Stuff That Makes You Go Hmm

Chicago, 2115.
Chicago, 2115.

People always ask me why I tend to favor pictures of sexy women on my blogs. The answer is easy, I like sexy women. If you like pictures of sexy men I suggest you go visit my buddy David Onassis. His pages are festooned with them. He’s also a nice guy and it won’t kill you to meet a nice person once in a while. Anyway, sexiness aside, there’s been a lot happening in the wonderful world of science and I thought today might be a good day to fill in some gaps. NO! Not the sexy gaps! Sheesh, I leave you alone on the interweb for a lousy minute and you get all pervy on me. No, I mean the gaps in your knowledge. I’m tired of writing about mass shootings. Let’s just admit it. If people truly want change they need to get out and vote. If they don’t, just get used to the weekly “thoughts and prayers” bullshit. And then buy bullet proof everything. Or move. Either works. I’m also a little burned on the whole super hero thing right now. Don’t get me wrong, I will see every single film and show as they come out, but writing about them becomes redundant after a while. I’ve completely stopped writing about Florida and its ilk simply due to the fact there are only so many ways to make the phrase “Wal-Mart meth lab” funny. Worse still is Texas which has fallen into the realm of self parody. I wrote a blog once entitled Nude Texas Ugly Bacon Vibrators and it made sense.

So, instead, I’d like to take a moment to talk about useful stuff.

Let’s start with something simple. M. M. Sullivan wrote about a handy invention that allows people to turn polluted water into pure drinking water. Even better, it tells them all sorts of stuff about water safety and other hygienic issues.

Each year, 3.4 million people die from water-related diseases, and many of those deaths are the result of a lack of knowledge about what water is safe to drink.

Finally, there is an affordable and effective answer to solving the world’s drinking water crisis. The Drinkable Book is the first-ever education-water filter hybrid. Not only do the pages teach readers about water safety, but the pages themselves are filters that can reduce waterborne bacteria by over 99.99%!

That’s right, a simple book with synthetic pages could save over three million lives a year. He’s got videos and more so make sure to check it out. And, yes, it’s available now if you’re thinking about a cool holiday gift for the Red Cross or something like that.

Speaking of synthetics, Justine Alford writes that science is pretty darn close to creating synthetic shrimp.

Shove over those lab-grown burgers; we need to make room for the synthetic shrimp on the barbie. Yep, scientists are no longer just working on trading our beloved beef for a greener alternative, but seafood too. Rather than trying to grow a meaty feast from stem cells, though, startup New Wave Foods has opted for a slightly different approach: algae. And while the team hopes to eventually create a range of faux seafood, they are focusing on shrimp for now, and for good reason.

The world has developed a real hankering for these crustaceans. Over the past few decades, global production of shrimp has more than tripled, and it’s estimated we now eat more than 6 million tons of them each year. It’s popular worldwide, but it’s the favorite seafood in the U.S., with citizens peeling their way through about 2 kilograms (4.1 pounds) each per year.

Needless to say, our hunger for shrimp is a big problem. We could try and reduce our consumption to tackle these issues, but trying to take meat away from man is about as easy as taking a bone from a dog. Opting for a similar approach to the veggie burger that “bleeds,” New Wave Foods is going for natural sources and trying to mush them together into a meaty, flavorful formulation. Their ingredient of choice is algae, or more specifically those that shrimp typically dine on anyway. This means getting a similar nutritional value to real shrimp is fairly easy, the team reported to Motherboard, but as always texture is proving tricky. Apparently, they’ve also managed to nail the flavor, but they won’t spill the beans as to how they did this.

At the moment our two main sources of shrimp are farming and trawling, both of which have serious repercussions on the environment and ecosystems. You’re probably aware of the consequences of trawl fishing: catching unwanted species, or bycatch. Shrimp trawling is said to have the worst rates for this out of all fishing techniques, with up to 2.7 kilograms (6 pounds) of unintended species per half kilogram (one pound) of shrimp sometimes caught up in nets, which includes turtles, sharks, dolphins and small whales. Not only that, but dragging the nets along the seabed also destroys it.

