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Thu, 23 Feb 2017
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Brain

Scientists have discovered a way to erase traumatic memories

© Denis Balibouse / Reuters
Scientists in Canada have taken the idea of positive thinking to a whole new level - by discovering a way to target and erase bad memories from our brains.

The findings could be used to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction, but researchers have warned of "huge ethical implications."

Researchers at the University of Toronto found a way to target and erase fear-based memories in mice, after discovering the neurons which are used to form these types of memories in the brain.

"Although there are millions of neurons in the brain, only a few of them are necessary to form a fear or threat memory," Dr Sheena Josselyn, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology, explained.

Researchers were able to 'flag up' the neurons creating the bad memories by overproducing a certain brain protein in mice, and then targeted and genetically removed those neurons to erase the bad memories, while keeping others.

Beaker

Your ancestors' experiences leave a mark on your genes

© Alison Mackey/Discover
Your ancestors' lousy childhoods or excellent adventures might change your personality, bequeathing anxiety or resilience by altering the epigenetic expressions of genes in the brain.

Darwin and Freud walk into a bar. Two alcoholic mice — a mother and her son — sit on two bar stools, lapping gin from two thimbles.

The mother mouse looks up and says, "Hey, geniuses, tell me how my son got into this sorry state."

"Bad inheritance," says Darwin.

"Bad mothering," says Freud.

For over a hundred years, those two views — nature or nurture, biology or psychology — offered opposing explanations for how behaviors develop and persist, not only within a single individual but across generations.

And then, in 1992, two young scientists following in Freud's and Darwin's footsteps actually did walk into a bar. And by the time they walked out, a few beers later, they had begun to forge a revolutionary new synthesis of how life experiences could directly affect your genes — and not only your own life experiences, but those of your mother's, grandmother's and beyond.

Comment: Further reading:


Info

Spinal cord not the brain determines right or left-handedness

© RUB, Marquard
Judith Schmitz and Sebastian Ocklenburg are interested in right-left differences.
Unlike hitherto assumed, the cause is not to be found in the brain.

It is not the brain that determines if people are right or left-handed, but the spinal cord. This has been inferred from the research results compiled by a team headed by private lecturer Dr Sebastian Ocklenburg, Judith Schmitz, and Prof Dr H. C. Onur Güntürkün.

Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and from South Africa, the biopsychologists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have demonstrated that gene activity in the spinal cord is asymmetrical already in the womb. A preference for the left or the right hand might be traced back to that asymmetry.

"These results fundamentally change our understanding of the cause of hemispheric asymmetries," conclude the authors. The team report about their study in the journal eLife.

Preference in the womb

To date, it had been assumed that differences in gene activity of the right and left hemisphere might be responsible for a person's handedness. A preference for moving the left or right hand develops in the womb from the eighth week of pregnancy, according to ultrasound scans carried out in the 1980s. From the 13th week of pregnancy, unborn children prefer to suck either their right or their left thumb.

Arm and hand movements are initiated via the motor cortex in the brain. It sends a corresponding signal to the spinal cord, which in turn translates the command into a motion. The motor cortex, however, is not connected to the spinal cord from the beginning. Even before the connection forms, precursors of handedness become apparent. This is why the researchers have assumed that the cause of right respective left preference must be rooted in the spinal cord rather than in the brain.

Info

5 of the biggest mysteries in physics 'SMASH'ed

© APS

It's five theories for the price of one.
One of the most ambitious physics theories in recent times claims to have solved five of the biggest head-scratchers in particle physics - each of them likely worthy of a Nobel prize in their own right.

Crazy as the idea sounds, the paper describing it has managed to get past peer-review at Physical Review Letters - a prestigious journal that has catalogued many of the most groundbreaking moments in physics history, such as the discovery of gravitational waves last year.

The new theory adds six new particles to the standard model's current 17, and so ties up the mysteries of:
  • What is dark matter?
  • What caused inflation?
  • Why is the neutrino so light?
  • Why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe.
  • AND they threw in a solution to problem with asymmetry in the strong force to boot.
It's because of these problems that we know the standard model of particle physics can't be complete. Still, it is rare for theorists to try to tackle more than one or two of its shortfalls at once. Now, four European physicists led by Guillermo Ballesteros at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France, have taken ideas from several previous theories and stitched them together to form a coherent framework.

They dub the resulting model SMASH (short for Standard Model Axion See-saw Higgs portal inflation)—though the name also works as a nod to how they "smashed" several existing theories together.

