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Archive for August, 2012

When will you get your robot butler? When will we first set foot on Mars? These and countless other questions about the future are answered in this amazing chart of where technology is headed in the next 30 years.

via An Interactive Infographic Maps The Future Of Emerging Technology | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation.

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“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems—from God to atoms to evolution—they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study.

“When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”

via People merge supernatural and scientific beliefs when reasoning with the unknown, study shows.

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“These multi-session adult courses share the latest research on the neuroscience, psychology, and evolution of human behavior. With the help of expert guest speakers, online resources, documentary footage, and in-class projects, students will learn how to be critical consumers of scientific research and news reporting—all in a small, discussion-based setting”
http://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/adults/sackler-brain-bench

via Sackler Brain Bench.

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Water, Water, Everywhere

This wind turbine literally pulls 1,000 gallons of drinkable water out of the air.

“Each unit can create 1,000 liters of drinking water using only moisture and powered only by wind. Let me highlight this word : CREATE. All existing solutions (wells, desalination, lakes/rivers pumping, etc.) only treat an existing source of water. Thus, what happens when there is no or no more water available? The WMS1000 can create water when there is no existing source available. That makes a difference. Our technology integrates water creation, water collection, water treatment and water local distribution.  The WMS1000 can produce and distribute water everywhere.”

via Changing Cities: A Wind Turbine That Creates Fresh Water Out of Thin Air – ABC News.

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Ideally, your immune system should operate like an enlightened action hero, meting out inflammation precisely, accurately and with deadly force when necessary, but then quickly returning to a Zen-like calm. Doing so requires an optimal balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory muscle.

In autistic individuals, the immune system fails at this balancing act. Inflammatory signals dominate. Anti-inflammatory ones are inadequate. A state of chronic activation prevails. And the more skewed toward inflammation, the more acute the autistic symptoms.

 

via Immune Disorders and Autism.

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How Many Calories in a Food? You Might Be Surprised



One in three Americans are obese. Processed foods, microbes, one’s immune system, and cooking methods all play a role in how many calories are derived from our food. 

One study found that humans who ate 600 or 800 calorie portions of whole wheat bread (with nuts and seeds on it) and cheddar cheese actually expended twice as much energy, yes two times, in digesting that food as did individuals who consumed the same quantity of white bread and a “processed cheese product.” The end result? The net number of calories the whole food eaters received was ten percent less than the number received by the processed food eaters (because they spent some of their calories during digestion).

via The Hidden Truths About Calories.

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In this 10-minute clip, have a little flavor of David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher specializing in the area of philosophy of mind. Here he asks one of the most intriguing questions: 
Why is there consciousness at all?

via David Chalmers on Consciousness – YouTube.

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Mice, constantly stressed by changing their cage composition during adolescence, exhibit anxiety and poor social interactions throughout adulthood. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

This stress was especially prominent in fema

le mice who were stressed in this way. The experiment then proceeded using only the stressed male mice.

And then, along comes this oddity:

The male mouse, when mated with a non-stressed female mouse, passes on the excessive anxiety to *only* his female offspring. Not only that, but his (non-stressed) sons pass it on again, in their own female offspring.

It seems there is a little understood biochemical change in the male’s sperm taking place.

via Male mice exposed to chronic social stress have anxious female offspring.

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“To extract this information, the researchers rely on what’s known as the P300 response — a very specific brainwave pattern (pictured right) that occurs when you recognize something that is meaningful (a person’s face), or when you recognize something that fits your current task (a hammer in the shed). The researchers basically designed a program that flashes up pictures of maps, banks, and card PINs, and makes a note every time your brain experiences a P300. Afterwards, it’s easy to pore through the data and work out — with fairly good accuracy — where a person banks, where they live, and so on.

In a real-world scenario, the researchers foresee a game that is specially tailored by hackers to extract sensitive information from your brain — or perhaps an attack vector that also uses social engineering to lull you into a false sense of security.”

via Hackers backdoor the human brain, successfully extract sensitive data.

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Last March a team of scientists used a new and powerful scanner to peer into the cerebral cortex and other underlying structures with an unprecedented level of resolution. What they found surprised them: rather than an incomprehensible bundle of twists and turns, the basic structure of the brain is a simple, three-dimensional grid. 

via Scan Reveals Brain’s Structure To Be Much Simpler Than We Thought | Singularity Hub.

