The year ahead
It seems only fitting that with the last post a look back, we take a look forward too. For those of you who know me, it won’t be a big surprise. I do it so often, looking forward is probably a hobby. I like to plan for the future and have clear goals to work toward. Maybe that’s just how I’m wired? In any case, it’s what’s kept me going for this long and I don’t think changing strategies this late in the game is a good idea, so we’re sticking with it. It’s going to be an interesting year for me, even if only half the stuff I want to do gets done it should be pretty memorable. But enough with the fluff, let’s dive right in!(more…)
For the future
Well it appears we’re talking about future me again I guess with all the stuff going on it’s hard not to. There’s a whole lot of things changing and like it or not, you can’t just jump into the future without plan. Okay, you can, but speaking from experience, I don’t advise it. Sure it may end well, but why risk it? So instead I need to figure out what the next few years looks like. I tend to do this every so often, but with graduation (hopefully) coming, I want to make sure that I make the best choices I can. Basically I need future me not to be pissed off at past me… present me? It’s confusing, but whatever let’s not think about it too much.(more…)
Dear future me…
What I wouldn’t give for a time machine. I think we all agree there’s at least a few things we wish we could go back and change. Wrongs that need to be righted and all that, or maybe it’s just to stop yourself from doing something you’ll regret, you know what I’m talking about *wink, wink* because we all have regrets. I think it’s one thing we can agree on and despite the trend of people suggesting they are living without regret, I’m sure there would be one thing they wish they could change. Hindsight is 20/20 afterall, even if it’s just to have a chance to say a missed goodbye to a loved one who’s no longer with us. I think a time machine is one thing we can universally agree we would use consequences be damned. But alas the past is closed to us for now, but the future is always open.(more…)
AHHH!! Real zombies!
It’s my favorite post of the year!!! Every year I update and post my favorite Halloween Lunatic Labs tradition! Ironically with everything going on this year I almost forgot to post it, which seems to have been the case last year as well (see the theme?!)! In any case, today we bring you the science fact behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little things are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is zombie science fact! And sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction. Now, let’s talk zombies!(more…)
Today is going to be quite busy between OR experiments and all the other stuff I have going on (writing, data processing, etc.). One of those other things is something I thought would be easier than it’s turning out to be and so I figured I would talk about it today. I work in a teaching hospital and specifically I do research in lab that does human experiments. I really love it and I’ve talked about all that before, but now we’re discussing what my goals are for my employment and it isn’t as straightforward as I expected.(more…)
Zombies in nature!!
It’s my favorite post of the year!!! Every year I update and post my favorite Halloween Lunatic Labs tradition! Ironically with everything going on this year (surgery and what not) I almost forgot to post it! In any case, today we bring you the science fact behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little things are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction. Let’s talk zombies.(more…)
Real Life Zombies!!
It’s my favorite post of the year!!! Every year I update and post my favorite Halloween tradition! That’s right today we bring you the science fact behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little things are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction. Let’s talk zombies.(more…)
Day 54: The Science Behind Real Zombies
Time for a break from stochastic processes, at least for the moment. Every year here we update and post our favorite Halloween tradition! So today we bring you the science fact and fiction behind the undead. Zombies, those brain loving little things are everywhere. Sure, we are all familiar with the classic zombie, but did you know that we aren’t the only zombie lovers out there? It turns out that nature has its own special types of zombies, but this isn’t a science fiction movie, this is science fact! Sometimes fact can be scarier than fiction, so let’s dive in. Let’s talk zombies.
Trumped: Why the election is a symptom of a bigger problem
Right now you are probably thinking that I am going to unleash some poorly thought out diatribe about president elect Trump. No, that is not going to happen. It is not going to happen because he is not the problem, you are the problem, I am the problem, and we are the problem. That goes for those of you who are atheists, Catholics, Muslims, conservatives and liberals, or anything in-between.
First demonstration of brain-inspired device to power artificial systems
New research has demonstrated that a nanoscale device, called a memristor, could be used to power artificial systems that can mimic the human brain. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) exhibit learning abilities and can perform tasks which are difficult for conventional computing systems, such as pattern recognition, on-line learning and classification.
