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« Science: February 2006 | Main | Science: April 2006 »


Vain Brain

Our brains are filthy liars. They only like evidence that reinforces beliefs they already hold, they are extremely susceptible to self-flattery, and they cherry pick personal memories that fit best with our current self view.

There is in fact a category of people who get unusually close to the truth about themselves and the world. Their self-perceptions are more balanced, they assign responsibility for success and failure more even-handedly, and their predictions are more realistic. They are the clinically depressed.


By min | March 31, 2006, 10:01 AM | Science | Comments (1)| Link

That Decision Not to Attend Grad School Keeps Looking Better and Better

Alzheimer's disease progresses more rapidly in highly educated people, research suggests.
Each patient underwent a battery of tests to assess their neurological function.

Overall mental agility declined every year among all the patients.

But each additional year of education equated to an additional 0.3% deterioration per year.
[emphasis mine]


The rest of you losers are so screwed.

By min | March 28, 2006, 9:26 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

More cyborg madness

Min has previously shown you Slime Mold Cyborgs. Today i bring you cyborg insects.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting research proposals in the area of Hybrid Insect MEMS. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices or systems. Specifically excluded is research, which primarily results in evolutionary improvement upon existing state-of-the-art.

DARPA seeks innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs, possibly enabled by intimately integrating microsystems within insects, during their early stages of metamorphoses. The healing processes from one metamorphic stage to the next stage are expected to yield more reliable bio-electromechanical interface to insects, as compared to adhesively bonded systems to adult insects. Once these platforms are integrated, various microsystem payloads can be mounted on the platforms with the goal of controlling insect locomotion, sense local environment, and scavenge power.

The final demonstration goal of the HI-MEMS program is the delivery of an insect within five meters of a specific target located at hundred meters away, using electronic remote control, and/or global positioning system (GPS). Although flying insects are of great interest (e.g. moths and dragonflies), hopping and swimming insects could also meet final demonstration goals. In conjunction with delivery, the insect must remain stationary either indefinitely or until otherwise instructed. The insect-cyborg must also be able to transmit data from DOD relevant sensors, yielding information about the local environment. These sensors can include gas sensors, microphones, video, etc.
P.S. - DARPA really is the research division of the Department of Defense. This is no joke. I don't know if it's better or worse than trying to train people to kill goats with their mind, but it's up there.

P.P.S. - Linking to the Goat book, i noticed that the author has left a bunch of disturbing, desperate comments on the page. Kind of sad.

By fnord12 | March 17, 2006, 9:03 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0)| Link

If You Thought the Ozone Problem Was Fixed

You thought wrong.

Martin Dameris, who led the research at the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Wessling, said: "The ozone hole will stay around for another four to five years. We can't expect it to start to recover until 2010 and then it will take another 40 to 50 years to repair completely."


The German team pins the blame on the 11-year solar cycle, which makes the amount of solar radiation striking Earth periodically rise and fall. Scientists already knew the cycle influenced ozone, but Dr Dameris says its role in controlling the layer's recovery has been overlooked.


Some chemicals introduced to replace CFCs still damage ozone, [an ozone scientist at Manchester University] said, and there are worrying signs that climate change may be making the situation worse. Scientists are particularly worried that increased amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere could start to cool the stratosphere, accelerating ozone loss.


By min | March 16, 2006, 9:20 AM | Science | Comments (4)| Link

Slime Mold Cyborgs

For those of you who (like me) fear that as soon as they figure out how to make AI work, the robots will turn on their creators, you can add "sentient slime mold" to the list.

By min | March 10, 2006, 9:41 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Use your harpoons and tow cables.

(Thanks, Rose)

By fnord12 | March 7, 2006, 9:22 AM | Science & Star Wars | Comments (0)| Link

Day of the Shark

I think the Pentagon has been watching Day of the Dolphin while smoking doobies. That's the only reasonable explanation for this.

Military scientists in the United States are developing a way of manipulating sharks by remote control to turn them into underwater spies or weapons.

