Month: July, 2018

Why Sugar Makes Us Sleepy

Consider the orexin system. Secreted by a small cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus, orexin is a neuropeptide that regulates an astonishing array of mental properties, from sleepiness to hunger.

People with chronically low levels of orexin suffer from narcolepsy and obesity; many also have cataplexy, which occurs when the experience of strong emotions triggers a sudden weakening of skeletal muscles.

Studies have shown that injecting mice with orexin increases metabolism, largely because it makes the animals more active.




The reverse is also true: low levels of orexin make people feel rundown and tired. This helps explain the mechanics of sleep deprivation, as keeping monkeys awake for extended periods all but silences their orexin cells.

In many respects, orexin acts like an internal gas pedal, as even slight twitches in the system can dramatically shift levels of activity.

The reason the orexin system is so important is that it links the needs of the body to the desires of the mind.

Several studies have demonstrated that the intake of sugar can decrease the activity of orexin cells, which is probably why we want to nap after a carb heavy lunch.

This phenomenon also begins to explain the downward spiral of obesity triggered by our warped modern diet.

Because we eat lots of refined sugars, washing down Twinkies with cans of Coke, we continually reduce levels of orexin in the brain, which then reduces levels of physical activity.

In other words, we get fat and sleepy simultaneously. However, not every food has such perverse consequences.

It’s long been recognized that meals high in protein are both more filling and less exhausting, which is why we’re always being told to snack on almonds and follow the Zone Diet, with its balance of carbs, protein and fat.

Although the biological mechanism behind this dietary wisdom has always been unclear, that’s beginning to change – we finally understand why consuming protein can be an effective weight loss tool.

The answer returns us to orexin.

According to a new paper in Neuron led by scientists at the University of Cambridge, consuming foods high in protein can increase the activity of orexin neurons.

This, in turn, leads to increased wakefullness and bodily activity, helping us burn off the calories we just consumed.

Furthermore, eating protein in conjunction with glucose – adding almonds to Frosted Flakes, in other words – can inhibit the inhibitory effects of sugar on orexin. The sweetness no longer makes us tired.

The researchers demonstrated this effect in a number of ways. They began in situ, showing that clumps of orexin cells in a petri dish got excited when immersed in a solution of amino acids.

Then, they moved on to in vivo experiments, studying the impact of an egg white slurry of live animals.

This protein meal not only increased orexin activity in the brain, but also led to a dramatic surge in locomotor activity, as the animals began scurrying around their cage. The effect persisted for several hours.

These experiments also document, at a biochemical level, why the modern American diet is such a catastrophic mess.

The typical supermarket is filled with processed foods where the only relevant “nutrient” is some form of sweetener.

While such snacks are unfailingly cheap and tasty, they also lead to sudden spikes in blood sugar and a reduction in orexin activity.

We eat them for the energy boost, but the empty calories in these foods make us tired and sad instead.

And so we keep on swilling glucose, searching for a pick-me-up in all the wrong places.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

In A Lost Baby Tooth, Scientists Find Ancient Denisovan DNA

Denisovans

More than 100,000 years ago in a Siberian cave there lived a child with a loose tooth. One day her molar fell out, and fossilized over many millenniums, keeping it safe from the elements and the tooth fairy.

But she wasn’t just any child. Scientists say she belonged to a species of extinct cousins of Neanderthals and modern humans known today as the Denisovans.

And in a paper published last Friday in the journal Science Advances, a team of paleoanthropologists reported that she is only the fourth individual of this species ever discovered.

“We only have relatively little data from this archaic group, so having any additional individuals is something we’re very excited about,” said Viviane Slon, a doctoral candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and lead author of the study.

Denisovans cave

The scant fossil record for these ancient hominins previously included only two adult molars and a finger bone. The Denisovans were only correctly identified in 2010 by a team of researchers led by Svante Paabo.

Scientists exploring Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains discovered the worn baby tooth in 1984 and labeled it ‘Denisova 2.’ At the time, its origins were a mystery.

But now, after performing DNA analysis on the deciduous, or baby tooth, researchers say it was one of the elusive Denisovans.

“We think based on the DNA sequences that ‘Denisova 2’ is at least 100,000 years, possibly 150,000 years old. Or a bit more,” said Ms. Slon. “So far it makes it the oldest Denisovan.”

Denisovans

To determine the origins of ‘Denisova 2’ the team first performed a CT scan of the tooth to preserve its structure for future studies.

