Breakthrough programmable computer made from DNA running chemical software

For more than two decades, researchers have explored using DNA as a chemical computer. Until now though, DNA computers have only been capable of solving whatever mathematical problem they were built to tackle. Now though, researchers have demonstrated a more general-purpose DNA computer that can run a variety of chemical "programs." From Caltech:

"Think of them as nano apps," says Damien Woods, professor of computer science at Maynooth University near Dublin, Ireland, and one of two lead authors of the study. "The ability to run any type of software program without having to change the hardware is what allowed computers to become so useful. We are implementing that idea in molecules, essentially embedding an algorithm within chemistry to control chemical processes."

The system works by self-assembly: small, specially designed DNA strands stick together to build a logic circuit while simultaneously executing the circuit algorithm. Starting with the original six bits that represent the input, the system adds row after row of molecules—progressively running the algorithm. Modern digital electronic computers use electricity flowing through circuits to manipulate information; here, the rows of DNA strands sticking together perform the computation. The end result is a test tube filled with billions of completed algorithms, each one resembling a knitted scarf of DNA, representing a readout of the computation. The pattern on each "scarf" gives you the solution to the algorithm that you were running. The system can be reprogrammed to run a different algorithm by simply selecting a different subset of strands from the roughly 700 that constitute the system.

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Spanish pop-goth performance featuring Freddy Krueger in high-waisted jeans

The singer is María Olvido Gara Jova, aka Alaska, performing with her band Dinarama. Along with singing in another electro-pop-goth band Fangoria, Alaska has hosted a children's TV series, appeared on a comedy sketch show, and starred in an MTV Spain reality show. This number is titled "Mi novio es un zombi" ("My Boyfriend Is a Zombie").

(r/ObscureMedia, thanks UPSO!) Read the rest “Spanish pop-goth performance featuring Freddy Krueger in high-waisted jeans”

Stranger Things 3 trailer improved with cheery old-timey music

The Stranger Things 3 trailer with a delightful original score by Michael Hearst of "Songs for Ice Cream Trucks" fame.

"Survive, pack up your synths! Hearst, crank up the calliope!"

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The wasabi you think you're eating isn't wasabi

Real wasabi, Wasabia japonica, is apparently one of the most expensive vegetables to grow. That green stuff you're eating? Ground horseradish, Chinese mustard, and, you guessed it, green food coloring. Yum.

According to The Atlantic, "Worldwide, experts believe that this imposter combination masquerades as wasabi about 99% of the time."

Above, meet Shigeo Iida, 75, whose family has grown real wasabi for eight generations.

(via NextDraft)

image: HK 北角 North Point 和田 Wada Japanese Restaurant 放題 Buffet dinner 山葵 green Wasabi Mar-2013 Read the rest “The wasabi you think you're eating isn't wasabi”

Odd and gruesome workplace safety ads that aired on TV

Ontario, Canada's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board created these splatterpunk workplace safety ads in 2012.

"This is not a feel-good campaign," said WSIB Chair Steven Mahoney. "We’ll feel good when the number of injuries and fatalities go down.” Read the rest “Odd and gruesome workplace safety ads that aired on TV”

Watch the new Stranger Things 3 trailer

They had me at the opening reference to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Read the rest “Watch the new Stranger Things 3 trailer”

Humans have a sixth sense for Earth's magnetic field

A new study suggests that humans can subconsciously sense Earth's magnetic field. While this capability, called magnetoreception, is well known in birds and fish, there is now evidence that our brains are also sensitive to magnetic fields. The researchers from Caltech and the University of Tokyo measured the brainwaves of 26 participants who were exposed to magnetic fields that could be manipulated. Interestingly, the brainwaves were not affected by upward-pointing fields. From Science News:

Participants in this study, who all hailed from the Northern Hemisphere, should perceive downward-pointing magnetic fields as natural, whereas upward fields would constitute an anomaly, the researchers argue. Magnetoreceptive animals are known to shut off their internal compasses when encountering weird fields, such as those caused by lightning, which might lead the animals astray. Northern-born humans may similarly take their magnetic sense “offline” when faced with strange, upward-pointing fields...

