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  • February 9, 2015
  • 01:30 PM
  • 924 views

Slime mould and researcher set to play piano duet

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: A single-celled organism will perform a piano duet with a computer musician at Plymouth University on 1 March 2015. The public is invited. ... Read more »

Nakagaki Toshiyuki, Yamada Hiroyasu, & Tóth Ágota. (2000) Intelligence: Maze-solving by an amoeboid organism. Nature, 407(470). DOI: 10.1038/35035159  

Saigusa Tetsu, Toshiyuki Nakagaki, & Yoshiki Kuramoto. (2008) Amoebae Anticipate Periodic Events. Physical Review Letters, 100(1). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/physrevlett.100.018101  

Miranda Eduardo R. , Adamatzky Andrew, & Jones Jeff . (2011) Sounds Synthesis with Slime Mould of Physarum polycephalum. Journal of Bionic Engineering, 107-113. arXiv: 1212.1203

  • February 8, 2015
  • 03:11 PM
  • 496 views

‘Virtual virus’ unfolds the flu on a CPU

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The flu virus can be pretty nasty — it’s quick to evolve — which means yearly flu shots are needed and then it’s only a guess to which strain will be the most prevalent. Well new research aims to change all that, by combining experimental data from X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, cryoelectron microscopy and lipidomics (the study of cellular lipid networks), researchers have built a complete model of the outer envelope of an influenza A virion for the first time. So would that make it a computer virus, virus?... Read more »

Reddy, T., Shorthouse, D., Parton, D., Jefferys, E., Fowler, P., Chavent, M., Baaden, M., & Sansom, M. (2015) Nothing to Sneeze at: A Full-Scale Computational Model of the Human Influenza Virion. Biophysical Journal, 108(2), 31. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2014.11.195  

  • February 6, 2015
  • 08:34 AM
  • 919 views

Why do we have music? Can one trace the origins of musicality?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Why do we have music? And what enables us to perceive, appreciate and make music? The search for a possible answer to these and other questions forms the backdrop to a soon-to-be released theme issue of Philosophical Transactions, which deals with the subject of musicality. An initiative of Henkjan Honing, professor of Music Cognition at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), this theme issue will see Honing and fellow researchers present their most important empirical results and offer a joint research agenda with which to identify the biological and cognitive basis of musicality. ... Read more »

Honing, H., ten Cate, C., Peretz, I., & Trehub, S. (2015) Without it no music: cognition, biology and evolution of musicality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1664), 20140088-20140088. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0088  

Gingras, B., Honing, H., Peretz, I., Trainor, L., & Fisher, S. (2015) Defining the biological bases of individual differences in musicality. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1664), 20140092-20140092. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0092  

Fitch, W. (2015) Four principles of bio-musicology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1664), 20140091-20140091. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0091  

Hoeschele, M., Merchant, H., Kikuchi, Y., Hattori, Y., & ten Cate, C. (2015) Searching for the origins of musicality across species. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1664), 20140094-20140094. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0094  

  • January 27, 2015
  • 07:30 AM
  • 1,166 views

Star Date: Pretty Darn Soon

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. In preparation for the celebrations, we’re checking in on how close we are to making Star Trek technology a reality. The replicator made food and recycled trash, and later was used to make parts for the Enterprise. A machine fabricated what they needed on the spot. We have that now on the space station! Do you know how 3-D printing works and how we print parts, food, and even living tissue? Here’s how.... Read more »

  • January 25, 2015
  • 09:19 PM
  • 932 views

Coding Responsibly Part I: Version Control

by Geoffrey Hannigan in Prophage

As a result of the growing number of resources allowing everyone to learn how to code, as well as numerous other awesome educational efforts, programming is steadily growing in popularity and accessibility...... Read more »

Perkel, J. (2011) Coding your way out of a problem. Nature Methods, 8(7), 541-543. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1631  

  • January 13, 2015
  • 02:01 PM
  • 830 views

Publishing to Keep up with Ebola

by Roli Roberts in PLOS Biologue

As you read this, thread-like viruses less than one micron in length are spreading through human populations in West Africa, taking lives, wrecking communities and generally creating havoc in the countries affected. Infection with the Ebola virus results in an … Continue reading »The post Publishing to Keep up with Ebola appeared first on PLOS Biologue.... Read more »

Drake JM, Kaul RB, Alexander LW, O’Regan SM, Kramer AM, Pulliam JT, Ferrari MJ, Park AW. (2015) Ebola Cases and Health System Demand in Liberia. PLoS Biology, 13(1). info:/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002056

