Can you "hear" flashes of light? Do you have synesthesia? Take a test.

Can you "hear" motion or light flashes? If so, according to new research from City University London, you may be experiencing a not-so-rare form of synaesthesia. Synesthesia is the fascinating neurological phenomenon whereby stimulation of one sense involuntarily triggers another sensory pathway. For example, a synesthete might taste sounds or hear colors. (In this study, 8 out of 40 participants, a very high percentage, were considered to have hearing-motion synaesthesia.) Here is their test for you to take yourself. From The Guardian:

(This new study) suggests that many more of us experience a less intrusive version of (synesthesia) in which visual movements or flashes are accompanied by an internal soundtrack of hums, buzzes or swooshes. Since movements are very frequently accompanied by sounds in everyday life, the effect is likely to be barely discernible.

When tested under laboratory conditions, the “hearing motion” effect appeared to enhance a person’s ability to interpret fine visual movements, but also interfered with the ability to hear real sounds when visual and audio signals were mis-matched.

“These internal sounds seem to be perceptually real enough to interfere with the detection of externally-generated sounds,” said Freeman. “The finding that this ‘hearing-motion’ phenomenon seems to be much more prevalent compared to other synaesthesias might occur due to the strength of the natural connection between sound and vision.”

In a separate study, the team tested for the phenomenon in trained musicians and found that it was much more common in the group. It is not clear if this is due to a natural disposition to link sounds and visual cues or whether thousands of hours of training might have strengthened the neural circuitry behind the effect.

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See a fantastically strange red seadragon on video for the first time

Scientists declared the ruby seadragon a new species in 2015, but that was based on dead specimens in a museum. Now though, Scripps Institution of Oceanography biologist Greg Rouse who led the team that originally discovered the species, managed to find two of the wonderful fish swimming around the Recherche Archipelago, off the south coast of Western Australia. Each one is about 10 feet long. Just kidding. They're 10 inches long. From National Geographic:

After four dives with a remote-controlled mini-submarine, they managed to film two ruby seadragons more than 167 feet underwater, as the fish swam through rocky gardens of sponges and nibbled at their prey, most likely tiny crustaceans called mysids...

...The footage confirms that ruby seadragons use a different means of camouflage than its closest relatives. Common and leafy seadragons are covered in leafy outgrowths meant to camouflage the fish as they swim through seagrasses. The ruby seadragon, however, lacks them—opting instead for a scarlet body, an efficient way to disguise itself from predators in the dark depths.

Most surprisingly, the video suggests that the ruby seadragon can use its curled tail to grasp objects.

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Trump's five most "anti-science" moves

Scientific American summarized five of Donald Trump's "major moves many see as hostile toward science." They are:

• Trump’s pick for head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has actively battled its mission

"To lead the EPA, Trump appointed Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has long opposed environmental regulations and has questioned the science behind climate change."

He chose former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for Energy Secretary

"It is a science-heavy department, and one that (climate change skeptic) Perry—who is not a scientist—had advocated dismantling during his 2012 presidential bid."

He chose an energy company executive for secretary of State

"Trump tapped former ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State."

• He met with a vaccine critic while planning a commission on autism

"(Robert Kennedy, Jr) has repeatedly promoted discredited arguments that link vaccines to autism."

His transition team sought information about Energy Department staff associated with climate change

"In December Trump’s team asked the DoE for the names of employees who have worked on issues related to climate change."

"Trump's 5 Most 'Anti-Science” Moves (Scientific American) Read the rest

Videos show marvelous caterpillar diversity

Why does The Caterpillar Lab only have 44 subscribers? Caterpillars set to smooth jazz, like these gorgeous stinging rose caterpillars checking each other out, make this New Hampshire nonprofit a hidden gem. Read the rest

Researchers discover that experimental Alzheimer's drug causes teeth to regrow tissue lost to cavities

A paper from a group of Kings College London researchers documents an unexpected and welcome side effect from an experimental anti-Alzheimer's drug called Tideglusib: test subjects experienced a regeneration of dentin, the bony part of teeth that sits between the pulp and the enamel. Read the rest

Fun with plasma vortex force fields

YouTuber Proto G shot these cool experiments with plasma vortex force fields. Scientists are looking into large-scale practical applications of the force field generated in this manner: Read the rest

Defy gravity with the Feel Flux Skill Set

A few months ago I was introduced to a magical, magnetic toy called the Feel Flux and the folks who invented it just sent their newest invention – the Feel Flux Skill Set.

