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Posts tagged science

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How Brainless Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence

Ferris Jabr, Scientific American:

Compared with most organisms, slime molds have been on the planet for a very long time—they first evolved at least 600 million years ago and perhaps as long as one billion years ago. At the time, no organisms had yet evolved brains or even simple nervous systems. Yet slime molds do not blindly ooze from one place to another—they carefully explore their environments, seeking the most efficient routes between resources. They do not accept whatever circumstances they find themselves in, but rather choose conditions most amenable to their survival. They remember, anticipate and decide. By doing so much with so little, slime molds represent a successful and admirable alternative to convoluted brain-based intelligence.

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Scientists use MRI to measure precisely how your butt deforms when you sit down

Discover magazine’s Seriously, Science? blog has discovered a study from 2013 about, well, uh:

AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study was to describe an individual’s 3-dimensional buttocks response to sitting. Within that exploration, we specifically considered tissue (i.e., fat and muscle) deformations, including tissue displacements that have not been identified by research published to date.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The buttocks anatomy of an able-bodied female during sitting was collected in a FONAR Upright MRI.

Another mystery of the universe solved. Presumably.

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Megan Gannon, Live Science:

Last year, as part of his annual Flame Challenge, actor-turned-science-advocate Alan Alda invited scientists to come up with accurate, vivid answers to the deceptively simple question, “What is color?” On Sunday (June 1), Alda announced the winners here at the World Science Festival during an event that explored what color is (and isn’t) made of, how the brain perceives it and how some individuals can even “see” it in music and smells.

The prize in the video category went to Dianna Cowern, an outreach coordinator in the physics department at the University of California, San Diego who runs a YouTube channel under the name Physics Girl. In her less-than-4-minute clip, Cowern wears costumes and interacts with animations, asking her viewers to imagine themselves as color to bring them on a journey from a wavelength of light to a reflection to a brain signal to a perception.

I love the idea of the Flame Challenge.

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Why Game Research is Hard

Bradley Goodnight at Project Reset:

People who have an opinion about video game violence research typically fall into one of two camps: They either unconditionally accept that video games are bad, or they completely reject even the possibility that games can cause harm.

Although we don’t believe that the truth must necessarily lie somewhere in the middle, we think that this issue is more complex than can be conveyed in 140 characters. Our goal here is to highlight where there is need for improvement and explain why things are the way they are.

He looks at two meta-analyses and the flaws he found in the research. The best conclusion we have at the moment is “seems like there might be a link, but we can’t really be sure.”

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Stem cell scientist Haruko Obokata found guilty of misconduct

Ian Sample, The Guardian:

A young researcher who shot to fame in scientific circles when she published an apparently radical and simple way to create stem cells has been found guilty of misconduct by a committee charged with investigating her work.

Haruko Obokata, at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology in Kobe, announced the breakthrough in January in two articles published in the scientific journal Nature, but the discovery was thrown into doubt after researchers elsewhere failed to replicate her work.

The ruling has not settled the debate over whether her breakthrough was real, though. In a bizarre twist in an already convoluted story, the committee’s ruling against Obokata came moments before an independent researcher claimed to have succeeded in making the cells using a slightly different procedure.

Never heard of her or her research before now. This is weird as heck.

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Mugshots built from DNA data

Sara Reardon, Nature:

Leaving a hair at a crime scene could one day be as damning as leaving a photograph of your face. Researchers have developed a computer program that can create a crude three-dimensional (3D) model of a face from a DNA sample.

There’s still a whole lot we don’t know about how our genes end up making us who we are, so the team went about it the only way we know how: with a mountain of statistics applied to genomes and facial scans.

Reardon also talks about a Chinese team doing much the same work.

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The Creation Museum Wants Some Airtime on Neil deGrasse Tyson's 'Cosmos'

Abby Ohlheiser on The Wire:

Answers in Genesis (the organization that brought you the Creation Museum) is demanding some airtime on Cosmos, the Neil deGrasse Tyson reboot of the classic Carl Sagan science series currently airing on Fox. Their argument? Basically, it’s that the science program is not balanced without the inclusion of their religious beliefs. Although this will never happen — Tyson has personally ruled out debating Creationists on the issue of evolution — it’s just the latest example of how the show is worrying a particular set of evangelical Christians in the US.

"Do they do any interviews with scientists themselves," Janet Mefferd asked Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis on Thursday, "and do they ever give creationists some time?" Faulkner responded that "Creationists aren’t even on the radar screen for them, they wouldn’t even consider us plausible at all."

Colin and I have watched the first two episodes together and are tentatively enjoying the show, the second episode more than the first, but we both have some major reservations about the production (especially the sound design).

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The Town That's Building Life Around Sleep

Julie Beck, The Atlantic:

[University of Groningen researcher Dr. Thomas] Kantermann is a chronobiologist, meaning he studies the differences in people’s circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. A person’s preferred sleep pattern is his or her “chronotype.” This is what we’re talking about when we say someone is a morning person or a night owl. Research has shown that living outside your chronotype, which most of us do—waking ourselves up early with an alarm clock for school or work, or staying out too late at the bars—can lead to all kinds of problems other than just being tired: poor memory, depression, obesity, even a greater risk for some kinds of cancer.

… in July 2013, he, [business developer Michael] Wieden, Bad Kissingen’s mayor and town council, and other researchers from the University of Groningen and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich signed a letter of intent. In that letter, they pledged to promote chronobiology research in the town, to “gather results that are directly applicable to living, education, work, well-being, health, mobility, rehabilitation, and sleep.” It goes on to claim that “the city of Bad Kissingen will be the first in the world realizing scientific field studies in a wider context.”

Kantermann says that this project might result in Bad Kissingen abolishing daylight saving time, which clearly makes it one of the most worthwhile endeavors known to man.

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Court documents reveal DOE-backed Envia isn’t the breakthrough battery startup it appeared

Katie Fehrenbacher on Gigaom:

Silicon Valley battery startup Envia Systems once claimed that its next-generation lithium ion battery tech was such a breakthrough that it could bring electric vehicles to the masses. Those claims brought in millions of dollars of funds from the Department of Energy’s APRA-E program, Valley venture capitalists, and a deal with car giant GM, which makes the Volt electric car. But according to information revealed in two lawsuits against Envia, the company is alleged to have used other companies’ technology in its battery tech (one part allegedly stolen, one part purchased and used as if it was their own), and hasn’t been able to recreate the breakthrough battery results for its GM deal, leading to that deal allegedly being cancelled.

I’ve never heard of these guys before, but the tech sounds like it’d be pretty cool if it actually worked. Envia has denied the allegations.