How much is your body worth?

From a chemistry standpoint, your body isn't worth a lot, but from an organ standpoint, it can be. AsapSCIENCE does the back-of-the-envelope calculations.

It turns out the question comprises a subgenre with wildly varying quality:

How much is your body worth? (YouTube / AsapSCIENCE) Read the rest

Watch a great primer on the physics of skateboarding

Dianna Cowern, aka YouTube's Physics Girl, recruited skateboarding legend Rodney Mullen and a couple of friends with a high-speed camera for this look at the physics of skateboarding. Read the rest

Terminal breast cancer "cured" by injecting patient with billions of her own white blood cells

Researchers at the US National Cancer Institute have reported in on an experimental breast cancer therapy that achieved remarkable results, rehabilitating Judy Perkins from the brink of death (she had been given two months to live, had tumors in her liver and throughout her body) to robust health two years later. Read the rest

Hypnotic film of iridescent crystals growing

In Lattice, artist Maria Constanza Ferreira filmed microscopic crystals growing in a lab, then animated them into a mesmerizing work of art. Read the rest

Lecture videos from MIT's "The Human Brain" undergrad course

MIT 9.11, "The Human Brain," is taught by Nancy Kanwisher, the Walther A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, MIT; Kanwisher is an engaging and lively science communicator and has posted videos of the complete course lecture series for your perusal; her own speciality is neuroimaging, and the introductory lecture is a fascinating (and, at times, terrifying) tale of her colleague's neurological condition and what she learned from it. (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

Asteroid discovered just before it impacted earth's atmosphere

Over the weekend, Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey spotted a near-earth asteroid just a few hours before its impact trajectory took it right into our atmosphere. Luckily, it burned up before impact. Read the rest

Fire and brimstone: watch volcanoes emit psychedelic blue flames

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano has been spewing hypnotic blue flames thanks to the burning brimstone (aka sulfur). Read the rest

Germany's scientific texts were made free during and after WWII; analyzing them today shows the negative effect of paywalls on science

In 1942, the US Book Republication Program permitted American publishers to reprint "exact reproductions" of Germany's scientific texts without payment; seventy-five years later, the fate of this scientific knowledge forms the basis of a "natural experiment" analysed by Barbara Biasi and Petra Moser for The Center for Economic and Policy Research, who compare the fate of these texts to their contemporaries who didn't have this semi-public-domain existence. Read the rest

Catholic church launches probe into weeping Mary statue in Hobbs, N.M

Hobbs, N.M. is an oil town out in No Country For Old Men country, and I lived there for 7 years after moving to the United States. It's rarely in the papers, but thanks to a weeping Mary statue at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, it's become international news.

Church bosses have assured they are going to take a “scientific” approach to the suspected miracle.

Virgin Mary’s supposed tears were first spotted by Laura Cisneros, the church’s secretary.

She found a puddle of an “oil-like substance” had pooled at the feet of the statue during mass.

Another parishioner claims they then wiped away the tears, only for more to appear in her eyes

The church knows all the tricks to make a statue appear to weep and, at least in principle, allows only scientific mysteries to ascend to miraclehood. An unusual circumstance in Hobbs right now is that it is quite hot--well into the 100s--so if the AC down everthing is weeping something. Photo: KOBTV [Thanks, Heather!] Read the rest

Turns out that python eggs stick to each other for a bunch of good reasons

YouTuber Retic over at Prehistoric Pets TV has a huge collection of pythons and other ancient creatures. Here he shows how and why a clutch of python eggs can be lifted up in giant sticky clumps. Read the rest

Puget Sound mussels are failing drug tests

If you’ve been using or abusing an opioid, then your pee’s been full of opioids. When your opioid-laced pee gets flushed away, those opioids wind up in our water: our reservoirs, streams and oceans.

And that, friends, is why mussels are failing drug tests.

According to CBS News, scientists at Washington’s Department of Fish & Wildlife have found evidence that the dregs of the opioids we consume and then whiz out are now present enough in the waters around Seattle that mussels are testing positive for oxycodone. As mussels are filter feeders, they tend to soak up environmental contaminants into their tissues in large concentrations.

From CBS News:

Happily, mussels don't metabolize drugs like oxycodone and thus wouldn't necessarily be physically harmed by the presence of it in their tissues, studies show that fish are not so lucky. In fact, scientists at the University of Utah recently discovered that, if given the opportunity, zebrafish will willingly dose themselves with opioids. Scientists say salmon and other fish might have a similar response.

