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A blog that explores the unknown, technology, space, science and strange things with a skeptical and analytical eye.

Greg Fish
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  • May 20, 2015
  • 11:50 AM

battling superbugs the evolutionary way

by Greg Fish in weird things

We’re using far too many antibiotics. That has been the cry from the FDA and the WHO for the last several years as more and more antibiotic-resistant strains have been found after they had colonized or killed patients. Of course these bacteria aren’t completely immune to our arsenals of drugs, they’re just harder to kill with certain antibiotics or require different ones, but a rather small, yet unsettling number, have required doctors to use every last antibacterial weapon [...] ...... Read more »

  • May 8, 2015
  • 10:30 AM

do memristor chips remember electric sheep?

by Greg Fish in weird things

Humans beware. Our would-be cybernetic overlords made a leap towards hyper-intelligence in the last few months as artificial neural networks can now be trained on specialized chips which use memristors, an electrical component that can remember the flow of electricity through it to help manage the amount of current required in a circuit. Using these specialized chips, robots, supercomputers, and sensors could solve complex real world problems faster, easier, and with far less energy. [...] ...... Read more »

  • May 4, 2015
  • 10:00 AM

this is your brain on cosmic rays

by Greg Fish in weird things

Back in the day, I argued that if we were going to get serious about space exploration, we also had to budget for large, luxury spacecraft rather than just capsules in which we would cram the brave men and women we’d be sending to other worlds with a pat on the back for agreeing to deal with the discomfort and damage to their bodies. Among the reasons listed were the basic physiological problems of spending many months in zero gravity, and mental health hazards of boredom and cabin fever. ........ Read more »

Vipan K. Parihar, Barrett Allen, Katherine K. Tran, Trisha G. Macaraeg, Esther M. Chu, Stephanie F. Kwok, Nicole N. Chmielewski, Brianna M. Craver, Janet E. Baulch, Munjal M. Acharya, Francis A. Cucinotta, & Charles L. Limoli. (2015) What happens to your brain on the way to Mars. Science Advances, 1(4). info:/10.1126/sciadv.1400256

  • April 23, 2015
  • 11:35 AM

of microwave noodles and extragalactic signals

by Greg Fish in weird things

FRBs just can’t seem to catch a break this month. First, they were an alien signal. Then just as quickly as they were attributed to aliens because the Daily Fail decided to get creative with two out of context words and no one seemed to bother to fact check them, the bursts were called a false signal caused by microwave interference. Not just any microwave interference mind you, but the kind in which you warm up leftovers [...]... Read more »

E. Petroff, E. F. Keane, E. D. Barr, J. E. Reynolds, J. Sarkissian, P. G. Edwards, J. Stevens, C. Brem, A. Jameson, S. Burke-Spolaor.... (2015) Identifying the source of perytons at the Parkes radio telescope. n/a. arXiv: 1504.02165v1

  • April 22, 2015
  • 09:03 AM

why the great void didn’t cause the cold spot

by Greg Fish in weird things

Remember the anomalous Cold Spot, the bizarre, low temperature area spotted in the maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, or CMBR for short, the echo the Big Bang which gives us a very high level overview of the structure of our universe? Cosmologists bristled at an anomaly stretching some 1.8 billion light years and seemingly violating what we thought was a universal rule [...]... Read more »

Szapudi, I., Kovacs, A., Granett, B., Frei, Z., Silk, J., Burgett, W., Cole, S., Draper, P., Farrow, D., Kaiser, N.... (2015) Detection of a supervoid aligned with the cold spot of the cosmic microwave background. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 450(1), 288-294. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stv488  

  • April 21, 2015
  • 10:00 AM

peeking at dark matter during a tidal strip show

by Greg Fish in weird things

Dark matter is a substance that makes up nearly all mass in the universe, but decades after we discovered it, all we have are indirect measurements which show us that it’s there in very large amounts, forming galactic halos, but ultimately, little else. It doesn’t seem to interact with any of the stuff that makes stars, dust, and planets, it emits or reflects no radiation, and this utter lack of interesting properties we could study [...]... Read more »

Massey, R., Williams, L., Smit, R., Swinbank, M., Kitching, T., Harvey, D., Jauzac, M., Israel, H., Clowe, D., Edge, A.... (2015) The behaviour of dark matter associated with four bright cluster galaxies in the 10 kpc core of Abell 3827. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 449(4), 3393-3406. DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stv467  

