Latest Blog Posts


Single-Unit Recordings Reveal Limitations of fMRI MVPA?

By Neuroskeptic | March 2, 2015 3:06 am

Multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA) is an increasingly popular approach for analyzing the results of fMRI scanning experiments that measure brain activity. MVPA searches for patterns of activation that correlate with a particular mental state. This is called ‘decoding’ neural activity.

Now a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience from Caltech neuroscientists Julien Dubois et al. reports that MVPA is unable to decode certain kinds of information, even though single-unit recordings confirm th …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: animals, fMRI, methods, papers, select, Top Posts


Bill Nye Had a Fixed View on GMOs. Then Something Happened.

By Keith Kloor | March 2, 2015 1:39 am

A decade ago, Bill Nye, aka The Science Guy, did a segment on GMOs for his TV show. His approach surprised some who saw it years later. “It was weightily anti-GMO, something I wouldn’t have expected from Bill Nye,” one writer has noted.

You can watch it yourself and decide. Others have rendered their judgement: Greenpeace, which campaigns against genetically modified crops (when it is not ripping them up), has given the Nye GMO episode a thumbs up. Rodale, a well known organization also opp …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: agriculture, biotechnology, GMOs

Body Horrors

When Cells Attack!

By Rebecca Kreston | February 28, 2015 9:25 pm

The cells of our immune system are the guardians of the human body, forever contending with various unwelcome intruders from viruses to drugs to lowly yet painful splinters. They are as industrious as they are indispensable.

Each cell of the immune system has its own objective, its own do-or-die mission. Some of our guardians devour bacteria and fungi in a process known as phagocytosis. Others produce carefully tailored antibodies earmarked for the destruction of pathogenic organisms. A …


Watch the Breath of the Earth in This Very Cool Animation

By Tom Yulsman | February 28, 2015 6:33 pm

Driven by energy from the Sun, air circulates in our planet’s atmosphere in complex but regular patterns. Call it the breath of the planet.

And now you can watch it, thanks to this video released by NASA. When you watch it, you won’t exactly be seeing the wind itself. But you will see the weather systems that, in a sense, make those winds visible.

More specifically, the animation is the first ever to offer a global mapping of rainfall and snowfall. And it consists of data from 12 satel …


Arctic Invasion Chokes East Coast Waters With Ice

By Tom Yulsman | February 28, 2015 4:12 pm

The Arctic invasion that has gripped so much of the United States for so long has turned the waters in and around New York City into something resembling the winter shores of Qaanaaq, Greenland.

Well, I guess that’s an exaggeration. But when I went to NASA’s Earth Observatory today and saw satellite images of the ice choked waters around Gotham, the first thing that came to my mind was the floating sea ice off Greenland.

As the Earth Observatory observes, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”:

Out There

What a Half-Vulcan Taught Us About Science

By Corey S. Powell | February 28, 2015 3:19 pm

The death of Leonard Nimoy yesterday inspired an outpouring of moving testimonials about his vast impact: as an actor, as a supporter of science and smart science fiction, as a voice of reason in media both traditional and digital. You can find these memorials all over Twitter, often accompanied by incredible photos, such as this on-set candid moment and a look at his sensitive moment as an advice columnist. Look at #LLAP (live long and prosper) and see what I mean. Even President Obama weig …

MORE ABOUT: Nimoy, Shatner, Spock, Star Trek


What are the Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience?

By Neuroskeptic | February 28, 2015 3:34 am

In an interesting short paper just published in Trends in Cognitive Science, Caltech neuroscientist Ralph Adolphs offers his thoughts on The Unsolved Problems of Neuroscience.

Here’s Adolphs’ list of the top 23 questions (including 3 “meta” issues), which, he says, was inspired by Hilbert’s famous set of 23 mathematical problems:
Problems that are solved, or soon will be:
I. How do single neurons compute?
II. What is the connectome of a small nervous system, like that of Caenorhabi …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: papers, science, select, Top Posts


Good News, Northerners: Birds from Harsher Climates Are Smarter

By Elizabeth Preston | February 27, 2015 11:02 am

You won’t see a chickadee shoveling out a parking space and claiming it with a folding chair, no matter how good your binoculars are. But birds, too, have to be resourceful when they live in inhospitable climates. Travel just 600 meters up a mountain, and you’ll find chickadees vastly more clever than their peers living a more comfortable life below.

How do you test the cleverness of birds? Using tubes with tasty worms inside, naturally. Biologists don’t like to call animals “smart,” thou …


How to Balance Transparency with Academic Freedom?

By Keith Kloor | February 27, 2015 10:54 am

A succession of stories in recent weeks involving scientists and open records requests have anguished many who cherish two ideals: academic freedom and transparency.

I imagine that journalists have also been grappling with a tension between those two ideals. (I know I have.) More on that in a minute. First a recap.

Two weeks ago, I reported in Science magazine that an anti-GMO group had filed a flurry of freedom of information requests, “asking administrators to turn over any corresponde …

Lovesick Cyborg

How to Grab a Drink Without Leaving Virtual Reality

By Jeremy Hsu | February 27, 2015 10:45 am

How do you physically grab a drink while wearing an Oculus Rift headset that has you immersed in virtual reality? Figuring out how to navigate smoothly between the physical and virtual worlds could greatly improve virtual reality experiences as VR headsets become more widespread in both entertainment and workplaces. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign decided to test out several possible scenarios that would allow people to see just enough of the physical wor …

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts, Uncategorized

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