The Runner’s High: It’s Like Smoking Weed [High Times]
Research on mice [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] has confirmed that a “runner’s high” arises from a release of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the same cannabinoid receptors that cannabis does. If you have ever run, biked, lifted weights, or performed any kind of physical exercise, you may have noticed a sense of euphoria and the feeling you are relieved of physical pain and anxiety. They thought it came from β-endorphin, but now scientists have confirmed that anandamide is most likely the cause.[more inside]
The Weight of the World: Can Christiana Figueres persuade humanity to save itself? by Elizabeth Kolbert [New Yorker]
Of all the jobs in the world, Figueres’s may possess the very highest ratio of responsibility (preventing global collapse) to authority (practically none). The role entails convincing a hundred and ninety-five countries—many of which rely on selling fossil fuels for their national income and almost all of which depend on burning them for the bulk of their energy—that giving up such fuels is a good idea. When Figueres took over the Secretariat, in 2010, there were lots of people who thought the job so thankless that it ought to be abolished. This was in the aftermath of the fifteenth COP, held in Copenhagen, which had been expected to yield a historic agreement but ended in anger and recrimination.
The Role of Writers in a STEM Obsessed Society
“As writers, it’s easy to think of how we matter to literature classrooms, but what the appointment of writers-in-residence in hospitals, history classrooms, foreign language learning spaces, and cooking schools reminds us is that we are relevant wherever there is humanity—which is to say, wherever humans are with their stories. Writing is healing. Writing is art. Writing is learning. As such, writing across the disciplines matters. Many models of artist residencies depend upon the retreat model, wherein the artist sequesters herself away with a small community of other artists. While these models have value, especially when considering how solitude relates to the creative process, it’s heartening to me to see more models catch on that value the place of the writer in society, rather than hidden away from it.”
Grilling with Lava [New York Times]
This July Fourth, we offer an intense, but minimalist way to grill steak. It requires 800 pounds of Wisconsin basaltic gravel heated to 2,000 degrees. New York Times food writers have advocated cooking directly on hot coals this Fourth of July, but the truly adventurous may want to consider another approach: lava-grilled steak. The Syracuse University professors Bob Wysocki and Jeff Karson, the leaders of this minimalist technique, say the key is to start with thin-cut steaks, the more marbled the better. You then find the nearest retrofitted bronze furnace. (Very likely, that is the one the professors have built for themselves in Syracuse as part of the university’s Lava Project. When not cooking dinner with it, Mr. Wysocki, an artist, and Mr. Karson, a geologist, create lava for scientific research and sculptures.)[more inside]
Can evolution explain acts of kindness, and morality? [The Guardian]
We arranged a debate between a sceptical Tom Stoppard and the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson. Stuart Jeffries acted as referee. We arranged for the two to meet recently in the grand boardroom of Wilson’s London publishers to discuss their differences, and reflect on two hard problems – what is the proper scope of science, and what is it to be human.
When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen by Christopher Solomon [New York Times]
A professor’s hunch is that birds are saying much more in warning of danger than previously suspected, and that other animals have evolved to understand the signals.
How Obesity Became a Disease [The Atlantic] And, as a consequence, how weight loss became an industry.
The Brain’s Empathy Gap: [New York Times]
Can mapping neural pathways help us make friends with our enemies?
Scientists have figured out what makes Indian food so delicious. [Washington Post]
In a large new analysis of more than 2,000 popular recipes, data scientists have discovered perhaps the key reason why Indian food tastes so unique: It does something radical with flavors, something very different from what we tend to do in the United States and the rest of Western culture. And it does it at the molecular level.
Using DNA to Build a Face, and a Case by Andrew Pollack [New York Times]
The growing capability to determine physical characteristics from genetics can help the police, but it also raises questions of rights and profiling.
Sea of Faith: a six-part documentary television series, presented on BBC television in 1984 by Don Cupitt. [youtube]
"The programme dealt with the history of Christianity in the modern world, focussing especially on how Christianity has responded to challenges such as scientific advances, political atheism and secularisation in general"[more inside]
How Long Does It Take to Get to Tatooine? [The New Yorker] "We use much more brainpower on subjects that interest us."
Cheetahs’ Secret Weapon: A Tight Turning Radius [New York Times]
"Anyone who has watched a cheetah run down an antelope knows that these cats are impressively fast. But it turns out that speed is not the secret to their prodigious hunting skills: a novel study of how cheetahs chase prey in the wild shows that it is their agility — their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly — that gives those antelope such bad odds."
Groundbreaking Surgery for Girl Born Without Windpipe: [New York Times] — Using plastic fibers and human cells, doctors have built and implanted a windpipe in a 2 ½-year-old girl — the youngest person ever to receive a bioengineered organ.
