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Mon, 27 Feb 2017
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The strange link between quantum physics and the human mind

"I cannot define the real problem, therefore I suspect there's no real problem, but I'm not sure there's no real problem."

The American physicist Richard Feynman said this about the notorious puzzles and paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the theory physicists use to describe the tiniest objects in the Universe. But he might as well have been talking about the equally knotty problem of consciousness.

Some scientists think we already understand what consciousness is, or that it is a mere illusion. But many others feel we have not grasped where consciousness comes from at all.

The perennial puzzle of consciousness has even led some researchers to invoke quantum physics to explain it. That notion has always been met with skepticism, which is not surprising: it does not sound wise to explain one mystery with another. But such ideas are not obviously absurd, and neither are they arbitrary.

For one thing, the mind seemed, to the great discomfort of physicists, to force its way into early quantum theory. What's more, quantum computers are predicted to be capable of accomplishing things ordinary computers cannot, which reminds us of how our brains can achieve things that are still beyond artificial intelligence. "Quantum consciousness" is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away.

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Ultra-bright star in the Crab Nebula, breaks all the rules

© NASA/Getty Images
Multiple images of the Crab Nebula made over a span of several months with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show matter and antimatter propelled to nearly the speed of light by the Crab pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star the size of Manhattan.
Well, bang go those theories. Astrophysicists have identified a neutron star that overturns not one but three well supported hypotheses.

The star, known as NGC 5907 ULX, is emitting far more x-rays than any other ever observed.

So huge is the output that it has been classified as an "ultraluminous x-ray source" (ULX). It is by no means the first ULX to be recorded in nearby galaxies, but all the others are confidently predicted to be generated by black holes - this is the first one that uses star-power.

So there goes the first theory.

But there are still more baffling elements to the discovery, made by a team led by Gianluca Israel from the National Institute of Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, and reported in Science.


Surviving doomsday: Underground condos for the elite in Kansas

A bedroom in the Survival Condo complex, a converted missile silo, includes a live video feed of the world outside.

The door to the Survival Condo closes slowly, sending a resounding thud through the concrete parking garage.

Those inside have surrounded themselves with walls up to 9 feet thick, ready to withstand a nuclear explosion, the eruption of Yellowstone's supervolcano or an outbreak of avian flu.

Larry Hall, project manager and owner of the Luxury Survival Condo Project, says he feels safer with the doors closed.

He says he's sold all 12 luxury condos in the former Atlas missile silo — which once housed a nuclear warhead — not far from Concordia, about two hours north of Wichita. He's working on a second silo.

A full-floor unit is 1,820 square feet and costs $3 million. A half-floor unit, at 900 square feet, costs $1.5 million.

Survival is a unifying cause. Hall said his owners come from a variety of political beliefs and include people in international business, architecture, law and medicine. He said the owners don't do interviews; efforts to reach them were unsuccessful.


Sunday's 'Ring of fire' eclipse visible in the southern half of our planet is a treat or omen of upheaval? (Video)

Space nerds are in for a treat on Sunday when the moon blocks out the sun in an annual solar eclipse that will cloak more than two dozen countries and three continents in momentary darkness.

Astronomers can see the cosmic display from 8:16am ET (US), but, unfortunately for northern hemisphere stargazers, the eclipse will only be visible in the southern half of our planet, moving across South America, the Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, and Africa.


New study finds fasting diet can regenerate pancreas

A new U.S. study has found that a major organ - the pancreas - can be triggered to regenerate itself through a type of fasting diet. This could be of potential benefit to those with diabetes.
© Sajjad Hussain/AFP
Patients with type one diabetes require regular injections of insulin.
The new study has looked at mice who were engineered to have diabetes and a damaged pancreas. The mice were put on a modified form of the "fasting-mimicking diet". This is similar to the popular human form of diet whereby a person spends five days on a low calorie, low protein, low carbohydrate regime coupled with a high unsaturated-fat diet. The experimental outcome was that the controlled diet led to the pancreas recovering. In essence the diet 'reboots' the body.

The reason why the new study is potentially important is because restoring the function of the organ that helps control blood sugar levels also led to a reversal of symptoms of diabetes. This is based on animal experiments and a future study will look at the effects in humans, should permission for such a trial be approved. Importantly such a diet should not be attempted by a person without seeking medical advice.


