Monday, September 7, 2015

News Briefs 9/7


I'm going to start off by warning that I try to stay away from most news because there are a thousand biases that I just don't want to be bothered with and a hundred advertisements controlling what news we see. With that said, I trust science news; it's such a niche thing that the people behind the funding are known and the biases are outright stated. And so I often accrue vast amounts of information about Kepler II or the latest pharmacological breakthroughs, but I'm an idiot when it comes to facts that matter in our daily life. The real world is gritty and brutal, but science always manages to be beautiful.

So let's learn something beautiful together. There was an experiment done the other day; people watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

This film, in case you live under a rock.


They were hooked up to an fMRI to measure brain stimuli and sat back to enjoy (I presume with some popcorn and soft drinks). And the scientists discovered something wonderful. There was a marked difference in the brain stimuli of "normal" people and - wait for it - first-episode psychotic patients. This latter group consists of people who have had only one psychotic episode. By checking brain scans, the scientists could determine with almost 80% accuracy who was whom. And where was the difference in the brain? The precuneus, which controls self and episodic memory-related information.

Never before was it known for certain that the precuneus could suggest the beginnings of psychosis, and now there might be a way to diagnose at-risk individuals. All you have to do is make them kick back and indulge in a film. Next time I suggest Martin. Man, that's a good movie.

-Courtney

*****
This past weekend, I spent my time in a place called, "Massillon, Ohio." This place is strange sort of place wherein the official colors are either A: orange and black--as per the colors of their high school football team--the Tigers, or B: scarlet and gray--as per the colors of The Ohio State University. It's a place that once ushered escaped slaves through the northern states to Canada, had some of the earliest integrated schools in the country, and gave the world the venerable institution that is 24 hour pizza delivery. 

However, one of its closest neighbors is home to one of the last truly dumb revolutionary/colonial/French and Indian War times festivals wherein people.wear.red.face.

Like, John Wayne dressed up as a Comanche Indian, red face.

Like,  preschoolers of the 1980s wearing pillow cases as warrior dresses and paper feathers, red face.

This is their poster:

I'm not kidding. 

This guy markets himself as a "Comanchero Trader."
I asked him once,"which tribe are you from?" To which he answered, "I'm 1/32 Cherokee." Because racist cosplay of a time in history when Southwest and Great Plains Indians had to sell what little they had because American Colonization had shoved them to the shittiest bits of real estate is a great way to peddle the shit you whittle while you listed to your "how to be an asshole" podcast. 

We should all remember history, but maybe not in a way that is a slap in the face of the fallen.

*****

In Borneo this past week, marine biologists have discovered a two-headed nudibranch. What is a nudibranch? Just about the most spectacular sea slugs that you will ever find. 





Just look at them! Don't they look like pieces of art? I have never seen animals with such vibrant, fluorescent colors. Personally, I never thought I would be calling slugs adorable. But just look at this one:


It's smiling! It's the cutest slug I have ever seen. And the two-headed nudibranch is just as magnificent:


Look at those colors! I know, I'm getting wayyyy too excited about this. But think about it, they are hermaphrodite slugs that are considered carnivorous and are tiny. Some of them are even solar powered! They store all their energy from the sun. They are one of the most interesting animals that I have ever encountered. There are possible explanations for the two-headed phenomena shown above. One of them, and possibly the scariest one, might be pollution. But it could also be because of a birth defect. In any case, this nudibranch is thriving. Sometimes I can't believe how little we know about the ocean and what roams inside its depths. I've never been more excited and more scared of what one can encounter there. Thankfully, there are people who are braver than me and are able to take photographs for us to see how amazing the ocean can be.

-Alana

1 comment:

  1. I hope you all will able to keep up the good work as well. Thanks dude.

    ReplyDelete