After sequencing the DNA she compared genetic information from the sample with genetic data already collected from Denisovans, Neanderthals and modern humans.

“We saw it was most similar to Denisovan mitochondrial genomes,” she said. “That was exciting because that was a good indication that this was another Denisovan individual.”

Bence Viola, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Toronto and an author on the paper, said there was not too much to be learned from studying the tooth’s morphology or appearance.




The genetic analysis, on the other hand, provided the keys to learning more about the species. He said the genetic study was something the team most likely could not have done five years ago without destroying the tooth.

“For a long time we didn’t want to work on it because it’s such a small specimen,” he said.

But by drilling into the tooth and performing the genetic analysis the scientists were able to not only figure out who it belonged to, but also provide relative dates for when the Denisovan lived.

The study also suggests that the species had less genetic variability than modern humans, but more genetic diversity than seen in Neanderthal nuclear DNA.

Dr. Bernard A. Wood, a professor of human origins at the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology at George Washington University, said the paper demonstrated the power of molecular biology as a tool for paleoanthropology.

“Talk about extracting blood from a stone,” he said, “this is extracting treasure from a tooth.”

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Send & Receive SMS on Computer with This App!

Forget messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and Viber, sending and receiving free text messages should not and is no longer restricted to smartphones only.

If you’re looking for a cross-platform iMessage-like service, this post is for you.

Today, we’re going to introduce to you a powerful cross-platform messaging app – mysms, which allows you to send and receive free text messages to other mysms users right from your desktop computer, regardless of it being a Mac or Windows.

Mysms may eventually be the only messaging app you’ll ever need on your smartphone.




Mysms Android & iOS App

To begin using mysms, get it on your smartphone first.

  1. Download and install mysms messenger app on your smartphones, iOS or Android.
  2. Register and activate your phone number by keying in your phone number and password for desktop and web access.

That’s it! Now let’s have a look how mysms Messenger works on different platforms.

Mysms on Smartphone

Mysms works like any other messaging app for smartphones: both sender and recipient must have mysms installed to start texting for free.

Then, they can start sending all sorts of messages, files, images, videos or even word documents.

Mysms on Computer

To send messages straight from your Mac or PC, just get mysms installed on your computer. Best of all, your messages will always stay in sync, no matter which device you’re using.

For Android users, you can even use mysms to send SMS via your network service provider, charges will apply.

If you want the flexibility to be in contact with anyone on the go via smartphone yet still have the comfort of sending messages from your computer, all for free, give mysms a shot.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

3 Ways To Cure The Cell Phone Dead Zone At Home

Can you hear me?” “Can you hear me now?” If most of your cellphone conversations begin this way — or if you’ve taken to hanging out a window just to get a signal — you’re not alone.

Spotty cellphone service can be especially frustrating when you have full bars in your building’s lobby or hallway but one measly bar as soon as you set foot inside your home.

It turns out, there are good explanations for why this occurs (no, the cellphone gods aren’t trying to punish you for posting too many selfies) and solutions that renters can easily implement. Here’s how.




Cause #1: The position of your building’s cellphone antenna

Cell carriers in all major cities position their cell sites close to the ground because that’s where most of the people are,” says Graham Caparulo, principal consultant for Diligex, a New York, NY–based managed IT services provider.

On the corners of buildings, you’ll see them 20 to 30 feet up, and they’re angled toward the street.” That doesn’t do you much good, especially if you live on the 30th floor of a high-rise.

Cause #2: Building materials can block radio signals

Tinted windows (especially the ones found on “green buildings”), concrete, and metal all interfere with cellphone reception — which is why you can often get more bars if you hold your phone out your window or step onto a balcony.

Cause #3: You live in a densely populated area

Have you ever noticed that your service is slower at night or on weekends, or when you attend a packed basketball game? The more people using a network, the slower it runs.

Each cell tower only has limited radio channels it can use,” says Caparulo. “When it’s full, you’ll have bars but can’t make a call or use data.

Solution #1: Invest in a cellphone booster

Invest” is the right word here, because a cell signal booster will typically set you back between $400 and $1,000.

A traditional cell signal booster takes in a signal on one end, amplifies it, and spits it out on the other end,” says Caparulo, who cautions that you have to have a good signal to work with in the first place, which may mean putting the booster’s antenna outside your window — a no-no in some apartment buildings.

Solution #2: Enlist a femtocell

A femtocell, also called a microcell, basically uses your Internet connection to back up your cellphone,” says Caparulo.

