10/26/2007 11:25:37 AM
Missing a night’s sleep can cause people’s brains to act like they have a psychiatric illness, according to the New Scientist. The lack of sleep can disrupt the parts of the brain that control people’s emotions and fear. It’s similar to the type of brain disruption associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Doctors often think that psychiatric disorders can cause problems sleeping, said Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, quoted in the article. But this study suggests that
problems sleeping sleep disorders might be causing psychiatric disorders.
And here I was thinking that I was just tired. –Bennett Gordon
UPDATE: A reader pointed out that there is a large difference between "problems sleeping" and "sleep disorders." I think this is a good distinction to make, and I've corrected the language above.
10/25/2007 3:53:15 PM
The ancient village of Jiahu, in modern-day China, was the birthplace of the oldest booze known to man. The secrets of the 9,000-year-old cocktail were recently uncovered by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Now, with the help of the beer-masters at Dogfish Head, that Neolithic alcohol is available for public consumption.
The curious staff of Archeology Magazine took the plunge and downed a glass or two of the liquor, dubbed Chateau Jiahu. Samir S. Patel writes that the taste took some getting used to, but eventually everyone agreed it was “interesting, unusual, and worth trying.” –Bennett Gordon
10/24/2007 4:27:23 PM
Half of a century ago, it took some of the world’s top scientists to build Sputnik, the first man-made satellite. Today, Paul Rubens writes for BBC News Magazine, intrepid techies can build their very own beeping space transmitters using typical, household items. Gadgets as common as a baby monitor, a wireless router, and a tin box are really all a person needs to make their own 1950s-era satellite. After that, it's just a question of getting the box into space. –Eric Kelsey
10/23/2007 9:49:25 PM
Capturing the microscopic details of Lilliputian objects, microphotographers are able to engage in a world that is hidden from the naked eye. Discover Magazine showcases 20 of these artists of the minute, finalists of a recent contest held by the camera company Nikon. Some of the highlights include a spindly closeup of a Zebrafish embryo, red algae cells that look like Chinese fans, and bulging, luminescent frog embryos.
Academics, researchers, and professional photographers were all honored in the contest.
Who knew a zebrafish embryo's midbrain was so dazzling? –Cara Binder
10/23/2007 9:28:18 PM
Lawmakers and scientists met in Washington on Wednesday to discuss how to bring more women into science, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports (subscription required). Women are woefully underrepresented in so-called STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and some people have suggested that setting up an NCAA-style governing body for collegiate academics could help level the playing field.
Less than 5 percent of full professors in physics are female, according to Myron Campbell, chair of the physics department at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. And that could be considered a violation of Title IX, the 1972 law that sought to ensure equal distribution of federal academic funds for both men and women. While most people think of Title IX as a mandate to give more money to women’s soccer and field hockey teams, the law applies to educational programs, too.
“The original intent of Title IX was to ensure equal educational opportunity for both sexes,” said Gretchen Ritter, director of the Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, quoted in Inside Higher Ed. “Yet, relatively little has been done outside of the arena of athletics to make that mandate meaningful.” –Bennett Gordon
(Thanks to Science Progress for the tip.)
10/17/2007 12:00:00 AM
Explicit and taboo language can help relieve stress at work, the BBC reports. Researchers at England’s University of East Anglia have found that swearing at work can build team spirit and help co-workers deal with stress.
The researchers did caution, however, not to swear in front of customers.
Yeah, no $%#*. -- Bennett Gordon
10/16/2007 12:00:00 AM
If you're using a Verizon Wireless cell phone, and you value your personal information, call this number as soon as possible:
That's Verizon's new "Opt-out line for customer proprietary information." According to the tech-news website Ars Technica, Verizon has been sending out letters to tell customers that if they don't call the opt out line, Verizon will be able to share their personal information with third parties. If customers don't call the line, Verizon will interpret this as a tacit form of consent.
Not all information will be made public, reports Ken Fisher of Ars Technica, just "data on the calls you make and receive, and the services that you may make use of." Fisher interprets this as a move toward more cell-phone based marketing. Verizon could use the personal information to figure out which businesses customers call, making Verizon's in-house marketing better.
The larger issue involves the fracas going on right now in Washington involving the warrantless wiretapping and the surveillance of Americans. Ellen Nakashima reports for the Washington Post that Verizon has been turning over information to government investigators without court orders in "emergency" situations. "Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests," Nakashima writes.
