Archive for March, 2012

A Drug That Could Give You Perfect Visual Memory

 

 

Imagine if you could look at something once and remember it forever. You would never have to ask for directions again. Now a group of scientists has isolated a protein that mega-boosts your ability to remember what you see.

A group of Spanish researchers reported today in Science that they may have stumbled upon a substance that could become the ultimate memory-enhancer. The group was studying a poorly-understood region of the visual cortex. They found that if they boosted production of a protein called RGS-14 (pictured) in that area of the visual cortex in mice, it dramatically affected the animals’ ability to remember objects they had seen.

Mice with the RGS-14 boost could remember objects they had seen for up to two months. Ordinarily the same mice would only be able to remember these objects for about an hour.

The researchers concluded that this region of the visual cortex, known as layer six of region V2, is responsible for creating visual memories. When the region is removed, mice can no longer remember any object they see.

If this protein boosts visual memory in humans, the implications are staggering. In their paper, the researchers say that it could be used as a memory-enhancer – which seems like an understatement. What’s particularly intriguing is the fact that this protein works on visual memory only. So as I mentioned earlier, it would be perfect for mapping. It would also be useful for engineers and architects who need to hold a lot of visual images in their minds at once. And it would also be a great drug for detectives and spies.

Could it also be a way to gain photographic memory? For example, if I look at a page of text will I remember the words perfectly? Or will I simply remember how the page looked?

I can’t see much of a downside for this potential drug, unless the act of not forgetting what you see causes problems or trauma.

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Posted: March 29, 2012 in Science

1. Shoulder to Shoulder Math Equations

Anyone who claims tattoos are for idiots should take up their issues with Joe, a molecular biophysicist/biochemist. While there are plenty of math tattoos out there, this one is special thanks to the sheer quantity of space given up in prime tattoo real estate. In case you were wondering, the first line is the Born Oppenheimer Approximation, the second is the same equation in the form of a 3-Dimensional Schrödinger Equation, and the final line is the solution in the form of a Schrödinger Equation.

2. Blue Screen of Death

Yes, this particular blue screen text, from a Windows 98 OS, may already be outdated, but Paul, the tattooee, wanted to reflect how fleeting technology can be in our modern lives. And with that in mind, the tattoo is perfect.

3. Pandora’s Viruses

It’s not just that this tattoo incorporates Greek mythology or pathogens, it’s that it has managed to seamlessly blend the two in such an utterly perfect manner. In case you were wondering who would get a tattoo covered in viruses, the bearer is an immunologist.

4. Cthulhu Monopoly

It’s one thing to get a tattoo of your favorite board game or even your favorite Lovecraftian monster, but when you combine the two into an utterly adorable mash up, that’s when you deserve a place on a geeky tattoos list.

5. Hitchhiker’s Guide: Don’t Panic

There are plenty of Hitchhiker’s Guide tattoos, but I have yet to see one as perfectly humorous and complexly obscure to those who haven’t read the series.

6. Horseshoe Crab Biology Diagram

While any biology diagram tattoo would be pretty dorky, Lauren, a biology grad student, managed to secure her place on this list with an equally geeky explanation for choosing the subject: “Perhaps the most magnificent living fossil of all, the horseshoe crab is the survivor of a lineage that extends back some 445 million years into the Ordovician.”

7. Cyborg Lincoln

What could be geekier than showing your love for one of America’s greatest historical figures with a tattoo? Mixing that image with a touch of science fiction by making him a cyborg to create your own Abeborgham creation.

8. 8″ Ruler

Not many tattoos are as functional as this 8” ruler on Flickr user Mikeysklar. Of course, if he added a metric measurement to the ruler, it would not only double his measuring efficiency, but it would also provide him with a rather useful metric to English conversion table in the process.

9. QR Code

Barcodes are so 2001. These days, it’s all about QR codes, and unsurprisingly, tattoos are following in the same direction. This particular code, as seen on Jully Nascimento of Brazil, reads “hold on” when scanned, a reference to a Good Charlotte song that was particularly meaningful to the wearer’s youth.

10. Hello Kitty Meets Boba Fett

It was actually hard to find a Star Wars tattoo that deserved to make this list—there are so many out there, they’ve neutralized the geek level of each individual piece. Fortunately, when you combine a classic Star Wars icon with the queen of cartoon kitties, you certainly cross the line into ultimate geekdom.

11. Ctrl Alt Delete

This computer scientist believes it’s always important to remember that when things are screwed up beyond repair, you should always try rebooting. I think that’s a lesson many of us can identify with.
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A few years ago, many of our readers shared their own tattoo photos (see the gallery here). Anyone have any new geeky tattoos?

Read the full text here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/92188#ixzz1qUjb2fn3
–brought to you by mental_floss!

Working Model

Posted: March 27, 2012 in Technology

11 cheap gifts guaranteed to impress science geeks

Science comes up with a lot of awesome stuff, and you don’t need a Ph.D, a secret lab, or government funding to get your hands on some of the coolest discoveries. We’ve got a list of 11 mostly affordable gifts that are guaranteed to blow your mind, whether or not you’re a science geek.

Click on any image to see it enlarged.


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1. Aerogel

Also known as frozen smoke, Aerogel is the world’s lowest density solid, clocking in at 96% air. It’s basically just a gel made from silicon, except all the liquid has been taken out and replaced with gas instead. If you hold a small piece in your hand, it’s practically impossible to either see or feel, but if you poke it, it’s like styrofoam.

