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Love me for my brain, not just my body <i>(Image: Gerard Lacz/Getty Images)</i>

Think crayfish and you probably think supper, perhaps with mayo on the side. You probably don’t think of their brains. Admittedly, crayfish aren’t known for their grey matter, but that might be about to change: they can grow new brain cells from blood.

Humans can make new neurons, but only from specialised stem cells. Crayfish, meanwhile, can convert blood to neurons that resupply their eyestalks and smell circuits. Although it’s a long way from crayfish to humans, the discovery may one day help us to regenerate our own brain cells.

Olfactory nerves are continuously exposed to damage and so naturally regenerate in many animals, from flies to humans, and crustaceans too. It makes sense that crayfish have a way to replenish these nerves. To do so, they utilise what amounts to a “nursery” for baby neurons, a little clump at the base of the brain called the niche.

In crayfish, blood cells are attracted to the niche. On any given day, there are a hundred or so cells in this area. Each cell will split into two daughter cells, precursors to full neurons, both of which migrate out of the niche. Those that are destined to be part of the olfactory system head to two clumps of nerves in the brain called clusters 9 and 10. It’s there that the final stage of producing new smell neurons is completed.

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BRAIN

A fake brain that looks a bit like a jam-filled donut has been grown for the first time by bio-engineers.

The complex brain structure has already demonstrated its ability to give researchers insights into the damage caused by head injuries.

And scientists hope the laboratory-grown tissue, which contains both grey and white matter, will help in the study of dementia and strokes, and as a test bed for new drugs.

“This work is an exceptional feat,” said Dr Rosemarie Hunziker, program director of Tissue Engineering at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which funded the project . “It combines a deep understanding of brain physiology with a large and growing suite of bioengineering tools to create an environment that is both necessary and sufficient to mimic brain function.”

The 3D-tissue cultures, made from rat cells, which have been kept alive for up to two months “could lead to an acceleration of therapies for brain dysfunction, as well as offer a better way to study normal brain physiology,” said Dr David Kaplan, director of the tissue engineering resource centre atTufts University in Boston and lead author of the story in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It could also answer more fundamental questions about human brains, the most complex structures in the universe.

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Never ever…

“Never ever underestimate the role of boredom in the evolution of consciousness.”

Art by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!

sound-from-video-vibrations.jpg

Researchers at MIT are able to successfully recreate conversations by analyzing the vibrations in a bag of potato chips and use an algorithm to reconstruct the sound waves that caused them.

When sound hits an object, it makes distinct vibrations. “There’s this very subtle signal that’s telling you what the sound passing through is,” said Abe Davis, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and first author on the paper. But the movement is tiny – sometimes as small as thousandths of a pixel on video. It’s only when all of these signals are averaged, Davis said, that you can extract sound that makes sense. By observing the entire object, you can filter out the noise. The results are certainly impressive (and a little scary). In one example shown in a compilation video, a bag of chips is filmed from 15 feet away, through sound-proof glass. The reconstructed audio of someone reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in the same room as the chips isn’t crystal clear. But the words being said are possible to decipher.

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The field of audio is so mature and saturated that coming up with a genuinely novel approach to speakers is a rather steep challenge.

But a new product created by a team in Oakland, California, takes audiophiles into new territory by delivering a speaker that levitates — no, really, it levitates. Using the now well-known idea of magnetic levitation, the speaker floats about an inch off its base, allowing the user to spin it around in mid-air while listening to the audio.

After we had a chance to test the Bluetooth speaker out in person, we can confirm that the product does indeed work as described.

The Om/One device also contains a microphone, allowing the levitating orb to take calls, too. On its surface, which looks something like cross between the Death Star and a soccer ball, is a hidden sensor that allows you to turn the device on and off as well as pair it with your audio source, such as asmartphone.

OK, so it looks cool. But aside from the novelty factor, why would you need a levitating speaker?

“The fact that it levitates gives us an angle on some audio techniques that make the speaker a lot better,” David DeVillez, the co-founder and CEO of Om Audio.

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GT6

As we all now know, the science is in on climate change.  It is happening, and it is man-made…the debate is over.  Humans burn fossil fuels, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere, which retains heat and warms our planet.  Pretty simple to understand, but until recently, the solutions have been a bit more difficult to wrap our heads around.

We know we need to decrease our current carbon footprint by weaning off of fossil fuels, and onto more sustainable and renewable energy sources.  Okay, so thats a way to slow down the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, but what about all the CO2 that we have already pumped into our air?  Can we capture it?  Can we reverse the damage that we have done?

One company thinks they have a solution.  Started in 2010, Global Thermostat (GT) developed a proprietary technology that can literally grab the carbon out of the surrounding atmosphere and sell it back to other companies as a power source.  Essentially, they found a way to recycle the waste products that other energy companies blow right into our air.  Their technology may one day keep up with the worlds demand for energy, while at the same time reduce greenhouse gases.

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A gamma wave is a rapid, electrical oscillation in the brain. A scan of the academic literature shows that gamma waves may be involved with learning memory and attention—and, when perturbed, may play a part in schizophrenia, epilepsy Alzheimer’s, autism and ADHD. Quite a list and one of the reasons that these brainwaves, cycling at 25 to 80 times per second, persist as an object of fascination to neuroscientists.

