Jurassic Park was packed with pseudo-science, but one of its fictions may have accidentally anticipated a dinosaur discovery announced today—venomous raptors.
Though a far cry from the movie’s venom-spitting Dilophosaurus,
Human mating behavior may be full of heartbreak, joy and the occasional tearful argument, but it’s pretty tame compared to the sexual drama that takes place elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Case in point: the fluorescent sperm above, from two different male fruit flies, racing through a female to try and be the one that carries its genes on to the next generation.
In much of the animal world, females often have the chance to mate with more than one male, and males will in turn mate with many females. That increases everyone’s odds of successfully reproducing and makes the population more genetically diverse, both good evolutionary strategies.
Each side has some biological tricks up their sleeve. Males will employ sexual self-defense in order to give their sperm a better chance at winning the race. After mating, for instance, fruit flies secrete proteins that attack competitors’ sperm. And human penises are actually shaped in a way that physically removes other males’ semen, if you catch my drift. Males also have to find an evolutionary balance between making more sperm (which costs a lot of energy) for fewer females or mating with more females using less sperm each time. Over time, males also tend to evolve faster sperm (which is harder than it sounds thanks to physics).
It’s not all up to males, of course. Females of some duck species have evolved vaginas full of dead ends and corkscrews that help defend against forced copulation by over-eager males. Females of some species (like the fruit flies above) can even store sperm in special ducts until they see fit to let the right male in, a trick called cryptic female choice.
It’s a literal battle of the sexes, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. For more, check out the Wikipedia page for sexual selection, Isabella Rosselini’s Green Porno series, and Carin Bondar’s Wild Sex show. Hey, it’s not PG-13 if it’s for science, right?
Seeing A Hydrogen Bond
Using a mouthful of a technique called high-resolution atomic force microscopy, Chinese researchers have imaged a hydrogen bond at the highest resolution evar (except for maybe crystallography, but that’s a much more indirect way to look at things). These molecules (a tetrad of 8-hydroxyquinoline) are held in arrangement by the (white) hydrogen atoms’ atomic attraction to the partial negative charge in the nitrogen and oxygen atoms. Those N’s and O’s are little electron hogs, pulling that negative cloud away from their atomic neighbor and around their nucleus instead. They don’t become full ions, like sodium or chloride, but they do become just a tiny bit negative.
It’s similar to what happens in water, where the “electron hog” oxygen becomes slightly negative, making the hydrogen slightly positive:
This results in something called “dipole interaction” and it is one of the key ingredients of living chemistry. In fact, if those 8-hydroxyquinoline molecules were in a cell instead of on a copper microscope surface, there would be little water molecules bridging those gaps, tiny hydrogen bonding intermediaries holding the whole aqueous world together.
This kind of microscopy is the same technique that recently let Berkeley scientists see a covalent bond breaking and forming in real time, and is certainly up there on the “coolest thing I’ve seen this year” list. Next stop ionic bonds?
Brain Programming: Science of Real Self-Mind Control
So you’re interested in creating a brand new you? or perhaps be knowledgeable on what you’re truly capable of? But you don’t want to resort to mere superstitious or possibly fallacious methods promoted by self proclaimed experts on matters of changing yourself, attitudes, and way of learning, you want to wake the inner you as much as possible, that revolution of the mind you’ve been waiting for. I’m no expert, I merely read a little too much about the brain’s capabilities in my free time, maybe for my own good maybe not. I state with the information I have compiled that you can still be the great mathematician you wanted to be, or that astrophysicist studying for NASA, or perhaps the musician making the newest great beats. You may already be doubting this post based on these claims, but that alone shows how little you know.. about how much the brain can change and thus learn. Which is a doubt that is essentially a blockade on the brain’s ability to learn new things.
I’m talking about neuroplasticity. Before we get to the really good stuff, we need to know what these awesome customizable computers we call brains are able to do. But for the purpose of not making this post a bit too excessive or lengthy we’ll keep focus on neuroplasticity, mainly because most of what we’ll get into deals with this specific brain function that the majority of us have.
Neural pertaining to the nerves and/or brain and plastic being moldable or changeable in structure. This function refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes. [**]
We’ll also need to have a good understanding of what the neocortex is and what it does. Aside from being a trait in mammals (which was what Carl Sagan was referring to when he stated No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain), It is the outer layer of the cerebral hemispheres, and made up of six layers, labelled I to VI (with VI being the innermost and I being the outermost). The neocortex is part of the cerebral cortex (along with the archicortex and paleocortex, which are cortical parts of the limbic system). In humans, it is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language. [**]
Famous futurist Ray Kurzweil said “We have plasticity but our neocortex has a limited capacity, it’s made up of pattern recognisers - I estimate about 300 million of them. People say we only use 10 percent of our brains, actually we use all of it. It’s just not organised that well. The reason that people, as they get older, have more difficulty learning things compared to a child, is that a child has all this virgin neocortex, all these pattern recognisers that can be filled up with information.”
