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February 2012

Written By: grant on February 17, 2012 No Comment

New York Times takes a quick look at how retailers virtually read our minds by clocking all the little details:

There are, however, some brief periods in a person’s life when old routines fall apart and buying habits are suddenly in flux. One of those moments — the moment, really — is right around the birth of a child, when [...]

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Written By: grant on February 16, 2012 No Comment

That’s how ISS Commander Daniel Burbank describes his interaction with Robonaut 2 yesterday. PhysOrg has more on the space station’s new, robot crew member:

On Wednesday, ground controllers activated computer software that enabled the robot to extend its right hand, fingers outstretched. Burbank took the mechanical hand and pumped it up and down, as the robot’s fingers tightened around [...]

Written By: grant on February 15, 2012 No Comment

BBC reports that the Large Hadron Collider is driving toward a new breakthrough. All the physicists have to do is put the pedal to the metal:

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will increase the energies of the bunches of subatomic particles called protons that it smashes together.

The boost should improve the collider’s chances of discovering “new physics” and [...]

Written By: grant on February 15, 2012 No Comment

PhysOrg has bad news for the Gulf of Mexico. Oil spills are even more toxic than we thought:

The study, spearheaded by the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory in collaboration with NOAA, looked into the aftermath of the 2007 Cusco Busan spill, when that tanker hit the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and spilled 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel into the [...]

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Written By: grant on February 13, 2012 No Comment

TG Daily reports on a new hope for clearing up our old landfills – by feeding the plastic to a very special rain-forest mushroom:

Pestalotiopsis microspora, found in the jungles of Ecuador, can digest polyurethane – which often currently ends up in landfill and takes generations to decay.

Burning polyurethane releases toxins as well as carbon dioxide; and, while [...]

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Written By: grant on February 12, 2012 No Comment
Science Art: “Engine of the Veteran Association” from <i>Our Firemen: A History of the New York Fire Department</i>, 1899.


Click to embiggen slightly

This device paraded at the inaugurations of President Grover Cleveland and the Statue of Liberty.

It also put out fires, nobly, before the turn of the last century.

Image from the New York Public Library Picture Collection.

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Written By: grant on February 10, 2012 No Comment

The brain-zapping process broken down, in an Informed Consent video:

And you can always try making your own device….

Written By: grant on February 10, 2012 No Comment

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 [...]

Written By: grant on February 9, 2012 No Comment

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 [...]

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