"I'm confident that it's a Higgs particle. I don't need to call it Higgs-like any more...I may need to eat my words one day, but I think that's very unlikely.""Cern scientists believe newly discovered particle is the real Higgs boson. Results of analysis at Cern in Switzerland show particle behaves precisely as expected." Previously
A Cat’s 200-Mile Trek Home Leaves Scientists Guessing [NYTimes.com] "Nobody knows how it happened: an indoor housecat who got lost on a family excursion managing, after two months and about 200 miles, to return to her hometown."
First Evidence Found for Photosynthesis in Insects: [nature.com] "The biology of aphids is bizarre: they can be born pregnant and males sometimes lack mouths, causing them to die not long after mating. In an addition to their list of anomalies, work published this week indicates that they may also capture sunlight and use the energy for metabolic purposes."
'Caught in the act: the first record of copulating fossil vertebrates.' [BBC.co.uk] "The remains of the 47-million-year old animals were unearthed in the famous Messel Pit near Darmstadt, Germany. They were found as male-female pairs. In two cases, the males even had their tails tucked under their partners' as would be expected from the coital position. Details are carried in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters."
Limbless amphibian species found. [bbc.co.uk] A UK-Indian team of scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of limbless amphibian. The creature - about 168mm in length and pink in colour [image] - belongs to an enigmatic, limbless group of amphibians known as the caecilians [wiki].
Daily Science Fiction: Original Science Fiction and Fantasy every weekday. Welcome to Daily Science Fiction, an online magazine of science fiction short stories. We publish "science fiction" in the broad sense of the word: This includes sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream—whatever you'd likely find in the science fiction section of your local bookstore. Our stories are mostly short short fiction each Monday through Thursday, hopefully the right length to read on a coffee break, over lunch, or as a bedtime tale. Friday's weekend stories are longer.
Woman, 83, Has World’s First Lower Jaw Replacement – In 3D [abc.com] In what has been called the first operation of its kind, an 83-year-old woman in the Netherlands has been fitted with a custom-made artificial jaw that was created by a 3D printer. The titanium implant, which weighs less than 4 ounces, was created by taking a CT scan of the woman’s lower jaw and duplicating it with a 3D printer that lays down titanium powder instead of ink. The printer followed the pattern of the woman’s jaw bone layer by layer, fusing the titanium powder in place with heat. In just a couple hours, the 3D replica was ready.
"God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs." [Discovery.com] Within five years, a woolly mammoth will likely be cloned, according to scientists who have just recovered well-preserved bone marrow in a mammoth thigh bone. Japan's Kyodo News first reported the find. You can see photos of the thigh bone at this Kyodo page.
"They may well do it." [The Guardian] Sir Arthur C Clarke predicted in a lost BBC interview that the Russians would win the space race by landing the first man on the moon in 1968, probably on the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. Arthur C Clarke on The Sky at Night – video.
Conceptual Devices is a think tank that considers design as a social engagement. Its projects operate through a shift of symbolic values due to the social utility and social responsibility of arts and design in contemporary society. Where you can learn how to transform a hoodie into a: computer sleeve, baby carrier, strap bag, back-pack, pillow. The DIY diary, Graphic Templates for DIY Leaflets, and much more. [more inside]
Full Bladder, Better Decisions? Study says controlling your bladder decreases impulsive choices.
'Marilyn Monroe' neuron aids mind control. "Volunteers fade famous images in and out using a brain-machine' interface. People have used mind control to change images on a video screen, a study reports. The volunteers, whose brains were wired up to a computer, enhanced one of two competing images of famous people or objects by changing firing rates in individual brain cells."
New Microscope Enables Real-Time 3-D Movies of Developing Embryos. "A European lab combines "light sheet" microscopy with an illumination process that subtracts the static caused by scattered photons to devise a way to clearly observe the inner workings of cells over a period of days. Using a revolutionary new microscope, scientists can now peer into embryos and watch, in one of the world's smallest 3-D movies, as brains, eyes and other organs form." Slide Show: New Microscope Enables Real-Time 3-D Movies of Developing Embryos. The video can be viewed at the bottom of the page.
How to Train Your Robot (to Lie). "A military base has just fallen to enemy fighters. A robot containing top-secret information has to escape detection by the invading army. The robot is facing three corridors: right, center, and left. It could randomly pick a corridor and hope the enemy soldiers pick a different one. Or it could leave a false trail—assuming robots can be trained to lie. A new study using this scenario suggests that they can be. 'Those lying toasters.' click for picture (Georgia Tech's Decepticon) knows how to mislead pursuers to shake them off." Also, worth checking out is a video that can be viewed from the main link which demonstrates the robots in a game of hide-and-seek.
The brain speaks! Scientists decode words from brain signals. "In an early step toward letting severely paralyzed people speak with their thoughts, University of Utah researchers translated brain signals into words using two grids of 16 microelectrodes implanted beneath the skull but atop the brain."