Even accounting for which magnetic changes the brain picks up, researchers still don’t know what our minds might use that information for, (Caltech neurobiologist and geophysicist Joseph) Kirschvink says. Another lingering mystery is how, exactly, our brains detect Earth’s magnetic field. According to the researchers, the brain wave patterns uncovered in this study may be explained by sensory cells containing a magnetic mineral called magnetite, which has been found in magnetoreceptive trout as well as in the human brain.

"Transduction of the Geomagnetic Field as Evidenced from Alpha-band Activity in the Human Brain" (eNeuro)

"Evidence for a Human Geomagnetic Sense" (Caltech) Read the rest “Humans have a sixth sense for Earth's magnetic field”

For sale: home that inspired Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

Ponden Hall, a nine bedroom house in Stanbury, West Yorkshire, England, is considered to be the inspiration for Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and sister Anne's Wildfell Hall. The Brontës spent a great deal of time on the property in the early 1800s. Now it could be yours. Current owner and Brontë superfan Julie Akhurst and her husband have put it on the market for £1.25m. In their twenty years of ownership, they've completed a major, yet careful, renovation and opened it as a B&B for other Brontë geeks. From the Yorkshire Post:

The most popular B&B room at Ponden Hall is the Earnshaw room. It features a tiny east gable window that exactly fits Emily Brontë’s description in Wuthering Heights of Cathy’s ghost scratching furiously at the glass trying to get in...

“We think that Emily based that scene on this room because old documents relating to the house describe a box bed in a room across from the library and you can see where it was bolted to the wall by the window. It is just how it is described in Wuthering Heights.

“Plus the date plaque above the main entrance identifies the hall as being rebuilt in 1801 and Emily’s story starts with that exact date,” says Julie who has had a replica box bed made for the room.

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Video of Coney Island rides from the 1930s and 1940s that would never fly today

(VIDEO LINK)

Michael Hearst, composer of the classic "Songs for Ice Cream Trucks" and author of the excellent Unusual Creatures, shares this delightful video of seemingly quite dangerous rides at Coney Island in the 1930s and 1940s.

These sanctioned affronts to safety remind me of the fun I had rolling around with my brothers in our station wagon's cargo area on long road trips.

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Psychedelics pioneer Ralph Metzner, RIP

Pioneering psychonaut Ralph Metzner who co-led the seminal psychedelic research at Harvard University in the early 1960s with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and co-authored The Psychedelic Experience, has died at age 82. (Above image, Metzner at left with Leary.) Through his life, Metzner helped a great many people through his psychotherapist practice, spoke frequently on eco-consciousness, and also composed visionary ballads. (Erowid)

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Where does consciousness come from?

"Consciousness is what allows us to be aware of both our surroundings and our own inner state." In the first of a three part video series, "Kruzgesagt - In a Nutshell" examines "how unaware things come aware." Stay tuned for theories of consciousness that of course may be as much about philosophy as they are neuroscience.

Sources here.

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Legendary surf rock guitarist Dick Dale, RIP

Dick Dale, the "King of the Surf Guitar," has died at age 81. RIP, maestro. Dale's pioneering sound was inspired by his Lebanese uncle who played the oud and taught his nephew the tarabaki, a goblet-shaped drum. Dale's 1961 instrumental "Let's Go Trippin'," recorded with his band The Del-Tones, sparked the vibrant surf rock scene that spawned the Beach Boys. Dale was shredding right up until his death. RIP, maestro. From The Guardian:

Born Richard Anthony Monsour in May 1937, Dale developed his distinctive sound by adding to instrumental rock influences from his Middle Eastern heritage, along with a “wet” reverb sound and his rapid alternative picking style.

In 2011, he told the Miami New Times that the hectic drumming of Gene Krupa, along with the “screams” of wild animals and the sound and sensation of being in the ocean inspired his sound.

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Mysterious bundles of hair turning up on Santa Barbara streets

Mysterious bundles of hair have been turning up on streets in Santa Barbara's Mesa neighborhood. It's not known yet if the hair is human, non-human animal, or synthetic. From KEYT:

We reached out to cosmetology workers and those who may have some insights into cultural traditions that involve these hair bundles, but there were no answers...

One resident said she saw some people dropping or throwing smaller ones out of a car window recently, but those are not the ones out there now.

One person on the Mesa saw a resident run into traffic this afternoon, grab one and disappear.