That may be true. But the question is: whose role is it?
(Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the tip) -- Bennett Gordon
UPDATE: Brian Ashby, associate general counsel for Verizon, has clarified the company's stance, according to Laura M. Holson of the New York Times. Verizon claims that the information will be used for internal purposes only, "so it can better sell new products to existing customers."
10/14/2007 12:00:00 AM
The September 29 edition of the weekly Science News reports that scientists are trying to make silicon-based computer chips obsolete using graphene, "[a] single-atom-thick, chicken wire web of carbon atoms." Similar to the graphite used in pencils, graphene's "carbon-to-carbon bond -- is the strongest in nature," according to scientists quoted in the article, which could lead to smaller and stronger computer chips. -- Eric Kelsey
10/13/2007 12:00:00 AM
In the Autumn issue of the American Scholar (article not available online) writer Elyse Graham highlights the innovative archeology and chemistry work of Andrew Koh. On the island of Mochlos, near Crete, archaeologists were stumped by a Bronze Age building. They knew it was a factory, but they couldn’t figure out what it made. So they called on Koh, then a chemistry grad student, to do some analysis. Fed up with the time consuming and costly procedures of lab work, Koh started using a Polyvap, a portable machine typically used in food science. Thanks to device, Koh cracked the archaeological mystery, and figured out that the building was a perfume factory. The finding was a key to unraveling other mysteries on the island. Now, after innovating the field of archaeochemistry, Dr. Koh is a classics professor, and he's been teaching his techniques to his fellow scientists. -- Julie Dolan
10/12/2007 12:00:00 AM
The US government has been accused of sending out tiny, dragonfly-like drones to spy on anti-war protesters. People claim that mechanical insects have been sent by the government to hover over anti-war protests and collect information, reports the British newspaper the Telegraph.
It sounds to me like the work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) who, according to the BBC, in 2006 sought to create a "cyber-insect army," of remote control bugs to sniff out bombs or spy on people. -- Bennett Gordon
10/12/2007 12:00:00 AM
I would be remiss not to mention the fact that Al Gore has jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with the scientists on the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change.
The newswires are buzzing with talk of Gore running for president. Personally, I like the German newspaper Spiegel's take on the issue. Marc Pitzke writes that Gore "hovers far above the swamp of an election campaign, with its mudslinging, tedious debates and populism in the provinces." He's too big for the presidential campaign, says Pitzke, and always will be.
What do you think? -- Bennett Gordon
10/11/2007 12:00:00 AM
George Bush's "antiscientific governance," says Chris Mooney in the latest issue of Seed, has created a climate in America where science and scientists aren't valued. This isn't really news to most people, but with the campaign trail in full swing, many people have started looking to the next election as a source of hope for the future of American science. Mooney lays out what the next president should do, (fund stem cell research, join a treaty to curb global climate change, etc.), but the question is, how do Americans evaluate the candidates today?
Grist has created a specific page for the upcoming presidential election. If you click on "How Green is Your Candidate," you can get links to handy fact sheets, interviews, and other articles on green politics.
Both Grist and Mooney, however, focus on just the presidential election. It's easy to do, but I think this is a mistake. People are beginning to place all their faith in the next president to fix all the messes of the one we've got now (including Iraq, education, climate change, and the rest). No matter who we elect as the next president, he or she just isn't going to be able to solve those problems alone. People need to focus on smaller, more local efforts and candidates, to create a sea change from the ground up. -- Bennett Gordon
10/11/2007 12:00:00 AM
Dr. Frankenstein has competition, and his name is Craig Venter. After leading a charge to map the human genome, Craig Venter is expected to announce that he has created artificial life within the next few weeks, Ed Pilkington reports for the Guardian.
In June of 2006, I wrote about Venter's plan to reorganize genetic code and create artificial, designer organisms not found in nature. Now it seems that Venter's plan has succeeded. The designer life forms, Pilkington writes, could be used to solve the current energy crisis, and even stop global warming.
So just a recap: politicians and voters are still arguing about the ethics of stem cell research, and what it means to be "pro-life." Meanwhile, Venter, a private citizen, is in the business of actually creating life. Pat Mooney, director of the ETC group, a Canada-based bioethics organization, quoted in the Guardian piece, puts it into perspective. "Governments, and society in general, is way behind the ball." -- Bennett Gordon
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