I can only hope that they are also growing George C. Scott clones in short shorts.

By min | March 3, 2006, 1:11 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Land of the Lost

Ana sent me a link a few weeks ago about a previously unknown area of Indonesia that they're referring to as the Lost World. On the one hand, it's nice to know there's still someplace untouched by man. Ofc, now that it's been "discovered", it's not really untouched anymore, and I'm willing to bet it won't take long for Club Med and the rest of the tourist industry to start sizing it up for resorts and guided tours. Not to mention any natural resources so far untouched that industries can exploit. Let the good times roll!

Evidence of the lack of human presence was how many animals showed no fear of the researchers.

Everyone remember what happened to the dodo, right?

By min | March 2, 2006, 10:45 AM | Science | Comments (1)| Link

Vegetables Help Prevent Cancer

A study found that chemicals in vegetables and soy beans help genes with detecting and repairing damaged DNA. Link

Natural chemicals found in soya beans and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower boost the body's ability to repair damaged DNA and may prevent cells turning cancerous, scientists said yesterday.


Professor Rosen's team exposed breast and prostate cancer cells to increasing levels of the natural chemicals. Depending on the dose, they boosted the activity of the DNA repairing genes by 10-15 times.

Score another point for vegans. Besides them and the Asians, who the hell else is going to eat tofu?

By min | March 2, 2006, 10:34 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Chinese Beavers!

Heh. That'll get some traffic.

The remarkable fossil bones of a fur-covered, swimming mammal that lived in the age of the dinosaurs 164 million years ago have been discovered in China, raising a wave of excitement among scientists whose timetable for mammalian evolution has just been pushed back by 100 million years.

The animal appears to have been more than a foot long and weighed nearly 2 pounds, with a tail remarkably like a beaver and seal-like teeth clearly adapted for catching and eating fish, its discoverers say.

But what's most intriguing is that, until now, most scientists have thought that when dinosaurs ruled the Earth the only mammals around were primitive little creatures no bigger than rats or shrews. They were thought to subsist mostly on insects and plants, and larger, more diversified mammals evolved only later after the dinosaurs became extinct some 65 million years ago.

The new discovery puts that idea to rest.

One of my anthropology professors in college said that the offical line of the Chinese government was that humans in China evolved independently of humans elsewhere. Maybe the discrepancy between this mammal fossil found in China and the fossils of less evolved mammals found elsewhere supports them.

By fnord12 | March 1, 2006, 3:23 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link

Falling Behind

If this turns out to be truly applicable in the real world, it's very good news:

In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun.

This means high electricity bills and frequent power failures could soon be a thing of the past.

The unique South African-developed solar panels will make it possible for houses to become completely self-sufficient for energy supplies.

The panels are able to generate enough energy to run stoves, geysers, lights, TVs, fridges, computers - in short all the mod-cons of the modern house.

Here in the United States, we're barely bothering with solar power. Our idea of reducing reliance on oil is building nuclear power plants. Why? Because the Oil and Nuclear industries give big campaign contributions. No one is going to make money in the long run with solar power.

This is a major failure of capitalism. Why devote time and money researching technologies that would be beneficial to society but won't result in any revenue? (Same philosophy in medical research, for example: we can make more money developing the next Viagra or preventing male pattern baldness than we can curing cancer. Drugs to extend the life of cancer patients? Sure, anything to keep them coming back and buying more drugs. But cure it and you lose your revenue stream.)

The result is that countries that rely on private corporations to develop new technologies are going to fall behind countries that better fund scientists working at public universities, etc. We in the US generally think of ourselves as being "the best", and there's a reason why. At one point, especially under FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower, we directed much more funding to developing infrastructure. But in the 70s the wealthy in this country began devoting their resources to fighting the perception that the wealthy and corporations should be taxed (via groups like the Heritage Foundation and CATO), and they've been very successful. Since then, we've been falling behind.

By fnord12 | March 1, 2006, 3:09 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0)| Link

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