mystery

‘But as the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an objective, the revenues of the states increasing, tyrannies were established almost everywhere.’ —Thucydides

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Intrance on back. Most open on the lay-days.

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In a paper published in the journal Science, physicists reported that they were able to reliably teleport information between two quantum bits separated by three meters, or about 10 feet.

Quantum teleportation is not the “Star Trek”-style movement of people or things; rather, it involves transferring so-called quantum information — in this case what is known as the spin state of an electron — from one place to another without moving the physical matter to which the information is attached.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true.’ –Kundera

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Many gardeners and horticulturalists seek non-chemical methods to control populations of snails. It has frequently been reported that snails that are marked and removed from a garden are later found in the garden again. This phenomenon is often cited as evidence for a homing instinct.

We report a systematic study of the snail population in a small suburban garden, in which large numbers of snails were marked and removed over a period of about 6 months. While many returned, inferring a homing instinct from this evidence requires statistical modelling. […]

Maximum likelihood techniques infer the existence of two groups of snails in the garden: members of a larger population that show little affinity to the garden itself, and core members of a local garden population that regularly return to their home if removed. The data are strongly suggestive of a homing instinct, but also reveal that snail-throwing can work as a pest management strategy.

{ The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences | Continue reading | LA Times }

art { Vincent van Gogh, Plain Near Auvers, 1890 }

Just remember, when you control the mail, you control… information

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Amoebas are puny, stupid blobs, so scientists were surprised to learn that they contain 200 times more DNA than Einstein did. Because amoebas are made of just one cell, researchers assumed they would be simpler than humans genetically. Plus, amoebas date back farther in time than humans, and simplicity is considered an attribute of primitive beings. It just didn’t make sense. […]

Before the advent of rapid, accurate, and inexpensive DNA sequencing technology in the early 2000s, biologists guessed that genes would provide more evidence for increasing complexity in evolution. Simple, early organisms would have fewer genes than complex ones, they predicted. […] Instead, their assumptions of increasing complexity began to fall apart. […]

Then molecular analyses did something else. They rearranged the order of branches on evolutionary trees. Biologists pushed aside trees based on how similar organisms looked to one another, and made new ones based on similarities in DNA and protein sequences. The results suggested that complex body parts evolved multiple times and had also been lost. One study found that winged stick insects evolved from wingless stick insects who had winged ancestors. […]

Perhaps the fact that people are stunned whenever organisms become simpler says more about how the human mind organizes the world than about evolutionary processes. People are more comfortable envisioning increasing complexity through time instead of reversals or stasis.

{ Nautilus | Continue reading }

design { Sam Winston }

‘Yesterday won’t be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago.’ –Faulkner

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Why does life exist?

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

{ Quanta | Continue reading }

Punk is dad

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We have identified a Y-chromosomal lineage with several unusual features. It was found in 16 populations throughout a large region of Asia, stretching from the Pacific to the Caspian Sea, and was present at high frequency: ~8% of the men in this region carry it, and it thus makes up ~0.5% of the world total. The pattern of variation within the lineage suggested that it originated in Mongolia ~1,000 years ago. Such a rapid spread cannot have occurred by chance; it must have been a result of selection. The lineage is carried by likely male-line descendants of Genghis Khan, and we therefore propose that it has spread by a novel form of social selection resulting from their behavior.

{ National Institutes of Health }

An international group of geneticists studying Y-chromosome data have found that nearly 8 percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today. […]

To have such a startling impact on a population required a special set of circumstances, all of which are met by Genghis Khan and his male relatives, the authors note in the study.

[Genghis Khan lived from 1162-1227 and raped and pillaged from Mongolia to the gates of Vienna. Once he captured a village or town, he would essentially kill all the men and rape the women.]

The Y-chromosome is passed on as a chunk of DNA from father to son, basically unchanged through generations except for random mutations.

These random mutations, which happen naturally and are usually harmless, are called markers. Once the markers have been identified, geneticists can go back in time and trace them to the point at which they first occurred, defining a unique lineage of descent.

In this particular instance, the lineage originated 1,000 years ago. The authors aren’t saying that the genetic mutations defining the lineage originated with Khan, who was born around 1162; they are more likely to have been passed on to him by a great great grandfather.

[…]

The connection to Genghis Khan will never be a certainty unless his grave is found and his DNA could be extracted.

{ National Geographic | Continue reading | Audio: Radio Lab, Genghis Khan Episode }

The location of the tomb of Genghis Khan has been the object of much speculation and research. The site remains undiscovered. […] According to one legend, the funeral escort killed anyone and anything that crossed their path, in order to conceal where he was finally buried. After the tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were massacred, and then the soldiers who killed them were also killed.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

‘But to live happy, I must be contented with obscurity.’ –Florian

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Antidepressants are often considered to be mere placebos despite the fact that meta-analyses are able to rank them. It follows that it should also be possible to rank different placebos, which are all made of sucrose. To explore this issue, which is rather more epistemological than clinical, we designed an unusual meta-analysis to investigate whether the effects of placebo in one situation are different from the effects of placebo in another situation.

