Science and the Arts
- Ratha's Creature Graphic Novel Survey
Everyone who submits the survey by April 30, 2012 will be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice, offline or online.
- Chapter-By-Chapter Analysis – Daenerys I
For you Game of Thrones fans, here's an discussion of Targaryen inbreeding and genetics with reference to the deformities in the (real world) Hapsburg family lines. (via the Gene Expression blog)
- Bring the love (Mindhacks)
The film The Love Competition is about a "love competition" held in a real MRI scanner. While it wasn't meant to be research or part of a scientific study, real MRIs were made.
"...when a group of participants were instructed to ruminate on the person or concept they associate with love, BOLD signal in the nucleus accumbens showed individual differences."
Link to the film: http://vimeo.com/33698394
- Featured Entertainer: Maggie Malone | The Science & Entertainment Exchange
Maggie Malone, Director of Development at Walt Disney Animation Studios says:
"Science consultants have spent their lifetimes in the library, the lab, and the field. They have logged lots of boring hours and accrued some amazing tales of experiences you cannot find in books. When we speak with them, we get the benefit of all their years of study, with all the boring bits cut out."
- gamrConnect Forums - How Evolution Defines Mass Effect's Aliens
This is some fun speculation about how the different alien races in Bioware's Mass Effect universe could have evolved. The author points out: "Evolutionary biology plays an important role in achieving immersion in the 'believable' ME galaxy"
- Let There Be (Living) Light: Bioluminescence in Nature | Anthropology in Practice, Scientific American Blog Network
A look at bioluminescensce in folklore, plus a review of the new bioluminescensce exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History.
- Anatomical Neon, Glowing Human Organ Sculptures
Fantastic glass sculptures of human organs filled with glowing neon "and other inert gasses"
- So You Think About Dance? | The Scientist
Watching dance makes your brain activity similar to that of a dancer.
- Should science fiction and fantasy do more than entertain?
Damien Walter argues that "fantastika" is more than just entertainment:
"If science fiction, fantasy, horror, and even relative new kids on the genre block such as steampunk are part of a centuries-long tradition of fantastika, then it's even more important that they are positive in their representation of issues like gender and race. "
- How Pandemics Spread (YouTube)
- Breaking: James Cameron Completes Record-Breaking Mariana Trench Dive
- Scientists turn living cell into laser | SmartPlanet
It's a bit premature to talk about "attacking cells deep within the body", but it's pretty neat that putting together two mirrors, kidney cells expressing green fluorescent protein and a light source can stimulate living cells to generate a laser beam.
- How do you buy organs on the black market?
From horror musicals like Repo! the Genetic Opera to the much more thoughtful novels like Never Let Me Go, science fiction often suggests that the real present-day problem of a lack of donor organs necessarily requires terrible decisions. While increasing the pool of voluntary donors is an obvious solution, I hope in the longer term we'll eventually be able to turn to more technological solutions like artificial organ replacements.
- Butterfly wings' 'art of blackness' could boost production of green fuels
The tiny scales on butterfly wings are a natural solar energy collectors that the butterfly normally uses to keep itself warm. Now a research team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China is using the structure of the black butterfly scales as a template for titanium structures that catalyze the production of hydrogen gas from water. The hope is that could create a potential renewable energy source.
- Living human gut-on-a-chip: Tiny device simulates structure, microenvironment, and mechanical behavior of human intestine
This new device looks like a pretty impressive simulation of the human gut, right down to the growth of common intestinal microbes. The secret is that the interior of the device is lined with living human intestinal cells. While it's designed as a model for human disease, could this also be a step towards artificial intestines?
- Man Hugs Doctor after Seeing Face Transplant in Mirror
Amazing surgery gives a man a face.
