Auditory hallucinations induced with Pavlovian conditioning

When people hear voices others can't, the prevailing scientific model describes this as psychosis due to brain abnormality, chemical imbalance, or other affliction. But scientists have now reliably induced auditory hallucinations in some people not diagnosed with psychosis. Read the rest

Tiny robots in a mouse's stomach help heal an ulcer

Tiny micromotors about the width of a human hair traveled through a mouse's stomach delivering antibiotics to treat a stomach ulcer. The motors are powered by bubbles. According to the researchers from the University of California San Diego, the microrobot-based treatment proved more effective than regular doses of the medicine. From New Scientist:

The tiny vehicles consist of a spherical magnesium core coated with several different layers that offer protection, treatment, and the ability to stick to stomach walls. After they are swallowed, the magnesium cores react with gastric acid to produce a stream of hydrogen bubbles that propel the motors around. This process briefly reduces acidity in the stomach. The antibiotic layer of the micromotor is sensitive to the surrounding acidity, and when this is lowered, the antibiotics are released...

The next steps are to look at a larger animal study, followed by eventual trials in humans. “There is still a long way to go, but we are on a fantastic voyage,” says (researcher Joseph) Wang.

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A map for extraterrestrials to find Earth

In 1971, astronomer Frank Drake, the father of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, drew a map pinpointing Earth in our galaxy. That diagram, a "pulsar map," was etched on a plaque designed by Frank and Carl Sagan and first carried into space in 1972 by the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft. In 1977, the pulsar map would appear again etched on the covers of the golden records affixed to the the Voyager probes. These days, Frank's original pencil drawing of the map is stored in an old tomato box at his house. (In fact, Frank kindly allowed us to scan it for our book included in our new Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set!) Over at National Geographic, Nadia Drake, one of my favorite science journalists who also happens to be Frank's daughter, tells the fascinating story of this iconic piece of cosmic cartography. From National Geographic:

The question was, how do you create such a map in units that an extraterrestrial might understand?

...To my dad, the answer was obvious: pulsars. Discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, these dense husks of expired stars were perfect blazes in both space and time.

For starters, pulsars are incredibly long-lived, staying active for tens of millions to multiple billions of years.

Also, each pulsar is unique. They spin almost unbelievably fast, and they emit pulses of electromagnetic radiation like lighthouses. By timing those pulses, astronomers can determine a pulsar’s spin rate to a ridiculous degree of accuracy, and no two are alike.

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The Voyager Golden Record on NBC Nightly News

Last night, NBC Nightly News aired the wonderful video below about the Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set I produced with my friends Tim Daly and Lawrence Azerrad! Forty years ago this month, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. The Voyager Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science. As Lawrence said in the video, "it's a lovely reminder of what it means to be a human." Thank you to NBC Nightly News!

(GIF via Electric Space Kool-Aid)

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Artificial intelligence identifies plant species by looking at them

Machine learning algorithms have successfully identified plant species in massive herbaria just by looking at the dried specimens. According to researchers, similar AI approaches could also be used identify the likes of fly larvae and plant fossils. From Nature:

There are roughly 3,000 herbaria in the world, hosting an estimated 350 million specimens — only a fraction of which has been digitized. But the swelling data sets, along with advances in computing techniques, enticed computer scientist Erick Mata-Montero of the Costa Rica Institute of Technology in Cartago and botanist Pierre Bonnet of the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development in Montpellier, to see what they could make of the data.

Researchers trained... algorithms on more than 260,000 scans of herbarium sheets, encompassing more than 1,000 species. The computer program eventually identified species with nearly 80% accuracy: the correct answer was within the algorithms’ top 5 picks 90% of the time. That, says (Penn State paleobotanist Peter) Wilf, probably out-performs a human taxonomist by quite a bit.

Such results often worry botanists, Bonnet says, many of whom already feel that their field is undervalued. “People feel this kind of technology could be something that will decrease the value of botanical expertise,” he says. “But this approach is only possible because it is based on the human expertise. It will never remove the human expertise.” People would also still need to verify the results, he adds.

"Going deeper in the automated identification of Herbarium specimens" (BMC Evolutionary Biology) Read the rest

'You owe it to yourself to experience a total solar eclipse,' says science writer David Baron

In this TEDx Talk, science writer and umbraphile (an "eclipse chaser") David Baron emphasizes the importance of witnessing a total solar eclipse firsthand (eye?) at least once in your lifetime.

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After On Podcast #2:  Video Games as Medicine?

Below you’ll find an unhurried interview with Dr. Adam Gazzaley, who runs one of the West Coast’s largest neuroscience labs at UCSF. There, his team carefully crafts video games with the potential to cure a wide range of neurological ailments.

A direct heir to Adam’s research is now up for final FDA approval as a treatment for ADHD – potentially providing millions of parents with a game-based alternative to medicating their kids. Autism is also in his sights. And his research first became prominent for blunting the awful effects of dementia. That work landed him on the cover of Nature magazine - which is to sciencists what a mid-70s Rolling Stone cover was to classic rock guitarists.

This is the second episode of my podcast, which launched here on Boing Boing last week, and which is co-hosted by the inimitable Tom Merritt. Adam was a priceless resource to me as I researched the real science connected to my present-day science fiction novel After On. I should divulge that we became friends through that process, and that I’m now a minuscule shareholder in a company he created. I’m confident that that this didn’t bias my part of our interview, but do bear that in mind.