The blur doesn’t cut it: AI can identify people in blurred images
A trio of researchers has found off-the-shelf AI software can be used to identify people in blurred or pixilated images. The researchers have uploaded a paper describing the experiments they carried out with AI software identification of people or other items in blurred out images, what they found and reveal just how accurate they found it could be.
Body heat as a power source
Electronics integrated into textiles are gaining in popularity: Systems like smartphone displays in a sleeve or sensors to detect physical performance in athletic wear have already been produced. The main problem with these systems tends to be the lack of a comfortable, equally wearable source of power. Chinese scientists are now aiming to obtain the necessary energy from body heat by introducing a flexible, wearable thermocell based on two different gel electrolytes.
Biomimicry is a promising approach for driving innovation
A new case study shows that biomimicry, a relatively new field that seeks to emulate nature to find solutions to human problems, can potentially expand intellectual property, increase energy savings and accelerate product innovation.
Some bacterial CRISPRs can snip RNA, too
You’ve probably seen news stories about the highly lauded, much-discussed genome editing system CRISPR/Cas9. But did you know the system was actually derived from bacteria, which use it to fight off foreign invaders such as viruses? It allows many bacteria to snip and store segments of DNA from an invading virus, which they can then use to “remember” and destroy DNA from similar invaders if they are encountered again. Recent work from a team of researchers including Carnegie’s Devaki Bhaya demonstrates that some bacteria also use the CRISPR/Cas system to snip and recognize segments of RNA, not just DNA.
‘Hydricity’ concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock… really?
Researchers are proposing a new “hydricity” concept aimed at creating a sustainable economy by not only generating electricity with solar energy but also producing and storing hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power production.
Our pale blue dot in the wake of destruction
This is our home, that pale blue dot, dwarfed by an arrow that takes up less space on your screen than this sentence. For all our “overwhelming” intelligence, if we flexed our mental might and developed a weapon to destroy this pale blue dot, it would almost certainly go unnoticed in the universe.
The rise of do-it-yourself biology
The Wilson Center’s Synthetic Biology Project has released a short documentary on the growth of the do-it-yourself biology (DIYbio) movement as seen through a community DIYbio lab in Baltimore, Maryland.
You too can learn to farm on Mars!
Scientists at Washington State University and the University of Idaho are helping students figure out how to farm on Mars, much like astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, attempts in the critically acclaimed movie “The Martian.” Washington State University physicist Michael Allen and University of Idaho food scientist Helen Joyner teamed up to explore the challenge. Their five-page study guide was published the day the movie premiered earlier this month.
Scientists discover new system for human genome editing
A team including the scientist who first harnessed the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 system for mammalian genome editing has now identified a different CRISPR system with the potential for even simpler and more precise genome engineering. In the study researchers describe the unexpected biological features of this new system and demonstrate that it can be engineered to edit the genomes of human cells.
Students in credit crisis
New research from the USA suggests that college students are well aware that they should be personally responsible for their finances, including their card obligations, but this awareness rarely correlates with limiting the debts they accrue during their time in higher education.
Using low-dose irradiation, researchers can now edit human genes
For the first time, researchers have employed a gene-editing technique involving low-dose irradiation to repair patient cells. This method, developed by researchers in the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute, is 10 times more effective than techniques currently in use.
A Lunatic Laboratories project “semi” reveal
This isn’t a science blog.
Okay, this isn’t just a science blog.
In the just shy of a year that the official Lunatic Laboratories website was set up we have yet to give you, the readers, an update. Some of you are following for the science, some for the conversation (which I must say is top notch thanks to all of you who take the time to leave us here a note), and some of you — we are not sure how many — are here specifically for new, exciting, and innovative… well inventions.
Scientists create worlds first genetically modified human embryos
A funny thing happened on the way to the publisher. In a world first, China has successfully created genetically modified human embryos. It was certainly an amazing piece of science, but the paper was rejected by both Nature and Science. Not because the study was flawed, or because the data was falsified, the paper was rejected for ethical reasons.
A new type of memory storage on the horizon
For those of us old enough to remember the days of the Apple II, you know that storage has exponentially increased. Even just 10 years ago 20+ gigs of data seemed huge, now my cellphone has 64 gigs. Yet we still need more data storage and we are looking for new ways to get it. Now a way to use weak molecular bonding interactions to create well-ordered and stable metal–organic monolayers with optoelectronic properties has been found. The development could form the basis for the scalable fabrication of molecular optoelectronic devices.
