Archive for the ‘Bio’ Category

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The Biology of Ideology: The anatomy of politics

July 16, 2014

A popular political advertisement from early this summer begins with US President Barack Obama addressing a crowd of moon-eyed supporters. Suddenly, the screen goes dark to a crescendo of minor chords. Phrases such as “Fear and Loathing”, “Nauseating” and “Divide and Conquer” flash onto the screen, along with video clips of commentators complaining that Obama has used scare tactics to manipulate voters. In the final scene, the iconic poster from Obama’s 2008 election campaign appears, the word HOPE transforming into FEAR as it bursts into flames.

The advertisement, produced by the conservative organization American Crossroads in Washington DC, is typical of those that have come to dominate the US airwaves and YouTube in preparation for next month’s presidential election. Emerging from both the right and the left, these commercials increasingly resemble horror films as they seek to sway voters by triggering basic emotions such as fear, anger and disgust.

That strategy fits with emerging scientific evidence about how people acquire their political beliefs. In the past, political scientists agreed that social forces — most importantly, parents and the childhood environment — strongly influenced whether people became conservative or liberal, and whether they voted or engaged in politics at all. “We now know that it is probably not the whole story,” says John Jost, a psychologist at New York University.

Read Full Article at Nature

Also:

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

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Nanoparticles may harm the brain

July 14, 2014

A simple change in electric charge may make the difference between someone getting the medicine they need and a trip to the emergency room—at least if a new study bears out. Researchers investigating the toxicity of particles designed to ferry drugs inside the body have found that carriers with a positive charge on their surface appear to cause damage if they reach the brain.

These particles, called micelles, are one type of a class of materials known as nanoparticles. By varying properties such as charge, composition, and attached surface molecules, researchers can design nanoparticles to deliver medicine to specific body regions and cell types—and even to carry medicine into cells. This ability allows drugs to directly target locations they would otherwise be unable to, such as the heart of tumors. Researchers are also looking at nanoparticles as a way to transport drugs across the blood-brain barrier, a wall of tightly connected cells that keeps most medication out of the brain. Just how safe nanoparticles in the brain are, however, remains unclear.

So Kristina Bram Knudsen, a toxicologist at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, and colleagues tested two types of micelles, which were made from different polymers that gave the micelles either a positive or negative surface charge. They injected both versions, empty of drugs, into the brains of rats, and 1 week later they checked for damage. Three out of the five rats injected with the positively charged micelles developed brain lesions. The rats injected with the negatively charged micelles or a saline control solution did not suffer any observable harm from the injections, the team will report in an upcoming issue of Nanotoxicology.

Knudsen speculates that one of the attributes that makes positive micelles and similar nanoparticles such powerful drug delivery systems may also be what is causing the brain damage. Because cells have a negative charge on their outside, they attract positively charged micelles and bring them into the cell. The micelles’ presence in the cell or alteration of the cell’s surface charge, she says, may disrupt the cell’s normal functioning.

Negatively charged nanoparticles can also enter cells, according to other research. However, they do so less readily and must be able to overcome the repulsion between themselves and the cell surface. It is possible that the reason the negatively charged micelles were not found to be toxic was that they did not invade cells to the same extent as the positively charged micelles.

The findings are intriguing, says biomedical engineer Jordan Green of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. But he cautions that there is no evidence that all positively charged nanoparticles behave this way. Other factors can also play a role in the toxicity of nanoparticles, adds pharmaceutical expert Jian-Qing Gao of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. The size and concentration of the particles, as well as the strain of rat used, could all have influenced the results, he says.

Text and Image via ScienceMag

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A new industry born from the disaster — LED indoor farming

July 14, 2014

Humans have spent the last 10,000 years mastering agriculture. But a freak summer storm or bad drought can still mar many a well-planted harvest. Not anymore, says Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, who has moved industrial-scale farming under the roof.

Working in Miyagi Prefecture in eastern Japan, which was badly hit by powerful earthquake and tsunamis in 2011, Shimamura turned a former Sony Corporation semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm illuminated by LEDs. The special LED fixtures were developed by GE and emit light at wavelengths optimal for plant growth.

The farm is nearly half the size of a football field (25,000 square feet). It opened on July and it is already producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day. “I knew how to grow good vegetables biologically and I wanted to integrate that knowledge with hardware to make things happen,” Shimamura says.

Read full article at GE

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Dogs Smell Time

July 1, 2014

Can you smell time? Your dog can.

On a very basic level, so can you: When you crack the lid on that old quart of milk, tentatively sniff and—peeyouu!—promptly dump that foul stuff down the sink, you are, in effect, smelling time. Specifically, you can smell that far too much time has elapsed since that milk was fresh.

