Tag Archives | Science

Melvin Way’s meanderings offer the possibility of a parallel universe in “GAGA CITY”

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Melvin Way Untitled, 2003 Ballpoint pen on paper, Scotch tape 7 x 3 inches

 

All image credits Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut (New York/Paris).

Melvin Way invented the Dell computer, founded collegiate and educational institutions all over the Northeastern United States, and wrote songs that were recorded and popularized by the Supremes. He had a ticket on the last Amtrak train that crashed near Philadelphia, but missed it, intentionally, because “something just wasn’t right.” Way’s enormously important intellectual and cultural accomplishments might explain the 6.2 million dollars he made last year. But what would you expect from a man who graduated high school fourteen times (ten times in South Carolina and four times in New York City) and who also happens to be “post-mortal?”

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Helicopters won’t just drop like a rock if the engine dies

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The myth goes that if a helicopter engine dies, it will drop like a rock and crash. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Daven Hiskey via Today I Found Out:

In fact, you have a better chance at surviving in a helicopter when the engine fails than you do in an airplane. Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all.  They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades.

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Evidence of Earliest Known Murder Found

Cranium 17 bone traumatic fractures. (A) Frontal view of Cranium 17 showing the position of the traumatic events T1 (inferior) and T2 (superior); (B) Detailed ectocranial view of the traumatic fractures showing the two similar notches (black arrows) present along the superior border of the fracture outlines. Note that the orientation of the two traumatic events is different; (C) Detail of the notch in T1 under 2X magnification with a light microscope. (D) Endocranial view of T1 and T2 showing the large cortical delamination of the inner table (black arrows).

Cranium 17 bone traumatic fractures.
(A) Frontal view of Cranium 17 showing the position of the traumatic events T1 (inferior) and T2 (superior); (B) Detailed ectocranial view of the traumatic fractures showing the two similar notches (black arrows) present along the superior border of the fracture outlines. Note that the orientation of the two traumatic events is different; (C) Detail of the notch in T1 under 2X magnification with a light microscope. (D) Endocranial view of T1 and T2 showing the large cortical delamination of the inner table (black arrows).

Evidence of the earliest murder has emerged in the form of a fractured skull recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site.

Lethal Interpersonal Violence in the Middle Pleistocene via PLOS One:

Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene members of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death.

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Don’t Overthink It, Less Is More When It Comes to Creativity

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Amber Case (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Just in case you’re in a bit of a creative rut, Jessica Schmerier at Scientific American has some news on how to get the juices flowing: don’t force it. (Though, I can’t decide if this just makes things more difficult.) The new study calls into question the traditional “right-brained,” “left-brained” dynamic.

There is a scientific belief that the cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that “makes us human,” and that the two hemispheres of the cortex differentiate the creative thinkers from the logical thinkers (the “right-brained” from the “left-brained”). This has fostered the view that “neurological processes can be divided into “higher” cognitive functions and “lower” basic sensory-motor, functions,” says Robert Barton, an evolutionary biologist at Durham University in England who was not involved in this study—but the latest research calls that understanding into question.

Participants in the study were placed into a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine with a nonmagnetic tablet and asked to draw a series of pictures based on action words (for example, vote, exhaust, salute) with 30 seconds for each word.

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How we make emotional decisions

Craig Sunter (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Craig Sunter (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology via EurekAlert:

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Some decisions arouse far more anxiety than others. Among the most anxiety-provoking are those that involve options with both positive and negative elements, such choosing to take a higher-paying job in a city far from family and friends, versus choosing to stay put with less pay.

MIT researchers have now identified a neural circuit that appears to underlie decision-making in this type of situation, which is known as approach-avoidance conflict. The findings could help researchers to discover new ways to treat psychiatric disorders that feature impaired decision-making, such as depression, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder.

“In order to create a treatment for these types of disorders, we need to understand how the decision-making process is working,” says Alexander Friedman, a research scientist at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the lead author of a paper describing the findings in the May 28 issue of Cell.

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Scientist Created Drones That Fly Autonomously and Learn New Routes

Drone manufactured by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd. Credit: Image courtesy of Investigación y Desarrollo

Drone manufactured by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd.
Credit: Image courtesy of Investigación y Desarrollo

Skynet is born.

Investigación y Desarrollo via ScienceDaily:

Drones say goodbye to pilots. With the goal of achieving autonomous flight of these aerial vehicles, the researcher José Martínez Carranza from the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE) in Mexico, developed a vision and learning system to control and navigate them without relying on a GPS signal or trained personnel.

Mexican José Martínez, structured an innovative method to estimate the position and orientation of the vehicle, allowing it to recognize its environment, hence to replace the GPS location system for low-cost sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes and camcorders.

The main idea was to avoid the use of GPS and opted for the use of video cameras on board of the vehicle for visual information and applying an algorithm to locate and orient the drone during its flight to use such information.

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Philosophy Recap: Darwinism

Bryan Wright (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Bryan Wright (CC BY-ND 2.0)

via The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Darwinism designates a distinctive form of evolutionary explanation for the history and diversity of life on earth. Its original formulation is provided in the first edition of On the Origin of Species in 1859. This entry first formulates ‘Darwin’s Darwinism’ in terms of five philosophically distinctive themes: (i) probability and chance, (ii) the nature, power and scope of selection, (iii) adaptation and teleology, (iv) nominalism vs. essentialism about species and (v) the tempo and mode of evolutionary change. Both Darwin and his critics recognized that his approach to evolution was distinctive on each of these topics, and it remains true that, though Darwinism has developed in many ways unforeseen by Darwin, its proponents and critics continue to differentiate it from other approaches in evolutionary biology by focusing on these themes. This point is illustrated in the second half of the entry by looking at current debates in the philosophy of evolutionary biology on these five themes.

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DIY prosthetics: the extreme athlete who built a new knee

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Brian Bartlett lost his leg at 24. Rose Eveleth hears how a man who just wanted to ski again invented a new kind of knee.

When Brian Bartlett was 24 he was hit by a car from behind so hard it ripped his right leg off instantly. It all happened so fast. He doesn’t like to talk about it. “You really can’t understand,” he told me. “There’s just no way to…until you have an injury where you’re ripped or cut apart instantly.”

He turned 25 in the hospital. When he left, fitted above the knee with a prosthetic leg, he wanted to return to his life. Before the accident, Brian had been a competitive skier; he had a sponsorship, and he was on track for the US Olympic team. So after the accident, he was eager to get back to the slopes. It was 1998, long before Oscar Pistorius would take the track at the Olympics or Amy Purdy would take the stage on Dancing with the Stars.… Read the rest

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Next Jobs Automation Will Kill

liz west (CC BY 2.0)

liz west (CC BY 2.0)

Barb Darrow via Forbes:

Most of us watched as automation displaced factory workers and other laborers; but now many “skilled” workers are getting anxious as the robot overlords come for us.

When automated factories started erasing jobs at manufacturing companies, most of us shrugged: Great, better products cheaper, was the general line of thinking

But as automation keeps creeping up the stack, taking over more of what most would call “skilled” positions, well that’s getting some folks—who consider themselves skilled professionals—nervous.

Take airplane pilots for example. That’s now a dead-end job according to Mary “Missy” Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab (HAL) at Duke University (and a former Naval fighter pilot.) She said that “in all honesty” she could not recommend that anyone become a commercial airline pilot going forward, given the current state of the art.

“Commercial pilots today touch the stick for three to seven minutes per flight—and that’s on a tough day,” she told an audience at the MIT CIO Symposium on Wednesday.

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