Finding the real cost of climate change
How much does global warming really cost the world? Determining the Social Cost of Carbon helps put a actual dollar value on the climate damages per ton of CO2 released, and is used by — among others — policymakers to help determine the costs and benefits of climate policies. Remember, even on a global scale, the bottom line will always be profit. But now a group of economists and lawyers urge several improvements to the government’s Social Cost of Carbon figure that would impose a regular, transparent and peer-reviewed process to ensure the figure is reliable and well-supported by the latest facts.
Even more bad global warming news
While everyone (but seemingly the media) is on basically the same page with the fact that global warming is a human caused problem — and one we need to fix the effects of this change are still coming to light. Human-induced changes to Earth’s carbon cycle – for example, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification – have been observed for decades. However, a new study showed human activities, in particular industrial and agricultural processes, have also had significant impacts on the upper ocean nitrogen cycle.
The Oceans Link to Climate Change
Hold on to your hats folks, we can all agree that most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. But in a new study a group of researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth’s climate. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean global warming isn’t a man-made problem, please.
Dude, wheres my Hover Car? Oh wait…
We all (of a certain age) remember the Jetsons, a futuristic family with hi-tech gadgets and gizmos. However, nothing said, “the future is here” quite like things hovering. Even in the movie Back to the future, they have hover boards and flying cars. Unfortunately we don’t, which is a shame because according to the 1950’s we are the future, we should have hover-cars and hover boards… well the wait is over. Yep, introducing the first real hover board!
A Venusian Mystery Explored Once More
Venus, the place where women are from… supposedly. To say Venus has a harsh climate would be an understatement, this is one of many reasons why we will never (or maybe not soon) see a “long lasting” Venus rover counterpart to our Mars rover missions. Still, the planet (much like all the other plants) can teach us a lot about not just our own origins, but the origins of the universe. Also like all our neighbor planets Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds, a mystery that might be soon solved, all thanks to a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data.
Swamp Thing and Plant Communication
Maybe I’m dating myself here, but ever see the swamp thing movie, television show, or even the comic? Call me picky, after all we are talking about a human/plant hybrid, but he never needed to talk. I know, some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me given it’s a comic, movie or tv show [depending on your level of geek], but come on, this is science!
Holy Grail of Battery Design: A lithium anode
Technology has been racing forward at an ever increasing rate. Unfortunately, anyone who owns a smartphone will tell you that the battery life doesn’t match the advancements. That is probably why engineers across the globe have been racing to design smaller, cheaper and more efficient rechargeable batteries to meet the power storage needs of everything from handheld gadgets to the new emerging electric cars. But a new breakthrough is about to [hopefully] change all that, a stable lithium anode.
A Startling New Climate Change Revelation!
Call out the troops, call the Marines, we need tanks, lots of tanks. Well okay, maybe not. Brute force won’t stop global warming and thanks to a new study on the subject it turns out, not much else will either. Oh there is of course the obvious lower CO2 emissions, but that’s not a big deal. I don’t know why it takes scientific studies to tell us this, but the greenhouse gas CO2 that we pump out in millions of tons — roughly 88 million tons, US of course since metric tonnes has to be different, or maybe that’s our fault — is bad for the environment.
I know we tend to think of ourselves as intelligent and generally I won’t argue otherwise, but let me just say… really?
Finally, a Better Battery!
You know what technology hasn’t been able to keep pace with us? Well besides whatever tech the DMV uses, it’s batteries. Think about it, they are nasty, make a mess, are hazzardous, hard to recycle and weigh a freaking ton compared to the energy stored. Current battery technology is my number one problem with electric cars as it stands now. Between the weight, the resources, and the waste, electric cars are almost a wash. Not quite mind you, but almost.
That’s about to change, maybe not for the electric car, but for the energy grid. Right now power is pumped out as fast as it’s being used. There is no real storage anywhere for surplus power so it is made on demand for people to use it as it’s being produced. This use as you make it system has proven to be the bane of solar and wind, the two major renewable energy technologies we have. This problem combined with the lobbyists for oil and gas companies and you can see why we don’t have more solar or wind power plants.
