Tag Archives | Science

It’s Alive! Scientists Revive 1,500 Year-Old Antarctic Moss

Pic: Carlos Zelayeta (CC)

Pic: Carlos Zelayeta (CC)

Welcome…. to Jurassic Moss! Okay, it’s not jurassic – not even close. British scientists recently succeeded in bringing back to life a moss sample collected from the Antarctic, so when you go all Stephen King in Creepshow, blame them.

Via Scientific American:

To test whether the Antarctic moss would regrow, the researchers punched into the permanently frozen soil beneath the living moss, removing cores that contained frozen soil, ice and plants. To prevent contamination, they quickly wrapped the mossy cylinders in plastic and shipped them back to Britain at freezing temperatures. In the laboratory, the team sliced up the core and grew new moss in an incubator, directly from shoots preserved in the permafrost. They also carbon-dated the different layers, which provided an age estimate for revived moss shoots.

The oldest moss in the core first grew between 1,697 and 1,533 years ago, when the Mayan empire was at its height and the terror of Attila the Hun was ending in Europe and Central Asia.

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Hop Leaves Discarded in Brewing Process Could Fight Dental Disease

Pic: Dr. Hagen Graebner (CC)

Pic: Dr. Hagen Graebner (CC)

Another natural cure for a common ailment. Take note, though, beer drinkers: It’s the part of the leaves discarded in the brewing process.

Via Eureka Alert:

Beer drinkers know that hops are what gives the drink its bitterness and aroma. Recently, scientists reported that the part of hops that isn’t used for making beer contains healthful antioxidants and could be used to battle cavities and gum disease. In a new study in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they say that they’ve identified some of the substances that could be responsible for these healthful effects.

Yoshihisa Tanaka and colleagues note that their earlier research found that antioxidant polyphenols, contained in the hop leaves (called bracts) could help fight cavities and gum disease. Extracts from bracts stopped the bacteria responsible for these dental conditions from being able to stick to surfaces and prevented the release of some bacterial toxins.

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Scientific Research Suggests We React to Events up to 10 Seconds Before They Happen

PIC: Zener Cards (PD)

PIC: Zener Cards (PD)

The Daily Grail reports on scientific developments that suggest a strange intertwining between the brain, consciousness and what we experience as time.

Via The Daily Grail:

Can your brain detect events before they even occur? That was the stunning conclusion of a 2012 meta-analysis of experiments from seven independent laboratories over the last 35 years, which found that the human body “can apparently detect randomly delivered stimuli occurring 1-10 seconds in the future” (Mossbridge, Tressoldi, & Utts, 2012). In the studies, physiological readings were taken as participants were subjected to unpredictable events designed to activate the sympathetic nervous system (for example, showing provocative imagery) as well as ‘neutral events’ that did not activate the nervous system. These readings showed that the nervous system aligned with the nature of the event (activated/not activated) – and what’s more, the magnitude of the pre-event response corresponded with the magnitude of the post-event response.

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Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough: More Energy Out Than In

You have to love that one of the scientists at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory who has managed to get more energy out of a nuclear fusion experiment than was put in is named Omar Hurricane. ABC Australia reports the breakthrough from Professor Hurricane and his colleagues:

Scientists in the United States say they have taken an important step on a decades-old quest to harness nuclear fusion to generate nearly inexhaustible energy.

Nuclear fusion forces diagram

For the first time, two nuclear fusion experiments succeeded in producing more energy than was used to trigger the reaction, the journal Nature reports.

The researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, led by physicist Omar Hurricane, described the achievement as important but said much more work is needed before fusion can become a viable energy source.

They noted that they did not produce self-heating nuclear fusion, known as ignition, that would be needed for any fusion power plant.

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Reductionist Neurophilosopher Dr. Patricia Churchland Awkwardly Ends Skeptiko Interview After Views Are Challenged

Pic: US Govt. (PD)

Pic: US Govt. (PD)

Was host Alex Tsakiris being too aggressive and disrespectful towards the good doctor? Or was Dr. Patricia Churchland – Oxford educated, MacArthur Fellowship awarded, highly regarded academic and author of recent you-are-your-brain book Touching a Nerve – simply ill-prepared for her long-standing beliefs, rooted in scientific materialism, to be contested?

