Mind & Brain, Neurology, Science

What happens to the brain after you mix pot and alcohol

Image: quickmeme.com

Both the effects of marijuana and alcohol have on the human brain have been widely studied, but the same thing can’t be said about the combination of the two, which is rather odd considering a lot of people enjoy a drink or two while packing a bowl. Scott Lukas, a professor at Harvard Medical School, investigated what happens in the brain while cross-faded in 2011 and came to some surprising conclusions. …

News, Physics

Richard Feynman’s Lectures on Physics released for free online

Richard Feynman

Feynman was at times called “The Great Explainer” because of his skill at making complex subjects accessible to students, and while still a professor at Caltech he released his now famous Feynman Lectures on Physics. The three-volume collection has since become the most popular physics text book. Now, the whole collection is available for free, online for your personal consideration. …

Nanotechnology, News

From atoms to life size: manufacturing from nanoscale up to macro

Image: DARPA

DARPA just announced the launch of a new extremely exciting program: Atoms to Product (A2P). The aim is to develop a suit of technologies that will allow manufacturing of products from the nanoscale up to what we know as ‘life size’. The revolutionary miniaturization and assembly methods would work at scales 100,000 times smaller than current state-of-the-art technology. If found successful, then DARPA might be able to make macroscale products (anything from the size of a tennis ball to a tank) that exhibit nanoscale or quantum properties usually encountered  when we delve in the core of atoms.  When fabricated at extremely small scales (a few ten-billionths of a meter), materials exhibit extremely peculiar…

Environment, Environmental Issues, News, Pollution

Ozone-depleting chemicals still spewed in atmosphere despite international ban

The ozone hole (purple and blue) covered much of Antarctica in 2006. Image: CAROLYN GRAMLING

NASA reports significant quantities of ozone-depleting chemicals are still leaching into the atmosphere despite an international ban signed by all the world’s governments thirty years ago. …

Mathematics, News

How one single sheepdog herds a flock of one hundred – mystery solved

sheepdog

Researchers at Swansea University, UK and Uppsala University in Sweden built a mathematical model that explains how one single sheepdog can round up herds made of up to 100 sheep. Their conclusion suggests that the dog needs only to follow two simple mathematical rules. …

Biology, Mind & Brain, Neurology, News

The key to patience lies within serotonin

(A) The picture on the left shows serotonin neurons in red. The middle picture shows neurons expressing light sensitive proteins in green. The picture on the right is an overlay of the previous two pictures, showing in orange light sensitive proteins selectively expressed in serotonin neurons. (B) Blue light illumination, 500 microsecond pulse, shown in blue line, induced spontaneous action potentials in the serotonin neuron for approximately 10 seconds. The yellow light illumination, 500 microsecond pulse, shown in yellow line, stopped spontaneous action potentials.

Either when someone’s late for a date or you need to queue in line, our patience becomes tested. Some people handle the waiting better than others, leading us to the idea that patience is a virtue that differs from person to person. But what is it exactly that helps us remain patient, and why do some people remain unfazed even when faced with hours, days even of waiting? The answer might lie in serotonin - one of the most widespread neutransmitter believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. An imbalance in serotonin levels, for instance, has been linked with depression. The finding came after Japanese researchers at the …

Anatomy, Did you know?, Health & Medicine

These rocks in your head keep you balanced

calcium_carbonate_ear

The beautiful colored image above might look like beach pebbles, yet in reality it shows a glimpse from an even tinnier world – it’s a colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of calcium carbonate deposited on the surface of an otolith, found in the Acoustic Macula. These tiny debris also fit a purpose, helping the body stay in equilibrium, whether in static (position of the head) or dynamic equilibrium (relative position function of linear acceleration)…

Animals, News, World Problems

One in eight birds threatened by biochemicals and climate change

Atlantic puffins live in cliffs along the Atlantic during summer time. Their colonies have been steadily vanishing. Photo: CYRIL RUOSO, MINDEN PICTURES/CORBIS

From the tropics to the poles, bird populations all over the world are facing a sharp decline, cornered by climate change and exposure to man-made biochemicals, namely pesticides. According to to BirdLife International, one in eight species (more than 1,300 species) of birds are under serious threat of becoming extinct. The list includes iconic birds of pray and song like eagles, vultures, swifts or swallows, but also seabirds like sandpipers, pelicans or storks. …

Chemistry, Green Living, News, Renewable Energy

New insights on photosynthesis bring us one step closer to solar fuels

Scientists have determined the exact structure of an important photosynthesis complex at a crucial stage. Photo: Shutterstock

For billions of years, nature has been harnessing the energy from the sun through photosynthesis. This way, plants, algae and cyanobacteria use sunlight to split water and produce energy-rich chemical compounds from carbon dioxide (CO2). This energy is then transferred to animal that eat these plants, and animals that eat plant-eating animals, including us humans. It’s clear that without photosynthesis, there would be no life as we know it.  A photosynthesis dream Society today is highly dependent on energy, so why not profit from a process that’s been evolutionary refined for billions of years? Synthetic photosynthesis is a hot trend in biotech right now, but while scientists have known the basic…

Animals, Health & Medicine, News

Pig heart grafted to baboon abdomen survives for more than a year

pig_Heart_babboon

While most of the hype is centered around biotech efforts that try to engineer human organs from scratch in the lab, a better idea might be to grow human-compatible organs in foreign hosts. Researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health genetically modified pig hearts with some human genes then grafted these to the abdomens of baboons. The baboon still kept their original hearts, while the pig heart would only sag by their abdomen. So, we’re not yet seeing a primate functioning with a pig heart, but that’s the next obvious step. What’s important is that the pig organ wasn’t rejected and if…