Acoustic meta-material: a shape that reflects sound but passes light and air

A Boston University team have developed an acoustic, 3D-printed metamaterial whose topology is such that it reflects 94% of human-audible sound; the researchers' demonstration involves inserting a ring of this stuff in a PVC pipe and blasting a speaker down one end: light and air emerges from the other end, but sound does not. Read the rest

Sleep is a brain-repair mechanism, new study proves

Scientists Lior Appelbaum and David Zada in Israel publish new proof that sleep serves to help our brains repair damage. Read the rest

Improbably great: a site that reduces complex technical news to a few bullet points takes important technical news stories and reduces them to a few salient bullet points that provide a really (really!) good overview of the story; it's very similar to what I try to do here on Boing Boing: extract the salient points from a study or news story, summarize them and add context from other stories I'm following, and then provide a link to the full report for people who have read the summary and want to dig deeper. I just subscribed to their RSS. (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

"Catching up" on lost sleep may actually do more harm than good

Sleeping late on weekends not only won't help much when it comes to your sleep debt from the week, it can also lead to weight gain, insulin sensitivity, and nighttime hunger. University of Colorado Boulder sleep physiologist Christopher Depner ran a study involving young adults who were assigned different sleep regimens over a two week period, including a group of "weekend recovery sleepers." They report their results in the scientific journal Current Biology. From Science News:

Lack of sleep disrupts appetite-controlling hormones such as leptin, Depner says. And shifts in the weekend sleepers’ natural biological clocks to later hours caused them to get hungry later. During the workweeks, both groups consumed roughly 400 to 650 Calories in late-night snacks, such as pretzels, yogurt and potato chips. By the end of the experiment, people in both groups had gained on average around 1.5 kilograms.

But when it came to insulin sensitivity, the two groups diverged. Sensitivity across all body tissues in the weekend recovery group dropped around 27 percent, compared with their baseline sensitivity measured at the start of the experiment. That was substantially worse than the 13 percent decline in those who consistently had little sleep. And the weekend sleepers were the only ones to have significant declines in liver and muscle cells — both important for food digestion — after a weekend of trying to catch up on sleep....

Peter Liu, a sleep endocrinologist at UCLA, questions whether these results are broadly applicable, especially in people who are chronically sleep deprived.

Read the rest

Massive study finds strong correlation between "early affluence" and "faster cognitive drop" in old age

A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reports on new analysis of the Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which tracks outcomes for 24,066 people aged 50-96 with a good balance of genders (56% female), and reports a strong correlation between "early affluence" and "faster cognitive drop" in "verbal fluency" (measured with an animal naming challenge). SHARE is the largest study of its kind, with more than double the subjects of similar projects. Read the rest

Elon Musk's SpaceX plans NASA test launch Saturday

NASA and SpaceX have completed thousands of hours of tests to prepare for this unmanned test flight to the International Space Station.

Nanoparticle injections give mice "night vision" superpower

Chinese nanotechnologists injected tiny particles into the eyes of mice resulting in the rodents demonstrating "infrared 'night vision'" that lasted for months. According to nanoscientist Tian Xue and colleagues the University of Science and Technology of China, the technology could eventually help those with certain kinds of color blindness and "provide the potential for close integration within the human body to extend the visual spectrum." From New Scientist:

Like humans, mice cannot perceive light with a wavelength longer than 700 nanometres, which is at the red end of the visible spectrum. But the nanoparticles absorb light with longer – infrared – wavelengths and convert it into shorter wave light that retinal cells can detect. This converted light peaks at a wavelength of 535 nanometres, so the mice see infrared light as green...

Some mice did develop cloudy corneas after the injection, but this disappeared within a fortnight and occurred at similar rates to those in the control group. The team found no other evidence of damage to the mice’s eyes two months after the experiment.

The researchers published their findings in the scientific journal Cell: "Mammalian Near-Infrared Image Vision through Injectable and Self-Powered Retinal Nanoantennae" Read the rest

More promising news about phages, the parasites that prey on parasites

For many years, we've been following the research on phages, viruses that kill bacteria, once a staple of Soviet medicine and now touted as a possible answer to the worrying rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Read the rest

Death metal attracts sharks as it mimics "struggling fish"

TIL: Sharks are attracted to the sound of death metal. Apparently, the "dense tones" of it mimics the "low frequencies of struggling fish." (Damn.)