LISTEN HERE: DIRECT DOWNLOAD

(Interview and transcript also available over at Skeptiko)

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Why Isn’t There a Popular Theory of Dark Mind in Psychology?

darkmindservitorThe more I’ve rocketed my personal microverse to the outer fringes with various Occult exploration techniques, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re spiritually retarded as a species. And let me define what I mean by spirituality quite clearly here. Of the spirit. Dreams, visions, hallucinations, synchronicities, etc. The opposite of materialism essentially. Spirit. It’s right in the fucking word. All of our brains do this primal reality creating trick to a certain extent. And when I say that we’re spiritually retarded I’m not just using the term for insensitive comedic effect. I actually think it’s an apt metaphor. Those we derogatorily refer to as retarded are often defined by the more PC “developmentally disabled” and in a way, I think that’s what’s going on with us. On one hand we’ve developed the logical mathematic side of ourselves at a freakishly rapid clip, but on the other, we’re still starting wars based on interpretations of visions that supposedly happened thousands of years ago.… Read the rest

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RSA Looks to Elevate the Discussion on Spirituality

PIc: Indrajit Chatterjee (CC)

PIc: Indrajit Chatterjee (CC)

“The capacious term ‘spirituality’ lacks clarity because it is not so much a unitary concept as a signpost for a range of touchstones; our search for meaning, our sense of the sacred, the value of compassion, the experience of transcendence, the hunger for transformation.

There is little doubt that spirituality can be interesting, but what needs to be made clearer by those who take that for granted is why it is also important. To be a fertile idea for those with terrestrial power or for those who seek it, we need a way of speaking of the spiritual that is intellectually robust and politically relevant.” - Jonathan Rowson

Between explaining it away as an artifact of the brain and militant rejection of it as leftover cultural/scientific ignorance, spirituality has long been anathema to academic circles (and many corners of the YAY SCIENCE! internet community).  If it’s discussed at all, it’s from the proposition of wishful fairy stories, peppered with a healthy amount of contempt and ridicule.Read the rest

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Strange Ball Lightning Caught on High-Speed Video

English: Some scientific groups, including the...

Some scientific groups, including the Max Planck Institute, have reportedly produced a ball lightning-type effect by discharging a high-voltage capacitor in a tank of water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chinese scientists gain new information on ball lightning from a chance recording.

via Live Science

A video recorded by accident of ball lightning in China is now shedding light on the phenomenon’s mysterious origins, researchers say.

Ball lightning occurs as glowing spheres ranging in size from a golf ball to a very large beach ball (1 to 100 centimeters, or 0.4 inches to 39 inches, in diameter). These fiery orbs can be white, yellow, red, orange, purple or green, and can persist for seconds or even minutes. Ball lightning typically appears during thunderstorms and usually hovers near the ground, drifting over the Earth at a few miles per hour, but it has also been seen on ships and even within airplanes.

Over the centuries, people have reported thousands of sightings of ball lightning.

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Eye-Movement Test Accurately Indicates Schizophrenics

Pic: Vitold Muratov (CC)

Pic: Vitold Muratov (CC)

A recent study proposes that we may be able to use current technology to identify schizophrenics without spending the copious resources for a qualified neuropsychologist to diagnose an individual case.  What implications can this have for pilot licensing, holding government office, police recruiting, and generally the overall stigma associated with individuals who are functioning and non-functioning clinical schizophrenics?

A group of scientists from Scotland, Germany, and the USA recruited schizophrenic patients from mental hospitals in Munich, Germany and Aberdeen, Scotland. The researchers confirmed schizophrenia by diagnostic procedures in the DSM-IV as well as case history.  Control group participants were recruited from the area surrounding University of Aberdeen, excluding people with a history of alcohol abuse/dependence, major head trauma involving loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes, epilepsy or other neurological dysfunction, and first-degree family history of psychosis.

Using infrared eye-tracking technology via the EyeLink I and a 19” video screen, the study tested visual patterns in smooth pursuit of a moving object for 20 seconds, fixation stability on the same stationary object, and free-viewing of photographs including:

“Luminance-balanced natural and man made environments showing information at different spatial scales; everyday objects and food in sparse and cluttered scenes; expressive, neutral, and occluded faces; animals; and unfamiliar computer-generated images (fractal patterns, gray-scale ‘pink noise.’”

The conclusion brought by the research is that schizophrenic individuals clearly lack an ability to perform visual tests the same as control individuals.  Diagnosed schizophrenics cannot accurately pursue an object with a smooth speed and path or concentrate with normal patterns when steadily gazing at the photographs presented.… Read the rest

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Harassment of Climate Scientists Needs to Stop

Pic: NASA (PD)

Pic: NASA (PD)

Richard Schiffman writes at the Guardian:

When Michael Mann chose a career in science, he didn’t think that he would be denounced on billboards, grilled by hostile legislators on Capitol Hill and in the British House of Commons, have his emails hacked and stolen, receive letters laced with an anthrax-like white powder, and become the target of anonymous death threats.

Mann also did not imagine that he would be spending quite so much time with lawyers and in courtrooms. Today, he is the plaintiff in a controversial case that is being argued before the Virginia Supreme Court. It pits the scientist against a climate change denialist group, which is seeking to get a hold of several years worth of his emails, as well as those of dozens of other climate investigators.

Mann, who currently directs Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, is one of the authors of the so-called “hockey stick graph“, which Al Gore used in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, to illustrate the precipitous rise in global temperatures since the dawn of industrialization when humans started spewing the heat-trapping greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere.

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