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Friday Coffee Break: 2,000 Year-Old Skull Operations, Toys Become Medical Devices, and More Medical Marvels

August 19, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

ANCIENT SAHARAN SKULL OPERATIONS
Desert-society healers appear to have operated on skulls 2,000 years ago.
MIRRORS AND THE BRAIN
Experiments with a simple mirror setup reveal intricacies of the brain and self-representation.
NIH RANTS WANTED
Do you think PhDs take too long? Feel trapped in a postdoc with no job opportunities in sight? Worried about the state of biomedical research funding? The NIH wants to know now!
SECOND (MEDICAL) LIFE FOR OLD TOYS
Old toys become medical devices to help developing nations while recycling used materials.
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Lions, Reforestation, and Satire: Strategies in Environmental Conservation

August 17, 2011

As the Greek economy maintains its slide towards default and the global climate continues to change for the worse, one organisation, writing in Biotropica, has come up with some novel answers to both problems. Reforest the country to offset historic deforestation and reintroduce long extinct animals such as lions, boosting the economy through eco-tourism.

The Coalition of Financially Challenged Countries With Lots of Trees (CoFCCLoT) also count the introduction of wild gorillas to Spain and the return of forests in G8 nations back to pre-industrial levels, among its suggestions for global sustainability.

CoFCCLoT of course does not exist. However, argue Erik Meijaard and Douglas Sheil, from the University of Queensland and the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation respectively, this fictitious organisation’s demands are an example of the effective use of satire to bridge seemingly impassable gaps in the understanding of politically contentious issues.

“Mockery is seldom part of the scientific approach, but it is effective when it comes to sustainability and the environment,” said Meijaard. “Scientists tend to approach problems using objective logic and data, ignoring the emotional content and subjective values. Conservation science is especially vulnerable as it is about values as much as facts.” Read more here! ⇒

Friday Coffee Break: Towing Icebergs, Filming Chemistry, and Other Fantastic Feats of Science

August 12, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

WATER FLOWED (FLOWS?) ON MARS
Water probably flowed across ancient Mars, but whether it ever exists as a liquid on the surface today remains debatable.
HOW TO TOW A BUILDING-SIZED ICEBERG
A French engineer dreams of towing a six-million-ton iceberg from Antarctica to Africa using a rope and a tugboat.
TURNING TRASH INTO BIOFUEL
Turning garbage into fuel is potentially an answer to two pressing problems—diminishing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels and an alternative to burying trash in landfills. Edmonton, Canada’s chief oil city, will lead the way in 2012.
VIDEO COMPETITION: FIND CHEMISTRY IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Submit a 3-minute video to ChemistryViews sharing where chemistry appears in your everyday life. Contest is open now through September 30, 2011.

Friday Coffee Break: Hotlips, Muscle Growth, and Other Unusual Science

August 5, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

EXPLAINING NANOPARTICLES WITH TENNIS BALLS & WIGS
A Czech chemist who used a tennis ball with a Pippi Longstocking wig won the audience-award at an international competition looking for the world’s top scientific communicators.
APPLE PEEL PROMOTES MUSCLE GROWTH
A waxy substance known as ursolic acid found in the apple peel reduces muscle atrophy and promotes muscle growth in mice.
STEM CELL COURT VICTORY
The federal court has finally decided to throw out Sherley v. Sebelius, a lawsuit filed in 2009 that threatened to shut down federally funded research on human embryonic stem cells.
NAME A SPECIES 2011
Results are in for Natural England’s “Name a Species” competition, intended to finally assign a name to heretofore unnamed species. The overall winner? “Hotlips.”

Pendulum Waves: The Art of Physics

August 1, 2011

Referred to as “kinetic art,” the fifteen uncoupled simple pendulums in this video perform a one-minute dance together, showing off a choreography of traveling waves, standing waves, beating, and random motion. The longest pendulum executes 51 oscillations in this 60 second period, and each successive pendulum is shortened so that it executes one additional oscillation; thus, the 15th pendulum (the shortest one) executes 65 oscillations. At the end of that one minute period, all of the pendulums will have completed their given number of oscillations and be back in sync again, ready to repeat the performance.

The apparatus in this video was built from a design published by Richard Berg1 at the University of Maryland (who claims to have copied from someone else who copied from someone else…suffice to say, this isn’t the first of its kind).

Read more at Harvard Natural Science Lectures.

1. Berg, R. (1991). Pendulum waves: A demonstration of wave motion using pendula American Journal of Physics, 59 (2) DOI: 10.1119/1.16608

Friday Coffee Break: Dyslexie, Umami, and Other Oddities

July 29, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

DYSLEXIE — A NEW TYPEFACE TO HELP DYSLEXICS READ
A cleverly designed typeface addresses the typographical issues that cause some of the confusion dyslexics can experience reading.
WHAT IS UMAMI (AND DOES IT EXIST)?
After many years of eating and research, scientists (and chefs) now count umami as a mysterious fifth taste.
STICKS INSECTS SURVIVE 1 MILLION YEARS WITHOUT SEX
Instead, the insects reproduce by cloning and with “virgin births.”
125 GREATEST SCIENCE VIDEOS
OpenCulture.com presents their best videos from the last five years, including “Earthrise in HD,” “What It Feels Like To Have a Stroke,” and “Nature by Numbers.”

Friday Coffee Break

July 22, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

TINY SNAILS LIVE ON AFTER BEING EATEN BY BIRDS
Being eaten as the cost of airfare might not be a bad deal, at least for the Tornatellides boeningi, which can survive the ride in the digestive track of avian predators.
NEW BUILDING CONSTRUCTED OF 65 SHIPPING CONTAINERS
An LA-based architectural design firm sketches plans for an environmental education center made from 65 recycled shipping containers.
A SPORTING EVENT FOR CELL BIOLOGISTS
In the World Cell Race (which begins at the end of July), mammalian cells will compete in the 1/10th millimeter dash!
WIRELESS POWER COULD CUT CORD FOR HEART PUMPS
Wireless power, similar to what is used in electric toothbrush charging stations and cell phone charging pads, could eliminate the need for cords in patients using ventricular assist devices as they await heart transplants.