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Mayo Clinic researchers have found a novel way to monitor real-time chemical changes in the brains of patients undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS), using a small neurochemical sensor implanted in the patient’s brain, linked wirelessly to a laptop.

The groundbreaking insight will help physicians more effectively use DBS to treat brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, depression and Tourette syndrome.

Researchers hope to use the discovery to create a DBS system that can instantly respond to chemical changes in the brain. Parkinson’s, Tourette syndrome and depression all involve a surplus or deficiency of neurochemicals in the brain. The idea is to monitor those neurochemicals and adjust them to appropriate levels.

“We can learn what neurochemicals can be released by DBS, neurochemical stimulation, or other stimulation. We can basically learn how the brain works,” says author Su-Youne Chang, Ph.D., of the Mayo Clinic Neurosurgery Department. As researchers better understand how the brain works, they can predict changes, and respond before those changes disrupt brain functioning.

via Mayo Clinic creates tool to track real-time chemical changes in brain | KurzweilAI.

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Scientists have identified a type of stem cell that appears to be responsible for the neurons involved in higher brain function. The discovery may pave the way for new treatments for autism and schizophrenia.

via Stem cells responsible for higher brain function found – health – 09 August 2012 – New Scientist.

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In this TED lecture, Mihaly references a talk he went to once in Zurich, Switzerland, where the subject was supposed to be flying saucers. When he got there, he discovered that somebody named Carl Jung was talking about mandala projections by adult survivors of trauma from WWII.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXIeFJCqsPs&feature=share

via Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Creativity, fulfillment and flow – YouTube.

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How to grow seedless watermelons. It ain’t easy!

From Cornell’s “Ask a Scientist” blog:
Seedless watermelons cannot reproduce on their own, so plant breeders use genetic tricks to produce them. The first seedless watermelon was invented over fifty years ago.

Normally, watermelons are “diploid.” This means they have two sets of 11 chromosomes, the structures that contain an organism’s genetic material. They get one set of chromosomes from each parent, for a total of 22.

Producing a seedless watermelon involves three steps. First, a plant is treated with colchicine, a substance that allows chromosomes to duplicate, but prevents the copies from being distributed properly to dividing cells. As a result, a plant with four sets of chromosomes is created, a “tetraploid.”

In the second step, a tetraploid plant is crossed with a diploid to produce offspring that are triploid. That’s right, triploid, with three sets. They get half the number of chromosomes from each parent.

Finally, the triploid seeds are grown into plants. Although they must be germinated under very careful conditions, once the seeds grow into small plantlets, they grow just like normal watermelon plants. They can produce flowers and the female flowers can produce fruit, the watermelons.

However, triploids cannot reproduce sexually. The reason is that the cell divisions that produce pollen and egg cells are very particular; they require precise alignment of chromosome pairs in the middle of the cell, an impossible task with an odd number of copies. Since the triploids have three sets, this crucial process gets mixed up and the eggs inside the watermelon are never formed. Without eggs, the seeds do not grow.

So far so good, except that pollen is still needed to trigger the female flowers to make the watermelons. Since triploid plants cannot produce pollen, farmers grow diploid “pollenizer” plants near the triploids. The diploids produce the necessary pollen, bees carry it to the female triploid flowers, and the seedless watermelons grow. Actually, a few seeds develop partially, so you can find some white, empty seed coats in the red flesh.

When plant breeders developed seedless watermelons, they also selected them for other traits such as sweetness, disease resistance, longer shelf life, and nutritional value.

The people of Knox City, Texas proclaim their city the “Seedless Watermelon Capitol of the World.” Perhaps on your next summer vacation you can venture to Knox City for the 17th annual Seedless Watermelon Festival, where you can eat all the free watermelon you please. But don’t expect to take part in a seed spittin’ contest!

via CCMR – Ask A Scientist!.

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On the morning of May 24, 1987, sometime after 1:30 A.M., a 23-year-old Canadian named Kenneth Parks drove 14 miles to his in-laws’ home, strangled his father-in-law to the point of unconsciousness, and beat and stabbed his mother-in-law to death. A year later he was acquitted of both assault and murder. After a careful investigation, specialists reached the astonishing conclusion that Parks had been sleepwalking—and sleep driving and sleep attacking—during the incident.

Neuroscience will inform our justice system in the very near future. It is already having an impact. Does this defense qualify? or is it just another cop-out murder defense?

via Are Sleepwalking Killers Conscious?: Scientific American.

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