{ BMC Medecine | Continue reading }

photo { Maurizio Di Iorio }

As long as the hand that rocks the cradle is mine

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For a common affliction that strikes people of every culture and walk of life, schizophrenia has remained something of an enigma. Scientists talk about dopamine and glutamate, nicotinic receptors and hippocampal atrophy, but they’ve made little progress in explaining psychosis as it unfolds on the level of thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. Approximately one percent of the world’s population suffers from schizophrenia. Add to that the comparable numbers of people who suffer from affective psychoses (certain types of bipolar disorder and depression) or psychosis from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. All told, upwards of 3% of the population have known psychosis first-hand. These individuals have experienced how it transformed their sensations, emotions, and beliefs. […]

There are several reasons why psychosis has proved a tough nut to crack. First and foremost, neuroscience is still struggling to understand the biology of complex phenomena like thoughts and memories in the healthy brain. Add to that the incredible diversity of psychosis: how one psychotic patient might be silent and unresponsive while another is excitable and talking up a storm. Finally, a host of confounding factors plague most studies of psychosis. Let’s say a scientist discovers that a particular brain area tends to be smaller in patients with schizophrenia than healthy controls. The difference might have played a role in causing the illness in these patients, it might be a direct result of the illness, or it might be the result of anti-psychotic medications, chronic stress, substance abuse, poor nutrition, or other factors that disproportionately affect patients.

One intriguing approach is to study psychosis in healthy people. […] This approach is possible because schizophrenia is a very different illness from malaria or HIV. Unlike communicable diseases, it is a developmental illness triggered by both genetic and environmental factors. These factors affect us all to varying degrees and cause all of us – clinically psychotic or not – to land somewhere on a spectrum of psychotic traits. Just as people who don’t suffer from anxiety disorders can still differ in their tendency to be anxious, nonpsychotic individuals can differ in their tendency to develop delusions or have perceptual disturbances. One review estimates that 1 to 3% of nonpsychotic people harbor major delusional beliefs, while another 5 to 6% have less severe delusions. An additional 10 to 15% of the general population may experience milder delusional thoughts on a regular basis.

{ Garden of the Mind | Continue reading }

photo { Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman Drying Her Back, 1896 }

You talk six coupe shit you only pushing a trey

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The visible universe—including Earth, the sun, other stars, and galaxies—is made of protons, neutrons, and electrons bundled together into atoms. Perhaps one of the most surprising discoveries of the 20th century was that this ordinary, or baryonic, matter makes up less than 5 percent of the mass of the universe.

The rest of the universe appears to be made of a mysterious, invisible substance called dark matter (25 percent) and a force that repels gravity known as dark energy (70 percent).

Scientists have not yet observed dark matter directly. It doesn’t interact with baryonic matter and it’s completely invisible to light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, making dark matter impossible to detect with current instruments. […]

Dark energy is even more mysterious, and its discovery in the 1990s was a complete shock to scientists. Previously, physicists had assumed that the attractive force of gravity would slow down the expansion of the universe over time. But when two independent teams tried to measure the rate of deceleration, they found that the expansion was actually speeding up. One scientist likened the finding to throwing a set of keys up in the air expecting them to fall back down-only to see them fly straight up toward the ceiling.

Scientists now think that the accelerated expansion of the universe is driven by a kind of repulsive force generated by quantum fluctuations in otherwise “empty” space. What’s more, the force seems to be growing stronger as the universe expands. For lack of a better name, scientists call this mysterious force dark energy.

{ National Geographic | Continue reading }

All I hear is the last thing that you said

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A surge of electrical activity in the brain could be responsible for the vivid experiences described by near-death survivors, scientists report.

A study carried out on dying rats found high levels of brainwaves at the point of the animals’ demise.

US researchers said that in humans this could give rise to a heightened state of consciousness.

{ BBC | Continue reading }

Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude

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What is an electron? […]

Danish physicist Niels Bohr’s answer, in 1927, epitomized his beloved concept of complementarity: in some circumstances electrons are best described as particles, with definite positions; in others as waves, with definite momenta. Either description is valid and useful, yet according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle they are mutually exclusive, as positions and momenta cannot be known accurately at the same time. Each depiction captures an aspect of the electron’s nature, but neither exhausts it.

Modern quantum theory reinforces Bohr’s conclusion that what you see depends on how you choose to look. […]

Theoretical calculations have become intricate, now including fluctuations in fluctuations in fluctuations. […]

Attempts to pin down an electron’s position more accurately than this require, according to the uncertainty principle, injecting so much energy into the electron that additional electrons and anti-electrons get produced, confusing the issue.

{ Frank Wilczek | PDF }

related { First particle containing four quarks is confirmed }

fiberglass and pigment { Anish Kapoor, Void, 1989 }

It’s classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

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BMJ Case Reports has a paper that describes two patients with Parkinson’s disease who experienced hallucinations that transferred onto photos they took to try and prove they were real. This is ‘Patient 1′ from the case report:

Patient 1 was first evaluated at age 66, having been diagnosed with PD [Parkinson’s Disease] at age 58… She complained of daytime and night-time visual hallucinations for the past one year. Most of the time she did not have insight about them. She described seeing three children playing in her neighbor’s yard and a brunette woman sleeping under the covers in one of the beds in her house. She also saw images of different people sitting quietly in her living room. […] In one instance, she saw a man covered in blood, holding a child and called 911.

Her husband, in an attempt to prove to her that these were hallucinations, took pictures of the neighbor’s yard and the bed in their house. Surprisingly, when shown these photos, the patient continued to identify the same children playing in the yard and the same brunette woman sleeping under the covers. This perception was present every time the patient looked at these photos.

{ Mind Hacks | Continue reading }

screenshot { Chantal Akerman, Je, tu, il, elle, 1975 }

unrelated { PETA Wants to Sue People Who Leave Anonymous Comments }