Gear

Gene drives: The scientific case for a complete & perpetual ban

One of the central issues of our day is how to safely manage the outputs of industrial innovation. Novel products incorporating nanotechnology, biotechnology, rare metals, microwaves, novel chemicals, and more, enter the market on a daily basis. Yet none of these products come with an adequate data set of scientific information. Nor do they come with a clear intellectual framework within which their risks can be placed, as disputes over the precautionary principle show. The majority of products receive no regulatory supervision at all. How will the product be disposed of? What populations and which ecosystems will be exposed in the course of its advertised uses? What will be the consequences of accidental, off-label or illegal uses? Typically, none of these kinds of questions are adequately asked by government regulatory agencies unless citizens actively prod them to do so.

In consequence of these defects, we expose our world to unique hazards with every product launch. In comparison with its tremendous importance, this is surely one of the least discussed issues of our day.

Comment: The militarized mind: Biodiversity, GMOs, & gene drives


2 + 2 = 4

That 'guilty' look your dog is giving you isn't actually guilt - they're scared

© Quorthon1/Shutterstock
Every dog owner knows the telltale look of a dog who did something it wasn't supposed to do. Maybe she pooped on the floor. Maybe she chewed through your favourite couch cushion, or the carpet on the stairs.

You know she did something she shouldn't have done and, seemingly, she does too. Since you're a human being, you see that look and ascribe a common human emotion to it: guilt.

Comment: What really prompts the dog's "guilty look"


Laptop

'Deep Dark Web': Mysterious universe where any information can be found

© Pixabay
Up to 80% of the Internet is said to be hidden in the so-called "deep web," which can be accessed using special search systems, like the Tor browser. Often, the "deep web" is associated with criminal activities, like firearms sales and drug trafficking.

The deep web is a kind of mysterious place where one can find everything that has been published on the Internet, but can't be accessed via traditional search engines. In other words, it is collection of websites that are publicly visible, but hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them.

Sun

The Solar Minimum, Earthquakes and Mini Ice Age - and What to Expect: Interview with John Casey, Author of UPHEAVAL and Dark Winter (VIDEO)


Comment: John Casey's research confirms much of what we think is occurring too. The following interview covers quite a lot of ground including the practical implications of expected major earth changes.


John Casey Author of UPHEAVAL & ADAPT 2030 Discuss Catastrophic Earthquakes Striking USA and Mini Ice Age Preparation. During every grand solar minimum the USA is rocked by 7.0-8.2+ earthquakes as well massive eruptions and seismic events across the globe. Our conversation covers how to prepare for these events and what to expect in terms of infrastructure damage, how to keep your family and businesses safe, investment opportunities, global crop losses and intensification of the grand solar minimum with a timeline to intensification.


Monkey Wrench

Avian biobank: Scientists say genetically modified 'surrogate hens' could lay eggs of rare chicken breeds

© Norrie Russell Roslin Institute
Some of the genetically modified chickens bred by scientists at the Roslin Institute.
Radical plan to maintain diversity of gene pool proposes use of genetically modified chickens as surrogate mothers

The Rumpless Game is squawky and, as its name suggests, lacks a tail, while the Burmese Bantam, has fantastically flared leg feathers and a head like a feather duster. But the true value of rare chicken breeds, according to a team of scientists working to save them from obsolescence, is not their decorative crests and plumage, but the diversity they bring to the chicken gene pool.

In a radical plan to preserve rare varieties such as the Nankin, Scots Dumpy and Sicilian Buttercup, scientists at the the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute have bred genetically modified chickens designed to act as surrogates that would be capable of laying eggs from any rare breed.

Speaking to journalists at the AAAS conference in Boston, Mike McGrew, who is leading the project, said: "These chickens are a first step in saving and protecting rare poultry breeds from loss."

Beaker

Modern-day alchemy: Harvard researchers claim to have turned hydrogen into metal

At the beginning of the last two centuries, if somebody had predicted it possible to turn hydrogen into a metal, the scientific community would most likely have responded that it would involve pseudo-scientific methods.

Alchemy, which is the medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular, with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir, would have fit into the process of turning hydrogen into a metal. Although modern day chemistry developed from alchemy, it is considered a pseudo-science because of its seemingly magical process of transformation.

Robert Boyle produced hydrogen gas in 1671 while he was experimenting with iron and acids, but it wasn't until 1766 that Henry Cavendish recognized it as a distinct element, according to Jefferson Lab. The element was named hydrogen by the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier.