Rational Egoist writes: "Researchers at Yale University have found that some of the brightest colors in bird feathers are created through structures similar in origin and composition to that of beer foam. Unlike with most colors in nature — which are produced by pigments — the bright blue colors of Bluebirds and Blue Jays are actually produced by sponge-like nanostructures. These structures are formed in quite the same way as beer foam. From the article: "[Researchers] compared the nanostructures to examples of materials undergoing phase separation, in which mixtures of different substances become unstable and separate from one another, such as the carbon-dioxide bubbles that form when the top is popped off a bubbly drink. They found that the color-producing structures in feathers appear to self-assemble in much the same manner. Bubbles of water form in a protein-rich soup inside the living cell and are replaced with air as the feather grows.""
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "Despite nationwide public support for his initial death sentence, a three-judge appeals court has reduced the sentence of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh to 20 years in prison. Kambakhsh was charged with circulating an article on women's rights that he found online. From the article: "Family members have said Kambakhsh was beaten and threatened with death until he signed a confession and that local journalists who expressed support for him were warned they would be arrested if they persisted.""
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "A gamma ray burst detected on March 19 by NASA's Swift satellite has set a new record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye. The burst had a measured redshift of 0.94, which translates into a distance of 7.5 billion light years, meaning the explosion took place 7.5 billion years ago. The optical afterglow from heated gas was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova ever recorded, making it the most intrinsically bright object ever observed by humans in the universe. The previous most distant object visible to the naked eye is the nearby galaxy M33, a relatively short 2.9 million light years from Earth."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "In several of the NCAA football bowls that aired this postseason, the DLP technology developed by Texas Instruments was advertised in a particularly misleading way — by plastering a bunch of "DLP" logos on a generic camera, they implied that this camera somehow utilized the DLP technology that's used in televisions and projectors. Several blogs complaining about the over-advertising of the "DLP Cam" mistakenly believed it was some sort of new technology. We also recently saw James Randi offer $1M to anyone who can prove that a pair of $7,250 Pear Anjou speaker cables do anything out of the ordinary. What other particularly egregious examples of false advertising in technology have other readers encountered?"
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "In several of the NCAA football bowls that aired this postseason, the DLP technology developed by Texas Instruments was advertised in a particularly misleading way — by plastering a bunch of "DLP" logos on a normal camera, they implied that the camera somehow utilized the DLP technology that's used in televisions and projectors. We also recently saw James Randi offer $1M to anyone who can prove that a pair of $7,250 Pear Anjou speaker cables do anything out of the ordinary. What other particularly egregious examples of false advertising in technology have other readers encountered?"
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "As the US gets ready for the political ad onslaught, a potential new factor influencing voters — without their knowledge — may be right around the corner. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have repeatedly and conclusively shown that exposure to subliminal messages — that is, messages that are processed by our brains but never reach our consciousness — can indeed influence explicit attitudes and real-life political behavior. In three separate studies, half of the subjects were subliminally exposed to their national flag, while the other half were not. The results were the same in every study: the subliminal presentation of their national flag drew right wing, as well as left wing, individuals towards the political center."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "UC Davis researchers have dated the earliest step in the formation of the solar system — when microscopic interstellar dust coalesced into mountain-sized chunks of rock — to 4,568 million years ago, within a range of about 2,080,000 years. In the second stage, mountain-sized masses grew quickly into about 20 Mars-sized planets and, in the third and final stage, these small planets smashed into each other in a series of giant collisions that left the planets we know today. The dates of these intermediary stages are well established. The article abstract is available from Astrophysical Journal Letters."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "Mayo Clinic researchers have designed a technique that uses the body's own cells and a virus to destroy cancer cells that spread from primary tumors to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system. This procedure triggered an immune response to cancer cells, which means that it could be used as a cancer vaccine to prevent recurrence. They combined infection-fighting T-cells with the vesicular stomatitis virus that targets and destroys cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. To deliver the virus, researchers removed T-cells from a healthy mouse, loaded them with the virus and injected the T-cells back into the mouse. Researchers found that once the T-cells returned to the lymph nodes and spleen, the virus detached itself from the T-cells, found the tumor cells, selectively replicated within them and extracted tumor cells from those areas."