Love can actually make you a better person, able to easily tell emotions and improving your creative state, while sex improves your thinking in the here and now, as Nautilus writes:
In a 2013 study published in Brain Research using a mouse model, scientists found that sexual interaction between mate pairs had a positive effect on the brain’s ability to recognize things during periods of stress. Sexually experienced mice had increased expression of proteins associated with the development and maintenance of neurons when compared to a control group.
Though sex and love don’t always go hand-in-hand, just thinking about them can improve our cognitive skills. In a 2009 study, psychologists found that people who were primed by thinking about love or sex had an improved ability to complete creative and logical puzzles. In one test, the group had to complete four logic problems and three problems that required creativity. Participants that had been “love primed” performed best at the creative tasks, while the sex primed group proved the best at the logic problems. In a second test, the group had words related to sex or love flashed in front of them before being asked logic questions or questions requiring creative insight. Again, love priming inspired greater creative ability, while sex priming boosted logic. This, believe the authors, is because love makes us think about the future, which requires some measure of imagination and creative thinking. Sex, conversely, grounds us in the here-and-now, making us more able to tackle an immediate problem.
Interesting… maybe I’ve written better in the times when I’ve been in a relationship? I’ll have to check the records to find out.
Sarah Zhang at the Atlantic writes about an interesting new discovery: The molecule that draws mosquitoes to infected humans, and causes infected mosquitoes to be more hungry for blood, known as HMBPP:
The discovery came by accident. Ingrid Faye, a molecular biologist at Stockholm University, was curious about a particular molecule made by malaria parasites called HMBPP. She wanted to drill into the details of how HMBPP affects mosquito immune systems, but her team ended up noticing some behavior too odd to ignore: The mosquitos—specifically, the species Anopheles gambiae they were studying—would go crazy for human blood with HMBPP. “The difference it made was just astounding,” says Faye. When given a choice between normal human blood and that either laced with the HMBPP or infected with malaria parasites, almost all the mosquitoes went for the latter two.
Bobby Azarian, Science Journalist at the Atlantic, talks about the existential fear of forever (Made into a more compact video above, but I personally like the article):
Woody Allen once said, “Eternity is a very long time, especially toward the end!” Eternity sounds great on the surface, but actually experiencing it may be an entirely different matter. For some people, the very notion of infinity sends chills up the spine. In fact, for many who suffer from “apeirophobia”—a term for the fear of eternity—the thought of an existence that goes on forever amounts to torture.
Not only is eternity an existential terror, but it would also be depressing. For as much of an ultraviolent gore-fest as the Hellsing series is, it gets into the idea of this. Alucard is depressed at the immortal monster he has become, and regrets his choice immensely. Every time I nearly fear death, I think of Alucard and then infinite nothingness doesn’t seem so bad.
I personally believe the best solution to this is made by my favourite existential comedy, Rick and Morty: Don’t think about it.
I watched Blade Runner for the first time last night/this morning, and I always find it funny how movies in the 80’s pictured the near future being populated by flying cars and plenty of neon. But Blade Runner is set in 2019, which is fairly soon, and it seems like the cyberpunk future is becoming closer and closer. Now we have Uber apparently trying to develop flying cars, as Bloomberg reports, further proof that the future predicted by the ’82 cult classic is becoming more like reality.
The ride-hailing company envisions people taking conventional Ubers from their homes to nearby “vertiports” that dot residential neighborhoods. Then they would zoom up into the air and across town to the vertiport closest to their offices. (“We don’t need stinking bridges!” says Moore.) These air taxis will only need ranges of between 50 to 100 miles, and Moore thinks that they can be at least partially recharged while passengers are boarding or exiting the aircraft. He also predicts we’ll see several well-engineered flying cars in the next one to three years and that there will be human pilots, at least managing the onboard computers, for the foreseeable future.
If that doesn’t sound like the most sci-fi cyberpunk thing imaginable to give you the final proof of our cyberpunk future I don’t know what is. I mean look at this image of Trump Tower:
It was the year 2017 and things had gone full cyberpunk pic.twitter.com/gd7PCEBHZ2
— GonzoHacker (@GonzoHacker) January 22, 2017
Doesn’t it look totally like something out of Blade Runner? I swear soon we’ll be running the shadows in our leather coats and neon boots. Mark my words. This is officially the year we embark into our cyberpunk future.
