America's wealth gap has created an ever-increasing longevity gap

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In The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, economists from Stanford, MIT and Harvard analyzed 1.4 million US tax records to see how income correlated with lifespan. Read the rest

Nominations open for the Maddox Prize for Standing Up for Science

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Chris from Sense About Science writes, "Nominations are now open for the 2016 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science. Now in its fifth year, the prize recognises the work of an individual anywhere in the world who promotes sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, facing difficulty or hostility in doing so." Read the rest

Scientists are studying what made Queen singer Freddie Mercury's voice so amazing and unique

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In a new scientific study, researchers conducted acoustical analysis of Queen singer Freddie Mercury's singing voice. While he spoke in a baritone voice, Mercury had a tremendous singing range. But his real vocal superpowers were a rather unique vibrato combined with his ability to use subharmonics, like a Tuvan throat singer. The Austrian, Czech, and Swedish scientists report on their research in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology.

"Perceptually, Freddie Mercury's irregular (and typically faster) vibrato is clearly audible in the sustained notes of famous songs such as 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (A Night at the Opera) or 'We Are the Champions' (News of the World), and it appears to be one of the hallmarks of his vocal style," they wrote.

In other Mercury news, a notebook containing some of his last lyrics will be auctioned off at Bonham's in June. It's estimated to go for £50,000-£70,000.

Read the rest

Why did astronauts' space suits leak urine?

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Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, has just published a delightful book titled "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There?" Illustrated by Brian Standeford, it's a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes on everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. Here's an excerpt:

The early male astronauts often had leaky space suits. They would frequently complain about their urine leaking into other areas of the suit. For a while, no one could figure out what was wrong with the spacesuits. NASA eventually realized the leaking was due to the oversized condom catheters the astronauts were using. Turns out that when the astronauts were asked by doctors what size they needed, they would often ask for “large.”

Buy "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There?" (Amazon)

Excerpted from What's It Like in Space by Ariel Waldman, illustrations by Brian Standeford (Chronicle Books, 2016). Read the rest

Listen: thought experiments about who or what has a mind

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Rick Kleffel sends us his latest podcast (MP3), "A conversation with one of the authors of a wonderful and strange book; science-fiction thought experiments ('robot versus baby') informed by social psychology experiments of fascinating design, part ethics, philosophy, neuroscience, the minds of god and the dead and machines... authentically mind-boggling. And Fun!" Read the rest

Study: Dyson hand-dryers aerosolize germs on unwashed gloves, spreading them farther than other methods

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In Evaluation of the potential for virus dispersal during hand drying: a comparison of three methods, published in The Journal of Applied Microbiology, researchers from the University of Westminster showed that viruses applied to rubber gloves were aerosolized by Dyson Handblade hand-dryers and spread further than viruses and other germs would be by conventional hand-dryers or paper towels. Read the rest

216 "untranslatable" emotional words from non-English languages

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University of East London pysch professor Tim Lomas has assembled a list of words referring to emotional states from the world's languages that have no correlate in English. Read the rest

Virus trading cards, animated and 3D-printable

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Eleanor Lutz used files from the Protein Data Bank to model the molecules comprising the viruses that are the scourge of our human race. Read the rest

Chip implanted in paralyzed man's brain helps him regain use of his hand

Ian Burkhart can make isolated finger movements and perform six different wrist and hand motions. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center/ Batelle

Ian Burkhart lost all sensation in his hands and legs after a freak swimming accident five years ago. Today, doctors report that a chip in his brain has let him regain some control of his hand. The 24-year-old man has “regained control over his right hand and fingers, using technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles and bypasses his spinal injury.”

Read the rest

Tooth worms: yesteryear's explanation for cavities

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Before we understood about microbes and their relationship to tooth enamel, we imagined that the painful holes in people's teeth were caused by burrowing toothworms (previously), something we confirmed by yanking out the especially sore teeth and observing the fiber-like "worms" (that is, raw nerves) that were left behind. Read the rest

Scientists create the exotic ices of Pluto

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Tom writes, "Scientists at Northern Arizona U. use a home-made machine to create 'exotic ices.' They're simulating the surface of Pluto to help explain data and pictures sent to Earth by the New Horizons spacecraft." Read the rest

Emergency room doctors used a patient's FitBit to determine how to save his life

The same Fitbit model reported to have saved a man's life in the emergency room. [photo: fitbit.com]

Many of us wear fitness trackers to motivate ourselves to be more active. But after a 42-year-old man in New Jersey had a seizure at work, some very smart emergency room doctors used data they saw on his Fitbit Charge HR to decide on the best way to treat him. They decided to reset his heart rate with electrical cardioversion. His Fitbit may have saved his life.

