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Brain Compensates for Eye Movements

Your eyes are continually jumping in little movements called saccades, yet your brain interprets the view as a steady image.  How can that be?  Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh are on the track of finding out “why our shifty eyes don’t drive us crazy.”  They’ve discovered that the signal that sends a command to […]

Intestinal Efficiency Praised

Leave it to a science website to answer those questions one would never ask out loud, or might not really care to know, like “why are feces brown?”  One line jumps out of an explanation at Live Science that is no joke: “Feces are fascinating.  Flush down your initial grade-school scatological silliness and you’ll discover […]

Science Potpourri

Interesting articles from recent issues of Science have piled up in the queue.  These might have made separate entries in CEH if time and space were unlimited. Deep Impact:  The team of the Deep Impact mission to a comet published spectral results in the July 13 issue.  “Emission signatures due to amorphous and crystalline silicates, […]

Japanese Man Sets Memory Record

Item: a Japanese man, Akira Haraguchi (age 60), quoted pi to 100,000 decimal places, reported Live Science.  It took 16 hours to say the digits from memory.  This broke his personal best of 83,431 set in 1995, and the Guinness record of 42,195, also set in 1995. Incredible feats like this hint at the innate […]

Mars Radiation Would Fry Astronaut Brains

Imagine the first Martian astronauts coming home confused, impaired and demented.  This is the risk from solar radiation on Mars, say a group of NASA medical researchers (see RxPG News).  Among the gravest risks of a manned flight to Mars ranks the possibility that massive amounts of solar and cosmic radiation will decimate the brains […]

Human Heads Are Shrinking

There’s no correlation between brain size and intelligence, and if anything, brains today have gotten smaller since the days of our Pleistocene ancestors.  That’s the gist of a report on ABC News Australia based on research at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research: “The genes that are thought to have helped humans evolve big brains […]

Bacteria Rule the World – Benevolently

We should love bacteria, not annihilate them.  Bacteria are our friends, according to Dianne K. Newman of Caltech:1 As a microbiologist, I’m appalled when I go to buy soap or dishwashing detergent, because these days it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t say ‘antibacterial’ on it…. It’s a commonly held fallacy that all bacteria are […]

Eye Sends Information at Ethernet Rates

Neuroscientists from Pennsylvania and New Jersey calculated the information rate of the eye.  Using guinea pigs (real guinea pigs, not humans as guinea pigs), they came up with a number and interpolated it for humans: In the classic “What the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain,” Lettvin and colleagues showed that different types of retinal […]

Eye Can See Clearly Now

The cornea has no blood vessels.  That’s weird.  But it’s a good thing, or we would be looking through a network of threadlike strands all the time.  According to EurekAlert, scientists at Scheppens Eye Institute decided to find out how the cornea stays clear.  They found that it is heavily stocked with a special protein, […]

Why Your Knuckles Pop

Science reporter Corey Binns occasionally decorates LiveScience with articles about the human body that are informational as well as amusing.  His latest is about cracking knuckles and creaking joints.  We have four kinds of joints (pivot, ball-and-socket, sliding and hinge), which he illustrates with diagrams that look like machinery.  The pops and creaking noises, he […]

Evolving Consciousness Without a Soul

A paper tackling the theory of consciousness begins, Any scientific study of consciousness is based on the premise that phenomenal experience is entailed by neuronal activity in the brain.  Given this premise, an adequate theory of consciousness must be consistent with physics and with evolutionary principles.  Nonphysical or dualistic forces or processes must be excluded, […]

Rip Van Winkle Revives

A man in a coma 19 years has regained some brain function, surprising scientists.  Terry Wallis is relearning how to count and speak, and thinks Ronald Reagan is still president.  The story of his remarkable recovery has been reported widely in the news (see Fox News) and was featured on both News@Nature and Science Now.  […]

Reach Out and Touch Some Robot

The news media were excited to report an advance in materials science last week that could pave the way for touchy-feely robots (see BBC News, News @ Nature, LiveScience and National Geographic News, for instance).  Two scientists produced a thin film with touch resolution comparable to that of a human finger, an order of magnitude […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Handy Dandy Modus Operandi

Charles G. Gross and Asif A. Ghazanfar win the prize for this gem in Science1 from a book review of The Sensory Hand by Vernon B. Mountcastle (Harvard, 2006): In one of the first systematic attempts to describe the differences between primates and other mammals, Thomas Huxley argued that the former are distinguished by virtue […]

Comparing Preferences for Pain or Gain

A group of researchers published in the Journal of Political Economy introduced the idea economic loss and gain incentives are innate, not learned.  To demonstrate this concept, the researchers presented capuchin monkeys two opportunities leading to two different outcomes for the monkey: pain or gain.  The capuchin monkeys had a tendency to choose the opportunity […]
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