"Where did we come from?" It's a central human question that drives us to wonder about origins -- of humans, life, the Earth, the Universe. The age of the Earth is central to that question, and it has been taken on by human cultures for millennia. But only in the last couple centuries have we obtained the means to unequivocally determine that age from actual evidence. The road was a long one.
In the late 1700s, geology was in its infancy. Rock layers (of any type) were only starting to be recognized as something other than deposits from a catastrophic, world-wide flood. James Hutton, a Scottish scientist, became enthralled with the fantastic histories he saw recorded in the rocks of his homeland. At a now-famous seaside outcrop on the eastern coast of Scotland, he saw nearly horizontal layers of red sandstone on top of completely vertical layers of a much different, gray sedimentary rock. He was the first to grasp the significance of that spatial relationship.
Read on ...
Drinking Coffee to Stave Off Alzheimer’s -- Scientific America
Is it really as simple at that? I got a tweet from a reader yesterday pointing me to an article in the LA Times. The article was covering a study from the University of South Florida on whether caffeine, and more specifically, coffee, can stave off Alzheimer’s disease. The reader was skeptical, and so am I, seems a bit too good to be true, with all this talk of “unidentified ingredients” in the coffee, etc, etc. Sure, it’s coffee, and I DO love me some coffee. And any excuse to drink it is going to be just fine with me. But I’m not sure we want to put out feelings of faith and hope in the great brown bean prematurely.
So let’s go on through this paper, and through a little bit on Alzheimer’s disease, and we’ll see what comes out the other end.
Read on ...
Our brains are incredibly agile machines, and it's hard to think of anything they do more efficiently than recognize faces. Just hours after birth, the eyes of newborns are drawn to facelike patterns. An adult brain knows it’s seeing a face within 100 milliseconds, and it takes just over a second to realize that two different pictures of a face, even if they’re lit or rotated in very different ways, belong to the same person.
Perhaps the most vivid illustration of our gift for recognition is the magic of caricature -- the fact that the sparest cartoon of a familiar face, even a single line dashed off in two seconds, can be identified by our brains in an instant. It’s often said that a good caricature looks more like a person than the person himself. As it happens, this notion, counterintuitive though it may sound, is actually supported by research. In the field of vision science, there’s even a term for this seeming paradox -- the caricature effect -- a phrase that hints at how our brains misperceive faces as much as perceive them.
Read on ...
I found this a very interesting read. It's amazing how our brain is able to do, what we feel, is the most basic thing, but figuring out how to program a computer to do it is infinitely hard.
In the age of Google and Wikipedia, an almost unlimited amount of information is available at our fingertips, and with the rise of smartphones, many of us have nonstop access. The potential to find almost any piece of information in seconds is beneficial, but is this ability actually negatively impacting our memory? The authors of a paper that is being released by Science Express describe four experiments testing this. Based on their results, people are recalling information less, and instead can remember where to find the information they have forgotten.
Read on ...
In the event of a zombie apocalypse it will probably help to have: a baseball bat, a gun, a chainsaw and a plethora of blunt objects. Also, it helps to possess a strong grasp of neuroscience.
... 'Over time (and probably beers) we started talking about what a zombie brain would have to look like.'
Read on ...
A $27,500 camera plus 240 hours of filming plus 27 drenched animals equals the code for dynamic water repellency.
... I'm an excellent hose holder!
SETI has set up a website -- SETIStars -- to help fund their dedicated telescopes that they had to shut down a couple months ago. SETI is looking to collect $200,000 in 40 days to get the ATA back up and running. This is far short of what they need per year, $2.5 million, but they are also looking for other funding. They are taking donations of $5 to $500.
Read more here.
Source: This Wired article
History of water availability in the Rockies shows trouble ahead -- Ars Technica
Communities in the Rocky Mountain region of North America rely on snowmelt to provide water for drinking, sanitation, irrigation, and industry. Snow, which falls in the mountains during the winter, acts like a massive frozen water tower, providing a steady supply of water throughout the drier summer months. Water usage in many cities is growing rapidly, and some are already encountering the limits of water availability. The threat of climate change looms large -- warming temperatures would push the snowline to higher elevations, decreasing the capacity of that frozen water tower.
Two recent papers shed some light on the long-term history of water availability in the region to provide insights into the current situation, as well as a future outlook.
Read on ...
Newly-released portraits show the International Space Station together with the space shuttle, the vehicle that helped build the complex during the last decade. The pictures are the first taken of a shuttle docked to the station from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
On May 23, the Soyuz was carrying Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli back to Earth. Once their vehicle was about 600 feet from the station, Mission Control Moscow, outside the Russian capital, commanded the orbiting laboratory to rotate 130 degrees. This move allowed Nespoli to capture digital photographs and high definition video of shuttle Endeavour docked to the station.
The Soyuz landed in Kazakhstan and was taken to Moscow for routine post-landing analysis. NASA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, then processed the imagery as part of the standard disposition of spacecraft cargo.
Visit http://go.nasa.gov/stationportrait to view the images.