  • January 13, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,179 views

Delicate Arteries Of Energy

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

As dependent on electricity as America is, it is surprising how easily it could be taken away. Do you know how electricity comes to your house? Here is the national electrical grid easily explained and the points at which it can be vulnerable to sun, weather, and terrorism.... Read more »

Paul W. Parfomak. (2014) Physical Security of the U.S. Power Grid: High-Voltage Transformer Substations . Congressional Research Service Reports. info:/

  • January 12, 2015
  • 05:14 AM
  • 1,183 views

Why do some people see ghosts?

by Isabel Torres in Science in the clouds

For most people ghosts and spirits are part of the imaginary, but a few are truly convinced they can sometimes feel a strange presence near them. These individuals are not experiencing a paranormal phenomenon—they’re having an illusion. Schizophrenics, for instance, consistently report hearing voices or feeling someone—a ‘shadow’ or a ‘man’—close to them. Scientists have long known that illusions have a neurological cause, but they haven’t managed to pinpoint exactly how they are triggered by the brain.Now, Olaf Blanke and colleagues have not only mapped the brain regions responsible for the ‘feeling of a presence’ illusion in neurological patients, but they have also developed a robot that tricks healthy people into sensing a ‘ghostly’ apparition. This work may shed light into what causes hallucinations in schizophrenia, and help design new therapeutic approaches to treat this psychosis.  Credit: Alain Herzog, EPFLIn 2006, Blanke showed that he could induce the feeling of a presence in an epileptic patient by electrically stimulating a particular brain area—the temporoparietal junction. This region is involved in integrating body-related information from our senses and movements, and is often overactive in schizophrenic patients. But he found something even more interesting: the presence always mirrored the patient’s body position and movements; if the patient was sitting, the presence was also sitting and so on. “The presence was a duplicate of the patient, as if the patient’s body was recognised as another agent”, says Giulio Rognini, a collaborator at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. “The body sensory information, which is not well integrated by the brain, is attributed to someone else.”The researchers suspected that electrical stimulation of the temporoparietal region somehow disturbed integration of the patient’s sensory and motor information—her brain got confused and misplaced the bodily signals to the presence. To test this hypothesis, the team needed to be creative. “The patient studies show that when there is no appropriate integration of the body sensory signals, then the feeling of a presence can occur, so we tried to do the reverse process: we perturbed the sensory motor system to see whether we could induce the presence”, says Rognini. And what better way to do this than with… a robot. In their new study, Blanke and colleagues asked 12 blindfolded healthy participants to stick their finger into a ‘master’ robot and then move it around. The ‘slave’ robot, which was touching the participants’ back, mimicked the movements of the master robot either simultaneously, or with a slight delay. In the first condition (simultaneous touch), the participants felt as though they were touching their own back. This is already a strange illusion, but what happened when the slave robot poked them with a slight delay relative to the master robot is even weirder. About a third of the participants felt like someone else was touching them. Not the robot, but just ‘someone’, a presence. This illusion was short lived, but according to the participants’ description, it was very vivid and also a bit creepy. “30% [of the participants] reported without asking them that they had a feeling of a presence. This is already very strong because in this field of body illusions, it’s very rare to find somebody that reports the illusion without being asked” says Rognini, who is senior author in the study.The team also mapped the brain regions that trigger the illusions in several neurological patients. As expected, electrical stimulation of the temporoparietal, but especially the frontoparietal brain regions, induced the illusion. And again, most patients reported that the presence mimicked their movements. Lesion overlap analysis revealed three brain regions involved in the feeling of a presence illusion: temporo-parietal, insular and fronto-parietal cortex. @Current BiologyThe feeling of a presence is mostly associated with epilepsy and schizophrenia, but healthy people can also feel ‘ghosts’, especially during periods of extreme stress or physical exhaustion. Many mountaineers report they sometimes feel someone climbing with them, even though there was no one around. “If you’re walking and doing repetitive movements over and over again, your brain loses control over your movements because they’re not informative anymore”, says Rognini. “Your actions and the consequences of your actions can be misinterpreted, and together with low oxygen conditions in high altitude, this could give rise to feeling of a presence. But this is completely speculative.” The researchers are planning to test this hypothesis by trying to exhaust people in treadmills, and then check whether they are more prone to experiencing the illusion. They are also developing an fMRI-compatible robot to induce the illusion while the participants are being scanned.“The next steps are about understanding the brain mechanisms by putting the subjects in the scanner, and then try to investigate how this phenomenon is perceived in schizophrenic patients to try to set out a therapeutic strategy or a way to better understand this psychosis,” says Rognini.Herta Flor, director of the Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience of the University of Heidelberg (Germany) says “Disturbed body perception is a core feature in several mental disorde... Read more »