But a dog can smell time with a sophistication that puts our simple sniffers to shame. “Odors exist in time, and dogs perceive that,” explains cognitive scientist and canine researcher Alexandra Horowitz of Columbia University. “Dogs use smell to ‘tell time,’ in some sense, because a more recently laid odor smells stronger, and an older odor smells weaker.”

A dog’s nose is a notoriously sensitive piece of equipment. With up to 300 million olfactory receptors compared to our lousy 5 million, a dog can detect a single teaspoon of sugar dissolved into a million gallons of water, the equivalent of two Olympic-sized swimming pools. Unlike us, dogs are able to take in scent continuously, even as they exhale. What’s more, a dog’s nostrils are smaller than the distance between them, effectively giving dogs “stereo” sniffing power that carries subtle grades of information, including directionality.

Read full article at Strange Attractor

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The Olfactory Future: Share the Smell of a Delicious Meal or a Hideous Flatulence Remotely and in Real-Time

June 21, 2014

Could you send olfactory messages in the future? Could you capture the scent of a delicious meal or something unpleasant and share it? Probably soon but for now, we are beginning to hear (or smell) about devices able to diffuse over 300,000 unique aromas. Among some of these devices entering the market and our consciousness, there are the apparently real, like the oPhone; and the hoaxy, like the Google Nose. Designer Lloyd Alberts has created an speculative product based on the Google Nose. It is called the Sniffer and it is featured in Next Nature.

“There is a landfill somewhere filled with all the products that have miserably failed in their quest to deliver a high quality aromatic communication experience (Smell-O-Vision, Odorama, iSmell, etc).” Lets take a smell at the Ophone. Developed by the inventor and Harvard professor David Edwards and his ex-student developer Rachel Field. According to their Indiegogo writeup:

What is the oPhone?

The oPhone is a revolutionary device that, in combination with our free iPhone app “oSnap”, allows you to send and receive electronic aroma messages. Think of it as a kind of telephone for aromas. With the oPhone, you can now bring complex scent texting into your mobile messaging life, and share sensory experience with anyone, anywhere.

How it Works

The oPhone DUO is able to diffuse over 300,000 unique aromas thanks to the small, inexpensive circular cartridges we call oChips, that fit inside the device. The oPhone DUO works with 8 oChips and each oChip contains 4 aromas – so the oPhone DUO works with 32 primitive aromas. They last for hundreds of uses, sort of like link cartridges, but for aroma. You can swap them in and out and capture any scent for which we have designed an oChip. And while we are starting with oChip families (what we call “aromatic vocabularies”) around specific foodie and coffee experiences, we will soon be diversifying these in exciting ways.

Using oSnap with oPhone is like using an aroma palette with a paintbrush and canvas. You will want to try your hand at it, or as we say, “aroma doodle”. And with the oPhone, you’ll quickly get the hang of how it all works.

Find the oPhone.
www.onotes.com

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Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: A Book Cover made of Human Skin

June 9, 2014

“While books bound in human skin are now objects of fascination and revulsion, the practice was once somewhat common,” writes Heather Cole, assistant curator of modern books and manuscripts at Harvard’s Houghton Library. “Termed anthropodermic bibliopegy, the binding of books in human skin has occurred at least since the 16th century. The confessions of criminals were occasionally bound in the skin of the convicted, or an individual might request to be memorialized for family or lovers in the form of a book.”

Via The Atlantic. Read Article HERE and HERE

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The Secret History of Life-Hacking

May 14, 2014

We live in the age of life-hacking. The concept, which denotes a kind of upbeat, engineer-like approach to maximizing one’s personal productivity, first entered the mainstream lexicon in the mid-2000s, via tech journalists, the blogosphere, and trendspotting articles with headlines like “Meet the Life Hackers.” Since then the term has become ubiquitous in popular culture—just part of the atmosphere, humming with buzzwords, of the Internet age.

Variations on a blog post called “50 Life Hacks to Simplify Your World” have become endlessly, recursively viral, turning up on Facebook feeds again and again like ghost ships. Lifehacker.com, one of the many horses in Gawker Media’s stable of workplace procrastination sites, furnishes office workers with an endless array of ideas on how to live fitter, happier, and more productively: Track your sleep habits with motion-sensing apps and calculate your perfect personal bed-time; learn how to “supercharge your Gmail filters”; oh, and read novels, because it turns out that “reduces anxiety.” The tribune of life hackers, the author and sometime tech investor Timothy Ferriss, drums up recipes for a life of ease with an indefatigable frenzy, and enumerates the advantages in bestselling books and a reality TV show; outsource your bill payments to a man in India, he advises, and you can enjoy 15 more minutes of “orgasmic meditation.”

Read Full Article at PSMAG