Friday Science Demonstration, September 13, 2013

Oooh! Friday the 13th in 2013! The triskaidekaphobics must be freaking out today, poor souls.

Luckily, I am not now nor have I ever been superstitious.

After al, it’s bad luck!

Here I am, back again with the science goodies. This week, have stuff from the world of brain science (natch), hydro-exploration, nanotech, quantum teleportation, and testicles.

We will start out with a story that is only sort of, kinda, maybe about science, but it is so cool that I just have to share it anyhow and damn the format.

An enormous aquifer has been discovered in Kenya!

How big? Enough to meet all of Kenya’s water needs for seventy freaking years.

And that’s just what it has in it now. Scientists say that this aquifer is replenished by distant mountains, so it should never run dry as long as it’s managed properly.

Which brings me to my little message for Kenya. Meet me at Camera Three.

Kenya, we don’t know each other very well, and so it’s not really my place to say this, but I feel it needs to be said by someone anyhow.

DO NOT FUCK THIS UP. I am serious. I know it’s hard to get your shit together when you have millions of starving people and not enough of anything, but do not flake on this.

This could make Africa a way better place to be. The impact of a find like this could be massive. It could rewrite the entire face of your part of Africa.

So don’t blow it!

Next, some news that I feel I need to share with despite a certain issue.

Japanese scientists have succeeded in doing the first complete quantum information transfer!

I feel compelled to share this because it sounds extremely important.

The issue with sharing it is that I do not understand nearly anything in that article. I grasp quantum data transfer (or ‘quantum teleportation’ as the press insists on misnaming it) and I think I understand how that could be used computationally for, as far as we can tell, literally instantaneous date transfer (welcome to Cloud 2.0, where getting it off a website is faster than from your own computer).

But I grok not the talk of transport efficiency and measuring after and whatnot.

So enjoy the story. I am positive that it is important as hell.

Just don’t ask me to explain it to you any time soon.

Next up, we have an article that asks “Are there things which science can never, ever know?”

Nope! Next question please.

Next we have a story from the plasmoid-hot world of nanotech about the invention of the world’s thinnest glass.

What I loved about the story is that this discovery was made by accident. The researchers were trying to find something else and stumbled upon the super-thin glass in the process.

That’s how I know that nanotech is the new plastics : people make awesome discoveries by accident on their way to making other awesome discoveries.

Oh, and I have to do this or I won’t be able to sleep at night. Read this direct quote from the article while I go and fetch a rolled-up newspaper.

Just two atoms in thickness, making it literally two-dimensional,

*BAP!* No! No no no! Naughty science writer! That does NOT make it literally two dimensional! It still has all three spatial dimensions, you untutored ninny! Granted, they are all tiny, but they are all still there and I know this because no matter how thin, it’s still fucking MATTER.

Now go in your corner and think about what you’ve done before I have to get out your crate.

Next up : brain science! Of course. We love our brain science here at the FSW.

Two stories of brains and science this week. First, some research indicates psilocybin, the stuff that puts the “magic” in “magic mushrooms”, maybe be useful in treating PTSD and depression.

Mice given a dose of psilocybin after being trained to fear a certain sound via operant conditioning recovered from that induced phobia far faster than the control group. Intriguing.

(And I know this isn’t relevant, but isn’t the idea of mice tripping balls on ‘shrooms adorable? Little mice laying on their backs, lazily pedaling their little mice legs because they think they are running in a running wheel the size of a planet… )

There’s also indications that the psilocybin induced the growth of new brains cells in the mice.

Now if I may doff my anti-transcendentalist hat, both the new brain cell growth and the rapid recovery from the phobia could be explained if the psilocybin killed a bunch of brain cells first.

Dying brain cells provide really amazing acid trips, and it’s easy to forget traumatic events when the brain cells with the memories are just not there any more, man.

On the other hand, if it’s more brain cells you want, you could just take a nap.

Sleep doesn’t boost the number of actual neurons, of course. Once you hit age 25, you pretty much have all the brain you will ever have.

But it does double the number of oligodendrocytes, otherwise known as the cells that manufacture myelin, in the brain while you sleep.

Myelin is the fatty coating that your body uses as the insulator for the electrical wiring that is your nervous system. Without myelin, your whole nervous system would short out.

Still, I am not sure having more of it makes much of a difference. It strikes me as the sort of thing where there is only “enough” and “not enough”.

Finally, saved for the end not because it’s important but because it’s funny, we have this story of an anthropological study that claims that men with smaller testicles are more likely to be involved in early childcare than their big-balled brethren.

So ladies, if you want a guy who will be great with the kids, look for a man with tiny balls. That is so intuitive that it’s hilarious. And a little suspicious.

That’s all for this week, folks. I will be back in seven days time with more awesome science.

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