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Science

Major Brain Pathway Rediscovered After Century-old Confusion, Controversy 114

Posted by timothy
from the hey-if-you-can-find-a-new-knee-bone dept.
vinces99 writes A couple of years ago a scientist looking at dozens of MRI scans of human brains noticed something surprising: A large fiber pathway that seemed to be part of the network of connections that process visual information that wasn't mentioned in any modern-day anatomy textbooks. "It was this massive bundle of fibers, visible in every brain I examined," said Jason Yeatman, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "... As far as I could tell, it was absent from the literature and from all major neuroanatomy textbooks.'"With colleagues at Stanford University, Yeatman started some detective work to figure out the identity of that mysterious fiber bundle. The researchers found an early 20th century atlas that depicted the structure, now known as the vertical occipital fasciculus. But the last time that atlas had been checked out was 1912, meaning the researchers were the first to view the images in the last century. They describes the history and controversy of the elusive pathway in a paper published Nov. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You'd think that we'd have found all the parts of the human body by now, but not necessarily.
Science

Interviews: Ask Malcolm Gladwell a Question 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
Malcolm Gladwell is a speaker, author, and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Gladwell's writing often focuses on research in the social sciences and the unexpected connections or theories made from such research. His books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Outliers: The Story of Success, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants are all New York Times best sellers. Malcolm has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any question you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Music

Polyphonic Overtone Singing Explained Visually With Spectrograms 51

Posted by timothy
from the coolest-thing-you'll-hear-today dept.
New submitter Tucano writes The overtone singer Anna-Maria Hefele can sing two notes at the same time. In her latest video, spectrograms and frequency filters are used to explain how she can produce two melody lines at the same time, and how she uses her mouth to filter the frequencies of her voice. When the voice produces a sound, many harmonics (or overtones) sound at the same time, and we normally hear this as a single tone. In overtone singing, the mouth filters out all harmonics but one, and the one that remains is amplified to become louder. This is then perceived as a separate tone, next to the fundamental. In her video, Anna-Maria shows techniques that become increasingly advanced. She shows the overtone scale (steady fundamental, moving overtone), the undertone scale (steady overtone, moving fundamental), parallel movement and opposing movement of overtone and fundamental, and even complex compositions with two separate melody lines.
Books

Machine-Learning Algorithm Ranks the World's Most Notable Authors 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the dr.-seuss-oddly-absent dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Every year the works of thousands of authors enter the public domain, but only a small percentage of these end up being widely available. So how do organizations such as Project Gutenberg choose which works to focus on? Allen Riddell has developed an algorithm that automatically generates an independent ranking of notable authors for any given year. It is then a simple task to pick the works to focus on or to spot notable omissions from the past. Riddell's approach is to look at what kind of public domain content the world has focused on in the past and then use this as a guide to find content that people are likely to focus on in the future.

Riddell's algorithm begins with the Wikipedia entries of all authors in the English language edition (PDF)—more than a million of them. His algorithm extracts information such as the article length, article age, estimated views per day, time elapsed since last revision, and so on. This produces a "public domain ranking" of all the authors that appear on Wikipedia. For example, the author Virginia Woolf has a ranking of 1,081 out of 1,011,304 while the Italian painter Giuseppe Amisani, who died in the same year as Woolf, has a ranking of 580,363. So Riddell's new ranking clearly suggests that organizations like Project Gutenberg should focus more on digitizing Woolf's work than Amisani's. Of the individuals who died in 1965 and whose work will enter the public domain next January in many parts of the world, the new algorithm picks out TS Eliot as the most highly ranked individual. Others highly ranked include Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, and Malcolm X.
Science

Electric Shock Study Suggests We'd Rather Hurt Ourselves Than Others 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the unless-it's-over-the-internet dept.
sciencehabit writes: If you had the choice between hurting yourself or someone else in exchange for money, how altruistic do you think you'd be? In one infamous experiment, people were quite willing to deliver painful shocks to anonymous victims when asked by a scientist. But a new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people's well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.
Medicine

The Dutch Village Where Everyone Has Dementia 231

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-town dept.
HughPickens.com writes Josh Planos writes at The Atlantic that the isolated village of Hogewey on the outskirts of Amsterdam has been dubbed "Dementia Village" because it is home to residents who are only admitted if they're categorized as having severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. "There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility," writes Planos. "Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. Perhaps the most unique element of the facility—apart from the stealthy "gardener" caretakers—is its approach toward housing. Hogeway features 23 uniquely stylized homes, furnished around the time period when residents' short-term memories stopped properly functioning. There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths, because it helps residents feel as if they're home."