Despite lingering interest, much remains elusive when trying to figure out how gamma waves are produced by specific molecules within neurons—and what the oscillations do to facilitate communication along the brains’ trillions and trillions of connections. A group of researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California has looked beyond the preeminent brain cell—the neuron— to achieve new insights about gamma waves.

At one time, neuroscience textbooks depicted astrocytes as a kind of pit crew for neurons,  providing metabolic support and other functions for the brain’s rapid-firing information-processing components. In recent years, that picture has changed as new studies have found that astrocytes, like neurons, also have an alternate identity as information processors. This research demonstrates astrocytes’ ability to spritz chemicals known as neurotransmitters that communicate with other brain cells. Given that both neurons and astrocytes perform some of the same functions, it has been difficult to tease out what specifically astrocytes are up to. Hard evidence for what these nominal cellular support players might contribute in forming memories or focusing attention has been lacking.

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Do you see it?

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“All the technique in the world doesn’t compensate for the inability to notice.”

Elliott Erwitt

Art by: ad infinitum#4 by Luciana Urtiga

Researchers have developed a simple and versatile method for making artificial anti-cancer molecules that mimic the properties of one of the body’s natural defence systems.

The chemists, led by Professor Peter Scott at the University of Warwick, UK, have been able to produce molecules that have a similar structure to peptides which are naturally produced in the body to fight cancer and infection.

Published in Nature Chemistry, the molecules produced in the research have proved effective against colon cancer cells in laboratory tests, in collaboration with Roger Phillips at the Institute for Cancer Therapeutics, Bradford, UK.

Artificial peptides had previously been difficult and prohibitively expensive to manufacture in large quantities, but the new process takes only minutes and does not require costly equipment. Also, traditional peptides that are administered as drugs are quickly neutralised by the body’s biochemical defences before they can do their job.

A form of complex chemical self-assembly, the new method developed at Warwick addresses these problems by being both practical and producing very stable molecules. The new peptide mimics, called triplexes, have a similar 3D helix form to natural peptides.

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Implanted neurons become part of the brain

Scientists at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg have grafted neurons reprogrammed from skin cells into the brains of mice for the first time with long-term stability. Six months after implantation, the neurons had become fully functionally integrated into the brain. This successful, because lastingly stable, implantation of neurons raises hope for future therapies that will replace sick neurons with healthy ones in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients, for example. The Luxembourg researchers published their results in the current issue of ‘Stem Cell Reports’.

The LCSB research group around Prof. Dr. Jens Schwamborn and Kathrin Hemmer is working continuously to bring cell replacement therapy to maturity as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Sick and dead neurons in the brain can be replaced with new cells. This could one day cure disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. The path towards successful therapy in humans, however, is long. “Successes in human therapy are still a long way off, but I am sure successful cell replacement therapies will exist in future. Our research results have taken us a step further in this direction,” declares stem cell researcher Prof. Schwamborn, who heads a group of 15 scientists at LCSB.

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Luis Hernan is like a modern day ghost hunter. Only instead of searching for lost souls, he’s looking for the technological apparitions that surround us every day. InDigital Ethereal, Hernan, a PhD student at Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, has been investigating the invisible wireless infrastructures in order to glean a better understanding about how these wireless systems are designed and how we interact with them.

Digital Ethereal is part art, part industrial design and part technological inquiry. He began by designing a gadget called the Kirlian Device, named after Semyon Davidovich Kirlian, a 20th century scientist who developed the Kirlian photography technique. This technique, which visualizes electrical coronal discharges, has been used for various scientific purposes, but it’s most commonly associated with paranormal activities like reading auras.

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Human beings have long since been looking up at space, wondering when mankind will finally be technologically-advanced enough to colonize space. While staring heavenwards recently, we stumbled across this jaw-dropping development by RCA graduate Julian Melchiorri. A synthetically developed leaf, this concept called the Silk Leaf Project, is capable of absorbing water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen, just the way a real plant does! Quoting Melchiorri, “NASA is researching different ways to produce oxygen for long-distance space journeys to let us live in space. This material could allow us t0 explore space much further than we can now.”

The Silk Leaf Project was developed as part of the Royal College of Art’s Innovation Design Engineering course in collaboration with Tufts University silk lab. Made from chloroplasts suspended in a matrix made out of silk protein, the leaf “as an amazing property of stabilizing molecules.” Not unlike real plants, these leaves created by Melchiorri also require light and a small amount of water to produce oxygen. This is the first man-made biological leaf in the history of mankind and an idea as such could help us step beyond boundaries, in terms of technology and lifestyle. Melchiorri sure deserves a pat on his back for his brilliance!

http://newlaunches.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/silk-leaf-1.jpg

Nothing but…

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“You must want to know the truth more than you want to feel secure in order to fully awaken to the fact that you are nothing but Awakeness itself.”

Adyashanti

Art by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!

