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Archive for February, 2014

Fear Factor- How it Works in the Brain


What are you afraid of? Like it or not your brain knows and now, scientists are starting to understand how it does it.

Scientists at Columbia University in New York have found the neurons responsible for preventing mice from forming fearful memories by looking at a part of the brain called the hippocampus [no, that isn’t where hippos go for an education; yes, that was a awful attempt at a joke].


Surprising New Synthetic Muscle

Photo credit goes to Popular Mechanics

Photo credit goes to — Popular Mechanics

It’s the stuff movies are made from. A new “super” synthetic muscle that is 100 times stronger than the muscle in your own body. It can be easily made, can be reused millions of times, and reacts much in the same manner as it’s natural counterpart.


Monkey Mind Control

Monkeying around...

Monkeying around…

What does a rhesus monkey and a the Blockbuster Hollywood film Avatar have in common?

They both use mind control to operate an ‘Avatar’.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital placed a neural implant on the ‘master’ monkey that could monitor up to 100 neurons, this allowed the ‘master’ money to control a second ‘avatar’ monkey.

To test this. they trained the ‘master’ monkey to use a joystick and find a target on the screen.


Prosthetic hand gives amputee feeling again

Amputee Dennis Aabo Sorensen tests the prosthetic hand in Rome last year. Photo credit [and caption] goes to the independent

Amputee Dennis Aabo Sorensen tests the prosthetic hand in Rome last year. Photo credit [and caption] goes to the independent

Imagine losing an arm. You pick up your smartphone to read this and without even thinking about the thousands of advancements your phone has inevitably made to enable you to do that, the Doctor walks into the room and explains your choices.

Hook or hand?

Those are your choices, do you want a fake non-movable plastic hand, or would you prefer the hook? At that point you are probably wondering why they are now making smartphone watches, but you are stuck getting [almost] the same technology that was used during the civil war.


Tired of the weather? Blame the jet stream.


Polar vortexes, snow storms and hurricanes, oh my!

Who’s tired of the crazy weather that most of the US and the UK are dealing with? I suspect that most are, in fact I don’t remember the last time I heard someone talk excitedly about being snowed in.

There is good news and bad news though, and like a true gentleman I will give the good news first. We know what is causing the weather changes we’ve seen.


It’s a swarm… of robots?!


The rather cute TERMES robots doing their thing. Photo credit goes to Eliza Grinnell, Harvard SEAS

You’ve seen a swarm of bees, you’ve seen a swarm of ants. But now, a research group at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have introduced us to a new kind of swarm, a swarm of robots.

The idea stems from, of all things, termites.

Normally, when you have any sort of large scale building operation, like a home for example, you have someone in charge telling each individual what to do. There are specialized functions for each person, a electrician, a carpenter, etc and if one of them walks out on the project, the project is stalled until they are replaced.


Vitamin C Cures Cancer?

orange juice

Does Vitamin C actually cure cancer?

Well, no, not quite. But new research shows that vitamin C can improve the response of the chemotherapy drugs. The tests, which have primarily been done on mice and in the lab,  show promise for future options in treatment.

Vitamin C, which is water soluble, easily passed from the body, and has low side-effect risk might be the key to better cancer therapies. If larger trials show promise, this could prove to be a low-cost addition to treatments already in place.


Neutrinos have a weight problem

cmb neutrinos

Photo credit goes to: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

There have been some unfortunate problems with the Standard Model of Cosmology. These problems came from the fact that the neutrinos mass was never accurately measured. Thanks to some new observations, we now have managed to [hopefully] find the mass of a neutrino for the first time.

The study I am referring to was completed by Richard Battye and Adam Moss. It was recently published in Physical Review Letters. Using the Planck satellite, which was launched in 2009, scientists have been able to observe directional dependent aspects of the Cosmic Microwave Background [CMB].


Indecisive? So is Quantum Mechanics.


This is a particle [or atom], cute no?

A atom walks into a bar. Bartender says ‘What will you have?’ The atom says ‘I’m uncertain’.

Or my personal favorite Heisenberg gets pulled over by a police officer, officer says ‘Do you have any idea how fast you were going?’ Heisenberg replies ‘No, but I know EXACTLY where I am.’