In Holland, everyone pays into the state health care system during their working years, with the money then disbursed to pay for later-in-life expenses — and that means living in Hogewey does not cost any more than a traditional nursing home. The inspiration came about in 1992, when Yvonne van Amerongen and another member of staff at a traditional nursing home both had their own mothers die, being glad that their elderly parents had died quickly and had not had to endure hospital-like care. A series of research and brainstorming sessions in 1993 found that humans choose to surround and interact with other like-minded people of similar backgrounds and experiences; the arrangement at Hogewey provides this by ensuring that residents with similar backgrounds continue to live closely together. On a physical level, residents at Hogewey require fewer medications; they eat better and they live longer. On a mental level, they also seem to have more joy. "The people here keep their independence, as much as they can have of it, and they stay active," says Theo Visser. "Here they still have a life. It's not the sort of slow, quiet death you get in other places. Here everyone feels at home."
Biotech

Scientists Optimistic About Getting a Mammoth Genome Complete Enough To Clone 187

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-piece-at-a-time dept.
Clark Schultz writes The premise behind Jurassic Park just got a bit more real after scientists in South Korea said they are optimistic they can extract enough DNA from the blood of a preserved woolly mammoth to clone the long-extinct mammal. The ice-wrapped woolly mammoth was found last year on an island off of Siberia. The development is being closely watched by the scientific community with opinion sharply divided on the ethics of the project.
Space

Fascinating Rosetta Image Captures Philae's Comet Bounce 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-waldo dept.
mpicpp points out that high-resolution pictures have been released of Philae's landing. "The hunt for Rosetta's lost lander Philae is gaining steam as scientists pore over images from above the comet that may help reveal its final location. The ESA released an image Monday taken by Rosetta's OSIRIS camera showing Philae's first bounce on the comet. The mosaic includes a series of pictures tracking the lander descending toward the comet, the initial touchdown point and then an image of the lander moving east. 'The imaging team is confident that combining the CONSERT ranging data with OSIRIS and navcam images from the orbiter and images from near the surface and on it from Philae's ROLIS and CIVA cameras will soon reveal the lander's whereabouts,' says the ESA."
Biotech

Group Tries To Open Source Seeds 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the lettuce-for-linux dept.
jenwike writes The Open Source Seed Initiative is a passionate group that wants to ensure their seeds are never patented, but making sure seeds are free for use and distribution by anyone isn't as easy as you might think. Part of the equation are plant characteristics, like an extended head on lettuce — is that an invention? Or, would you argue that it is the product of the collective sharing of material that improves the whole crop over time? In this report, one farmer says, "If you're not exchanging germplasm, you're cutting your own throat."
Math

Big Talk About Small Samples 245

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: My last article garnered some objections from readers saying that the sample sizes were too small to draw meaningful conclusions. (36 out of 47 survey-takers, or 77%, said that a picture of a black woman breast-feeding was inappropriate; while in a different group, 38 out of 54 survey-takers, or 70%, said that a picture of a white woman breast-feeding was inappropriate in the same context.) My conclusion was that, even on the basis of a relatively small sample, the evidence was strongly against a "huge" gap in the rates at which the surveyed population would consider the two pictures to be inappropriate. I stand by that, but it's worth presenting the math to support that conclusion, because I think the surveys are valuable tools when you understand what you can and cannot demonstrate with a small sample. (Basically, a small sample can present only weak evidence as to what the population average is, but you can confidently demonstrate what it is not.) Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.
Space