“So you’re telling me the older I am the likelier I am to have junk in my brain?” Kind of. It’s why kids learn so fast and can be comparable to little scientists. Because their neocortex and thus neuroplasticity is at peak efficiency. Like a brand new computer. But as the years go by it gets clogged up from usage and downloads and program installs and just all this useless cache we’ve picked up through held experiences, emotions, acquired memory and most importantly.. habits.
We pick up loads of bad habits as we develop into adulthood that become detrimental to our brains either through the quality of the content in these habits or our lack of moderation in terms of what’s useful, and what’s useless to our brains. It’s no lie when people say your brain is a muscle and it needs exercises and these exercises vary depending on what parts of your brain you wish to start the pumping. However, these exercises are not like those in the gymnasiums, these are exercises of the mind, and our will to change our habits that would eventually train specified areas of the brain.
Understanding the mind’s weakness is understanding the key to your strengths. Bad habits produce bad brains. Television and investing in TV shows and the likes is just as bad as sticking a knife through your brain slowly.
The average American watches more than four hours of television per day (five times the amount dedicated to socialization!). It makes sense that it would change us, the same as doing anything for four hours a day changes you. Yet, it’s surprisingly hard to get people to accept this.
But the science is pretty much overwhelming. Enough television rewires your brain in a bunch of unexpected ways. For instance …
#6. It Changes You, Even if You’re Too Young to Know What You’re Watching
#5. Yes, TV Lowers Your Attention Span
#4. It Alters Your Dreams
#3. It ‘Deceptively’ Cures Loneliness
#2. More likely to become obese
#1. It Makes You Violent
So we know TV and the likes are poison to our beautiful brains. Do we care enough about our minds to save it from the junk the media, culture, hollywood, tv, and irrational traditions force down our throats & put into our unsuspecting brain? If so. Here’s how we change our bad habits to battle idiocy and make creators, inventors, engineers, artists and more out of own selves.
Modern conveniences like smartphones and the internet provide us with access to more information than we could ever hope to remember. The problem is, we often fail to differentiate between the important information we ought to keep in our memory and the less-important data that’s better stored elsewhere. As a result we become too dependent on our devices and other modern conveniences. Here’s how to break the cycle and develop a healthy amount of self-reliance.
We think in all sorts of problematic ways. Even though we often enjoy tackling challenges and the feeling of accomplishment they provide, when presented with the option to not do the work we tend to take it. When we can have the fruits of our labor without the actual labor, we’re basically presented with an offer we can’t refuse. The problem lies in our overuse of what social psychologist Daniel Wegner calls transactive memory, or a memory that’s essentially a reference to information in your phone, on the internet, in another person, or practically anywhere that isn’t in your own head. When you need a phone number that’s stored as a transactive memory, your memory isn’t the actual number but rather something along the lines of “iPhone Contacts app.” You may not remember the information itself, but you’ll know exactly where to find it.
This is extremely useful when you want to recall data that isn’t particularly important in your day-to-day life and isn’t a skill you need to practice. I’m by no means arguing that transactive memory is intrinsically bad—it’s the perfect route to accessing plenty of information. Because transactive memory is such an attractive option, however, we often use it to store data that is very important—even when that information really belongs in our heads rather than our phones.
This leaves us checking our phones, phoning a friend, or searching the internet for an answer we should be able to recall in a matter of seconds. Basically, too much convenience can make me, you, or anyone else a lazy idiot. Reprogramming your brain to pass up the easy way in favor of the hard—and even enjoy it—however, is actually very easy. All you have to do is be aware of what’s important, store that information in your own head, and you’ll be well on your way to self-reliance. Here’s what you need to do to make that happen.
Actively Learn from Your Friends
When you ask friends for help, ask them to teach you instead of doing the work for you. Perhaps you’re like me and you’re terrible at assembling furniture. Naturally you’d call a friend to help you out. What you’re really doing in this scenario is getting them to do the hard work for you that you don’t do as well. They take control of the situation and you assist where you can. As a result, all the skills they possess that you don’t—and should—remain a part of them and not a part of you. You may have some nicely assembled furniture, but next time you need help and they’re not available you won’t be able to get the job done as well.
If you wanted to learn guitar and a friend knew how, you wouldn’t ask them to come over and handle the frets while you strum. The same goes for practical skills like furniture assembly. Pay attention to when you ask people for help, and ask them how they’re doing something when they’re doing it well. Regardless of whether your friends are generally dumb or extremely brilliant, they all have useful skills you can pick up. Doing the work together is a lot more fun, but learning from them allows you to handle situations better when their help is not an option.
