America Has Its Priorities Wrong

This video has already made its way to many prominent areas on the internet and gained thousands of viewers. I think any site that has any connection to science and/or technology should make it their duty to show it once again.  So, here you go.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is without a doubt a genius, and knows exactly what he is talking about. So, why do more people not listen to what this man has to say? Easy their priorities are not straight. More people are too focused on what is going on in Hollywood, and which celebrity is doing this and that to care about NASA being all but shut down.

Our government throws money every which way but in the right direction. Why do more people not grow up caring about science and technology that can bring magic into the world? I am not that involved with the science world, but I do love to read about it. I love hearing about space exploration with the hope that one day we will be traveling in space or maybe even found intelligent life.

I am not going to say that Hollywood is all bad because there are some things that I love to know about, and I am a sucker for awards season. The thing is why does our society not also incorporate men and women of science as people that they idolize also. These are the people that are making new discoveries to hopefully sustain the human species.

Tyson really does have a point. This nation has stopped dreaming. I still have hope that it does not once again take a war to make people come to the understanding that space exploration is important. Science is important.

Humans and Bees Share a Novelty Gene

When people look at a bee, there is a good chance that they will claim that humans have nothing in common with the makeup of bees. Until recently that might have held up scientifically, but now a new study has discovered that bees and humans both have what is referred to as novelty-seeking. It seems that trait is related back to the same genes.

Novelty seeking is simply a personality trait that has to do with exploration, impulsivity, extravagance, and disorderliness. Most humans possess this trait at a certain level. Those who like to go mountain climbing and jump out of airplanes obviously have more than other types of people. Bees have their own type of “explorers.” We refer to this type of a bee as a scout.

The scout is the bee that goes off without being instructed to do so and finds food for the hive. Gene Robinson, an entomologist and geneticist at the University of Illinois, and a graduate student Zhengzheng Liang conducted a study to find the comparison of this trait in bees with that of humans.

The study focused on a hive that was placed in an outdoor enclosure with mesh walls. Liang placed “a jar with a yellow flower pattern and faint scent” in the enclosure for the bees to eat. To identify the scouts, Liang then placed one alternative jar somewhere in the enclosure for three-consecutive days. Scouts were identified as those who visited at least two other jars. Those bees were dotted with ink.

Afterwards the scouts were captured and had their brains removed.  Liang measured the difference of brain activity between scouts and non-scouts. She discovered that 16% of the bees’ 7500 genes were different between the two groups. Several of the genes discovered to have differences were those also associated with novelty-seeking in humans and other vertebrates including the “receptors for the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate.”

Liang then proceeded to feed sugar water laced with glutamate to non-scouts. This activated those genes, and the bees were then more likely to fly off towards jars that were moved in the enclosure. She also gave a glutamate inhibitor to scouts to prevent the effect. She did the same thing with dopamine and came to the same results.

Robinson said that the common ancestor of bees and humans could have been a flatworm, but does not expect that a scout existed at that time. He said, “Our results raise the interesting possibility that there’s a genetic toolkit for this kind of behavior.”

Mysterious Space Drone

A year ago the Air Force launched its second unmanned drone that is completely automated into space. It was never clear exactly what the drone was for, but the military said that the space shuttle X-37B was to test new technologies in space. Whatever those technologies are, no one is sure.

The space shuttle was launched from Cape Canaveral, FL, March 5, 2011. It was originally schedule to land 270 days later in November, but the Air Force extended the date and as of yet has not announced a new landing date.

Even though the Pentagon has said on more than one occasion that the shuttle is simply for testing technologies, some analysts believe this could be the beginning for weapons capable of orbiting the planet and “dropping bombs or disabling satellites.”

This one and the first X-37B were built in extreme secrecy by Boeing Co.’s Space and Intelligence Systems in Huntington Beach. Engineering was completed at Huntington and Seal Beach while other services were completed at El Segundo. It is rumored that a third X-37B will be launched later this year.

Air Force Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre said, “Upon completion of all objectives, we look forward to bringing the mission to a safe, successful conclusion. The next program phase, the next X-37B mission, has been tentatively planned for the fall of 2012.”

McIntyre also commented a little on the purpose of these shuttles, “The X-37B program is setting the standard for a reusable space plane, and on this one-year orbital milestone, has returned great value on the experimental investment.”