Blanke Olaf, Masayuki Hara, Lukas Heydrich, Andrea Serino, Akio Yamamoto, Toshiro Higuchi, Roy Salomon, Margitta Seeck, Theodor Landis, & Shahar Arzy. (2014) Neurological and Robot-Controlled Induction of an Apparition. Current Biology, 24(22), 2681-2686. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.049  

  • January 9, 2015
  • 10:09 AM
  • 796 views

Memo to Carmakers: This Fish Is a Bad Model

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



In 2005, Mercedes-Benz revealed a concept car with a strange shape. Called the Bionic, the cartoonishly snub-nosed vehicle was modeled after Ostracion cubicus, the yellow boxfish. Car manufacturers aren't the only ones to take inspiration from this weird coral dweller. But researchers now say engineers who mimicked the boxfish might have been misled.

Shaping the car like a boxfish was supposed to make it aerodynamic. And the fish's allegedly low drag underwater wasn't its only interesting... Read more »

Van Wassenbergh S, van Manen K, Marcroft TA, Alfaro ME, & Stamhuis EJ. (2015) Boxfish swimming paradox resolved: forces by the flow of water around the body promote manoeuvrability. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society, 12(103). PMID: 25505133  

  • January 6, 2015
  • 11:45 PM
  • 760 views

Cataloging a year of blogging: cancer and biology

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

Welcome to 111101111. Another year has come to an end, and it is time to embrace tradition and reflect on the past twelve months. In fact, I will try to do one better and start a new tradition: cataloging a year of blogging. Last year, I split up the 83 content heavy posts of 2013 […]... Read more »

Kaznatcheev, A., Scott, J.G., & Basanta, D. (2014) Edge effects in game theoretic dynamics of spatially structured tumours. arXiv. arXiv: 1307.6914v2

  • January 6, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,079 views

What It Takes To Kill A Watt

by Mark E. Lasbury in The 'Scope

Do you have any idea where your home's electricity comes from? Sure, people have all heard of solar power, wind power, and fossil fuels, but they know very little about how electricity is most often generated. Is fossil fuel the most important natural resource for electricity production – nope, it’s water.... Read more »

  • January 4, 2015
  • 02:43 PM
  • 683 views

Outsmarting superbugs’ countermoves to antibiotics

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

With drug-resistant bacteria on the rise, even common infections that were easily controlled for decades — such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections — are proving trickier to treat with standard antibiotics. New drugs are desperately needed, but so are ways to maximize the effective lifespan of these drugs.... Read more »

Reeve SM, Gainza P, Frey KM, Georgiev I, Donald BR, & Anderson AC. (2014) Protein design algorithms predict viable resistance to an experimental antifolate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 25552560  

  • December 30, 2014
  • 12:04 PM
  • 752 views

Margaret Oakley Dayhoff, going on #ThatOtherShirt.

by Mary in OpenHelix

I’ve been a fan of Margaret Oakley Dayhoff for a long time. One of the most popular posts on this blog is the one linked in this tweet below. I can tell when students have been assigned a project to read up on her, because suddenly I see an influx of hits to the page. […]... Read more »

  • December 12, 2014
  • 02:13 PM
  • 957 views

A new type of memory storage on the horizon

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

For those of us old enough to remember the days of the Apple II, you know that storage has exponentially increased. Even just 10 years ago 20+ gigs of data seemed huge, now my cellphone has 64 gigs. Yet we still need more data storage and we are looking for new ways to get it. Now a way to use weak molecular bonding interactions to create well-ordered and stable metal–organic monolayers with optoelectronic properties has been found. The development could form the basis for the scalable fabrication of molecular optoelectronic devices.... Read more »

  • December 7, 2014
  • 03:23 AM
  • 954 views

Building the Best Computer

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

The American spy/intelligence agency, IARPA, is working to address the shortcomings of existing supercomputers through its program, C3. [Infographic]... Read more »

Holmes, D., Ripple, A., & Manheimer, M. (2013) Energy-Efficient Superconducting Computing—Power Budgets and Requirements. IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, 23(3), 1701610-1701610. DOI: 10.1109/TASC.2013.2244634  

  • December 5, 2014
  • 03:58 PM
  • 827 views

Move over solar pannels, introducing spray-on solar cells

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Solar panels, they are big, heavy, cannot flex, and are still very inefficient. While efficiency isn’t the big issue, flexibility has relegated solar panels to rooftops and solar farms. Well that is until now, researchers have just invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.... Read more »

