science

Un cocktail, des Cocteau

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Deep Frozen Arctic Microbes Are Waking Up

In the last 10 years, warming in the Arctic has outpaced projections so rapidly that scientists are now suggesting that the poles are warming four times faster than the rest of the globe. This has led to glacier melt and permafrost thaw levels that weren’t forecast to happen until 2050 or later. In Siberia and northern Canada, this abrupt thaw has created sunken landforms, known as thermokarst, where the oldest and deepest permafrost is exposed to the warm air for the first time in hundreds or even thousands of years. […]

Permafrost covers 24 percent of the Earth’s land surface. […]

The layers may still contain ancient frozen microbes, Pleistocene megafauna and even buried smallpox victims. […] Other permafrost microbes (methanotrophs) consume methane. The balance between these microbes plays a critical role in determining future climate warming. […] Others are known but have unpredictable behavior after release. […]

Permafrost thaw in Siberia led to a 2018 anthrax outbreak and the death of 200,000 reindeer and a child.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

inkjet print and silkscreen ink on canvas { Richard Prince, Untitled (Cartoon), 2015 }

There’s not enough popcorn in the world

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An astrophysicist of the University of Bologna and a neurosurgeon of the University of Verona compared the network of neuronal cells in the human brain with the cosmic network of galaxies, and surprising similarities emerged. […]

The human brain functions thanks to its wide neuronal network that is deemed to contain approximately 69 billion neurons. On the other hand, the observable universe can count upon a cosmic web of at least 100 billion galaxies. Within both systems, only 30% of their masses are composed of galaxies and neurons. Within both systems, galaxies and neurons arrange themselves in long filaments or nodes between the filaments. Finally, within both system, 70% of the distribution of mass or energy is composed of components playing an apparently passive role: water in the brain and dark energy in the observable Universe. […]

Probably, the connectivity within the two networks evolves following similar physical principles, despite the striking and obvious difference between the physical powers regulating galaxies and neurons”

{ Università di Bologna | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Karel Appel, Portrait, 1966 }

Depuis le moment où je suis entré dans cette maison je n’ai entendu que des mensonges

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Evaluating other people’s sincerity is a ubiquitous and important part of social interactions.

Fourteen experiments show that response speed is an important cue on which people base their sincerity inferences. Specifically, people systematically judged slower responses as less sincere […].

the present study highlights the potential effects that may be observed in judicial settings, since the response speed of innocent suspects may mislead people to judge them as insincere and hence guilty.

{ PsyArXiv | Continue reading }

painted glass, in 26 parts { Xia Xiaowan, Lao P, 2005 }

the number, another summer (get down), sound of the funky drummer

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The possibility of points-of-no-return in the climate system has been discussed for two decades. A point-of-no-return can be seen as a threshold which, once surpassed, fundamentally changes the dynamics of the climate system. For example, by triggering irreversible processes like melting of the permafrost, drying of the rainforests, or acidification of surface waters. Recently, Lenton et al. summarized the global situation and warned that thresholds may be closer in time than commonly believed.

The purpose of this article is to report that we have identified a point-of-no-return in our climate model—and that it is already behind us. ESCIMO is a climate model which we run from 1850 to 2500. In ESCIMO the global temperature keeps rising to 2500 and beyond, irrespective of how fast humanity cuts the emissions of man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. […]

To stop the self-sustained warming in ESCIMO, enormous amounts of CO2 have to be extracted from the atmosphere.

{ Nature | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { John William Waterhouse, Pandora, 1898 }

‘Get ready, little lady. Hell is coming to breakfast.’ –The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

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Two studies done at the University of Minnesota Medical School and published in the early 1980’s measured the intensity, frequency, and durations of pelvic muscle contractions (measured with a pressure sensitive anal probe) of males and females during masturbation. There was basically no difference in the pattern of these contractions between males and females. […] A study done at Stanford University in 1994 found no significant gender differences in observed increases in heart rate, blood pressure, oxytocin, and anal contractions during orgasm.