It’s finally here
Scientists have put forth the idea that one of the potential reasons we sleep is not to regain energy, but to sort out your brain so it’s good for the next day, as Karl Zimme writes for The New York Times:
A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.
In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.
I’m posting this right as I go to bed, so I’ll tell you later today how my synapses are.
The above is a recently released and gorgeous image of Saturns B-ring taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, and it’s the highest detail photograph of Saturn’s rings to date. This year, after 19 years of service, Cassini will end its mission by burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere. RIP Cassini.
This image shows a region in Saturn’s outer B ring. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft viewed this area at a level of detail twice as high as it had ever been observed before.
The view here is of the outer edge of the B ring, at left, which is perturbed by the most powerful gravitational resonance in the rings: the “2:1 resonance” with the icy moon Mimas. This means that, for every single orbit of Mimas, the ring particles at this specific distance from Saturn orbit the planet twice. This results in a regular tugging force that perturbs the particles in this location.
A lot of structure is visible in the zone near the edge on the left. This is likely due to some combination of the gravity of embedded objects too small to see, or temporary clumping triggered by the action of the resonance itself. Scientists informally refer to this type of structure as “straw.”
This image was taken using a fairly long exposure, causing the embedded clumps to smear into streaks as they moved in their orbits. Later Cassini orbits will bring shorter exposures of the same region, which will give researchers a better idea of what these clumps look like. But in this case, the smearing does help provide a clearer idea of how the clumps are moving.
This image is a lightly processed version, with minimal enhancement; this version preserves all original details present in the image. Another other version (Figure 1) has been processed to remove the small bright blemishes due to cosmic rays and charged particle radiation near the planet — a more aesthetically pleasing image, but with a slight softening of the finest details.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Dec. 18, 2016. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers) from the rings and looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings. Image scale is about a quarter-mile (360 meters) per pixel.
If for whatever reason we all started Kung Fu fighting with kicks that were as fast as lightning, we would all die:
Taken at face value, everyone would die. The forces required to accelerate limbs up to a fraction of the speed of light would give human legs accelerations in the quintillions of gees. These sorts of accelerations don’t exist anywhere in the universe; neutron star surface gravity is a snail’s pace by comparison. Macroscopic objects simply don’t move this fast. I cannot emphasize more strongly how far outside the realm of ‘plausible’ we are.
But let’s be generous. Suppose the human body could withstand these accelerations. What happens when that first kick is thrown?
Introverts like myself have a limited amount of social energy, and if we use all of it up we can end up getting ‘social hangovers’, as Shawna Courter writes:
After a few hours, I couldn’t take it any more. I slipped away like a thief, skulking about the house, searching for a place where it was quiet. I came across a half-lit room and saw my future brother-in-law sitting in there, staring out the window. Knowing him to be an introvert himself, I decided this was my best option for escape and sat down across the room, wrapping my arms around my knees. I remember hoping he wouldn’t think I was intruding upon his own solitude before I allowed myself to zone out, letting my thoughts drown out the raucous laughter from downstairs, breathing deeply and feeling the tension drain away. I don’t know how long it was before my now-husband came looking for me, but I remember him laughing at finding the two introverts seeking refuge together.
I’m linking this now because I just got back from my first nerd convention in a long time, Armageddon, and I feel drained. When I first got there it was fun, seeing all people as nerdy as I was dressed up as characters I never thought I’d see1. But after a while/after I bought everything it just became too much; the sea of people, the hagglers prompting me to buy something, the promise of a Gundam which would sell for ‘five times its price.’ When my friend finally called me and told me it was time to leave, I was glad.
Anna Barney, Heritage Daily:
To know how Ötzi the Iceman sounded we need to know how long and how thick his vocal folds were – that tells us about the natural pitch of his voice. We also need to know how long his airway was and about the cross-sectional area to work out the resonance frequencies. His tongue and lips will have been preserved in one particular position which will only give us information about a single vowel sound. So if we are to work out how he sounded for other vowels we also need to know a bit about the size of his tongue and where it joined to his windpipe. Knowing this allows us to work out the other possible tube-shapes he could make and calculate their related resonances.
But how can you actually work all this out? It’s pretty simple, all you really need is a CT scan, which uses X-rays to create detailed images of the inside of the body. This allows us to measure all these anatomical dimensions. We can then use that information to make a computer model to synthesise what his voice might have sounded like.
It’s a shame that, as the system relies on soft, fleshy tissue of mummies, we’ll never hear Lucy’s (Previously) voice.