Archive for the ‘Oddities’ Category

via Video – How you can change the past – New Scientist.

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“This particular genotype affects the sleep-wake pattern of virtually everyone walking around,” Dr. Clifford Saper, chief of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, wrote

 in the statement. “And it is a fairly profound effect so that the people who have the A-A genotype wake up about an hour earlier than the people who have the G-G genotype, and the A-Gs wake up almost exactly in the middle.”

Moreover, investigators realized as some of the 1,200 older subjects in the project died that these nucleotide sequences were accurate predictors of their time of death, within a range of only a few hours. Patients with the A-A and A-G genotypes typically died just before 11 a.m., while subjects with the G-G combination tended to die near 6 p.m.

“So there is really a gene that predicts the time of day that you’ll die. Not the date, fortunately, but the time of day,” said Saper.

The Atlantic reports researchers believe their results may be due to the human body reverting to its more natural, circadian rhythm-induced state as death approaches, instead of the cycle created by social commitments.

via Gene Predicts Time Of Death Down To Hour, Study Suggests.

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via Biofunder | Invest with Life Sciences Companies Directly! on Vimeo.

Biofunder | Invest with Life Sciences Companies Directly! from Biofunder on Vimeo.

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Brain Candle



ThinkGeek :: Brain Candle.

via ThinkGeek :: Brain Candle.

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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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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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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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Tiny micro robots called claytronic atoms, or ‘catoms’, which interact with each other are being worked on at Intel Research and at Carnegie Mellon. They behave like atoms in the sense that they become the basic building blocks of the objects they are programmed to form.

Imagine needing only a few rooms in a house because the furniture morphs; imagine having a watch that, when you lay it down, becomes a toothbrush and then, when you hold it in the middle, it becomes a fork.

via Shape-Shifting Robots: Forget Nanotech; Think Claytronics.

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In humans, the endowment effect causes people to consider an item they have just come to possess as higher in value than the maximum price they would have paid to acquire it just a moment before. Economists and lawyers typically assume this will not be the case. And some consider the endowment effect a human-centered fluke, subject to widespread and seemingly unpredictable variation. The origins of the quirk, and satisfying explanations for how it varies, have proved elusive.

via Endowment effect in chimpanzees can be turned on and off.

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Living Stem Cells Discovered in 17-Day-Old Human Corpses | Stem-Cell Therapies | LiveScience.

Another question in the pursuit of

What is Consciousness?

What is Life?

When does life end?�

Are we a society of “I”s, or are we a society made of of gazillions of cells which being hosted by illusionary “I”s?�

via Living Stem Cells Discovered in 17-Day-Old Human Corpses | Stem-Cell Therapies | LiveScience.

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Red hot lava basalt

Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about red hot lava pits every day, but after reading Erik Klemetti’s article on the viscosity of lava, I find myself thinking of it differently. Evidently, the viscosity of  lava is such that if you or I were to fall into one of the fiery red hot lava pits around the world, we wouldn’t sink beneath the surface and die quickly. Instead, we would float atop the surface while it slowly devoured us in its heat.

There are two reasons why we would be forced to suffer such a tragic fate. The first is the difference of density between the human body and lava. Think about jumping in water. Think about floating in water. Why do we sink down through water so easily? Things float because they have a lower density than the fluid they displace. As the density of the fluid increases, the floating object will float higher. Salt water is noticeably denser than fresh water and people float more easily in it. I have been snorkeling in warm salt water areas where I could float, motionless, atop the surface for quite a while — sometimes to the point of boredom, or occasionally a large wave would roll over me, filling my nose and mouth with salt water! Some bodies of water on the planet, like the Dead Sea, have such high levels of salt that people go there specifically to float atop the water while bathing in the rich minerals it is reputed to contain. So, floating occurs when the liquid has a lower density (is more dense) than the object that is floating. Now, think about lava. Molten lava is liquid basalt (a rock). The human body isn’t anywhere near the density of basalt, so, the lava is not displaced when we enter it. It is nearly impossible to sink in lava.

The second reason is viscosity. Viscosity (the resistance to flow) causes a liquid like water, which has a low viscosity, to get out of the way when we enter it, but a liquid with high viscosity like corn syrup, or even higher viscosity, like lava, doesn’t displace itself for the human body.

The more I think about this, the more it causes my empathic nerves to shriek. I recall stories of young virgins being brought to the edge of the volcano’s mouth, then, being thrown inside as a sacrifice to the gods. They weren’t enveloped quickly in fiery hot lava and put out of their misery. Instead, they would’ve probably hit the burning hot surface and been roasted and assimilated within the flow itself.

I googled some photographs of lava taken by independent photographers around the world. One of them had some great close-ups of small foot-wide flows of lava in action. A commentor asked him if the smoke in the area was due to the heat. He responded by saying the paint on his camera lens literally peeled away due to the extreme heat he experienced there. Now that’s hot!

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