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AN ECLECTIC MIX OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, HISTORY AND THE ARTS

                            

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After bumping my head, why do I ‘see stars’?

starsThe stars you see are actually neurons in your visual cortex firing spontaneously. This occurs when their oxygenation level changes abruptly either because you have stood up too quickly or because your brain has been suddenly accelerated by a sharp blow, sloshing blood into or out of the capillaries. The neurons closest to capillaries are affected first and, if it happens fast enough, they fire well before the surrounding neurons. This results in isolated signals that your brain interprets as lights. Via After bumping my head, why do I ‘see stars’?

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How To Get Better Sleep

Some tips to combat sleep deprivation!

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Sectoral heterochromia

Heterochromia iridis is a condition in which the iris in one eye has a different color than the iris of the other eye or shows different colours within the same eye. The iris is the tissue of the eye that surrounds the pupil and imparts a color, whether green, blue, brown, hazel, grey, or other, to the eye.

Iris color is the result of the pigment that is present in the iris. Brown eyes have large amounts of melanin pigment deposits, and blue eyes have a lack of melanin. Although eye color is inherited, the inheritance pattern is complex, with interaction of more than one gene. These genes interact to provide the full constellation of colors.

Other genes may determine the pattern and placement of pigment in the iris, thereby accounting for solid brown as opposed to rays of color. Normally, the two irises of an individual are of the same color. In heterochromia, the affected eye may be hyperpigmented (darker or hyperchromic) or hypopigmented (lighter or hypochromic). Eye color is determined primarily by the concentration and distribution of melanin within the iris tissues. Via Facebook.

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Remote tribe members enter another village, catch flu

Advocates for indigenous tribes are worried over incidents last month when some members of one of the last uncontacted tribes in the Peru/Brazil region, across borders, left their home in Peru and entered the village across the border, making contact for the first time with people in a settled Ashaninka community. The seven were sickened, alarming researchers about the risk of how diseases may decimate previously isolated peoples with no immunities. Responding to the risks of disease transmission, a government medical team treated the newly infected people and gave them flu immunizations.

The situation though took another turn when the contacted people then went back to their forest home, Their return has observers worried that they still could spread the sickness back to their tribe. Science News, from the journal Science, quoted Chris Fagan, executive director at the Upper Amazon Conservancy in Jackson, Wyoming. “We can only hope that [the FUNAI team members] were able to give out treatment before the sickness was spread to the rest of the tribe in the forest,” says Chris Fagan, executive director at the Upper Amazon Conservancy in Jackson, Wyoming. “Only time will tell if they reacted quickly enough to divert a catastrophic epidemic.” FUNAI refers to Brazil’s Indian affairs department.

On Friday, Heather Pringle reported in Science News that some scientists and Brazil’s government disagree if the people who came down with flu received enough medical treatment. “At least one scientist fears that the illness is just the start of a health catastrophe for the tribe.” The scientists say fuller precautions may have had to be taken regarding the seven people who then slipped back into the forest. In Pringle’s report, anthropologist Kim Hill of Arizona State University said a health worker or anthropologist should have been sent with the departing individuals to administer antibiotics in case pneumonia and other infections spread in the home village. Via Remote tribe members enter another village, catch flu.

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Boosting the force of empty space

Vacuum fluctuations may be among the most counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum physics. Theorists from the Weizmann Institute (Rehovot, Israel) and the Vienna University of Technology propose a way to amplify their force.

Vacuum is not as empty as one might think. In fact, empty space is a bubbling soup of various virtual particles popping in and out of existence – a phenomenon called “vacuum fluctuations”. Usually, such extremely short-lived particles remain completely unnoticed, but in certain cases vacuum forces can have a measurable effect. A team of researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Rehovot, Israel) and the Vienna University of Technology has now proposed a method of amplifying these forces by several orders of magnitude using a transmission line, channelling virtual photons.

“Borrowing” Energy, but just for a Little While

If you park your car somewhere and later it is gone, that is most probably not due to vacuum fluctuations. Objects do not disappear or reappear, that would violate the law of energy conservation. In the world of quantum physics, however, things are a bit more complicated. “Due to the uncertainty principle, virtual particles can come into existence for a brief period of time”, says Igor Mazets from the Vienna University of Technology. “The higher their energy, the faster they will disappear again.”

