Posted in physics, technology

Is ET phoning home? Researchers investigate bizarre ‘fast radio bursts’

Have you ever wondered whether we’re alone out here? Well, if you haven’t, maybe it’s time to start. Recently, scientists in the US and the Netherlands have observed a new, mysterious and distant object that seems to be emitting intermittent bursts of fast radio waves – brief but spectacular pulses of radio emission that are so bright that they can be seen across the universe.

As of yet, no one knows what is generating the pulses, but the researchers have managed to locate the most frequently pulsing source to a dwarf galaxy around three billion light years from Earth. Named FRB 121102 (catchy, I know), this source has generated over 200 high energy bursts to date.

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Posted in social, technology

What is ‘Uncanny Valley’, and why is it so creepy?

‘Uncanny Valley’ is the name of the phenomenon whereby a humanoid object bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a deep sense of unease or revulsion in the viewer. Coined by the robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970, the original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, the emotional response to the robot increasingly positive right up until it reaches a threshold where the response swiftly shifts to strong feelings of revulsion and eeriness. It’s safe to say that the majority of us have experienced this phenomenon – examples can be found in almost all genres of entertainment, including films, games, toys and animations. So, why do we experience this response?

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Posted in biology, science, social

The science of victim blaming

Sexual objectification is defined as the act of treating a person as a mere object of sexual desire, characterised by a focus on the individual’s physical appearance over their mental state. Sadly, this phenomenon is widespread in society, and the fact that objectified individuals are often judged to be less human, less competent and less moral has been associated with many negative social consequences.

In a recent study, Italian and Austrian researchers investigated how behavioural responses towards an individual change as a function of how much the individual is sexually objectified. To quantify this, the brain level response of 36 participants (19 female, 17 male) was assessed with functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) imaging whilst the researchers elicited a series of positive and negative emotions using a computer controlled task which involving either inclusion or exclusion.

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Posted in political, social

Is narcissism to blame for Brexit?

Ever since the unexpected ‘leave’ vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum, people have been searching for explanations. A myriad of reasons have been postulated, including the role of a voter’s age, gender or level of education. Others have considered whether the ‘Leave Campaign’ may have mobilised an increase in xenophobic attitudes by inciting a fear of foreigners.

In order to try and gain some insight, a group of researchers from institutions across the UK, Poland and Portugal conducted a study to measure the effect of xenophobia on voting behaviour. Unsurprisingly, they found that the belief that immigrants to the UK threaten the country was strongly related to the tendency to vote in favour of Brexit – regardless of age, gender or education level.

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Posted in social

Study shows that ‘little things’ make us feel most loved

It’s official – when it comes to feeling loved, actions really do speak louder than words. Well, at least according to scientists at Penn State University.

“Whether we feel loved or not plays an important role in how we feel from day to day,” says Saeideh Heshmati, a postdoctoral research scholar at Penn State. “We were curious about whether the majority of Americans could agree about what makes people feel loved on a daily basis, or if it was more personal thing. Our results show that people do agree, and the top scenarios that came back weren’t necessarily romantic. So, it is possible for people to feel loved in simple, everyday scenarios.”

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Posted in biology, social

Scientists find positive link between recreational marijuana and sex

Forty years after the release of his hit single ‘Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll’, Ian Dury has been proven – at least partially – correct. Contrary to previous scientific thought, a recent study by researchers at Stanford University has indicated that frequent use of marijuana may increase sexual desire and performance.

Although a causal connection between marijuana and sexual activity is yet to be definitively established, the authors believe that the results strongly hint at it. “The overall trend we saw applied to people of both sexes and all races, ages, education levels, income groups, every health status, whether they were married or single and whether or not they had kids,” said Michael Eisenberg, MD, the lead author of the study.

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Posted in biology

A new take on ‘traditional’ medicine

Could it be that an old dog can learn new tricks? Recently, researchers in China have discovered that a hundred-year-old traditional Chinese calligraphy ink could noninvasively and efficiently treat metastasized cancer cells.

Today, metastasis presents one of the greatest challenges facing modern cancer diagnosis and therapy. It is responsible for ~90% of cancer deaths, and has been very difficult to treat without causing further complications.

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Posted in technology

You and Improved – 3D selfies make their debut

Thanks to computer scientists at both the University of Nottingham and Kingston University, our selfie game is about to reach the next level.

Using their new web app (see link at the bottom of the page) it is now possible to generate a 3D model of your face from a single 2D image. Aside from improving your Instagram, this technology has a myriad of potential uses.

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Posted in biology, chemistry, technology

From pee to plastic: how yeast could revolutionise space travel

Scientists at Clemson University have found a way to use biological systems in order to recycle human waste into both nutrients and plastics. Their findings were presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

In order to achieve long-distance space flight, there are a number of critical obstacles must be surmounted. One of these obstacles is how astronauts will transport enough food to sustain themselves over several months or years. Due to size and weight constraints, it is not possible to simply send the astronauts with a large stockpile of nutrients to ration. Anyway, even if it were possible to deploy them with enough food to survive the mission, many essential nutrients have a limited shelf-life and would degrade before the end of the mission.

“If astronauts are going to make journeys that span several years, we’ll need to find a way to reuse and recycle everything they bring with them,”

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Posted in biology

The coffee cure: caffeine could make surgical recovery smoother

Blocking specific brain receptors with caffeine has been shown to counteract sleep loss and reduce post-op pain.

The average human will spend at least half of their life asleep. It is  essential for the maintenance of healthy bodily functions, and research has shown that sleep deprivation increases the risk for several chronic health problems. Continue reading “The coffee cure: caffeine could make surgical recovery smoother”