Saturday, October 29, 2011

Science Saturday 1.6: Fruit Wash, Dyslexic Font, Pi, & More


*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*


A company has developed a dissolvable sticker that turns into a fruit wash when wet and rubbed.  Labels on fruit are always a pain to rip off, and oftentimes it is difficult to wash off the gluey remains of said sticker.  Well with a little bit of water and rubbing, this sticker will become soap and leave you with a pesticide and sticker free fruit snack.

I love typography and discovering new fonts.  But I never really thought about how an appealing font was processed in the brain.  A new 'dyslexic' font has been designed specifically to help those who suffer from the reading disability.  While sufferers often see letters as mirror images, flipped upside down, or other alterations, this new font is designed with slight alterations to the height, size, slant, etc. of each letter to reduce reading errors.

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A pair of math enthusiasts in Japan have calculated pi to the 10 trillionth digit.  Suffering from a hard drive crash and then the earthquake last spring, it took just a little less than one year for the computer to calculate the 10 trillionth digit, setting a new Guiness record.

Researchers at Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University have developed the OmniTouch, a projectable screen that can turn any surface into an interactive touch pad.


Creature Feature:
In honor of the upcoming holiday, enjoy these images of Desmodus rotundus, the common vampire bat.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Confession

While in line at Walmart today, there was a rack of pumpkin carving materials.  I looked at them.  Then looked at Matt and confessed:

I have never carved a pumpkin.

At least from what I can remember from childhood, I don't think I've ever carved a pumpkin.  Matt was in total shock, knowing that a craftypants and fall-lover like me has never partaken in this autumn tradition.  I think it's a little too late to carve pumpkins now - I feel like October is pumpkin month...November is turkey month.  AH! It's almost November!!!

So next year, Matt needs to make sure that I fulfill this crafty void in my life and we will carve pumpkins. I'm sure mine will look something like this...

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Entertainment High

I get sucked into TV shows...wait, let me try that again...I get sucked into *good* TV shows.  While we don't have cable and rarely turn on the TV during regular programming times, we usually find out about a good show and then spend hours upon hours having marathons.  Matt and I actually began our friendship spending an all-nighter watching episodes of "24".  So we can thank Jack Bauer for our marriage ;)

While I normally don't like reality or competition shows - there are two that I adore.  The Sing-Off and The Voice.  Mostly because they feature REAL talent and are subjected to educated critique of their musical abilities.  Well this season of The Sing-Off has some amazing a capella groups, but there are two that stand out above the rest:



Also, in the past week, I've been introduced to two new-to-me shows.  First, while I don't understand the recent vampire craze, I can totally jump on the zombie craze wagon.  Mostly because I think I could totally work for the CDC and help create the "cure" for the zombie causing disease...haha.  Well I watched all of season 1 of "The Walking Dead" in a couple days, just in time for the season two premiere.  This show is just so well written and I love that it has a real focus on character development, not just bloody gore for shock value.
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My other new obsession is "Prison Break".  My sister has been trying to get me to watch it for years, and I finally sat down and started it...WOW.  I'm totally developing a stressful heart condition from watching this show.  It's SO suspenseful, and I love seeing brilliant genius characters use their smarts to  do "bad" things.
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Thank goodness for Netflix instant :)  What shows are you currently addicted to?!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Science Saturday 1.5: Quantum Levitation, Facebook and the Brain, & more


*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*


A video demonstrating "quantum levitation" (really quantum locking) made its way all over the interwebs at the beginning of the week.  Physics was never my thing, so explaining how this works is like translating Greek...but from what I understand, this is a demonstration of the Meissner effect - the disc is a superconductor, cooled by liquid nitrogen, which "locks" the magnetic field, keeping the disc suspended in whatever dimensions it is positioned.




A malaria vaccine has been developed and is currently in final stages of clinical trials.  In large trial done in Africa, the risk of getting malaria was reduced by 50%.  There are approximately 1,000,000 deaths caused by malaria each year,  89% occurring in Africa (via CDC).  If all goes well, the vaccine could be on the market by 2015.