Read the rest

Why 40 years of official nutritional guidelines prescribed a low-fat diet that promoted heart disease

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A masterfully told history of the life of John Yudkin, once the UK's leading nutritional expert, turns into an indictment of the nutritional scientific establishment, which coalesced in a cult of personality around Ancel Keys, who was convinced that fat made you fat and cholesterol raised your cholesterol, and belittled and marginalized anyone who disagreed, including Yudkin, who believed that sugar, not fat, was the cause of obesity and heart disease. Read the rest

What's it like in space? Astronauts answer in new book

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Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, has just published a delightful book titled "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There?" Illustrated by Brian Standeford, it's a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes on everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. Here's an excerpt:

While performing a spacewalk is an exciting experience, it is also a very serious operation that is meticulously scripted for astronauts. The only time astronauts might get a chance to look around at where they are is when there’s a glitch in equipment and they get a few spare minutes while someone makes a repair. Astronaut Chris Hadfield found an opportunity to look around during one of his spacewalks:

“The contrast of your body and your mind inside . . . essentially a one-person spaceship, which is your space suit, where you’re holding on for dear life to the shuttle or the station with one hand, and you are inexplicably in between what is just a pouring glory of the world roaring by, silently next to you—just the kaleidoscope of it, it takes up your whole mind. It’s like the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen just screaming at you on the right side, and when you look left, it’s the whole bottomless black of the universe and it goes in all directions. It’s like a huge yawning endlessness on your left side and you’re in between those two things and trying to rationalize it to yourself and trying to get some work done.”

Buy "What's It Like in Space? Read the rest

Inside Industrial Light & Magic's virtual reality lab

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Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (ILMxLAB) is a newly-formed supergroup of artists, engineers, sound designers, and storytellers prototyping the future of interactive, immersive cinema for Lucasfilm. Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, I wrote about my visit to the xLAB where The Force is quite strong:

"The way we do technology development here is really hand-in-hand with the creative goals,” says (Lucasfilm CTO Rob) Bredow. “The R&D is always in service to the story.”

For example, to port the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars film universe into the interactive realm, the Advanced Development Group engineers first had to figure out how the VR hardware could render the massive 3D model in just milliseconds, compared with hours or days for a film shot. Then Skywalker Sound built a surround system that realistically rumbles and whooshes as a Corellian starship should. Meanwhile, game designers and the storytellers hashed out the most compelling way for a Jedi-in-training (you) to battle an army of Stormtroopers with a lightsaber.

"THE SUPERGROUP REMAKING STAR WARS AND JURASSIC WORLD IN VR" (Bloomberg Businessweek) Read the rest

How to write about scientists who are women

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The "Finkbeiner Test," created in 2013 by science writers Ann Finkbeiner and Christie Aschwanden, challenges science writers who are profiling scientists who happen to be women to write about them without mentioning their gender, childcare arrangements, husband's occupation, etc. Read the rest

See this bionic dog from 1959

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In 1959, physicians at New York's Maimonides Hospital implanted this dog with a radio receiver in its chest, part of an "auxiliary heart" system that would support a failing ticker. From the March 9, 1959 issue of LIFE:

The booster heart, developed by Drs. Adrian Kantrowitz and William McKinnon (of New York's Maimonides Hospital) is made by lifting up half of the diaphragm muscle and wrap it around the aorta, the body's main artery. Inside the chest a small radio receiver, part of an electronic system that detects and transmits the actual heart's beat, picks up the heart's rhythm and sends it by electric signals down a nerve to the diaphragm flap, making it squeeze the aorta rhythmically. This action, like a heartbeat, pumps the blood.

Kantrowitz, a pioneer in heart transplants, died in 2008.

(via Weird Universe) Read the rest

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