Last Week In Science (22-29 March)

Every now and then I’ll put together a list of noteworthy science related news/research that might prove useful or interesting to creators of the Filipino Fantastic, whether as indicators of future trends or inspiration for future works.

And no, these are not April Fools’ articles ^_^

News and Developments:

Here’s the joke: the authorities had no choice, as the court ruling made clear: “From the evidence we have, we can deduce that at least one of the brothers took part in the crime, but it has not been possible to determine which one.” Identical twins share 99.99% of their genetic information, and the tiny differences are impossible to isolate because of their nature; they tend to be spontaneous mutations limited to certain organs or tissues. “Identifying those [differences] would amount to dissecting the suspects,” says Peter M. Schneider, a University of Cologne forensic expert. “Our hands are tied in a case like this,” says criminal-law expert Hans-Ullrich Paeffgen of Bonn University. “The law doesn’t allow us to detain someone indefinitely just because he is suspected of a crime. This may be different elsewhere. But I’d rather live in a country where someone guilty is not convicted for lack of conclusive evidence than in a place where innocent people are locked up.”

Yobs are being shamed out of anti-social behaviour by bright pink lights which show up their acne.

The lights are so strong they highlight skin blemishes and have been successful in moving on youths from troublespots who view pink as being “uncool.”

Manager Dave Hey said: “With the fluorescent pink light we are trying to embarass young people out of the area. “The pink is not seen as particularly macho among young men and apparently it highlights acne and blemishes in the skin.

A North Lincolnshire Council spokesman said: “[...]“On the face of it this sounds barmy. But do young people really want to hang around in an area with a pink glow that makes any spots they have on their face stand out?”

Low-energy nuclear reactions could potentially provide 21st Century society a limitless and environmentally-clean energy source for generating electricity, researchers say. The report, which injects new life into this controversial field, will be presented here today at the American Chemical Society’s 237th National Meeting. It is among 30 papers on the topic that will be presented during a four-day symposium, “New Energy Technology,” March 22-25, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the first description of cold fusion.

“Our finding is very significant,” says study co-author and analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss, Ph.D., of the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, Calif. “To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from an LENR device.”

Research and Reflections:

Extending this idea that science fiction is implicated in the production of things like science fact, I wanted to think about how this happens, so that I could figure out the principles and pragmatics of doing design, making things that create different sorts of near future worlds. So, this is a bit of a think-piece, with examples and some insights that provide a few conclusions about why this is important as well as how it gets done. How do you entangle design, science, fact and fiction in order to create this practice called “design fiction” that, hopefully, provides different, undisciplined ways of envisioning new kinds of environments, artifacts and practices.

In some circles, ascribing personalities to animals is still a cardinal sin of biology and warrants being branded with a scarlet A (for anthropomorphism). Nonetheless, scientists have consistently found evidence of personality traits in species as closely related to us as chimpanzees, and as distant as squid, ants and spiders.

These traits may exist, but they pose an evolutionary puzzle because consistent behaviour is not always a good thing. The consistently bold animal could well become a meal if it stands up to the wrong predator, or seriously injured if it confronts a stronger rival. The ideal animal is a flexible one that can continuously adjust its behaviour in the face of new situations.

And yet, not only do personality types exist but certain traits are related across the entire animal kingdom. Aggression and boldness toward predators are part of a general ‘risk-taking’ personality that scientists have found in fish, birds and mammals.

M. John Harrison on the idea of personality. The idea that we are all cpmpiling our personalities moment to moment. The twenty-first century will reveal all that, and cure it.

“I was raised with fixed cultures as being wholly determinative of the individual’s identity… The collapse of culture may already have happened, and we may be on the other side of it, and it’s probably a good thing.”

We live in era in which the self exists in mediated feedback loops, in which media inputs impact personality. How you interrupt those loops remains to be seen. The Adbusters approach does not seem to be the answer.

The writer’s task is to “write about individuals who are constantly being mediated and re-mediated. Not alienated, but pureed.”

IT IS 2036. A large asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Unless it is stopped, it will crash into the Pacific Ocean, creating a devastating tsunami. What should we do?

We could blast the asteroid with a nuclear bomb, but that would risk shattering it into smaller pieces that could still threaten Earth. Or maybe we should try to force it off course by slamming into it with a heavy object – an unproven and therefore risky technique. Now there may be a third option: gently nudging the asteroid away from Earth without breaking it apart, either by exploding a nuclear device at a distance or zapping it with high-powered lasers.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that playing action video games can also alter the brain, especially circuits involved in vision, attention and other skills you bring to bear when you play games such as Halo or Call of Duty 2. But in a study being published online this afternoon in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists are reporting that playing action video games improves an aspect of vision that was thought to be pretty much fixed—namely, contrast sensitivity.

That’s the ability to detect tiny changes in shades of gray against a uniform background, and is something you need to deploy when driving at night or in poor-visibility conditions. You lose it with age, but amblyopia (“lazy eye”) can also impair contrast sensitivity. The only way to fix, supposedly, is with glasses or surgery.

Sorry for the tardy update this week – had to cram in two stories in two days @_@

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One response to “Last Week In Science (22-29 March)

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