But such virtual particles can have a measurable collective effect. At very short distances, vacuum fluctuations can lead to an attractive force between atoms or molecules – the Van der Waals forces. Even the ability of a gecko to climb flat surfaces can in part be attributed to vacuum fluctuations and virtual particles. The famous Casimir effect is another example of the power of the vacuum: The physicist Hendrik Casimir calculated in 1948 that two parallel mirrors in empty space will attract each other due to the way they influence the vacuum around them. Continue reading

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How an Embryo Grows

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Why Are Revolutionary Scientists Young?

Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Hawking are just some of the young scientists that have profoundly shaped science. Why is youth a key element in a revolutionary scientist. Note: this vlog contains a fair deal of conjecture. I invite healthy discussion and debate.

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A KEY PLAYER

Alan Mason is on fire this week. We have received another post with reference to the World war 1 celebrations. Great work Alan, keep ‘em coming. – Deskarati

One of the key players in the drama of the summer of 1914 was handsome and aristocratic; much photographed, but barely rates a mention in most accounts. I refer to the magnificent Gräf und Stift motor car (pronounced grev oond sh tift) (1) in which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was travelling, when he and his wife were assassinated.

The Carriage or the Car?

At this period in time, motor cars were so expensive that only the wealthy could afford them. Stylistically, and technologically, it was a period of transition between the “horseless carriage” and the true motor car. Prior to this, well-to-do people rode in a horse-drawn carriage, and employed a groom-handyman to care for the horse and to drive the carriage. The horseless carriage incorporated many of the features of the horse-drawn carriage, for example, it was open to the weather, and had running boards along the sides. Essentially, it was a vehicle in which to be seen by the passing crowds.

By contrast, the motor car was more about comfort, and insulation from the weather, particularly the rain and the cold, so that they were usually closed vehicles. It is interesting to speculate that had the Archduke and his wife chosen a closed motor car it would have been much more difficult to assassinate them.

However, the whole point of this visit was to “show the flag”, to the people as the Archduke was representing the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef I. Sarajevo was the capital of the country of Bosnia, which had recently (1908) become part of the “Dual Monarchy of Austro-Hungary” and this visit gave everyone an opportunity to demonstrate their enthusiasm for the political union to which they belonged, whenever they saw the car with the Archduke and his wife (2).

The design of the car, technically a “double phaeton” was based on the barouche (bar oosh), a large, open and ostentatious carriage. The Kovolevsky painting (3) shows a horse-drawn version of the barouche, taking two members of the Russian aristocracy, through their estates. The serfs turn their vehicles off the narrow road into the corn, to permit their masters to pass without delay, doffing their caps as they do so. Continue reading

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New Planet and Moon Found?

Nope, they’re just plain old soap bubbles. London-based photographer Jason Tozer manipulates light to turn the ordinary into something pretty spectacular. Via ScienceAlert

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Africa builds ‘Great Green Wall’ of trees to improve farmlands

great-green-tree

Stretching over a space of 9,400,00 square kilometres and covering most of North Africa, the Sahara is the largest non-polar desert in the world. And it’s getting bigger.

According to the US’s Public Education Center website, the effects of climate change are causing the Sahara to creep into bordering countries such as Senegal, Mauritania, and Nigeria, which poses a serious threat to their farmlands and agricultural productivity. The Guardian reports that by 2025, two-thirds of Africa’s arable land could be lost to the desert if nothing is done to stem its expansion.

To mitigate this and other environmental issues affecting Africa such as land degradation, the effects of climate change, and a loss of biodiversity, Senegal is leading a 20-nation initiative known as the Great Green Wall. Most notably, this initiative involves erecting a wall of trees across the southern edge of the Sahara desert, which will be 14 km wide and 7,600 km long. When completed, it will be the largest horticultural feature in history. The initiative will also focus on establishing sustainable farming and livestock cultivation, and improving food security.

The initiative will be ongoing, and has garnered the support of several international organisations including the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, the World Bank, the African Union, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Together they have pledged $3 billion and the expertise of their botanists for its advancement. Via Africa builds ‘Great Green Wall’ of trees to improve farmlands

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Newly-found gut virus ‘abundant in humans’

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown virus living in the human gut, according to a study in Nature Communications. Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Experts say these types of viruses, called bacteriophages, have been shown to play a role in chronic diseases.