Memorize Your Speed Dial
Why? Because, presumably, you call them frequently. Your smartphone may be attached to you like a fancy, multi-touch tumor, but in reality you’re not going to have it with you all of the time. You may need to make a call when your phone is dead, forgotten in the car, or out for repairs. If those numbers are so important, you should take the time to remember them so you don’t have to always rely on technology.
No GPS Dependency
When you get driving/walking/public transit directions on the computer or your smartphone, memorize them and only refer to them when necessary. If you have a GPS device, turn it off. If you’re paying attention to the GPS rather than paying attention to what each direction actually looks like, you’re not going to learn where you’re going. It takes very little time to read through a set of directions, memorize each turn, and then recall them as needed. This process uses the information—in this case, driving directions—in repetitive but slightly varied ways. This kind of repetition can help you create a “muscle” memory very quickly.
Next time you have to take the same route—such as on your return trip—you probably won’t have to consult your directions because you took a few minutes to learn where you were going. This not only makes for safer driving, but teaches you to be self-reliant when you need to figure out how to get somewhere. Additionally, memorizing directions doesn’t only result in the knowledge of one route, but—with persistence—amounts to the ability to figure how to get to places you haven’t been before. Sure, you can always rely on Google Maps or MapQuest to figure out how to reach your destination, but life is easier when that’s an option and not a necessity.
Write to Remember
When you come across useful information, write it down on paper. Why? The physical act of writing can actually improve your ability to learn, but doing so is also a means of acknowledging that what you’re writing is something important. Instead of creating a transactive memory, you’re creating a real memory that you can access and rely on when needed. The goal is to identify information that’s worth keeping and taking the necessary action to make it readily available in your brain. If it’s not that important a transactive memory is adequate, but when you come across information that really matters to you it’s worth the effort to make room for it in your permanent memory.
Ultimately it all comes down to paying attention and acknowledging the little—yet important—things that occur outside of your head. It’s very easy to ignore what happens around you and simply defer to your transactive memory as a matter of convenience, but hopefully these few methods will help you avoid that problem. While you can’t permanently keep all the information you want in your brain, you can learn to tell the difference and act accordingly. When you’re particularly good at that, you can consider yourself truly self-reliant.
So the brain wasn’t what you thought it was. It’s no rock imprisoned to one shape. It can change, you can change. You really are responsible with most of what gets put in there and how you get to use that. As in the case of the great Albert Einstein — “Einstein programmed his own brain,” when the field of physics was ripe for new insights, “he had the right brain in the right place at the right time.” Will you leave yours as is with these insightful facts in mind or be the next person to program their brain, dump the junk and make it stronger, better, faster.
Woah, woah, woah Ken wait just a second. Won’t I need some sort of system to know what data is good and what is bad? Yes! and there actually is such a system. Like an antivirus for your mind to help you get a better judgement on what should be in your brain. “What would that be?” Scientific Literacy [read as a continuity to this post]
Side Note: With all of these recent scientific discoveries and observations like the Higgs Boson particle being found, or the recent Venus transit that wont occur again until 2117, or fresh news of more evidence towards Dark Matter’s existence and its implications I thought it would be great timing to highlight the importance of science news, information, and being a part of the community as a citizen. Scientific literacy seems all the more important as our technologies become more advanced and scientists alongside their tools begin to find out new groundbreaking things. Provided below are my favorite excerpts from Robert M. Hazen’s ‘Why should you be scientifically literate?’. Give it a read, become aware of one of the duties we as citizens should have taken up long ago, becoming literate in the world of science.
Road to Discovery of Self & Reality
by Robert M. Hazen
Why should you care about being scientifically literate? It will help you
— Understand issues that you come across daily in news stories and government debates
— Appreciate how the natural laws of science influence your life
— Gain perspective on the intellectual climate of our time
We live in an age of constant scientific discovery — a world shaped by revolutionary new technologies. Just look at your favorite newspaper. The chances are pretty good that in the next few days you’ll see a headline about global warming, cloning, fossils in meteorites, or genetically engineered food. Other stories featuring exotic materials, medical advances, DNA evidence, and new drugs all deal with issues that directly affect your life. As a consumer, as a business professional, and as a citizen, you will have to form opinions about these and other science-based issues if you are to participate fully in modern society.
More and more, scientific and technological issues dominate national discourse, from environmental debates on ozone depletion and acid rain, to economic threats from climate change and invasive species. Understanding these debates has become as basic as reading. All citizens need to be scientifically literate to:
— appreciate the world around them — make informed personal choices
It is the responsibility of scientists and educators to provide everyone with the background knowledge to help us cope with the fast-paced changes of today and tomorrow. What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? And how can we achieve scientific literacy for all citizens?
What is scientific literacy?
