We Should Toss That $450M da Vinci into a Particle Accelerator

By Carl Engelking | November 17, 2017 3:57 pm

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A portrait of the world’s most recognizable person, Jesus Christ, painted by an icon whose renown doesn’t trail too far behind, Leonardo da Vinci, on Wednesday sold at auction for $450.3 million, setting a new record for artistic largesse.

Only a handful of authentic da Vinci paintings exist today, and Salvator Mundi is the only one that could still be purchased by a deep-pocketed collector. Christie’s Auction House billed the work as “The Last da Vinci,” “the holy grail of our business.” And on Wednesday a perfect storm of salesmanship, extreme scarcity, and legendary celebrity inflated the price to unprecedented levels. Salvator Mundi is now the golden standard of value by which all other paintings will be measured. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Signatures of Alzheimer’s Disease Discovered in Dolphins

By Maria Carolina Gallego-Iradi and David Borchelt | November 15, 2017 1:17 pm
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(Credit: Shutterstock)

A team of scientists in the United Kingdom and the U.S. recently reported the discovery of pathological signs of Alzheimer’s disease in dolphins, animals whose brains are similar in many ways to those of humans.

This is the first time that these signs – neurofibrillary tangles and two kinds of protein clusters called plaques – have been discovered together in marine mammals. As neuroscience researchers, we believe this discovery has added significance because of the similarities between dolphin brains and human brains. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Is Cannabis an Effective Sleep Aid?

By Deirdre Conroy | November 10, 2017 10:27 am
man smoking a marijuana cigarette

(Credit: Shutterstock)

If you speak to someone who has suffered from insomnia at all as an adult, chances are good that person has either tried using marijuana, or cannabis, for sleep or has thought about it.

This is reflected in the many variations of cannabinoid or cannabis-based medicines available to improve sleep – like Nabilone, Dronabinol and Marinol. It’s also a common reason why many cannabis users seek medical marijuana cards. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: personal health

Jane Goodall, Redux

By Mark Barna | November 7, 2017 1:58 pm
Jane Goodall in Gombe,

Jane Goodall in Gombe Stream National Park, circa 1965. (Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute)

Jane Goodall has been a flashpoint in science circles. Was her years-long study of chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania real science? Or was it too subjective to have scientific value?

The questions arise anew in the wake of a new documentary, Jane, that looks back at Goodall’s career and how she became a household name in the 1960s. In 1965, her CBS special Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees was watched by 25 million people in North America. A paper published last month in Scientific Data on an aspect of her research has also added to the conversation. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts

Hey Kim, Stephen Hawking’s PhD Thesis Also ‘Broke the Internet’

By James Geach, University of Hertfordshire | October 26, 2017 11:25 am
hawking

(Credit: Shutterstock)

The PhD thesis of perhaps the world’s most famous living scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, was recently made publicly available online. It has proved so popular that the demand to read it reportedly crashed its host website when it was initially uploaded.

But given the complexity of the topic – “Properties of Expanding Universes” – and the fact that Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time is also known as the most unread book of all time, you might benefit from a summary of its main result. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: mathematics, physics

When Wealth Inequality Arose

By Mark Barna | October 20, 2017 12:30 pm
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Anthropologist Teresea Fernandez-Crespo examined megaliths, or stone burial sites, in north-central Spain to learn more about how farmers lived in the Late Neolithic. (Teresea Fernandez-Crespo)

We’ve heard how great times used to be, and I don’t mean in 1950s America.

For eons, our hunter-gatherer ancestors shared their spoils with one another, didn’t own much and had very little social hierarchy. Sure, it wasn’t all kumbaya and high-fives. But the fact that individuals had so few personal possessions took the bitter dish of economic inequality off the table.

So how’d we get to a world today where 1 percent of the population controls so much of the wealth? Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

Marie Curie: Iconic Scientist, Nobel Prize Winner…War Hero?

By Timothy J. Jorgensen, Georgetown University | October 11, 2017 2:32 pm
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Marie Curie in one of her mobile X-ray units in October 1917. (Credit: Eve Curie)

Ask people to name the most famous historical woman of science and their answer will likely be: Madame Marie Curie. Push further and ask what she did, and they might say it was something related to radioactivity. (She actually discovered the radioisotopes radium and polonium.) Some might also know that she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. (She actually won two.)

But few will know she was also a major hero of World War I. In fact, a visitor to her Paris laboratory in October of 1917 – 100 years ago this month – would not have found either her or her radium on the premises. Her radium was in hiding and she was at war. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: medical technology

We Almost Gave Up On Building Artificial Brains

By John Wenz | October 11, 2017 11:37 am

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Today artificial neural networks are making art, writing speeches, identifying faces and even driving cars. It feels as if we’re riding the wave of a novel technological era, but the current rise in neural networks is actually a renaissance of sorts.

It may be hard to believe, but artificial intelligence researchers were already beginning to see the promise in neural networks during World War II in their mathematical models. But by the 1970s, the field was ready to give up on them entirely. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Acupuncture Works by ‘Re-Wiring’ the Brain, Evidence Suggests

By Vitaly Napadow | October 6, 2017 11:13 am
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(Credit: Shutterstock)

Acupuncture is a form of traditional medical therapy that originated in China several thousand years ago. It was developed at a time bereft of tools such as genetic testing or even a modern understanding of anatomy, so medical philosophers did the best they could with what was available – herbs, animal products and rudimentary needles. In the process, perhaps, they stumbled on an effective medical approach.

In the past century, some modernization has taken place. For instance, acupuncture has been paired with electrical currents, allowing for stimulation to be more continuous and to penetrate deeper into the body. This approach was termed electro-acupuncture and represents a convergence between the ancient practice of acupuncture therapy and modern forays into targeted electrostimulation delivered to the skin or nerves. Such approaches have attracted the attention of the pharmaceutical industry and are part of a growing class of neuromodulatory therapies. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Brazil’s Moon Tree Warrior

By Andrew Jenner | October 2, 2017 3:46 pm
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Vilso Cembranel tends to the moon tree he saved from the brink of death. (Credit: Andrew Jenner)

On a warm, windy August day in 1981, a crowd gathered at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa for the final event of the soybean fair that’s held every other year in the small city in southern Brazil.

Schools had let out so local students could attend, along with curious fairgoers and a collection of bigwigs whose rank rose all the way up to João Figueiredo, then the president of Brazil. Speeches were made, the national anthem played, and then, around 1 p.m., a small tree was planted to symbolize a new ecological consciousness that was stirring in the heart of Brazilian farm country.

“The moment the tree was planted, all the city’s church bells started ringing,” recalls Nilso Guidolin, president of the 1981 soybean fair. “It was a joyful moment.” And it was a very special tree: a Sequoia sempervirens, or California redwood, grown from a seed that had traveled to the moon. After being planted with much fanfare, this symbolic tree was forgotten, neglected and abused over the following years. It almost died. It needed a hero. Read More

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