But by no means is farming a sustainable alternative. Important habitats are sometimes cleared to make way for shrimp farms, including mangroves, the loss of which can have a huge impact on coastal areas given their role as wildlife havens and buffers from the effects of storms. In addition, huge amounts of pollution, including waste and antibiotics used for growth, can leach out and contaminate other water systems.

I have friends who have tried the vegan meat products listed above and claim they’re, finally, the real deal. Since one friend is a cattle rancher, I’ll take their word on it. Anyway, one side benefit of synthetic shrimp is that people with shellfish allergies will now be able to eat shrimp until they can’t eat shrimp no mo.

In other synthetic news, a few weeks ago I wrote about how science had found a way to send huge amounts of data via light, instead of radio, waves. Victoria Ho writes that some other scientists said, “Ah, hell, that’s easy” and went and developed Li-Fi.

The world might eventually have to shift its reliance on Wi-Fi to Li-Fi, an alternative technology that scientists say can reach speeds of 1 Gbps in real-world use — 100 times faster than average Wi-Fi speeds.

At those speeds, you could download a high-definition movie in just a few seconds.

A company called Velmenni told the IBTimes UK that it took the technology out of the labs and into real-world offices and industrial environments in Estonia, where it was able to achieve those speeds.

Li-Fi transmits data using LED lights, which flicker on and off within nanoseconds, imperceptible to the human eye. It was invented in 2011, and in the lab, has been able to reach a mindblowing 224 Gbps.

Unlike Wi-Fi signals which can penetrate walls, Li-Fi is based on light and can’t, so its range is theoretically more limited. However, because of that limit, Li-Fi is also potentially more secure from external sniffing.

Li-Fi also opens more possibilities for smart home appliances. In the future, LED lightbulbs for the home could serve two functions — lighting up a room and helping to create a network in the house for devices to talk to each other.

Traditional cable companies are bidding on the tech now. Believe it or not they can use existing technologies to make it all work. The expense would be minimal.

So what else has science done with light? Would you believe “invent time travel?” Mary-Ann Russon says you should.

The (University of Queensland) scientists simulated the behaviour of two photons interacting with each other in two different cases.

In the first case, one photon passed through a wormhole and then interacted with its older self.

In the second case, when a photon travels through normal space-time and interacts with another photon trapped inside a closed timeline curve forever.

“The properties of quantum particles are ‘fuzzy’ or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations,” said co-author Professor Timothy Ralph.

“Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict.”

Although it has been possible to simulate time travel with tiny quantum particles, the same might not be possible for larger particles or atoms, which are groups of particles.

As she notes elsewhere in the article, there are reasons time travel is problematic.

The grandfather paradox states that if a time traveller were to go back in time, he could accidentally prevent his grandparents from meeting, and thus prevent his own birth. However, if he had never been born, he could never have travelled back in time, in the first place.

The paradoxes are largely caused by Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the solution to it, theGödel metric.

They won’t know what the results of their experiments will cause until they replicate them in different labs. But the basic idea is that you can go back and not cause your own death. Which is a good start.

Okay, but what about sound? Can’t we do anything with sound? I saw a sonic screwdriver on Dr. Who and that seemed kind of cool. It was and it is and Science Alert says it might be the way we cure Alzheimer’s.

No, I’m not kidding.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the (Queensland Brain Institute) team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to activate. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

The team reports fully restoring the memory function of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks – a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.

“We’re extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer’s without using drug therapeutics,” one of the team, Jürgen Götz, said in a press release. “The word ‘breakthrough’ is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.”

The team says they’re planning on starting trials with higher animal models, such as sheep, and hope to get their human trials underway in 2017.

I think that’s enough for one day. I don’t want to cause permanent brain freeze for anyone. Suffice it to say some people have done some very cool stuff that will benefit us all.

By the way, should you run into an idiot who claims we don’t need science, just send them here and ask them when’s the last time ignorance saved millions of people.

Romance In Plastic Minor from SHOOT THE BOSS on Vimeo.

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