{ Psychology Today | Continue reading }

The refractory period is the recovery phase after orgasm during which it is physiologically impossible for a man to have additional orgasms. This phase begins immediately after ejaculation. […] Although it is generally reported that women do not experience a refractory period and can thus experience an additional orgasm (or multiple orgasms) soon after the first one, some sources state that […] women may also experience a moment after orgasm in which further sexual stimulation does not produce excitement. […] clitoral hypersensitivity after orgasm can effectively create a refractory period. these women may be capable of further orgasms, but the pain involved in getting there makes the prospect undesirable. […]

the refractory period varies widely among individuals, ranging from minutes to days […] According to some studies, 18-year-old males have a refractory period of about 15 minutes, while those in their 70s take about 20 hours, with the average for all men being about half an hour. Although rarer, some males exhibit no refractory period or a refractory period lasting less than 10 seconds. […]

An increased infusion of the hormone oxytocin during ejaculation is believed to be chiefly responsible for the male refractory period, and the amount by which oxytocin is increased may affect the length of each refractory period. Another chemical which is considered to be responsible for the male refractory period is prolactin, which is repressed by dopamine, and is responsible for sexual arousal. […]

One alternative theory explains the male refractory period in terms of a peripheral autonomic feedback mechanism, rather than through central chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin. Autonomic feedback is already known to regulate other physiologic systems, such as breathing, blood pressure, and gut motility. This theory suggests that after male ejaculation, decreased wall tension in structures such as the seminal vesicles leads to a change in the fine autonomic signals sent from these organs, effectively creating a negative feedback loop. Such a mechanism is similar to decreased gastric and bowel motility once gastric contents have passed through. Once the feedback loop has been created, the refractory period remains until the loop is broken through restoration of the wall tension in the seminal vesicles. As men age, the time to restore tension in the seminal vesicles increases.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct…

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On planet K2-141b, hundreds of light-years away, oceans are made of molten lava, winds reach supersonic speeds and rain is made of rocks. Scientists have referred to the bizarre, hellish exoplanet as one of the most “extreme” ever discovered. 

Scientists have uncovered details of one of the newest “lava planets” — a world that so closely orbits its host star that much of it is composed of flowing lava oceans. […]

The Earth-sized exoplanet appears to have a surface, ocean and atmosphere all made of the same ingredients: rocks. […]

While analyzing the planet’s illumination pattern, scientists found that about two-thirds of the planet experiences perpetual daylight. K2-141b’s close proximity to its star gravitationally locks it in place — meaning the same side always faces the star.

This scorching hot part of the planet reaches temperatures of over 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s hot enough to not only melt rocks, but also vaporize them, creating a thin, inhospitable atmosphere.

The rest of the planet is cloaked in never-ending darkness, reaching frigid temperatures of negative 328 degrees Fahrenheit.

In Earth’s water cycle, water evaporates, rises up into the atmosphere, condenses, and returns to the surface as rain. Now imagine that process, but instead of water, K2-141b only has rocks to work with.

{ CBS | Continue reading }

screenprint { Bridget Riley, Composition with Circles 2 (Schubert 46), 2001 }

previously { Is Heaven hotter than Hell? }

‘Can we survive technology?’ –John von Neumann

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John von Neumann (1903 – 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time. He integrated pure and applied sciences.

Von Neumann made major contributions to many fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics. […]

He first proposed a quantum logic in 1932 […] He founded the field of game theory as a mathematical discipline. […] His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. […] He made fundamental contributions to mathematical statistics and in the field of fluid dynamics. […] He was a founding figure in computing. […] Beginning in 1949, von Neumann’s design for a self-reproducing computer program is considered the world’s first computer virus, and he is considered to be the theoretical father of computer virology. […] Von Neumann and his appointed assistant on this project, Jule Gregory Charney, wrote the world’s first climate modelling software, and used it to perform the world’s first numerical weather forecasts. […] The first use of the concept of a singularity in the technological context is attributed to von Neumann. […]

Beginning in the late 1930s, von Neumann developed an expertise in explosions—phenomena that are difficult to model mathematically. During this period, von Neumann was the leading authority of the mathematics of shaped charges. This led to his involvement in the Manhattan Project. […] He made his principal contribution to the atomic bomb in the concept and design of the explosive lenses that were needed to compress the plutonium core of the Fat Man weapon that was later dropped on Nagasaki. […] As a Hungarian émigré, concerned that the Soviets would achieve nuclear superiority, he designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race. […]

Von Neumann was a child prodigy. When he was six years old, he could divide two eight-digit numbers in his head and could converse in Ancient Greek. When the six-year-old von Neumann caught his mother staring aimlessly, he asked her, “What are you calculating?” […]

Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe said “I have sometimes wondered whether a brain like von Neumann’s does not indicate a species superior to that of man”, and later Bethe wrote that “[von Neumann’s] brain indicated a new species, an evolution beyond man”. [… Israel Halperin said: “Keeping up with him was … impossible. The feeling was you were on a tricycle chasing a racing car.” […]

Von Neumann was also noted for his eidetic memory (sometimes called photographic memory). […] “He was able on once reading a book or article to quote it back verbatim; moreover, he could do it years later without hesitation. He could also translate it at no diminution in speed from its original language into English.”

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

oil on canvas { Gustave Caillebotte, Un balcon, boulevard Haussmann, 1888 }

‘Science does not think.’ —Heidegger

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Can lab-grown brains become conscious?

These tiny structures, known as brain organoids, are grown from human stem cells and have become a familiar fixture in many labs that study the properties of the brain. Muotri, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), has found some unusual ways to deploy his. He has connected organoids to walking robots, modified their genomes with Neanderthal genes, launched them into orbit aboard the International Space Station, and used them as models to develop more human-like artificial-intelligence systems. Like many scientists, Muotri has temporarily pivoted to studying COVID-19, using brain organoids to test how drugs perform against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

But one experiment has drawn more scrutiny than the others. In August 2019, Muotri’s group published a paper in Cell Stem Cell reporting the creation of human brain organoids that produced coordinated waves of activity, resembling those seen in premature babies1. The waves continued for months before the team shut the experiment down. […]

The concerns over lab-grown brains have also highlighted a blind spot: neuroscientists have no agreed way to define and measure consciousness. Without a working definition, ethicists worry that it will be impossible to stop an experiment before it crosses a line.

{ Nature | Continue reading }

‘There are certain things — as, a spider, a ghost, the income-tax, gout, an umbrella for three — that I hate, but the thing that I hate the most is a thing they call the Sea.’ –Lewis Carroll

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What if a pill can change your politics or religious reliefs? […] Psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in “magic mushrooms,” seems to be remarkably effective in treating a wide range of psychopathologies, but also causes a raft of unusual nonclinical changes not seen elsewhere in medicine. […]

Although its precise therapeutic mechanisms remain unclear, clinically relevant doses of psilocybin can induce powerful mystical experiences more commonly associated with extended periods of fasting, prayer or meditation. Arguably, then, it is unsurprising that it can generate long-lasting changes in patients: studies report increased prosociality and aesthetic appreciation, plus robust shifts in personality, values and attitudes to life, even leading some atheists to find God. What’s more, these experiences appear to be a feature, rather than a bug, of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, with the intensity of the mystical experience correlating with the extent of clinical benefit.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

Ford, there’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they’ve worked out

An earlier universe existed before the Big Bang and can still be observed today, Sir Roger Penrose has said, as he received the Nobel Prize for Physics. […]

“The Big Bang was not the beginning. There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future.

“We have a universe that expands and expands, and all mass decays away, and in this crazy theory of mine, that remote future becomes the Big Bang of another aeon. 

“So our Big Bang began with something which was the remote future of a previous aeon and there would have been similar black holes evaporating away, via Hawking evaporation, and they would produce these points in the sky, that I call Hawking Points.

“We are seeing them. These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions. There is pretty good evidence for at least six of these points.”

{ The Telegraph | Continue reading }

About time!

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Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to American biochemist Jennifer A. Doudna (left) and French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier who discovered gene-editing tool CRISPR […] Doudna and Charpentier have been considered top candidates for the prize for several years, but there’s an ongoing fight over patents for CRISPR and its use.

{ Axios | Continue reading }

And the cloud that took the form (when the rest of Heaven was blue) of a demon in my view

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Faces provide not only cues to an individual’s identity, age, gender, and ethnicity but also insight into their mental states. The aim was to investigate the temporal aspects of processing of facial expressions of complex mental states for very short presentation times ranging from 12.5 to 100 ms. […]

Results show that participants are able to recognise very subtle differences between facial expressions; performance is better than chance, even for the shortest presentation time. Importantly, we show for the first time that observers can recognise these expressions based on information contained in the eye region only.

{ i-Perception | Continue reading }