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Posts Tagged ‘Science News’

Sleep: A Mystery at the Crossroads of Neuroscience (Part 1)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 7, 2014

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP

Deepak-chopraSleep crops up in unexpected places medically, as in the recent finding that for people suffering from bouts of depression, irregular sleep is often the first sign of an attack, and conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can help prevent the onset of depression. But the importance of sleep has become more global in recent years, involving it in obesity, for example, where bad sleep throws off the hormonal balance that tells the body when it’s hungry.

Even as sleep becomes more critical for all manner of bodily functions, this only highlights the mystery that is sleep. Sleep is certainly a physiological necessity, but neuroscience can hardly improve on Shakespeare’s observation after the guilty Macbeth cannot fall asleep.

Macbeth: Innocent sleep. Sleep that soothes away all our worries. Sleep that puts each day to rest. Sleep that relieves the weary laborer and heals hurt minds. Sleep, the main course in life’s feast, and the most nourishing.

Even in our advanced scientific age sleep rules its own domain, remaining essential without telling us why. Babies spend most of their days sleeping, but why? Why do creative solutions sometimes arrive in our sleep or soon after waking? (“A problem difficult at night is often solved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” –John Steinbeck) Do plants go through rest cycles that are the equivalent of sleep? (Science’s inability to explain either the mechanisms or the purpose of sleep has been reduced to a geeky punchline: “The only well-established function of sleep is to cure sleeplessness.”)

Such puzzles have been made even more topical by a recent study in mice which showed that one of the roles of sleep may be to clear out the accumulated garbage from the brain. If this was the only explanation, however, then why do we need to spend one-third of our day unconscious — could evolution not have developed a system to clear out trash while we are awake (much like urination or defecation)? Read the rest of this entry »

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Upsalite, ‘Impossible’ Material Believed To Have Many Uses, Created In Swedish Lab

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on August 7, 2013

It doesn’t look like much, but scientists from Sweden’s Uppsala University are calling a newly created form ofmagnesium carbonate an “impossible” material.

Dubbed upsalite, the highly porous material sets new records for surface area and water absorption, according to a written statement issued by the university. It is expected to have all sorts of applications, from controlling moisture in processes used by the electronics and pharmaceutical industries to sopping up toxins in the aftermath of chemical and oil spills.

“In contrast to what has been claimed for more than 100 years in the scientific literature, we have found that amorphous magnesium carbonate can be made in a very simple, low-temperature process,” study co-author Johan Goméz de la Torre, a researcher in the university’s nanotechnology and functional materials division, said in the statement.

The researchers succeeded in making upsalite in 2011 by bubbling carbon dioxide through an alcohol-containing suspension. But it took another year of analysis and fine-tuning to be sure that they had created the “impossible” material.

Upsalite has the highest surface area ever measured for a so-called alkali earth metal carbonate, according to the statement. In addition, it’s filled with empty pores with diameters measuring less than 10 nanometers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stephen Hawking: Space Exploration Is Key To Saving Humanity

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 12, 2013

By ALICIA CHANG  AP

Stephen Hawking, Cambridge, Jason Bye, 19/09/08

LOS ANGELES — Stephen Hawking, who spent his career decoding the universe and even experienced weightlessness, is urging the continuation of space exploration – for humanity’s sake.

The 71-year-old Hawking said he did not think humans would survive another 1,000 years “without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

The British cosmologist made the remarks Tuesday before an audience of doctors, nurses and employees at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he toured a stem cell laboratory that’s focused on trying to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Hawking was diagnosed with the neurological disorder 50 years ago while a student at Cambridge University. He recalled how he became depressed and initially didn’t see a point in finishing his doctorate. But he continued to delve into his studies.

“If you understand how the universe operates, you control it in a way,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

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Spece Record Break: Soyuz Spacecraft Docks In Record Time With ISS

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 29, 2013

AP

Soyuz Spacecraft

MOSCOW — A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts successfully docked Friday with the International Space Station, bringing the size of the crew at the orbiting lab to six. Read the rest of this entry »

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Richard III’s Face Reconstructed From English King’s Skull (VIDEO)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 6, 2013

 By 

Now that Richard III’s remains have been identified “beyond a reasonable doubt,”scientists are trying to figure out what the English king looked like.