The device plugs right into your modem or router and uses your Internet connection as a cell signal booster.

Solution #3: Enable Wi-Fi calling on your smartphone

This feature, available on the iPhone 6 series and many Android phones, allows your phone to use your in-home Wi-Fi connection to make calls. (On the iPhone 6, go to “Settings,” then “Phone,” and it should be the first option.)

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Pass it on: Popular Science

How NASA Is Using Ancient Art To Find Alien Life

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And the first 295 to sign up for a premium account get 20% off every month!

The Starshade Space Probe is part of the New Worlds mission in which NASA is going to launch a huge shade to block out the light from stars so that we could possibly see Earth-like rocky planets.

In order to get the star shade into space, they’re employing the ancient art of origami to incredible effect.

Check out Robert Salazar’s blog detailing the process of designing the shade:

Starshade: An Origami Odyssey

Math Explains Why Your Bus Route Seems So Unreliable

Ever heard of the Inspection Paradox? In some contexts it just explains why you have to wait a long time for the bus. But if we started working with it, we could make the world a more extraordinary place – at least, on paper.

When you first hear about the Inspection Paradox, you might confuse it for something confirmed by MISPWOSO, The Maximegalon Institute for Slowly and Painfully Working Out the Surprisingly Obvious – from Douglas Adams’ books.

The math behind it shows that, for any periodically occurring event, the average wait time for the next event will always be longer than the average wait time for the next event.

Let’s make it simpler. Buses, trains, or shuttles will come a certain number of times per hour, say once every fifteen minutes. That means that your wait time for the next bus should be, on average, seven and a half minutes.

Anyone who has been on public transport will not be surprised to note that their average wait time is longer than the average wait time. They’ll also probably guess at the answer as to why.




Whenever there’s a long wait for a bus, it arrives packed to the roof with disgruntled people.

And it is about to be packed further, as anyone who has had a long wait time at a stop will be alone at first, then joined by more and more people until there is a crowd.

The longer the wait between buses, the more likely people are going to show up and be annoyed by the longer wait.

In short, you are more likely to experience a longer-than-average wait instead of a shorter-than-average wait, because you are more likely to show up during a long stretch of wait time than during a short stretch of wait time.

The bus riders are considered “inspectors” because they show up at random intervals and check out the wait time for the next bus.

They don’t sit all day long and survey the time between buses. Inspectors are always more likely than average to experience longer-than-average waits, because delays are likely to take up more than the average amount of time.

But the paradox doesn’t always work against you. Your light bulb is probably going to last longer than the average light bulb. Your watch will probably last longer than the average watch.

So will your laptop. If you were to measure various things in your life, you would probably think that your life was startlingly atypical, with the various appliances, delays, waits, and stop-gap solutions lasting longer than they should.

Instead, your life is typically paradoxical. You are always more likely to stumble into a longer situation than you should, on average, stumble into.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The American Museum Of Natural History Goes Digital

The display is referred to as the “meta-message.”

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is one of New York’s most famous institutions.

Founded 145 years ago, moviegoers may recognize it as the setting of “Night at the Museum” and its sequels.




While the dinosaurs don’t actually come alive there, the museum has recently embraced digital technology to breathe new life into its attractions, which includes a plan to construct a $325 million science center close to Central Park in New York City.

Curators hope the interactivity of the exhibit will help visitors get a grasp on the data.

Using technology permeates every aspect of what we do,” AMNH president Ellen Futter said.

Ellen Futter has been at the helm of the museum for over two decades. When she took over in the early ’90s, she recognized a lot needed to be done. However, there was one project in particular that needed urgent attention.

The hall also features a new exhibit about mantle convection.

You know, when I first got there, I was worried about getting the museum air-conditioned,” Futter said.

Since then, the museum has not only added air conditioning, but Wi-Fi throughout all the buildings, in addition to 21st century technology to million year-old artifacts.

It’s also attracted a lot more people, with crowds swelling from 3 million to 5 million per year.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

The Weirdest Weather Events of 2018 So Far

 

We’ve already seen our share of winter storms, severe weather, cold outbreaks, flooding and droughts so far in 2018. But there are some weather events every year that are downright strange, and this year is no exception.

The events we consider strange are weather phenomena happening repeatedly in one place, in a place where you wouldn’t think they would occur or during an unusual time of year.

Some are phenomena you may not find in a Weather 101 textbook.




Freezing Rain in Florida

Just after New Year’s Day, Winter Storm Grayson blanketed Tallahassee, Florida, with its first measurable snow since 1989, and the first January such occurrence, there, in records dating to 1885.