- Dolphin society 'is run by gangs'
Male dolphins form different kinds of alliances from "Buddiess" (groups of 2-3), "Gangs" (up to 14 males) and much larger "Armies". No word on whether female dolphins also form social alliances.("Buddies" is my own term. I figure it's no more anthropomorphizing that "Gangs")
- New plastics 'bleed' when cut or scratched -- and then heal like human skin
When the plastic is damaged red splotches form. When the damaged area is exposed to visible light or a change in pH or temperature, the molecules that make up the plastic form "bridges" that heal the damage.
- Life-changing experiments: The biological Higgs
I don't think it's really meaningful to compare the big questions in biology to the discovery of the Higg's boson in physics, since biology is more complicated than does-it-or-doesn't-it-exist type questions
The exception would be discovery of extraterrestrial life. But is that likely? I'm willing to bet that several more decades of meaningful-yet-messy research into how the brain works and how our lifespans could be extended is more likely to bear fruit than the search for life off Earth, even if there isn't a single "A ha!" moment.
- How the Cost of Computation Restricts the Processes of Life - Technology Review
I don't feel like I have a good enough understanding of what is meant by "computation" in a biological context to decide if this sounds like it's a useful way of looking at biological processes like sporulation of yeast or not. Interesting idea, though.
- Bart Weetjens: How I taught rats to sniff out land mines (YouTube)
Sometimes nature has invented tools that are as good as - or even better than - technology we humans create from scratch. In this case, Bart Weetjens and his organization APOPO has trained African giant pouched rats to efficiently sniff out land mines.
APOPO is also training the rats to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis in human spit, which is faster than microscopy methods currently in use to diagnose tuberculosis.
- MIT news: Conjuring Memories Artificially:
Simply activating a tiny number of neurons can conjure an entire memory.
- Brain.mov (YouTube)
A dramatic 3D display of the connections in the brain of the owl monkey.
More information at Technology Review and American Scientist
- CultureLab: The matter of your brain
Bridging the gap between the "physical" and the "mental": a review of "Brains" the new show at London's Wellcome Collection.
- Slacker Rat, Worker Rat - Science News
Amphetamines make slacker rats work harder, but make worker rats slack off.
- Scientists have proven that, up close, your brain is plaid
The brain is more organized that previously expected.
- Foods in the Year 2000 | Oscillator, Scientific American Blog Network
Christina Agapakis looks at food synthesis in space, synthetic biology and what "future food" looked like from the perspective of the 1890s.
- NYC Dept of Education wants to ban the word "dinosaur" from standardized tests
Apparently NYC standardized tests don't cover biology.
(It reminds me of Connie Willis's short story "Ado" where Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing is gutted as any bit that might offend someone is removed.)
Other Planets and Alien Life
- Why black (or blue, or red) plants might be the key to finding life beyond Earth
Life on other planets may be colorful!
- Science Fiction or Fact: ET Will Look Like Us
Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at SETI sums up the answer nicely:
"Why should they look like us? No other creatures look that much like us, except for other apes."
He also points out: "An alien will look like whatever its evolutionary niche is."
Despite that, the article gives a 3 out of 4 plausibility rating for the idea that extraterrestrial aliens will look like "us". What the heck?
- If We Discover Aliens, What's Our Protocol for Making Contact?
It seems like the biggest mistake we could make is assuming that aliens will think and behave like humans and that they likewise understand our behavior. Do open gun ports signify an imminent attack or are they a sign of respect?
- Science Fiction or Fact: Sentient Living Planets Exist
The article doesn't really focus on planets themselves that could be sentient, like the Gaia of Asimov's Foundation universe. Instead it asks whether a network of living beings on the surface of a planet could become sentient. In either case, the answer is "pretty darn unlikely".
- “Snowing Microbes” On Saturn’s Moon?
It's all speculation at the moment, but Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porcini thinks there's the possibility of life in ice jets of Enceladus:
"In the end, it’s is the most promising place I know of for an astrobiology search. We don’t even need to go scratching around on the surface. We can fly through the plume and sample it. Or we can land on the surface, look up and stick our tongues out. And voilà…we have what we came for.”
- Could Life Be Abundant In Our Galaxy?
Biology in Science Fiction
Promote Your Page Too