Apple is donating a thousand Apple Watches to a binge eating study. The University of North Carolina’s medical school will start this study.
Dr. Kiki Sanford makes her fifth appearance on Background Mode. Kiki is a neurophysiologist with a Ph.D. from the University of California. She’s a popular science communicator and creator of This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast and radio show. In this episode, we chat about some some recent topics discussed on TWIS that fascinated me. 1) Yale roboticists have developed skins with embedded actuators that can turn just about anything into robots. 2) A 127 million year old fossil was discovered in China that fills in another gap in the story of how dinosaurs became birds. 3) The new NASA exoplanet search mission, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is operational. We talk about its mission and how it compares to the Kepler spacecraft. This is just a sample; we covered much more cool science stuff.
In 2005, scientists confirmed that dry spaghetti noodles never break cleanly in half. Instead they tend to split into three or more pieces. If you’ve ever cooked spaghetti you’re probably familiar with having little bits explode all over the kitchen. But it turns out that there is a way to break spaghetti cleanly in half. Famous physicist Richard Feynman once spent a night with a friend snapping pasta to figure out what was happening. He never solved it, but it inspired French researchers to try, which earned them a 2006 igNobel prize. The secret? Twist the noodles hard like you’re wringing out a washcloth. To understand why, they used a high speed camera that recorded the shattering pasta at a million frames per second. The twist prevented the two bent strands flexing back quite as forcefully as an untwisted strand, and the untwisting motion released some of the stored energy in the spaghetti, further reducing the likelihood of a second fracture.
To protect our genetic code, DNA encryption might someday become a reality.
It maxed out at a mind-boggling data transfer rate of 661Tbps (terabits per second).
Jun Kamei, graduate of the Royal College of Art, designed artificial gills using 3D printing. They consist of a gill and a respiratory mask, and it lets people breathe underwater. Mr. Kamei has built a working prototype, and it successfully extracts oxygen from water, and releases carbon dioxide back out. Right now it doesn’t product enough oxygen for a human though. His idea was that artificial gills would be essential in the future when the ocean rises due to climate change.
By 2100, a temperature rise of 3.2 degrees celsius is predicted to happen, causing a sea-level rise affecting between 500 million and three billion people, and submerging the megacities situated in the coastal areas.
An international team of hundreds of scientists is finishing construction of the LSST telescope, or Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. It will search for asteroids that are on a collision course with Earth. Despite our best technology it’s difficult to detect asteroids, let alone asteroids that are speeding toward our planet. The reason is that asteroids are dark; they don’t give off visible light and are hard to detect in the blackness of space.
With significant funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, LSST will search for PHAs during its 10-year mission by observing the same area of sky at hourly intervals searching for objects that have changed position. Anything that moves in just one hour has to be so close that it is within our solar system.
An AR t-shirt called Virtuali-Tee works with an iPhone app to give you x-ray vision. When you look at the shirt with the app, it shows the inside of the human body in 3D, and gives you facts and explanations of your organs. It seems like a great way to get your kids interested in science, and it’s fun for adults too. You can isolate and virtually dissect organs, and get a 360 degree VR experience with the lungs, bloodstream, and small intestine. You can use AirPlay and mirror it to an Apple TV. The app requires iOS version 8.3 and later. You can get the shirt on Amazon for US$29.95, available in child and adult sizes. App Store: Virtuali-Tee by Curiscope
Dark Matter is believed to account for 80% of the mass of the universe. Whatever it is, it interacts gravitationally with normal matter, but is otherwise very hard to detect. At this underground laboratory, SNOLAB, in Canada, 2,000 meters below sea level (6,800 ft), scientists are searching for neutrinos as well evidence of Dark Matter in our part of the galaxy. Two kilometers of solid rock above protects the lab from all but what they search for. Welcome to their office.
Dr. Kiki Sanford is a neurophysiologist, a popular science communicator and creator of This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast and radio show. This is her fourth appearance here. In this episode, we chat about some some very interesting recent topics on TWIS. 1) Researchers showed that mini human brains implanted into mouse brains survived and functionally integrated into the host tissue. 2) Magnetoreception in birds is possible thanks to a protein in their eyes. They may actually have a heads-up display in their eyes for the Earth’s magnetic field. 3) Amazon’s announcement of its Vesta family robot project. 4) A new, non-invasive patch is being developed to allow diabetics to monitor their gluscose levels. Kiki has a special way of inspiring us to learn about science, so don’t miss BGM’s most popular guest.
Lightsabers may be about the coolest sci-fi weapon ever, but they would make for a much more gruesome death than we see on the big screen. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters now it’s a good time to find out what would really happen if you took up arms with Luke Skywalker. Kyle Hill does a great job of explaining what would happen if you sliced someone with a lightsaber on Because Science. Check it out!
This is the kind of thing that could could have a profound effect on the ways we live.
Jennifer Ouellette is a freelance science writer, editor and book author. Her work has appeared in Physics World, Discover, New Scientist, Physics Today, Salon and Nature. In 2010, she published the book “The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.” With a degree in English literature, Jennifer didn’t start out intending to be a science writer. But thanks to serendipity, she landed her first job with the American Physical Society who discovered she could write really well. The thinking was that it would be easier to teach her physics than teach physicists how to write! It opened her eyes to the field. So how does one become a famous science writer? Jennifer tells a great story.
If you love robots, there are a bunch of robotics competitions happening across the United States right now. Jeff Butts has all of the details about this steamworks-themed event pitting high school students against the clock and their opponents.
Dr. Phil Plait is an astronomer and a very popular science communicator. His blog, Bad Astronomy, “covers the entire universe, from subatomic particles to the Big Bang itself, astronomy, space exploration, and the effect of politics on science.” Like many young astronomers, Phil’s interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don’t believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.
These days, it’s easy to collect a lot of data in the course of a research project. And, often, that big data collection is hard to interpret and glean new insights from by data analysis alone. That’s where scientific visualization comes in. Here’s a site that celebrates those images which are frequently just plain beautiful as well. From the website: “The Wellcome Image Awards are Wellcome’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine and life. Now in their 20th year, the Awards recognise the creators of informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science.” Check it out.
Every year since 2014, NASA has published a software catalog, On Wednesday NASA released a software catalog with over 1,000 free code samples. The free code is divided into 15 categories like robotics, aeronautics, climate simulators, biological sensors and guidance systems. Although the code is free, some restrictions may apply. For some, any U.S. citizen can apply to use it. Others can only be used by other federal agencies. And there is even some open-source code in the catalog. Open-source code can be directly downloaded, but most others require you to create an account, or in some cases sign a government contract or a usage agreement. If you’re in the sciences or like to tinker at home, be sure to check out this year’s NASA catalog.
You’ve heard of Duranium, Tritanium and Gold-pressed Latinum, right? These are fictional metals from Star Trek lore. But did you know a Periodic Table of all the elements and alloys mentioned across all fiction has been compiled? It includes all the magical substances from TV, the movies, comics, games, mythology and more. Of course, there’s no chemistry in this table. Instead, it’s a beautifully presented and organized database. Just click on any item to see its origin. For example, click on Dur to discover that “Duranium makes up the outer hull of Starfleet’s NX-class starships.” This table is just amazing to behold.