That’s eye-catching enough.  What was even more bizarre was seeing an ice accumulation map involving the Sunshine State.

Up to a quarter inch of ice accumulation was measured in Lake City, and light icing on elevated surfaces was reported as far south as Levy County.

A Horseshoe Cloud

A horseshoe cloud was captured over Battle Mountain, Nevada on Mar. 8, 2018.

While the nor’easter parade was hammering the East Coast, a bizarre cloud was captured in video over Nevada in early March.

As meteorologist Jonathan Belles explained, this rare horseshoe vortex is fleeting, lasting only minutes, when a relatively flat cloud moves over a column of rising air, which also gives the cloud some spin.

A State Record Hailstone

The hailstone that was saved from a March 19, 2018, hailstorm near Cullman, Alabama, later to be found to set a state record.

Alabama’s notorious history of severe weather, particularly tornadoes, is well documented.  On March 19, however, it was a hailstone that captured meteorologists’ attention.

One softball-size hailstone near Cullman, Alabama, was found to set a new state record, more than 5 inches in diameter.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

What Is The Science of Superstition?

A visitor once asked the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Niels Bohr whether he really believed that the horseshoe he’d hung at his country home was lucky.

Of course not,” Bohr said. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”

If Bohr couldn’t resist magical thinking, can anyone? One recent study found that even physicists, chemists, and geologists at MIT and other elite schools were instinctively inclined to attach a purpose to natural events.

When the researchers subjected the scientists to time pressure, they were twice as likely to approve of statements such as “Trees produce oxygen so that animals can breathe” than they were when they had time to respond more deliberately.




Such bias may well be deep-seated: another recent study found that, regardless of their parents’ religiosity, 5-to-7-year-old children preferred explanations of events that involved lessons—like “Maggie’s house burned down to teach her not to play with fire anymore”.

Even atheists seem to fear a higher power. A study published last year found that self-identified nonbelievers began to sweat when reading aloud sentences asking God to do terrible things.

Not only that, they stressed out just as much as believers did. Belief in the soul also appears widespread.

One psychologist found that among people who said that consciousness ends at death, a third nonetheless attributed ongoing thoughts and feelings to characters in a fictional story after those characters had died.

Expressions of subconscious religious belief seem to increase when we are reminded of our own mortality—as they say, there are no atheists in foxholes.

Black cats are less likely to be adopted. Does superstition play a part?

In one study, writing about death increased subjects’ implicit associations between words for supernatural entities (God, soul, hell) and synonyms for real (true, factual).

The effect was equally strong in Christians and in people who described themselves as nonreligious.

Fear is another driver of irrationality. In a British study, students imagined an encounter with a self-professed witch who offered to cast an evil spell on them.

About half said a scientist should accept the hex without concern. Yet each of them said that, personally, they’d decline the offer.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Water Resistant Gadgets Aren’t Waterproof

The terms water-resistant and waterproof get bandied around quite a bit in the gadget market, but that doesn’t mean you chuck your gadgets into the nearest pool with impudence.

Water-resistance is most definitely not waterproof by any measure.

Last week we dove deep into the nomenclature and standards surrounding the testing and production of water-resistant gadgets.

This week we’re back with a lighter overview that’s perfect for people looking for a broad overview of water-resistant gadgets without so many tables and technical specifications.

Let’s take a look at the most important things you need to know about water-resistance and your gadgets.




What’s the Difference?

Every year thousands upon thousands of consumers fry their supposedly “waterproof” gadgets because of a poor understanding and poor marketing.

Understanding the basics of water-resistance is key to keeping your gadgets safe as well as purchasing the right gadgets for your outdoor and sport needs.

The most important thing you need to understand about the entire concept of “waterproof” is that it isn’t a real thing outside of very misleading marketing material.

There is no waterproof gadget on the market.

Every single phone, watch, sport band, GPS device, portable speaker, or the like that bills itself as “waterproof” should really bill itself as “Water-resistant within the parameters specified by the manufacturer.”

Think of it like “earthquake proof.” It is impossible to build a structure that is completely impervious to earthquakes.

No matter how well-built and over-engineered a structure may be there is always a combination of earthquake intensity and duration that will bring it to the ground.

Water-resistance is exactly the same. Every “waterproof” gadget has a point where the it has been submerged too long, too deep, or in water too hot or too cold, and the seals on the device fail allowing water inside.

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Pass it on: Popular Science