Magnetic Field In Meteorite Provides Clues About Formation of Solar System 26

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-the-beginning dept.
An anonymous reader writes Scientists have discovered a meteorite that provides evidence that intense magnetic fields caused the formation of the solar system. A meteorite called Semarkona crashed in northern India in 1940 and is now being studied for signs of primordial magnetic fields. Lead researcher, Roger Fu, a planetary scientist at MIT says: "It's a very primitive meteorite, which means that since it formed about 4.5 billion years ago, not much has happened to it, this means it preserves the properties it had when it first formed, helping shed light on that time." From the article: "This meteorite is made up of mostly tiny round pellets known as chondrules, which formed droplets that quickly cooled in space. According to the study, the scientists focused on these chondrules that possessed iron-bearing minerals, known as dusty olivine crystals, and if they appeared to have a magnetic field present while they were cooling, then the magnetic properties of these crystals might have recorded the strength of the magnetic fields."
Space

Leonid Meteor Shower Hits Tonight, Peaks Tomorrow 20

Posted by timothy
from the prepare-for-mere-whelming dept.
Though expectations for a spectacular show may be low, the Leonid meteor shower is on the way. For those in the continental U.S., late Monday night into Tuesday early morning will be your best chance to catch a few glimpses. Space.com explains why you might see only a smattering of meteors: This year finds Comet Tempel-Tuttle nearing the far end of its elongated orbit. In 2010, the comet crossed the orbit of Uranus and in 2016 it will be as far from the sun as it can get: 1.84 billion miles (2.96 billion km). That's not only where the comet is, but also where the heaviest concentrations of meteoroids are as well. In contrast, at the point in the comet's orbit where we will be passing by on Tuesday morning, there is nothing save for a scattered few particles; stragglers likely loosed from the comet's nucleus a millennium or two ago. So the 2014 Leonids are expected to show only low activity this year; "maybe" at best 5 to 10 Leonids per hour might be seen.
Science

Scientists Discover Diamond Nanothreads 79

Posted by timothy
from the this-nanoring-shows-how-much-I-care dept.
First time accepted submitter sokol815 writes Penn State University scientists discovered diamond nanothreads can be created from benzene when compressed. The compression brings the benzene molecules into a highly reactive state. It was expected that the molecules would create a non-ordered glass-like material, but due to the slow speed of decompression used, the benzene molecules ordered themselves into a naturally repeating crystal. The experiment took place at room-temperature. Early results indicate that these nanothreads are stronger than previously produced carbon nanotubes, and may have applications throughout the engineering industry.
Space

After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest 88

Posted by timothy
from the beating-god-by-three-full-days dept.
The Associated Press reports on one happy consequence of the inevitable shutdown of the Philae lander, after its incredible landing on Rosetta: the team that was in control of the lander here on earth finally gets to take a well-deserved break, after four nearly sleepless days and nights. It seems unlikely -- though it's not impossible -- that Philae will get enough solar energy to briefly wake up again; its bouncy landing and harpoon malfunction mean that the craft is in shadow rather than the sunlight that it was hoped to bask in. From CNN: Originally, it was supposed to have seven hours of light per comet day -- which lasts just 12.4 hours. Now it is exposed only 1.5 hours a day. That's likely not enough to juice up Philae's rechargeable secondary battery, ESA said. There is one last hope. "Mission controllers sent commands to rotate the lander's main body, to which the solar panels are fixed," ESA says in on its blog. "This may have exposed more panel area to sunlight."
Medicine

Machine Learning Used To Predict Military Suicides 74

Posted by timothy
from the sobering-statistics dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes David Wagner writes that a predictive computer model using machine learning methods is helping to identify soldiers in the United States Army most likely to commit suicide. Computers combed through data on more than 40,000 soldiers who'd been hospitalized for mental health problems looking at 421 variables on each soldier drawn from 38 military data systems. Using a method known as "machine learning," the researchers identified roughly two dozen factors that are most important in predicting soldiers most likely to commit suicide. The soldiers most likely to take their own lives were men with past suicidal behavior and a history of psychiatric disorders and criminal offenses, including weapons possession and verbal assaults. Soldiers with hearing loss also faced heightened risk — a strong indicator that they had suffered a head injury. So did enlisting in the Army after age 27, most likely because those soldiers had already experienced trouble finding their way in life. "There's this group that comes to the Army later in life — they're smart, they have skills, they tend not to be married and they have no career or have left a career to join," Dr. Kessler said. "We don't know why they should be at higher risk, but they appear to be."