Led by a team at San Diego State University in the USA, scientists scoured genetic information stored in three large international databases. They stumbled upon a piece of DNA, some 100,000 letters long, present in more than half of all samples from the gut. And while cross-checking its identity in global directories they realised it had never been described before.

Prof Robert Edwards, lead author, said: “It is not unusual to go looking for a novel virus and find one. “But it’s very unusual to find one that so many people have in common. “The fact it has flown under the radar for so long is very strange.”

Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage – a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect – some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent.

Dr Edwards said: “In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. “They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species.” According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts. Via Newly-found gut virus ‘abundant in humans’.

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The first supercomputer simulations of ‘spin–orbit’ forces between neutrons and protons in an atomic nucleus

Protons and neutrons are held together at the center of an atom by powerful nuclear forces. A theory that can describe the interaction between just two of these subatomic particles could potentially be extended to predict the existence and properties of more exotic particles, but simulations of such systems using conventional approaches are computationally intensive and have been hampered by a lack of available computing power.

A team of researchers including Keiko Murano and Tetsuo Hatsuda from the RIKEN Nishina Center for Accelerator-Based Science have now developed a method to solve the equations that govern the interactions between particles in the nucleus.

Nucleons, which include protons and neutrons, are made up of fundamental elementary particles known as quarks and gluons. The three quarks that comprise each nucleon are bound together by a force known as the strong interaction, which only acts over distances of a few femtometers—on the scale of the particles themselves. The development of a complete theory that can explain how this force holds the nucleons together in a nucleus has been a long-standing problem in nuclear and particle physics.

Strong interactions are governed by a physical framework called quantum chromodynamics (QCD). “The properties of a single nucleon are now well simulated using QCD,” explains Hatsuda, “but the nuclear force—the interactions between two nucleons—is more difficult to simulate because nucleons are composite objects composed of quarks and gluons.” Continue reading

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Giant Granny Walks Around Liverpool

Thousands of people have lined Liverpool’s streets to welcome three giant marionettes, which will tell the story of the city during World War One. A grandma giant set off in search for a her giant granddaughter and giant pet dog Xolo on Friday morning.

The huge figures began the Memories of August 1914 commemoration, and will visit many of the city’s landmarks before they sail away on the River Mersey on Sunday.

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Early Human Migrations

human migrationEarly human migration began when the Homo Sapiens first migrated out of Africa over the Levantine corridor and Horn of Africa to Eurasia about 1.8 million years ago. The expansion of H. erectus out of Africa was followed by that of H. antecessor into Europe around 800,000 years ago, followed by H. heidelbergensis around 600,000 years ago, who was the likely ancestor of both Modern Humans and Neanderthals. The ancestors of the human species H. sapiens evolved into Modern Humans (i.e. our current day subspecies H. sapiens sapiens) around 200,000 years ago, in Africa.

Migrations out of Africa occurred some time later. Around 125,000 years ago Modern Humans reached the Near East from where they later spread across Asia and Europe. From the Near East, these populations spread east to South Asia by 50,000 years ago, and on to Australia by 40,000 years ago, when for the first time H. sapiens reached territory never reached by H. erectus. H. sapiens reached Europe around 43,000 years ago, eventually replacing the Neanderthal population. East Asia was reached by 30,000 years ago.

The date of migration to North America is disputed; it may have taken place around 30 thousand years ago, or considerably later, around 14 thousand years ago. Colonization of the Pacific islands of Polynesia began around 1300 BCE, and was completed by 900 CE. The ancestors of Polynesians left Taiwan around 5,200 years ago.

The study of early human migrations since the 1980s has developed significantly due to advances in archaeogenetics. Via Early human migrations

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Chris Stringer Rethinking Out of Africa

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400-Year-Old Crucifix Found by Canadian Student

It is tiny in size — measuring only 1.1 inches in width — and its top is broken, but a 400- year-old copper crucifix found at Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula earlier in July has big historical significance, according to historians. It symbolizes an early dream of religious freedom in North America. The artifact is clearly a Catholic item, featuring a simple representation of Christ on the front and the Virgin Mary and Christ Child on the back. Yet it was found in a predominantly English settlement. Back in England, its owner would could be fined, imprisoned or put to death for practicing Catholic faith, according to Barry Gaulton, Field Director of the Colony of Avalon and Associate Professor of Archaeology at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“The Catholic iconography is unmistakable. As with all archaeological discoveries, the context in which the artifact was found tells us its story,” Gaulton said in a release.

crucifixThe story the crucifix tells is that of the dream of the Newfoundland’s settler, Sir George Calvert. Calvert was an English lord who helped settle the colony around 1628. His vision was to create a community where all Christians could enjoy freedom of religion without fear of persecution. He was one of the early pioneers of religious freedom in North America. Just the presence of the Catholic crucifix reveals that Calvert’s vision had started to take shape. The small cross was found by Anna Sparrow, an undergraduate student at Memorial University in St. John’s.

