Day: March 13, 2014

News Flash: Brain Tumor Success

News Flash: Brain Tumor Success - Focused Ultrasound Foundation

I am ecstatic! One of my closest friends, with an inoperable and highly malignant recurrent brain tumor, has experienced considerable regression of the tumor mass, recovery of function (and lengthening of life) with the experimental application of a noninvasive technique for focused ablation of the tumor (without opening the cranium) with ultrasound. The technique is called MrgFUS, “magnetic-resonance-guided focused ultrasound”, for short. This is the first time it has been used in this way anywhere in the world. Here is the press release. I’ll forgive the investigators their bragging rights in light of the result!

Related: Ted Talks on Focused Ultrasound

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VLT Spots Largest Yellow Hypergiant Star

‘ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer has revealed the largest yellow star — and one of the ten largest stars found so far. This hypergiant has been found to measure more than 1300 times the diameter of the Sun, and to be part of a double star system, with the second component so close that it is in contact with the main star. Observations spanning over sixty years, some from amateur observers, also indicate that this rare and remarkable object is changing very rapidly and has been caught during a very brief phase of its life.’ (ESO).

Good god, this bloody mutant monster can’t be a real spider

‘I don’t even know what I’m looking at here. I think I see some eyes and a beak attached some oversized head attached to the body of a spider. It’s a pelican spider.

“They look like little birds,” says Hannah Wood of the University of California, Davis. The spider’s body is about the size of a grain of rice, with a front segment that has evolved into a stretched “neck” with a little round “head” on top. (The mouth is actually at the bottom of the “neck”). And a pair of jawlike fanged projections called chelicerae folds down against the neck, where a pelican would tuck its beak.

Fuck you, nature. Fuck. You.’ (Sploid).

The Five-Second Rule Is Now Supported by Actual Scientific Evidence

None - This image is in the public domain and ...

‘To finally put an end to the age-old edibility debate, a team of students led by microbiology professor Anthony Hilton looked at the transfer of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus (or the bacteria that causes Staph infection) from a variety of indoor floor types (carpet, laminate, and tiled surfaces) to a variety of foods (toast, pasta, cookies, ham, dried fruit, and last but not least a “sticky dessert”). Each tested round of contact lasted between three and 30 seconds.

In what will surely be validating news to five-second rule champions everywhere, the researchers found that “time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food.” It’s not just the precious seconds your meal spends on the ground that matters, though; the type of flooring also plays a pretty big role. For instance, food dropped on carpet is the least likely to pick up bacteria, while food that sits on a hardwood floor for over five seconds is almost guaranteed to pick up something unpleasant—and it’s a moist food item, forget about it.’ (Gizmodo)

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Out-Of-Body Experiences Make It Harder To Encode Memories

Out of body experience

‘When Henrik Ehrsson tells me that his latest study is “weird”, I pay attention. This is a man, after all, who once convinced me I was the size of a doll, persuaded me that I had three arms, and ripped me out of my own body before stabbing me in the chest. Guy knows weird.

Ehrsson’s team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm specialises in studying our sense of self, by creating simple yet spectacular illusions that subvert our everyday experiences. For example, it seems almost trite to suggest that all of us experience our lives from within our own bodies. But with just a few rods, a virtual reality headset, and a camera, Ehrsson can give people an out-of-body experience or convince them that they’ve swapped bodies with a mannequin or another person.

These illusions tell us that our sense of self isn’t the fixed, stable, hard-wired sensation that it seems. Instead, our brain uses the information from our senses to continuously construct the feeling that we own our own bodies. Feed the senses with the wrong information, and you can make the brain believe all manner of impossible things.

Loretxu Bergouignan joined Ehrsson’s team in 2009. She had been studying memory, and she wanted to know if that brittle sense of self is important for encoding our experience. After all, we take in all the events of our lives from inside our own bodies. As Bergouignan writes, “There is always an “I” that experiences the original event, and an I that re-experiences the event during the act of remembering.” If she put someone through an out-of-body illusion, could they still make new memories? Is that first-person perspective of the world important for storing information about it?’ — Ed Yong (Not Exactly Rocket Science).