In 2015, a Discovery Channel crew -- hoping to attract a large great white named "Joan of Shark" -- dropped a speaker underwater and played some.


Desperate to feature the 16-foot, 1.6 tonne shark in their documentary, they submerged a speaker to see if the shark would react. Unfortunately they didn't manage to attract Joan, but did catch the attention of two others, one of which was 12 feet long.

Sharks 'hear' by picking up vibrations from receptors on their bodies, meaning they can be attracted to the low-frequency vibrations of heavy music, which apparently sounds like struggling fish.

(Soap Plant Wacko) Read the rest

Scientists finally explain why microwaved grapes emit glorious bursts of plasma

The mystery of the glorious fireball emitted by microwaved grapes (featured in my novel Little Brother) has been resolved, thanks to a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which Trent University researchers Hamza Khattak and Aaron Slepkov explain how they destroyed a dozen microwaves before figuring out that the grapes were just the right size and had enough humidity to set up standing waves that amplify the microwaves -- and anything roughly grape-sized will do the same. Read the rest

Study suggests that Flat Eartherism spread via Youtube

The rise in a belief that the Earth is flat is bizarre and somewhat frightening, a repudiation of one of the most basic elements of scientific consensus. Texas Tech University psych researcher Asheley R. Landrum attended a 2017 flat earth convention and interviewed 30 attendees to trace the origins of their belief in a flat earth, finding that Youtube videos were key to their journey into conspiracy theories; her findings were bolstered by a survey of more than 500 participants. Read the rest

Brain-zapping implants that change mood and lift depression

Teams of researchers are developing sesame seed-size neuro-implants that detect brain activity that signals depression and then deliver targeted electrical zaps to elevate your mood. It's very early days in the science and technology but recent studies suggest that we're on the path. Links to scientific papers below. Fortunately, the goal is to develop tools and a methodology more precise than the horrifically blunt "shock therapy" of last century. From Science News:

DARPA, a Department of Defense research agency, is funding (Massachusetts General Hospital's research on new brain stimulation methods) plus work at UCLA on targeted brain stimulation. Now in its fifth and final year, the (DARPA) project, called SUBNETS, aims to help veterans with major depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety and other psychiatric problems. “It is extremely frustrating for patients to not know why they feel the way they do and to not be able to correct it,” Justin Sanchez, the director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, said in a Nov. 30 statement. “We owe them and their families better options.”

These next-generation systems, primarily being developed at UCSF and Massachusetts General Hospital, might ultimately deliver. After detecting altered brain activity that signals a looming problem, these devices, called closed-loop stimulators, would intervene electrically with what their inventors hope is surgical precision.

In contrast to the UCSF group, Widge, who is at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and his collaborators don’t focus explicitly on mood. The researchers want to avoid categorical diagnoses such as depression, which they argue can be imprecise.

Read the rest

A teenage science geek's quest to collect every element on the periodic table

In the 1960s, when Scientific American copy editor Michael J. Battaglia was 15, he had a chemical romance with the periodic table. In fact, Battaglia was so fascinated by the basic substances of our universe that he tried to collect 'em all (at least the 104 elements that science knew about at the time.) From Scientific American:

Read the rest

'Ghost Apples' of ice form after freezing rain in Michigan [PHOTOS]

Aren't they beautiful? Here's how 'ghost apples' formed on this apple tree in West Michigan. Read the rest

WATCH: single-celled zygote becomes a newt

In Jan van IJken's "Becoming", a single cell becomes a complete organism in "six pulsing minutes of timelapse." (More of IJken's work is featured at Aeon) Read the rest

NOAA says 2018 was 4th warmest year on record, in an undeniable global warming trend

2018 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded on planet Earth, NOAA reported today. Read the rest

HOW TO: Randall "XKCD" Munroe's forthcoming book of "absurd scientific advice"

Randall "XKCD" Munroe's next book has been announced: How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, a sequel of sorts to his 2014 book What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, spun out of his wonderful XKCD spinout site. It's out on Sept 3, and the publisher's description makes it (as Kottke says) an instant pre-order: "For any task you might want to do, there's a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To is a guide to the third kind of approach. It's full of highly impractical advice for everything from landing a plane to digging a hole." Read the rest

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