It’s the same toy as before except now, there are two tubes to play with – and since it’s a bit like juggling, the gravity-defying effect can be virtually endless.

Each time you drop the metal ball through the tube you’d expect it to zip out the other end but instead, it lazily creeps from one end to the other and dribbles out into your waiting hand. 

 

I can’t wait for the inevitable three-tube version to hit the market!

 

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A virus first found in chickens is implicated in human obesity

As someone who's struggled with his weight all his life (and who comes from a family with similar problems), I've long been fascinated with the science of weight and obesity; many years ago I listened to a Quirks & Quarks segment detailing the theory that the modern obesity epidemic was the result of a bird flu that affected our gut flora and changed our metabolisms to make us hungrier and more susceptible to convert the food we ate to fat. Read the rest

The sophisticated, hidden ways that trees cooperate and protect each other

Peter Wohlleben is a German forrester who has revolutionized his field by developing community forest management that does not require pesticides or heavy machinery, and recruits local communities as stakeholders in forestry preservation; but the thing that made him known around the world is his 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World, which presents evidence for unprecedented (and even spooky) degrees of cooperation among trees in a forest. Read the rest

What does 2017 hold for science?

Nature takes a look at what's likely in store for 2017 in various fields of scientific inquiry. Short answer: some is dependent on Trump regime drama, like climate research, space research, stem cell research, multinational research agencies, and a host of other issues. Read the rest

Scott Walker's Wisconsin continues to scrub its websites of climate change mentions

Prior to the election of the business-worshipping, union-busting, climate denying Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, the state's Department of Natural Resources website was a rich trove of information about climate change -- as you'd expect from a state with a lot of fresh water, where resource extraction played an important part in the economy. Read the rest

Are you ready for robots skinned with sensitive hairs?

Biomimicry in robotics has led to robots that can climb, fly, and swim better. Now researchers have developed hair-like filaments for robots that allow them to have more fine-grained senses of touch, sensing even forces as delicate as coming in contact with a piece of tissue. Read the rest

More than 20,000 dead fish mysteriously washed up in Nova Scotia

Tens of thousands of fish, starfish, scallops, crabs, lobsters, and other ocean life washed up dead this week at Savory Park on the western coast of Nova Scotia. The cause of the massive fish death is not yet known. From CNN:

Environmental officials are testing the water for pesticides and oxygen levels for possible clues...

While toxic chemical exposure can be one cause, most fish kills are attributed to low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water, according to the USGS.

Just this year, mass fish deaths were reported in Florida's Indian River Lagoon and Hongcheng Lake in Haikou,China.

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Watch water dissolve M&Ms into gorgeous patterns

Beauty of Science decided to dissolve M&Ms in water, and the result is surprisingly spectacular. It's like watching solar flares or the birth of a nebula. Be sure to watch in 4K! Read the rest

New flying robots inspired by creatures of the skies

Biomimickry continues to improve and refine specialized drones and flying robots. Mindy Weisberger at LiveScience dives into an issue of The Royal Society's journal Interface Focus on coevolving advances in animal flight and aerial robotics. Read the rest

McGill Neurology will no longer patent researchers' findings, instead everything will be open access

The Neurological Institute at Montreal's McGill University is host to the "Tanenbaum Open Science Institute," endowed by a $20M contribution; since last spring, the unit has pursued an ambitious open science agenda that includes open access publication of all research data and findings, and an end to the practice of patenting the university's findings. Instead, they will all be patent-free and usable by anyone. Read the rest

First ever video of Ghost Shark, with sex organ on its head, alive in the ocean

Ghost sharks, aka chimaeras, are elusive relatives of sharks and rays that live in the black depths of the ocean, as far down as 2,600 meters. The Ghost Shark was captured on video by a remotely operated vehicle deployed on a geology expedition by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in waters off Hawaii and California. The scientists who analyzed the video think that it's a pointy-nosed blue chimaera (Hydrolagus trolli) that usually calls the waters off Australia and New Zealand home. This is the first time researchers have known this species to swim in the Northern Hemisphere. From National Geographic:

Unlike those more well-known sharks, chimaeras don’t have rows of ragged teeth, but instead munch up their prey—mollusks, worms, and other bottom-dwellers—with mineralized tooth plates.

A pattern of open channels on their heads and faces, called lateral line canals, contain sensory cells that sense movement in the water and help the ghost sharks locate lunch.

And perhaps most fascinating, male chimaeras sport retractable sex organs on their foreheads.

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