Layered Glass Table Concept Creates a Cross Section of the Ocean ocean furniture

Layered Glass Table Concept Creates a Cross Section of the Ocean ocean furniture

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dna-repair-machinery

When it comes to genetic engineering, we’re amateurs. Sure, we’ve known about DNA’s structure for more than 60 years, we first sequenced every A, T, C, and G in our bodies more than a decade ago, and we’re becoming increasingly adept at modifying the genes of a growing number of organisms.

But compared with what’s coming next, all that will seem like child’s play. A new technology just announced today has the potential to wipe out diseases, turn back evolutionary clocks, and reengineer entire ecosystems, for better or worse. Because of how deeply this could affect us all, the scientists behind it want to start a discussion now, before all the pieces come together over the next few months or years. This is a scientific discovery being played out in real time.

Today, researchers aren’t just dropping in new genes, they’re deftly adding, subtracting, and rewriting them using a series of tools that have become ever more versatile and easier to use. In the last few years, our ability to edit genomes has improved at a shockingly rapid clip. So rapid, in fact, that one of the easiest and most popular tools, known as CRISPR-Cas9, is just two years old. Researchers once spent months, even years, attempting to rewrite an organism’s DNA. Now they spend days.

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defense-large

Scientists funded by the Defense Department have just announced a breakthrough that could allow researchers to create in 220 days an extremely detailed picture of the brain that previously would have taken 80 years of scans to complete.

The military has been looking to build better brain hacks for decades with results that ranged form the frightening to the comical. This latest development could revolutionize the study of the brain but also the national security applications of neuroscience.

Scientists at Stanford University who developed the new way to see the brain in greater detail, outlined in the journal Nature Protocols, said that it could mark a new era of rapid brain imaging, allowing researchers to see in much greater detail not only how parts of the brain interact on a cellular level but also to better understand those interactions across the entire brain.

“I absolutely believe this is going to transform the way that we study the brain and how we perform neuroscience research,” said Justin Sanchez, program manager for the Neuro Function, Activity, Structure, and Technology, or Neuro-FAST, program at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which funded the research. “What we’re saying here today is that we can develop new technology that changes how we observe and interact with the circuits of the brain.”

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Just let it…

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“I am not asking you to look in any particular direction. Just look away from all that happens in your mind and bring it to the feeling ‘I am’. The ‘I am’ is not a direction. It is the negation of all direction. Ultimately even the ‘I am’ will have to go, for you need not keep asserting what is obvious. Bringing the mind to the feeling ‘I am’ merely helps turning the mind away from everything.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj

Art by: Dunno. You know? Lemme know!

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford science nature mushrooms Australia  Marasmius haematocephalus

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford science nature mushrooms Australia
Panus fasciatus

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford science nature mushrooms Australia
Leratiomyces sp. / Found in Booyong Reserve, Booyong, NSW

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magnetic resonance imaging, xray

Brain scans are now starting to peer down to the molecular level, revealing what brain cells are telling one another, researchers say.

This new technique could illuminate the behavior of the human brain at its most fundamental level, yielding insights on disorders such as addiction, the scientists added. Right now the technique has been tested only on rats.

“This demonstrates a new way to study the brain — no one has ever mapped brain activity in this way before,” said study author Alan Jasanoff, a bioengineer and neuroscientist at MIT.

One of the key ways researchers use to scan brains is magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. These scanners immerse people in strong magnetic fields and then hit them with radio waves, encouraging atoms — usually hydrogen atoms — to emit signals that yield insights on the body.

By using MRIs to look at the hydrogen atoms in water, scientists can follow the flow of blood in the brain, shedding light on brain activity. However, this strategy, known as functional MRI, or fMRI, essentially reveals only what parts of the brain are talking, not what different areas of the brain are saying to each other.

Now scientists are using novel molecules that can help them use fMRI to see what specific messages brain cells are sending each other.

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Oliver Kreylos has combined three Kinects with an Oculus Rift to import a 3D representation of himself into virtual reality.

The Kinects’ video stream is merged before being fed into the Oculus headset, giving the impression of a solid 3D object. In this instance, the object is Mr Kreylos, who can be seen sitting in a virtual office. Low resolution and prone to glitches, the device is still an early prototype.

The three Kinects – peripherals for Microsoft’s Xbox – are positioned in an equilateral triangle to accurately capture the subject, whose image is then beamed into Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset. Mr Kreylos is able to control the camera in such a way that he can see himself in both a first and third person perspective.

Unlike an ordinary 2D camera, the Kinect is equipped with a 3D camera, which provides the missing bits of information necessary for 3D reconstruction that a regular camera does not have. Mr Kreylos, researcher at University of California, Davis, said in his blog that despite the low quality of the image, it still feels very real.

“I believe it’s related to the uncanny valley principle, in that fuzzy 3D video that moves in a very lifelike fashion is more believable to the brain than high-quality avatars that don’t quite move right.”

The Uncanny Valley principle is a hypothesis that suggests human features that are designed to move similarly, but not exactly, like natural human beings – such as in robotics or 3D animation – can cause revulsion in observers. Mr Kreylos first started experimenting with the Kinect back in 2010 and this appears to be the first time the device has been used to create this particular effect in conjunction with the Oculus Rift.

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