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Brain Scans Provide Clues to a Dog’s Inner Life

Estudio concluye que los perros también tienen...

‘A first-of-its-kind study that measured activity in dogs’ brains finds a key region only lights up when the animal is exposed to the smell of a familiar human being. Other dogs—even familiar ones—do not produce the same response.

“It is tempting to conclude that (this) response represents something akin to a positive emotional response to the scent of a familiar human,” writes the research team led by Gregory Berns of Emory University. Their study—including their speculative discussion of whether that’s truly the case—is in the journal Behavioural Processes.’ (Pacific Standard).

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“So You’re Going to Take LSD”: A Beginner’s Guide From 1967

LSD

‘ “So you’re going to take LSD.” Thus begins a how-to manual by Lisa Bieberman, who was then a 25-year-old Harvard graduate and former assistant to Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) and Timothy Leary (aka Nixon’s “Most Dangerous Man in America”) in their famed LSD experiments. Published in 1967, the year before the hallucinogen was criminalized, the pamphlet was recently unearthed by Psychedelic Frontier, a blog for the “consciousness expansion” community.

Bieberman seems to have been an ardent but surprisingly down-to-earth acid adherent, and earnest about her task. This guide for beginners is mainly addressed to practical matters to promote the best possible “LSD session.” She is eager to correct disinformation (LSD does not make you think you can fly) and to dispel romantic illusions (LSD does not make you smarter, more creative or a better person). And because she believes that LSD’s benefits are almost entirely emotional or spiritual in nature—and that therefore you and your companions should stay in one room, sit still and say nothing—her advice leans heavily on what NOT to do…’ (Substance.com).

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How to Teach Serious Literature with Lightweight Books

David Foster Wallace’s 1994 Syllabus: ‘…[David Foster] Wallace was perhaps one of the most careful (or care-full) writers of his generation. …[So] you might just have to admire the fine art of his syllabi. Well, so you can, thanks to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, which has scans available online of the syllabus for Wallace’s intro course “English 102-Literary Analysis: Prose Fiction” , along with other course documents. These documents—From the Fall ’94 semester at Illinois State University, where Wallace taught from 1993 to 2002—reveal the professionally pedagogical side of the literary wunderkind, a side every teacher will connect with right away.

…[I]f you squint hard, you’ll see under “Aims of Course” that Wallace quotes the official ISU description of his class, then translates it into his own words:

In less narcotizing words, English 102 aims to show you some ways to read fiction more deeply, to come up with more interesting insights on how pieces of fiction work, to have informed intelligent reasons for liking or disliking a piece of fiction, and to write—clearly, persuasively, and above all interestingly—about stuff you’ve read.

…Wallace’s choice of texts is of interest as well—surprising for a writer most detractors call “pretentious.” For his class, Wallace prescribed airport-bookstore standards—what he calls “popular or commercial fiction”—such as Jackie Collins’ Rock Star, Stephen King’s Carrie, Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs, and James Elroy’s The Big Nowhere. The UT Austin site also has scans of some well-worn paperback teacher’s copies, with the red-ink marginal notes, discussion questions, and underlines one finds behind every podium…’ (Open Culture).

How Do Psychiatrists Treat Werewolves?

‘…In the psychiatric literature, the werewolf hallucinations and delusions the patient was experiencing are broadly classified as clinical lycanthropy, or lycomania. Because the “extremely rare” disorder has not received much academic scrutiny and is “poorly understood,” Blom recently took it upon himself to perform a rigorous multi-lingual search of historical documents and medical databases for any references to or extant case records on the condition between 1850 and May 2012.

Though the resulting analysis, published this month in the History of Psychiatry, only unearthed 13 case descriptions that satisfied the definition of “clinical lycanthropy proper,” the paper traces the evolution of the illness and provides a detailed description of symptoms, treatments, and divergent theories about its causes…’ (Pacific Standard).