostat up by using his brain. Scientists caution not to get too excited yet, we still need to see larger trails. And we need more endotoxin.

[Science Daily]