DNA tests and other techniques confirmed that a battle-scarred skeleton found buried in ruins beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England was that of the monarch, researchers announced on Feb. 4. Now, with the help of technology developed for criminal investigations, scientists at Scotland’s Dundee University have created a bust of Richard, who died in battle in 1485.

king richard face

The bust reveals a king subtly different from the one depicted in familiar portraits, which show a hunched shoulder, claw-like hands and squinting eyes. AlthoughRichard’s skeleton does show a spinal curvature, historians say the popular image of the king was likely exaggerated by his enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

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Celebrity Bad Science: Sense About Science Campaign Lists Worst Offenders

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 30, 2012

Reuters  |  By Kate Kelland

Fox's "The X Factor" Season Finale - Night 2

LONDON (Reuters) – Pop guru Simon Cowell carries pocket-sized inhalable oxygen shots, America’s “Mad Men” actress January Jones favors dried placenta pills, and British soap star Patsy Palmer rubs coffee granules into her skin.

Celebrities rarely shy away from public peddling of dubious ideas about health and science, and 2012 was no exception.

In its annual list of the year’s worst abuses against science, the Sense About Science (SAS) campaign also named former U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney for spreading misinformation about windows on planes, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps for false justifications for peeing in the pool.

Natalie PortmanQueen Amidala was only the beginning. Movie star Natalie Portman started acting as a child, but kept her academic dreams alive, too, graduating from Harvard University in 2003 with a bachelor's in psychology. She was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search in 1998 and a co-author on a study published in the journal NeuroImage in 2002 under her given name, Natalie Hershlag.

Natalie Portman
Queen Amidala was only the beginning. Movie star Natalie Portman started acting as a child, but kept her academic dreams alive, too, graduating from Harvard University in 2003 with a bachelor’s in psychology. She was a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search in 1998 and a co-author on a study published in the journal NeuroImage in 2002 under her given name, Natalie Hershlag.

To help set the record straight, SAS, a charity dedicated to helping people make sense of science and evidence, invited qualified scientists to respond to some of the wilder pseudo-scientific claims put about by the rich and famous. Read the rest of this entry »

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WATCH: After Sex, She Eats His Face

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 24, 2012

By 

If you thought the sex scenes in the popular erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” were wild, you should have a look at praying mantises going at it. Sex for these little creatures is not only kinky, but also gruesome.

Believe it or not, sexual cannibalism (when one partner kills and eats the other during copulation) is common among spiders as well as mantises. Need to see it to believe it? Just check out the first episode of biologist Dr. Carin Bondar‘s new web series titled “Wild Sex.”

“We hit topics hard, and not just for the quirk factor, but because there is a lot of cool science behind so many strange mating rituals,” Bondar told Scientific Americanabout the new show. Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Immortal’ Cells: Is It Biologically Possible For Humans To Live Forever? (VIDEO)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 20, 2012

By 

Given the chance, would you want to live forever? In the Epic of Gilgamesh, written over 4,000 years ago, a Sumerian king seeks eternal life. And 500 years ago, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon came to the Americas searching for the fountain of youth. Every generation, a new ploy for outsmarting the reaper emerges–always futile, always in vain. But is the key to immortality within reach? Some people think that technology will help us cure diseases, build new organs, and essentially reprogram our bodies’ faulty software. Futurist Ray Kurzweil calculates that 20 years is all it’ll take for this exponential boom in computing power to help us live forever. But other scientists are more skeptical. They say that to understand immortality, we must understand our own DNA.

Watch the video above and click the link below to learn more about our quest for immortality and how, in some ways, we have already achieved it. Sound off in the comments section below, and as always, talk nerdy to me!

Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. Given the chance, would you want to live forever? In the Epic of Gilgamesh, written over 4,000 years ago, a Sumerian king seeks eternal life. And 500 years ago, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon came to the Americas searching for the fountain of youth. Every generation, a new ploy for outsmarting the reaper emerges–always futile, always in vain. But is the key to immortality within reach? Some people think that technology will help us cure diseases, build new organs, and essentially reprogram our bodies’ faulty software. Futurist Ray Kurzweil calculates that 20 years is all it’ll take for this exponential boom in computing power to help us live forever. But other scientists are more skeptical. They say that to understand immortality, we must understand our own DNA. Read the rest of this entry »

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Albert Einstein’s Brain May Provide Clues To His Genius, Study Says

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 18, 2012

Einstein and his theories – the best achievement in the whole human history

By  

Albert Einstein Brain
Called the “embodiment of pure intellect,” Albert Einstein has long been considered one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. During his life and since his death, people everywhere have wondered how one man could have possessed such genius.

Now, scientists may have uncovered a clue within the physicist’s unusual brain.

einstein
The images of Einstein’s brain are published in Falk, Lepore & Noe 2012, (The cerebral cortex of Albert Einstein: a description and preliminary analysis of unpublished photographs, “Brain”) and are reproduced here with permission from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, Md.

According to a new study led by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk, “portions of Einstein’s brain have been found to be unlike those of most people and could be related to his extraordinary cognitive abilities.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Did Climate Change Kill the Mayans?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 10, 2012

By 

There are a lot of things that didn’t kill the Mayans: asteroid strikes, planet-wide quakes, global cataclysms prophesied by  shamans and etched into ancient calendars. What did wipe them out was likely something that is far less mystical, and indeed is entirely familiar to modern civilizations: climate change. If you want a look at what we could face in the decades and  centuries ahead, look at what one of the world’s greatest cultures suffered a millennium ago. That’s the conclusion of a  newly released study and what it lacks in Hollywood-friendly drama, it makes up in sound — and scary — science.

The arc of the Mayan rise and fall is well known: The civilization first took hold in 1,800 BC, in the Central American region that now includes and surrounds Guatemala. It grew slowly until about 250 A.D. At that point, a great expansion of the culture — known to archaeologists as the Classic Period —  began and continued to 900 A.D., yielding the architectural, political and textual artifacts that have so mesmerized scientists. But a decline began around 800 A.D. and led to a final collapse about 300 years later.

The Mayan arc was  hardly smooth and steady, and there were periods of turbulence and decline even during the golden era. The great settlement of El Mirador, which once might have been home to 100,000 people, collapsed around 300 A.D, for example. From the fifth to eights centuries A.D., there was an explosion of the rich tablet texts that provided so many insights into how the Mayans lived and worked. Suddenly, however,  starting in 775 A.D., the number of texts began to plunge by as much as 50%, a bellwether of a culture that was declining too.

(MoreHow the Drought of 2012 Will Make Your Food More Expensive)

There have been a lot of theories for what accounted for such cycles, with climate among the most-mentioned. The better the year-to-year weather — with plenty of rainfall and reasonably steady and predictable temperatures — the better crops do, and the more the culture and economy can expand. The texts have hinted at declines in productivity, perhaps climate-related, coinciding with generations of unrest, but there was never a precise way to confirm those writings. Analysis of lake sediments can yield a reliable reading of the levels of sulfur, oxygen isotopes and other atmospheric markers at various points in history, which reveal a lot about rainfall and other critical variables. But the Mayans themselves often unwittingly disturbed those sediments, with deforestation — including wide-scale burnings — and fishing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Newfound ‘super-Earth’ could support life

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 9, 2012

Astronomers have discovered another potentially habitable planet – and it’s at least seven times the mass of Earth. Dwarf star HD 40307g hosts a system of six planets, and one of those is believed have the potential to support human life.

The newfound exoplanet was discovered by a team of astronomers from the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Goettingen.

It’s located a mere 44 light-years from Earth. And although that may seem like a far distance, it’s actually just around the corner – cosmically speaking. It’s so close that researchers say telescopes on Earth may be able to image it directly.

The alien planet has been classified as a super-Earth, meaning it’s larger than Earth but smaller than gas planets such as Neptune.

It orbits at a distance of 55.8 million miles from the sun, which puts it in its host star’s habitable zone – the region where liquid water can exist on a planet’s surface.

But it’s not just the possibility of water that has astronomers thinking the newfound planet could be habitable.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Light A Particle Or Wave? ‘Quantum Nonlocality’ Experiment Spotlights Dual Nature Of Light

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 6, 2012

By: Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer

Is light made of waves, or particles?