Does social networking make you smarter?  Or rather, do smart people use social networking? New research suggests that there is a link between the number of Facebook friends and the density of certain areas of the brain.  It was found that "a larger number of friends can be statistically linked to greater grey matter density in the right superior temporal sulcus, left middle temporal gyrus and entorhinal cortex...areas of the brain associated with social perception and associative memory."  I doubt they polled YouTube commenters for this study.


With Apple's release of the iPhone 4S, a lot of talk was about Siri, an AI personal assistant of sorts.  This program has been compared to IBM's Watson, and the fictional HAL 9000 and GLaDOS.  Well check out this old school Sesame Street clip from 1984 where a teacher asks her students "what is a computer?" and "how are we different from a computer?"  I wonder if any of those young students are helping develop the artificial intelligence of today and the future...



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

...when autumn leaves start to fall.

Some Wednesday randoms...

*It's 55 degrees outside.  I'm sure native Mississippians are hating this, but I LOVE it!  This is what fall should feel like.  I finished crocheting a cowl last night and was excited to be able to wear it today!


*I've been getting really bad migraines lately - I've had them off and on for the past couple years, but never this many within the span of a couple weeks.  I think I figured out the culprit though...I bought a new shampoo, an extra body volumizing shampoo, and I think it is adding too much extra weight so it's putting constant tension on my head.  That's my guess!  Time to find another shampoo...

*I discovered a (old) new-to-me show on Netflix called DogTown.  It's about the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, a no kill animal shelter.  This National Geographic series featured stories of abused, homeless, or injured dogs who were rescued and taken to live in DogTown.  It follows their rehabilitation and usually ends with them going to their forever homes!  It's an awesome show for any animal lover to watch!

*Because of a migraine as mentioned above, I didn't get to do any real quality studying for my medical microbiology exam this past Monday.  I did not feel prepared and felt uneasy during the exam.  Well, God is good because I got my exam back today and made an A on it!  woop woop!

*Anyone know where this post's title comes from?  It's a lyric from one of my favorite jazz standards.


Hope you are having a great week!!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Science Saturday 1.4: Pirahna Barks, Peanut Allergies, Megavirus & More

Sorry, I had internet troubles yesterday, so this is officially Science Saturday on Sunday :)



*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*


Fish are known to make vocalizations as a form of communication, and a recent study shows that the feared piranha barks to communicate various types of aggressive behavior.  The sounds are made through vibrations of the swim bladder (an organ that helps fish stay afloat).



Scientists have figured out how to turn off peanut allergies...by attaching peanut proteins to white blood cells, the immune system begins to adapt to the peanut proteins by bypassing TH2 T cells which cause the allergic response and recruiting regulatory T cells which help tolerate the peanut proteins, creating a short cut of sorts for the immune system response.  They hope to use this technique to help regulate various allergies in a clinical setting.

A complete theropod dinosaur fossil was found in Germany, with skin and hair-like feathers preserved along with the skeleton.  Theropod dinosaurs (which include the genus Tyrannosaurus) are rarely found  as complete fossils.  This particular specimen is estimated to be 135 million years old, and the theropod is speculated to have been a year old when it died.

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Featured microbe: Megavirus
Discovered in Chilean waters, an ancient giant virus was recently discovered.  Don't worry though, it only infects bacteria.  Megavirus is 6.5% larger than the current largest known virus, mimivirus, and has 1120 genes coded in it's DNA.  A distinctive set of genes code for a viral factory, called a "stargate" (seen in the photo), only found in giant viruses.  This could help shed light on how viruses came to be.
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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pursuit of Truth

We live in a world divided.

Republican/Democrat.  Mac/PC. Pro-life/Pro-choice. Star Wars/Star Trek. Christian/Atheist.

As I dig deeper into my chosen area of study, the pursuit of truth and scientific fact is laid out before me.  I am growing more confident in the lab (only one little technical error so far) and doing well in my classes.  I finally feel like I am on the right track toward a career.  Perhaps medicine was not my calling, but scientific research is.  The dots are connecting.