  • June 4, 2013
  • 07:00 PM

does meeting online mean a better marriage? sort of, but don’t get carried away…

by Greg Fish in weird things

There’s been a bit of a splash by a new study which says that meeting your spouse online could mean a longer, happier marriage, and confirms that far from being the last refuge of lonely shut-ins, online dating is now one of the top ways to meet your mate. Now, the numbers do bear this conclusion out. Out of a representative sample of 19,131 people [...]... Read more »

Cacioppo, J., Cacioppo, S., Gonzaga, G., Ogburn, E., & VanderWeele, T. (2013) Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222447110  

  • April 25, 2013
  • 05:30 PM

how to shield yourself in a vacuum, sci-fi style

by Greg Fish in weird things

In a fair bit of science fiction, we see advanced alien species use some sort of shielding to walk around other planets or survive being ejected into space. Something around them flickers and a protective invisible bubble is raised, protecting them from a horrible death by dehydration as all the fluid in their bodies effectively boils away. As it turns out, that’s actually possible. [...]... Read more »

Takaku, Y., Suzuki, H., Ohta, I., Ishii, D., Muranaka, Y., Shimomura, M., & Hariyama, T. (2013) A thin polymer membrane, nano-suit, enhancing survival across the continuum between air and high vacuum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221341110  

  • January 15, 2013
  • 05:40 PM

did the cosmological principle get knocked down?

by Greg Fish in weird things

Since the dawn of modern cosmology there’s been an implicit assumption that no particular spot in the universe was supposed to be any more special than the rest. On the biggest scales of all, scales at which galaxies are treated like tiny particles, the universe is supposed to be isotropic and homogeneous i.e. more or less uniform in composition and its expansion from the Big Bang. [...]... Read more »

  • January 10, 2013
  • 06:00 PM

why alien moons might just be teeming with life

by Greg Fish in weird things

Another day, another study identifying more potentially habitable worlds in the Kepler data, this time by professional astronomers and volunteers called the Planet Hunters who discussed their planet detections on a specialized message board system called Talk. What they found was that more gas giants orbited stars in their habitable zones than initially thought, giving real evidence for the hypothesis that while alien Earths could be somewhat rare, moons orbiting alien Jupiters and Saturns may b........ Read more »

Ji Wang, Debra A. Fischer, Thomas Barclay, Tabetha S. Boyajian, Justin R. Crepp, Megan E. Schwamb, Chris Lintott, Kian J. Jek, Arfon M. Smith, Michael Parrish.... (2013) Planet Hunters. V. A Confirmed Jupiter-Size Planet in the Habitable Zone and 42 Planet Candidates from the Kepler Archive Data. n/a. arXiv: 1301.0644v1

  • January 7, 2013
  • 05:00 PM

why absolute zero isn’t theoretically absolute

by Greg Fish in weird things

Suppose you take some potassium atoms and put them in a vacuum where you cool them to as close to absolute zero as you possibly can in a lab. What you’ve done is reduced the entropy of this system of atoms because the colder it gets, the less kinetic energy they have, and the less energy they could exchange with each other. [...]... Read more »

Braun, S., Ronzheimer, J., Schreiber, M., Hodgman, S., Rom, T., Bloch, I., & Schneider, U. (2013) Negative absolute temperature for motional degrees of freedom. Science, 339(6115), 52-55. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227831  

  • December 19, 2012
  • 07:00 PM

what alcohol can tell us about the fate of the universe

by Greg Fish in weird things

Once upon a time, we looked at an explanation for dark matter involving a theory about how all matter around us could decay over 6.6 × 10^33 years and noted that there’s a controversy as to whether protons actually decay. To help settle this, astronomers took advantage of the fact that telescopes are relativistic time machines, and peered through them at a galaxy known as PKS 1830-211 — a name only a scientist could love — that just so happens to be a gravitational lens a........ Read more »

  • December 18, 2012
  • 05:00 PM

and now for something surprisingly simpler

by Greg Fish in weird things

Usually a new discovery in deep space tends to further complicate our picture of the universe, almost as if the cosmos says "oh yeah, you think you have a good idea of how this works?" and throws a monkey wrench into the works, or sometimes, the whole screaming, angry monkey. So when it comes to phenomena as complex and exciting as black holes, surely there can’t be any data that makes them easier to understand. [...]... Read more »