This fundamental question has dogged scientists for decades, because light seems to be both. However, until now, experiments have revealed light to act either like a particle, or a wave, but never the two at once.

Now, for the first time, a new type of experiment has shown light behaving like both a particle and a wave simultaneously, providing a new dimension to the quandary that could help reveal the true nature of light, and of the whole quantum world.

The debate goes back at least as far as Isaac Newton, who advocated that light was made of particles, and James Clerk Maxwell, whose successful theory of electromagnetism, unifying the forces of electricity and magnetism into one, relied on a model of light as a wave. Then in 1905, Albert Einstein explained a phenomenon called the photoelectric effect using the idea that light was made of particles called photons (this discovery won him the Nobel Prize in physics). [What’s That? Your Physics Questions Answered]

Ultimately, there’s good reason to think that light is both a particle and a wave. In fact, the same seems to be true of all subatomic particles, including electrons and quarks and even the recently discovered Higgs boson-like particle. The idea is calledwave-particle duality, and is a fundamental tenet of the theory of quantum mechanics.

Depending on which type of experiment is used, light, or any other type of particle, will behave like a particle or like a wave. So far, both aspects of light’s nature haven’t been observed at the same time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bloodhound Project: Land Speed Record Competitors Vie For Fastest Car

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 6, 2012

By Jim Nash

An English racing team called the Bloodhound Project is a step closer to breaking the land-speed record—not just by 150 or even 300 kilometers (100 or 200 miles) per hour. The English team—the favorite to succeed in a field of at least five competitors—successfully tested a rocket in early October that is expected to help push its car to 1,600 kph (1,000 mph), nearly 500 kph (300 mph) faster than the previous mark.

The rocket is a hybrid. It burns when a liquid oxidizer—in this case highly concentrated peroxide—contacts a solid fuel, here a synthetic rubber called hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, in a chamber. During the October test—its first—the engine performed as expected, igniting for 10 seconds and creating 6,350 kilograms (14,000 pounds) of thrust, equivalent to about 35,000 horsepower. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hurricane Sandy: Inflatable Plugs Might Have Minimized New York City Subway Flooding

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 6, 2012

The Huffington Post  |  By 

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a new technology developed by the Department of Homeland Security might have been worth its weight in gold during Hurricane Sandy.

That technology is a gigantic inflatable plug that might have prevented the massive flooding of New York City’s subway system caused by the storm. In simulations, the plugs–originally developed to combat terrorist attacks and now being evaluated at West Virginia University–have proven to be effective at limiting flooding in tunnels.

Developed as part of the “Resilient Tunnel Project,” the plugs are actually enormous balloon-like capsules, according to a department press release. When filled with air or 35,000 gallons of water, the plugs measure 32 feet by 16 feet. Unfilled, they take up little space and can be stashed throughout tunnels, waiting to be inflated remotely at a moment’s notice.

They’re tough, too. The plug’s engineering uses the same design and manufacturing processes as space suits and inflatable space habitats.

PHOTOs of the plug, via DHS and West Virginia University:
hurricane sandy subway plug

“We’ve proved that these plugs can hold back water,” Dave Cadogan of ILC Dover, the plug’s manufacturer, told CNN. “I wish we had moved a little bit faster as a team and had gotten this development done.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Mars Soil Similar To Volcanic Sand On Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, NASA Curiosity Rover Finds

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 1, 2012

PASADENA, Calif. — Scientists say the Martian soil at the rover Curiosity’s landing site contains minerals similar to what’s found on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano.

The finding released Tuesday is the latest step in trying to better understand whether the environment could have been hospitable to microbial life.

Curiosity recently ingested its first soil sample and used one of its instruments to tease out the minerals present. An analysis revealed it contained feldspar and olivine, minerals typically associated with volcanic eruptions. Mission scientists say the Martian soil is similar to volcanic soil on the flanks of Mauna Kea.

Curiosity landed near the Martian equator in August on a two-year mission. It’ll be another month before it drills into its first rock. Then it’s expected to head toward a mountain by year’s end. Read the rest of this entry »

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