Aerogel isn’t just neat, it’s useful. It supports up to 4,000 times its own weight and can apparently withstand a direct blast from two pounds of dynamite. It’s also the best insulator in existence, which is why we don’t have Aerogel jackets: it works so well that people were complaining about overheating on Mt. Everest.

Price: $35


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2. EcoSphere

Inside these sealed glass balls live shrimp, algae, and bacteria, all swimming around in filtered seawater. Put it somewhere with some light, and this little ecosystem will chug along happily for years, no feeding or cleaning necessary, totally oblivious to the fact that the rest of the world exists outside.

EcoSpheres came out of research looking at ways to develop self-contained ecosystems for long duration space travel. They’re like little microcosms for the entire world, man. But ask yourself: are we the shrimp, or the algae?

Price: $80


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3. Mars Rock

NASA has been trying to figure out how to get a sample of rock back from Mars for a while now. You can beat them to the punch and pick up a little piece of the red planet without having to travel a hundred million miles, by just taking advantage of all the rocks Mars sends our way.

Every once in a while, a meteorite smashes into Mars hard enough to eject some rocks out into orbit around the sun. And every once in a while, one of these rocks lands on Earth. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and whoever finds the meteorite is allowed to cut it up into bits and sell it to people who want to have their very own piece of another planet.

Price: $70+


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4. Gömböc

The Gömböc is a self-righting object, which means that no matter which way you put it down, it stands itself back up. It’s like a Weeble, except it doesn’t cheat by having a weight at the bottom, and it’s the only shape that can do this.

The existence of a shape with these properties was conjectured in 1995, but it took ten years for someone to figure out how to actually make one that worked. And then everyone was embarrassed when it turned out that turtles had evolved this same basic shape in their shells a long time ago, to make it easier for them to roll themselves back over if they get flipped.

Price: $150


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5. Violet Laser Pointer

It’s no longer geeky enough to have a red laser pointer, or a green laser pointer, or even a blue laser pointer. Keep moving up the spectrum until you get to violet, and you’ll find the new hotness at 405 nanometers.

So what’s next year’s new color going to be? It’s looking like orange, but they’re not quite what I’d call affordable yet. Something to look forward to for next year, especially if you’re going for your own personal laser rainbow.

Price: $110


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6. Gallium

Gallium is a silvery metal with atomic number 31. It’s used in semiconductors and LEDs, but the cool thing about it is its melting point, which is only about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If you hold a solid gallium crystal in your hand, your body heat will cause it to slowly melt into a silvery metallic puddle. Pour it into a dish, and it freezes back into a solid.

While you probably shouldn’t lick your fingers after playing with it, gallium isn’t toxic and won’t make you crazy like mercury does. And if you get tired of it, you can melt it onto glass and make yourself a mirror.

Price: $80


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7. Miracle Berries

By themselves, Miracle berries don’t taste like much. The reason to eat them is that they contain a chemical called miraculin that binds to the sweet taste receptors on your tongue, changing their shape and making them respond to sour and acidic foods.

The upshot of this effect is that some things you eat taste spectacularly different. Straight Tabasco sauce tastes like donut glaze. Guinness tastes like a chocolate malt. Goat cheese tastes like cheesecake. After about an hour of craziness, your taste buds go back to normal, no harm done.

Price: $15


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8. DNA Genotyping

There’s nothing more personal than someone’s own DNA. And there are ways to give the gift DNA that won’t get you children or arrested. With just a little bit of spit, you can get an genotype analysis that will reveal fun insights about longevity, intelligence, susceptibility to diseases, and even food preferences.

While the technology hasn’t reached the point where you can affordably get a complete sequence of an entire genome, looking at specific markers is still good enough to suggest some things worth looking out for while spurring a lively nature versus nurture debate.

Price: $100


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9. Klein Bottle

If you want to give a mathematician something to try to wrap their head around, a Klein bottle is a good place to start. A real Klein bottle is an object with no inside and no outside that can only exist in four dimensions. These glass models exist in three, which means that unlike the real thing, they can actually hold liquid.

The difference between the models and the real thing is that by adding an extra dimension, you can make it so that the neck of the bottle doesn’t actually intersect the side of the bottle. Take a couple aspirin and try to picture that in your head.

Price: $35


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10. Giant Plush Microbes

They’re cute! They’re fuzzy! They’re potentially deadly! All of the microbes, bacteria, and viruses that you know and love (or maybe not) are available in huggable forms about a million times larger than real life. In the picture are gonorrhea, syphilis, mono, and herpes.

These giant plushes are the perfect way to make the holidays even more awkward, when you present your friends with a variety of adorable STDs. Microbiologists, at least, will appreciate that they’re more or less anatomically correct, too.

Price: $9


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11. Ferrofluid

Magnetic particles suspended in oil never looked so sexy. That’s all a ferrofluid is, and it looks pretty gross until you put it in close proximity to a magnet, at which point it grows spikes all over the place as the fluid flows out along magnetic force lines.

Ferrofluids are found in everything from speakers to hard drives, but it’s much more fun to play with when when you’ve got a puddle of it naked and out in the open.

Price: $40



I hope this is future technology :)

3D Technology

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Technology

The inner life of the CELL

Posted: March 25, 2012 in Science