Nemmen, R., Georganopoulos, M., Guiriec, S., Meyer, E., Gehrels, N., & Sambruna, R. (2012) A Universal Scaling for the Energetics of Relativistic Jets from Black Hole Systems. Science, 338(6113), 1445-1448. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227416  

  • December 1, 2012
  • 02:30 PM

when surveys, sociology, and porn intersect…

by Greg Fish in weird things

It’s a frequent societal stereotype that women in porn must have been sexually abused as kids, otherwise they would never go into this line of work. You can hear it from social conservatives in their dire warnings about porn addiction and from feminists who find the porn to be merely an exploitation of women for the enjoyment of men, alike. [...]... Read more »

Griffith, J., Mitchell, S., Hart, C., Adams, L., & Gu, L. (2012) Pornography actresses: an assessment of the damaged goods hypothesis. Journal of Sex Research, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2012.719168  

  • October 14, 2012
  • 05:00 PM

is this the real life, is this just a complex cosmological simulation?

by Greg Fish in weird things

Welcome back to yet another installment of the question of whether we’re all just products of an advanced simulation that created an entire universe, but this time, instead of plunging deep into the lore of the Matrix with Moore’s Law hijinks and philosophy, we’ll be hunting for physical proof that the universe is actually a simulation [...]... Read more »

Silas R. Beane, Zohreh Davoudi, & Martin J. Savage. (2012) Constraints on the universe as a numerical simulation. n/a. arXiv: 1210.1847v1

  • August 29, 2012
  • 06:30 PM

how to weave machinery into biology

by Greg Fish in weird things

As we’re starting to test artificially grown organs, scientists are wondering how to make sure that their methods result in viable tissues. One of the first steps was to take organ growth into three dimensions, letting the cells grow on a scaffold and self-organize into the right muscles, valves, and other soft tissue. Usually these scaffolds are derived from existing organs purified of all their old cells and many are designed to break down into [...]... Read more »

Bozhi Tian,, Jia Liu,, Tal Dvir,, Lihua Jin,, Jonathan H. Tsui,, Quan Qing,, Zhigang Suo,, Robert Langer,, Daniel S. Kohane,, & Charles M. Lieber. (2012) Macroporous nanowire nanoelectronic scaffolds for synthetic tissues. Nature Materials. DOI: 10.1038/nmat3404  

  • June 13, 2012
  • 05:35 PM

how think tanks could buy themselves a study

by Greg Fish in weird things

Generally, when researchers studied children in same-sex households and measured how well they fared in terms of education, criminal records, and income, then compared them to heterosexual households with the same criteria, they found that as long as the kids get love, support, and attention, they tend to grow up happier and go on to [...]... Read more »

  • May 16, 2012
  • 06:05 PM

why we’d want to make some more antimatter

by Greg Fish in weird things

Maybe the investors behind Planetary Resources should consider creating antimatter instead of building fuel depots on asteroids they want to mine since all they'd need to do to guarantee unimaginable profits is just a single gram of the stuff. Granted, the collider they'd have to build to smash ions until they decay into positrons and [...]... Read more »

Ronan Keane, & Wei-Ming Zhang. (2012) Beamed Core Antimatter Propulsion: Engine Design and Optimization. n/a. arXiv: 1205.2281v1

  • April 27, 2012
  • 09:00 PM

oh quantum causality, we hardly knew ye…

by Greg Fish in weird things

Here's what sounds like a rather typical experiment with quantum mechanics. A pair of devices we'll call Alice and Bob, or A and B in cryptographic parlance, measure entangled photons which we know can be entangled at least 10,000 times faster than the speed of light. A third device called Victor, or an intermediary in [...]... Read more »

Ma, X., Zotter, S., Kofler, J., Ursin, R., Jennewein, T., Brukner, �., & Zeilinger, A. (2012) Experimental delayed-choice entanglement swapping. Nature Physics. DOI: 10.1038/nphys2294  

  • April 4, 2012
  • 06:05 PM

how to make random machines do your bidding

by Greg Fish in weird things

Long time readers probably noticed that the last month was a little off. Posts weren't coming as per the blog's natural rhythm and the annual April Fools gag was also absent. But there was a good reason for this, one I'd be happy to share with you if it wasn't for the fact that you [...]... Read more »

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