Sunday, November 17, 2013

MIT and Harvard scientists create matter from light

Physics professors Mikhail Lukin of Harvard and VladanVuletic of MIT have successfully created a scenario where photons of light bond together to create mass, a logically impossible, but scientifically probable outcome.

The two scientists filled a vacuum chamber with rubidium, and then laser cooled the chamber to near absolute zero. This temperature is 0 Kelvin, where the very particles of atoms have no movement, thus rendering the atoms frozen. Lukin and Vuletic fired single photons of light into the atomic cloud of rubidium, which made the photons give off energy to the unmoving rubidium atoms, thus drastically slowing the photons of light.

When two photons of light were fired into the rubidium cloud, they emerged bound together as a molecule. Because of this breakthrough, there is now talking of one day creating 3D crystals out of light itself.

There are nerds, like myself, who see this breakthrough as a scientific milestone toward the eventual creation of lightsabers. A man can dream, right?

Racism linked to firearm ownership and resistance to gun control

In a recent study by the University of Manchester in Britain, Monash University in Australia, and a few other universities, a link between firearm ownership by white Americans with racism and resistance to gun control. As obnoxious as it sounds, the study actually has some compelling explanations to hold up the findings.

Using data from the American National Election Studies (ANES), which gives information about voters such as age, gender, education, opposition to gun control, income, and anti-government sentiments, the study researchers put in this information into logistical regression models along with indicators of racism and stereotypes about violent black men and looked for a correlation between the two factors. The regression model showed that for each one point increase in symbolic racism, there was a 50% increase in the odds of a white American having a gun in their home.

This does not mean that owning a gun makes you racist, but that racists are more likely to own guns and oppose the restrictions of gun control. The researchers believe this is tied with the fear of ‘the criminal black man’.

This study did not examine the historical role of racism in gun control legislation targeting black citizens.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vegetative patient found aware of surroundings and able to pay attention

A new study, conducted by scientists at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambria, was studying patients in a vegetative state and whether they were able to attend to target words. The testing was done through electrical measurements of the patient's scalp while the patient was read a series of words, such as moss moth and worm, and asked to alternatively attend to the word 'yes' or the word 'no'. If the patient was able to attend to the correct target word, the patient was considered aware of their surroundings.

Of the 21 patients that the researchers studied, one vegetative patient was able to filter out the unimportant words and focus on the relevant words that they were asked to focus on.

Using fMRI brain scanning, the scientists conducting the study also discovered that the patient followed simple commands to imagine playing tennis. This suggests that the patient was not only aware of his surroundings, but also able to pay attention.

These findings are hopeful in opening the door to specialized devices in the future that would allow vegetative patients to interact with the outside world.

40 billion possible Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy

A recent study run by astronomers of NASA has brought up the estimate that there are roughly 8.8 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting suns common to ours that have the chance of harboring life in the Milky Way galaxy alone. These planets are shown to be in the Goldilocks Zone, an area where it is neither too hot nor too cold, thus being a possible habitable zone. To put that into context, there are more of these possible life-sustaining planets than there are people currently living on Earth.

The study was conducted by having the Kepler telescope look at 42,000 stars and see how many Earth-like planets there were, then extrapolated that amount to the rest of the galaxy’s hundreds of billions of stars. The study only looked at suns that were roughly the same size as our own though, which is not the most common type of star.

If the Kepler study was concerned with Earth-like planets orbiting other sized suns in their Goldilocks Zone, the study’s co-author, Geoff Marcy estimated that there are roughly 40 billion right-sized and right-placed planets out in the Milky Way galaxy.

Marcy questioned why, if there were so many possible Earth-like planets, there is a deafening silence in our galaxy from advanced civilizations?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Men need two social nights a week with their bros

The Oxford department of Experimental Psychology has recently found that men need at least two days a week with their male friends to maintain good health. Robin Dunbar, the director of the Oxford University’s social and evolutionary neuroscience research group, also suggests that men should meet with four friends to recap the benefits of male friendship, and to grab a few drinks while they’re at it.

Dunbar also suggests that this bonding will also benefit men’s health through faster recovery times when faced with illnesses and higher levels of generosity. If the men also do some physical activity, such as playing a sport together, entertainment and laughter will cause the release of endorphins, which are responsible for the health benefits of the male bonding time.

Recently in the United Kingdom, one in three men cannot find the time to meet with their male friends once a week, and 40% of men are able to make a 'guy's night' only a weekly affair.

The truth of 'the cheerleader effect'

In a new study run by The Association of Psychological Science, the perceived ‘Cheerleader Effect’ has been proven to be true. This psychological phenomenon, which was first dubbed on the famous television show How I Met Your Mother by lady-killer Barney Stinson, states that a group of people, rather than individually, is perceived as more attractive.

Two of the scientists working on the study, Drew Walker and Edward Vul of the University of California in San Diego, say that people ‘average out’ the features of the people in a group, which makes each person seem more average that they truly are.

Walker expects that, since this averaging out of the faces also averages out the unattractive idiosyncrasies, it explains why the groups of average people are seen as more attractive. So, the researchers conducted five experiments with over 130 undergraduate students.

Individuals were shown electronic pictures of people individually and in groups, and the group photographs made each individual look more attractive than in their solo photograph.