Global Warming doesn’t actually benefit Plants
Things are heating up. It’s no secret that the mercury is rising and we are to blame. Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty, for example how long we have until we simply cannot reverse global warming, or worse, how long we have before we cannot survive on the planet. That would be a good question to answer; maybe it will get the people who can actually do something to fix it, to make a change.
The planet works in sometimes-unforeseen ways, sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. The hope was that global warming might be offset – if only for a short time – by the increased energy in the system [meaning longer warm periods], which would increase the growing season. It is unfortunate then, that this turns out not to be the case.
Lab Made Flu Coming to a Outbreak Near You!
Forgive the alarmist title, I had to do it. Researchers have created a genetically engineered version of the flu, similar to the spanish flu that killed roughly 50 million people in 1918. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds, that is until someone sneezes and drops the vial… but what are the odds that would… umm… happen.
Truthfully there is already a war coming. If anyone remembers the swine flu outbreak a few years back, you know what I am talking about — for those of you who had it, including yours truly, you know how horrible it can be. Swine flu or H1N1 was a supercharged flu that was 95% or so genetically different from the flu we have typically seen. This lead to all sorts of fun and horrid complications from the outbreak due to the fact it was something the body had never really seen before.
Climate Engineering: We can’t Build it Better after all
We have the technology: we can rebuild you, better, stronger, faster. Well we may have been able to build the six million dollar man better than before, but as it turns out, we can’t do the same for the environment.
For anyone actually listening to science [and I really hope you all are] it isn’t getting any cooler. Thanks to the rising CO2 levels in the world it’s only going to get hotter and with it, the weather more extreme. Yet some people out there — and unfortunately for us, the people with the power to actually make a change– simply don’t care. To them, even if it gets hotter, we can fix it. After all we have the technology.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?
Much like this posts namesake, the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind asked what if you could erase memories? Want to forget your ex, no problem. Better yet, what PTSD? I’m sure that all of us can think of at least one or two things — be it embarrassing, or scary — that we would like to forget.
Or conversely, maybe there is something forgotten, something you would give anything to remember — like a loved one or a relative — locked away deep in your brain. Thanks to new advancements in neuroscience, it’s technology that is not just in the movies anymore.
In Science We Trust
Sure, I could do a poll right now, how many of you are science fans? I figure if you are reading my blog then the answer is most [if not all] of you are. Unfortunately, that result isn’t the norm. Whether you blame it on lack of education, or just simply because it is “cool” to be ignorant; science is most definitely not as mainstream as it could be.
Why do more people know about the latest celebrity gossip, than the latest scientific advancements is beyond me. Sometimes it feels like pseudoscience has more of a following than actual science. Frustrating when I see my insurance covers things like acupuncture –which does not work– but not root canals — which do, in fact, serve a purpose.
Mind Control: Influencing Choice
Ever change your mind? Well now scientists can do it for you, at least that is the latest by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the University of Leuven in Belgium. By artificially stimulating a brain region believed to play a key role in learning, reward and motivation they were able to induce monkeys to change which of two images they would choose to look at.
Solar Freakin’ Roadways- 5 Concerns Analyzed
Solar Roadways, I know most people have been in support of the new blossoming technology and I’m happy to be a part of that [at least in support]. However, no matter where I turn there are a handful of common concerns that are brought up against the technology. Well today I wanted to go over five of the main concerns. I also wanted to take a peek into what the future could look like, with solar roads.
Land of the Free, Home of the Afraid?
Let’s take a Loony quiz! Do you believe any of these statements are true? Global warming isn’t real. GMO food is the devil. Organic and all natural are better. Science is just a belief like religion. Evolution is just a theory, so other theories should be taught along side. Vaccines do — or can– cause serious health concerns. If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from a lack of scientific understanding, but don’t worry you’re not alone.
Building with Batteries
Wires, we hate them. It’s okay you can say it, wires are… ugly. I hate throwing out the big “u” word like that, but facts are facts. So what if I told you, soon you might be finding power in unusual places. In fact, your whole home could be used to store energy.
This all thanks to a new type of supercapacitor that can take a licking and keep on ticking [I’ve always wanted to say that]. A supercapacitor so durable, it could be made into laptop casing, cars, buildings, just about anything. This new tech comes out of the [incredible] Vanderbilt Nanomaterials and Energy Devices Laboratory.