The X-37B program was initially a NASA program but after a lack of funding was released to the Defense Advanced Research Agency in 2004. The Air Force took over in 2006.

Ted Molczan, a Toronto, Canada-based satellite watcher and spacecraft analyst, has an idea of what the shuttles could be used for:

“I do not know OTV-2’s mission, but it’s frequently repeating ground track may be a clue that it is gathering imagery intelligence. Ground tracks that repeat at intervals of two, three or four days have long been favored for U.S. imagery intelligence satellites, because they enable frequent monitoring of targets of interest.”

Spider Silk Turned into Violin Strings

As someone who is unnaturally freaked out by spiders, the idea of a musical instrument’s strings being made from spider silk sort of gave me an unnerving feeling; however, the actual process of how this came about was very intriguing.

Dr. Shigeyoshi Osaki of Japan’s Nara Medical University used the dragline silk of 300 female Nephilia maculata, a species of “golden orb-weavers” known for having complex webs, to create actual strings for a violin. Each string required Osaki to twist 3,000 to 5,000 strands of silk into one “bundle” going in the same direction. Then he twisted three of the bundles in the opposite direction to form the actual strings that would be used.

Once the strings were made, Dr. Osaki had to test the strength.  This was important because he wanted to them to uphold like any professional violinist would expect while performing. The strings could withstand more tension than aluminum-coated nylon-core string, but not as much as a more traditional but less frequently used gut string.

An electron microscope revealed that the twisting had changed the “filaments from circular to polygonal,” and this caused no space to exist between the strings. According to Dr. Osaki this particular feature is what not only gives the strings their strength but “unique tone.”

He stated, “The violin strings are a novel practical use for spider silk as a kind of high value-added product, and offer a distinctive type of timbre for both violin players and music lovers worldwide.”

So for the rest of the population that has a creepy crawling sensation when thinking of spider webs, there may actually be something very appealing starting here that can change the outlook of spiders.

Why do Women Make Noises During Sex?

When a woman is having sex with her partner, and she’s making noises during the entire act, she’s doing it out of pleasure – unless she’s faking it – but there is something more to those noises. A study conducted by William J. Hamilton and Patricia C. Arrowood revealed that real reason she’s doing it is to call for backup.

The research suggest that women that are loud during sex are actually trying to turn nearby men on in hopes that her moans will increase competition for her body. In other words, the louder she screams, the more competition she’s looking for.

Stuart Semple, a British primatologist (the people who study primates), said that women and female apes make noises as part of an unconscious way to call other males to her before, during, and after sex. This way she can get the best mate to pass on their genes.

Semple told PsychologyToday that after studying hundreds of female baboon mating calls, and calls made during sex, male baboons can gather detailed information about the females ovulation cycle, age, sexual maturity, and even how good the guy they are currently with is at having sex.

In other words, a half assed moan means she doesn’t have the best mate in the sack, but we already knew that right?

Other researchers have been looking at the calls, screams, and moans of actual humans, and while the variations and complexity are not as detailed as those of baboons, they still have some sort of evidence that human females are doing the same thing.

Another reason as to why women scream during sex is to make their mate reach climax faster. We Humans had hundreds of predators when we were still in our primitive stages of life, screaming in a “sexual” manner was a way of the woman saying – Hurry up! Were about to get killed by a tiger! – So the more screaming, the faster the man climaxed.

I guess now days that means, she’s screaming because her husband, parents, or roommates are coming through the front door and she’s trying to get you to hurry, or she’s trying to get the attention of the people around her. Makes you think twice about that copulatory scream coming from the bedroom above you at night uh?

Artificial No-Pump Heart

It has already been placed into several calves successfully, and at least two humans.  They each had a complete artificial heart replace their actual heart, and none of them now has a pulse.  What if someone you knew was walking around without a pulse? Personally, I am calling vampire.

Seriously, a new developing technology could change the way people with heart failure perceive it.  Right now there are people waiting on lists that may never see a heart.  Some of them are attached to heart pumps that are there to keep them alive until their name can be called for a transplant.  It really is no way to live.

As of today on the UNOS website there are 113,163 people on the waiting list, and out of that amount only 72,583 will even be considered for a donor heart.  Last year in the United States according to the Health Resources and Services Administration there were only 2,203 heart donors.  So, basically having heart failure and getting a transplant is like winning the lottery.

