Nov 24 2010

German Physicists Create a “Super-Photon”

Posted by PAgent in Current Events, Technology, science

Researchers in Bonn have cooled photons to a temperature where they spontaneously condense, forming a ‘photonic Bose-Einstein condensate’.

So, what’s it good for?

This photonic Bose-Einstein condensate is a completely new source of light that has characteristics resembling lasers. But compared to lasers, they have a decisive advantage, “We are currently not capable of producing lasers that generate very short-wave light – i.e. in the UV or X-ray range,” explained Jan Klärs. “With a photonic Bose-Einstein condensate this should, however, be possible.”

Read the article at

Nov 09 2010

Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Posted by PAgent in Food and Drink, Health, science

Alcohol is a sedative. It works in part by potentiating the GABAergic neurotransmitter system. GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid] is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. When the neurons in the brain release GABA, it acts to slow down or inhibit other neural processes. This can reduce anxiety, increase relaxation while sedating a person. With higher levels of alcohol, problems can arise as important neural and other bodily systems become overinhibited and shut down.

Compared to alcohol, caffeine is on the other end of the spectrum of psychoactive drugs in that it is a stimulant. Caffeine is an antagonist for the neurotransmitter adenosine. Adenosine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter; so similar to GABA, adenosine can dampen or inhibit other neural processors. With caffeine, we have a double negative in that it inhibits an inhibitory neurotransmitter and thus increase levels of arousal and alertness—but higher doses can produce nervousness, anxiety and tachycardia.

I don’t know how anybody could think it was a GOOD idea to slam down 24 ounces of this stuff, with an alcohol content of 12 percent and the caffeine equivalent of five cups of coffee. However, if you want a more reasoned explanation why it would be a Bad Idea, read the linked article at Scientific American.

Why Are Caffeinated Alcoholic Energy Drinks Dangerous?

Oct 14 2010

Water Droplets Meet Superhydrophobic Surface

Posted by PAgent in Video, science

This is at least six flavors of awesome. Filming at ultrahigh speed, a couple of researchers at CalTech have recorded the behavior of water droplets on a superhydrophobic surface (a carbon nanotube array).

On a macroscopic scale, you might notice that water beads up on such a surface. But as you zoom in to a smaller and smaller scale, the physical manifestations of the intermolecular forces involved become more obvious. In this case, the highly polar water molecules (which are extremely serious about sticking to one another) are meeting an extremely nonpolar surface composed of carbon nanotubes (which actually repulse water). The result is something like a squishy ball bearing rolling on a frictionless surface.

Just beautiful work.

You can read the Popular Science article here.

Sep 13 2010

We kept telling you this, but you laughed at us

Posted by PAgent in Current Events, Games, Links, science

Researchers at the University of Rochester have determined that people who play action video games are capable of making decisions significantly faster than those who don’t, and that those decisions are no less accurate.

The researchers found that video game players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, and this benefit doesn’t just make them better at playing video games, but improves a wide variety of general skills that can help with everyday activities like multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town.

Guess who’s laughing now?

Read the article at Science Daily

Sep 09 2010

Best of TED

Posted by PAgent in Links, Technology, science

You’ve probably heard of the TED talks, those short lectures by brilliant people sharing startling or fascinating new ideas. You’ve probably even seen one or two of them on YouTube. You know there are probably some great TED talks out there, but you haven’t been willing to spend the time to track them down.

Fortunately for you, Fast Company has compiled a list of TED’s Greatest Hits.

Go watch them. You’ll learn something.

Aug 16 2010

This is your brain on e-mail….

Posted by PAgent in Technology, science

What do you get when you send five neuroscientists rafting down the San Juan river? Hopefully, some additional understanding of how omnipresent technology effects our brains.

It was a primitive trip with a sophisticated goal: to understand how heavy use of digital devices and other technology changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.

Cellphones do not work here, e-mail is inaccessible and laptops have been left behind. It is a trip into the heart of silence…

Read the whole article at the New York Times online.