As for who the crucifix belonged to, the archaeologists are not sure. They say it could have belonged to one of the craftsmen working on Calvert’s house, or the colony’s second governor, the Catholic gentleman Sir Arthur Aston, or even George Calvert himself. An archaeologist’s job can be painstaking, tedious work, involving careful excavation, delicate sifting and gentle brushing. For Sparrow, the thrill of finding such a significant artifact, made all the hard work worthwhile. As she said in a press release, “There is so much time, effort and patience involved in excavation, that to find something with such historical significance is incredible.” Via 400-Year-Old Crucifix Found by Canadian Student

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Do you have the perfect nose?

perfect nose

She has been voted the sexiest woman alive, but now it emerges that one reason may be that Scarlett Johansson apparently has the perfect nose. Plastic surgeons have analysed the ideal shape for a woman’s nose and found it should be slightly upturned. They found Scarlett Johansson, The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel all fit the bill.

Measured from the lip up, the optimum angle of rotation at the nasal tip – the amount the nose is turned up – should be 106 degrees to enhance a woman’s looks, says new research. A nose that is rotated less than 90 degrees to the face looks droopy, long and masculine. U.S. plastic surgeons behind the research claim there has been no universally accepted standard that defines the most aesthetic combination of nasal features until now. Edited from Plastic surgeons say Scarlett Johansson has the ideal nose

We think the guy on the right could give Scarlett a run for her money! - Deskarati

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Occipital view on the human head and neck

Interesting occipital view on the human head and neck, showing neurological structures. Via Daily Anatomy.

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‘At Last’ a Really Great Telescope Proposed

It can take decades to mature an astrophysics flagship mission from concept to launch pad.

For example, the iconic Hubble Space Telescope—arguably the greatest telescope in history and certainly the most recognized—was proposed in the 1940s. Its development began in the 1970s and it launched in 1990. Similarly, the James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2018, 23 years after work began on the concept. And if approved for development, the Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (WFIRST-AFTA), currently in a study phase, could launch by the mid-2020s. Early versions of this mission were first proposed in the early 2000s.

Given the long lead times, it’s time to lay plans for a future flagship mission, NASA scientists and engineers agree.

A team led by scientists and engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is now studying the scientific and technical requirements and costs associated with building a successor to Hubble and the Webb telescope. Dubbed the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST), this mission concept builds upon key technologies developed for Hubble and Webb.

“Conceptually, ATLAST would leverage the technological advances pioneered by the Webb telescope, such as deployable, large segmented-mirror arrays,” said Mark Clampin, ATLAST study scientist and Webb’s project scientist. More here NASA team lays plans to observe new worlds.

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India doctors remove 232 teeth from boy’s mouth

Doctors in India have extracted 232 teeth from the mouth of a 17-year-old boy in a seven-hour operation. Ashik Gavai was brought in with a swelling in his right jaw, Dr Sunanda Dhiware, head of Mumbai’s JJ Hospital’s dental department, told the BBC. The teenager had been suffering for 18 months and travelled to the city from his village after local doctors failed to identify the cause of the problem.

Doctors have described his condition as “very rare” and “a world record”. “Ashik’s malaise was diagnosed as a complex composite odontoma where a single gum forms lots of teeth. It’s a sort of benign tumour,” Dr Dhiware said.

The teenager had to endure seven hours of medics pulling teeth from his mouth It was all smiles from the medical team after the mammoth operation

“At first, we couldn’t cut it out so we had to use the basic chisel and hammer to take it out. “Once we opened it, little pearl-like teeth started coming out, one-by-one. Initially, we were collecting them, they were really like small white pearls. But then we started to get tired. We counted 232 teeth,” she added. The surgery, conducted on Monday, involved two surgeons and two assistants. Ashik now has 28 teeth. Via India doctors remove 232 teeth from boy’s mouth.

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