[Virtually] Free-range Chicken
Why can’t you eat soup in the Matrix? Because there is no spoon.
Dumb joke, I know, but I have another one for you. What do you call a free-range chicken that is mass produced? Caged.
Welcome to the matrix… for chickens. With the popular consumer demand for free-range chicken, but not enough space for all those chickens, what do you do? Like the modern society we are, we turn to technology to solve the problem.
Solar Freakin’ Roadways!
America loves it’s oil. Screw renewables, right? Because let’s face it, the world can be cleaned by someone else. As easily upset pretentious apes, us humans have few comforts in the changing world like fossil fuels. Our old friends coal, gas, and oil, they would never hurt us; they kick started the industrial revolution!
Let’s face it folks, global warming isn’t coming… it’s already here. We have study after study showing the effects. It’s time to ditch the medieval technology and move toward the future. Solar has been a good option, wind being another good choice. Both have drawbacks of course, no one likes wind farms and the solar farms don’t fare too much better.
Herpes and Brain Tumors: Or What happens in Vegas?
Herpes, it isn’t just a pest that follows you home from Vegas, not anymore anyway. New research has found a [not so] new use for the virus. Harvard Stem Cell Institute [HSCI] scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have repurposed the herpes virus to help fight brain tumors.
The investigators reported that by trapping virus-loaded stem cells in a gel and applying them to tumors they significantly improved survival in mice with glioblastoma multiforme, which is not only the most common brain tumor in human adults, it also happens to be the most difficult to treat.
Climate Talks and Game Theory: A better Approach
Climate change talks, it’s like yelling at a wall and hoping it becomes a window. For over two decades, members of the United Nations have tried to forge an agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully a new paper published offers a different approach to the problem using game theoretical modeling. (more…)
Cheaper, Cleaner Biofuel: A Temporary Fix to a Big Problem
Biofuels seem to be all the rage these days, not a bad thing since that whole global warming thing [that people are scared to admit is real] is going on. It is then, very unfortunate that every biofuel or even “green alternative” has an achilles heel the size of Texas keeping it from becoming our fossil fuel replacement.
Useless Loony Fact: I shudder every time I have to use the word “Green” referring to anything other than the color. Oh and Jesus roundhouse kicks a panda in the face, so save the pandas and stop using the word green for anything but the color]
Deepwater Horizon Oil spill: The Environmental Impact
It was a disaster that ended up as one of the worst oil spills in modern history, the Deepwater Horizon didn’t just leak, it gushed. The depth of the well made the spill extremely difficult to repair and it required an incredible engineering feat to solve the problem.
Unfortunately, the problem was not immediately resolved when the leak was stopped. Between 492,000 – 627,000 tonnes of oil were dumped into the ocean, but it wasn’t just oil that was dumped, 500,000 tons of natural gas was also dumped into the Gulf of Mexico offshore waters over during the period of 84 days.
With the seemingly insurmountable cleanup effort, many were probably breathing a sigh of relief over the reports following the disaster that naturally-occurring microbes had consumed much of the gas and oil.
Colony Collapse Disorder and Pesticides, Or Save the Bees!
Bees, who needs them? They are scary, they sting and they seem to find magical ways into your securely locked home. I’m not bias, even though I run screaming like a little girl when I see one… okay maybe a little. But as it turns out we need the bees!! Who knew, right? After the colony collapse that came out of nowhere and could not be explained [at the time] everything from global warming to government conspiracy was being blamed. But now a new study helps strengthen the cause of the collapse.
Two widely used insecticides– in the class called neonicotinoids [for those of you who think you will be tested on this at the end]– appear to do significant damage to honey bee colonies over the winter, particularly in bad winters [hello global warming, I’m looking at you].
A [Real life] Doomsday Prediction
Fire, brimstone, four horsemen, doomsday seems pretty bleak in the biblical context. From a scientific perspective, global warming and the need for fresh water will probably plunge people into chaos, which seems like a more likely doomsday model. Unfortunately there are other ways in which the world could come crashing down around us, today I wanted to shed light on just one of those ways.
The most plausible [in my opinion] doomsday scenario comes not from an external force but from our imagination. Let me explain, most money that we deal with is just a placeholder, a social construct, a number on a screen and when dealing with the stock market, it gets even fuzzier, you can essentially make bets for money on [you guessed it] money.