More at Mysterious Universe: "Mysterious Bundles of Hair Appear on California Streets"

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Curious robotic syringe-in-a-pill completes successful human trial

The RaniPill is another syringe that you can swallow to deliver drugs to the bloodstream from the inside. It's triggered by an interesting and complex mechanism involving a chemical reaction that inflates a tiny polymer balloon to push the needle into the intestinal wall. Rani Therapeutics just completed a successful 20-person trial using a pill that shoots blanks. From IEEE Spectrum:

Working from the outside in, the RaniPill consists of a special coating that protects the pill from the stomach’s acidic juices. Then, as the pill is pushed into the intestines and pH levels rise to about 6.5, the coating dissolves to reveal a deflated biocompatible polymer balloon.

Upon exposure to the intestinal environment, a tiny pinch point made of sugar inside the balloon dissolves, causing two chemicals trapped on either side of the pinch point to mix and produce carbon dioxide. That gas inflates the balloon, and the pressure of the inflating balloon pushes a dissolvable microneedle filled with a drug of choice into the wall of the intestines. Human intestines lack sharp pain receptors, so the micro-shot is painless.

The intestinal wall does, however, have lots and lots of blood vessels, so the drug is quickly taken up into the bloodstream, according to the company’s animal studies. The needle itself dissolves...

Participants passed the remnants of the balloon within 1-4 days.

(Founder Mir) Imran calls the device a robot though it has no electrical parts and no metal. “Even though it has no brains and no electronics, it [works through] an interplay between material science and the chemistry of the body,” says Imran.

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Gooey, melty, sizzling, steamy fun with lava and dry ice

I've had quite a few fun afternoons playing with dry ice from making spooky fog in the kitchen to exploding plastic bottles in the yard. But I've never had the opportunity to pour hot lava over dry ice. In this video, the lava is 1400 °C and the dry ice is -78C°. So cool! And hot!

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"Mona Lisa Descending A Staircase," a wonderful claymation from 1992

Joan C Gratz's animated short "Mona Lisa Descending A Staircase" is a lovely and trippy 2D claymation of iconic artworks transforming one into another. After spending a decade on the piece, Gratz won the 1992 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Gratz called her animation technique "clay painting." From Educational Media Reviews Online:

“Clay-painting” is a unique process that blends film and painting, and an innovation that garnered Joan Gratz’s Mona Lisa Descending A Staircase a 1992 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In this true landmark of animation, numerous famous and iconic paintings from 20th century art are “reproduced as exactly as possible but the transitions between these paintings [are] used to communicate the relationship of artistic movements” as Gratz has stated. “In the clay painting technique, which I began developing in 1966, I work by painting directly before the camera, making changes to a single painting, shooting a frame, repainting and shooting, etc. In the end there is one painting with the process recorded on film, the product is the process.”

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This is Birdpunk, the intersection of DIY, environmentalism, and birdwatching

Birdpunk is the quite natural intersection of two subcultures, punk and birding. From a feature article by Steve Neumann in Audobon:

The overlap between birding and punk might seem strange to outsiders, but for birdpunks like Croasdale, the Do-It-Youself (DIY) values that shape punk living feed perfectly into low-frills activities such as birding. The DIY aesthetic and mentality is a core philosophy for punks, who thrive on independence and individualism. Their music bucks the profiteering industry of labels and promoters and travels over a homegrown network of venues and websites. The ethic also spills over to visual media, politics, economics, and social philosophy. Hospitality, trust, and authenticity are key traits in the community.

When you consider these principles, it’s clear why many punkers are drawn to birding and its rustic qualities. Or vice versa: why their early love of birds steers them straight into the throes of punk. It’s a two-way street that draws out the best of both worlds, forming a distinctive subculture that’s holistic, aware, and expressive...

Raquel Reyes, who lives in San Francisco... (had) always been interested in biology, but she credits her volunteer work at a wildlife hospital with making the discipline more personal. Similar to the others, Reyes discovered punk in her teens; she found self-esteem in a community where being a “weirdo” was a badge of honor.

“Mainstream views about punk culture characterize it as self-absorbed and nihilistic,” Reyes says, “but there are many sub-categories immersed in ecological concerns.” The rejection of capitalism and mainstream consumerism spurs the need for self-sufficiency and self-discovery, through sewing, carpentry, gardening, and, of course, birding.

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