Evidence of a 'chaotic solar system' in Colorado rocks

Plumbing a 90 million-year-old layer cake of sedimentary rock in Colorado, a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and Northwestern University has found evidence confirming a critical theory of how the planets in our solar system behave in their orbits around the sun.
© Bradley Sageman
Alternating layers of shale and limestone near Big Bend, Texas, characteristic of the rock laid down at the bottom of a shallow ocean during the late Cretaceous period. The rock holds definitive geologic evidence that the planets in our solar system behave differently than the prevailing theory that the they orbit like clockwork in a quasiperiodic manner.
The finding, published Feb. 23, 2017 in the journal Nature, is important because it provides the first hard proof for what scientists call the "chaotic solar system," a theory proposed in 1989 to account for small variations in the present conditions of the solar system. The variations, playing out over many millions of years, produce big changes in our planet's climate — changes that can be reflected in the rocks that record Earth's history.

The discovery promises not only a better understanding of the mechanics of the solar system, but also a more precise measuring stick for geologic time. Moreover, it offers a better understanding of the link between orbital variations and climate change over geologic time scales.

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U.S. researchers guilty of misconduct go on to win more than $100 million in NIH grants, study finds

© Lydia Polimeni
National Institutes of Health
Many believe that once a scientist is found guilty of research misconduct, his or her scientific career is over. But a new study suggests that, for many U.S. researchers judged to have misbehaved, there is such a thing as a second chance.

Nearly one-half of 284 researchers who were sanctioned for research misconduct in the last 25 years by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the largest U.S. funder of biomedical research, ultimately continued to publish or work in research in some capacity, according to a new analysis.

And a small number of those scientists—17, to be exact—went on to collectively win $101 million in new funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Those numbers "really surprised" Kyle Galbraith, research integrity officer at the University of Illinois in Urbana and author of the new study, published earlier this month by the Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics. "I knew from my work and reading other studies that careers after misconduct were possible. But the volume kind of shocked me," he says.


Cymatics, the science of visible sound, has just taken a giant leap into the future

Cymatics--the science of visible sound--has just taken a giant leap into the future, with profound implications for medical science

The CymaScope is a new type of analog scientific instrument that makes sound visible, allowing scientists to see sound's vibrations. Within the instrument the surface of pure water offers a kind of super-sensitive membrane and by imprinting sounds onto the liquid surface, unique patterns of sound energy are created for every unique sound.

Just as the invention of the microscope and telescope revealed aspects of the world and Universe that we didn't even know existed, the CymaScope allows the once hidden realm of sound to become visible. And since everything in the Universe is in a state of vibration a tool that shows the structures within sound and vibration can provide important new scientific insights.

Visualizations of piano note sounds via the Cymascope.
But now, American scientist, Dr. Sungchul Ji, has developed a novel method to digitize the CymaScope, permitting the sound patterns to be analyzed with digital tools, effectively creating the world's first Digital CymaScope.


Bug in content delivery network Cloudflare exposes secure data for major websites

© Cloudflare / YouTube
A major bug in software used by content delivery network Cloudflare has exposed sensitive, encrypted data - including passwords - from its' customers' websites, the company says. There are no signs that hackers have exploited the bug.

Beginning as early as September 22, hundreds of thousands webpages among websites hosted by Cloudflare, Inc. have leaked sensitive data, including passwords, cookies and software keys, the company said Thursday in a blog post. The period most affected period was between February 13 and the bug's discovery on February 18.

Of the six million sites that Cloudflare hosts, 3,400 were leaking data, according to reports. The content delivery and internet security company hosts websites of popular services like Uber, Fitbit and OkCupid, all three of which were affected.

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New breakthrough in Parkinson's research holds hope for cure

© Sergey Karpukhin / Reuters
Scientists have made a breakthrough in the understanding of how Parkinson's disease spreads in the brain, prompting hopes of potential new treatments for the degenerative disorder.

The research, published in Scientific Reports Nature, provides the first strong evidence of how Parkinson's evolves in the brain and offers the possibility of stopping it in its tracks.

A team at the University of Auckland, New Zealand led by Professor Maurice Curtis discovered that pathological proteins (known as 'Lewy bodies') in Parkinson's disease could be spread from cell to cell.

The researchers examined human brain cells cultured from brains donated for the study. It was previously known that Lewy bodies accumulated in susceptible cells, but not that they could spread.

Comment: It's always so interesting to see how the official voices in science and medicine make these pronouncements in the fields of research when the less acknowledged or alternative fields of healing have come so far already.