Scientific literacy, quite simply, is a mix of concepts, history, and philosophy that help you understand the scientific issues of our time.
— Scientific literacy is not the specialized, jargon-filled esoteric lingo of the experts. You don’t have to be able to synthesize new drugs to appreciate the importance of medical advances, nor do you need to be able to calculate the orbit of the space station to understand its role in space exploration.
— Scientific literacy is rooted in the most general scientific principles and broad knowledge of science; the scientifically literate citizen possesses facts and vocabulary sufficient to comprehend the context of the daily news.
— If you can understand scientific issues in magazines and newspapers (if you can tackle articles about genetic engineering or the ozone hole with the same ease that you would sports, politics, or the arts) then you are scientifically literate.
Admittedly, this definition of scientific literacy does not satisfy everyone. Some academics argue that science education should expose students to mathematical rigor and complex vocabulary. They want everyone to experience this taste of “real” science. But my colleagues and I feel strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing two important but separate aspects of scientific knowledge. As in many other endeavors, doing science is obviously distinct from using science; and scientific literacy concerns only the latter.
Surprisingly, intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, I’m often amazed at the degree to which working scientists are often woefully uninformed in scientific fields outside their own field of professional expertise. I once asked a group of twenty-four Ph.D. physicists and geologists to explain the difference between DNA and RNA — perhaps the most basic idea in modern molecular biology. I found only three colleagues who could do so, and all three of those individuals did research in areas where this knowledge was useful. And I’d probably find the same sort of discouraging result if I asked biologists to explain the difference between a semiconductor and a superconductor. The education of professional scientists is often just as narrowly focused as the education of any other group of professionals, so scientists are just as likely to be ignorant of scientific matters outside their own specialty as anyone else.
Why is scientific literacy important?
Why should we care whether our citizens are scientifically literate? Why should you care about your own understanding of science? Three different arguments might convince you why it is important:
— from civics — from aesthetics — from intellectual coherence
The first argument from civics is the one I’ve used thus far. We’re all faced with public issues whose discussion requires some scientific background, and therefore we all should have some level of scientific literacy. Our democratic government, which supports science education, sponsors basic scientific research, manages natural resources, and protects the environment, can be thwarted by a scientifically illiterate citizenry. Without an informed electorate (not to mention a scientifically informed legislature) some of the most fundamental objectives of our nation may not be served.
The argument from aesthetics is less concrete, but is closely related to principles that are often made to support liberal education. According to this view, our world operates according to a few over-arching natural laws. Everything you do, everything you experience from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, conforms to these laws of nature. Our scientific vision of the universe is exceedingly beautiful and elegant and it represents a crowning achievement of human civilization. You can share in the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction to be gained from appreciating the unity between a boiling pot of water on a stove and the slow march of the continents, between the iridescent colors of a butterfly’s wing and the behavior of the fundamental constituents of matter. A scientifically illiterate person is effectively cut off from an immensely enriching part of life, just as surely as a person who cannot read.
Finally, we come to the third argument — the idea of intellectual coherence. Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the Copernican concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, Charles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?
Newsflash: Brad Pitt is an ACTOR.
Researchers at Yale University have found that neural receptors in a fly’s antenna are able to communicate with one another despite a lack of synaptic connections. They suggest in their paper published in the journal Nature that the communication between the neurons occurs via electrical…
Scientists may have discovered a new way to prevent strokes in high risk patients, according to research from the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW).
Work by a new research group, led by Professor Donald Singer, Professor of Therapeutics at Warwick Medical School and Professor Chris Imray from UHCW, has now been published in US journal Stroke.
The group is using ultrasound scanning to look at patients with carotid artery disease, one of the major causes of stroke. Clots can form on diseased carotid arteries in the neck. Small parts of these clots can released to form microemboli, which can travel to block key brain arteries and lead to weakness, disturbed speech, loss of vision and other serious stroke syndromes. Standard anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin may not prevent the formation of harmful microemboli.
The scanning process can be used to find patients at very high risk of stroke because microemboli have formed despite prior anti-platelet drugs. Using scanning, the team has found that tirofiban, another anti-platelet drug designed to inhibit the formation of blood clots, can suppress microemboli where previous treatment such as aspirin has been ineffective. In their study, tirofiban was more effective than other ‘rescue’ treatment.
Professor Singer said: “These findings show that the choice of rescue medicine is very important when carotid patients develop microemboli despite previous treatment with powerful anti-platelet drugs such as aspirin. We now need to go on to further studies of anti-microemboli rescue treatments, to aim for the right balance between protection and risk for our patients.”
Professor Imray said: “These findings show the importance of ultrasound testing for micro-emboli in carotid disease patients. These biomarkers of high stroke risk cannot be predicted just from assessing the severity of risk factors such as smoking history, cholesterol and blood pressure.”