The new continuous-flow hearts that steadily deliver blood to the body are being developed by Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier at the Texas Heart Institute.  All of them have placed turbines in individuals for years, and these help the heart to work.  Their hope is that the new artificial heart will be able to completely replace sick hearts in people.

The invention of the Archimedes’ screw would go on to help power the LVAC, a pump that helps the heart to work and later the HeartMate II.  After several amazing cases of patients’ hearts stopping to work to all together, and the LVAC taking over as a way of delivering blood to the body, Cohn was further inspired to find a way to come up with a turbine that could completely replace the heart.

Cohn placed the first continuous-flow artificial heart into a calf named Meeko.  The device is based on ventricular design and will push blood continuously throughout the patient’s body instead of in pumps.  Cohn and Frazier discovered that the pulse was only necessary for the actual heart, and Cohn said, “The pulsatility of the flow is essential for the heart, because it can only get nourishment in between heartbeats. If you remove that from the system, none of the other organs seem to care much.”

Aliens Could Detect Life On Earth By Looking At the Moon

It seems that every month or so we find another planet with the “possibility” to hold life. We find super earths, or giant planets in the “habitable” zone and we instantly believe that we can live in this new planet OR we believe that there is possible life. But what if we could find planets that actually had some sort of life in them? A new trick discovered by astronomers at the European Southern Observatory allows them to discovery life on planets by simply looking at the light emitted off the planet. In their experiment, they were able to detect life on earth by simply looking at the light reflected from our moon.

The problem with our current methods of discovery of life is the fact that we can’t really look at a planet and see the ant size people or animals walking in the surface. Imagine looking at an ant hill from the top of the empire state building, even with binoculars you can’t really see the bugs walking around. Likewise, if you look at the earth from something as close as orbiting satellites, it’s not possible to detect us. But if you look at the earth and study the chemical signals, you can see exactly what kind of elements you can find on it’s surface. For example, earth has far more oxygen and methane than a planet without some sort of life in the surface.

This new technique is called Spectroscopy, we can now detect gases that scientists call biosignatures. The system involves breaking up the light signals that reflect off a planet and then reconstructing the colors to determine which elements are present in the planet. Think, burning copper on the fire and creating the color green, every element creates a specific color signature, the astronomers will be looking for Oxygen and other elements required for life.

While this can be hard for planets that are extremely far and circling stars that drown the actual planet’s light, it can still be studied effectively by exploiting the light reflected from the planet. The reflected light is polarized, while the light emitted from the star is not. When the light passes through the planet’s atmosphere, it is polarized in two ways. When it is reflected by the oceans and vegetation, and when the particles in the air change the color of the light. By looking at the polarized light, we can pinpoint exactly what is going on in the planet with great detail.

Michael F. Sterzik, Stefano Bagnulo, and Eric Palle revealed in an ESO statement that they have tried out this method of light reflection by studying the light reflected of our moon. They used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to measure the linear polarization spectra of earth shine… which just means the light that bounced from the earth onto the moon, then bounced from the moon back to space. In their research they discovered that the earth has clouds, it has vegetation, and it had oceans. This new technique works so well that they can actually tell cloud coverage at different times of the day, and even detect vegetation as small as 10 percent. Image credit to NASA

StarTram Want’s to Build an Orbit Canon on the Side of a Mountain

Our current methods of sending materials into space is extremely expensive, mainly because we use rockets which use fuel. The heaver the rocket, the more fuel the rocket needs, but at the same time the more fuel it uses, the heavier it becomes – see how this is a big problem for rocket scientist?

NASA has been trying to look for cheaper alternatives, especially since they are loosing funding, finally a company came forward with a solution that MAY just work. They are bringing forward a vacuum tube that will launch cargo up the side of a mountain and then send it out to low orbit with a very cost effective method.

StarTram, the company that came up with this idea, wants to have an 80 mile long tube that will rest on the side of a mountain. The inside of the tube will have magnets on the sides that will levitate the cargo inside – to lower friction – it will then use a vacuum to fire the cargo at about 20,000 mph.

The initial cost will not be cheap, they are looking at $20 billion dollars over a 10 year period of time. But after it’s finished they estimate that they can get cargo into low orbit for just under $20 per pound. While this is great for sending out cargo pieces and materials into outer space, humans are not going to be able to ride the system. The initial launch speed is going to push out about 30gs, which is enough to end our space career. In order for the tunnel to be used for human transportation, the tunnel needs to be over 800 miles long.  via NBF