We’ve already seen how magnets hovering close to a person’s head can affect speech, behavior and learning patterns. Now it appears zapping your brain with a 9-volt battery will make you better at video games, at least according to one researcher. Don’t try this yourself, though.
With just 15 minutes of a barely perceptible electric current passed through the brain, scientists at the University of Oxford have succeeded in improving a person’s math abilities with an effect lasting as long as six months. Using a non-invasive method known as transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS), the scientists passed a mild electric current through the skull into the brain’s parietal lobe, where numbers are processed.
We don't have jet packs, flying cars or pill-sized three-course meals, but if the Dutch have anything to say about it we'll get our synthetic meat, dammit. Using the most appetizing area of the pig—its muscle stem cells, of course—researchers at Utrecht University are developing a way to make completely artificial pork (as opposed to the partially artificial type).
By stimulating the rapidly-multiplying cells and adding nutrients and electric currents, the researchers hope to be able to build muscular mass from what are now little more than thin cell layers. If they can sufficiently layer the tissues without the help of blood vessels and figure out how to introduce flavor (ordinarily lent by fat), it's only a matter of time before we're chomping down on "chops" and overdosing on "bacon."
Were not even going to attempt to unwrap the ethics or general creepiness of this. One interesting point, though: large-scale commercial livestock operations are often heavy polluters, and if synthetic meat could one day replace even a small percentage of the meat we consume it would have an enormous impact on everything from water resources to CO2 levels.
But once they've nailed all that down, they'd better get back to work on this.—Abby Seiff
In middle school I had a science teacher who would tell the class that, while we took tests, she could project herself above and behind the classroom and watch us to make sure we werent cheating. Seriously. We always thought she was just giving us an excuse to close her eyes and nod off during the test. That, or there were some loose wires in her head.
As it turns out, the latter theory might be pretty close to the truth. In recent studies, neuroscientists have been able to re-create an out-of-body sensation by stimulating specific centers of the brain electrically. When mild electric currents were placed on certain areas of their brains, epilepsy patients claimed not only to find themselves suddenly floating above their bodies, but also at times to feel a malevolent, shadowy presence right behind them, mimicking their moves. Scientists think such electrostimulus can copy the way the brain misinterprets signals to the point where it doesnt quite know where the body is.
Although this could put the kibosh on any theories of ghosts or shadow people as a mere case of pareidolia, most supernatural stalwarts wont be convinced. Ghost hunting—an attempt to scientifically explain the unexplainable—has been around for more than a century and has become prominent in books, television programs and movies. The paranormal is deeply entrenched in our society, and there have been too many seemingly unexplained occurrences to give up on it completely.
So if you see a ghost, who you gonna call? A bunch of neuroscientists to help fix your head? Or Ernie Hudson to bring over his proton pack? —Dan Smith
A reader asks: Is it true that CDs can disintegrate after 20 years? How long will my digital photos last?
By Nicole BrananPosted 10.20.2004 at 5:00 pm 0 Comments
Yes, CDs sometimes disintegrate within a decade or two, but with proper handling and the use of higher-quality discs, your digital photo album should last a century. The breakdown of discs, known as CD rot, begins with poor care: scratches, bending the disc as you remove it from its case, damage to the edges. But these slight nicks and fractures don’t make rot inevitable. You can avoid it by using CDs coated with gold rather than the more common silver. The science involved here is simple.