But as a Christian, my main purpose is to bring glory to Christ and share the Gospel with the unsaved.  Is a science career going to be for my own glory and not the Lord's?  Isn't there a division between science and faith?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
I have always believed that scientific truth is one of God's ways of letting us explore His creation and His way of blessing us to use our intelligence for His kingdom.  This belief of mine has only been strengthened as I continue my studies.  Recently, I read a wonderful book called "The Language of God" by Francis Collins, who spearheaded the Human Genome Project and is current director of NIH.  A few of his words really jumped out at me:
A believer need not fear that this investigation will dethrone the divine; if God is truly Almighty, He will hardly be threatened by our puny efforts to understand the workings of His natural world. 
Science is not threatened by God; it is enhanced. God is most certainly not threatened by science; He made it all possible. So let us together seek to reclaim the solid ground of an intellectually and spiritually satisfying synthesis of ALL great truths. 
The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. he can be worshiped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. 
While many in the scientific community believe that faith in a Creator is foolish because there is no evidence, I believe (as Collins does) that the entire natural world IS evidence of a Creator.  He is merely allowing us to learn more about it (and HIM) through scientific discovery.

So let's stop dividing science and faith.  I want to continue to pursue the truth of science AND the truth of the Gospel, and worship my Lord while I do it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Science Saturday 1.3: Quadruple Rainbow, Nobel Prizes, Monkey Mind Control & More

*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*

Volume 1 Issue 3

This week, the Nobel Prize winners were announced.  The selected Nobel Laureates in the sciences discovered some of the founding principles of scientific study today.
  • Physiology/MedicineBruce A. Beutler and Jules A. Hoffmann for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity and Ralph M. Steinman for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity
  • PhysicsSaul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae
  • ChemistryDan Shechtman for the discovery of quasicrystals
Laureates receive a gold medal, a diploma, and a cash award.  An interesting piece of history is that in 1940, it was illegal for any gold to leave Nazi Germany.  However, two Jewish Nobel Laureates (Max von Laue and James Franck) sent their gold medals to physicist Niels Bohr (also a Nobel Laureate) in Denmark, hoping he would hide them.  Knowing that the Nazis were aware of his laboratory's affiliation with Jewish scientists, Bohr was afraid of the medals being discovered.  So he and chemist Georgy de Hevensy dissolved the Nobel Prizes in "aqua regia", a mixture of hydrochloric acid and nitric acid.  The beaker of orange liquid rested on a shelf, and the Nazis overlooked it as a common laboratory chemical.  The gold was later isolated and sent back to the Nobel Foundation who recast the medals and returned them to the Laureates.

The SOlar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured an amazing video for NASA.  A comet fell into the sun, and while it destroyed, a coronal mass ejection (a burst of solar wind) occurred on the opposite side, creating a strikingly beautiful image.





Scientists at Duke University have outfitted monkeys with a "“brain-machine-brain interface” or BMBI, which allows them to control a virtual arm with only their minds to interact with virtual objects.  Electrodes connected to the monkey's motor cortex decipher the monkey's thoughts and allow the neurons in the somatosensory cortex to control sense of touch.  The monkey's think and feel that they are moving the virtual arm.  Future trials will lead to an actual physical robotic arm before human testing.  This proves to benefit amputees and patients with paralysis who could be able to control artificial limbs or wheelchairs.

A picture of the first fourth-order rainbow was reported in Germany.  While only two of the bows are visible in the picture, the other two bows are actually behind the photographer, as he is facing the sun.  Rainbows are formed when light is reflected from inside raindrops, thus a primary rainbow is formed on the opposite side of the sky from the sun.  A second reflection can occur on the same side of the raindrops, and third and fourth-order reflections make their way around the droplet, causing a faint bows to appear on the same side of sky as the sun.