Murray Stein, co-author of the new study, found that among soldiers recently discharged from psychiatric hospitals, more than half of suicides were committed by just five percent of patients. "The most impressive thing is that they identified this high-risk group in the hospital, and by just focusing on one in 20 of them, you're really dramatically improving your ability to predict," says Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. "Clinicians don't do a very good job predicting suicide risk, even though we think we do."
Medicine

How To Anesthetize an Octopus 105

Posted by timothy
from the calm-as-calamari dept.
sciencehabit writes Researchers have figured out how to anesthetize octopuses so the animals do not feel pain while being transported and handled during scientific experiments. In a study published online this month in the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, researchers report immersing 10 specimens of the common octopus in seawater with isoflurane, an anesthetic used in humans. They gradually increased the concentration of the substance from 0.5% to 2%. The investigators found that the animals lost the ability to respond to touch and their color paled, which means that their normal motor coordination of color regulation by the brain was lost, concluding that the animals were indeed anesthetized. The octopuses then recovered from the anesthesia within 40 to 60 minutes of being immersed in fresh seawater without the anesthetic, as they were able to respond to touch again and their color was back to normal.
Space

Philae's Batteries Have Drained; Comet Lander Sleeps 337

Posted by timothy
from the amazing-feats-done-dirt-dirt-cheap dept.
astroengine (1577233) writes "In the final hours, Philae's science team hurried to squeeze as much science out of the small lander as possible. But the deep sleep was inevitable, Rosetta's lander has slipped into hibernation after running its batteries dry. This may be the end of Philae's short and trailblazing mission on the surface of Comet 67P, but a huge amount of data — including data from a drilling operation that, apparently, was carried out despite concerns that Philae wasn't positioned correctly — was streamed to Rosetta mission control. "Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager. "This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.""
Earth

How To Mathematically Predict Lightning Strikes 41

Posted by timothy
from the out-standing-in-his-field dept.
rossgneumann writes Soon, it's very possible that when you say something like "you have better odds of being struck by lightning," that won't necessarily mean it's all that rare. And there's a good chance that you'll be able to tell that person (roughly) what the odds of that happening are. Research published this week in Nature provides an equation that is reasonably accurate at mathematically predicting lightning strikes. From the article: "There's not a whole lot of noise in Romps's estimates: CAPE [Convective Available Potential Energy] is something that can be predicted out fairly easily: "All [models] in our ensemble predict that [the United State's] mean CAPE will increase over the 21st century, with a mean increase of 11.2 percent per degree Celsius of global warming," he wrote. "Overall, the [models] predict a ~50 percent increase in the rate of lightning strikes in the United States over the 21st century."
Medicine

Researchers Develop $60 Sonar Watch To Aid the Visually Impaired 30

Posted by samzenpus
from the daredevil-watch dept.
Taffykay writes Biology and computer science students and professors at Wake Forest University have teamed up to develop a device to assist the visually impaired. Following the principles of echolocation used by bats and moths, the interdisciplinary team has developed a watch-like unit that allows the wearer to navigate their environment using sonar. To make the project even more remarkable, all the parts and materials for the prototype cost less than $60.
Space

Boeing Readies For First Ever Conjoined Satellite Launch 67

Posted by samzenpus
from the two-by-two dept.
Zothecula writes Boeing has successfully joined two of its 702SP satellites in a stacked configuration in preparation for a launch scheduled for early 2015. Aside from being the first involving conjoined satellites, the launch will also put the first satellites to enter service boasting an all-electric propulsion system into orbit. "Designed by Boeing Network & Space Systems and its defense and security advanced prototyping arm, Phantom Works, the 702SP (small platform) satellites are an evolution of the company's 702 satellite. Operating in the low- to mid-power ranges of 3 to 9 kW, instead of chemical propulsion, the satellites boast an all-electric propulsion system that Boeing says minimizes the mass of the spacecraft and maximizes payload capacity."

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