The Puget Sound Institute notes that the amounts of opioids detected were thousands of times smaller than a typical human dose. And none of the mussels tested are near any commercial shellfish beds.

So the shellfish are safe, but man are we screwed.

That the opioid levels in the mussels have become high enough to be detectable says a lot about the amount of painkillers that we, as a society, are using and abusing, let alone the environmental impact we as a species can have, simply by going to the bathroom. Read the rest

What makes a woman? New documentary seeks answers

Transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf hosts the new Channel 4 documentary What Makes a Woman? Science and society are grappling with the complex and contentious topics of sex, sexuality, and gender. New research and evidence demonstrate that simplistic binaries are more complicated than previously believed. Read the rest

Climate change depicted as vertical stripes

Warming Stripes: (cache) average annual temperatures in England, with each year depicted as a vertical line, from left to right, covering 1772-2017. At the link, see the U.S. and Toronto. Read the rest

Analyzing mouse-movement to see if you're lying

Here's an interesting experiment: Using mouse-movement as a lie-detection technique.

Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have long noted a big "tell" in human behavior: Crafting a lie takes more mental work than telling the truth. So one way to spot lies is to check someone's reaction time.

If they're telling a lie, they'll respond fractionally more slowly than if they're telling the truth. Similarly, if you're asked to elaborate on your lie, you have to think for a second to generate new, additional lies. "You're from Texas, eh? What city? What neighborhood in that city?" You can craft those lies on the fly, but it takes a bit more mental effort, resulting in micro hesitations.

So a group of Italian researchers wondered -- hey, could you use mouse movement as a proxy for reaction time?

In an experiment, they took two groups of subjects and asked them to respond to questions about their identity using an online form. One group was instructed to tell the truth; the other was to lie. The liars were given a package of information about their identity, so they could rehearse their fake persona.

But! The test also included some tricky questions which the liars hadn't rehearsed, but which were logically consistent with their fake persona. For example, if they were told you were born in January 1970, they'd be asked something like are you 48 years old now? In essence, the scientists wanted to see whether they could detect -- in the mouse movements -- the hesitation of someone concocting a lie. Read the rest

Neuron necklace

For €105, the delightful and enchanting silver Neuron Necklace is yours. Its just one of a number of clever items offered by science-inspired jewelry, which include brains, fetuses, spines and thyroid hormones. [Thanks, Heather!] Read the rest

Bringing DNA testing to the Loch Ness Monster mystery

For more than a century there have been reports of a strange sea "monster" living in Loch Ness yet hard evidence is, er, lacking. Now, evolutionary biologist Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago is hoping that DNA testing could perhaps shed some light on what people claim is Nessie. For two weeks, Gemmell and his team will collect skin and scale samples from Loch Ness and compare those DNA sequences against known animals. Here's what Gemmmell told the BBC News:

"I don't believe in the idea of a monster, but I'm open to the idea that there are things yet to be discovered and not fully understood. Maybe there's a biological explanation for some of the stories."

"While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness - the UK's largest freshwater body..."

"There is this idea that an ancient Jurassic Age reptile might be in Loch Ness. If we find any reptilian DNA sequences in Loch Ness, that would be surprising and would be very, very interesting."

Above, "The Surgeon's Photograph" of 1934, known to be a hoax. Read the rest

Watch how machine learning can enhance low-light images

At this year's Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, researcher Chen Chen presented a cool project that vastly improves the quality of images captured in low-light conditions.

Via his presentation:

Imaging in low light is challenging due to low photon count and low SNR. Short-exposure images suffer from noise, while long exposure can induce blur and is often impractical. A variety of denoising, deblurring, and enhancement techniques have been proposed, but their effectiveness is limited in extreme conditions, such as video-rate imaging at night. To support the development of learning-based pipelines for low-light image processing, we introduce a dataset of raw short-exposure low-light images, with corresponding long-exposure reference images. Using the presented dataset, we develop a pipeline for processing low-light images, based on end-to-end training of a fully-convolutional network. The network operates directly on raw sensor data and replaces much of the traditional image processing pipeline, which tends to perform poorly on such data. We report promising results on the new dataset, analyze factors that affect performance, and highlight opportunities for future work.

Here's the full project page for more information.

Let's enhance!

CVPR 2018: Learning to See in the Dark (YouTube / Chen Chen) Read the rest

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