Kramer, I., Moreno-Bautista, G., Minor, J., Kopilovic, D., & Sargent, E. (2014) Colloidal quantum dot solar cells on curved and flexible substrates. Applied Physics Letters, 105(16), 163902. DOI: 10.1063/1.4898635  

Carey GH, Kramer IJ, Kanjanaboos P, Moreno-Bautista G, Voznyy O, Rollny L, Tang JA, Hoogland S, & Sargent EH. (2014) Electronically active impurities in colloidal quantum dot solids. ACS nano, 8(11), 11763-9. PMID: 25376698  

Kramer, I., Minor, J., Moreno-Bautista, G., Rollny, L., Kanjanaboos, P., Kopilovic, D., Thon, S., Carey, G., Chou, K., Zhitomirsky, D.... (2014) Efficient Spray-Coated Colloidal Quantum Dot Solar Cells. Advanced Materials. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201403281  

  • December 4, 2014
  • 02:21 PM
  • 1,125 views

ALMA Japan: Hi-Def Imaging of Spiral Gas Arms from Twin Baby Stars (w/video)

by DJ Busby in Astronasty

We know that about half the the stars out there (with sizes close to that of our sun) are binary systems. However, for a long time we've been lacking information on how they develop, since it's not been easy to get a whole lot of data from surrounding scattered mass that's so damned far away! Congrats to all involved!... Read more »

Shigehisa Takakuwa, Masao Saito, Kazuya Saigo, Tomoaki Matsumoto, Jeremy Lim, Tomoyuki Hanawa, & Paul T. P. Ho. (2014) Angular Momentum Exchange by Gravitational Torques and Infall in the Circumbinary Disk of the Protostellar System L1551 NE. The Astrophysical Journal. arXiv: 1409.4903v1

  • December 4, 2014
  • 12:34 PM
  • 708 views

Hoe komt het dat een liedje in je hoofd blijft hangen? [Dutch]

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

De hele dag dat ene hitje in je hoofd: een oorwurm! Muziekproducenten kunnen het zich niet beter wensen. Wat maakt dat liedje nou zo makkelijk te onthouden? En hoe kan het dat je dat ene nummer zo snel herkent? Muziekwetenschapper prof. dr. Henkjan Honing (UvA) legt uit wat de ingrediënten zijn voor het maken van een ware muziekhit en waardoor luisteraars zo ‘Hooked on Music’ zijn…... Read more »

Gjerdingen, R., & Perrott, D. (2008) Scanning the Dial: The Rapid Recognition of Music Genres. Journal of New Music Research, 37(2), 93-100. DOI: 10.1080/09298210802479268  

J.A. Burgoyne, D. Bountouridis, J. van Balen, & H. Honing. (2013) Hooked: A Game for Discovering What Makes Music Catchy. Proceedings of the 14th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference , 245-250. info:/

Salimpoor, V., van den Bosch, I., Kovacevic, N., McIntosh, A., Dagher, A., & Zatorre, R. (2013) Interactions Between the Nucleus Accumbens and Auditory Cortices Predict Music Reward Value. Science, 340(6129), 216-219. DOI: 10.1126/science.1231059  

  • December 3, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,054 views

How Slime Molds Our World

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Fungus-like protists have amazing tales to tell. One phylum has been shown to ranch bacteria and hire cowhands to guard them. One phylum has slime mold that can find its way through a maze and is used to model mathematics for video games. Finally, one phylum is responsible for the glut of Irish priests and policeman in late 1800’s America.... Read more »

Goss, E., Tabima, J., Cooke, D., Restrepo, S., Fry, W., Forbes, G., Fieland, V., Cardenas, M., & Grunwald, N. (2014) The Irish potato famine pathogen Phytophthora infestans originated in central Mexico rather than the Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8791-8796. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1401884111  

Tero, A., Takagi, S., Saigusa, T., Ito, K., Bebber, D., Fricker, M., Yumiki, K., Kobayashi, R., & Nakagaki, T. (2010) Rules for Biologically Inspired Adaptive Network Design. Science, 327(5964), 439-442. DOI: 10.1126/science.1177894  

Toshiyuki Nakagaki, Hiroyasu Yamada . (2000) Intelligence: Maze-solving by an amoeboid organism. Nature, 407(470). info:/

Brock, D., Douglas, T., Queller, D., & Strassmann, J. (2011) Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba. Nature, 469(7330), 393-396. DOI: 10.1038/nature09668  

  • November 30, 2014
  • 06:36 AM
  • 874 views

Graphene is the New Kevlar

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

Graphene is twice as strong as kevlar, extremely light, and can absorb mach 9 impacts with atom-thick layers. [Infographic]... Read more »

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