February 2012

SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

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SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”, NASA.gov, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

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Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


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Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

Click to embiggen

Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

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Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

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Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

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Zapping into flow.

10 February 2012 // 2 Comments

New Scientist reawakens that old dream of turning on the creative juices as if you were turning on a tap… or flipping a switch: I am in a lab in Carlsbad, California, in pursuit of an elusive mental state known as “flow” – that feeling of effortless concentration that characterises outstanding performance in all kinds of skills. Flow has been maddeningly difficult to pin down, let alone harness, but a wealth of new technologies could soon allow us all to conjure up this state. … This effortless concentration should speed up progress, while the joyful feelings that come with the flow state should help take the sting out of further practice, setting such people up for future success, says Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi at Claremont Graduate University in California. Conversely, his research into the flow state in children showed that, as he puts it, “young people who didn’t enjoy the pursuit of the subject they were gifted […]

Home-cooked Parkinson’s.

9 February 2012 // 0 Comments

BBC reports on neurologists who’ve managed to not only create brain cells in the lab – but to make Parkinson’s-diseased cells from scratch: The breakthrough means they can now see exactly how mutations in the parkin gene cause the disease in an estimated one in 10 patients with Parkinson’s. … “This is the first time that human dopamine neurons have ever been generated from Parkinson’s disease patients with parkin mutations,” said Dr Jian Feng who led the investigations. “Before this, we didn’t even think about being able to study the disease in human neurons. “The brain is so fully integrated. It’s impossible to obtain live human neurons to study.” They started with skin cells from people who had the parkin gene mutation that causes Parkinson’s.

Tune into the li-fi.

8 February 2012 // 0 Comments

Wired is all aglow over a new wireless transmission system that uses light instead of radio waves: Using off-the-shelf electronics, he can stream videos using an ordinary light bulb fitted with signal-processing technology of his own design. The lamp shines directly on to a hole cut into the oblong box on which it sits. Inside this box is a receiver that converts the light signal into a high-speed data stream, and a transmitter that projects the data on to a screen as a short video. If Haas puts his hand in front of the lamp, excluding the light, the video stops. Haas, 43, holds the chair of mobile communications at Edinburgh University’s Institute for Digital Communications. His demo is scientifically groundbreaking: it proves that large amounts of data, in multiple parallel streams, can be transferred using various forms of light (infrared, ultraviolet and visible). The technology, he says, has huge commercial potential. His device can […]

Testosterone and bad ideas.

7 February 2012 // 0 Comments

Irish Times reveals the link between lousy decision-making and the hormone linked to lust and aggression: Dr Nick Wright and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at [University College London] tested the impact of testosterone on the levels of co-operative decision-making accomplished by groups. They publish their findings this morning in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. … Men already have high levels of the hormone and if extra is given it will quickly be broken down. For this reason only women were used as subjects, Dr Wright said. Supplements were given to elevate their testosterone levels temporarily and the women conducted a series of tests to measure levels of co-operation. Dr Wright used 17 pairs of female volunteers who were asked to watch images on separate screens, trying to identify a particular target. If they co-operated well, their results would be better than if they did not collaborate on the […]

Skin becomes brain

6 February 2012 // 0 Comments

BBC News ponders what it means for our bodies when Stanford University professors start shuffling around our cellular building blocks. Not turning stem cells into other kinds of cells, but directly transforming skin into brain: This study created “neural precursor” cells, which can develop into three types of brain cell: neurons, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These precursor cells have the advantage that, once created, they can be grown in a laboratory into very large numbers. This could be critical if the cells were to be used in any therapy. Brain cells and skin cells contain the same genetic information, however, the genetic code is interpreted differently in each. This is controlled by “transcription factors”. The scientists used a virus to infect skin cells with three transcription factors known to be at high levels in neural precursor cells. After three weeks about one in 10 of the cells became neural precursor cells. Lead researcher Prof Marius Wernig […]

Science Art: Quiet Engine Sonic Inlet, NASA Glenn Research Center

5 February 2012 // 0 Comments

Let us take a moment, while contemplating the sleek engineering of the quiet engine sonic inlet, to consider that tie. That man is not a model. He is, in all likelihood, an engineer. An actual rocket scientist. There are no horn-rim glasses, no pocket protectors and neither white coat nor jumpsuit. Perhaps… and I can find no higher resolution than the NASA Image Library’s photo… that white bow-tie shape is, in fact, ear protection, removed and placed casually around the scientist’s neck. Perhaps. But one can dream. One can dream of aeronautic laboratories filled with men in corduroy blazers, oxblood Chelsea boots and maroon pants. And, yes, ties. White ties. Ties wide enough to shake the stars from their heavens.

Inside magic mushrooms… inside the MRI

3 February 2012 // 0 Comments

Imperial College, London, is learning what makes psilocybin mushrooms *trippy* – and what that means for our brains: Professor David Nutt, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, the senior author of both studies, said: “Psychedelics are thought of as ‘mind-expanding’ drugs so it has commonly been assumed that they work by increasing brain activity, but surprisingly, we found that psilocybin actually caused activity to decrease in areas that have the densest connections with other areas. These hubs constrain our experience of the world and keep it orderly. We now know that deactivating these regions leads to a state in which the world is experienced as strange.” … The function of these areas, the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), is the subject of debate among neuroscientists, but the PCC is proposed to have a role in consciousness and self-identity. The mPFC is known to be hyperactive in depression, […]

Lovecraft report: Scientists set to disturb primordial lake, deep under Antarctic ice.

2 February 2012 // 3 Comments

Who knows what dim, multiform entities could yet lurk for silent millennia beneath that hostile, white blanket of impervious snow and unrelenting wind? Washington Post is almost ready to discover what ancient secrets lie in Lake Vostok: After drilling for two decades through more than two miles of antarctic ice, Russian scientists are on the verge of entering a vast, dark lake that hasn’t been touched by light for more than 20?million years. Scientists are enormously excited about what life-forms might be found there but are equally worried about contaminating the lake with drilling fluids and bacteria, and the potentially explosive “de-gassing” of a body of water that has especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen. … “This is a huge moment for science and exploration, breaking through to this enormous lake that we didn’t even know existed until the 1990s,” said John Priscu, a researcher at Montana State University who has long been involved […]

Python problem grows in the Everglades

1 February 2012 // 0 Comments

National Geographic is watching South Florida with a growing sense of unease over the alien monsters eating any creature who wanders into the Everglades: …[T]his is “the first study to show that pythons are having impacts on prey populations—and unfortunately those impacts appear to be pretty dramatic,” said study leader Michael Dorcas, a herpetologist at Davidson College in North Carolina. “We started the study after we realized, Man, we’re not seeing a lot of these animals around anymore,” Dorcas said. But “when we did the calculations, we were pretty astonished.” … For the study, Dorcas and colleagues conducted nighttime surveys of live and dead animals on roads between 2003 and 2011. Such numbers provide estimates of how many animals of a certain species are present in a given area. The scientists compared these data with similar surveys conducted in 1996 and 1997. Before 2000 it was common to see mammals such as rabbits, red foxes, […]

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