Four racing teams from around the world will gather in France this spring to compete for a first-of-its-kind title.
Their vehicles will “inch” to the starting line and explode into motion to kick off a marathon 36-hour race that will have covered less than the width of a human hair by the time a victor is crowned. The vehicles participating in the race are custom-built tuners assembled out of a few hundred atoms by researchers, which are propelled across the surface of a gold disk by a stream of electrons. The NanoCarsRace is the brainchild of two French researchers with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and adds some high-octane thrills to the fairly serious discipline of manipulating particles on the atomic scale. Read More
Natural gas pipeline leaks that pose a safety hazard are quickly addressed. But what about leaks too small to pose a threat? These mall leaks are often overlooked and they collectively release tons of methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Read More
That spinach on your plate deserves more credit. Not only is it packed with folic acid and other health benefits, it could also help scientists regenerate human tissue. Read More
Thanks to the architecture in our eyes, we see but a small subset of the hues that make up the visible spectrum.
We only have three kinds of cones, or color-sensitive cells, to make sense of what could be millions or even hundreds of millions of colors. We still do a pretty good job of it — normal human eyes can pick out about a million different colors, far more than we have ever come up with names for. Still, we could conceivably do better.
More cones would detect more combinations of colors and ever more subtle distinctions between shades. Some people, called tetrachromats, actually possess an extra cone and can see colors invisible to the rest of us. Now, for those of us not blessed with such a mutation, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have devised a pair of lenses that splits the color spectrum to turn us into artificial tetrachromats. Read More
Whether we like to or not, we’re all gamblers.
Every waking moment, countless stem cells inside our bodies are dividing in order to replace worn out biological machinery. But every time these perfectly healthy cells divide, roughly three mistakes occur in the genetic code—no one’s perfect. These mutations, though unpredictable, are typically benign, but sometimes this molecular game of Roulette takes an unlucky turn. Read More
The majority of our cells die noble deaths; they cease to be once they’re damaged beyond repair. However, some ragged cells refuse to turn out the lights, and that’s where the trouble begins.
These stubborn, damaged cells can accumulate in the body over time, and they can accelerate the aging process and cause the onset of disease. But there might be a way to put these lingerers out of their misery. Peter de Keizer, a researcher of aging at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and others designed a peptide—a chain of two or more amino acids—that, when injected into mice, encouraged their bodies to give the unhealthy cells the coup de grâce and make way for new ones.
After receiving researchers’ peptide treatment for 10 months, aged mice started running more, their patchy coats thickened with fur and their kidneys improved in health. Now, researchers are testing whether their peptide can extend lifespans and human safety studies are in the works.
In the water cycle, what comes out of us eventually goes back in. Along the way, we can make it something better.
That’s the idea behind a new beer from San Diego’s Stone Brewery made from the city’s recycled wastewater. Their aptly named Full Circle Pale Ale uses water from Pure Water San Diego, a water treatment company that aims to supply one-third of the city’s water within the next two decades. They’ve partnered with the brewery to give the much-maligned concept of “toilet to tap” a tastier image. Read More
Some of the world’s first robotic police officers will reportedly hit the streets of Dubai in May.
Brigadier Abdullah Bin Sultan, director of the Future Shaping Centre of Dubai Police, made the announcement Monday during a police forum held in the city. By 2030, Dubai officials hope that up to 25 percent of their police force will be artificially intelligent. This, from the same crime-fighting organization that has Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley patrol cars parked in its garage. Read More
Need to memorize a series of numbers? Try this: Imagine yourself walking through a house while locking visualizations of a “12” or “78” into different rooms and cabinets located throughout the house.
You’ve just used the “method of loci,” which is a fundamental memorization technique that dates back to ancient Greece and is employed by champion memory athletes. Radboud University Medical Center neuroscientist Martin Dresler, lead author of a study recently published in the journal Neuron, explored how this ancient strategy affects brain activity, and whether its an effective training tool for the average memorization weekend warrior.
“Our brains and memory mechanisms did not evolve to encode abstract information like numbers of language, but rather concrete visuospatial information…where to find food sources, how to find home, where to meet,” says Dresler.
Dresler’s findings are encouraging for even the most forgetful: Memory athletes don’t have some secret, biological advantage; instead, memory, like so many things in life, can be significantly improved with patience and practice. After training, memory novices went from remembering 26 words from a list, to 62, and their performance remained elevated months after training ended.
They divided 51 participants into three groups: a control, method of loci students, and a group that trained using the N-back task—remembering sequences in an activity akin to the game Concentration. Over 40 days, participants were challenged to recall a list of 72 words after 30-minute training sessions.
Before training, individuals could remember 26 to 30 words from the list. After training sessions, method of loci groups remembered 35 more words, while the control group and N-back test recalled just 7 and 11 more words, respectively.
Four months later, the method of loci group could still recall 22 more words than before training, indicating the effects tend to stick. The control group’s performance, meanwhile, declined, and the active memorization group showed virtually no improvement, which was somewhat surprising according to Howard Nusbaum, a University of Chicago researcher unaffiliated with the study.
“There is currently a controversy about whether improving working memory this way [with active, Concentration-style memory games] would affect other abilities like long-term memory. This study shows it does not,” says Nusbaum.
Scientists also monitored participants’ brain activity using a functional MRI scanner, and keyed in on 25 connections that most differentiated memory athletes from novices, and identified two major hubs of brain connectivity: the medial prefrontal cortex, which facilitates our ability to relate new information to pre-existing knowledge, and the right dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, which aids in mentally encoded information a structured way.
The training sessions altered patterns of activity in novice brains, and they started making connections similarly to memory athletes.
We know little about how this pattern of brain activity promotes memorization, or what long-term effect using the mnemonic trick could have, but as Nusbaum notes, the study shows how old dogs can learn new tricks.
“Many people despair that they are stuck with a set of habits or approaches or limitations—they are stuck with the brain they have. This study demonstrates that we can change our brains and our behavior by focused practice,” he says.
A trove of footage from early U.S. nuclear weapons tests has just been declassified and uploaded to YouTube.
The film release was part of a project headed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapons physicist Greg Spriggs which aimed to digitize and preserve thousands of films documenting the nation’s nuclear history. The endeavor required an all-hands-on deck approach from archivists, film experts and software engineers, but the team says that this digitized database is already yielding new insights from the decades-old tests. Read More