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "NASA has given University of Maryland scientists the green light to fly the Deep Impact probe to Comet Hartley 2. The spacecraft will fly by Earth on New Year's Eve at the beginning of a more than two-and-a-half-year journey to Hartley 2. During the first six months of the journey to Hartley 2, they will use the larger of the two telescopes on Deep Impact to search for Earth-sized planets around five stars selected as likely candidates for such planets. Upon arriving at the comet, Deep Impact will conduct an extended flyby of Hartley 2 using all three of the spacecraft's instruments — two telescopes with digital color cameras and an infrared spectrometer."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "Researchers at MIT have found a way to induce cells to form parallel tube-like structures that could one day serve as tiny engineered blood vessels. The researchers found that they can control the cells' development by growing them on a surface with nano-scale patterning. The work focuses on vascular tissue, which includes capillaries, the tiniest blood vessels, and is an important part of the circulatory system. The team has created a surface that can serve as a template to grow capillary tubes aligned in a specific direction. The cells, known as endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), not only elongate in the direction of the grooves, but also align themselves along the grooves. That results in a multicellular structure with defined edges — a band structure. Once the band structures form, the researchers apply a commonly used gel that induces cells to form three-dimensional tubes."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "Engineers at the University of California, Riverside have found semiconducting nanotubes produced by living bacteria — a discovery that could help in the creation of a new generation of nanoelectronic devices. According to the lead researcher, 'We have shown that a jar with a bug in it can create potentially useful nanostructures.' This is the first time nanotubes have been shown to be produced by biological rather than chemical means. This research began when they observed something unexpected happening while attempting to clean up arsenic contamination using the metal-reducing bacterium Shewanella. In a process that is not yet fully understood, the bacterium secretes polysacarides that seem to produce the template for the arsenic-sulfide nanotubes. These nanotubes behave as metals with electrical and photoconductive properties useful in nanoelectronics. The article abstract is available from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "University of Toronto researchers have uncovered widespread misinformation in videos on YouTube, related to vaccination and immunization. In the first-ever study of its kind, they found that over half of the 153 videos analyzed portrayed childhood, HPV, flu and other vaccinations negatively or ambiguously. They also found that videos highly skeptical of vaccinations received more views and better ratings by users than those videos that portray immunizations in a positive light. According to the lead research, 'YouTube is increasingly a resource people consult for health information, including vaccination. Our study shows that a significant amount of immunization content on YouTube contradicts the best scientific evidence at large. From a public health perspective, this is very concerning.' An extract from the Journal of the American Medical Association is available online."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed an autonomous 'flying fish' sea-plane with a 7-foot wingspan — the first such plane that can initiate and perform its own takeoffs and landings on water. According to the article, the plane 'drifts until its onboard GPS tells the craft it has floated too far. That triggers the takeoff sequence, which gets the plane airborne in just 10 meters. Other GPS coordinates trigger the landing sequence.' The project homepage includes photos of the plane taking off and landing."
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "We all knew the link probably existed, but feared the inevitable legislative result of finding conclusive evidence that exposure to violent media makes a person more likely to act aggressively. Now, researchers at Columbia University's Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) Research Center have shown that a brain network responsible for suppressing behaviors like inappropriate or unwarranted aggression (including the right lateral orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdala) became less active after study subjects watched several short clips from popular movies depicting acts of violence. These changes could render people less able to control their own aggressive behavior. The authors found that less activation in this network was characteristic of people reporting an above average tendency to behave aggressively, as measured through a personality test. None of these changes in brain activity occurred when subjects watched non-violent but equally engaging movies depicting scenes of horror or physical activity."