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Featured microbe: Bacillus anthracis


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Commonly known by the disease Anthrax, this bacteria produces spores which allow it to survive harsh conditions.  While common in animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats, anthrax can be transmitted to humans.  Anthrax infection can occur cutaneously (on the skin), by inhalation, or in the gastrointestinal tract.  Bacillus anthracis caused a scare in 2001 when spores were used in bioterrorist attacks through the mail.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Food

It's still hot here in Mississippi, though the humidity has dropped and I have been enjoying the lovely cool breeze.  It's much cooler in the mornings and evenings, and we finally turned the A/C off and opened the bedroom window the other night.

When I think of fall, I think of football and food.  I've come across a plethora of tasty fall recipes that I've been dying to try out.  I made two loaves of beer bread last night, and it is deeeelish.  What do you think I should try next? (click images for recipes)

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Connecting the Dots



Steve Jobs passing was very sad and tragic.  He certainly made a great impact in shaping the technology world as we know it today.  He was an innovator, believing in creativity and vision.  And he believed in living life to the fullest.  His speech at Stanford's commencement ceremony in 2005 is as inspiring today as it was for those graduates that year.  Two parts of his speech really stuck out to me:


"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life...

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."




I don't know what Jobs believed, but the way I interpret his words is clear as a bell - that God has a great plan for our lives.  I've had so many ups and downs in my life so far, and I'm sure there will be many more forks in the road - but I believe in God's loving faithfulness, provision, and purpose for my life.  As said in Steve Job's speech, the dots DO connect.  It's always amazing to look back and see how God was at work during the toughest parts of my life!  Whenever I feel discouraged or lost about my future, it is so comforting to remember that the Lord will provide, and through faith, dedication, and hard work, I can achieve my goals.


Steve Jobs had a great impact on many people's lives.  As a Christian, I wonder how my life will impact others.  Am I living the life God has purposed for me?  Do you think you will make an impact on others?





Saturday, October 1, 2011

Science Saturday 1.2: Schrödinger's Cat, Miracle Fruit, Cantaloupe outbreak & more

Volume 1 Issue 2


Remember learning about Schrödinger's cat in physics class?  Well this snappy animation explains the paradoxical concept in one minute!





When I was a young girl, I was obsessed with cryptography and codes (as a lot of kids are).  Scientists have developed a coding system using fluorescent strains of E. coli bacteria called stenography by printed arrays of microbes or SPAM.   Each fluorescent color combination represents a different letter/symbol.  Certain antibiotics are then used as a "key" to unlock the message.  If the bacteria are resistant to the given antibiotic, it displays the message.  If a different/wrong antibiotic is used, the encrypted message remains a jumble of letters.  While not a practical method of sending secret messages, it does have "potential for watermarking genetically modified organisms with 'biological barcodes', to trace their provenance and prevent counterfeits."


Seeing is believing.  The McGurk Effect demonstrates that when the brain receives conflicting sensory input (sight and sound), the eyes trump the ears.  Even when you know it is an illusion, the McGurk Effect still works!  Watch and see!  Is he saying BAH or FAH?




Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum), a small red berry, contains a protein called miraculin which, when consumed, makes sour taste sweet.  This protein binds to the sweet taste receptors on the tongue and become activated when introduced to an acidic (sour) environment.  It's possible that it also blocks sour taste receptors.  Anyone wanna go taste-tripping?


Featured microbe: Listeria monocytogenes
This month there has been a multistate outbreak of listeriosis, food poisoning caused by this bacteria.  The source has been traced to a cantaloupe farm in Colorado.  Listeriosis symptoms include fever and muscle aches, with possible diarrhea.  This predominantly affects the elderly, young children, pregnant women, or those with weak immune systems (due to AIDS, cancer, etc.)


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*Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY a science writer/journalist.  I will most likely get some facts wrong (hopefully not).  I simply want to share news that I find interesting.  Knowing that my blog readers are most likely not science people, I will try to explain what I can in the simplest way possible so that anyone can learn something about science today.*