In addition to his research, Adam and I discuss the roots of consciousness – a matter of much speculation amongst neuroscientists, and of great significance to my storyline. We also discuss the one New York City borough he hasn’t yet inhabited, the alphabet soup of modern brain scanning tools, and the science fiction tales that inspired him as a tot. Read the rest

Why NASA's Voyager mission almost didn't happen

On August 20 and September 5, 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. It was an incredibly audacious mission, and it's still going. My friend Timothy Ferris produced the Voyager golden record that's attached to each of the spacecraft and went on to write a dozen enlightening books about science and culture. (Tim also wrote the liner notes for the Voyager Golden Record vinyl box set I co-produced that's now available here.) In the new issue of National Geographic, Tim tells the remarkable story of the Voyager mission and why "it almost didn’t happen." From National Geographic:

The prospect of a “grand tour” of the outer planets emerged in 1965 from the musings of an aeronautics graduate student named Gary Flandro, then working part-time at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the world’s preeminent center for interplanetary exploration. At age six, Flandro had been given Wonders of the Heavens, a book that showed the planets lined up like stepping-stones. “I thought about how neat it would be to go all the way through the solar system and pass each one of those outer planets,” he recalled.

Assigned at JPL to envision possible missions beyond Mars, Flandro plotted the future positions of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune with paper and pencil. He found that they would align in such a way that a spacecraft could tap the planets’ orbital momentum to slingshot from one to the next, gaining enough velocity to visit all four planets within 10 or 12 years rather than the decades such a venture would require otherwise.

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The Voyager Golden Record now available as a vinyl box set

Forty years ago this month, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. The Voyager Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science. The Voyager Golden Record is a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but it’s also a gift to humanity. It lies at the intersection of science and art to spark the imagination, and delivers a dose of hope that so many of us are jonesing for these days. Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I embarked on a long journey to release the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. We were humbled by the incredible support our project received. (You can read about our experience in the project updates here.)

Ten months after our Kickstarter ended, the enthusiasm and excitement around the Voyager anniversary and the golden record continues to increase. We feel very fortunate that the story of this historical artifact resonates with so many people! As promised, we will never reproduce the Kickstarter "40th Anniversary Edition" box set again. Our Kickstarter backers took the journey with us and we are deeply grateful. However, for those who were not able to participate in the Kickstarter, we have decided to repress the Voyager Golden Record in a different edition than the one our Kickstarter backers will receive. Read the rest

This head-spinning optical illusion will melt your brain

Magician and optical illusion artist Victoria Skye created the mindbending riff above on the classic "Cafe Wall" optical illusion.

(via @martinsytaylor) Read the rest

This is the first photograph of a solar eclipse

On July 28, 1851, Johann Julius Friedrich Berkowski took what's thought to be the first photograph of a solar eclipse. The Royal Prussian Observatory in what's now Kaliningrad, Russia, had mounted a six-centimer refracting telescope to a 15.8 centimeter Fraunhofer heliometer used to measure the sun's diameter. Berkowski made an 84 second exposure to create the daguerreotype seen above and below.

(PetaPixel)

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This professor makes mini-volcanoes with real lava

Artist Bob Wysocki plays around with homemade lava to create cool experiments that mesh sculpture and geology. Here, he makes a mini shield volcano. Read the rest

Sam Clovis, Trump's pick for USDA chief scientist, called progressives 'race traders' and 'race traitors' online

President Donald Trump's nominee to be the Department of Agriculture's chief scientist, Sam Clovis, wrote a personal blog for years on which he accused progressives of "enslaving" minorities, described black political figures as "race traders," and said then-President Obama was a "Maoist" with "communist" roots.

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NASA seeks 'Planetary Protection Officer'

NASA has a rare job opening for a new "Planetary Protection Office." Responsibilities do not include defending Earth from an impending alien invasion.

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Autographed photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue sells for big bucks

This photo of Albert Einstein has been an old favorite of geeks-of-all-stripes for years. I remember my much older brother Mark, a scientist and surgeon, had a huge poster of it on his wall in college. An original print of the photo, taken by UPI photog Arthur Sasse on March 14, 1951 at Einstein's 72nd birthday party, just sold at auction for $125,000. The print is signed by Einstein at the bottom. The full frame shows Einstein with Princeton's Frank Aydelotte, head of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University, and his wife Marie Jeanette.

(Space.com) Read the rest

Quindar remixes NASA's audiovisual archives (and you can dance to it!)

Quindar is a fantastically far out project to remix NASA's weird and wonderful sound and film archives into a new audiovisual experience of electronic music and video cut-ups. Created by my friends Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco and art historian/curator James Merle Thomas, Quindar's recordings and live performances are a wonderful hyperreal trip into the human history of space exploration. Indeed, their just-released album "Hip Mobility" is essential listening for all Earthlings jonesing for a new kind of cosmic kick. I recommend going for the stellar vinyl package, created by Lawrence Azerrad/LADdesign who partnered with Tim Daly and I on the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Below, have a listen to Quindar's Hip Mobility and also hear an interview with Mikael and James on the latest episode of NPR's Science Friday.

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Watch this flipbook animation of 600 million years of human evolution

The EVO evolution webshop offers this fantastic flipbook of human evolution. It's €7.50.

(via /r/educationalgifs) Read the rest

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